Category Archives: Miniatures

Donald Featherstone: an Appreciation

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

The word is being passed slowly from across the Atlantic that Donald Featherstone passed away yesterday. For all my non Geek friends, Don was a pioneer in the area of tabletop miniature game design (mostly of the historical flavor), or “wargames”. Don wrote dozens of books and articles on the subject– dating back to before I was born.  He published a very influential newsletter called, simply, WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER which had its heyday back in the early 1960s.  I’ve owned and read many of Don’s books, but not all of them– there were so many on all sorts of historical subjects.  My personal favorites were his books on  Solitaire Wargaming, Naval Wargaming and Skirmish Games.   I’ve designed a lot of one-off miniatures games in the course of my adult life; virtually everything, including the silly stuff, has a soupçon of Featherstone’s influence in it somewhere.   The man to man Napoleonic game I’m working on right now, for instance, has equal dashes of Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun and Don’s Skirmish Wargaming in it.  When you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

Don in an article from the early 90s.

I only met Don one time, during the mid 2000s at a HMGS convention– Cold Wars, I think. He was very frail but his mind was sharp and gleeful. I had drinks with Don and Bob Leibl and Cleo Hanlon. He was amused that people were always assuming he had already passed and used the phrase “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated” at least once.  We didn’t really discuss wargaming or “the hobby” all that much.  As I recall, he was more interested in discussing football (not the American version) and some American television programs.  It was an odd tete a tete.

A reissue cover of a Featherstone title

If you haven’t read a Featherstone book, you really should.  They are mostly in the process of being republished in perfect bound trade copies by John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project.  Pricey but worth it– these are almost impossible to find unless you are a really dedicated deep diver at flea markets, boot sales and used book stores.  I couldn’t have picked up Skirmish Wargaming and Naval Wargaming without the History of Wargaming Project.  Thanks, John Curry.  It’s amazing and amusing about how much of our modern miniatures hobby can be traced back to Don Featherstone in England and Jack Scruby in America.  Everything.. including your latest hipster big-shoulderpad SF games, Fantasy games, D&D, etc.. everything… owes more than   a little to these men and the hobby they created with their tireless work and creativity.    Don Featherstone, for such a diminutive, soft-spoken fellow, wielded tremendous influence over the hobby back in its founding and  growth years.

A charming man, a great hobbyist and writer… I’ll miss Donald Featherstone.  In his honor, the OFM (on the Miniatures Page) is suggesting we run games that “don’t take themselves too seriously”.  What can I say?  I’m all in on this one.


Pirated 18mm Eureka SYW figures on eBay


The miniatures hobby is already a niche business, full of small businessmen that feel the effects of piracy in no uncertain terms. It be hooves all of us lead-pushing geeks to get the word out about pirates. Cheers to Fighting15s in the U.K. For spotting this.

[follows: reblog post from Oozlum Games blog]

Originally posted on


A Hong Kong based eBay user is selling painted, pirated versions of Eureka’s 18mm Seven Years War range. Fighting 15s has been following this user’s activities for some time, and at last has obtained examples of the figures and been able to compare them directly with genuine Eureka figures. Examples of pirated and genuine work appear in the pictures accompanying this news item.

Ebay user imfadcom (painting service CHYT) has been selling painted pirated version of Eureka’s SYW range since at least 2011. Fighting 15s became aware of this after attending Central London Wargames Club, where examples were fielded by one of the players in a large game. Thanks to that player we now have copies of the eBay emails relating to those items, identifying and confirming imfadcom as the seller, and have been able to make a more detailed comparison of the figures and take photographs.

As the photographs…

View original 569 more words

Getting a few 1:600 ironclads off of the back burner

Work in progress; Painting up some Union Ironclads and scenery bits I picked up at a Christmas Sale from Brookhurst Hobbies last year… The Tuscumbia (r) and Benton (l). I’m redoing the decks, I’m not satisfied how they turned out. 1:600 scale, Peter Pig Range 7 line. These are decent resin models, not the best manufacturer on this subject and scale, but I like the Range 7 stuff– they make very affordable resin cast dockyards and forts.

I don’t have a lot of historical sources for how either ship looked, exactly. It’s clear that the paddlebox on the Tuscumbia was painted from the photographs I’ve seen, so I made her a cheerful bright blue (then grimed it up with a wash). Ditto for the Benton. An 1880ish colored drawing shows her with a blue paddlebox, so I gave her a nice bright blue one just to liven her up a bit. Otherwise the casemate is gun metal with a heavy armor wash (to give it that grimey look). The wooden decks are a Desert Armor camoflauge color that I stained with a light brown ink. It ran a little and looks dirty in spots, so I’ll either repaint it or give it a lighter highlight to look weathered. Finishing touches: considering adding rigging wire to both ships and boats on davits on the Benton. We’ll see.

Benton and Tuscumbia

Benton (left) Tuscumbia (right). Both models from Peter Pig.

Next step: painting up some remote detonating water mine markers (called “Torpedoes” back in the day), some markers for damage, submarines and gunboats, and a largish pier for riverine civil war scenarios.

54mm Troll Shaman painted up for the Magi

54mm Wizard figures are few and far between, and usually cost a lot. A happy exception is the Iron Wind Metal’s Spellcaster line, which has about ten good figures in a useful scale for my game of THE MAGI. I’ve collected most of the entire run of SPELLCASTER line of 54mm Wizard figures over the years, from a variety of sources.  I’ve found extras of a couple of them– the Barbary Mage and the Human Mage are both figures I’ve found as extras in “buckets of stuff” in flea markets.  The only one I don’t have is the Elf Mage that comes with the Spellcaster game, and that probably isn’t worth buying a thirty dollar game (still! and it didn’t sell!) to get one figure and a repeat of a figure I already have (Moon Witch) to get.

In any event I was recently lucky enough to pick up two that I had not had any luck with in a long time, the LizardMan Shaman and the Troll Shaman.  It’s my intention to paint up at least these two– of what I have left in my “big Wizards” queue, I have the Lizard Man, the Lich, the extra Human Wizard, and a Tom Meier 54mm Wizard guy.

I got the Troll Shaman done over the weekend.  Here we go:

Ain’t he a handsome feller?

Top View

Full on

I painted him basic Greenskin with some green ink shadowing. Brown Skins with a tattered dark red cloak. All over wash in a brown tint to get the shadows and warts, with some highlighting and sprayed with Dull-Coate.

I like him. There’s a lot of detail here and he even has an interesting expression on his face. He’ll fit right in!

Friday: the End, and Zombietown USA

Friday dawned and with it the last day of Game Camp. Friday’s traditional game is ZOMBIE TOWN USA, which is a game designed by the kids at the camp in 2008, and embellished a little by me. For the audience, time and scale, it’s a great little game– no muss and no fuss, and I like to run it. Here’s a free copy, if you are interested at all. The not so subtle benefit of Zombie Town on Friday is that it is a game that fits in a smallish box plus a few terrain pieces and a ground cloth. The sum total of extra bits are a box of tokens, Heroscape dice and some sticks for measuring, plus some playing cards for initiative. Since ZT plays fairly quickly, I ran DO YOU WORSHIP CTHULHU? Which is basically a Werewolf knockoff by the Toy Vault with nice cards. That went over well.

While I was setting up ZT USA, the kids seized GET BIT and played yet another game of it. GET BIT was played many times during the course of the week. I showed them the Wil Wheaton Tabletop episode on GET BIT and some of them want to order copies for themselves now.

ZT USA started around 10 AM and played until 2 PM, with a break for lunch. This was a fun game. Players assume the role of SWAT team survivors from various police precincts, about two years into a Zombie holocaust. Most of humanity is gone and what little authority that still exists rests in small enclaves and armed camps. The players played a small group of police led by the cowardly LT Brannigan. The group had orders to investigate rumored large scale Zed migrations that had recently been detected in the desert. Accordingly the group has set up a CP in a crumbling deserted tourist town. On a patrol they were ambushed by a huge mob of zeds that have chased them two days and killed two of them. The game begins as they arrive at the edge of the town, on the run from an advancing horde. The object of the game is to cross to the Helicopter Pad at the edge of town without attracting too many rogue zombies.

The trick is to SNEAK, and not attract too many zeds. Of course, there’s always THAT GUY who freaks out and runs, and then the trouble starts.

Just to add a little contention, I played LT Brannigan, who was unnerved to the point where he had to run for it. He made the helicopter pad in 2 turns, but had to avoid zombies while he frantically called for the extraction chopper. Of course, he summoned all kinds of zombies during his noisy run to the pad.

As happens in this game, the more noise you make, the more zombies that show up. The more zombies that show up, the more noise you make killing them. Which summons more zombies. You can’t win!

I added a few random bits like Mutant Zombies, Butcher Zombies, Ventriloquist Zombies, and various things like random encounters. The horde showed up and that hastened the game to the gory end.

The Perimeter at the Helipad shrinking as the Zombies pile on.

For more Zombie fun, check out this slideshow:

misternizz's Story

We ended up at 1400, and packed it up to have an ice cream party. I asked the campers what their favorites were this week. Unquestionably, BIG DANGED BOATS led the approval rating from everyone, followed by THE MAGI, OLYMPICA, Fantasy Gladiators and Zombietown. They suggested I trim down from 5 games to 4, so they can finish one they started. Good point!

Another Camp done! Back again next year!

Quick and Easy Star Maps for X-Wing Miniatures

We’re running the Game Camp for Kids this week. On Tuesday, we’re running a multiplayer game of X-Wing Miniatures and we will need a larger space to play than usual. Now, I could send off to a special map making company like CorSec engineering, etc. or I could make something quick and cheap by myself. I opted for the latter, being on a budget this year.


3 Yards black felt 11.00
1 can white primer (rustoleum) for 3.50
Pale Blue, White, Yellow and Red acrylic paint (already had it)

Place your felt on the ground and spread out flat. Using the white primer, Gently spray the black felt with white primer paint, but not up close. Hold the can at an angle from about 2-3 feet off the ground so the paint turns into a fine mist. The effect you’ll get will be a sort of cloudy white background, much like a starry galaxy background. Don’t overdo it or you’ll just get “Grey”. Let this dry. Felt absorbs paint very quickly, so it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Clouds on, just starting to spatter on pale blue stars

Then, in this order, mix separate batches of a watery paint from pale blue, then yellow, then white, then red. Consistency should be opaque, with lots of paint dissolved in the water. Using a flat brush, dip your brush in enough to get it wet with the watered paint. In a circular flipping motion, spatter the cloth with first pale blue, then yellow, then white, then a LITTLE bit of red. Go very liberal with the white and pale blue.

misternizz's StarMapMaking album on Photobucket

SLIDESHOW on photobucket

The end result isn’t QUITE as good as a professionally made star map, but it definitely looks exactly like what I want it to look like, is big enough for a table full of kids, and best of all, cost me lest than 15 bucks. Not bad, eh?

The Magi: Waving Hands for Miniatures, debuts

Here’s a game I’ve been wanting to make happen for a long time– bringing some version of WAVING HANDS into the spatial reality of miniatures.  I’ve had the miniatures painted and in a box for a year or more.  I’ve had the spell component cards done.  I just have to put it all together, which I finally have done.  The Magi will debut at the Summer Gaming camp for Kids I will be throwing in two weeks, and preliminary run through results have me very, very positive.  I like this game, but then again, I should since it’s been around forever and was pretty close to perfect as designed.  Waving Hands started in 1977 as a game submission that ended up being a magazine article in a defunct PBM magazine called Sauce of the Nile.    A long time ago I asked Richard Bartle, the original author, if I could make a miniatures variant.  It turned out he had always wanted to have the spatial moving and attacks element of this game but was constrained by publishing space in the magazine he published it in.  So the Waving Hands that I have played via email and admired all these years was originally visualized in a manner not too different from the version I am attempting.  My version, called “The Magi” because the good names are all taken, will move wizards either a short or long distance as a phase outside of spellcaster, then the wizard has a choice of actions, most of which involve spellcasting or fighting.  In my game, the spells are built by cards which are played in spell sequence face down by the caster, along with the actual somatic gesture which is public open knowledge (unless you are blinded).    Thus your wizardly opponents only know what they can see (and remember, and guess at).

As a PBM game, it’s frankly excellent.  With miniatures, I hope it will be the same.  The game mechanics are simple enough, Move, Move Short and Perform an Action, Cleanup.

This colorful cast of characters below are my Wizards.  I have 14 spellcasters from various origins.. including cave shaman and a magical Cyclops.

photo 4

photo 2

photo 3

photo 5

Many of these are the old Ral Partha/Iron Wind Metals Spellbinder Line, but not all of them.  Some I have no idea of the provenance of.  Aren’t they a colorful bunch?

The concept behind Waving Hands for miniatures is that this is a wizards duel.  Each wizard character has 15 hit points.  They cast spells by making gestures.  Gestures (in this game) are printed on cards.  Cards build your spell (hidden from everyone but you) but when put the gesture down you MUST make the actual gesture in public for all to see.  Thus the players have imperfect knowledge but if they concentrate they can take a guess at  what you are planning to cast and take steps to avoid  or counter it.    I’m looking forward to running this game.  AT LONG LAST.

Click here to listen to a longish ramble on everything you need to know to play:

2013 has become the year of bringing long procrastinated projects to fruition for me.  First Big Danged Boats and now the Magi.  What next?

Big Danged Boats Recap, first Convention game

So, as I posted on here, HISTORICON 2013 was the first play of BIG DANGED BOATS (BDB) for more than4 players as a Convention Game. I think it went pretty well. I ran BDB on Thursday night and actually regretted not running it again.


So, on to my impressions. First of all, BDB did meet my expectations of the kind of game I wanted to make. I was looking for something slightly ridiculous and over the top, set in a “fantasy universe” of sorts, but not the classic elves and dwarves and fairies, even if they will be included for the sake of familiarity. Secondly I wanted to end up with a fantasy naval game that isn’t a retread of UNCHARTED SEAS in a larger scale. The emphasis would be on gunfire and boarding actions, but wouldn’t be nearly as abstracted as in that game– I wanted to see the figures going over the side and fighting hand to hand with crews on other ships– recreating the old pirate movie scenes where hordes of men swing across on ropes and heroically slash at each other with cutlasses, sneering and having camera op moments. To achieve that, the universe can’t be very gun heavy, or the game becomes a naval gunfire game. To get there, I limited gunfire (well, attempted to) by limiting ammunition. That didn’t work as well as it might. I gave each ship 1 or 2 red kegs of “Boom Powder”. Each keg carries five shots. The wealthier and more technological societies have more boom powder, the more primitive cultures have less. In practice, 10 shots (2 kegs of boom powder) turned out to be a LOT of shots for this game. People spent more time maneuvering to get a shot than actually shooting. Solution: make it 3 shots per keg rather than 5.

BDB has many home made markers, templates, measuring devices, figures, tokens and etc. From the little rock bluff (clockwise): Shining Moment Coins, Action Cards (blue card box) Oar Gauges (red, behind bluff), Yardarm to yardarm template, and the wind arrow in the background.

Logistical Tail: I made a TON of homemade game aids for this game– Action Cards, tokens, markers, measuring sticks, turning angles, wind markers and one yardarm to yardarm template. Even so, I could see that the game needed this– there’s just too much going on every turn. Players have to be sure of the Wind on all sides of the table, that’s why there’s a giant wind arrow. They have to see the weather change, that’s why the weather gauge is so large. The turning templates could have been a little cleaner, but they do what they are supposed to. The red and blue distance sticks worked like a charm. No tape measures. The only thing that didnt’ really work for me were the boarding markers (not big enough) and targeting markers. I may have to (dang it) go to Litko for this, though their stuff is rather small for this scale.

Ships: I wanted to use a preponderance of commercially made ships with some kit-bashing here and there. So a lot of the ships you see in this game started life as Old Glory Shipyards or earlier hulls (in some cases, much, much earlier). I have been collecting 15mm boats of various flavors for a long time now, and I only have some of them painted up for this game. Since I wanted ships that were highly visual, thematic, and somewhat ridiculous looking, I had to improvise a few of them from found materials, like a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a foot, or a kid’s boxing glove candy holder toy. All of which were heavily kit bashed to make the ridiculous visual fit the game.

The Holy Frenzy: an Old Glory 15mm Historical cog, with homemade Celtic Sail (she is the ship of the Brothers of Saint Brendan), detachable coracles from Museum Miniatures, and a kitbashed fighting platform up top. Painted umber with sienna highlights and red accent coloring.

The Primus, the partially armored steam powered cheese of the Rats of Ingoldsby. Made from an artificial display cheese for kitchen remodeling displays. Not much done to the cheese– added a wooden fighting platform up top, steam pipes, and a fighting platform below, plus scaled naval fittings (wheel and vents) added in haphazard style. Oh, and painted PRIMUS across the back (points if you get the reference). Ratmen figures from Magister Militum.

The Flagship Junk of the Seng, the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire that sell Boom Powder here in the Middle Sea. They are up-gunned compared to the rest of the players, but not overwhelmingly so. The Junk is a toy from the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie which is happily in scale. Didn’t do much to it, just painted the sails and trim to accentuate the red and dark grey color scheme for the Seng Fleet. Figures are Boxer Rebellion era Chinese, since they had muskets.

The Scarlet Castle, the Fighting Platform the Seng tow behind their flagship. Limited mobility by Sweep Oars when moving independently, designed to be towed into a battle and cut loose, bringing firepower to bear on enemies. Has rockets (up front) and some Jingal Teams, plus lots of handguns. Old Glory “Junk Wars” Junk, painted dark grey and dark red to match the Seng Junk color scheme.

Bone Brigade Flagship

Bone Brigade Flagship “Deadnought”, with giant skeleton arm lobber. This is an old, old flea market find– I think it was an illegal copy of an old My Galley Sally hull, but I have no way of knowing where it comes from. It was so pitted and rotten looking, all I did was give it an all over brown gray rotting wood color with some glowing green fungus highlights. The arm and superstructure are kit-bashed from craft sticks, brass and a piece of halloween decoration. Troops are Old Glory’s old fantasy line, Black Foundry.. I painted them with brass weapons to give them that “aged” look

Black GalleyThe Bone Brigade Black Galley, which is imagined to be a sort of ramming and missile fire consort to the Flagship– all archers from Alternative Army. Another ancient find, this was purchased at roughly the same time and probably from the same source. Just as bad of a casting, but painted black so it’s not as noticeable.

Killing three birds with one stone: left to right The Hoplite, from the Spartan CosPlay and Athletic Society, the Gnomish Siege Machine, and The Red Menace of the Iron Dwarves. The Hoplite was an Ebay Purchase that came already painted to my satisfaction and I didn’t do much except put an artillery platform up front for a medium gun. Spartans are all old Museum Miniatures. The Siege Machine ship is 100% kit bashed out of various craft bits, plastic card and a kid’s boxing glove candy holder. I wanted a HUGE, slow menacing ship as a funny juxtaposition with the rather tiny and peaceable looking gnomes. Gnome figures are a combination of Splintered Light and Peter Pig 15mms. The Red Menace is the CSS Manassas from Old Glory’s ACW 15mm line, with a flying dwarf launcher in the back and a wacky red and gold color scheme. Dwarf crew as a mix of Old Glory’s Black Raven and Alternative Armies (for “High” Dwarves) and some old 15mm Battlesystem (for “Gully” Dwarf Crossbowmen)

Killing more birds with one stone: L to R The Stinkwater, pirate ship of the Dredd Rott Pyrates, the Red Ragnarok (Ragnar Brothers dragon ship), The Sylvan Terror of the Wood Elf faction (top, the green galley) and the Freya (right), also a Ragnar Bros dragon ship). The Zombie Pirate ship was a very fortuitous Ebay find, relatively recently. Unfortunately I ran out of time to make it look as rotted and scabrous as it clearly needs to be for a Zombie Crew, but it at least looks the part in broad outline. Pirate figures are from Rebel Minis. The two dragon ships are Old Glory historicals from their “Dragon Wars” line– one painted medium brown with red trim, the other with green trim. Figures are an old 15mm Mighty Armies “Barbarians” pack, less the reindeer chariots– I wanted barbarians but not TOO Viking like. The galley that made up the Sylvan Terror is another mystery find from the past.. it’s more than a decade old and my memory fails me. Painted green/light green with a sculpy ram (the one that came with was missing) and a decoration in the back added by me.

Not Pictured, since it didn’t get run by a player: The Sea Eagle, the galley of the High Elves. This was essentially THIS HULL by Old Glory Shipyards in their Galley Wars line. Painted in blue/light blue/light yellow color scheme, with Alternative Army High Elf Archers (I think.. maybe they are older than that) in a matching color scheme. They also have a Sea Eagle figure (Dungeons and Dragons miniature) that they can launch as a limited aerial attack, and a light gun facing forward.

Group shot with Plunger and Von Ripper.

Not the best picture for display purposes, but you can’t have everything, where would you put it? The Plunger (far left) and the Von Ripper (starboard of the Red Menace) round off the Dwarven Stealth Fleet. Plunger is a historical CSS Hunley model from Old Glory Shipyard 15mm Historicals. Von Ripper is a CSS David model from the same source. The Plunger is pretty much a straight historical paint job– all rusty gun metal. The Von Ripper is also rusty metal with artillery platforms added fore and aft with Alternative Army dwarven artillery crews and Battlesystem “Gulley Dwarf” archers. The design philosophy behind the dwarves was that there is only a tiny minority of them that wish to go to sea, so they have trouble crewing large vessels. They favor ships that stand off and punch from a distance.

Foot of the Dead God

A big disappointment (for me) was that nobody selected The Foot of the Dead God, “ship” of the crazed Cultists at Historicon. I found a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a human foot, painted it like rotten flesh, and built up a platform up top. The crew is basically Hyena Men from Splintered Light along with Evil High Priests from the same source, and an Essex mercenary Artillery Crew.

Mechanics: I’m going to have make things a lot simpler. I tend to design for everything and the kitchen sink, and that complicates things. Things that worked: the way the ships move-- different ships (Steam, Wind, Magic, and Rowed) move in different ways, and they all worked together pretty well. One thing that surprised me was how competitive oared ships were with Steam Ships and Sailing Ships. At the Historicon game, Bill Alderman, playing the Spartans in a small galley, managed to catch up with the slow moving Steam powered Gnomish Siege Machine and board it, and commence to kick Gnomish butt. Jeff Simpson, running the Stealth Fleet, pushed the steam powered Von Ripper to the limit, and failed his Boom Check roll when he changed gears. Fortunately he had an Engineer card to play and they fixed it immediately. The Holy Frenzy, a sailing ship, was at the wrong angle to the wind until it changed, and then he swooped in with the wind behind him taking advantage of the extra wind. We actually changed weather twice, and the wind speed got up to “Squall”, which gave the sailing ships lots of speed. Unfortunately Brett Abbott had the Oil on Troubled Waters card, and that stopped the windy weather.
I also liked, in general, The Cards and Shining Moment Coins. The cards are a major “something” a player can do one time, to help himself or hurt someone else. The Shining Moment coins are rerolls of critical dice, and count as victory points at the end of the game. That worked.

The Mighty Siege Machine Chugs out to battle arming it’s steam powered Bopper.alas, Captain Chris Johnson did not pilot her to glory that night.

Things that I liked less: Initiative. Confusingly written. I’m probably going to go with playing cards or chips next time. Ramming Procedure: The Sequence should be Move, Check to see if Ram is possible, Ram, throw grapples, then if that works, place a marker to board or attempt to back out. This got all jacked up from turn to turn. I’m going to look at this more closely. Boarding Procedure: Too slow. I built a very cool yardarm to yardarm template, but I didn’t build enough of them and setting up a boarding combat was too slow and had too many steps. I’ll streamline this. Gunnery in General: The basic model is relatively easy– so many dice for a heavy gun, so many dice for a medium, so many dice for a light. But I wasn’t sinking any ships with gunfire. That mostly killed crews. And gunfire checked damage off of a grid in hull points and other things.. crew, gun, etc. Also, the whole volley fire thing from crew weapons (muskets, archers, crossbows) caused too much confusion, as I had three flavors of gunnery– we’ll make it ONE form of gunfire (unaimed volley) and we’ll work with the dice rolls to add things like “hit a leader” or “hit a critical dude”.

Gun Fire Scarlet Castle versus Bone Brigade

Gunfire didn’t sink a lot of ships. Musket fire (and bows, and crossbow bolts) did. In the picture above, the Scarlet Castle pours hand cannon fire into the Deadnought (Bone Brigade) which dropped the crew down quick a bit. The Bone Brigade was nonplussed. Life (or non-life) is cheap to them.

Sequencing was a little confusing, with too many exceptions. I’ll tighten that up. Damage was not lethal enough. An easy thing to fix.

In this situation we have the Ragnar Brothers in Two Dragon Ships, boarding the Stinkwater, and being boarded in turn by the Wood Elves, then assaulted by the coracles of the HOly Frenzy. Who goes first here?

Things I had but didnt’ use: Cards were fairly limited. I had cards designed for some factions, giving them special abilities. Reinforcements in the Hold: I also had a ton of reinforcements for most factions who had a ship big enough to have a hold, just not a great way to commit them to the game. Objectives-- the basic game is a pig pile. It might be fun to add objective markers for some games.

SO that’s my critique of my own system, BDB v. 1.2 Things I’m going to add: A decent magic system– probably card driven. I have three or four more factions imminent– the Trader Guild, which seeks to manufacture Boom Powder themselves and wishes to cut the Seng out of the equation; the Little People’s alliance (Fawns, Leprachauns and Gully Dwarves), Lizard Men and Orc boats.

What happened in the game?

It was a lot of fun. We had almost every ship in the game except for the Foot of the Dead God and the Sea Eagle. The Holy Frenzy was hampered by contrary winds early in the game and then swooped into a four way boarding action later deploying his special coracles to try to capture a ship. The Ragnar Brothers were quite aggressive, taking on the Wood Elves in a boarding action and the Stinkwater (Zombie Pirates) simultaneously, then being rammed in turn by the coracle assault after their numbers diminished. The Wood elves used their wood-ripping ram quite effectively against the Stinkwater, then got rammed and boarded by the Ragnars. The Primus steamed into battle and took advantage of their special power to turn on a dime to bring their cannon to bear almost every turn. The Seng got stuck into it with the Bone Brigade and had their tow rope ripped apart by them. The Spartans were incredibly aggressive and boarded and slaughtered the Gnomes at a terrible cost. I eventually called the game as ships got crews depleted to the point of no return. By points and by acclamation, the “Victor” was Aaron Bostian (who provided these pictures). Well done, sir.

Your Intrepid GM

In general, I’m happy with BDB but need to wrench on it a little longer. Big Danged Boats is large, grandiose, goofy and ridiculous, just as I had imagined it to be, and it certainly maintains its own internal logic. So I’m fairly pleased. Thanks to those players who showed up and played.

As mentioned above, Aaron Bostian (Fellow gaming blogger on the Fancy Wars Blog, check it out) was present running the Bone Brigade and he took MANY pictures. Here is a nice slide show if you’d like a look. SImply click on the image below:

Click to see slideshow. Thanks to Aaron Bostian for all these fantastic pictures. You are a gent sir.

BDB Ship Charts 2.0


BDB Ship “Red Ragnarok”

If you have even a passing interest in BDB (running this Thursday night at HISTORICON 2013), have a look at your options for ships below.  These are the craft that will be creating mayhem on the Middle Sea.

Guidebook for HISTORICON 2013 available for download

The HISTORICON 2013 Guidebook app is NOW available for download as of 6:30 this evening. 7/11/13.  Follow instructions below.


There’s directions on how to load it on your phone there.

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Summer convention, HISTORICON, on 18-21 July 2013.  You can get in a big chunk of miniatures/SF/Historical tabletop gaming at this convention, and the Guidebook can help.

Just like before every con I make one of these for, this post is a short introduction to Guidebook, how to get it and how to use it for YOUR convention.

The screens are a little different on my Ipad, but the basic functions are the same no matter what platform you are using.  Don’t mind all the Cold Wars 2013 pictures and references, the information is essentially the same– I’m too lazy to take a bunch of pictures again for no good reason.

Front Page of the Ipad layout. The Menu is up the left side.  This is the “General Info” page, with the director’s blurb, address, etc.

First of, what is GUIDEBOOK?  This is an application, or “App” in modern parlance, that resides on a multitude of mobile devices (Ipad, Ipod, Iphone, Android smartphones, Android Tablets, and there’s even a version for browser enabled phones that can access the web).  GUIDEBOOK maintains a master schedule of every thing going on at a convention, Maps where everything is, general information about the convention,  plus maintaining a custom version of your own schedule that keeps a list of all the things you want to do when you go to a convention.. and reminds you when you when it’s time to do it.  Think of it as your, extremely personalized version of the paper program guide that can store on a handy device, beeps you when it’s time to go to the next item on your schedule and keeps a to-do list for you.

This is the Main Schedule page. Note the little color bars on the left hand side of the events? They’re color coded– RED for GAMES, BLUE for Tournaments, GREEN for Seminars, PURPLE for Hobby University, and Black/No Color for Operations

Guidebook is an application for supporting conventions, trade shows and other events by hosting a version of their event schedules, layouts, maps, and special data lists on a variety of portable platforms– notably the Apple IoS products Iphone, Ipod TouchIpad, any Android phone, and any internet enabled phone that can web-browse.  In essence, Guidebook takes the important stuff out of the paper program book you all know and love and puts it on a device you may carry around with you on a regular basis.

Each event on the schedule has a banner associated with it.  This will display on the top of the item you are looking at and everyone can see it.  These individual banners fall in the general groupings of GAMES (run by GMs), TOURNAMENTS, HOBBY UNIVERSITY, SEMINARS (programs) and OPERATIONS (general situational awareness stuff about hours of operations).  Individual look like this:

Any tournament game, including DBA, FoW, FoG, etc.

Press Conferences, Podcast events and Seminars

Nuts and bolts of the Convention.. when areas like the flea market open and close

Hobby University events

Regularly scheduled games

(A selection of event banners)

Directions on how to get and use GUIDEBOOK

The various links associated with these instructions are located on Guidebook’s GET THE APP webpage

Maps Page. Scroll right and left in the blue bar. Every room at the venue we are using is here, laid out for the convention.

Here’s some screenshots of individual event listings in each category

A GAME event
Selecting an event to put on your personal schedule, and the length of the alarm notification

If you have an Ipod Touch, Iphone, or Ipad 1 or 2, visit the Itunes App Store, for the Guidebook app.  Download it. Install it.  It’s free.  Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide.   There you go, that’s all you need to do.  Start browsing and bookmarking events you want to go to.

If you have an ANDROID phone, go to the Google Play store or some other outlet for Android OS apps.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide, and browse away.

Vendor list in the new layout
This is our vendor listing. It’s pretty simple.

If you have an INTERNET CAPABLE, but not Android or IoS phone, you can point your phone’s browser to this web link:  You will see a less graphical interface but it will contain the same amount of information as the other two platforms (IoS and Android).  Even nicer, when you use a web browser phone, it doesn’t count against our download limit.

I just sent the guidebook in to, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.


  1. Open it.  Do a “Search for Guidebooks”
  2. Find: HISTORICON 2013.  (they list them chronologically)
  3. Select HISTORICON 2013 for download.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Then open it up.  And enjoy Guidebook Goodness.

Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for HISTORICON 2013– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bill Rutherford, or some other events person, and I will make the changes on the server, which will be communicated to the users as an update to the Guidebook ready for download.  You don’t have to do anything but hit “yes”.

Have fun, and I hope this is useful for you.  I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2013!


I did not program the actual app GUIDEBOOK software, just prepared the HISTORICON 2013 data module for free use.  I’m not an employee of and don’t get paid to endorse them.  Use at your own risk.


BDB Cover

BDB Cover

New Ships, Paddlewheels on the Cheap, Oar Concepts for BDB

If you been following along with the bouncing ball, you know that I’ve been working on a 15mm fantasy boat project called BIG DANGED BOATS (If not, read more HERE).  15mm is a fun scale to paint in because it’s small enough for my mediocre painting skills to be less easy to see and large enough to highly visible on the table.  I like 15mm in a naval context as it is a good scale for boarding actions, and this game is going to emphasize that form of Naval Combat.  6mm seems to lose the figures in  the melee.  I’ve really not had a problem finding ships and items to kitbash to make into boats for this game.  Old Glory have made the bulk of them, and they are nice for the level of detail that Joel Gregory (the principle sculptor that I know of) puts into them.    However, many of the smaller OG Ships are sculpted somewhat small and narrow for big sprawling boarding action games so I’ve had to improvise and adapt a wide range of hulls from various flea market finds, toy builds, and kitbashing.  The first ships come from a couple of truly revolting finds from a flea market a long time ago.  They are resin galleys of a sort.. perhaps from the same era as “My Galley Sally” games.  They came unpainted and were clearly some sort of knockoff casting.. horrifically pitted and with poor levels of detail.  When I was building out my first ships for BDB, I was looking at these hulls, trying to figure out how they could possibly be useful.  They were at least boat shaped, but it would take hours and hours of effort– filling with putty and sanding smooth– to make these hulls look even mediocre.  OR.. I could make them a kind of ship that actually is SUPPOSED to look rotten, and that is the approach I went with.  Here are the DEADNOUGHT and BLACK GALLEY, Ships for the Bone Brigade faction in BDB.    These two ships are oar powered by Undead Crews that never feel fatigue, which gives them an advantage in this game.  Unlike other ships in the middle sea, Bone Brigade ships do not use Boom Powder weapons.   Count Saliestro, the head of the Bone Brigade (a Vampire), is a trifle conservative about modern inn0vations, and prefers to use the giant rock lobbing capabilities of the Deadnought for missile fire.


The Deadnought from the Bone Brigade

Deadnought Bridge

Top of the superstructure, DEADNOUGHT, with Count Saliestro, center.

Close up, Bone Brigade crew getting ready to fight

Black Galley

The Black Galley, another horrible casting I found in a flea market. I’ll have make this look even MORE pitted and rotten to make it match the horrendous Deadnought.

Carry On, Constant Reader, there’s more!

01 Jun 2013 NOVAG Game Day: Denmark Strait and Battle of the River Platte

As a favor to Tim Tilson of NOVAG leadership, I responded to his request to run games with a couple of “games in the hip pocket” as it were.  I think a dedicated miniatures hobbyist should always have something in a box ready to go for just this sort of occurrence.  So here’s my plan:

NOVAG GAME DAY, 01 JUNE 2013.  Location: Knights of Columbus Hall in Fairfax, VA.  Gaming starts at 1300 and ends at 1800.  That means I have all of 5 hours.  I could run one long or two short games, and my money is on two short ones.  I think Victory at Sea can support this.  It’s not the most complicated naval rule set I’ve ever seen (Harpoon it ain’t) and has very straightforward game mechanics that should execute quickly with minimal oversight.


The Battle of Denmark Strait.

Players: 4 max, plays reasonably well with down to 2 players.
In May of 1941, the Bismarck and the escorting Prinz Eugen finally broke out into the Atlantic and were free to begin their commerce raiding cruise.  Just two ships of the Royal Navy stood in their way, the HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales.
The resulting battle proved to be disastrous for the Royal Navy and lead to one of the greatest confrontations at sea during WW2.
Perhaps it could have gone differently, who knows?  The RN players will have the Hood and Prince of Wales, the Germans the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen.  Rules will be Victory at Sea by Mongoose Publishing.
Scale: is slightly larger than 1:600 (Axis and Allies War at Sea ships)
Rules: Victory at Sea,
Duration: Probably 3 hours max.
if needed in the late afternoon,
The Battle of River Plate
Players 4 max, the British player can play multiple ships
The first major naval engagement of WW2, the Admiral Graf Spee had been successfully raising merchant ships in the South Atlantic, but the Royal Navy’s Sought American Division was closing in.  On December 13th, 1939, three British Cruisers engaged the German pocket battleship.  On paper, they were outgunned.  Historically, the German captain balked due to his certainty that there was another RN squadron nearby (there wasn’t)– so he cut and run to a neutral harbor where he ended up scuttling his ship.  This scenario allows the half-completed historical battle to be played out.  In a stand up fight the British player will be at a gunnery and armor disadvantage, but will have the advantage of attacking from different directions.
Scale is 1:600, rules Victory at Sea, probably 3 hours max.

I expect the Bismarck scenario will run faster than the Graf Spee.  Since I’m playing with over-sized WaS miniatures the scale might be a little tight, and thus players will start closer together.
As mentioned the Bismarck scenario ship models are all from the War At Sea collection from Axis and Allies.  A little large for naval gaming and crude close up, but from a distance they look just fine to me.  I have picked these ups in dribs and drabs from flea markets and Ebay, it was a very cost effective acquisition of ship models.  Their great advantage is that they all come pre-painted, and that makes life easy.
To make the River Platte Scenario happen, I went wild (courtesy of a 25% off sale on Free Comic Book Day) and bought Mongoose Publishing’s BATTLE OF RIVER PLATTE battle set.

Battle of the River Platte. About 28 USD for me, and I consider it a pretty good purchase.

The miniatures are a pleasant surprise.  Scaled for 1:600 which some people find overlarge but I’m quite comfortable with after years of Uncharted Seas, these minis are very well detailed, solid, with think attached bases and some metal bits, such as turrets and masts, to cut out and glue on.  Each kit comes with a label on the bottom and an extra set of metal bits.  I’m impressed.  (edit: the Mongoose Publishing ships are 1:1800, not 1:600.  They compare favorably to the Axis and Allies War at Sea ships, which I discovered last night)

photo of miniature

Top, River Platte Set Miniature

image_1 (2)

Dude, I know. It came from the Publisher spelled that way.

These miniatures are competitively priced and very well done.  I just might acquire more, especially the battle packs for engagements with small numbers of ships engaged.

So, if you’re in my neck of the woods, and want to play a naval game or two if they let us go long, Drop on by.

Lastly, a little inspiration. I have discovered you can view several excellent films on these battles for FREE, on Youtube.

The Battle of the River Platte (This is a Playlist collection on youtube– Part 1 appears to be missing, but it’s not really required to enjoy this film)

This was a very accurate rendition of the battle shot in the 50s, with one of the British ships that participated in the battle (Achilles) playing itself and an American cruiser playing the Graf Spee. Sure, it has one turret too many, and there are a few other historical goofs, but no real howlers. I like this film for the same reason I like SINK THE BISMARCK (the British Action Film, not the documentary)– it’s not melodramatic, it doesn’t concentrate on human drama so much as portray the events as they occurred and it depicts both sides as doing a professional job of accomplishing their mission as ordered. The effects are subdued and even crude, but the melodrama is minimal and there’s not even a single shot of a captain staring up at the camera and shouting “Nooooooo” with a dying ensign in his arms.

Sink the Bismarck! (this is a playlist on Youtube of the History Channel’s documentary of the Battle of Denmark Strait (in full)).

This is a documentary, not the 1960 drama referenced in the paragraph above. The documentary is quite good and has good animations.

The Prinz Eugen Film of Denmark Strait

Camera footage taken from the Bismarck’s escort, the cruiser Prinz Eugen.

The Mighty HMS Hood (part 1 of a 4 part series)

A PBS documentary about the confrontation between HOOD and BISMARCK, likely originating from the BBC.

Battle of the River Platte newsreel

The Scuttling of the Graf Spee newsreel footage

Enjoy, hope to see you there!

EDIT: Just got this from Tim Tilson via email.

“The deadline for the PEL is Friday.  A final PEL will published early next week.  Currently there are seven games as follows:
SYW Land x1
Colonial x1
WWI Naval x1
WWII Naval x1 (two if necessary) That’s me.
WWII Land x2
Fantasy Land x1
We start at 1:00 pm so people can take of errands/soccer etc in the am.  Since this is not a library we can stay as late as we want.  A 6:00 pm end time is about right as most games will be done by then.  And yes the price is the major determiner.  We are not paying a set fee. Instead we will take all the $ from the admissions fees and donate that to the Knights of Columbus council.”  

Big Danged Boats for HISTORICON, 2013 Game Camp

Big Danged Boats for HISTORICON, 2013 Game Camp

The Dwarven Stealth Ships are taking shape on the table now. Plunger (in the foreground) and Von Ripper (background). These are based on Old Glory/Merrimac 15mm Civil War ships “David” and “Hunley“. The Von Ripper has had a saw blade added forward, and artillery platforms for a light gun (forward facing, fixed) and heavy gun (can rotate, stern). the only other mod for the Von Ripper will be to build up the decking so the crossbowmen can fire over the gunnels. The Von Ripper has a Ram Factor of 3, a light and heavy gun that require at least three figures to man them, initial powder of 3 barrels. Crew : undecided, but likely 5 crossbowmen and 5 melee, plus 1 leader. The Plunger is designed from a famous Confederate submarine hull from the Civil War, and the model has a spar torpedo, which is a technology application I’m carrying over into BDB. The Plunger is designed to attack with spar torpedoes (3 at start), Ram factor 0, crew of 3 and possibly 6 melee troops for boarding. Little or no conversion here– I love this model. I will add two stealth tokens (an idea I got from Uncharted Seas) to represent where the sub *might* be when submerged. This is a stealth boat and operates with a crew hand cranking it. It can’t stay down forever because the air grows foul in the hull over time (just like the historical Hunley), so that’s part of the mechanics.

Why I’m all in on an Ironclads Helper App

As long term readers will agree with an eye-rolling and a faint “no-duh” faintly escaping their lips, I like miniature wargames. I also like Civil War and later naval games, particularly featuring Ironclads– as in the new class of armored, steam powered ships that changed naval warfare forever during the American Civil War. 1861-1865 was a period of naval change that was no less than revolutionary. In less than a year, the Navy went from a polyglot, all wooden service that still used sail as the primary motive power for vessels to a multi-faceted technologically innovative force, capable of engaging in very modern combined force operations all over the Confederate coastline. As the role of the Navy expanded exponentially, it had to expand its technologies to meet a host of challenges– blockading the sprawling Confederate coastline, intercepting blockade runners. Patrolling rivers in the Western Theater. Bombarding shore positions. Landing Troops. Most importantly, meeting the nascent Confederate Navy on the water wherever it could be found. It was an exciting time in naval history, and I love it.

Naval combat in this age was a risky endeavor. The steam engines of the era were relatively new and almost always underpowered for the iron beasts they were propelling across the water. The ships of the day faced all sorts of perils from all quarters– Wind and rain and sickness and occasionally an enemy ship. The occasions when ships of the two fleets engaged in a shooting contest were relatively rare after 1863, sadly, but always a moment of high drama for both sides. Ironclads, and warships in general, were an expensive, labor and resource intensive item for this time period. Would they smash the enemy? Or would the engine blow up and the bow stave in? Even for the technologically advanced Union Navy, success was not always certain. Things… critical things.. could go wrong or be overlooked, often with disastrous outcomes.

Gaming the naval Civil War can be a ticklish proposition, depending on who your audience is. Do you go for a quick set of rules that emphasize maneuver and contact, like Beer and Pretzels Ironclads? Or something more abstract, like Hammerin’ Iron? Or do you try to get the best historical experience available. For my money, the game that simulated real, actual naval combat better than most others was the original IRONCLADS, by Yaquinto games, published way back in the 80s. This was a game that accounted for all those crazy factors in an ironclad fight– Armor slope and thickness and the position of the ships and the weather and the crew levels… etc., etc. A lot of people agree with me.. IRONCLADS was (and is) maybe the best historical treatment of ship to ship combat during the Civil War, even if it did start life as a boardgame. Converting it to miniatures never was a huge problem– I’ve played many games of Ironclads without hex grids.

The big problem I’ve always had with Ironclads, however, was the multi-stepped combat and the large number of chart lookups just to achieve some positive result. Ironclads can be a slow game– and it’s not a set of game rules I would currently use for a convention game. Why not? Mostly a combat resolution that takes several steps to resolve something simple, like “What happens when I fire my Parrot gun at that Casemate over there?” Most games I’ve played at cons have gone pretty slow as a result of the level of granularity. That’s the price you pay for playing a game with a fair degree of historical accuracy. You young whippersnappers don’t appreciate this at all, I know, but that’s what wargame design was like in the early 80s. Wargames were like fine sippin’ whiskey… you took your time and you savored the experience.

The Ironclad boardgame was in a limbo for a while. It got acquired by Excalibre, a reprint house, and they did an okay job on the components, but not stellar. The rulebook, which was pretty dense in the original, was now twice as dense as it was shrunk down to about 80% of the original size and the fonts were hard to make out (can you tell this is the version I own?). Somewhere along the way, Toby Barrett of Thoroughbred Miniatures picked up the rights to the system from the original designer. If you know anything about 1:600 Ironclad miniatures, you know there’s three main vendors, and Thoroughbred is the best of them, based on detail, casting quality and the depth of the line. (Though to be fair I think Bay Area Yards would be a serious contender if they expanded their selection a bit). Toby appreciates the complexity of the original Ironclads game; a game helper application has been lurking on the back burner for years. With the advent of Ipads, it appears he found the right platform. I agree. That’s why I think I’ll be taking advantage of the Kickstarter going on to make IRONCLADS into a game helper app. I’m not sure where they’re going with the helper app concept..will it play the game from start to finish? Hard to say, but it appears that they are creating something like SHIPBASE III for Ironclads, and that could be very useful for an Ironclads geek like me.

So I’m all in, even though I’ve got a lot of Ironclad minis already. I’ve been running Hammerin’ Iron 2 and BAPS Ironclads at conventions, for the speed, not the depth of the rules. I think it would be really neat to run a game of Ironclads to the finish with just an Ipad and some dice.

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter, Enjoy: