Category Archives: wargaming

The Union Forever! The Battle of Mobile Bay


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

The UNION FOREVER!!

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

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

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

Union Forces closer up

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

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

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

Sometimes the “stupid strategy” is stunningly successful

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

Victory!

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

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

Ipad Review: Da Vinci’s Art of War


DA VINCI’S ART OF WAR
Publisher: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.
SRP: $4.99
Released: Mar 07, 2014
Size: 131 MB
Language: English (from Italian rules*)
PBEM: not in game (play versus 3 AIs)
Itunes Link

Magnifico is a Risk-like area control board game design from Dust Games where the ultimate goal is to dominate 16th century Europe.   The game is set in an alternate universe where the more fantastic ideas from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbooks area a common part of warfare.   I’m not sure how Magnifico was received when it first came out, but it’s rated middling well and Tom Vasel certainly likes it.  Magnifico totally flew under my radar, and it has the kind of theme I enjoy, too!

So that was 2008.  In 2014, the good folks at Slitherine must be shopping around for easy to absorb area control dice-fest light wargame designs, since they have been releasing a lot of them lately.   Magnifico was faithfully recreated in IPad format as Leonardo’s Art of War.  Based on Vasel’s review, I’m reasonably sure it plays close to the board game design.

Games are played either in short or long fashion (50 turns) and each turn is played Igo-Hugo roughly in this order:

  1. Income and Recruitment (add infantry, collect money)
  2. Auction for Inventions (cards) & determining the Magnifico
  3. Action Round (moving, fighting, building..)
  4. Scoring, Next turn

Main Gaming Screen showing human (me) playing two AIs.  I must be activating a discovery from Leonardo’s notebooks (they are on the cards on the bottom).

The goal of the game is to control massive areas of  Europe by invading and attacking regions.  Each region is rated for recruiting potential and income.  Strategy tip: when you are initially setting up, put your first area controlled down on a territory that supports recruiting 2 infantry per turn, not 1.  And NEVER start on a region rated for 0 recruiting!

Attacking an enemy camp, 2 tanks and 6 infantry versus 7 infantry. In general, it’s a good idea to have a numerical advantage, just like in real life armies.

Each turn you have an option to move into a neutral territory (Invasion) or an enemy territory (Attacking).  You can Attack or Move over water, but if an enemy has built Submarines (more on inventions later), the invading force will lose one infantry per every submarine attack.

Once they engage in combat, bonuses apply. As you can see, there’s more to this infantry and those tanks that meet the eye.

If you saw Tom Vasel’s video you pretty much know the mechanics already.  Combat is dice heavy in this game.  Infantry are a dice each plus any additional inventions or discoveries that will moderated combat, which add dice.  The dice are specialized, with hits and misses and losses part of the mix.  I don’t think the IPad dice map to the board game version exactly, or at least graphically.  I’m not sure.  I’ve never played the original game.

When tanks enter into combat, they check for breakdown (represented by the gears turning, and if it breaks down, it shakes and shatters, taking the the tank out of the combat. It happens a lot.

So, we’ve been talking about moving and attacking in the Action Phase, let’s talk about the other stuff you can do in your conquered land.   IF you have the money (Florins), you can construct the Da Vinci tank, or the Da Vinci glider, or build a castle.  If you already have a castle, you can increase the fortifications by “building shields”.  There are only 16 castles in this game, and once the 16th is built, the only way to get another is to take it away from someone else.

Castles are great for adding a defensive bonus to a region when attacked; they are even more formidable with extra shields.  Seeing as Infantry attacking are limited to six, if the castle has even a comparable number of infantry and some shields, it will probably force a retreat.

Well, it happens to the best of us.

Now, I’ve been talking a little out of order here.. I’ve mentioned bonuses and inventions, what’s the story with them?

Right after recruitment and income, the game moves into Auction rounds.  Each player, Human and AI, will bid on two invention cards that will add bonuses to your army– submarines, ironclad warships, gears for your tanks, repeating cannons, bombards, etc.  All of these do some pretty interesting, game altering bits.

El Walto bids for either the Gear (which will help keep a tank from breaking down) or the Gyroscope (which adds a combat bonus to gliders). The Gyroscope by the by, was scanned from the card art and not translated from the original Italian, which caused some confusion for us poor non-Italians.  * Note: One of the cards was still in Italian, according to BGG, and it apparently caused confusion.  I figured it out easily enough, it’s a non-issue.

And it’s not all about combat, but it mostly is.  You can also score points bonus by collecting art.

It’s not a cannon, but it sure is a point scorer

In addition, if you are the high bidder for the turn, you are “the Magnifico” for the turn, which gives you bonus victory points and discounts on building stuff.

So there’s a lot of elements in play, here.. an auction, upgrades to your combat units.. attacking other regions, defending your own.  How does it come together?  Remarkably well, for starters.  Art of War is a game of attack.. attack, attack, attack.. you will not benefit from a build and defend strategy.  If you’re not aggressive, you will not win.  Always be invading or attacking, every turn.  Seek out regions with high recruiting numbers (2 versus 1) and try to keep your regions next to each other.  This helps out a lot when you are moving troops around  to stage for an attack.   Build tanks early and often– they get the most invention bonuses and their bonuses can accumulate, so they become quite lethal in later turns.  Personally, there’s not much use in playing the shorter game– it ends far too quickly.  The AI are not particularly clever or aggressive but they WILL attack eventually after all neutral regions are gone.   They will not be as aggressive as you, which makes it a not overly difficult game to win.

woo HOO

Victory is mine!

Why get excited about YET ANOTHER light conquer Europe Area movement game?  Well, for me, I love the theme and the art (which is a direct lift from the Dust Tactics boardgame).  Slitherine has invested some money into interface (it seems) and their Ipad games are definitely benefiting from it.   The inventions and upgrades add MANY decisions to this game and yes, there IS a strategy to it all.  You will have to play aggressively and look ahead a little.  It’s not as challenging as some wargames or even light wargames, but it is very entertaining and worth the piddling price Slitherine is asking for this game.  Well done again, Slitherine!

Retro: The Great Amish Rake Fight Games, 2002-2003


Another in a series of visits down memory lane to the world of Retro gaming.

The subject of this post was a game that many have referenced in public over the years but few actually saw.  That’s because it was only played twice in public and once for practice at Bob Giglio’ s house.   Namely: the Great Amish Rake Fight.  This is a semi-legendary game (if I do say so, myself) that gets bandied about now and then with a “remember when” twinkle in everybody’s eye.  My name is associated with it, to be sure, as I was one of the two people who ran it and one of the small group of dedicated ninnies who built it and contributed to it– and I think I’m as good of a reference as any.

Your Humble Narrator, suited up as referee at the first running of the Great Amish Rake Fight Game (Cold Wars 2002).  The very real beard is visual proof of the lengths I used to go to for a sight gag.  I actually shaved it off at this con!

Please note: Bob Giglio, co-GM of ARF, has kindly provided some material, corrections and most importantly PHOTOGRAPHS of the 2002 event.  Photographs provided by Bob, and where direct quotes apply, they are cited.

The Great Amish Rake Fight game, or ARF, as it has been referenced from 2003 onward, has its origins in an email conversation held  between Del Stover, Bob Giglio, and other members of the HMGS Marketing Outreach program.  If I’m recalling things correctly, someone, I think it was Del, mentioned that there wasn’t any historical battle sites local to Lancaster PA’s HOST facility that he could properly leverage to get a historical crowd to come running to see.  Or something like that.  In my own wise-assed way, I interjected, saying words to the effect of “nonsense.. I have been making Amish Military units for the great Amish Rake Fight game, haven’t you heard of that?”  Big laughs all around.   I had pulled the name from an old USENET group from the dawn of the Internet that had (at the time) very little to do with gaming.

The thing is, I actually had been slowly building militarized Amish units (squad sized), for a game that I ran a lot of back in the day, THE RULES WITH NO NAME.  This is an excellent Western skirmish rules set that used to be free for the download, but has since become a commercial product, so I won’t provide a download link.  My idea (then) was to create an “Amish versus Outlaws” game, where some bad guys were riding into town with the intention of looting it blind, and the normally pacifistic Amish were driven to extremis to protect themselves.  My thoughts where give the Amish player some form of hero figure plus 1-4 scut troops of various abilities to follow him around and engage with the Outlaws.  The Hero figure could either be a young Amish fighter armed with a rake, or a churn, or a buggy whip, axe, shovel, anything handy.  Or he might be an Elder, whose job is to “Shame” the outlaw with an effect akin to stunning him.  I had some great buildings that would have worked in a Western setting, and I was working on some ideas for Amish secret weapons to counter the technological advantage the outlaws had (guns).  That was about where this game was when I mentioned it in the meeting.  Bob Giglio loved the idea.  I mentioned some of my ideas, he immediately ran with it and we started collaborating on the spot.  There was a lot of polite tittering from those we mentioned the concept to and repeated “yeah, rights”, which only firmed our resolve to make the game happen.    Over the next few months, Bob and I, joined by Neil Brennan and Chris Johnson, worked on the figures, the terrain and the rules.   I already had about 40 Amish painted up.  Bob added some special figures he had done (and painted much better than my meager efforts).    Terrain was simple, a ground cloth covering a 6 x 10 area with a road (representing Route 30) and some ERTL farm buildings and other structures to represent a portion of the Amish town.

28mm AMISH FIGURES (It’s easier than you think)

The Amish figures proved to be easier to pull off than I had imagined.  I started with a big bag of Old Glory’s 25mm Western range, namely the WAGON TRAIN SETTLERS.  There are some very useful conversion figures inside– men with small carbines and buggy whips and such.   I recall Joel Gregory had cast some useful farm implements (butter churns, shovels, etc., but ironically no rakes).  He graciously donated to the project and I replaced rifles for shovels, etc.  I also used the many female figures in the bag, as well.  One showed a severe woman stirring something in a bucket on the ground with a long pole.  I dubbed that figure “Vat Women”, and painted them up with a severed head in the bucket, as if she was rendering it down for something.  Honestly, I can’t recall what she did in game terms other than look cool.

WP 17: Old glory Wagon Train Settlers

Old Glory’s WG-17 bag of figures was (and is) a hell of a bargain; even after the price has gone up I believe I managed to convert the entire bag of 30 figures into either useful Amish Line troops, weapons crews or something very decorative and Amish looking.  Conversion notes– I bent the hat brims to something resembling flat.  Where the hat had a rounded crown I filed it flat.  I painted the hat straw colored with a narrow black ring around it.  Shirts were uniformly pale blue denim.  Pants black or blue.  Coats Black.  I removed all rifles and added farming implements.  I left the buggy whip in the buggy whip figure’s hands– that’s one implement an Amish man WOULD have..  Women’s dresses were grey, black or blue.  Very easy to pull off.   All figures were mounted on pennies.

To this, I added single Dixon Old West Range figures from the “Mexican peon” range and Stagecoach and Townsfolk ranges.  I bought a lot of WG76, WG77, and WG78, as all of these are using in-scale farming implements as part of the original sculpt.  Conversion was not as easy as the OG Settlers– I had to file and flatten the sombreros, file down the sandals a little to so the toes aren’t as pronounced and paint the formerly bare feet as boots.   I did add a few macabre touches, like drilling the off hand of one of the peons and adding a head modeled as if it were recently severed and being held by him.  A little hard core for Amish, but hey, the whole POINT of this game is parody, so why not.

Just a few candidates for conversion from Dixon miniatures Old West line:

WG 76

(remove rifle)
WG 79

WG 92

Bob Giglio contributed several figures from Westwind’s Gothic Horror Range, none of which I can find pictures of at this stage.  They were mostly the Bohemian Villagers or something like that.  They looked like Amish people.. kinda.. if you squint a little.  The Amish never went in for the lacy shirt look, but they did have agricultural tools.  Bob also provided some Boers from the Old Glory Boer range that definitely fit, though it was hard to find Boers without guns.   Great wagons.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. This picture depicts the Amish figs post-conversion. Most of these are converted Old Glory Settlers except these: the Amish male waving a machete is an ex-Mexican Peon, as is the Amish directly to the right of the Meek standing at the end of the bridge.  Partially obscured is a Westwind figure to the left. Yes, the Amish had standards, see below. CLICK PICTURE to enlarge

Amish Flags used as Unit Standards

Transport

Civilian automobiles were a mix of  diecast modern vehicles that were kinda, sorta in 1:64 scale (nominal for 25mm).   We had several State Police cars, using the Pennsylvania State Police logo.  We also had a police copter.   There were several cars parked as props in front of the large barn where the game starts off; in addition there were some construction equipment that I picked up from a toy set that seemed sized right.  The big surprise was the ubiquitous Amish buggies.    If you’re a scratch builder and have gamed in the 19th century, then you probably know of the pencil sharpener covered wagons.  There’s also one modeled along the lines of a Amish buggy.  I thought this was a dubious choice, but you know, once Bob had painted up a mess of these, they really looked great and roughly in scale, if somewhat smallish.

Voila, Cheap Amish Buggies, available in bulk at any sleazy souvenir stand in Amish Land

I made the ubiquitous little orange triangle signs for the back of each buggy and even tried to make “Scythes” to make them killer buggies, but the latter looked terrible, so we gave up on that idea.

 Terrain

Terrain was pretty easy.  I was collecting a lot of ERTL farmville sets back in those days, which are nominally scaled for 1:64.  I had two big barns, and we had diverse smaller buildings from craft store holiday sets and such that worked in that scale, as well as one scratchbuilt Amish Stripper palace that offered “Lapp Dances”.  Yeah, parody can be fairly broad at times.   Bob built us a good looking Route 30 for one end of the map, and Bob also built some streams, roads and hills to break up the terrain a little– and he did it effortlessly.  It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Bob in this way.  We’d discuss the problem of terrain and ZIP! he’d go to some part of his basement, find the right thing, or build it from scratch, no muss, no fuss.

Bob adds:
(with the exception of the barns) The terrain was all done by me, including the first ever Lapp’s with the sign that said “We have Lap Dances”, well before MBA had created one. ;-)

See the map:

The Great Amish Rake Fight games, terrain

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection.  Here’s a shot of Amish in action near the Amish Market. Some of the local thugs are approaching on the lower right. You can see one of the painted pencil sharpener buggies and some of the Christmas Village buildings we used for structures. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Route 30 terrain, built by Bob. Plus some of the signs I made and the diecast cars.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. More fun on Route 30

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Roadhouse, with a custom billboard. State motorcycle cops on the right.

Here’s some Road Signs I made up using a color printer, a laminating machiine and some wooden bits

Rules

Rules… What can I say?  Bob G. and I are two very different GMs.  Bob is a very procedure oriented GM, who likes the details, and likes to have this resolved before the game starts, preferably by playtesting.  He is not adverse to using a published set of rules.  I’m more of a “GM for effect” kind of GM, and have been known to make something up for the sheer dramatic hell of it on the spot.  Once or twice.  With that said, ARF was going to be a game where the mechanics really weren’t THAT important.  I knew that going in to the project.  Most of the fun was going to be had with the theme and the setting and the way we were riffing on a non-violent race of people being secretly capable of violence and possessing weapons of mass destruction.   I mean, with that premise, who cares how far someone moves and someone shoots, as long as they do it consistently?  I pushed for THE RULES WITH NO NAME early on, but didn’t really care if Bob was pushing for something else, so we went with THE BOOTLEGGERS, a gangster rule set Bob was very familiar with and had run huge games at HMGS events in the past with.  Being a game that could handle fire and movement and relatively modern weaponry, I was game.  We had to modify it a bunch for the Amish secret weapons.  Oh?  What were those?

The Amish Secret Weapons

 If there was something (besides the figures and terrain) that really “made” ARF .. ARF, it was the secret weapons.  These were a collection of Amish inspired weaponry that had a definitive impact on the game, but could be codified using the Bootleggers rules.  To be honest, I forget a lot of them, but the rule was they had to be goofy, there had to be a model representing the item, and it had to be modified “Amish stuff”.. e.g. Agricultural implements.  There’s not a lot of pictures of this event, but the ones I remember are:

The Pie Flinger: This was a device (taken from an Ertl farm toy) that was manned by the female Amish figures.  The presumption was that it fired a hot sticky pie into the onrushing hordes of progress, automatic style.

The Poopn’flinger:  I can’t remember what the backstory was on this thing, but it featured an outhouse-catapult kind of arrangement.  So it would “Fire” poop..

Bob adds:
The Poop-a-Flinga was the creation of Chris Johnson’s fertile(?) mind. It was an outhouse with a large Y-branch in front of it (for the slingshot base) with two long rubber bands stretching into the door of the outhouse, from which the “projectile” would be fired. I think it was on wheels or something, so it could pivot accordingly, to “acquire” a target. Very creative, to say the least — good show Chris!

Der Super Kow:  This was a cow (also manned by a female figure) that was fed a mash of beans and oats.  If an enemy gets within a certain distance, the crew bonks der Kow on the nose, and lights a fire near the tale.. KA BOOM!  Natural flame thrower.  Pretty much a one shot weapon.

The Harrower of Death: This was the weapon of the Mennonites in Black, an allied faction working with the Amish.   It was somewhat verboten in terms of Amish-tech, as it had a steam engine.  The model was another useful pencil sharpener model familiar to VSF/Steampunk miniatures enthusiasts:

This had a big harrower from ERTL’s “Farm Country” set attached fore and aft, the idea being it would drive into crowds and rip them apart. Yeah, pretty bloody for such a peaceable people.

Bob adds:

Also remember, one of the “abilities” we gave the Amish, with a nod to “Children of the Corn”, was that they could go into any cornfield and take a turn to “teleport” to any other cornfield on the board (with a chance of a mishap, naturally).

Last, and by far not the least:

The Amish Cow-ta-pault:  This was, simply put, a giant medieval catapult that fired a live, irate cow into oncoming vehicles.  The cowtapult stole the show, as we will see later on.

Force Composition:

The Amish were divided into roughly 6 groups of ten skirmishers each with a “special” .. either an Amish Self-Immolator (Amish Guy with  a giant fertilizer bomb) or a Meek (remember the “elder” figure that could freeze enemies with a “Shaming?”  That’s a Meek).   The individual female figures mostly were used as Weapon Crews on the secret weapons.   Oh, yeah.. we had a John Book character (From WITNESS).  He was like an Amish Super-fighter.

What about “the Bad Guys”?

Hey, it you have half a brain you’re probably figuring out we were pretty subjectively sympathetic to the Amish in this game design.  YET, we had to have an opposition of sorts– one that was consistent and logical and with 21st century technology, meaning small arms, police weapons, maybe a SWAT team here  and there.  As far as I can recall there was a hodgepodge of groups on the “Forces of Progress” side:

A Gang of Gamer types, from a nearby historical miniatures gaming convention going on that weekend (ARF shamelessly breached the Fourth Wall all game long).  Melee weapons at best.. I think all they did was drive up to the fight and get their butts kicked.

A Board of Development e.g., the BoD (with cunningly altered names) from said convention, who want to buy up Amish-land and build a giant, NEW convention center for holding gaming conventions in, right on that spot, so they are here to check up on their investment. I think some of them had saps and pistols.

Two gangs of Biker Thugs, 10 each, approaching from the direction of Route 30.  Armed with melee weapons and pistols.

Some Union Goons that are being paid off by the Board of Directors to persuade the local Amish to get out of the way of the construction equipment.  Melee weapons and some pistols.

A Grader and a Bulldozer to destroy Amish Buildings.. which is how the “Bad Guys” counted victory points

Local Pennsylvania Cops, armed with shotguns and pistols.  They arrive very late.

A SWAT Team for air dropping into the melee from the chopper (only it never happened, as I will narrate presently)

Scenario

So, we got to this point where we had all this keen stuff.. and couldn’t explain why people would be fighting with one another.  Hmmm….  I was going with the Secret Weapons being the driver.. that some tourists had taken pictures of the secret weapons project in a barn and an altercation had taken place, and mayhem ensued from there.  The thinly disguised HMGS BoD was thrown in by Bob and Neil, which I thought was funny, albeit perhaps a tad overdone for reasons that had more to do with HMGS politics at that time then good natured ribbing, but once we were playing most of that was forgotten.   Anyway, it turned out to be a good plot driver, since the BoD is now there to oversee the demolition and laying the foundations for their new convention center (some issues never go away, eh?) while the Amish just want to defend their age-old way of life.. classic cinematic moralizing, I loved it.    It made it pretty easy to target the bad guys and to define a “victory condition” of sorts– The Amish start with all buildings intact and so many VPs.. if the bad guys demolish a building, VPs go down, etc etc etc.  Such things didn’t matter much to me, then and now.  I was awarding victory based on a sense of style, myself.

PEL Listing 2002 Game

2002 Title: AMISH RAKE FIGHT (ARF) – The Battle of Lancaster!
Hosts: Brother Robert Giglio & Brother Walter O’Hara (NOVAG)
Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)
Scale/Period: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man) / Modern (i.e., 2001 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)Rules: “Hold Still, Brother, While I Must Smite Thee” (adapted Bootlegger rules by Steve Barber Models – Modified)
Time & Game Length: Sat. Noon, 4 hrs
8 Players
Special Requirements: Adults only; must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event! Intoxicating beverages will facilitate admission to game!!
Game Description:The local Brothers of the Staw Hats & Highwater Pants have had enough of taunts, slights, and insults, and are walking amok! Armed to the teeth with all sorts of farming implements, join them in their righteous fight against local youths, yahoos, and tourists. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that “War is Heck”. This will be a war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists (US style) – “Thee be careful amongst deem English!” [PC Advisory: It's a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it!] Line up and grab your rakes, pards, it will be (I promise you) an event not to be missed.
Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.

PLAYING THE ACTUAL GAME, COLD WARS 2002 and 2003

Most of my recollections are of 2002.  I’m pretty sure in 2003, the bad guys won.  If memory serves we ran this Friday night.  We had a full crew, though could have made room for 1-2 more. I remember we were located in the Distelfink ballroom at the Lancaster Host, location of Cold Wars 2002.    We were right up front next to the front doors, and I showed up wearing an Amish Hat and beard, and a Hawaiian shirt.  Bob G. wasn’t into the costume thing and showed up in classic Hawaiian.  I bought a shoo-fly pie to award to the winner.    Bob explained the rules to players not familiar with the Bootleggers rules, and we started.  It went pretty smoothly.

Almost immediately I was tapped on the elbow.  It was Del Stover, at that point working in outreach and ‘marketing’ for HMGS East (as we were known in that bygone era).   Del was escorting a reporter from the local newspaper around, he said, and he was wondering if I would take OFF my Amish hat.  “To the devil with you!” I started to say, and then he said “I”m begging you.”  Well, dammit.  If you put it that way.. I’d been “Meeked”.  ARF Player John Camarano, however, had no such compunctions and happily put on the hat until the reporter left.   On a humorous note, the reporter was looking at the PEL and spied “The Amish Rake Fight” was set to run that night, while she was there.  “What’s that??” She asked.  “Oh, nothing, nothing…” squeaked Del, not wishing to create an incident that would create fear and loathing for HMGS in the local Amish community.   “Here, let me take you to this fine Napoleonics game…”  “NO.. I want to see the Amish Rake Fight, that sounds CUTE!” said the reporter.  So not only did they show up, they featured us in their article rather prominently, much to Del’s consternation (at the time.. he has since said he should not have worried so much).  Quote “Hell, *I* should have worn the damned hat!”  That was then, this is now.. it’s funny how people take things.  Almost everyone walking by laughed uproariously at this concept, but  I well remember the look of shock and horror from one historically-leaning GM that wasn’t a fan of “silly” games.. he must have been driven bonkers at the prospect of an Amish Skirmish game!  Seems funny now.

As mentioned already, the game scenario was fairly complex with many factions. Essentially, some tourists have stumbled on a dark secret of the Amish and were taking pictures. The Elders objected, a scuffle ensued, and to the amazement of the onlookers, the Amish grabbed farming implements and proceed to open up a can of whup-ass on the tourists. Only one got away to raise the hue and cry at the local biker bar– Zinks Route 30 Tavern. Big Paul and his surly crew thought they’d have a little fun and “get some payback” so his group of bikers lurched into motion under the guidance of John Camarano (our esteemed NOVAG presidente).

Meanwhile, a group of nefarious “corporate board members” were on 
their way with some “Union Enforcers” to “break up this mess.. 

YHN taking the lead as GM; this was before the notorious hat incident.  Bob G. is in the right rear corner of this photo.  To my right are the lead Amish Players, John Camarano and Cleo Hanlon


The little Amish Roadside market was a scene of carnage and  destruction… the board barrelled down the road in their trucks,  intent on pushing their weight around. A “meek”, a class of Amish ‘fighter’ that does not physically attack but has a ‘fleeting sense of shame’ effect that makes the opposing player drop his weapons and apologize (which we make the player do, publicly and loudly) stepped out into the road, but was callously ridden down by Ricky Retardo the driver.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Bob resolves a fine point of game mechanics with some Amish players

As in the playtest, this caused the  ultimate demise of the truck, which lost control after encountering an Amish Self-immolater (a sort of “suicide bomber” equipped with a fertilizer bomb) crashed into the market.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. Route 30 minutes before the sacrifice of an Amish Self-Immolater. You can just make him out to the right of the grey wagon in the center, holding the barrel. A fuel truck was inbound, and the explosion would crater Route 30.  You can see a mixture of Amish and modern vehicles in this shot. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

While the occupants sat there, stunned, the Amish descended on them with scythes, rakes,  clubs and buggy whips. It wasn’t pretty.

The Amish Battlefield. The Big Barn, with the Amish rolling out secret weapons, and the terrified tourists in the front lot running. Click HERE for a larger view

Meanwhile, back up at the main barn, the battle had indeed been joined. Big Paul and his goons made a foot sortie across the bridge, and got stopped by a meek (BTW, John Camarano did a magnificient job of grovelling when he failed his morale check). The third, and smallest, Amish faction was in the process of doing a human “Frogger” game while running across Route 30. The last buggy got “clipped” by a speeding car but emerged only shaken. Unfortunately, one of the two Amish Self-immolaters got ridden down at that moment, by a fuel 
truck of all things. The ensuing blast caused a crater in Route 30,  stopping traffic in both directions. A group of ‘gamers’ from a local gaming convention, just back from eating at a local all-you-can-eat, were attracted to the noise and pursued the third group of Amish. 

Cleo Hanlon, NOVAG newsletter editor and later HMGS Newsletter editor, and best Amish player. She spectacularly took out a State police chopper with a cow flung from a cowtapault.

Cleo Hanlon (one of our newsletter editors from NOVAG– she had  bought a bonnet to play the game with, which I thought to be a superb touch) wheeled out the giant Cowtapault. She was defending the big barn area. Her first launch hit a tree. Her second smacked into the side of one of the approaching vehicles. Another bounced in the lane. Her LAST shot, though, hit the side of a Pennsylvania State Trooper police helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing.  Our howls of glee could be heard from one end of the Distlefink to 
the other.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Action Mid Game. This shows the entire battlefield with all buildings. The BoD have arrived upper left.  CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Brother Dave ran the last attack group, which contained the Harrower  of Death and the Mennonite in Black. He engaged the Union enforcers at the base of the hill in an unequal contest, but held his own. Coincidentally, he was also running John Book, who manfully rammed the oncoming pickup with a “borrowed” corvette, took some wounds, and  wisely beat feet out of the melee.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Dave Bullis (L), Amish Player, Brian and Kathy Higbee. (R) Not sure what side Brian played.

In the end, it was decided to give the victory to the Amish, who had successfully defended their lands and way of life (for a while). It  was no contest, we awarded the shoofly to Cleo. Best Yorkist player:  John Camarano, who displayed childlike glee with the windup monster truck the goons were running.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Close to endgame, 2002. Here come the State Cops, run by Dewey. Just prior to the Cowtapault Coup.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. This was Endgame 2002. I’m on the left helping Sister Cleo set up her cowtapault, Bob helps the State Cop player on the right.

PEL Listing, 2003 Game

2003  Game Title: ARF2 (AMISH RAKE FIGHT) – The Wrath of Lapp!Game Hosts/GMs: Brother Robert Giglio, Brother Walter O’Hara, and Brother Cornelius Brennan (NOVAG)Sponsor/Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)Game Description:It’s back…by very popular demand…ARF! When the smoke finally cleared from last spring, the Lancaster Valley stood safe from greedy, unscrupulous developers. Now a new threat looms, as the Lancaster tourism craze hits a new low, and the truce the local Brothers of the Staw Hats and Highwater Pants signed with the Board of Development (BoD) isn’t worth the cow patty it was written on. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that ‘War is Heck,’ just “thee be careful amongst deem English!”[PC Advisory: It's a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it! Special Requirements: Adults only – must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event. Recommended – players with Amish clothing – to facilitate enjoyment of game!] Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.Scale: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man)

Rules: “O Brother, Hold Still While I Must Smite Thee” (Home Rules modified from – Bootlegger Rules by Steve Barber Models)

Period: Modern (i.e., 2003 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)

Players: 8

Game Time & Length: Saturday Noon, 4 hrs

For Cold Wars 03, we wanted to create a sequel of sorts, where the Amish marched on the host and we had a giant altercation in the Host Lobby between gamers, golfers and Amish people.  It didn’t work out.  We could have made the terrain easily enough but there just aren’t that many golfing and gamer figures out there, and it would have been difficult to kit-bash this.  So we ran the basic game described again one more time, with different players.  In this game, the bad guys (spearheaded by Tim Mullen if memory serves) were VERY aggressive and managed to destroy three Amish Buildings, which made them the clear winners.   I never took any pictures of this game, either.

Bob recollects:

We also had players in costume for that one. If you recall, two guys dressed in overalls, straw hats, and barefoot, etc., came down the stairs and we just laughed, as they were two of our players. Also, and most importantly, the 2003 game saw an Amish family come by, look at the game (and have a long chat with Neil Brennan), and smiled very, Very wide (and wickedly), as they “got it”, and laughed at the “fun” aspect of it. That for me, was priceless!

I remember those guys!  They were brothers from the Central PA area and they really knew the Amish lifestyle.  I haven’t seen them in ten years.   They used to be convention regulars.

The never run 2004 game

Our concept for this was that the Amish were going to “take the war” to the Board of Development (at the Lancaster Host of course), so the next day they show up, and wail on first a pack of golfers, and then on the big gang of golfers, goons and gamers at the hotel.  I was a bit daunted by the idea of terrain for this, but in retrospect, I think we could have managed a hotel lobby and a big of golf course easily enough.  The figures for golfers and gamers would have been a challenge.

Bob recalls:

Since I did the bulk of the terrain for these, and since the idea was to have the Amish “assault the Lancaster Host” during the time one of the conventions was being run, I would have had to have a decent model of part of the Host in 28mm. Not to mention all the gamer figs, golf carts, etc.

Now, unknownest to you, I found the gamer figs at one of the GenCons/Origins I attended. They were all from the Knights of the Dinner Table range in miniature. This range was perfect, and had gamers in all body types, from pointy nosed to very wide bellies, and even in a wheelchair. Just what I needed and priceless! However, they were very expensive (about $3 USD or more per figure). I also found a golfcart that fit perfectly, but never went back for more (I think these were in the toy section of WalMart, Target or Toys R Us way back).

To this I can add the fact that I had also found pencil sharpener golf carts that were a bit large, but would have fit as background objects.   I still see the problem of golfers and gamer miniatures being a limiting factor.   Since we didn’t want to just reprise 02 and 03 for a third year in a row, the game ran out of steam until such time as we have a new story to tell.

Conclusion:

So that is my Great Amish Rake Fight narrative.  In retrospect, this was one of my best games, ever, even if it only ran a couple of times– why?  Because it kind of took the mindset that “history games have to be serious” and blew a big, noisy raspberry at it.  In fact, the folks at the Society of Daisy presented us with a medal for our efforts at adding a little levity into wargaming.  This was “The Daisy Medal”, which I am a proud recipient of.    I wish I had more photographs of this game, I really do.  I was quite pleased with it,  but as usual for those days was more busy running things then trying to create a giant ARF archive– so a lot of data has been lost.  The only web-gallery that had pictures went belly up years ago, and now all I can extract from the wayback machine are the three big pictures you see here.   If any gamer out there ever took pictures of these two games, please consider sharing them with me.  I’ll give you credit. As for other artifacts, I had the rule changes to Bootleggers riding in my email account for a long time but I can’t find it any more .   Shrug!  it’s the journey, not the destination.

Epilog:

Many years later, maybe 2009 or so, I was wandering the Exhibitor’s Hall at a HMGS convention, when I bumped into Howard Whitehouse.  We exchanged pleasantries and noticed that the the exhibitor vending a Seven Years War miniatures line right in front of us surely looked … Amish!  I made a pointed observation (to Howard) that it’s puzzling how a non-violent people would play with so-called “war toys”.  “Excuse me,” a voice drawled next to my elbow, “But I’ve never heard of metal figures hurting anybody!”  It turned out to be the Amish figure manufacturer… and he WAS Amish, not Mennonite, from a relaxed order that allowed for him to go out amongst us English.  Howard blithely mentioned ARF in passing and my association with it to the guy.  He blinked, swiveled and asked: “You’re Walt O’Hara, then?  You put on the Amish Rake Fight?” “Y-y-yes.. but let me point out, it was fairly sympathetic to the Amish, actually, and I…” He cut me off.  “We’ve heard of YOU.. we thought it was HILARIOUS!!!” he clapped my back and gave me his email address(!) to send pictures and a write up to.  That was a funny encounter.  The ONE GROUP I thought wouldn’t EVER find out about the Amish Rake Fight would be the Amish themselves.  But they have ears everywhere…. everywhere….

You be careful among them English!

.

Emphasizing the story aspect of wargames


Conflict goes hand in hand with drama; and military conflict generates dramatic moments by the bushel load.  Very rarely are games presented as stories; as players, we tend to get caught up with either the history as it really was or the tactics of the situation we are in, or the mechanics of the game simulating the event.  There are all kinds of players out there.  One kind that I admire is the kind that can recognize the story aspect of a game and does what he or she can to try to communicate that to you in some fashion.  Like “Stuka Joe”, for instance.  Whomever that is.  Check out his video of a recent B-17: Queen of the Skies game.  Joe invested in a component upgrade and took pains to give the game a multilayered three dimensional look– and shot the event as a dramatic narrative instead of a series of dice roles (which is mostly what B-17 is– looking things up on a table and rolling a number of D6s).  Dice rolls aren’t even mentioned, just the results.  The result is a fun, dramatic narrative as “Diamond Lucy” makes her second trip over the skies of Occupied Europe.

I particularly liked the idea of inserting the faces of people the author knows as crew members on the “Diamond Lucy”, instead of just a nameless Ball Gunner, Tail Gunner, Flight Engineer, etc. Nice touch!

The Largest Game I’ve ever seen– Borodino 92 NOW with pictures


NOTE: I was recently contacted by Mr. Gary Jones, who just happened to be at the Battle of Borodino 1992 for THIRTY MINUTES, and he took a plethora of pictures which he has made available to me.  My thanks to Gary for this invaluable visual record!  The following narrative relates events to the best of my recollection.  Where I have erred or omitted, I apologize in advance.

Those were the days…   I zoned on this in 2012, but I had an anniversary of sorts.  22 years ago, roughly, I attended what ended up being a formative event in my participating with miniature wargaming.  The year was 1992, I was working for Booz, Allen and Hamilton.  One of my work colleagues was Patrick Berkebile.  Pat was interested in miniatures, just like I was, but we were both kind of still on the outside looking in.  Patrick approached me about participating in a project he had heard about– recreating the Battle of Borodino (1812) in grand tactical scale .  This was the project of Mr. Tony Figlia and the late Wally Simon.  They wanted to create a gigantic gaming experience that would simulate the Battle from the “thousand foot up” vantage point.  This was a project most hobby players couldn’t hope to emulate on their own;  the amount of figures and terrain required spiraled way out of control.   So Simon and Figlia quickly built French and Russian teams, built around the order of battle as we knew it, working from public sources, especially David Chandlers’ Campaigns of Napoleon and Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars.   Patrick, his brother (whose name I have forgotten, alas) and myself signed up and were assigned to the French team.  In the order of Battle, we were assigned IV Corps, Commander-in-Chief: Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy (Napoleon’s stepson, who ended up commanding the entire Grande Armee on the retreat to France).   I recall that the Corps were divided into Divisions, and I ended up with the supporting cavalry corps (which was divisional sized):

My Unit: Corps Cavalry : Général de division Ornano

12th Light Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Guyon – 6 squadrons (~800 men)
— 9th Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel de Bruneteau de Sainte-Suzanne (3 Squadrons)
— 19th Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Vincent (3 Squadrons)

13th Light Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Villata – 8 squadrons (949 men) — 2nd Italian Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Banko (4 Squadrons)
— 3rd Italian Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Rambourgt (4 Squadrons)

Bavarian Cavalry Division: Major Général von Preysing-Moos

21st Light Cavalry Brigade: Major Général von Seydewitz
— 3rd Bavarian Chevau-Légers Kron-prinz: Colonel Elbracht (4 squadrons)
— 6th Bavarian Chevau-Légers Bubenhofen: Colonel von Dietz (4 squadrons)

22nd Light Cavalry Brigade: Major Général von Preysing-Moos
— 4th Bavarian Chevau-Légers: Colonel Seyssel (4 squadrons)
— 5th Bavarian Chevau-Légers: Colonel Gaddum (4 squadrons)

I’m not sure what my “Cavalry Corps” represented in terms of actual men per figure, but I do recall that I purchased one large bag of 15mm Old Glory Chaseurs A Cheval to represent all of them– all the Italians and all the Bavarians.   AND I had lots of figures left over!   This is what they looked like:

Old Glory Chasseur figures, from the OG 15s website. Pretty much the same paint scheme I used.  My uniform painting resource was Osprey’s NAPOLEON’S LIGHT CAVALRY.

I gave away those figures years ago since I have never really collected 15mm Nappys.  Even for such an early effort, and my dubious painting skills, they really didn’t look too bad.  Of course 15mm usually does from 3 feet away.  I took my time and tried to paint scientifically but fell behind, so the night before, my girlfriend (and later bride) jumped in to mass paint horses for me, grumbling good-naturedly.

Day of Battle

The Battle of Borodino 1992 game took place in a giant field house located on Fort Meade, Maryland.  The initial battlefield looked like this:

Borodino Battlefield.  The Blue line of tables is the French set up area, the Green line of tables is the Russian.  Troops would enter the center battlefield (brown) from these locations.  The Red spot was my approximately location in the center.

Borodino Battlefield. The Blue line of tables is the French set up area, the Green line of tables is the Russian. Troops would enter the center battlefield (brown) from these locations. The Red spot was my approximately location in the center.

There were tons of gamers present– almost 100% men in those days.  I didn’t know it, then,  but I was encountering a lot of people I would come to know in the years to come as my participation in the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (East) grew.    My troops came on the blue table and my general position for the next two days of the game was generally in the area of the red spot in the picture above.

Pictures:

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.

This is looking North along the battlefield of Borodino.  The French are on the left.  I can’t make out myself in this gaggle of people but I’m there in the center. 

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.

Looking South down the battlefield.  The participants are in the bleacher end of the battle, which indicates this is probably the second day.  You can barely make out famed historian David Chandler in the first row, just to the right of the fellow raising his arm and speaking.  This was the reading of the referee’s results, which took a while with all the cheering going on.

Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  French to the left.  The swampy clearing to the right of the Fleches where I spent most of Saturday is in the foreground.

Randy Meyers and Wally Simon played Napoleon and Kutuzov (respectively) and assumed positions on elevated chairs some distance away from the setup tables.  During the course of the battle, their only communication to the 0battlefield was by written order via paper, carried to the corps commander the supreme commander wished to influence.   I remember that Randy was using binoculars to determine what was happening on the field (as his historical counterpart would have used a spyglass).

We were using a set of rules called EMPIRE 2 by Scott Bowden. The only Napoleonic miniatures game I was familiar with (then) was Napoleon’s Battles by Avalon Hill, and Empire was very, very different.

I certainly wasn’t a seasoned veteran or anything, but I got the sense (then and now) that Empire 2 was a compromise candidate for a rule system. It was dense, chart heavy and there were some rules that made little or no sense to me. There were also rules, as we will see, that contributed to a memorable event in wargaming for me.

I roleplayed the Corsican General Phillipe Ornano to some extent, and was essentially attached to Eugene de Beauharnais’ IV Corps on paper and at the outset of the battle.  That meant I was theoretically under Patrick Berkebile’s orders, but he was involved in heavy infantry fighting the first and second days so there really was nothing for the cavalry corps to do.  IV corps was left of the Fleches (the center of the battlefield in our setup)– very hilly terrain and not ideal for cavalry fighting.  I was new to all this, but I didnt’ need an expert to tell me that.   So by mutual agreement, I detached from IV Corps and was stationed to the right of Davout’s I Corps slightly to the right of the Great Redoubt.   The player running Davout’s role was also very distracted by the largely infantry and artillery fight around the Redoubt on the first day, but he did take the time to assign me to something to do– and it turned out to be pretty valuable, as things fell out.  To the right (South) of the Redoubt from the French perspective was a largely flat area with few terrain breaks, just some marsh in areas.  As I and IV corps were concentrating on the attack, they didn’t have sufficient frontage to extend far down before connecting to the Corps on our right, which was Poniatowski’s V corps if memory serves.    Into that flat, somewhat marshy gap he placed me.  That is, Ornano’s Cavalry “Corps”, which really was a smallish Division.  I had another unit of “Lithuanian Cossacks” attached to me as skirmishers and scouts.  Not much of anything happened during the early half of the first day from my perspective.  My Lithuanians skirmished with some proper Russian Cossacks from the Hetman Platov, run by none other than Pete Panzeri, future HMGS President.   The Russians had the better of my Lithuanians, to my chagrin, and they were pretty badly cut up– at least I think so, I had to have an Empire 2 translator (referee) talk me through the complicated charge/countercharge process using their rules.

More Pictures:

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  Fierce infantry fighting in the village of Borodino.

Pictures provided by Gary Jones

A staggered line of French Chasseurs. They might have even been mine! Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Massive Infantry Assault. On the French left, I think. Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Later in the day, I noticed that the good Hetman was emboldened by his earlier skirmishes and was massing a very large cavalry attack; first a line of Cossacks, then a line of Hussars, then another line of Lancers of some kind.   The big advantage to being outnumbered in this situation is that it gives you plenty of time to get ready while the other guy is getting his big, dramatic charge ready.  So I put my tiny division in a line to receive and poked Davout in the shoulder, nodding towards the disturbing development with cavalry.  He was concerned, but also had most of his assets committed to the ongoing battle around the Redoubt.  His comment was the kind of supervision junior commanders the world over revel in: “Yikes!  Improvise and do the best you can to hold those guys off– if they get in on my right flank, I’m in deep trouble here!”
The Russian cavalry flanking move began late in the first day, and as the three lines moved forward, I noticed something.  They were on the edge of a marsh that edged firm ground from the rise where my small line was located.  If I acted promptly, I could have the advantage on them.  So once again with the assitance of a very patient referee, General Ornano sounded the charge and the Cavalry Corps tore across the field to hit first edge of Cossacks as they were just coming out of the swamp.  And here is where the confusion of Empire 2 parted, and I could see, for an instant, how brilliant those rules were.  I charged HOME on the first line and due to a fortuitious roll, totally ROUTED them.  But this was only light cavalry.  The fun really started when they retreated away from me at high speed.  They collided with and dashed through the line of Hussars behind them.  Due to some obscure rule about broken units passing through formations, the line BEHIND them broke, and ran for the rear.  Now the last line did not break, but seeing the bulk of the attack heading for the horizon, Platov turned his Lancers around and adopted a covering position, and thus the threat of the first day was over.  Davout, looking on from my left, was astonished.  “You’ll remember that“, he said.  “That was a once in a lifetime thing that just happened“… and he was right.

Randy Meyers and the Napoleonic Command team (if memory serves, Neil Brennan was Berthier) implemented a nice touch for French commanders.  If they did something pretty spectacular, they would dispatch a staff runner with a piece of paper, which represented the award of the “Legion D’Honor” on the battlefield.  In some cases (Bob Giglio, for one, playing Latour-Marbourg) battlefiled promotions ensued.  It was only a little piece of playacting, but I remember feeling kind of proud of myself for getting a “Legion D’Honor” award for my defense of Davout’s right flank at Borodino, and having these crusty wargaming veterans clap for the newbie.

I had taken some losses, which has an impact on your formation.  There may or may not have been some house rule about reorganzing units with losses in effect, but in any event I didn’t do much else for the rest of the day, just moved my guys back to a covering spot and reorganized.

picture from the actual game, back in 1992. Credit: Small Wars website, see below.

The second day dawned with us present and ready to fight but the Russians were in even less shape to go on the offensive than they had been on the first day.   I patroled my area of the field, but Platov had moved off during the night and was now plaguing another sector of the field.  The Austrian Duke Schwarzenburg’s corps was to our right, to the right of Poniatowski.  On the second day, the Austrians got stuck into it with the Russians as the Russians attempted to flank to the left of the line.  The entire Austrian corps refused the right and didn’t allow it.   This created a comical situation where the Austrians were running out of room to maneuver as the Russian attack bent around them.   To compensate, they kept relocating tables  to extend the action to the Southwest, creating a kind of sharp bend in our lines.

About midday the Corps Commanders in the Center had been fighting a largely infantry action  for almost two days and the casualties were piling up.  Napoleon decided to go for plan B.  Murat moved his cavalry corps in besides Davout, to my left.  Looking for something to do, I asked the player running Murat if I could tag along.  He didn’t mind.  So the gigantic charge around the back of the Fleches and Redbouts began.  It achieved great results, getting in behind the line in the center and causing a regular smash up.   My guys just went along for the show and because I was getting bored just watching everyone else.

The impact on the larger battlefield appeared to be to draw the entire event to a close.  That suited me fine; I had been playing for a day, almost two, and for much of that time I did nothing but watch over a field.

Here’s a few from that moment:

Massive Cavalry Assault. Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  This also makes me think Mr. Jones visited the game during the second day.

More cavalry scouting. Pictures by Gary Jones

David Chandler himself was present, dressed as a French Marshall.  He was much impressed with the effort and consulted on the victory conditions at the end of the second day.  It was agreed, by gentleman’s agreement, that the French had indeed won this thing, mostly through NOT emulating the historical French disposition and tactics.   Three cheers were heard for both sides, then the French side launched into Le Marseilles.   The Russians counted with “Winter is coming! Winter is coming!  Winter is coming!!!!

David Chandler, noted Napoleonic Era historian, was present. A delightful guest and a thorough gentleman.

And so we headed home.  That was my first really big wargame event.  I had been to Historicon before this, and had played miniatures games before, but nothing on this scale before that, and only very rarely since.

This epic miniatures battle has become something of a legend for many who were there or wish they were.  Yet, it took place at the dawn of the Internet age.  There are surprisingly few references to the 1992 Borodino game anywhere on the Internet except a small snippet in the Baltimore Sun HERE.   I recall the old extinct Courier wargaming magazine published a small piece on the game with one blurry halftone photograph.  I remember taking pictures.. lots of guys took pictures.  But this was in the days just before the advent of cheap digital photography, and if I have the film pictures of this event in a shoebox somewhere, I lost track of them years ago.  I have only found a few blurry scanned pictures on a website called Small Wars, which recounts the 1992, 2002 and 2012 Borodino games– the organizers of the 1992 game have continued the tradition every ten years since then.

Fortunately, I have found a new source for images.  Read below.

A note on the new photos: I despaired of ever seeing visual references to this game again, until I was contacted by Mr. Gary Jones, who by the grace of God was just passing through that day and managed to snap a few pictures.   22 years later, he contacted me through this blog and the battlefield pictures you see included are almost all taken by him.  Many thanks, sir!

Miniatures from Borodino 92:

Mr. Jones also picked up a few painted figures from a vendor present, probably it was GAJO.

Not sure of the Scale, but the units appear to be from Waterloo. Credit: Gary Jones

More figure purchases by Mr. Jones

More figures by Gary Jones

As a player, this game did have a big impact on me.. as a player and a designer.  I knew I liked historical wargaming and still do.  I also knew I didn’t have any love for those Empire 2 rules, or really games at this level.  I admired the huge aspect of the game simply from the logistical end of things, but had no wish to emulate a game at that scale again.  Without a doubt, I had a great time and that countercharge against Mr. Panzeri’s Cossacks is one of those golden moments that keep you in wargaming forever.   My largest miniatures game became the game that really got me involved in the hobby, at the end of the day.

Gaming Kamikaze style


The announcement of PICKET DUTY from Legion Games on Consimworld found me bemused. First of all, a little description.. from the Legion website:

By the time of the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945, the US Navy devised a plan to help ward off the expected kamikaze attacks during the battle for the island. In order to provide an early warning system for impending kamikaze attacks, the US Navy established 16 radar picket stations around the island Picket Duty is a solitaire game where you – as the captain of a Fletcher Class destroyer – fend off kamikaze attacks while performing picket duty off Okinawa. The game covers the time period from late March 1945 to late June 1945. Your goal is simple – survive.

The game comes with a basic game, advanced game, six historical scenarios, two hypothetical scenarios, a mini-campaign and a full campaign. Optional rules are also included. Each game turn is divided into three phases, each depicting an eight hour period. Key crew members are depicted with certain functions, as well damage control teams. 27 types of Japanese planes are represented. Some planes have special attack capabilities.

Game features include: blah blah blah blah…

Reactions.. It’s a game about fighting off kamikaze attacks. And it looks well produced. I’ve not seen a lot of Legion’s stuff, but they seem like a professional outfit:

PICKET map. Solitaire, you place the attacking airplane counters around the ship randomly (I think), and conduct attacks on the picket ship depicted in the center. You play a role similar to the B-17 pilot in B-17 QUEEN OF THE SKIES, running hither and yon, shooting at attacking planes, keeping your boat afloat.

Counters. Still don’t know much about this from the mechanics, but I’m guessing it’s not unlike the B-17, B-29 game situation.. moving specialized crewmen from place to place to fight fires, do damage control, etc. I like the looks of that.

(Click to embiggen those)

As you can see in the captions.. I don’t know a heck of a lot about this game yet.  I’m sure they’ll do the normal thing and put the rules up on BGG and all that, so I’ll have a chance to read it.  What it LOOKS like from a glance is a situation similar to the games B-17 Queen of the Skies and B-29 Superfortress.   That kind of makes sense as I think Legion Games is related to the old Khyber Pass Games publisher, which is where I got my copy of B-29 from.    Long and short of it is I like the mechanic of the game focusing on one ship/plane as the center focus and all the action sort of streams around it, like in Luftschiff.  It’s a great gaming narrative.  Picket Duty appears to be about par for the course in terms of price at 65 bucks, so I won’t be getting it any time soon (sad trombone music).   Still, one can scan ebay and hope.

The greater question is: Why aren’t there MORE games on this little historical niche?  By that, I mean, the Kamikaze attacks in the last year of the Pacific War?  Are we a trifle gun shy because of the notion that we are simulating the death of a pilot as he purposely flies his explosive-laden death ride into the deck of a ship in service to the Emperor?  Probably not about the notion of death alone.  All wargames simulate death at some level or other.  A military conflict simulation doesn’t exactly have “conflict” without it.   Sure, we kind of grimace or blink when  a cardboard counter disappears from a gameboard, because we’ve been inconvenienced.  We might lose the game, you know.  But we don’t really think about the human lives that are being lost when that tank, or ship, or infantry silhouette, or squad symbol, gets removed as a result of rolling dice on a CRT.  There’s been a longstanding subtext and argument about the morality of wargaming going on since wargames were created, and I’m certainly not going to weigh in on that one.   It’s just that.. that.. kamikaze attacks are so personal.  It’s a human being purposefully trying to kill himself JUST AS HARD AS HE CAN, so he can KILL YOU.   I can see why this hasn’t been first choice for game designers, especially subsequent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, all of which were suicidal in nature.

That doesn’t mean the topic has been entirely avoided heretofore.  FIRE AND MOVEMENT magazine’s only issue game ever, Number 31, was on the subject of Kamikazes. Designer: Dana Lombardy.

One of my housemates had this issue, but it was unpunched, so I never played it. I don’t remember much about it, but if memory serves me you cut out some ship cards and placed them in a convoy formation. Then the HORDE of kamikaze attacks would start at all angles of the compass, trying to plow into your little task force. You got to launch fighters too, and had destroyers and frigates with tons of AA to take out the attacking waves and protect the Carrier (I think). From some of the imagery on the game description on BGG, it appears that my memories of this one are pretty accurate. It would make a great miniatures game, but I’d have no idea where to begin getting ships and planes to scale. Axis and Allies miniatures, maybe, but even that isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Artwork: good by 80s standards, nothing to write home about.

Artwork: good by 80s standards, nothing to write home about.

One feature that that I liked was the notion of no map being necessary. Since the action is really about the plane and the ship (and you on the most featureless terrain imaginable, water), they just cut the ships into chart/cards and put them in formation, miniatures style. Very elegant for its day.

Not a bad effort, either one. I suspect we won’t be deluged by Kamikaze games as the next big thing, but these both look like interesting games to me and I wouldn’t be too holier than thou to pick one up. Though it’s going to be the one that isn’t 65 clams!

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.

Links:

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.

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.

The HISTORICON 2013 LANDING PAGE is here:
http://guidebook.com/g/3vcidah7

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.

INDIVIDUAL BANNERS:
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: http://m.guidebook.com  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 Guidebook.com, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.

ONCE YOU HAVE THE APP INSTALLED (Somewhere)

  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!

Disclaimers:

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 Guidebook.com and don’t get paid to endorse them.  Use at your own risk.

Mongoose Publishing, you are SO cheeky!


There’s some vague hints of an Ipad app coming soon from no less than Mongoose Publishing, the folks who did Starship Troopers and Judge Dredd Miniatures games. I like them for a robust set of naval rules they publish called Victory at Sea. VaS is a very straightforward set of naval rules that models WWII naval combat in all theaters (with a separately published WWI variant).

Well, it had to happen.. they just released a statement about an impending Kickstarter for Victory at Sea for the Ipad. The developer is going to be a company I haven’t heard of called iEvilGames. iEvilGames is a UK company whose output so far appears to be cutesy Anime style games, a resume that should fill a hardcore naval gamer with dread. Still, one must hope. There’s not much written anywhere about what the app will look like or is supposed to do. Will it play an arcade version of WWII Naval combat? Will it be a helper app for the Miniatures game. Will it be some bastardized arcade version of Naval Combat that entered into a pact with the folks at Mongoose to use their miniature game’s name? It’s hard to say at this point in the process. We’ll see more once the Kickstarter Kicks Off.

The iEvilGames website isn’t revealing much:

What is Victory at Sea?

VICTORY AT SEA is a naval combat game for iOS and Android where players take command of fleets in a desperate attempt to win the overall victory in World War 2.

Navigate your fleets around the Atlantic, Pacific and the Mediterranean theatres of war and engage in real time epic naval combat. Victory at Sea combines a simple touch control system with a large and detailed campaign that contains vast numbers of historically accurate ship variants, the likes of which have never been seen before on a mobile device. Victory at Sea will be easy to play but difficult to master and will be one of the largest and most engaging war combat games ever.

Our team here at Evil Twin Artworks have been developing games for mobile devices since the beginning of the app store. We are gamers with a penchant for strategic games and are disappointed with the current lack of in depth games in this genre on mobile devices. We want Victory at Sea to become the massive, immersive combat game all mobile devices deserve, taking full advantage of it’s intuitive touch control system.

Victory at Sea is a highly successful table top game made by Mongoose Publishing, the company behind the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms games. The mobile game will encapsulate the vast amounts of information behind the table top game which will create a massive video game. The iOS / Android versions will also inherit the fast flowing rules that allows novices and veteran gamers alike to enjoy recreating the epic struggles between the mighty fleets of the era.

Couple things jump out here. Real Time. Massive and Immersive. That hints at real time play on a massive scale. Hard to say. If I can see more about what their intentions are, I’ll know if I want to fund it or not. It could be the second miniatures game helper app to get published (after Ironclads). That’s an exciting idea.

So far, the graphics are not wowing me.

I am intrigued enough to check back. Victory at Sea is my favorite game from Mongoose.

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:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/293087222/the-ironclads-app

15mm SF update: Earth Force painting, Scenics acquired


So, my latest addiction is 15mm SF, as you can see by prior postings. My intention is to build a small mixed tech/medium tech village inhabited by farmers and miners, with a central administration building and a few outlying higher tech structures, then a hodgepodge collection of structures built out of whatever material is close to hand. My vision is that shipping containers would get a lot of reuse as structures, as well as a few mud huts (with high tech add ons like satellite dishes). As there is a distinct rebellious and religious element in the populace of the campaign I’m developing, I’m adding MBA’s 15mm mosque and maybe a few Mediterranean 15mm buildings. I’ve also added Blue Moon’s higher tech buildings (two of them) as the central complex. The rest of the structures are going to be kitbashed out of electrical utility boxes (about a dollar each), pencil boxes, and Papier-mâché style craft boxes from arts and craft stores. Since the colony does skirmish with native fauna on occassion there are some defense pillboxes on the perimeter near the agriculture fields to keep larger predators away. Other than that what troops there are are ad hoc levy types. I haven’t bought and painted them yet but I’m contemplating the Sahad by Rebel Miniatures. They match the arid landscape I’m creating. This week I painted most of the Earth Force group I’m using as the attacking force (well, base coat, anyway… pictures when they are done and I’m not too embarassed to show them). Overall color scheme is dark olive uniform with light grey highlights, black leather boots and gloves, green helmet and black googles. Support weapons get a blue helmet and armored troops metallic gunmetal shoulder and helmet pieces. Command/squad leader types will get some form of insignia.

Two great low cost finds this week:

A relatively modern looking Elevated Water tank for the settlement from Rix Products:

Rix Modern Elevated Tank

Water collection and storage would be one of those important tasks for my fictional settlement, and I can see this as being a victory objective for the attacking force. I could have gone with a HO scaled water tank with the classical cone top, but this strikes me as looking more science-fictional. Pretty cheap, too, I got it for about 8 bucks on Ebay.

Alternative energy sources:

The settlement would be challenged in its early years to create power cheaply and efficiently. There probably would be a range of technologies in evidence that seem positively 20th century for a SF setting, but if you think on it, they probably would be the easiest and most cost effective choices available for a struggling colony. Using that assumption as a baseline, I went with a lot of wind turbines and solar panels to generate basic electricity, supplemented with methane collecting and burning, water wheels, etc. I don’t want to go TOO deep in the weeds here so I’m representing the basic concept of homegrown power by adding a forest of wind turbines and solar panels. My go-to set is from Woodland Scenics Scene-a-Rama Alternative Energy Scene Setters (item WLS-4348). These are about 10 bucks from Woodland Scenics and you get two solar panels (for rooftops) and two wind turbines with each kit. I ordered 3, for 7 each, from Ebay.

Woodland Scenics Scen-a-rama Alternative Energy set

These scale very well against 15mm scale buildings.

I also picked up 3 OKI Wind Power Turbines. They are constructed for 6mm SF sets but scale very nicely to 15mm:

All this extra detail (alternative energy, water storage, soon– agrictulral plots) may seem extraneous but I think it’s the little details that make a game setting more memorable and tell a story.

Old Stuff Day: Singlehanded Admiral Repost


Apparently Bleaseworld has declared “Old Stuff Day” to be March 2nd. Old Stuff Day is a day for bloggers to bring out their old posts of note and republish them for the blogosphere at large. Had I but known! I’ve been blogging for almost a decade, I have plenty to trundle out.

One especially GOOD Old Stuff Day post was from the Singlehanded Admiral, a blog on Naval Gaming I follow. He and some of his mates decided to break out a game of Fletcher Pratt‘s naval rules at some point in the past. If you know anything at all about Fletcher Pratt’s naval game, it doesn’t play well in a confined space, to put it mildly. Pratt’s wargames were played in gymnasiums with 1:1200 scale ships. Lacking a gymnasium, these chaps decided to play the game outside, in a field, in the dead of Winter.

Quote from the post itself:
I had two USN battleships (USS Colorado and Arizona, based on neither ship being at Pearl Harbour on the 7th) while Curt fielded the Kongo and Ise for the IJN, with Sylvain acting as GM. After about 35 minutes of game time (about an hour and a bit of real time) we traded some hits with my eyesight proving superior to Curt’s. He decided to cut and run, which was quite alright with me. I did my running sprinting across King’s Road park chasing down ship logs and turning circles blown away by the gale force winds.

One of the pictures illustrating the blogpost. Visibility must have been a bear in that dead grass.

I’ll let the post finish it up, see the link below– I just got a big kick out of this “blast from the past” and the dedication of these fellows towards good old Fletcher. Well done, lads!

Original Post: Old Stuff Day.

SAGA: More than one way to skin a cat, if that’s your idea of a good time.


You know, sometimes a solution to a problem will stare you right in the face, and you can’t see it. When I mentioned my DIY attempts to make dice for SAGA to a fellow SAGA fan, he pointed out I was taking too direct an approach to the problem. “Oh? What do YOU do?”, I asked. I won’t go to far into the details, lest I anger the good people at Tomahawk studios, but I will let a picture tell a thousand words or something to that effect.

No, I won’t go into how and I’m not going to distribute this. I own SAGA outright and these modifications are my own for my personal use only. Just throwing out an idea here…

Hmmmm… glad I didn’t go overboard in making my own custom dice too much, eh?

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Olympica Test at FALL IN! 2012


I have been working on an OLYMPICA game since the Summer, off and on, mostly off because of FALL IN! Prep work. See the previous Fall IN! post about the game I ran on Friday night at the convention. I had a team of about 6 players run through the basic Nix Olympica scenario, which entails hidden Web units (and Web Generator), customizable defense and a strong mechanized U.N. attack.

Your intrepid GM has a (Diet) Coke and a smile.

The rules, for reference, are here. I designed this on the fly for a gaming camp last Summer so it’s not a profound work of genius, but it does have some interesting notions that I like, such as dice pools, which allow an attacker and a defender to choose different dice that do different things to resolve an attack. In essence, red=attack, blue=defense, green=leadership, white=maneuver, yellow=”special”, e.g. Psychic Attack. Each player selects FIVE dice in the basic mechanic, and they can add in any combination of red,blue,white,green,yellow. They both roll at once and then you see what happens. I have made a chart (seen here, but this version has been modified, I just haven’t posted it yet).

Screen “Story” on Photobucket (Fall IN 2012 Playtest):
Olympica Playtest, FALL IN! 2012

Other elements that I like:

The webbies have hidden tunnel movement. Before the game begins, I give them a small white board and they draw the tunnel complex, then put tunnel mouths on the board (numbered) in a layout that matches the whiteboard. The BOAR drill can collapse a single tunnel in the complex, killing everyone inside it. That part worked.

Web Players building Tunnel Complex, Fall IN! 2012

The U.N. has air drop rules and in an attempt to emulate the original OLYMPICA rules, can crash if they fly too close to the Web Generator during a drop. Great idea, though nobody has managed to try it yet.

U.N. Lifters lining up an air drop, Summer Camp Playtest, 2012

The U.N. can fire by platoon, illustrating their superior equipment and training. That means they get the basic five dice and 2 more from each extra squad, making 9 dice total. The Webbies fire by squad, which puts them at a disadvantage in a fire fight. The Web players did not like that.

1 Webbie SQUAD vs. 1 Light Infantry PLATOON, Summer Playtest, 2012

The Webbies have STRONG POINTS (bunkers) that have various forms of SF-y style artillery– rail guns that fire in a long ranged arc, but require an observer, Gauss Guns, which fire in a flat arc, AAMs, which are designed only to take out Landers, Tac Missiles, which can hit air and ground units, and Direct Firing artillery. In the game I ran, I had three DF artillery up close in the Strong points, a Rail gun and a TAC missile. This provided overlapping defense all over the battlefield. The actual firepower wasn’t as deadly as I would have liked.

Combined Arms attack on Webbie Strongpoint with supporting Webbie Infantry Squads. Fall In 2012 game

The Webbies have hidden placement (using orange “?” markers). Everything except their strong points is hidden at first. Worked very well for the Webbies but the U.N. didn’t like it much.

here’s the sequence of events:

Pre-Game: Webbies make tunnel map, put down tunnel mouths to match map, put ? markers on terrain to hide troops. SOME of those are dummies. U.N. allocates troops to drop ships, and prepares ground forces for advance to the Nix Olympica crater, where the Web Generator is reported to be.

I had the players roll for activation each turn, but I blew that off.. I just roll once and that’s the number for the rest of the game.

PRE-GAME DROP: the players may attempt to start the game with a drop on the map, and the Lifter above the unit.

1. ACTION SEGMENTS — in Activation sequence, players conduct actions — Move, Move 1/2 and Fire, or just FIRE with a bonus. Combat happens. Once a unit has activated, I put a marker on it and it can’t activate again (unless defending in combat) until all markers are pulled off.

Where fire hits (on the ground), a dust cloud happens. You can’t see or fire through one of these.

2. MORALE EFFECTS — if the UN unit has taken a hit, one rolls versus MOR rating to retreat. If it fails, they move back 10″ and keep checking every turn. If the unit is a Gold Stripe (leader unit) or is in a platoon with a Gold Stripe, it roles against LEADERSHIP (green dice).

3. WEB PULSE — The Web Generator fires a web pulse withing 15″ of its’ location. If there is a Lander in the radius of the pulse, it is likely to crash. U.N. infantry are subject to conversion for three turns.

4. REMOVE SMOKE CLOUDS –

REPEAT, until all units have “I’ve moved” markers on them. Then pull markers and start all over again.

BIG pileup in the center, mid-game. The U.N. got stalled here, and it cost them the game.

OLYMPICA at FALL IN 2012:

This was a great chance to get feedback from players that are a bit more critical than then the kids at game camp. The results of (more or less) the rules you see above, slightly modified to make the U.N. more speedy and lethal, ended in a game that was a massive stalemate in the center of the board, and the Webbies easily achieved their victory conditions of keeping the U.N. from reaching Nix Olympica (and securing or destroying the web generator).

I’ve noticed this in all games run so far. The U.N. player is not NEARLY lethal enough. The Webbie player loses people, a lot of them, but usually wins– that is not how the boardgame played! I’ve increased the stats on the U.N. recently and that is what we played with at FALL IN. What happened was the U.N. got bogged down in the center, held back by guns that could only face forward, when they should have advanced into the crater. There’s also a big problem with sequencing, I think. SEVERAL U.N. units can pile on to a webbie infantry unit and he can continue to roll a fresh defense every time he is fire upon, and can, under the current rules, fire back. I had players complain about this giving the Webbie almost continuous fire, and they have a point. I may have to come up with something to address that.

Also, the Webbies didn’t like not being able to fire by platoon, like the UN can. My observation is that this leads to a very powerful Webbie tactical firepower.. which isn’t in the spirit of their attack and defense. I might allow it with some thematic mechanic, like they can fire by platoon if there’s a special web pulse that allows the generator to be visual. Or something. I’m working on it.

In any event, I’m still dissatisfied, it’s not quite right yet. Any suggestions are welcome. Can’t guarantee I’ll act on them, but I’ll read them, that’s for sure.