An Ancient Black Hole replay (Metagaming) #TBF

Black Hole: Metagaming #10 Designer: Robert Taylor Published 1978

A very long time ago, I used to run a website called “The PBeM Emporium“.  There was a lot of stuff on that site, but it was mostly a haven for Cyberboard gameboxes created by myself and others.  For a long time after I discovered PBeM utilities, I busily created “gameboxes” for the microgames I played in my youth.  One of these was a game called BLACK HOLE.  Black Hole (BH) followed the Metagaming publishing paradigm: an 11 x 17 crudely printed map, about 50 stripcut counters of dubious quality and a rulebook with a color cover and text typset on an IBM Selectric typewriter.   I see you smiling.  Believe me, for 2.95 back in the day, this was like gaming mana from heaven.  A tiny game you could put in a pocket or the outer pocket of your school backpack, and it played all the way to completion in about an hour.  Perfect!

Leaping forward a few years, It was the mid to late 90s, and I was getting heavily into PBeM gaming.  I liked to write about games back then and I still do.  I conceived of a notion of publishing a web article (blogs weren’t quite the thing in that era.. yet) that was like a SERIES REPLAY article such as they had published in Avalon Hill’s The General magazine.  A series replay featured two well known players sitting down and playing a game they know very well to conclusion, and writing a turn by turn commentary as they played.  What better counter to that than two obscure players that barely have a nodding acquaintance with a poorly done 2.95 game from their respective teenaged years?  Joe Hartley, who hosted the Emporium site, was more than happy to oblige me– we played two PBeM games of Black Hole using Cyberboard to capture screen shots and dice roll results and each of us wrote turn commentary as we went.  I then put it all together on another static site hosted on (back in the day, I was always using the free option–I’m still that cheap.. so space being at a premium, I didn’t over do it with putting too much on  I switched to blogging instead of static websites in the early 00s, but I still find artifacts here and there, and the Black Hole replay was one of those I rediscovered recently.  So what the heck let’s migrate it off of bad old embarrassing and host it here, it’s still a hoot after 13 years.

Black Hole Game Premise

You should note that the game Black Hole, which I’ll lay even odds you’ve never heard of, is set on the inner surface of an asteroid shaped like a toroid.  What’s a toroid?  This:

Apparently there’s two companies scrapping over mineral rights to whatever unobtanium is in plentiful supply on this asteroid.  Both companies are deploying militarized mining vehicles to try to claim jump the other.  The player can create his or her own special attack force from the counter mix which is the same for both sides.  The basic weapons are missiles and lasers, and the vehicles are all classified heavy, light or medium.  The game starts with a drop phase which is very random, but also imposes deadly results, such as when a dropping vehicle might randomly smack into a mountain.  Only the inner ring is habitable.  Vehicles must engage each other in the inner ring hexes and can also use JUMP to a programmed location– which is a huge surprise.  Missiles also can act like pool balls in a bank shot and literally shot off the map edge of the asteroid and reemerge across where they exited, but oriented in the direction it was moving it went off.  Confusing?  Yeah? Well it was never a big seller, either.

I’ll present these in tables, just like I did in 1999, except maybe without so much comic sans ms font.

Black Hole Replay

This page illustrates a replay of a game of Metagamng’s Black Hole that Joe Hartley and Walt O’Hara played recently. We utilized Black Hole rules and map and the Cyberboard PBeM gamebox for it available on the Emporium (see the Metagaming Section).

If you would like to view this game in Cyberboard to see everything that transpired (warts and all), you must download the Cyberboard engine, the Black Hole gamebox, and our scenario and game file.


Walt O’Hara (Blue)
Joe Hartley (White)


Blue Victory

Game Design Challenges

None for the basic game, which we played the 1st and 2nd time.

Setup Notes

Black Hole is a “purchase style” game, allowing you to buy a certain amount of units (40 pts worth) from the following unit list:

PSV-L (laser Personal Service Vehicle)
PSV-M (missile Personal Service Vehicle)
MPV-L (laser Mobile Platform Vehicle)
MPV-M (missile Mobile Platform Vehicle)
HEV-L (laser Heavy Equipment Vehicle)
HEV-M (missile Heavy Equipment Vehicle)

UNIT COUNTERS (Cyberboard Gamebox)


Blue Team (Walt) White Team (Joe)
  • 2 HEV-L 12 pts.
  • 1 HEV-M 6 pts.
  • 2 MPV-L 8 pts.
  • 2 MPV-L 8 pts.
  • 3 PSV-L 6 pts.
  • 2 HEV-M 12 pts.
  • 2 MPV-L 8 pts.
  • 2 MPV-M 8 pts.
  • 4 PSV-L 8 pts.
  • 2 PSV-M 4 pts.

Joe’s comments on his purchases: My rationale: lots of units to land, and an even number of each unit. My plan is to take 2 bases and try and hold them. I’ve got first move, and can land up to 4 units. I’ll land 3: an MPV-M, an PSV-L and a PSV-M near the south base.

Walt’s comments on his purchases: I like smashing power. I favor going after the other player’s units first and then seizing bases. You don’t get an early win that way, but this is a strategy that pays off in the long run. The PSV-Ms seem to be a waste of time to me, but the PSV-Ls can double their firepower close in, and a 4-1 attack isn’t anything to sneeze at. The extra HEV can prove to be decisive.

Landing Turn

Narrative: this is a special turn for landings only, no combat is possible this turn.

Blue Landing (north map)

White Landing (south map)

Joe has a plan to take the Southern base, and actually lands one unit right on top of it. Pretty hard to do! Walt spreads out more, going for the Northern base and Middle Base.

Comments (Joe): I’ve got first move, and can land up to 4 units. I’ll land 3: an MPV-M, an PSV-L and a PSV-M near the south base. Next turn I’ll do the same near whichever base is further away from Walt’s forces. Hopefully the turn after that I’ll land near his forces
And try to do damage to his actual forces – an offensive rather than a defensive
front – but I may not want to spread myself around that thin. We’ll see. BTW, I chose the south base because it’s got more mountains around it than the other bases. That gives it a tiny but more protection than the other bases. I’ll take whatever edge I can get!

Comments (Walt): Well, he got the benefit of the first move, and the benefit of the South base with all its missile-blockin’ mountains. That’s okay, I’ll try to deny him the middle, easy base and land in a heavy (though safe) landing around the Northern base. He took more chances than I would in landing, but then again, I lost a unit in last game’s landing drill– I’m not eager to repeat that. I land a HEV and PSV up North to take the top base, a PSV in the center to deny the middle base to Joe, and a MPV to cause trouble with Joe’s forces in the South. As long as the firefight happens down there, I can consolidate and land more guys to attack his strong Southern position.

Turn One

Narrative: The dice favor Walt in this turn. He manages to nail not one, but two enemy units in the laser phase (a PSV and a HEV, giving him 8 vps). He is not as successful in the missile fire phase, only disrupting the units that have collected on the Southern Base. Landings all go well. Joe blasts away with missiles in this turn and disrupts one of Walt’s precious HEVs. Joe’s landings are pretty bad… almost disastrous.

Blue Turn One (north map)

White Turn One (south map)

Joe Comments: I ended up with 2 more pieces than Walt, who likes the HEV’s. I’d really like to try and hold off and save some units for landing later in the game when things get tight.The temptation to move all my units onto the southern base is great, but if I keep the PSV-L off the base, I can hit the HEV-L at F3 with a double-power laser blast! I can’t resist that. Disrupted the HEV – I was hoping at 4-1 odds I’d be able to kill the sucker. I will probably wipe it out with the missile I fired. I *hope* that I’ll wipe it out with the missile I fired! The landing went poorly. I rolled a landing roll of 6 for all 3 landings, including the MPV I tried to land in row K. I am *not* happy about that! I’ll land one of the HEV’s that I was hoping to save for later in its place, and not in row K, tempting as it is! All units land farther away from the north base than I’d hoped. The PSV’s should be able to take it next turn, though. Still, I have 2 units on the southern base, so I’m getting an early start on the VPs.

Walt Comments: Not much to complain about here! Luck was on my side this turn. I take out a PSV-L AND a HEV! That’s 8 pts. of his striking power down the toilet (Joe lost a MPV-M during his first landing, making it 28 to go). I’ve also disrupted the PSV-M and MPV-M in the Southern base, which doesn’t deny him VPs, but will assure me that I’ll dominate the board for the next turn– and there won’t be so many of those nasty missiles flying about. Joe’s being cagey, holding some units back to make a reserve, but I wonder if that’s sound. At this stage, I outnumber his active units on the board 8 to 1 after my landings, which went well (I didn’t risk anything beyond the K row).

Turn Two

Narrative: Walt’s second “lucky turn” and the most effective. Joe’s not having a good day, as more units are lost. By the end of the turn the Blues have a clear lead in units, but not in victory points.

Blue Turn 2 (north map)

White Turn 2 (south map)

Comments (Joe): Curses! Blue did more damage than expected, taking out a PSV-L and an HEV, and disrupting 2 other units. Foul Blues! Time for some revenge. I’m not rolling very well here, but I did manage to take out an HEV and an MPV! I consolidated my position, so I’ve got the VP thing rolling right along. Unfortunately, I got cocky with my landings and lost a PSV-L due to another 6 on a landing roll. Why is it that I only roll 6s on landing??? I have 3 forces left to land, blue has 2. I’m limiting my landing to 2 units (one DOA) this time, and maybe only one next turn.

Comments (Walt): Sonuva… frappin’ Whites, they took out an MPV and a HEV (the one that was disrupted before). Probably shouldn’t have moved that MPV so close to the South base. On the other hand, it’s my “killingest” turn yet! I take out an MPV-L on the North map, with one 4-1 attack. Combining fire from one of my PSV-Ls in the middle base and a MPV-L within 6 hexes of the Southern base, I get a 10-2 attack on Joe’s MPV there, which kills it. Note to self: combined attacks are the way to go. I disrupt the PSV in the Northern base, which isn’t bad for such a weak shot, and finish it off with a heavy missile in the missile fire phase. What a meat grinder! Just to psych Joe out, I don’t land anything this turn. I have a clear advantage now, and should win if I don’t do anything too stupid.

Blue Casualties: 1 HEV, 1 MPV

White Casualties: 1 PSV, 2 MPV


Turn Three

Narrative: Joe starts this turn with just 1 PSV-L, in the Southern base. He lands the remainder of his troops (a HEV-M, a MPV-L, and a PSV-L) this turn, though, and manages to nail Walts’ MPV near the Southern base.

Blue Turn Three (north map)

White Turn Three (south map)

Joe Comments: Grrrrr…. Blue’s taking out a unit on every single shot. This has _got_ to stop. I’m down to one frikkin’ unit left! He took out *3* of my units this time. The missiles in the air did squat, though my laser did take out an MPV. Blue figured out that reserves are nice to have, but my heavy losses have taken away the luxury of waiting to land the last units. I need to land the rest of my units and try to take out as much as I can. I must say things look grim. There’s a delicate balance here; you’ve got to take the bases to get the BIG VP’s, but you’re open to fire from laser units in any inner hex. I’m going to keep my remaining missile unit out of the inside, so either a laser unit will have to come right up to me, or I’ll have to get tagged with a missile, but they can be avoided (I hope).

Walt Comments: So far, so good. Joe dropped my Southernmost MPV with a single PSV laser shot, which sucks (well, what did you expect, his luck couldn’t be sh*tty for the entire game, eh?). The missile I launched last turn came home to the Southern base, taking out a PSV but not scratching the paint of the other one. I launch some missiles, one of which doesn’t appear to be aimed correctly!

Blue Casualties: 1 MPV

White Casualties: 1 PSV


Turn Four

Narrative: Joe slides a MPV unit South far enough to get a double strength shot on the PSV Walt has in the Northern base (remember, this is a toroid, so Joe can actually “shoot around the map edge” in this game). He also lobs a Heavy Missile at the now fortified middle base. Walt counters by moving these units out of the way. The missiles Walt launched last turn are now winging their way around the map, on a sure path to…. Walt’s Northern base! Pretty stupid shot!

Blue Turn 4 (north  map)

White Turn 4 (south map)

Comments (Joe): Dammit, I forgot about that missile heading towards the base. Another unit lost. Blue’s dropped his last forces, so everything’s on the board right now. He’s fired a number of missiles… and it’s the strangest deployment I can think of! As long as I stay out of the way, the 3 SMU’s will blow themselves up on a mountain next turn, and the DMU will, 2 turns from now, hit the north base, which he currently holds!! I’ll take my breaks where I can get them. I’ve moved a PSV onto the south base – gotta keep those VPs coming! I also moved an MPV south to get a double-strength shot at the north base, but my roll sucked. Why do I only get 6’s when I land???? I was considering splitting up the HEV-M’s attack, but I’m hoping my luck will turn slightly. Next turn the missiles hit the base at 3-1 odds, hopefully enough to take at least one of them out.

Comments (Walt): I tried lots of stuff this turn, including PSV Jumps, missile launch into jump, which worked but was ineffectual. I do manage to vaporize a MPV by wrapping a missile around the North edge of the map, and launch another killer stack of Small Missiles, a tactic I learned from Joe in the first game we did. Laser fire was disappointing– I combined my HEV (northern map) and a PSV to only get a Disrupt on Joe’s the Southern base’s PSV. Since Joe fired a Heavy missile at the middle base, I move the occupants out of the way (one of them using Jump movement). It will cost me VPs, I know, but hey, it’s still early in the game.

Blue Casualties:

White Casualties: 1 MPV


Turn Five

Narrative: Joe and Walt have a spirited discussion about how many turns a missile moves until it stops. They agree to allow a missile to “fizzle” after 20MPs for this game only, and from now on allow a missile to wing its way around the map until it hits something. Walt’s “bank shot” missile of last turn would eventually hit his Northern base, but Walt interperted the 20mps rule literally. Joe disagreed, eager to see Blue vaporize himself.

Joe’s question: Do missiles destructy after one full movement phase or continue flying? The rules don’t say either way. I can justify both scenarios! Blue already detonated missiles after one full movement phase, so I’ll be consistent, but it’s worth resolving for future games.

Blue Turn Five (north map)

White Turn Five (south map)

Joe Comments: Well, I’m an idiot. I moved my MPV right into the frikkin’ triple missile attack. I deserved to lose that unit. I did absolutely no damage this turn. My missiles fizzled as Blue moved off the base, but that’s 25 VPs he won’t collect next turn. I fired a DMU towards his HEV-L – he’ll probably notice, but if he doesn’t… I moved my HEV-L onot a mountain hex for double defense. I need all the help I can get! Oddly enough, we’re still pretty darn close on the VP tally: Blue 84, White 94. I don’t think I can keep this up, though. I’m badly outnumbered,and once he takes me out, that’s it..

Walt Comments: A lot of moves from last turn bear fruit this turn. My killer stack of SMUs lands on the Southern base, killing one PSV with multiple disrupts, disrupting the other. My “In Jump” PSV lands RIGHT NEXT to the base, and in the following laser fire turn eliminates the remaining occupant. I fire off some missiles at the HEV and some laser fire at the missiles white has in flight: I take out the DMU but NOT the SMU, which eludes THREE shots at it. Oh well. I wanted something to shoot at, and there are so few White units left. I move my middle units back on the base in order to grab some VPs in what is sure to be the last turn next turn.

Blue Casualties:

White Casualties: 2 PSVs


Turn Six

Narrative: Joe is down to one HEV, and no bases. He launches a series of SMUs at the nearby MPV, but it is futile. Blue lasers his final unit into vapor in his segment, and that’s the game.

Blue Turn 6

White Turn 6

Comments (Joe): Badly outgunned, I have little choice left. I move out of the way of the incoming missiles and take another shot with my remaining HEV-M. I try using 3 SMUs. If I’m lucky, I’ll take out the MPV I’m aiming at before I run out of missiles. Denied. I just got a disruption out of it. I should have gone with fewer but stronger missiles… but it really didn’t make a difference by this point. Blue just took me out, ending the game. A blissful end to a painful game! I rolled poorly, and made some bad choices. Losing units on landing is just a waste, but forgetting to move out of the way of incoming missiles is just stupid, and I paid the price.

Comments (Walt): The HEV is toasted in the Laser Fire phase. Good game.

Blue Casualties:

White Casualties: 1 HEV

End Game Comments

Victory was Blues’ at 131 to 84. Not as close as last game.

Things to try again: Jump Movement of PSVs, which can come as a nasty surprise. Firing around the Map Edge. Multiple Shots with smaller missiles sometimes is a good tactic. USE mountains, especially if you have HEVs on the board. And above all… be lucky!

Things not to bother with: Firing missiles into jump. Staying near bases early in the game, despite the VP cost.

Suggested changes to the (Cyberboard) gamebox: Perhaps to add an “In Jump” marker or counter tray to clarify JUMP status.. otherwise, this gamebox allowed us to play the game pretty much as it was designed.

So that is my game replay from 1999.  It’s actually pretty readable.  I wish the graphics were a little crisper, but I think the casual reader can pick up on what is going on easily.   I wish I had written more of these back in the day– it does illustrate the charm of Microgames.  We played a game to completion in 6 turns!  Black Hole isn’t exactly The Longest Day, but it’s not a lightweight, either.  There were plenty of hair raising moments and good tactical thinking was rewarded. From the perspective of 13 years later, I can see that Joe gambled more than I did, but I tried out more and different rules than he did, so it was decent meeting of the minds.

Hey, look, *Generic* Gladiator Cards I could possibly use for Jugula!

JUGULA is the the latest publication from Tomahawk Games (the creator of SAGA). I bought JUGULA at Historicon 2014 and only am just now wrapping my head around it. The thing is that isn’t really “a gladiator combat simulation. It isn’t even really a game about gladiators” — Designer Notes, JUGULA. Sure, gladiatorial combat surely factors into this game, but it is told from an entirely different narrative. The player is really inhabiting the sandals of the Lanistae, the gladiator’s manager/owner, much more than he is inhabiting the role of the gladiator. Thus, there isn’t a preponderance of charts and points to track. Instead, the combat itself is a quick series of decision that are made using card play. It plays rather more like a deck drafting game than a combat game about single combat. So CARDS.. and CARD PLAY… are paramount in this design.

Therein lies the problem. Much like the custom dice of SAGA, the cards in JUGULA are the “hook”.. the item you really need to play the game, and as always, the most expensive commodity short of miniatures you’ll be picking up to get started. Two JUGULA card decks set me back 15.00 each at Historicon. At roughly 36 cards per deck (12 Jugula, 12 Prima Jugula and 12 Armaturae (gladiator types)), that’s a very expensive card deck.

So why not make my own? And indeed… why not? For the cost of some inexpensive transparent card sleeves, a little composing time and some printer ink, I have started a new “Generic Gladiator” card deck in MS Publisher. Once it is created, I can print it many times, almost free.

Created with Clipart and MS Publisher, it's not as artistic but it does print out quickly and I can make many decks of these for the cost of transparent card sleeves and printer ink.

Created with Clipart and MS Publisher, it’s not as artistic but it does print out quickly and I can make many decks of these for the cost of transparent card sleeves and printer ink.

No, it isn’t pretty, but you’ll be amazed how quickly you get over that.

Check out the some of the Gladiator Types that are in the initial release. I’m working on the “Action Part” of the deck now. Which I won’t post, as certain weenies on TMP are accusing me of copyright violation, even though I’m making this for me.

DISCLAIMER: my GENERIC GLADIATOR DECK is produced for my own purposes, and will not be for distribution when completed.

Charge Pikes! (2005) now in Digital Rules Library

Go to the DIGITAL RULES library (top of this page) to download

Back in 2005, Wesly Rogers offered us a set of English Civil War/Musket and Pike rules as a free download from his Angelfire page (now sadly gone). Through some diligent searching I found the original rules in PDF, though not the playsheets.  Charge Pikes! is a very decent set of Musket and Pike era rules, reasonably well written, although I did break up some of the excessively long sections into separate smaller sections for ease of conversion into EPUB format.  This was an easy conversion, as the PDF was printed from a Word Document, but there are a lot of tables I screen captured and added in.   I was GOING to color each section’s tables a different color, but that got tedious.  So we’ll live with it as is.  The cover looks like old WRG style books, I retained that out of a sense of nostalgia.

I have no idea how to get in touch with Wesly Rogers but  I presume as this was freely available on Freewargamerules at some point, he has no problem with converting a PDF to an EPUB.  He can contact me if there’s a problem.

As usual, this can be found on the DIGITAL RULES page (tab is up top).  This is NOT found in “Commercial, Out of Print” section.  It’s in the Non-Commercial Wargame Rules (Local Files) section.

The Hong Kong Rules (Illuminati)

There was a time when I considered ILLUMINATI, by Steve Jackson Games, my favorite game ever.    There was something about that uncomplicated little card game about secret societies that really tickled me back then– not the least of it being the tongue in cheek humor with which it was presented.  That was so in 1998, but not so in 2014.  I don’t think the game has aged very well.  It takes forever to play with six players and is a little vague in spots, which leads to vigorous interpretation of the rules on occasion.   Back in 1998 I put a variant we used to play with called “THE HONG KONG RULES” on Tripod.  I am steadily trying to shut down these cringe-worthy old websites and pulling off any material that might be useful before I do.

Here, therefore, are the Hong Kong Rules.


A New Zealander expatriate living in Hong Kong (whose name, alas, I have long since forgotten) once mentioned to me that he liked to play the suggested “Illuminati cards face down” variant mentioned in the Illuminati Deluxe game in the “Advanced Play” section, only he liked to add in a 5MB reward for guessing the hidden Illuminati correctly. I’ve called this style of play THE HONG KONG RULES ever since. The Hidden rules and reward stuff evolved from his suggestion; the betting procedure grew out of extensive play of THE HONG KONG RULES. I haven’t tried this with INDO. I suppose it might work, give it a try.



A Rules variant optimized for 3 or more players.

1) All Illuminati (pink faced) cards are dealt face Down. All Group (white faced) cards are played as in the Basic game.  The basic victory conditions for controlling groups (see the rules summary) are halved for speed of play.  Free Actions are limited to two (2) per turn.

2) Courtesy rules are enforced: i.e., a player may not attack another player until that player controls 3 groups or 3 game turns have passed.

3) Players may guess the identity of another player’s Illuminati under the following conditions:

3A)- The guess counts as a Free Action.

3B)- The guess must be made after regular actions (i.e., attacks, etc.) are made.

3C)- The guess must be announced loudly, clearly, and dramatically (Suggested Format: standing and saying “YOU, sir, are the… BAVARIAN ILLUMINATI!!)

3D)- The player being “accused” thusly must respond truthfully, loudly, clearly, and dramatically.

3E)- Courtesy rules extend to guessing (not until after turn 3).

4) If a player guesses an Illuminati identify correctly, he is given a reward. 5MB for 3 or less players, 3MB for 4 or more players. OR 1 privileged attack for the next turn only.

5) Betting is possible in Hong Kong Rules. The following rules cover the concept of betting.

5A)- A Bet is defined as a contract between two players, wagering a sum of MB in their possession, that an event will take place. In game turns, a bet is a Free Action. All funds expended or wagered for a bet MUST come from the Illuminati’s treasury (the Megabucks on the pink card), not from groups the Illuminati controls.

5B)- The condition of the bet must be game-related; i.e., a bet that states: “I wager Larry the Gun-toting Psycho will lose his next attempt at Attacking to Control” is acceptable, a bet that states: “I bet Elmo picks his nose and eats it next turn…” is not.

5C)- Bets can be Instant or Deadlined

5C1)- Instant bets are announced, out loud, at any point during a player’s turn. The conditions of the bet must be accepted by the player the wager is being made with by stating, out loud, either “Accepted” or “Rejected”. If not the Free Action is wasted. The minimumwager for an Instant bet is one half of the Illuminati’s personal treasury.

5C2)- Deadlined bets are written down on a piece of scrap paper, which is folded over so that there is an outside that the other players can see, and an inside that only the two participants in the bet can see. Square post-it notes are excellent for this purpose. On the inside of the bet, the player initiating the wager writes down the Condition of the bet (defined as “what he is betting on”– often the secret identity of a hidden Illuminati in this variant, but not always) and the Amount of the wager. On the outside, the player initiating the wager writes Initiator (the player initiating the bets’ real name) –> (an arrow to) Recipient (the player the Initiator is betting with), and a Deadline. The Deadline is the number of turns the Initiator is betting the Recipient for the Condition to come to pass. The maximum number of turns for a Deadlined bet condition is three (3).

5B2.1)- If a Condition of a deadlined bet comes to pass (either positive or negative) before the agreed upon deadline is expired, the loser of the wager immediately places the agreed upon sum upon the Illuminati card of the other player. If he does not have the amount agreed upon, he can wait the number of turns in the Deadline to pay off his debt. If he loses the bet’s Condition and still does not have the money to pay up, he is a Welcher, and the winner of the event is The Aggrieved Party.

5C)- Welchers are individuals who cannot pay off their bets, for whatever reason. If a players welches, the player who won the bet must remove a group from the player’s power structure. The group must be taken from the farthest position out from the parent Illuminati. Exception: The Aggrieved Party may not remove the last card from a Welcher’s power structure. Instead, He may garnish the next turn’s income from the Welcher’s Illuminati. After the debt is paid, the Welcher loses his “Welcher status.”

Steve Jackson Games Illuminati Webpage (contains Variants, Errata, Design article, new groups and a bunch of other Illuminati related stuff)

Copyright 1998 Walter O’Hara


Fudd the Damned

Fudd the Damned

Utilizing the Blockade Runner model from Hasbro in X-Wing Miniatures

I like X-Wing Miniatures from FFG. It’s a great license and FFG has really done the franchise proud with the level of quality they have maintained. There latest wave of releases included big ships such as the Rebel transport, the YT-2400 space freighter and the Corellian Blockade Runner– the ship that is the first spaceship glimpsed in the entire Star Wars universe (being boarded by Vader & co.), which comes back at the end of the “early” trilogy. I certainly would like to get that model with all the cards and extra weapons tokens that come with it, but I have a problem with the scale. It’s big, but not nearly big enough.

SEE HERE for a product description; It’s large but it’s not going to scale all that well with the smaller individual fighter figures. Here’s another picture to give you a quick visual of the larger ships in frame with some of the smaller ones. I can see why they wanted to go the route of attenuated scale for cost and tabletop purposes– if you scale the thing up even more it will take up most of the tabletop– like having a true scale zeppelin in a 1:72 dogfight game.. where would you put the thing on the table?

There is a nice compromise, which I took advantage of long before the Blockade Runner was out. Hasbro had made an electronic beeping verion of the blockade runner toy a long time ago. The toy is about twice the size (maybe a little more) of the “official” FFG Blockade runner and use up some table space, but it is worth it in my opinion, as the tiny ships taking on the giant (in game terms) blockade runner has an epic visual quality the smaller “official” version lacks. Sadly this toy has become rarer than hen’s teeth as other X-Wing players are scooping them up quickly on the secondary market.

I was a bit stymied for statistics for this ship since I didn’t want to pay the hefty asking price for the Corellian Blockade Runner to get all the cards and tokens and such– they are nice but I could probably house rule it if it hadn’t already been done somewhere. And fortunately it had! The WWPD guys have run games with the exact same Hasbro toy, and they have posted their AAR here.

Doesn’t that look better to you? It does to me.

In addition to a battle report, they post some house rules for running the Blockade runner. They aren’t nearly as comprehensive as the FFG rules (I’m guessing) but they would be enough to have a special game with a great visual center piece of the big ship being attacked by gnats. Lovely Eye Candy. Good work, WWPD people.

I encounter the Google Street View mapping Guy.

Departing for work this morning, I saw something whizz by my car going up the hill at speed.  White cars are common, but that complicated mast arrangement.. it could mean only one thing.. a Google Street View Mapping car.  I jumped in the car thinking I’d lost the car in the morning traffic, but lo and behold! right around the corner:

Click to embiggen.  It’s Joe the Google Map guy!

It’s not every day of the week one encounters a Street View mapping vehicle, so I stopped and said hello..
Joe (I think his name was Joe) says he drove all the way from California to my neighborhood in this vehicle. Not my first choice for cross country cruising comfort!

Oh sure. Everybody LOOOOVES the car. Cant’ get enough of it. Nobody wants a picture of the driver!! What am I, chopped liver?

The driver joked that everyone wants to know about the vehicle doing the photography, and nobody cares who the driver is. I assured him that had I even a reasonable amount of time, I’d be spellbound listening to his tales of mapping America. Actually, I really was pretty interested.

Wave for all your fans, Street View man! Don’t take a picture of that overturned trash can in my driveway!

I wish I had had the time to have him run through the process with me, I think Street View is one impressive project, myself.

Citadel of Blood (SPI, ARES magazine) now in digital rules library

The original ARES #5 cover

I guess I’m on a roll! Making DEATHMAZE for epub format recently had me re-reading Citadel of Blood, the Deathmaze-style tile-laying dungeon crawl game that was published in ARES Magazine, issue 5, in 1980. This magazine can be found in the Internet Archive as a PDF download, and an EPUB download. However, the epub download is of very poor quality, so I remade it from scratch.

I’m fairly pleased with the results. I added a few graphics here and there and that bumped up the file size a little. I think it’s far better than the epub that was on the Archive, and easier to read than the original PDF on the archive, as it’s based on an old scan.

However, if you are interested in a high quality READABLE PDF (graphics intact!) of Citadel of Blood, I strongly suggest you check out the great Todd Sanders’ re-imaging of Citadel of Blood he completed in 2012. The graphic update is splendid, the tiles and counters excellent, and you just need to invest in some glue and cutting time. FILES ARE HERE (in the FILES section).

You will find the EPUB in the DIGITAL RULES section of this website, under “Commercial games, out of print”.

NOTE! This is JUST an Epub file, for use when playing the physical game and you want to read the rules on a tablet. It does not have any counter images, map tiles, or anything other than the rules themselves. If you want to play the actual game instead of reading it, you’ll need the physical components for the game. I don’t think there’s a better set around for this game than what Todd Sanders has created (including the originals published by SPI). Check out the links above.

Trying out the 3D Virtual Tabletop app

By happenstance I stumbled upon the 3D Virtual Tabletop app via a sidebar ad on RPG.NET– having just gone through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the designer was getting the word out, apparently. I’ve been playing around with mapping tools lately, notably to support role playing games. 3D Virtual Tabletop (3DVT) has some somewhat similar functions from what I can tell. I have not managed to run a game with it yet (see below), so I have only a basic first look understanding of how it works right now.

3D Virtual Tabletop Pricing Screen

First and foremost, 3DVT is a mapping tool for playing tabletop games with. The design clearly was aimed at small scale roleplaying skirmishes, moving character icons over a graphical map layer. It’s pretty simple at the core of it.

3DVT Player and monster icons on top of a dungeon room background layer that I imported

The client, out of the box (as it were) comes with several sample maps from various genres. The ones included in the game were apparently from Legendary Games, a maker of 2D terrain pieces in cardboard, designed for playing fantasy roleplaying games with a flat playing field and grid overlay to snap the figures to.

It was easy to find a few grids on the internetz and add them to the floor layer as objects. I probably could have done the same with new tokens (players) as well, as there are plenty of images out there to use.

Another example of terrain I imported

… and another, a “bridge” tile.

View is isometric by default, but the app can adapt to run a game from straight up looking down:

Much potential for more boardgamey things here….

Account management is handled by Google Sign in or by regular login.

If you DON’T have a subscription, don’t bother. There is no “trial period”.

Maps need to synchronized between players, which is handled by the server piece. To pay for that, you have to SUBSCRIBE, which costs about 9.99 a year, which I think is a very reasonable price, considering the capability you’ll be paying for.

Note that I couldn’t start an actual game, as I haven’t subscribed yet. A “trial period” would have been a nice feature, so I can see what I’m paying 9.99 for, cheap as it is.

The actual “Start a new game with other people” screen, which I couldn’t really take advantage of, as I haven’t subscribed. So I’m not sure what exactly happens next, but there’s some links to example games at the bottom of the page, and they’ll give you a good idea.

So this is as much as I know– I’ve loaded the 3DVT app on both IoS and Android. I’ve imported map tiles and moved figure icons around on it in a very impressive manner. I have not started a game or run a game as a host as that isnt’ a feature I can take advantage of right now. So, shrug.. I can see the potential for this thing, but I wonder how much better it is than Roll20? That application, though mostly browser based, handles everything including the mapping, and even does hidden reveals. 3DVT appears to be an app for just recreating the immediate action in a specific contained place and time. Great for running skirmishes or small tabletop miniature games. I could see this being used for boardgaming as well. Again, the jury is still out as to whether it will kill off RollD20 or not– although it does have one great quality: it runs on an IPad.

I’m cautiously optomistic.. and what the heck, it’s only 10 bucks a year.

3DVT is available from the Google Store, Itunes App Store and Amazon.



Wargame Bloggers Quarterly–a Neat New Magazine


I don’t often reblog a post, but Wargame Blogger’s Quarterly is such a neat idea, I’m really taken with it. A big tip of the chapeau to Thomo for finding this and I’ll definitely be investigating it in the future (and who knows, maybe something from here will be on there, but I doubt it!).

Originally posted on Thomo's Hole:


It’s big, bold and pretty!

There is a new quarterly wargames magazine available in the Internet called Wargame Bloggers Quarterly. This is, as the title suggests, a quarterly magazine designed to highlight the best looking of games and and reviews.

I have had a quick look through issue one and I am impressed. No fancy tricks, just good solid text and images.

This first issue has chapters on:

  • Bloody Cremona from Simon Miller
  • Trouble Brewing in “Serenity City” by Dave Docherty
  • Whitechapel 1888 by Michael Awdry
  • Lledo “Days Gone Bye” Horse Drawn Carriages from Robert Audin
  • Inside the Mind of Loki – Vallejo Model Colour and Triads from Andrew “Loki” Saunders
  • Iron Mitten Plays “Spot the Royalist”
  • and lastly, a copy of the Official Charter of the Magazine

Well worth having a look – I know what my lunchtime reading is today … and tomorrow!

View original

VOID MOON by Michael Connelly reviewed

Void MoonVoid Moon by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Void Moon is a unique novel in that shared universe written by Michael Connelly that contains an aging Harry Bosch, Los Angeles homicide detective, Mickey Haller, defense attorney, and Terry McCaleb, former FBI agent. This novel features Cassidy “Cassie” Black, a professional burglar and ex-con who is laboring under the burden of her tragic past. What makes Void Moon unique in the Bosch-verse is the main character is not on right side of the law. Cassie is an expert in stealthy entry operations and the hopefully painless removal of cash and worldly goods from unsuspecting ‘marks’.. mostly in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Most of Cassie’s criminal career is in the past, however, and only obliquely referred to in mental dialogue and flashbacks from various characters. We see Cassie at the start of the novel in an attempt to at living the straight life– she’s selling Porsches to Hollywood elite and meeting with her parole agent regularly. A series of events pushes Cassie to give the old life one more try– which results in an escalating tide of bad fortune, chaos, and lots and lots of violence. I won’t give too much of this away, mild spoilers at best here. Let’s just say the heist she is hired to execute did not go as anticipated, and interested parties put Jack Karsch on the case. Karsch is the other great POV character in Void Moon and in many respects he is the polar opposite of Cassie– cold, calculating and psychopathic when he needs to be. I enjoyed Connelly’s interpretation of Karsch. The reader gets the impression that he’s a rather shady private investigator working for organized crime, but the point really gets hammered home when he casually dispenses with a critical witness that links Cassie to the crime he is investigating.. and buries him in the desert. Apparently he’s done this a lot over the years. The plot was constructed well.. a little slow in the beginning as we soak in the major players and what they mean to each other as well as what the events around a tragedy in Cassie’s past means to the story as a whole. That’s the only criticism I have of VOID MOON. Much of how the story develops revolves around the events of how she lost the love of her life (and fellow master burglar), Max Freeling, in a tragic event 7 years in the past, before she was sent to prison as an accomplice. Yet we see very little of it for all its importance.

Like every Connelly novel, apparently, Cassie inhabits the Bosch-Haller-McCaleb world of Los Angeles somewhere, and she is referenced in other works as the literary equivalent of a walk-on- because Connelly is cute that way. I don’t think we’ll see a lot more of Cassie Black, which is kind of a shame. She’s a very engaging character and one of the more interesting females Connelly has written. He doesn’t give her a lot of room to maneuver at the end of the novel so it would interesting how she would re-engage in the Bosch-universe.

Overall, not the best Connelly novel, but far from the worst and better than a lot of other crime thrillers. I liked VOID MOON and would recommend it to Bosch fans or fans of Crime dramas that feature criminals. The technical descriptions of the burglar’s trade was very well written.

Michael Connelly’s website

View all my reviews

PS: I just caught the first episode of the BOSCH streaming video series on Amazon over the weekend.  It’s based on CITY OF BONES (first Bosch book I ever read) and very much worth a viewing.  Titus Welliver is an excellent Bosch.  Recommended.

Deathmaze (SPI) has been added to Digital Rules

Deathmaze Cover (Click for BGG Listing)

I have added an old favorite of mine from the old SPI days, DEATHMAZE, to the Digital Rules page.  This was a very old tile laying, build a dungeon as you go design presented as a FOLIO style game by SPI (there were four in the Fantasy and SF series, see the Microgames page (above) for more history on that).

Note that this is a conversion of the original games rules text, which can be found online as a somewhat sketchy PDF.  I should know, I believe I created the original a very long time ago when I built a Cyberboard gamebox to play Deathmaze via PBeM.  See the link to BGG (above, click the picture) to download that file if you have an interest in playing via cyberboard.

Note, as well, that I added a “Chapter 11″ in SPI Case format, which includes all the information and tables published in the MOVES 51 advanced rules for Deathmaze variant.  I know there’s an old ARES article on Deathmaze out there somewhere, and if it includes new material and I can get it OCR’d somehow, I may add that material to this epub in the future.  (late edit: I tracked that down.  It was a review, not a variant).  For now, it’s fairly complete as is.

Note that the “Section 12″ Deathmaze Charts 1 and 2 are a Snapshot of an old excel file I created way back in the 90s to replicate the game charts.  I think it’s reasonably clear but you may need to zoom in.

Original counter scan included.. just for reference. Counters in Epubs are a bit of a waste of time.

To actually play the game using this epub file, you’ll need to print out some Dungeon Tiles  on a color printer somewhere, or have the original set handy.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.  There are some nice sets available on the Boardgamegeek page for Deathmaze.  Click the picture above to visit that page.  You might also need to print out counters for the monsters (or use 10mm or 6mm miniatures from various vendors) to represent the monsters and party of adventurers.  There are new counters on Boardgamegeek, click the cover graphic above.

If you don’t feel like printing anything, you can try playing it with Cyberboard.  I made that module years ago and I can tell you it uses the original SPI images, somewhat modified.  So take it with a grain of salt.

I favor these, since you can print them sized to have a tiny miniature dungeon party to explore in them:

FILES: as always, find the EPUB file in the DIGITAL RULES page, under Commercial Game, Out of Print.


August 2014 Puzzle: The Garden Path

Being on SOME mailing lists pays off. Workman publishing sent me this one today:

Can you find ONE CONTINUOUS PATH from the BEE to the FLOWER, passing through every light green box and NO brown boxes? You may go through each box only once, and diagonal moves are not allowed.

There’s a solution, of course. But don’t click HERE until you’ve tried it at least once.

Review: Johannes Cabal the Detective

The Detective (Johannes Cabal, #2)The Detective by Jonathan L. Howard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve grown to really enjoy the Cabal series. The humor is droll, some of the social commentary is rather arch, but the overall narrative is of splendid adventure. The central figure, Johannes Cabal, is a necromancer in a world where necromancy is hardly an honorable profession. Indeed, Cabal’s inner monologue and side observations indicate he has had to remain one step ahead of a Noose/Guillotine/Firing Squad throughout his career, though no specifics are revealed by the series’ author, Jonathan Howard. Mr. Howard is a writer of considerable talent, with an innate ability to set a scene and construct gems of dialogue.

If you have read the first novel, you will note that #2, The Detective, takes place a decent amount of time after the events of the first novel, where Cabal was forced to collect 100 souls (by none other than the devil himself) in return for his soul. Perhaps a year or more later, in fact. Cabal is on the continent… somewhere. We’ll circle back to the setting. His attempt to burgle a rare text on necromancy lands him on the wrong side of a sadistic Balkan count’s graces.

The Cabal novels appear to be taking place in an alternative Edwardian to early 20th century era, before the Great War robbed life of any niceties. There are recognizable countries like England and Italy, and Balkan style fictional states with names made up out of whole cloth (Merkavia) to borrowed from other works (Graustark). No maps exist of the Cabalverse that I know of.

Cabal departs the fictional Balkan state (Merkavia) by hiding aboard a Zeppelin traveling North. The Zeppelin is packed with relief supplies for a Northern neighbor going through a drought. Or is it? A murder happens, and the story shifts to “Locked Room Mystery” mode. I won’t reveal any spoilers about the plot henceforth, but it does roll trippingly along from there and resolves itself in grand style– with gunshots, crashing airships, duels and a demonic entity from the past.

Johannes Cabal the Detective is a splendid read and it sets up Number 3 nicely. Highly recommended as a few nights’ diversion.

Johannes Cabal on DeviantArt.

View all my reviews

Game Camp 2014, Last Day: X-Wing, The Resistance, Cosmic, & Zombies

Today was our last day of Gaming Camp at St. Stephens & St. Agnes school, Alexandria, VA.

They call it “Fantasy Battle Camp” Well, okay, I can live with that. I guess “Wargame” doesn’t read well for a family activity.

So our last day was literally jam-packed as we attempted to cram anything we haven’t done yet in the remaining hours. I set up a Super Gigantic X-Wing Smack-down on two tables:

Far table: X-Wing (Skywalker) and Y-Wing versus TIE Bomber and TIE Fighter. Near table: TIE advanced (Vader) and TIE Defender versus A-Wing, B-Wing, Y -WIng and X-WIng.

X-Wing Miniatures was pretty popular with everyone who played it. The Basic game can be taught in a few minutes and the rules are dirt simple.

Once the kids got the nuances of planning where they wanted to be the next turn (and really, the turn after), the game was very speedy and I didn’t have to monitor it beyond a rule dispute or two.

Gleeful Rebel Pilots gloa.t after victory

We ended up getting in a demo game of THE RESISTANCE during lunch, which is an old favorite of mine.  This is a game that has a similar vibe to WEREWOLF but doesn’t require that “Open your eyes, close your eyes” thing so much.  We played with two spies and 3 resistance fighters.  The Resistance won.

After lunch we played a game that has become traditional as the Friday afternoon closer. We had to 86 the notion of an ice-cream party as originally planned, since I was less one helper (Garrett was sick). So we played the game associated with Friday at camp, Zombietown USA.  This simple zombie apocalypse game was designed by our 2008 camp, and revised by the 2012.   You can pick up a copy here.  You need a handful of SWAT miniatures, a lot of Zombies, and a handful of dice and some sticks.

More Zombies generated (Orange Tokens)

and… THE END!!! Zombies 18, SWAT 0!

The end of Zombietown had most of the SWAT forces overwhelmed and overrun by Zombies. The SWAT team couldn’t make any headway.. they insisted on running from one point to another, and that kept generating zombies faster than they could kill them.

And that was Game Camp! A great week, great kids– all of them very intelligent and quick to pick things up. Everyone liked BIG DANGED BOATS very much, and some were excited about the idea of the game possibly being published.

We played: Big Danged Boats, The Magi, Cosmic Encounter, Room 25, The Resistance, X-Wing Miniatures, and Zombietown.

I really enjoy running this camp every year, and have been doing it steadily since 2006. I will be back next year.