Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Introduction to Vassal 40K



By Matt Plonski

My friend Mike came over last night and helped me set up Vassal on my computer. Vassal is a program that allows you to play a virtual table-top wargame on your computer against an opponent on their computer over the internet. They support a wide variety of games. We played 40k, but Mike said he had only used War Machine before.

You start the program and connect to the server on the internet. One player creates a 'room' and then, once in the room, starts a game by picking a 'table' by size and terrain. Both players can build their virtual armies in a scratchpad area. A model is represented by a small picture, called a sprite, which is a top-down view of the model. The sheer amount of sprites available is impressive.

I was playing Dark Angels so I selected the category "Space Marine" then sub-category "Dark Angels." Under that sub-category there are the normal HQ, Troop, Elite, Fast Attack, and Heavy Support. Choose Troop and Dark Angel, and Dark Angel Specialist gives you a guy with a meltagun. Using the right-click context menu you can switch through all of the legal combinations of special weapons, so I choose Plasma gun. The sprite's weapon changed accordingly. Repeat until you have all of your army's models in the scratchpad area.

We then proceeded to play 40k as if we were at a table. You'd think, since the purpose of the program is to play over the internet, you'd have to trust your opponent to tell you what his dice results were. The creators have thought of that. They have a text chat system similar to an instant messenger. Built into the chat is a whole series of dice rolling schemes. They have straight-up dice (D6, 2D6, 3D6, ... , D3, and others), To-hit & Wound (enter # of shots, to-hit number, whether you can re-roll one hit, all hits, or none, and the to-wound number), To-hit & Penetrate (same as previous, but with armor values), and several more.

The user interface is a lot of fun. Simply select a model or group of models, rotate it using keyboard shortcuts or the context menu, then move it forward one inch at a time using keyboard commands. Measuring range is accomplished with a very simple drag line, but you can also put a 'range circle' around most models to see, for example, what is within 24" of your model.


Figure 2 Vindicator checking range to objective
All templates, scatter dice, and other tools are included. My favorite is the scatter die. You place the sprite of the correct template or Deep Striking center model where you are aiming and drop the scatter die right on the center-most point. Right-click "roll die" and either a 'Hit' appears or an arrow pointing in a random direction. If it is an arrow, roll your 2D6 in the chat window, select the die again, and move it 'forward' the correct number of inches. 'Forward' is the direction the arrow is pointing. Then move the blast marker or teleporter to the new location of the scatter die and continue from there.

Figure 3: Plasma Cannon scatters 3"
 Figure 4: New Template Location
 
Figure 5: Two dead Orks!

Another very powerful ability is the basic 'undo' function. Don't like where you put that Landspeeder? Hit undo until it is back where it started and move it again.

Once we got over the basic learning curve we were cranking through turns much faster than we could have in real life. Clean-up is non-existent. You simply save the game to your hard drive and you are done. You can also have the computer keep a log of the game so you can go back and re-play it. It is a perfect way to generate battle reports. I'm wondering if you could edit the steps into some sort of video. That would be great.

The next thing we are going to try is to create our own sprites so we can make our own units and tables. I'd love to change the Eldar to fit my paint scheme, for example, and it would be a fantastic way to design huge Apocalypse tables and see how deployment would work.

Google Vassal 40k to find out more.

One side note, you can save the game and game log, which enables you to go back and re-watch your game.  After you are done with the log and try to exit the Vassal engine you must make sure you save it again otherwise Vassal will delete both the game and the log.  I’m glad my opponent saved the game as well.  Oops!


6 comments:

DimmyK said...

I know this batrep is in russian, but it's the only example I've got - i don't know what they used to edit it, but it combines stills with video and zooms in on parts of the battle that they're talking about very effectively

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omm92ZiAK-s&feature=plcp

You could probably do something similar for using the logged steps

Anonymous said...

That is so cool. But what is 40k without the cool models! - Wild Bill

Smurfy said...

You can set blast size on the scatter dice by right clicking the dice and setting the size.

Cheers

Mitchos said...

As I have moved away from my 40k friends I rely on Vassal to get my gaming fix. Love it.

Adam Smith said...

I've wanted to get into Vassal for a long time. Might give it a go now.

cpyke said...

I wish I knew programming, because I'd like to make a 3D version of the 40k tabletop game. you could view the table from each model's perspective, and they would all be animated when moving and shooting! that would be a whole lot of fun.

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