Wargames and quintessence

Note: I already have errata, based on comments.  See the text in red for changes.

“Early Morning Writer”.. whoever that is.. on the Miniatures Page posted an interesting challenge recently.  I was intrigued:

Here is the challenge: to write an ultra simple set of rules in the shortest amount of time possible. And here are the rules – no more than six sentences are permitted and they must be relatively short and simple sentences. Eight hundred word sentences disqualifies you, etc. That’s it, those are the rules, that is the challenge. There is no period or any other restriction But you must write something you believe could actually be played without you being there to interpret the rules for those playing.

The goal? Well, first the inspiration. One of the most enjoyable games I ever played we used rules I concocted in about five minutes that barely used one side of a 3×5 index card (in largish print). Think I still have that card. And the collective goal is for all of us to get some sense of what is the most common point of reference for rules, assuming there is such a thing (obviously I’m assuming there is). And maybe some fun games and some concepts we’ve never though of but someone else has.

For those whose response is, “It can’t be done.” Disqualified.

No, there is no prize and it is not an officially sanctioned TMP event; its just based here because of the membership numbers.

And let it be fun rather than another excuse for some strange trip down those weird and ultimately meaningless corridors too often traveled. Those of you with an appreciation of this know exactly what I mean.

So, on to it. Your best effort at a set of rules in six simple and relatively short sentences. Be quick about it, too much thought will spoil your efforts.


This is harder than it looks.  It may be that the brain (at least my brain) immediately feels the need to complicate things.  Certainly that’s the case with my submission, below. As I’ve grown boat-brained as I have gotten older, a galley game sprang to mind as an easy candidate. It’s not the most complete design, I would have liked to touch on boarding combat, siege weapons, multi-ship combat, fatigue, and flesh out the Ramming rules a little. There’s only so much you can do with 6 sentences.

The Wooden Walls

1) Ships can be 1 hex sized Liburnians (5 hits/5 crew/Ram of 5/no archers/Maneuver 3/speed 5)
1.5 hex sized Triremes (7 hits/7 crew/Ram of 7/2 archers/Maneuver 2/speed 4) or 2 hex sized Quadremes (10 hits/10 crew/Ram of 8/4 archers/Maneuver 1/speed 3)

2) Ships move on a hex map that regulates distance & turning: 3 hexsides turning & 5 distance for a Lib, 2 hexsides turning & 4 distance for a Tri and 1 hexside turning & 3 distance for a Quad.

3) Ships Move/Ram, then Resolve Combat by side (dicing for initiative each turn)– in no specific order.

4) Ships RAM at end of movement (if touching another ship) by rolling # of dice equivalent to Ram Factor, looking for 6s– each 6 is damage point deducted from the target ship’s “hits” total– until it hits zero and sinks.

5) If a Target ship has not yet moved this turn, it may react to a ram attempt by trying to maneuver left or right, pivoting on either end of the ship, up to their maneuver factor, to avoid ram

6) Ships with Archers may attempt archery by rolling a D6 per archer against enemy crews (only), looking for 6s (at 2 hexes distance) or 5, 6 (at 1 hex distance) to eliminate enemy crew.

So herein is contained a first stab at some galley rules from the top of my head.  Sentence 1 defines the variables.  Sentence 2 describes the physical environment and abstract scale.  Sentence 3 attempts to resolve conflict  Sentence 4 expounds on combat a little more.  Sentence 5 gives the ships some form of defense, and Sentence 6 is a little chrome to add some fun.  It’s hard to get at the essential game element here– I see the point of the contest, to be sure.  How do you define the central game narrative in six sentences?  Does every game have some form of “Platonic Form” that can’t be reduced– a quintessence?  Hard to say, I’m sure I’m not there with with game above.  I could have added tons of stuff to it.

Yeah, I admit, I cheated a little. A few of those are some seriously run-on sentences!

Let’s get the word out about Toys for Tots at Fall-IN 2014

Hey, Fall-IN! 2014 Attendees! Share this post like free beer!

Toys for Tots Charity Event, Fall In! 2014

This year marks the Sixth Anniversary of the Toys for Tots Charity Event at HMGS East’s convention Fall in!.  The Wednesday Night Painting Group (WNPG) will be raising money and taking toy donations for Toys for Tots.
There will be a weekend long Auction of Painted Miniatures and Terrain along with Nightly Raffle Drawings of gaming items donated by the dealers in the Vendors Hall.

To date this event has raised over $24K and truck loads of donated toys. Non of this could have been possible without the generosity of the gaming community and people like you.

Hey, kids, here’s what YOU can do!

If you would like to support this cause you can help in a number of ways:

1, Donate Painted Miniatures or Terrain for the Auction, It doesn’t matter how many, it doesn’t matter what scale, what genre etc. There are auction items that consist of a single figure and some that were a whole donated army. We will not turn down any donations.

2, Donate unpainted miniatures that you no longer need or want. As above we don’t care what kind or how many. These miniatures will be painted by our volunteers and then auctioned off.

3, Donate your Painting Talent. We are looking for Painters who would be willing to paint items that have been donated above. You don’t have to be a professional, you just have to be able to complete the miniatures before the event in Early November.

4, Donate Product. If you are a vendor and would like to donate items to be painted or to be raffled off, we will gladly take anything you are willing to give.
We will gladly include your business information in any flyers, handouts etc. that we use for the event.

5, If all else fails, stop by Fall in! this November in Lancaster, PA and buy some Raffle Tickets or bid on some auctions, and if you can’t make Fall in! then please donate directly to Toys for Tots online: http://www.toysfortots.org or drop off a new/unwrapped toy at your local Toy Drop off Location. (Which can be found on the website.)  If you would like to help please contact me at WNPG@hotmail.com for further details. Thanks for supporting us in this cause and making sure that every child has a toy for Christmas.

Santa Moe
Wednesday Night Painting Group

ARES #1 has arrived

One Small Step’s KICKSTARTER ARES #1 arrived last night. I really didn’t have time to do a thorough examination of the contents, but it broke down like this:

MOSTLY science fiction short stories and articles. Nicely laid out, perfect bound. Haven’t read anything yet, Hope there’s some talent in the stable.

ARES #1 cover

One gaming insert, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks.  Not much on this yet, either.    It’s hex-based, individual units of the standard Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry mix versus units of Tripods– hard to say what size yet.  Hexagonal counters.  Large hexes. Folded map insert, counter insert.

Cover page of insert game, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks

Overall a very nice first effort. They’re really pushing to get a subscription (which is in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks). I may just purchase the next one to see if they can continue to keep up the standard and decide then. I’m a big fan of the idea of a SCIENCE FICTION based magazine with game in every issue, and this is the first one of these since, well, since OSS’s own GAMEFIX was being published (most of their games were SF, near future or just kind of silly).

I’ll try to get some time in to do a solitaire game review of War of the Worlds next week, God Willing and the creeks don’t rise.



Last weekend, 16-20 July 2014, the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) put on their big convention for the year, HISTORICON. This was an anniversary convention– HISTORICON has existed 30 years, depending on whom you ask. HISTORICON, is as you might guess, primarily a convention for playing games with toy soldiers. It is and has always been historically themed and historical based games are usually encouraged over all others, such as SF and Fantasy.  That doesn’t mean that the latter aren’t represented at the convention, as we will discuss in due course.

Tragically (though we didn’t know it at the time), one of the earliest collaborators who created HISTORICON and was a founder of HMGS itself wasn’t going to attend the 30th Anniversary.  Mr. Bob Coggins, famous to many as the co-creator of Napoleon’s Battles, suddenly passed away Wednesday night as he was getting ready to attend HISTORICON. Sad news indeed, and tragically ironic, considering Bob’s past experience with HISTORICON.

Yes, there WAS an anniversary cake; however, it didn’t cost 6 grand, it was free! (Donation from CostCo)

The facility, the Fredericksburg Convention Center, has worked very hard to address problems with the main hall’s oppressive acoustics. Anyone who ran a game in the main hall in 2012 remembers the ear-splitting din on Saturday night. The hall is essentially a great concrete box, with no sound baffling– thus sound has nowhere to go but up, where it ricochets off the ceiling contributing to very loud crowd sounds. Last year HMGS put up draping and cloth area dividers, which helped a lot. THIS year they managed to get the center to put out cheap carpeting, which helps even more with sound abatement (and tired feet). I conducted no analysis on sound levels (not being equipped to measure it correctly), so I can’t say HOW much better it is, but to use an anecdote to illustrate, I was able to hold a normal conversation with Leo Walsh, the GM of the game I was in, on Saturday night during prime time, and I could hear him just fine even with a 40% hearing loss.  Contrast that with two years ago (no room dividers, not carpet) and I had to speak at a high volume just short of shouting in order to be heard at Howard Whitehouse’s Cairo game (20 + players), and I ended up with an ear splitting headache from the din on a Saturday night.  Good job, FCC.  Oh, and the chairs were very nice and accommodating of a gamer’s generous frame this year.

Carpeting didn’t extend ALL the way across the room, it was a money thing. This is the Flea Market area, Wednesday night setting up

Carpeting: not plush or shag, it kept our feet from getting sore and absorbed the din.

This was a good year for community outreach efforts. The City of Fredericksburg is, from all reports, delighted to have HMGS in place in July, as we fill the place up and have a healthy economic impact on the surrounding area, particularly the area restaurants. We saw some quid pro quo arrangements with Price Club (Free Anniversary cake), Krispy Kreme (free doughnuts) and some other vendors. This kind of arrangement can be invaluable in building up a community that supports a convention, and I think we’re making great strides.

Staff meeting, Wednesday Night

I worked staff for HISTORICON, events desk for four days, early shift, and creating Guidebook, which isn’t a staff job at HISTORICON.

Events were pretty “thin” Thursday, as you can see.

I encountered two consistent issues working the events desk this year: for one thing, people were complaining about just how few games were being put on at this event. Most games were already filled up with pre-registrants before anyone set foot in the convention hall. The remaining history games were snapped up very quickly, leaving a familiar hodgepodge of “history-ish” games (pulp, wild west, VSF, etc.) and lots and lots of Battletech.  So, from my 1000 feet up perch, if your game was historically themed, and you brought it to HISTORICON 2014, and you didn’t get any players– you’ve only got yourself to blame.  It was a Seller’s Market to be sure.  Where were all the History Games??

The Games

I have to fess up here. I was a slacker due to illness in the family and work issues. I just didn’t have my act together to run my game, and spent an inordinate amount of time re-writing a confusing rules section for Friday’s game on Thursday! So I won’t belabor you with 1000 pictures of historical miniatures, but I will mention a few that I thought really did a great job.

My game, THE MAD QUEST FOR THE ORB OF POWER, a Big Danged Boats game, did get run and went off very well indeed.  I’m very happy with how everything worked.  I’ve already posted on this elsewhere; take a ticket (click on the picture below) to view the AAR.

Not bad for a non-historical game run in a somewhat hard to find meeting room at the far end of the Convention Hall! Click me to see the AAR.

The Spectacular Martian Front game run as a demo on the reserved table spaces in Exhibit Hall A.  This game was astonishing eye candy, beautifully executed, and well deserving of a PELA, which I heard it received.  Hey, I certainly was encouraged.   You can see more pictures by clicking the Tripods below.


Duncan MacFarlane ran a visually stunning Battle of Arklow (set in the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798) all weekend long.  He admitted to me it was his first event at a HMGS convention ever.

Click to see more pictures from ARKLOW.

Frank Chadwick’s MARS NEEDS STEAM game (a reworking of his great old Soldier’s Companion rules) looks bat-shit steampunk crazy every year.  I think they went above and beyond with the terrain and vehicles this year.

The centerpiece of MARS NEEDS STEAM. CLICK to see more MNS photographs.

Tim Broome and (I think) Bill Rutherford put on a great D-Day game that focused on British Beaches.  The scale was somewhat attenuated but who cares, it was great fun.

Tim Broome’s award winning game. CLICK THE PICTURE to see about a half a dozen pictures from this event.

It really warmed the cockles of my heart to see this game being set up and included in the schedule. Many years ago, I ran a game series that focused on racing conveyances in a VSF universe. It was called LE GRANDE CIRQUE. It’s heartening to see the younger generation running with a similar idea.

VSF Racing game held Wednesday night and another time during the con, both were times when I couldn’t participate. .Dang it. CLICK THIS IMAGE to see more.


Bob Giglio appears to be getting interested in the Phillipine American guerrilla war (post Spanish American war) these days. Beautiful setup as always.

A really great mixed land/naval game apparently in nominal 6mm scale (I think, at least the land portion, the ships are too small) . Click to see more.

The games that were put on were the standard range of wonderful, professional layouts to guys putting felt cloth on the table.   As I’ve stated, there was a fair share of big beautiful alt-history games or history-ish games– more so, I think, than history.  Which could explain why the Mars game won our PELA award.  Why not?  It was well deserved.

PELA Awards

The standard boardgame stuff crept into the convention as well, and the crossover games.   All a good thing, I think.. I think of them as stepping stones.

X-Wing Miniatures from Fantasy Flight Games

I THINK this was an adaption of DAWN PATROL (TSR) in 1:72 scale.

As far as events were concerned, the ones that ran were of a decent quality overall and visually appealing.    There did not seem to be a lot of them, in my opinion.

Saturday, 10 AM. Just saying.

The Other Stuff

The hotel I stayed at, the Hampton Inn, was overall just fine to borderline mediocre.  Nothing at all wrong with it except, perhaps, for the wretched breakfast.  The actual phrase “Wretched Breakfast” dropped by to lodge a complaint that the kitchen was making it look bad.  Still, why whine about a complimentary breakfast?  It was what it was.

The bathrooms in the convention hall were less crowded than the first year, but the floor gets truly disgusting.  I’m not sure what can be done about that.  My friend, “Spastic Joe”, apologizes in advance for next year.

The Weather was the big surprise this year.  Meaning, it was lovely.  Last year, I think it might have crested the 100 degree mark.  That made walking even a short distance outside sheer misery– a gasping, sweaty affair.  This year a recent rainstorm had cooled things down somewhat and the temps hovered in the 70s. For the entire weekend.

Food: I ended up skipping said wretched breakfast after the first day and eating (most days) at Wegmans, which was within an easy, n0n-gasping, non-sweat drenched walking distance.

The Obligatory Wednesday Night Greasy Ball of Death at Five Guys proved to be the most unhealthy thing consumed the entire show. And my innards thanked me later.

Most of my meals were quick affairs as I ate by myself mostly.  Even being in an area with dozens of restaurants within easy distance, it proved to be easy enough to eat healthy or quasi-healthy.

If you’ve been reading along, I did the Guidebook app for this convention, and had excellent support from Mr. Bill Rutherford, Ms. Heather Blush, Mr. Dudley Garidel and Mr. Scott Holder.   About one quarter to one third of the attendees used or downloaded guidebook, and then we went over our “free” threshold so Guidebook (the corporation) froze our downloads at the show by Thursday.  It happens.  So if you tried to download and were denied, that’s what happened.


To be honest, I didn’t buy much, and what I did buy was fueling my Gaming Camp for Kids I’ll be putting on in a few short weeks.  I was severely tempted by Alien Dungeon’s Mars game.  It’s just so wonderfully well thought out from a visual perspective.  I have no idea how it plays, but the toys, they are special (see above for pictures from the big demo game).

My two favorite places to stop at any HISTORICON is On Military Matters (who appears to not be servicing shows in Virginia) and Belle and Blade.  Belle and Blade had a great selection of newer films.  None of which I could afford, but that is as may be.

Hey, Look! It’s Dick Bryant’s grandson!

I did end up buying JUGULA and two of the card decks after finding out what Tomahawk studio’s latest scheme to make money is.  That’s really irritating– the game is virtually unplayable without special 12 dollar (a piece) card decks. that are literally symbiotic  in the rules.. you can’t play the game without them.

Flea Market

Wally’s basement was spacious and not too crowded.  After the initial rush I visited most sessions.  I’m profoundly unimpressed.  Everything that was there I could find for cheaper prices in other venues.  No great bargains for me.

My problem is a lot of this stuff I’ve seen for 5 or 6 shows running.


I think it was a very pleasant convention.  Somewhat low in games played but who cares..  a very huge thank you to Paul, Kevin and everyone on the team.

Hey, someone brought an old fashoned “Palm Pilot” to the event. I don’t think Guidebook runs on it!

So until next year, I leave you with this Youtube from someone who dragged a camera round the event.   See you next year.

Photos: This is most of what I shot (about 119 pictures overall) for the whole shooting match, unsorted, which should have some new pictures I haven’t posted in this narrative, visit here.

The Union Forever! The Battle of Mobile Bay

Leo Walsh ran a 1:1200 scale game of the Battle of Mobile Bay on Saturday night at HISTORICON.  The rules were AGE OF IRON.    I jumped in and ran a small line of 90 day gunboats and double-ender style ships.


Most people know the Battle of Mobile Bay as the “one where Admiral Farragut said Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead“.. and (perhaps) that’s true.  There was a lot more to Mobile Bay than a few jingoistic slogans, of course.  Mobile Bay was one of the last great sheltered ports of the Confederacy, and as long as it was not thoroughly blockaded, the South could run blockade runners in and out with impunity.  So a Union victory at Mobile Bay would have strategic consequences for both sides.

Admiral Farragut’s plan was to attack Mobile Bay in two lines, with the ironclads closest to the local fort (Fort Morgan) where their armored sides would withstand the heavy siege gun fire, and the Wooden ships lashed together with the weakest ones outside the range of fire. The Confederates also set up a line of aquatic mines (torpedoes) that had the effect of forcing the ships to pass in front of the fort’s guns.  We considered that idea, then went for the idea of FOUR lines.

The miniature terrain, such as it was, followed the historical layout reasonably closely, although the OOB was greatly expanded from the original. In addition there was the CSS Tennessee, one other (ahistorical) casemate that started farther out in the bay and was pretty slow to engage. There were four other medium to small gunboats with sizable ordinance on the other side of the barrier.

Union Forces closer up

Originally our attack plan was going to be three lines, with the ironclads protecting the more valuable screw frigates, like the Hartford and the Richmond. Leo told us that would not keep the frigates from getting hull hits, so we spread the line out over four lines– the ironclads closest to the fort, the screw frigates in two lines, and the lighter 90 day gunboats and double-enders in line farthest from the fort. I offered to take that line over the line of mines (torpedoes) that was funneling ships towards the guns of the fort. My idea was that the lighter ships going over the torpedo line would offer a huge distraction to the Confederate gunboats on the other side of the barrier.

I’m in charge of the rickety ships on the right hand side.

If it worked for Farragut, it might work for me. I managed to slip my first two ships over the barrier with no difficulty. We engaged with 3 gunboats of varying sizes on the far side of the torpedo barrier. We were using Age of Iron, which is a pretty good rule set, providing a mix of history and playability. I’ve played with them before, though not in a long time. The rules certainly address differences in armor, ship sizes and and ship aspect. I had a surprisingly lethal exchange with two Confederate gunboats, one of which was pretty tiny and hard to hit, but as I got more and more ships over the barrier, it became obvious to the Confederate that the was stuck, cut off between a line of pilings that will rip out their hull and my line of gunboats.

Sometimes the “stupid strategy” is stunningly successful

One interesting thing about those supposedly weak 90 day gunboats and double enders: put enough of them in a line, and they throw out a tremendous weight of iron at a single target. When the second Confederate ironclad showed up, my line of gunboats laid into him, ship after ship, and in one turn he suffered from 4 armor hits and 6 hull hits, and was on fire. That’s pretty good for some wooden boats! Contrast that to the line of Screw Frigates that shot past the fort and engaged the Tennessee. We lost two of them, the Brooklyn and the Richmond, due to gunfire exchanges with the Fort and the Tennessee. I lost two ships from my line, the Metacomet (lost to gunfire) and the last ship in my line, the Port Royal, finally hit a mine and sank.


Leo’s victory conditions were basically “Sink all Confederate ships”.. and by 1100 PM it looked like we were on the way to doing that. The Tennessee was pretty shot up, and couldn’t turn very quickly, so wouldn’t be able to engage again during the time span of the game. The other (ahistorical) ironclad very likely wouldn’t have survived another turn at the rate it was receiving punishment.

So, a Union naval victory, Huzzah~! Perhaps not as complete as the historical one, but we had more ships engaged, and were facing more Confederates, too. I had a lot of fun with this game and hope to play Age of Iron again very soon.

Bob Coggins, Game Author, Miniature Enthusiast, passes away

Bob Coggins (seated) with S. Craig Taylor (left) at the re-release of Napoleon's Battles.

Bob Coggins (seated) with S. Craig Taylor (left) at the re-release of Napoleon’s Battles.

Just noticed on The Miniatures Page:

This is just a brief note to make all the members aware that Robert Coggins, the co-creator, with Craig Taylor, of Napoleon’s Battles passed away this afternoon. He had been ill for several years and this past Wednesday he suffered a stroke as he was preparing to go to Historicon. The stroke precipitated a fall sometime on Thursday evening or early Friday morning and he was admitted to the hospital on Friday afternoon. He passed away at Union Memorial Hospital today, Monday July 21, 2014, in the late afternoon. He is survived by his brother, Richard. The funeral arrangements are not complete at this time. His brother will be making all the arrangements.

Bob Coggins has passed on.  He was a very influential personality in the early days of the American miniatures hobby, and contributed countless hours to the foundation of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, HISTORICON, Origins and Atlanticon conventions.   Bob was passionate about Napoleonic miniatures and was the co-author, along with Craig Taylor (also deceased), of Napoleon’s Battles, one of the most influential miniature rule sets of its era.

Bob was a prime mover in getting Miniature game representation at ORIGINS, and one of the cabal that decided to move historical miniatures to its own focused convention, HISTORICON.  Bob was one of the people that met in Wally Simon’s basement and founded HMGS.

I can’t claim we were best friends or more than just acquaintance s, really.  Still, I appreciated his efforts in the early days of the hobby and have enjoyed the fruits of his early efforts for many decades.   My prayers are going out to Bob’s family at this time of sorrow.

BDB: The Mad Quest for the Orb of Power at Historicon 2014

Down to the Sea in Cheese!

NOTE BENE: attached are some pictures I took with my Ipad during this game on Saturday. The complete package is HERE in a Flickr Slideshow.

I ran my first convention game in a while, a BIG DANGED BOATS game, with something other than “sail around and bash at each other” for a scenario.

We even sold out! WOOT!

The event description reads:

The return of a game of bloody conflict with dubiously seaworthy ships in an all out donnybrook to achieve naval supremacy. In this installment,Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard’s tower with the stolen Orb of Power, a stout body guard and several siege guns to back up his demands. The Elves, who consider themselves to be rightful owners, would sell their own grandmothers to get it– resulting in a rare alliance between the hoity toity Sea Elves and the Earthy Wood Elves. Other parties (virtually everyone else) seek to own it themselves, or at least put one in the eye of those who have a better claim! Very kid friendly. very casual and extraordinarily silly game. Under 12, will probably require a parent to play with. Rules taught. 

Essentially this is gaming a rather dusty trope from fantasy– the local mad wizard gets his hands on artifact that grants him some special power, a group of distrusting allies band together to thwart his evil scheme, and etc., etc. The unique element is the nautical flavor– Gordon is locked up in his tower, along with the Orb of Power (which is a battery for Spells), and the various local powers in the Middle Sea have to figure out how to get him out of his tower by force. This is more difficult than it looks due to terrain and the small army of mercenary soldiers that Gordon has acquired to defend himself with. Gordon’s Tower is situated in the ocean near the large volcanic island of Ket, in shallow water dominated by many small rock formations. These would provide a solid ring of outer defenses to the Tower.

Newish to the BDB rules (which always seem to be evolving) are rules for landing parties and spell casting wizards. The latter are purchased like mercenaries early in the game using SMCs (shining moment coins). Both of these worked just fine– in some cases, splendidly.

The Rat Men of Ingoldsby and the Followers of F’Vah approach the tower nervously.

The game began with some intense jockeying for position as the ships approached Gordon’s tower. They were hampered by a ring of outposts on the rocks. Many of these had a small field piece, some pikemen and missile troops.

Lantern Rock Outpost getting raided by the Spartans

I need to streamline the rules a bit yet, they are still a little too kitchen-sink for my liking. I can’t help it, I’m a tinkerer. Most people got the ideas behind combat, maneuver and magic easily enough. I had fixed the broken weather table with a better approach. I’m not happy with how steam works; I will be redoing that one as well– I think I may just go to tokens (yes, another token) to indicate current speed, and then redo the speed change table to see if the ship blows up when changing speeds.

Various Ships on the Table

The ships chosen were The HOPLITE (Spartans), The PRIMUS (Rat-men), FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD (Followers of F’Vah), The STEELHEART (Empire of Stahlheim), The SYLVAN TERROR (Wood Elves), the three ships of the Ironforge Elves: VON RIPPER, PLUNGER and RED MENACER, and The GREY EMPRESS TZU (the Seng). Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The game commenced with the Wood Elves skirmish with one of the outposts to the South and the Spartans skirmishing with one in the North. Both did for their opponents in trademark style: the Wood Elves dispatched the opposition with a hail of arrows, the Spartans landed a landing party that took out the outpost, looted a cannon and rowed off with it. Style points all around for that.

Spartan Landing Party kicks butt

Meanwhile, the PRIMUS and the FOOT made their way to the base of the tower from various routes– with Gordon the Enchanter casting a STINKING CLOUD on the Foot which missed them. The 3 Dwarf ships and the Steelheart appeared to cooperate until it came closer to resolution– and then they fell out, with Steelheart ramming Red Menacer ineffectually, then the Von Ripper doing the same to Steelheart (due to the Stalheim player throwing in their “Sheer OFF!” action card).

The two technology driven factions, Stahlheim and the IronForge Dwarves, get into a fierce set-to South of the Tower. Hey, fellas, what about that evil despotic wizard?

At the far side of the battlefield, the Spartans and the Gnomes were getting fractious because they weren’t in at the denouement, like the other factions were. The Spartan player had to leave a little early, so we ruled, for the sake of game narrative, that he spent some fatigue points to charge the HOPLITE to the base of the tower but ran aground on the rocks, spilling his daunting Spartans, wizard and two cannon into the drink. The Rat-Men, perhaps guided by mercy, dispatched a lifeboat to pick up survivors (ahem, maybe it was ‘mercy’, or maybe they wanted a free wizard and the best melee troops in the game working for them?)

Rescue Ops underway. “Squeak! You work for uzzzz now, Wizzzard!”

The Gnomes of Batenburg wanted to get their grimey paws on the Orb of Power, too! They could see they weren’t getting to Gordon’s Tower fast enough, and the intervening terrain was just blocking them. So they had to go the long way around.. or did they? The Gnome player, a young lad (and BDB veteran) played his first Wizard Spell in the game, GASEOUS FORM, which turned the Siege Machine into an intangible mist that went right through the rock!

No GIANT ROCK CLIFF is gonna stop me! I’ll go right through it!

Unfortunately this put the SIEGE MACHINE directly into the path of the onrushing SYLVAN TERROR. The Wood Elves got their wizard to cast RIVER OF WIND which pushed the Siege Machine 3 sticks away. They maneuvered back into a position in front of the Terror and unloaded the famous (or not so famous) Gnome Marines. While this was being accomplished, the Wood Elves, now a bit thwarted from being in on the kill, decided to to board the Siege Machine (which they were up against). Boarding procedure requires the potential border to reach into the Red Bag of Courage and fish out a token, which will determine how things proceed. The Wood Elves, unfortunately, drew “STUPID” and that caused the boarding party to dash off in a random direction AWAY from the Siege Machine.

Ha ha ha, those Wood Elves sure are stupid!

Well, the main event had to get moving on so we were set up for the big fight in the tower to seize the Orb. Gordon the Enchanter had several artillery pieces guarding the center tower but each of them had been silenced and the big siege gun on the roof had collapsed when the wall went down to a FIREBALL spell from the Wood Elves. Gordon, his ears ringing from the explosion and in a foul temper, ran downstairs to join the defense. Gordon’s mercenaries (mostly pikemen) fought hard and long, knowing they were in a no-quarter situation. The Rat-men swarmed in and were cut down to a man.. er.. rat. Then the Gnome Marines gave it a try and they managed to gain a lodgement, then, finally, defeat the last remaining pikemen with the last three remaining Gnomes. And hurrah! A victory was had by the “Good” guys!

SHOWDOWN: Gordon, his pikemen and a line of Ratmen. They would get chopped down, but you can see there’s a line of Gnome marines ready to jump in right after! Victory!!!

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Orb Scenario was a hugely entertaining game for me to run and I’m relatively certain the players had a great time. The new material (Wizards, Landing parties) caused me to do a crash rewrite of the rules the night before, just to make sure everything worked together well. The new weather gauge really is superior to the old one, even if the old one was more colorful. The Steam Engine rules (and wrenching to fix things that break) will be rewritten for speed of play and elegance. Oared ships work well, so do Magic ships. I wish I could come up with a faster set of sailing rules but they do sort of make sense and are consistent to the universe– if a person is on the ocean in a ship that is powered by wind, they are going to have a slow time of it if they try to sail against the wind. There’s a lot of detail in the rules right now which I will pare down a bit for convention games. With all that said, the game DID play right through to a conclusive end, in the time allotted (slightly over actually, by request). So I’m pretty happy with BDB as it is, it just needs a little fine tuning.

Thanks for the great pack of people that came to play .. little Jake, Doug Kline, Kayla? Kline, Nancy Ott, and etc. BDB is a game that requires a sense of humor to play and I think we hit the jackpot there.

Avant Garde? well, yeah, kinda.

Cards against Humanity in Second Life redux

Humans are virtual avatars, the card hand is handled via a HUD (heads up display) that the player can see and the other players cannot.

Humans are virtual avatars, the card hand is handled via a HUD (heads up display) that the player can see and the other players cannot..

You may or may not have played the game CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY.. suffice to say it’s much like APPLES TO APPLES or MAD LIBS but very politically incorrect. One person (the “Czar”) plays a black card, which is the Question, and then the players play the white card as an answer, and the non playing Czar player votes for the best without knowing who played them. Simple game, loads of laughs. The player in SECOND LIFE (a virtual world) sits at a table that offers them a “HUD”, or heads up display, that maintains the hand of white cards for the players, where they can play against the black card. The entire game action takes place in the HUD itself; there is no “in world” element. So players just play their white cards and react accordingly when the Czar votes on their choices. Pretty easy and elegant.. the game play is absurdly simple to execute and all the player has to do is select and vote when its their turn to be Czar. Don’t know who built this, but I’m impressed!

NOTICE: I’ve had to ratchet back comments temporarily

ASKIMET, the anti-spam service used by WordPress.com, usually works pretty well.  I’ve had no complaints.  Lately, they have failed to stem the tide of routine spam postings originating somewhere (I think) in France.  The spam comments are uniquely multi-lingual and have spoofed IPs.  I’m deleting several a day.  This is becoming painful.

So.. much as I love to read comments, even on very old posts, these are the favorite targets of spambots.  Since this blog has been around in some format since 2004, I have lots of old posts for them to glom onto.   To combat this, I’ve turned OFF all comments on anything but a 1 day old post.

I’m very sorry, but it’s become quite burdensome.  I truly value people quoting old posts and comments, but the French SpamWave has become so obnoxious, I’ll have to tighten down until Askimet figures this stuff out.  I’m monitoring the situation.

Thanks for reading!


HISTORICON 2014: Another big Guidebook App Update

What’s this? Another Guidebook Update?  Of course!  

Here’s what’s been done: Bill Rutherford, events guy extraordinaire, took the time to review my last update.   He found some unintentional duplicates, which have been fixed, and added another 12 or so events.  I also added all 60-ish Hobby University events (thank you, Heather).

The only things that are left are a Vendor Listing, a Vendor Map (from Dudley) and any additional new events (from Bill)

Updating instructions: Just open up Guidebook on your phone, Ipad, Android device etc. and click “Okay” for the download notice.

Getting a new Guidebook and Downloading the Historicon 2014 guidebook: Go to the Historicon 2014 Landing Page.  Follow instructions.

To preview online, visit this page.

That’s all for now.  See you at HISTORICON!

The Things, by Peter Watts (audio)

Today is the thirty-second anniversary of the release of John Carpenter’s movie THE THING, which was the second attempt at filming John W. Campbell‘s classic Short Story “Who Goes There” as a film.  The first, as the SF cogniscenti will surely inform us, was “The Thing From Another World” starring James Arness (pre-Matt Dillon) as the titular alien, who was more of a classic horror boojum than 1982’s horrific polymorphic alien.

Gad!  32 years ago!!  I thought I’d celebrate the anniversary by citing Peter Watts’ excellent 2010 short story “The Things”, which appeared in Clarkesworld magazine and actually was nominated for a Hugo Award.  The Things assumes the viewpoint of the “monster” as a terrified organism that’s attempting to commune with humanity, but it shocked and saddened by what it assumes to be our rampant xenophobia.

Text here

or hear it via spoken word (MP3, Clarkesworld Audio fiction podcast)

Give this a listen, it’s a great story that evokes a classic movie from a brand new angle!

Quadriga by Slitherine: Not your Daddy’s Circvs Maximvs.

SRP: $9.99
Released: Jun 15, 2014
Version: 1.0
Size: 302 MB
Language: English
Seller: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.

I love Chariot Games and have for a long time.  Avalon Hill’s CIRCUS MAXIMUS was a fortuitous purchase early on in my gaming existence; I have played it many times.  I play chariot games at conventions.  I set up a PBeM Site for Circus Maximus and Minimus back in the day.  Dare I say it, I even designed a slightly less than serious chariot game myself, now free in epub.  So I have an opinion or two about what I’m looking for in a chariot racing game.    A chariot racing game should have the players assume the roll of the aurigae, or charioteer.  There should be a defined command set that restricts movements in and out of lane.  Horse endurance HAS to factor in.  Also the durability of the Chariot, the skill of the driver, even the health of the driver.   Plus lots of happy to glad little rules like driving over wrecks, whipping your team, whipping the other driver, ramming chariots, and other situations that a charioteer would realistically find him or herself in in an actual race.  There are some great chariot racing games out there; my favorite is the classic Circvs Maximvs from Avalon Hill, and they all handle simulating the requirements of a decent race game in similar fashions.

Click Quadriga to go to product page

When Matrix/Slitherine announced Quadriga for the PC just a few months ago, I jumped on it and bought the download edition.   I played it a few times; and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t floating my boat.. Maybe it’s the different graphics being offered by the PC Game, or seeing it on my (old) laptop screen that wasn’t blowing me away.   So I wasn’t playing it much.  I may re-install Quadriga on my new laptop and see if it plays better now.    However, when I heard the announcement that Slitherine had done it again, and ported a PC semi-wargame to the Ipad, I jumped on that one too, even at the rather dear price of 9.99.  I took a chance that it might play better on the Ipad and I liked the idea of having a game I could resolve a chariot race with during half a lunch break.   I’m glad I did!   I’m not sure why I’m reacting this way; perhaps the touch control  is more satisfying than the mouse, or maybe it was the crappy processor on my older laptop that made the PC version less satisfying, but I find myself playing the Ipad version much more than the PC.

That’s the interface; the design is very good indeed.

Selecting a faction. Factions in Quadriga follow their real historical precedents, and provide the chariot team with certain benefits in either constitution (heart), skill (star), speed (arrow), size (lightning), endurance (blood drop) and quality (hammer). I think, anyway..

It’s clear the design team had someone that’s cracked open a history book at some point in their lives. The historical elements are rock solid– color factions that provide teams with certain benefits is kind of a must if you’re trying to simulate the historical chariot racing that happened in Rome.  The next step in the game is to customize your team, which seem to be a direct lift from the board game Circvs Maximvs:

An Aurigae gets four points to spend in addition to the benefits from your faction. Here, I spent 1 extra on Rugged chariot, an extra two health and an extra Speed on the team.

After a team is put together, the next step is the race itself.. this is another element of the design that satisfies some of the elements that are a must for a good chariot game– an easy to understand command set that will regulate movement in and out of lanes, whipping, braking and various other driving tasks.

This is the order set for Quadriga, which pretty much encapsulates most of the maneuvers you would expect in a Chariot Game: moving in, moving out, whipping, braking, accelerating, etc. If you’ve played Circvs Maximvs, you recognize this already.

The order menu is a big plus for me; it probably is the reason why I like the Ipad version better than the PC version, even if it’s only a subtle difference at best.  During a race, time is broken into standard small segments.  At the start of the segments, the menu flashes up on top of your chariot.  You choose an option, and it executes.  The AIs select and execute their moves simultaneously, and all chariots move ahead and we see what happens.  It’s the same game engine on the PC and Ipad, but it’s just.. I don’t know, more handy on the Ipad.

An example of the pop up order menu in action, Ipad verison.

As is the case with many of Slitherine’s latest releases, there is no PBeM play capability built into the game. So you’re playing against a pack of AIs that are making a movement decision based on the current conditions and executing it, just like you. That makes it pretty hard for the AI’s to cheat, and actually, not a bad contest. I suspect the AI is making the best choices available to it going into a turn, and as a result, will perhaps be less aggressive in the “crash your chariot into your opponent out of spite” mode. Most games I have played so far, *I* am the reckless and aggressive player, not the AI. I crash more often, make stupider decisions, and often end up being dragged behind a team of horses for my pains. It’s a tough life in the Circus Maximus.

Let’s take a second to look at my gallery of pain.

Yes, that’s MY chariot to the left there. Lesson 1: Corner Strain.

The game handles a lot of elements of chariot racing that are rolled for in boardgames like circus maximus; but just happen “under the hood” in Quadriga. For example Corner Strain, which is a critical design element for a chariot race, just happens.. somehow, in this game, and if your chariot hits the limit, it flips. It’s actually probably more severe a procedure than the boardgame.

Ha ha! Can’t catch me! I can’t help but win now.. unless, of course, I do the stupid and whip going into a turn, right? I mean, who DOES that??

Making another lucky guess with the lane change.

In this game, it’s important to visualize where you end up at the END of your movement as much as where you are now. Collisions are frequent as the AIs are doing what you’re doing, making a guess and hitting the “go” button.

As mentioned, CORNERING is a major source of ass pain in QUADRIGA. This appears to be a threshold feature, rather than a die roll: in Circus Maximus, you roll to “not flip” if your chariot is going over a certain safe limit. In Quadriga, if you are over a threshold, you just crash, that’s the long and short of it.

Win by watching your speed and taking some risks. Your little green menu track will turn RED for almost impossible risks and AMBER for moderate risk in turns. That’s about as much feedback as you get in Quadriga. If you see red going into a curve, you might be screwed unless you can haul back on the reins.

Sooner or later, you’ll be dragged behind a chariot. If you have ENOUGH endurance, you might still win if you have enough of a lead. Chances are, though…

… you’ll end up DEAD!!

So that’s about all I can say about actual gameplay.. it meets my personal threshold of what a Chariot Game ought to be — fast enough, involves a certain amount of plotting, then executing, has an easy set of commands that are even easier with icons, and most importantly allows you to screw over other teams. That’s the Circus Maximus experience in a nutshell.

And it’s fun! Lots of fun!

Summary: There’s some more to go over. Quadriga does have two modes of play, a single race and a campaign module that I haven’t explored in depth. Basically, Quadriga comes out of the box with many different courses. If you race a single race you could run on almost any one of them. During a campaign game you race on many of them sequentially. I can see where this would be a draw and help to personalize the game narrative. I’m having fun playing the single races out of the box right now.

So to sum it all up, it sure ain’t your dad’s Circus Maximus, but it has everything Circus Maximus did plus more besides. I’m shocked, I’ve had nothing but good things to say about Slitherine games for three reviews in a row. I promise to be more curmudgeonly in the near future.

Ogre Pocket Edition– the 1977 game at a 1977 price!

Back in the day, we played the living hell out of OGRE, the first great microgame from Metagaming (then Steve Jackson Games).   If you’re familiar with OGRE, you already know the scenario– giant cybernetic tank “Goliath” against a small horde of ground unit “Davids”.    As I’ve reported on here (and has been mentioned elsewhere repeatedly), SJG accomplished its famous Kickstarter campaign to produce a giant 100 dollar deluxe version of OGRE.   It’s a beauty, no doubt about it.. but I started my long experience with OGRE playing the old microgame, so I didn’t buy one.  Not sure if I’ll regret that, either…

The POCKET edition.. the old microgame in everything but name!

Anyway, Steve Jackson is now servicing the other end of the market bell curve, e.g., cheapskates like me.  The “Pocket Edition” of OGRE, meaning, the paper version, with counters and map and all, is now available through WAREHOUSE 23 (or at local stores) for.. guess what?  2.95.  That’s 2.95, the SAME PRICE IT SOLD FOR IN 1977.

SJG Product description:

Now Ogre Pocket Edition takes the game back to its roots. A small rulebook, 140 counters, and the same bare-bones map Steve drew himself for the very first printing. And the price is the same as it was in 1977: $2.95. ($2.95 in 1977 dollars translates to be over $10 today when adjusted for inflation; this is Steve’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for your support for Ogre over the last three decades.)

Despite its “pocket” size, Ogre Pocket Edition will have more than enough counters to play all five of the “Ogre vs. Command Post” scenarios. It includes two different conventional forces (a Black force and a White force), with a whopping eight White Howitzers! That’s a whole lot of gameplay for $2.95.

For once, Marketing hyperbole is accurate.  That IS a whole lot of gameplay for 2.95.  Me? I own about 3 versions of OGRE, all of them over 15 years old at least.  But if you’ve never played it and want to introduce them to a great game that could easily tuck into a paperback book as a bookmark, this is the game to purchase.  Link below.

Warehouse 23 – Ogre Pocket Edition.

Waterloo Obsession.. One Man’s quest to recreate the battle man for man in 6mm

A retired Army gentleman describes his Battle of Waterloo fixation. Over the past 20 years, Mr. St. Clair has had an obsession to paint, man for man, the entire order of battle of Waterloo.

See the Washington Post article here:

Recreating the Battle of Waterloo with 250000 six millimeter tall toy soldiers

The accompanying video is here.. sorry I can’t embed this on WordPress.com


6mm Napoleonics on the table

I have to wonder what facility could be used to display this Order of Battle in its entirety at one to one scale. It’s just so huge. Even the Battle of Borodino game I played in in 92 was severely constrained scale-wise.

Fun fact, there are some instantly recognizable names from NOVAG and HMGS in the article– like Bruce Weigle and Tim Tilson. Mr. St. Clair, whom I don’t recall meeting, appears to be a local boy.