Category Archives: wargame

Microgames as Epubs

I belong to a Yahoogroup about the game Warpwar (among other things).  That game is having a 35th anniversary coming up.  What’s Warpwar?  Well, check out the Microgames Nostalgia page.    In short, it’s a cool diceless combat space game, the first big Micro format space game, and many regard it as an enduring classic.  There’s been a big push to recreate the game in a more portable format, with better artwork, for the 35th anniversary.  As a result of that effort, the group published the first (so far as I know) Microgame in the portable epub format.

WARP WAR showing up in my IBooks Bookcase view (click to enlarge). Whoever formatted this one did a great job.

Creating Epub rulesets wasn’t exactly the prime focus of the 35th Anniversary group, but it made me think.. isn’t this a great format for smaller games without a ton of pictures?

So you’re saying to yourself, “Self, why make a big deal about this?  I can purchase Wargame rules as PDF files already, what’s the big deal?”   This is a handy concept for a few reasons.  As EPUB is a fairly widespread format, it is accessible on most commercial reader tablets, and works on Ipads, Nooks and Kindles. It is designed to be read using a device and not printed out– though that’s possible as well if you use a web browser with a plugin (see the Epub Reader plugin for Firefox, for example, or Adobe Digital editions). As such, it might be a very interesting choice for deploying games.  Yes, commercial games are already sold (and also available for free download) as PDF files, which also work on tablets, Nooks, and Kindles. The big problem with the PDF format is the space requirements for the physical file, as it relies heavily on Postscript to define graphics, and that can lead to file size bloatage. Epub is a lot leaner, but the downside is that it is a lot clumsier to format and doesn’t handle graphics as easily as PDF will. Still, as you can see from the pictures above, it’s a format with some promise. Smaller games don’t have nearly the graphics requirements as some 50 to 90 dollar behemoth with color pages, and could really benefit from the epub distribution. I could easily see a set of epubs supporting a game, 1 being the text of the rules and 1 or 2 epubs being cheat sheets for easy reference, so you could actually play a game using a tablet computer. Now that might not appeal to a lot of the older generation of gamers that either love the feel of a paper book, or  kind of set in their ways.  That’s understandable.  The fact is, I rarely reference a full rule set during the course of a game.  I use some cheat sheets which I print out many copies of (which tend to clutter up the table and make it less than pretty).  If there were a few tablets around with access to the cheat sheet, you might not need to print ANY paper out eventually.   Yes, I know, it’s not going to happen overnight, or at least until tablets become a more eponymous feature of the gaming landscape.  Still, Epub is an interesting alternative to PDF distribution.

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Tabletop Army Managers: One area the Ipad doesn’t excel in (yet)

I’m a miniatures wargamer, and have been most of my adult life.  I like owning an Ipad and find it useful for ALL kinds of endeavors.  It would be logical to get the two pastimes to synch up so the Ipad can help to play wargames.  You’d think it would be a natural.  I already read books and magazines on an Ipad, reading wargame rulebooks would be a no-brainer.  And one feature that I thought would be simple enough has proven to be elusive– Army Managers and Army Creators on the Ipad.  The function I’m describing is the ability to enter tabletop army function into an application, and have it spit out a roster that could read directly on the Ipad, or sent to a printer.  Again, this seems like a natural to me, and not to hard to create using something like Microsoft Access.  Just time consuming.  So I was glad to learn there were some purpose made Army Generator/Manager apps in the App store.  That is, until I started to buy a few:

I looked into a few under “Army Generator” or “Army Manager” in the App Store

Sean Rogers Quartermaster

Sean Rogers Quartermaster

Sean Rogers’ QUARTERMASTER seems to have a tight interface and the necessary one-to-many relationships required to make an Army Manager possible. Yet, Mr. Rogers states up front that this is a Warhammer and Warhammer 40K app only, and frankly I have no use for it. I don’t play Warhammer and the App is hard wired to only run that.

So, we eliminate that one.

I also took a look at Broken Ninja’s ARMY GENERATOR app. It seems more generic than QUARTERMASTER but frankly I got scared away by the very bad reviews on Itunes.

Team Broken Ninja Wargame Army Builder.

It’s supposed to be buggy, but it actually does look like it could generate an actual generic fantasy, non-Games Workshop related army list.. I may have to revisit this.

Sadly, I did get rooked into buying a couple, starting with IRoster Fantasy (See below). I think the wording might have been more generic, or it was simple wish-fulfillment on my part.. I didn’t WANT it to be another GW tabletop army list maker, so I sort of invested the time and effort to give it a shot, which I’ll try to portray here. Before I get started with screenshots, I’ll describe my test case for utilizing an Ipad Army Roster app.

Requirements: Easy to use, customizable, able to define or work with armies that aren’t hardwired for a particular game system. The user SHOULD be able to create his or her own races, their own classes, their own statistics, their own army structures, from whole cloth. There should be a range of flexibility to the design– like many Windows based army generators enjoy.

As my test case, I tried to enter in an “Army” (really a fleet) from UNCHARTED SEAS. You might say, hey, that’s no fair! But they are points-based, divided into factions, and easily definable. It SHOULD be a natural, yes? Erm, no, as it turned out.

iRoster Fantasy

iList Fantasy utility

While I admire the look and feel of this Simon Genest’s iRoster Fantasy app, it became immediately apparent that the Fantasy in iRoster Fantasy is only supporting fantasy as interpreted by the Games Workshop company. The following screenshots are an attempt by me to “cheat” the app into creating a roster for my Uncharted Seas Thaniras Elves fleet. It was a dismal failure.

iRoster: new List

iRoster: creating new list

Already, it’s not living up to my expectations as defined above. I can’t even define the name of the fleet, I have to pick from GW’s list of Fantasy armies.

A different approach, staring with defining unit types

Unit customization

My thought was to create ship types as unit types, sort of swap out Elven Frigates for Elven Spearmen, as it were.

Copying Unit

Once created, maybe I could possibly copy the number of ship types to match number of hulls to the fleet numbers and come up with a fleet.

No such luck.  I couldn’t actually create a container object called “Thaniras Elves for starters.

You can’t create a new race. You have to take these Warhammer Fantasy ones.

So that means, the most “Elfish” I could make my Thaniras Elf example is to name it “Wood Elves” and do the mental juxtaposition. That only works if you’re playing with standard fantasy types, and it’s kind of a lame methodology anyway.

In the end, I gave up on iRoster Fantasy. It’s pretty, but it’s also hardwired for Games Workshop, which I thought you could cheat your way around, but no such luck. It’s too much of a headache to even achieve a half-assed attempt at forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Which brings me to my second attempt, Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager.

Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager … sounds generic enough, yes?

I had MUCH more enthusiasm for Cory Fong’s app than iRoster right from the get-go. There appeared at first glance to be a high level of customization to this application:

Defining …

Wow, defining factors! A good start.

Race Names? Check!!!

If you are familiar with Uncharted Seas, you’ll see “Bone Gryffons” up there. Yeah! It can define races as well! Booyah!

The Entire Uncharted Seas “universe” entered in…

I went to the trouble of creating fleet “containers” for each race…

Then, individual ships per container…

My first stumbling block.. I couldn’t figure out how to create a class of an object, and repeat it in an army (or fleet). In this case, the Thaniras Raven frigate. I just wanted to create it once, and add, say, six of it to an individual instance of a fleet. I ended up thoroughly puzzled about how the designer approached this very basic concept. No biggie, I just created “Raven1, Raven2,..” and cursed it for a clumsy attempt at working around the designer’s intentions.

Evidence that the unit statistics are hardwired for Warhammer Fantasy. Sigh….

Well, here is where we get to the point where this app totally breaks down for me. At the most minute level, you can’t change the unit statistics. They are, simply put, Warhammer Fantasy battle statistics. Nowhere in the description does it say “This is for Warhammer fantasy only, don’t bother if you want to change this”. In the picture above, I’m trying to figure out a way of superimposing a stat line of Uncharted Seas stats as a NOTE to the hardwired Games Workshop stuff, but this is proving to be tedious, slow and frankly, a pain in the ass.

Trying to define a ship in this App.

And trying to define a fleet.

In the end, I gave up on the Cory Fong app, too, which was more disappointing than iRoster because it really LOOKED like it might get me where I wanted to go, and didn’t reveal it’s buried “hardwired GW” state until I had been banging away on it for over an hour to create something pretty simple. If I have to work that hard on creating workarounds for what should be a simple function, than the hell with it. I’m done. I believe Mr. Fong did acknowledge that the stats were hardwired in a followup email, but I can’t find it to quote it, it was a few months ago.

So, in the end, here we are, without the be-all and end-all in Army Roster/Manager apps, still looking. I would have thought the Ipad was a good medium and a great tool for this– less paper, easy access, quick to make changes. It turned out to be more daunting a challenge than I would have suspected. I thought an army list app would follow a sort of one to many relationship with the stats being definable up front, sort of like this:

But again and again I’m seeing anything but this. Which is great, I guess, if you play Warhammer Fantasy or 40K, but it pretty much sucks if you want to play anything else in the gaming universe. I’m hoping someone will be able to create that universal list building application I have in my head someday, because we’re not anywhere near that right now as far as I can see.

Oh, and a last word for App developers.  Call it what it is.. it’s NOT a “fantasy battle list generator”.. it’s a WARHAMMER battle list generator.   That distinction becomes important someone wants to play something other than Warhammer.  Mention it in BOLD TYPE somewhere before said person shells out 7 or 8 bucks, please.

The Passing of S. Craig Taylor

Flat Top, Avalon Hill era

Word has filtered in, via Yahoogroup and Facebook, of the passing of Craig Taylor.  This is third hand from Bob Coggins (who worked with Craig on Napoleon’s Battles):

“Bob Coggins asked me to let everyone know that S. Craig Taylor passed away this week. Cause of death was undetermined at this time, but will be available later, I’m sure. Bob’s computer is down at the moment so he will not be able to respond to any questions on line. We will let everyone know more details as they become available. Craig was a prolific and successful miniatures and board game historical rules writer and co-author of Napoleon’s Battles. I’ve known him since his Avalon Hill days when I was one of the staff playtesters on Avalon Hill’s version of the Australian Napoleonic game “Empires in Arms,” which Craig shepherded through the redesign effort and publication. His integrity and willingness to go the extra mile in game development was well known. He was an amazing game designer and developer with a long list of titles to his credit. The hobby has lost a true professional, a true friend. He will be missed.”

I can only echo Bob’s sentiments.  S. Craig Taylor was a creative giant and astute businessman, the mind behind designs that were revolutionary in their day and still played today: Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Napoleon’s Battles, Flat Top, Air Force, half of Macchiavelli, Sergeants!, Ship o’ the Line, half of Naval War, Development on Empires in Arms,.. Craig, along with Steve Peek, was one of the two men behind the Yaquinto Game company, which brought us classic games such as Swasbuckler, Armor, Battle and my favorite, Ironclads.

I wasn’t great friends with Craig but I have met and talked with him on several occasions at shows, from long ago ORIGINS to more recent HISTORICONS, where he was present manning the booth for his more recent venture, Lost Battallion Games.  For a guy who had such a deep impact on the wasting of my time (via WS&IM, Apache, Yaquinto Games of Various kinds, Napoleon’s Battles and Flat Top, even Ship of the Line, which I was playing with miniatures in the early 80s), I never got the impression that he thought his output was anything special.  He was always very easygoing, approachable and good humored when I talked to him.  I’ll miss Craig,  a talented designer and a gentle soul.  R.I.P. Craig Taylor.

Swashbuckler, Yaquinto Era

Can’t find a good picture of Craig in my files or on the interwebs, so I’m just putting covers of favorite games up in this post.  Our hobby will certainly less without you, Craig

Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Avalon Hill Era


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Review — British Napoleonic Peninsular War Flank Company [VX5401]

See previous review of Victrix Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805-1812

This is a follow up purchase to the Victrix Voltigeurs I picked up last month.  I have been acquiring and painting up 54mm Skirmisher figures for an ancient game I idea I had about man to man skirmishing in the Napoleonic era.   For the game to see fruition I’m going to need a relatively small group of figures from each side (8-10 maximum).  I want to ultimately pit Riflemen versus Voltigeurs from the late war era.  I own and have painted up about 10 of the Italieri 95th Rifles but they are a little largish compared to the Victrix Voltigeurs.  So I picked the British Peninsular Infantry Flank Company box as well.  This makes sense.  The flank company is sculpted and detailed to be a set of light infantry troops, which are sufficiently animated that they would make great skirmish troops.  I would have liked at least a couple of crouching/firing poses but these are probably sculpted to be deployed in formations, not as skirmishers.   No matter.  There’s enough variation in the basic body types that they look pretty animated to me.

Box Cover from Victrix Site

Box Cover

As before there are five or so sprues of various body parts and bodies to create customization with. From what I’m seeing here you can create a maximum of 16 figures from the sprues included. There are two officer figures and a drummer boy as well as several infantry in action or marching.


Group of 5 sample figs: Drummer, Officer, and 3 Infantrymen

Closer: Drummer, Officer, Infantryman

3 infantry poses

I’m going to use the basic redcoat/grey trousers/black shako paint scheme for these guys, as generic late war period infantry British infantry types. Here’s a picture of the Victrix site’s suggested paint scheme:

Suggested paint scheme

Suggested Paint Scheme

The figures out of the box are made of a durable hard style plastic that assembles very quickly with styrene glue (Testors, in this case), which bonds quickly and holds well. Out of the box they are slightly oily, which is probably mold release spray residue. Recommend an overnight soak before painting. Flashing is minimal. There were some mold lines on the sides of the shakos that needed trimming but I found nothing else that required a lot of work– some poses require a little attention while the plastic cement welds are curing.

Though they aren’t exactly cheap (say, compared to Italieri’s molded plastic figures, at about 15 dollars more on average, US retail prices), they are wondrously flexible in their approach to customization. I really like these releases and I certainly plan on buying and building more. I won’t be fielding large armies of these, ever, but they are great value for the money and I enjoy the detail, sculpting and utility of Victrix 54mm scale figures. If this is a scale and period you are interested in, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Update: SJG’s BATTLESUIT in 15mm

Progress Report: follow up to BATTLESUIT in 15mm

I now have a sizable force of the Red Attack Force in 15mm, based, painted and just about good to go.  I was going to go with a straight interpretation of the counter set but as I started discovering some of the excellent options available in 15mm SF, well, it became easy to acquire more troops of a varied nature.  So that means what I end up with will not be an exact interpretation of Battlesuit in miniature, but something more generic with Battlesuit trappings.

Red Force, wide shot

Here’s where there will be some differences.

There are three basic suit types in the printed game, as described by this text:

3.01 Infantry. Ten different kinds of infantry units are supplied.
Four represent different models of armor, four represent
armor that has suffered various degrees of damage, and two
represent infantrymen without powered armor.
The front of each armored infantry counter shows that man
in “normal” status; the back of the counter shows the same
man in a state of shock (see Section 6.042).
3.011 Standard suit. This is the basic type of powered
armor. It has an attack value of 8, an ECM (electronic countermeasure)
value of 2, and a move of 5.
3.012 Assault suit. This is an improved model suit, more
effective but more costly. It has an attack value of 10, an ECM
value of 3, and a move of 6.
3.013 Command suit. This type is identical to the assault
suit except in its increased communications ability (not directly
shown in the game) and better ECM value. It has a combat
value of 10, an ECM value of 4, and a move of 6. Infantry
officers at and above platoon level use these suits.
3.014 Ranger suit. Another costly improvement on the
standard suit, the ranger has improved myoelectric “muscles”
and better jets, as well as extra “stealth” electronics; it is
designed for raiding and reconnaissance. It has a combat value
of 8, an ECM value of 5, and a move of 7.

Those suit types are here in this miniature version too, but I am also adding Specialist and Crew. Specialists are specialty drone and robot operators that operate equipment that either recons the extends the commander’s command space or attacks the op-for side. Crew man static support weapons

I was seriously contemplating printing stats for each soldier in BattleSuit format, see below:

Battlesuit counters from original game

This would entail using the stats: Attack strength / ECM / movement, printed on labels on the stand. Since I started working on this project I’ve gotten away from that view and will go with a more generic approach of three colors that could mean almost anything I want to plug in and a rank insignia. Thus I can swap out stats for the three boxes if I find a rules set I like better than Battlesuit in the future.

Major Rico's Stat line for his base.

I’m adding drones, just like the original BATTLESUIT game. These will come in a variety of sizes and are roughly in three types: recon, bomb and gun drones. My thought is to add one per base but I might turn it into a swarm of drones. I think there should be a handler or operator in the battlespace, so I’ve added Specialist figures.

I’ve also added a few robots, because, well, it’s science-fictional to do so. I found some nice ground based recon robots from GZG in 15mm, as well as a couple of autonomous gunbots on treads I’m classifying as “Boundry Security Droids”, whose job is to provide picket duty for a Company’s flanks. Just because I had one in inventory, I added a cool retro robot figure scaled to 28mm which looks good as a giant walking robot figure in 15mm.

So with that said, where are we?

There will be two forces of about company size in a science fictional universe. One will be predominately red and the other black. The red company will be more agile and mobile, the black will have higher numbers and hard hitting power.

Red is just about done, as you can see:

"Regular Suits".. mostly. Support weapons to the left.

More "Regular Suit" troop types, with heavy weapons team in front.

The Silver helmets I envision as elite Assault troop types.

I have a small squad of "Ranger Suits" that can perform rocket assisted jumps.

Command element up front, Rangers on the right, Assault in the Middle.

Recon bots (rear, upainted), Killabot Prime, Perimeter Security droids, heavy weapons, and regular grunts.

There are support weapons in battlesuit that look more like a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) than a larger bore sighted piece of bona fide artillery. So I picked up some more mortars and a field piece.

So far? I’m pretty enthused about the project. Terrain will remain a challenge, but I have some ideas about how to make that happen when I get round to it. I’m loving this project so far.

Cold Wars 2012 is right around the corner, Guidebook is now

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Spring convention, COLD WARS 2012, on March 9-11.  Unofficially, if you show up Thursday, you can also get in a big chunk of gaming, as well.

As I have done for the past two conventions, I have created a Guidebook helper app for this convention using the event planning service and software.  Guidebook is an outstanding service that just keeps getting better with the strategic partnering decisions they have made in the last year. We have been using Guidebook’s entry level free service tier for the last two conventions, HISTORICON 11 and FALL IN! 11.   This limits the number of guidebook downloads to a flat 200 downloads per event.  That may not seem like much (and it has dropped from last year, when it was 300).  I think we could probably justify spending a flat 500 dollars to get unlimited downloads, but we’re building up to that usage level gradually.  We had under 300 downloads for HISTORICON and FALL IN, so with the reduction in the download amount this year we actually MIGHT have a bigger demand then supply for COLD WARS 12!  With all that said, here’s what GUIDEBOOK does:

ImageGuidebook 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 Touch, Ipad, 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.


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

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 COLD WARS 2012.  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 Android Store.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located COLD WARS 2012.  Download that guide, and browse away.

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 published the guide yesterday, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.  You may look at a preview instance of the guide in your web browser in advance, right now.

Simply point your browser to this url:  It will probably ask for a preview code.  Type in this: spdtq52z

You can probably use the preview link above in advance with any browser capable phone.  Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for COLD WARS 2012– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, Painting University, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bob Van Der Kamp, 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.

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BATTLESUIT in 15mm Scale


Battlesuit, the original

I’ve always had a hankering to try to recreate a few of the great game experiences of my youth in miniatures.  I mean, beyond something already purposely designed for that objective, like OGRE MINIATURES.  To expound on that idea, I used to play a game called BATTLESUIT by Steve Jackson Games…  Remember that one?  It was an orphan in the Ogreverse, the man-to-man combat game of the sad-sack infantry guys who had to survive on the hell that was the OGRE battlefield.  The game that came out in 1983 had a very distinctive set of mechanics that set it far apart from its larger scaled OGRE and GEV brothers.  For one thing, the scale was man to man.  For another, it featured activation and movement rules that were fundamentally different from the previous  OGRE and GEV games.  The turn sequence in Battlesuit is highly interactive, a player may move but also will have to deal with his opponent firing back with opportunity fire at any time during his movement phase.   Battlesuit


The Map

had no hexes– instead it had a point to point movement map where the counters moved from dot to dot on a map that was topographic with a dot sequence (roughly equivalent to hexagons) overlaid on top of the map.  The game also has a decidedly interesting three dimensional feel to it– topography plays into this game, as a result of the scale of the conflict, I think.  Height is important.  The soldiers can jump a distance in this universe, and they can be shot at in the air.   Cover, concealment, line of sight– all much more important concepts in this game than in parent OGRE/GEV games, who come off as pretty conventional in comparison.  The other element of interest



was the status of the soldier represented by the counter in this game.  Battlesuits are complex things– they can get damaged.  When a man in a battlesuit takes fire, he can panic very easily, and the results are interesting– BATTLESUIT soldiers can be shaken, can Panic or even go Berserk.  All of this is simulated in the boardgame with counters.  I like Denis Loubet’s funky early 80s retro artwork.

Now if you’ve been keeping up, you’re probably thinking about how much this game seems like a standard modern skirmish game, with the same concepts I’ve played in many a miniatures combat game– movement, cover, reaction, command, morale, fire and counterfire..  So why not bring it to a miniatures venue?  I don’t want to create a giant big thing with 28mm, I’d rather have a game that could be easily contained on  a small map and terrain set, probably one that recreates the original game map in some fashion.  I already have a crosshatched small terrain map from


Sample counters, took me 5 minutes.

MKP that would be perfect for the point to point movement.  Hills would be easy enough, and I would just paint the crosshatches on top of the flocking. The game counters are pretty easy to recreate in Open Office with FUTURE font, as you can see.  So really the big decision will be what to use for the scale and the figures.  15mm seems right to me.  Individually based figures, probably on hex bases just to help with facing.  I could make an entire game happen on a 3 x 3 square, then.  The figure selection is going to be important, though.  I want something that will evoke Loubet’s goofy retro art to some extent.  I also have several soldier types I needed to model– Assault Suits, Regular Suits, Ranger Suits and Command Suits.  The original game had different counters for different damage levels but I think I can solve that with counters.   I made my preliminary purchases online last night.


The Federal Army Riflemen set from Khurasan Miniatures.

Federal Riflemen

Federal Riflemen, Khurasan Minis

I chose these because they weren’t overly bulky yet retained that all over military body armor look. They are painted somewhat realistically for their environment on the Khursan page, but I would probably stick with the predominant red and black theme set by Battlesuit’s counter-mix.


Probably the same as above, painted uniquely to give them a look and feel.


Mad Robot Figures Jump Infantry Squad.

Mad Robot Jump Troopers

Mad Robot Jump Troopers

Yes, they are a different manufacturer but they seem to match the mid-tech armor of the Khurasan bunch nicely, so I’m going with it. I like the dynamism of these figures very much. Just wondering what I’ll do for flight stands.


Khurasan Miniatures, Heavy Weapons team

Khurasan Heavy Weapons set

Khurasan Heavy Weapons set

These aren’t what I had in mind considering the counter mix indicates I’m looking for the SF equivalent of the Squaddie toting the M60 machine gun. Still, they convey the idea of heavy weapons nicely, and I’ll just have to constrict the OOB from the original a bit.


Again we go back to Khurasan miniatures:

Command Set

Command Set. The dog is puzzling.

Most “command units” are a regular guy with his arm posted in a “Follow me” pose. I like that these command units actually look like they are on a future battlefield, commanding something.


The original BATTLESUIT game also has many drones in the counter-mix, which they describe as being Recon, Missile or Gun drones, and possessing the intelligence of a dog. I like this idea a lot and wanted to bring it into the game I was building. Fortunately, Khurasan has a great drone operator figure:

Drone and Mortar

Drone Operator and Mortar Team

GZG miniatures also make many different autonomous killing machines, so I bought a mix of their Drones from their 15mm Star Grunt line:


Drones from GZG

More Drones

More GZG Drones

Even More Drones

Even MORE GZG Drones

I also picked up a few tracked and hover bots from GZG, with the idea that if this works and is fun, I can add killer robots in future games. Maybe do RIVETS on a larger scale…

So that’s where I am with the Battlesuit project.  I think it will make a fun four person game, maybe. It will be easy to paint these up and the rules already exist, though they will have to be heavily modified. I won’t have the same luxury of a large counter mix, and I may have to make counter versions of some things that are missing from the base game. I do think I have captured most of the basic game to give this project a start.

Follow up: UPDATE POST

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The Battle of the Steam Plume

A little easier to make out, as a Youtube video


Williamsburg Muster Weekend 2012

Gar and I pointed the van southward last Saturday for a visit to the Williamsburg Muster, a great little convention that we’ve become fans of in recent years.  The Muster is a mixed format gaming convention, with heavy representation among boardgamers, roleplayers, and miniature hobbyists.  Unlike HMGS conventions the ODMS (Old Dominion Military Society) doesn’t ostensibly limit the content of cons, so the subjects are all over the place.  The Muster (and the ODMS summer convention, Guns of August) takes place at the Holiday Inn Patriot Center, an aging Holiday Inn on the outskirts of downtown Williamsburg.  The Muster takes up three large rooms, space wise, and about a dozen vendors attend from a variety of areas– mostly game stores, but also some publishers and manufacturers like Lock and Load Games and Thoroughbred Figures.

We arrived around noon of Saturday, experiencing no traffic on the way down.  We had reservations at the local Day’s Inn but didn’t bother checking in immediately.  Instead we went directly to the muster and said hi to some people, and then sleezed our way into a game of SPACE:1889.  Man, I was glad I did!

My Command

My Command, a Wooden Pirate “Kite”

This was a game of SKY GALLEONS OF MARS, done in 25mm using a mix of miniatures and lightweight ships made out of some rigid styrofoam material (apparently) and covered with veneer to look like wood.  Very lightweight and durable stuff.


Garrett’s Russian Ironclad

I played a disreputable pirate, Garrett played a small Ironclad steamer.  Another chap played a Japanese patrol frigate, and young Lindsey and her beau, whom I’ve worked staff with at HMGS conventions, played the roles of A British Aphid class patrol frigate and a slightly more up-gunned Privateer.

The Privateer (left) and the British Aphid (right) with Lindsey to the right

my Pirate Kite in foreground and Gar

I love Frank Chadwick‘s Space: 1889 universe and was an avid player back in the day.  I’ve wanted to play the 25mm scaled Sky Galleons games that I often see on the PEL at HMGS cons but they are never at a good time for me.  I was very pleased to get a slot and thankful that the GM put it on.

The battle was fast and resolved well.  Gar and I signaled a little diplomacy at the outset, which is allowed (and it gives the signalman something to do).  I suggested that Gar fire his machine guns at my kite so that the other players would think we were not allies.  Predictably it did nothing.  Gar fired at the Privateer with some long ranged shots and scored some hits, but didn’t unship the guns or kill a lot of crew.  I took a long ranged shot at the British kite and blew up the biggest gun they had.  This earned me a hard stare from Miss Lindsey.

Sorry, Lindsey. I was just looking for something to do.

Hey, I’m a pirate, not a diplomat, right? So we fired at each other long distance and Gar did the same with the Privateer AND the British. I took an unlucky hull hit which caused me to lose some liftwood, and it dropped me a level. Now I couldn’t shoot UP, and the guys above me had a hard time shooting DOWN. I bided my time and soon enough the Aphid dropped down to my level, as did the Russian. While Gar kept her distracted with brisk fire, I managed to get some grappling lines on that held.


Borders AWAY!!

Sadly, those Jolly Jack Tars were made of stern stuff. And there were more of them after my Marines manfully got shot up on the approach. So the first boarding was repulsed. We went in for another try, all or nothing… and..


Boarding gone awry.

… we got repulsed with heavy casualties. Oh dear. We beat feet to get back on board the Kite at a fortuitous moment. The Japanese were finally in the game and were taking long ranged shots at everyone, which had started a double sized fire on the Aphid. Time to break off and run for it!

“He who fights and runs away…”

Runnnnn Awaaay! We were down to 2 guys, on a shot up kite, but we lived and weren’t captured. Somedays, all you can do is all you can do in the pirate trade.

FOR A SLIDESHOW OF THE ACTION, visit my Photobucket Account. I don’t want to make this AAR too crowded..

The game called at about 3 PM. We did a walk around and poked our noses into some other events, but we needed to get our UNCHARTED SEAS: BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME game ready so couldn’t sit down for even a quick game. We went out for some chicken and got the sheets ready. We had planned to go with a laminated card and dry erase approach, but some of the sheets didn’t get printed. So I used the tried and true method of Spartan Games’ fleet composition sheets. I had to hand it to the lady working the front desk, Molli. She believes in customer service. I went online with my Ipad, found the downloadable from the Spartan Games site, downloaded to my Ipad, forwarded to her personal email, and she printed them out on her fax machine. A Gadget enabled happy ending!

There were tons of great games in both big rooms during Saturday. I liked the 1:600 Ironclads CSS Virginia vs. the USS Monitor scenario being run in the main room, but a fellow can’t be in two places at once. It looked fun!

Monitor vs Virginia

Other standouts were constant demonstrations being put on for ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER (Avalon Hill/Multiman Publishing), BATTLE OF WESTEROS (Days of Wonder), Most LOCK AND LOAD games and other fun activities.

The DYSTOPIAN WARS game was very tempting, but naturally it didn’t synch with my schedule, and it went very long..

One of the vendors was running a mix of Battletech game and FIRESTORM ARMADA Demos, and they had some sharp looking stuff out.

Again, tons of fun things to do, not enough time to do ALL of them…

Mark Walker

Mark Walker from Lock and Load Games

Saturday Night, we got our sheets filled out and got back an hour ahead of our start time for the UNCHARTED SEAS game we were throwing for the convention. The scenario was a tad more complex than normal, as I was working with strict alliances (firm between Dragon Lords and Shroud Mages, loosely allied between Iron Dwarves and Men). That meant that there wouldn’t be a lot of chaos and deal brokering. This game would also have more fliers than past games, as the Elves now had an Elder Dragon, the Humans had Da Vinci glider assault launchers, the Dragon Lords had their Naugras, and the Dwarves had their Zeppelin. We made a big effort to pay attention to the DEFENSIVE FIRE, AERIAL ATTACK and DIVING Rules for this game, as everyone had a “death from above” weapon. To further complicate matters, I added a live volcano that randomly spouted a gout of lava, which had the potential for wreaking havoc with the fleets sailing around it.

The map looked roughly like this, not to scale of course.

The Battle of The Steam Plume


A Strong coalition of Allied nations approached the Demon’s Forge Archipelago to force passage for the Colonization fleet moving into the Darnak Cluster.  The Imperials were anxious to set up a strongly defended trading post in the vicinity as the islands had proven to have high concentrations of iron, nickel and sulfur.  Unfortunately, local volcanic activity is high and the straits approaching the proposed landfall are dominated by an active volcano… which should makes things lively for any fleet venturing through the area.

The Battle of the Steam Plumes began with fleets from the Elves, Orcs, Bone Griffons, Dragon Lords, Shroud Mages, Humans and Dwarves on the table, but we quickly pulled the Orcs out (for balance) and then the Bone Griffons and Elves.  The Elves fit in the scenario better than the Bone Griffons, but we didn’t have enough players.  I played the Imperial Human fleet with 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, 6 regular frigates, 4 martyr frigates, and 5 cargo ships whose function was really just as victory points.  In addition, I had two assault glider launcher balloons at my disposal, which were hidden on a cruiser and one of the cargo ships.  The Iron Dwarves were run by my rather loose “Ally” Dewey LaRochelle, who had a Battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 submarines, 6 frigates and a zeppelin.  The Dragon Lords (run by a player named Derek)  were more firmly allied with a client fleet, the Shroud Mages (run by Garrett), and they had a battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 Celestial Heavy cruisers, 1 Dragon carrier (that launches two flights of Naugra dragons), and 6 frigates.  The Shroud Mages have a hodgepodge of units, including a battleship, three cruisers, 3 infiltrator destroyers, 6 frigates, and 3 other destroyers.   Of the two opposing fleets, the Shroud Mages hit harder but the Dragon Lords are more versatile.  As you can see in the graphic above the Humans encountered the Mages and the Dwarves encountered the Dragon Lords.  I had the Eagle battleship out in the Van of the attack to bring its devastating broadside to bear.  In no time whatsoever, The Eagle destroyed a Shroud Mage Cruiser and two frigates.  Similarly, the Iron Dwarves conducted a massive frigate attack with combined fire on the Cruiser van of the Dragon Lord fleet, and they started loosing ships immediately.  The Shroud Mages lost another cruiser to gunfire but the Eagle got into a bad spot where she couldn’t retreat to a distance and use her amazing broadside, and she caught a lot of fire.  The Humans lost a cruiser in the counterattack and some frigates.  The Humans brought up the Martyr frigates and they sailed in to another Shroud mage Cruiser squadron.  The explosion did for the cruiser and two frigates, to much rejoicing.  Alas, the Shroud battleship maneuvered into a position to take the stricken Eagle under fire and sank her.  Meanwhile the Dragon Lord Celestials had gone down and the Dwarven Zeppelin was poised to bomb the Dragon Lord Battleship.  The Dragon lords launched the Naugra dragons at the Zeppelin and it went down hard, ripped to shreads by repeated clawing and ripping attacks by the tiny dragons.    That was not enough to stem the tide of victory on the Dwarf side, but it did slow him down a bit.  Meanwhile the Humans tried the best trick in their arsenal, secretly launching one Da Vinci assault wing from  the balloon platform.  The Assault group was 16 crew strong and descended on to the banged up Shroud Mage battleship, wiping out the crew inside.  A substantial prize!

CHAOS! On the Uncharted Seas!

The Dragon Lord fleet was now decimated, but so was the Human fleet, being down to just a cruiser, a few frigates and a collection of valuable cargo ships. The Dwarf fleet steamed (slowly) to support the humans, who captured another cruiser to glider assault. At this point we called it, as an obvious Allied (Human/Dwarf) victory, with an individual victory by Dewey LaRochelle on points.

Things that went well: The Balloon Assault ships. Dwarven Frigates attacking combined. Naugra Dragons. The Shroud Mages have a great Destroyer in the Infiltrator, which is essentially a giant pointed ram. Ramming was the big tactic of the Shroudies, and it worked well. The Humans had to rely on gimmicks, like the Martyrs and the Da Vinci glider assault. Hey, it worked great. The Dwarves had their enormous firepower and armor but lacked speed. This was the game that the Shroud Mages came into their own, and even the Humans impressed me if I do say so, with using their assets wisely– the Battleship pounded from a distance (until it couldn’t maneuver). The cruisers held off and fired from the edges. The Dragon Lords were recently beefed up with some heavy cruisers and I am hoping it will give that fleet greater legs in a long fight. The Volcano surprise was fairly wimpy and didn’t go as planned. We will remedy that for the next time I run it, which will be Cold Wars 2012.

Garrett can be seen in this video example of gunnery combat
, tending to the demise of the Imperial Human Battleship, the Eagle.

Uncharted Seas Combat example, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Dewey LaRochelle took many pictures, all of which can be seen in this slideshow.

Sunday dawned with no major stress. We were out of our hotel (Days Inn downtown) in no time and popped in to the convention again for the morning. We HAD planned to run Ironclads on Sunday but the crowd was minimal and we had been strongly encouraged (let’s say) to get home for some Super Bowl party action. We did have enough to time to sit in on a remake of Circus Maximus (Avalon Hill boardgame) as a large scale miniatures game.

This was a lot of fun– the GM, Cliff Creech, had streamlined the old Circus Maximus game to a one page set of rules. Presentation was excellent and Cliff is a good and patient GM. Sadly, I took a light chariot to see if I could break out of the pack to win in a sprint, and my own son Garrett rammed me to cause wheel damage. The inevitable happened– I risked it, I failed, I flipped. Fortunately I had revenge two turns later when Garrett ALSO risked it, failed and flipped! Bwa ha ha ha haaaaa! For a look at this game, see the smallish slide show on Photobucket.

We hung around and did some last minute shopping before heading North again, and played a few light games, notably my new Pyramids game from Looney Labs and Martian Invaders.

Martian Invaders is a big hit, the way Zombie Dice was a big hit. We played it all weekend long.

So, in conclusion, we both had a wonderful time this year. Thank you, Old Dominion Military Society, for running this great small scale Mid-Atlantic convention. We always have a grand old time at the ODMS cons and we find their philosophy of “no politics, no stress, just fun” to be very agreeable. Definitely a gamer’s convention!!

Related:  Hobby Game Recce: Williamsburg Muster

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Command and Colors: Napoleonics Scenaro THE BATTLE OF CASTALLA

Portrait of Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Well...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is another one of my fan made scenarios for Command and Colors: Napoleonics.  This one focuses on the Battle of Castalla, late in the Peninsular War.   Marshal Suchet is endangering Wellington’s line of march by threatening to join up with other French armies in the Peninsula.  Wellington had to find a way to keep the Marshal busy, and succeeds with a polyglot command of Sicilians, British, and Spanish troops under the overall command of General Murray.


Castalla mapImage via Wikipedia

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Command and Colors Napoleonics Scenario: The Bridge at Almarez

What, another free Command and Colors: Napoleonics Scenario so soon?

In honor of discovering, I dusted off a Command and Colors: Napoleonics  scenario I had tested a while back and took another look at it.  This was not created using the Vassal tool that is used on the CCNapoleonics portal, instead it was created entirely with other open source tools: Hexographer, using their free online Java version of their map builder, and Open Office for the text.  This scenario was based upon an article from The Napoleon Series.

The Bridge at Almaraz is a good old fashioned raid with a deadline.  The British start on the map on one side of it and have to negotiate the terrain and hostile French forces that could delay them in their rear at Castle Mirabete.  Their task is to clear Forts Ragusa and Napoleon to blow a bridge across the Tagus.  If they can accomplish this, the two French armies in Portugal will face serious delay in combining against Wellington.

Map for "The Bridge at Almaraz"

GMT Games has created a fun game with a lot of tinkering potential in Command and Colors: Napoleonics. I hope you enjoy this tinkering.

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Lightning Review: LOOT AND SCOOT by Victory Point Games

A new series of short reviews of IOS/Android game apps, produced using my Ipad2 and coming in at five minutes or less per review.

This was a LR of LOOT AND SCOOT, by Victory Point Games.  Loot and Scoot started life as a paper and cardboard game and was recently ported to both Android and IOS (Ipad) platforms as a game app.  My experience is entirely with the Ipad version, though I’m certain the Android game wouldn’t play any differently.  Loot and Scoot can be summarized as a fun little rolling dice and luck-pressing game with a heavy fantasy dungeon crawl theme.

Production note: I apologize for the audio cutoff at the end there, I was just saying “Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy Loot and Scoot”.

English: Apple iPad Event

Sniff.. so long, Steve. Image via Wikipedia

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2011 Nigel Clarke Invitational Christmas Game

I honestly thought I was boned, trying to get to the annual Nigel Clarke game.  This is the Christmas event my gaming group, the TNGG people, throw pretty close to the end of the year.   The last few years have featured a re-themed CIRCUS MAGICUS race (“Circus Santicus”), and as far back as 2005 I even put one on, THE DARK SECRET OF SANTA TOWN.   End of the year games tend to be pretty goofy, high concept, low on rules and universally about Winter or Christmas.  Hosting duties this year were assumed by Steve Gibson, an old hand at the Christmas game.   Steve’s offering this year was Christmas zombies. Steve runs a lot of Zombie games, using the Ares Fantasy rules.



that’s a whole lot of zombies.


Ares Rulebook

We’ve played in Steve’s zombie games before and they usually are modern affairs set in a universe somewhat similar to Resident Evil.  Not this time!  This game was the Untold Story of the Battle of the Bulge.  Small units from both the German and American armies blunder into a terror greater than any horror of war they could possibly imagine in the midst of a driving snow storm.

The Map

American and German troops start the game on the move– the Americans have two halftracks, one of which is disabled, the other has run out of gas and ammunition (a common theme in the Ardennes). The Germans also have a halftrack, which is on fumes.  There are three German units, all squad sized.  One enters from the top right corner of the map above, and ends up beset by a zombie horde.  Another is in the half track.  Another is taking refuge in building 1.  Most Americans ended up in buildings 2 or 3.  I ended up making a beeline for 2, then changing my mind when it became clear that zombies were present, so I made for the much smaller and more open building 4.   I entered from the bottom left corner.

Inistial move, my corner of the board

The rules were ARES Fantasy combat miniatures rules with some zombie detection and generation rules influenced by ALL THINGS ZOMBIE. I’ve played it before, and found the basic framework easy enough to understand, except for combat, which I had to watch carefully to grasp. I arrived late, so missed the initial couple of turns, but Steve graciously made a space for me in the game. Alas, my force wasn’t exactly a group of hard chargers. They were a small headquarters division, green soldiers except for the veteran sergeant I had along with us.

My Jeep only made it so far.

And they drove in directly from the Southeast Corner, as mentioned.

not exactly GI Joes

My guys were HQ soldiers, not exactly G.I. Joes. I had two green rifle squad guys and an experienced Sergeant with a Thompson SMG.  Fortunately I was entering the map with the only vehicle with sufficient gas in it.  My first encounter was with an advancing horde of reinforcing zombies, so I had to find shelter, fast.  The primary victory condition for any side was surviving through the upcoming snowstorm, which made the combat conditions less than optimal.

Grenade City!

The battle was brief actually.  There were more shots fired between Americans and Germans than humans and zombies.  Both German units in contact with the Americans were what I would characterize as “Grenade Happy”, tossing potato mashers at the Americans all willy-nilly.  This did a number on the Americans, but also did a fine job of attracting more zombies, much to everyone’s chagrin.

Bunkering down

Bunkering down as best I could

Enhanced by ZemantaI got my little HQ team to Building 4, where we prepared to climb up the stairs, barricade ourselves in on top of the stairs and be besieged by a ravening horde all evening, all the while trying to deal with staying alive in a blizzard when half the building is gone.  Other forces on the table were retreating to the safety of the houses, except for the German halftrack (which was highly zombie resistant) and the German squad in the upper right corner, which got surrounded and wiped out. See below for their fate.

So long, Germans!

The other American Squads eventually clustered in Building 2, which had the best shelter available and fewer entrances for zombies to assail.  They had the best shot at surviving the night.

Non Motorized Germans bunkering in

The other Germans, above, managed to make it building 1, and probably had a decent shot of surviving.

German Half Track winner

The halftrack, as seen above, was last seen exiting the area with every ounce of horsepower they could muster, followed by a giant horde of slaverng goons. I guess they might be “the winner”, but I suspect the ‘track only got a mile or so before running out of gas completely and being beset on all sides by the undead.

Simple concept, simple enough rules, great presentation. The Christmas theme was terrific, maybe the best yet. Hats off to Steve Gibson (and children) for putting this one on.

Chris Gibson sums it up like this: zombieswantbrainsforxmas.mp3

And Merry Christmas, Nigel!

Imagine a miniatures army in 1 to 1 scale…

You can’t. Of course we scale up so that multiple individuals are represented on, say a scale of ten figures a man up to fifty, a hundred or even a few hundred men per figure. There aren’t that many figures, that much time or that much table space, in the world. Is there?

Of course, you knew I was setting you up to contradict myself. Yes, someone out there has made a 1 to 1 scale army, using old Airfix plastic model soldiers of Wellington’s entire army during the Peninsular War in the early 19th century.  That’s two and a half DIVISIONS in a 1 figure to 1 man scale.   All I can say is that he had a lot of time and a lot of skill.  What he doesn’t have, as you can see, is a lot of room to maneuver this grand army of his.  Unless he plays a game in a nearby airport terminal.   Now, of course, he’ll have to paint a similar French force.  Oy.

Imagine the YEARS that went into this effort, even with crappy paint jobs.

Walt and the very cold and wet FALL-IN! 2011


Yay! I woke up, lept out of my feetie pajamas and bound about the house to get ready for FALL IN!, the Autumn historical miniatures convention run by HMGS (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society). I actually had a plan, positioning stuff for quick launch the night before. For some reason, nothing works on time when you are going to a convention. It’s like I automatically find some way to FALL IN to a temporal distortion field. In this instance, it was news that snow was expected in the Lancaster PA area, where we were holding the con. So that means.. switching cars to a 4WD, driving to Drey’s school, tapping on the window to get the key, driving all the way back, gassing up the car, packing all my stuff OUT of the van INTO the 4WD.. and..

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We’re off at last!


Planned departure: 0900 / Actual departure, closer to 1100

Driving up was non-eventful. I went up 15 to 30 to York/Lancaster, like I always do. No stops, and it took about 2.5 hours. This put me at the convention at a point where there wasn’t any staff working at all. That’s right, the staff room was closed mid-day. Why? Because they couldn’t find anyone to work staff! Being hungry, I went to Panera. Even thought it has NOTHING to do with a convention, I had a moment of Zen on the way back. Hot air balloons. Two of them, quietly gliding over the cobalt grey country sky.

Balloon 1
(I couldn’t zoom in to them, they were far too high)

When I got back from Panera there were people in the staff room after a while. It wasn’t my intention to work staff for this convention, but Jon Paul gave me those puppy dawg eyes and I had to say yes. So don’t let anyone tell you that we work just for the free hotel room, cuz mine was already paid for by me. I signed up for a shift on Saturday, pretty much killing my schedule that I had posted on before, but that was okay by me.

Our Crack Staff
Our crack reg office staff. This was almost all of them since so few volunteered to help this time.

As it was, I had already missed out on two or three “must-see” games anyway. HOWEVER! I did manage to sleeze my way into a fantastic game of CANVAS EAGLES Friday evening.

Unfortunately, SLIDE.COM is going out of business. So my old standby for making viewable slideshows has vanished. However, if you this link below you will see a slideshow of:

Click me!

Click me! for slideshow


You may want to “Reverse Order” this (bottom left) to view in sequence

This was a great event for me. Canvas Eagles is essentially an open source replacement for the older GDW boardgame BLUE MAX. I had never played CE before but had played plenty of games of the older Blue Max game, and the mechanics are very similar– your plane is capable of a range of maneuvers that execute on a hex map, and both sides plot and execute them simultaneously. It’s kind of like the old ACE OF ACES system but in 3D. I had a great time. Since the convention was somewhat under-attended to begin with, the GM was looking for players. He had planned for four zeppelins and only one was on the board, with only one French fighter attacking it. The fighter had done some damage, so I came in on the next turn with a Pfalz fighter. I maneuvered around the zepp to get a tailing condition on the Frenchie, then he pulled a wrong move by accident turning AWAY from the Zeppelin, and then when I sped up to catch him, BANG! ZIP!! I overshot him and got shot to pieces. I went into a spin, everything looked dire. I then recovered and tried to line up on Monsieur Froggie again but by that time German victory conditions had been met– the German zepp was off the board. This was played with impressive huge zeppelin models and 1:72 scale aircraft models. Not exactly to scale but that really doesn’t matter– the concept was conveyed in a visual and exciting fashion. I had to thank the GM for the effort he put into the game– the logistical tale for putting one of those games on must be impressive (See the pictures above to get an idea of what I’m talking about).

I would have stayed for a bit and played again after we achieved victory, but had a pounding sinus headache and I really just wanted to take a few advil. Of course, going anywhere in a convention and not meeting people is pretty much impossible (at least for HMGS cons) so I did spend an hour or two at the bar on the way out. Great evening of gaming..


Saturday dawned with rainy slush pelting down. I quickly popped over to Target and picked up some boots (not to be profligate, I needed new ones) a snow shovel and a window brush., then got to the Host in time for the snow to start falling in earnest.


And falling…


and falling…


And fallllling.

That's some heavy snow

I’ll miss, they made convention reports easy.

I did a pass-through of the Flea before taking post on station in registration, thanks to Jon Paul’s encouragement. This was a great idea, as I found a guy selling his old 1:1200 Richard Houston/Lyzard’s Grin era per-dreadnought Austrian and Italian ships for The Battle of Lissa. This was a hell of a find, I got most of the Austrian fleet for half price. Thanks, flea market!

The world won’t end quite yet, it still hasn’t sold.

I worked my shift with no big worries. By Saturday mid day there just weren’t many people coming to this convention. The combination of the date (Halloween) and the snow drove away a lot of visitors that were sitting on a fence about making a day trip. We had a few die-hards.


I revisited the Vendor Hall in earnest after my shift to get a little shopping in. I ended up buying enough 1:1200 ships to fill out the Battle of Lissa Austrian fleet from Outland Games of Ohio (the nearest online vendor carrying this line that I could find is Great Endeavors). I also bought a few more Italians and will probably finish out the line once I’m done with all those Austrians. I also bought some bases for the ships, the new Warhammer historical GLADIATOR book, a couple of magazines and some fascinating 1:600 scaled ACW Artillery men (single stands) from a Polish company. My plan is to paint these up as ships’ crew on open cockpit Uncharted Seas hulls.

Unfortunately some vendors I was looking for did not show up– I was looking for Splintered Light and Brookhurst Hobbies. The Vendors were thin on the ground and the hall was relatively unpopulated for HMGS show. I attribute it to the bad weekend and the weather. Likewise the vendors that did show were not full up– the War Store is a must-see for me and they had very little Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars items. Sigh. In any event I was happy with what I purchased (in particular, the new gladiator rules from WH, they look very thorough and interesting.. and I have tons of 54mm glads painted up already).

Dealer Hall

I did see some interesting pieces from Tony Reidy’s old company, Wargames Factory: some pre-painted, pre-assembled figures called “Leviathans” or perhaps “Monsters in the Sky”. They were introduced at GENCON and were there for demo purposes only– apparently they are part of a larger boardgame that is imminent. These look very intriguing, like Aeronef on Steroids.

Leviathan 2

Leviathan 1

Leviathan 3

Leviathan 4

If anyone out there knows anything about this range, I’m interested. Please comment on this blog post.

FALL-IN! is not a convention for making big new product line announcements, and to be honest, I didn’t notice many new things, other than the Pumpkin demon and the Corn God from Acheson creations (below). There was a lot of onesies and twosies and cool lines that I like that got updated but I didn’t really go crazy over anything. Of note was a major presence from Architectural Creations, Barb’s Bunker of old, who are really pushing for a convention presence. Their trench lines were things of beauty, but I couldn’t afford them.

The Corn God

Pumpkin God

Things I was contemplating, but decided against buying this time around: Another War Rocket fleet and some British Landing parties for my cutting out party game that I have in mind to do. The latter choice was one of those last minute decisions– I’m going to have to make a major investment in some scenery to make a port and possibly even a 28mm scale ship, so this isn’t a game I can get off without paying the piper for. I guess I’m being naturally cautious in times of economic turmoil. I normally buy an Ironclad or two from Toby but I’m a little backed up on them at the moment and need to paint my way out of the queue.

To summarize my shopping experience.. not as much as at the other two cons, but I am very happy with what I did get. I’m liking the Gladiator rules quite a bit and of course I’m somewhat goofily pleased that I managed to get most of the Battle of Lissa so cheaply.

Games around the convention:

Sunday Game

WW2 aerial

Early WW2

Wild West

Great Retreat from Moscow setup
(I loved this one.. the figures in the center were exquisitely painted, and they stayed stationery throughout the game, while the terrain pieces moved down the board to signify that the figures in the center were moving.. in this case, retreating from Moscow in 1812)

Retreat from Moscow

Retreat from Moscow

WW2 naval

Cog Wars 2


Trafalgar 2

Moe's zombies
Uncle Moe’s Santa and Zombies game…

HOTT in the cold
Dave Kujit’s “HOTT in the Cold” game.

HOTT in the Cold 2

FOW in the Desert
Flames of War in the Desert


Breaking the line at the Coronels

Interesting MedievalA very colorful medieval era game

Saturday NIGHT, I weaseled my way into Rick Stakes’ large scale Pirates versus Spanish Convoy game (S-256). You may recall I played in one of these at HISTORICON, I had such a good time I came back again. I like Rick’s work on his ships (with one or two exceptions they are all handmade), I like his rules and I like the way he runs events with lots of people in them. Each player ran an individual ship. As a latecomer I didn’t have first choice and got “The Hawk” pirate ship. There’s forty plus pictures in this slide show (link below) and I do not have the time to caption every one, so have a look now…

Rick Stakes

Click on Rick Stakes Handsome Visage

S-256: Pirate Raid on Spanish Convoy game GM: Rick Stakes

Rules were written by Mr. Stakes, and they were reasonably clear and made sense, reminding me strongly of the old WS&IM board game. Game In a nutshell: The pirate fleet was allowed to set up anywhere on the board. Three of the pirates, including my HAWK ship in red, set up BEHIND the Spanish convoy as they came on the board. We sailed in on them at the end of the first turn and my Hawk got too close. We were roughly handled on the starboard side, but that is the price one pays for the weather gauge sometimes. A pirate ship doesn’t have the strength to sail in and go yardarm to yardarm.. I learned the hard way that the optimal strategy was to shoot at the rigging, not the hull, and to say off a distance. The Spanish fleet sailed up the starboard side of the battle, clustering together and ramming each other at one point. This proved difficult for the ships on the port side of the cluster, which bore the brunt of pirate damage. There was actually a Spanish ship that didn’t even fire the entire game on the starboard side! The Spaniards handled their ships well and supported each other in crucial moments. The pirates did not do as well, and were pretty much all over the place. The pattern of the battle for me was: Sail in close, fire off popguns. Kill a few spaniards and bring down some rigging. Get shot up pretty bad. Sail out, turn around, and sail back to repeat. I’m happy to say I didn’t sink but one of my piratical brethren did. We also captured a Spanish Felucca– which made us think that we held victory, but Mr. Stakes graciously awarded a narrow Spanish victory, due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of pirate tonnage in the water to oppose Spanish progress. We all thanked Mr. Stakes and asked him to run it again at Cold Wars.

Brian Whitaker

Later on, I did the typical for a Saturday, visiting the standard hangouts, the lobby bar, and hung out for a while. Thence to look for some guys from the TNGG group to play boardgames with, but alas they were already gone.


I didn’t even hit the flea market Sunday which was disappointing.. time does fly. I visited the Dealer’s room one more time, and packed my bags to say farewell..

And off across the might Susquehanna and home!

On the way home

General observations: attendance… was what it was. I’m reminded of the great snow of 2007. You can’t fight weather and rumors of weather. You just shrug and soldier on as best you can. Needless to say, I was able to park in FRONT of the hotel almost every day for the entire convention, and I think you get my drift about what attendance was like. I think this is the last year we are scheduling FALL-IN! for Halloween, so maybe it will pick up next year. Extras: I did the Guidebook App again this year and it ended up looking good despite very late support from Events. If I left out something near and dear to you, I apologize. It’s only an effort as good as the data that drives it, and I received what I received 10 PM Sunday night and had it done by 240 in the morning the next day. The data needed to be vetted better than it did. Considering all that, it STILL was a useful product, and I ended up using it constantly. In fact, I have yet to open up a FALL-IN! 2011 program book. Facilities: The Host is a shabby as ever, but the staff supported us well and rose to the occasion as they usually do. No complaints. Weather: turned out to be a non-event for the most part. When I park my car at a HMGS convention in the morning, I really DON’T WANT TO LEAVE for the entire day. Everything I want to do I can accomplish on premises. So having a surprise blizzard didn’t faze anyone. To quote Bob Leibl in the bar: “Oh dear. I’m trapped, trapped I say, in a place with adequate food and drink, all my friends and toys to play with all weekend. What shall I do, woe is me..” (picture the heavy sarcasm). So, in summary, I had a great time, with a few fits and starts here and there that tried to be flies in the ointment but couldn’t manage it. Congratulations to Andy and his tiny crew of volunteers for pulling off another great convention, and I hope he enjoys an honorable retirement.