What I’m working on March 2017


I don’t think gamers (the miniatures kind) are ever happy enough in a stasis state. There’s always a next big thing, which is a blessing and a curse. I have my share of projects completed that I do go back to– Big Danged Boats, The Magi, White Line Fever. I also have my share of Next Big Things. Here are a few of them.

Most game systems design I do starts with an idea. The idea could be fully formed, or just sort of occur to me in increments– like “Pig wrestling is funny, but there’s hardly a game there”.. what if it’s part of a much bigger system? These two started out as notions.

SPY RUN

The notion came to me when of ALL things, I was seeing the Melissa McCarthy movie about her being a Top Secret spy “handler” that guides her “field operative” (a treacherous Jude Law) via satellite transmission and helps him anticipate what the next big problem will be. The movie was (surprise!) pretty entertaining and very funny. More importantly, it got me thinking– that link between controller and field operative was kind of cool.. there might be a game in there. How to simulate this? Easy. Figures to be the field operative, and a player that doesn’t have a figure with access to map/floorplan/some idea of what’s next and what’s lurking around the corner. I see it as a complex, revealed gradually to the controller (via a small white board) who sits a distance apart from the players. The players and the controller have cellphones. The players transmit a picture of the hallway at miniature’s eye level, and the controller looks at what he/she sees, and directs them accordingly. Along the way the referee may insert encounters, traps, even competitive spy teams into the mix. Usually he gives the controller a short warning time, and he/she can communicate it to the team. The challenge is keeping the controller guessing and not supplying complete information, and not revealing the entire layout to the players all at once, they have to build it as they go.

As far as figures go, I’m looking for stuff that hearkens back to the 1960s and 70s, as this is firmly in the Cold War espionage time period. Fortunately I don’t need a lot of figures, that’s not really the challenge here. Mark Copplestone’s KISS KISS BANG BANG is a very good start.

Spies for Spy Run

My recent acquisitions.  A mix of spies, KGB men, and some evil geniuses for SPY RUN. Can you spot the thinly disguised versions of fictional characters?  Which ones do you notice here?

There are other good sources for figures– I don’t really want ultra modern militarized SWAT guys as agents, because that defeats the purpose and theme of the game immediately.  CROOKED DICE STUDIOS is also a strong contender as they favor that campy 60s Television spy thing.

Some Crooked Dice Frogmen encounter an evil genius Henchman. From the Crooked Dice website.

So really, you’ll need some villian major characters, some villain uber-elite characters, the spies and some henchmen. The later can be replaced and recycled as the game continues.

Here’s some cost-affordable henchmen goons I got by converting some HYDRA henchmen from HEROCLIX to non-clickie goons. I like the Hydra look, in general. It’s very campy.

Henchmen goons for .75 cents a stand! Yeah!

So that’s where I’m at with SPY RUN. The figures are pretty much the easiest part. Making the maze they navigate through will be much harder. I’m working on some ideas.

DASH!

This is a weird idea that came to me, in all things, a dream. I was daydreaming about super fast people (like the Flash) running around a giant aerial maze. I woke up trying to figure out the mechanics of a super fast track race (kind of). My first cut, to build a sort of jigsaw track that suspends in the air, just seems too weird and ungainly. I think I have it down now, though.. you have to ask yourself “what’s this game REALLY about?” It’s not about running a maze, it’s about what happens to someone going ultra fast, how they turn, how the slow down, what happens if they gain too much momentum. I see it as a wave of air being pushed in front of the super-fast figure, which can do damage itself. Stopping when you are going that fast is certainly possible but what happens to the shoes you are wearing if you are going close to Mach 1 and you suddenly have to slow down? How do you make a 90 degree turn without hitting a wall? How do you avoid getting friction burns? The Flash makes it look so easy. I abandoned the maze idea, and now I’m going with a long course that wraps around several tables and over several environments, each with challenges. The runner shows speed by putting tokens behind him. He can cover an enormous amount of distance with three tokens, but if he wishes to turn or avoid danger he’ll have to slow down somehow, but taking damage in his shoes (then his feet). If there’s a runner ahead of him, he can draft (avoid wind resistance).

DASH! Participants

Since the game will seat 8 comfortably and require lots of tables, this will only ever be a late night con or camp game, but I could see having fun with this concept.

Other things: still collecting figures for VIKING LOOTERS, SAGA and FROSTGRAVE and my pulp spaceman game, which will probably be executed using the 7TV rules.  My collection has grown.

Pulp Spaceman game, probably using 7TV

More pulp spacemen and aliens

Frostgrave figures, can you guess the source of these?

Chinese Hopping vampires for Frostgrave

More Henchmen for Frostgrave

Thieves for Frostgrave

Vikings for VIKING LOOTERS and SAGA

YALU

I’ve also kept my hand in in a constrained space by starting to paint up 1:2400 pre-dreadnought fleets. I’m just about done for the battle of Yalu (China vs. Japan 1894) and am going to start on the Battle of Santiago De Cuba (US vs Spain) next.

The plucky but doomed Beiyang Fleet, China, 1894

So as you can see I’ve been busy over the Winter, and hope to get at least the naval stuff on a table somewhere soon.

Until next time!

Ah Pook is here


Al Hayden, saying goodbye.


I received word on Facebook, which was later confirmed, that my friend Al Hayden took his own life this week. Words simply fail me. It was an emotionally devastating moment to come home from Cold Wars, wondering why Al had missed a convention local to him, to discover he was in the process of deciding to end it all.

I admit I blinked back tears when I got word from Scott Muldoon late Tuesday night.  Facebook Instant Messenger is not the best medium to convey the news that a mutual friend had passed on, especially by suicide, but what can you do, it’s the modern age.  Maybe the modern age is what did Al in, I don’t know.  His health hadn’t been very good in the last three years.  He seemed depressed.  I know his father had passed on, and his finances were, erm, in disarray more often then not.  Maybe he had taken a good hard look at his future prospects and decided to check out.  Who can say?  I think Al would have preferred to have lived in simpler times.  His abundant imagination was more at home in a world of Big Steam Powered robots and zeppelins than in the modern world.

Al playing Sergeant Slaughter in Bun Bun Land in 2004 (wearing the Pith Helmet)

I know that the advent of Obamacare hit Al pretty hard, he posted many snarky comments on Facebook about losing medical coverage and  how expensive it had all gotten for him.  Maybe he was simply out of options.  We’ll never really know.  I have no idea if he left a note.

What I do know is that the world is a much poorer place without Al Hayden in it.  We live in a world where everyone is on edge, trying to one-up the next guy, to get over on them, to show off and have the last word at someone else’s expense.  That wasn’t Al Hayden.  He was content to smile, nod and let  you make a fool of yourself.  He was a kind, funny and sensitive man.  Not to mention incredibly talented, endlessly patient, wickedly humorous and bitingly sardonic.  I’ll miss him.  I can hardly recall putting on a game in the early 00s without Al participating in it somehow, if it was a PA convention.  Victorian Racing Contraptions, Psychotic Bunny-Murdering Galactic police, Cowboys and Zombies, Big Stompy Steam Robots.. Al was usually “all in” and suggesting ways to make the game better.   Al was a kindred spirit, a great collaborator and a close friend.

Al, I’ll never understand why you choose to do what you did this week. I really wish I had been around more for you,man, I really do. Go with God and may He bless you and keep you in His hand.

Cold Wars 2017, a minor pilgrimage


the Mighty Susquehanna!

The Mighty Susquehanna!!! (we shout this every time)

Hurray!  Once again the sun dawns on a trip to an exotic faraway location where I can play toy soldiers all weekend long.  As happens this time in March, The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society held their annual SPRING convention, namely, Cold Wars, last weekend.  The “exotic faraway location” being, of course, Lancaster PA, a location about as faraway and exotic as day old Wonder bread, but hey, we like it, so there.

Note that Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I celebrated by my standard boycotting of feeling obligated to wear green.  As I’ve said many times, the Irish have given much to America.. so much beyond buffoonery, drunkenness and stuff like this.  I prefer to have a little dignity about a Saint’s Day.

Gar and I had our mutual acts together and the van packed the night before, so we aimed at being on the road at 7:30, with a predictable, actual start of 8:30.  Sigh, that’s entropy for  you.  Journey was uneventful, but longer than usual because THIS time, we stopped for breakfast.

mmmm.. coffee

New Oxford Family Diner.  They made a decent egg white omelette, and the coffee was passable.

Our arrival was 1230ish, even with petal to the metal (legally of course). I really had had ambitions to TRY to get into a Frostgrave event this weekend, it didn’t pan out. I did, however, get a chance to see some splendid Frostgrave scenery for the ongoing tournament in the tournament area.

Click to Enlarge Frostgrave Photos

I also had a notion of getting in an event during the day Friday but that didn’t pan out.. the siren song of the Exhibitor Hall and Flea Market delayed my steps. I was happy to bump into a flea market guy selling bulk 28mm individual figures from a few historical periods– Romans, Gauls, Germans and Vikings, etc. I picked up a bunch of 28mm Vikings (for Viking Looters and SAGA).  I’m not sure what manufacturer this was; I didn’t ask too many questions.  Also, on Friday, I picked up more Copplestone KISS KISS BANG BANG figures for a game I’m designing called SPY RUN.  Wait’ll ya see, wait’ll ya see.

So I wandered around for a bit, talked with friends, and say some great games being run.  Nothing that knocked my socks off, but that’s okay, a lot of people were having a good time.


Homemade ironclad miniatures– using air dried modeling clay!


Now, that’s OLD school.


Big ships, pirates.. yep, Brian Whitaker is around.

Later on we foolishly risked losing our parking spot to go out and get dinner, my son being no great fan of Hall Pig (we were at the ass end of beyond, anyway, and Sherpas ain’t cheap). I have to say, normally, I’m no great fan of chain restaurants in a neighborhood where there are tons upon tons of locally owned and operated family joints, but there was something about a Cracker Barrel, mashed potatoes, roast beef, and coffee, near a fireplace.  It was in such stark contrast to the outside I got positively drowsy.  So I was still in a good mood when I attempted to come BACK to the Host and park.  I’ll be the guy to bring this up; what idiot left the front right parking lot (diagonal from the Lampeter half snowed in for the entire weekend??? The convention lost about 20 parking spots, maybe more, due to there being gigantic drifts piled up from snow removal.  Don’t they use snow blowers in Lancaster?   It was a lousy job of snow removal, and it impacted us.

Might as well bring it up since people who didn’t show up will wonder.  How is the Host these days?   Well, kind of a mixed bag.  I didn’t stay there (more on that miserable experience later) so I can’t comment on the state of the rooms that got rennovated.  The physical plant appears to be operating, but there were still signs of wear all over the place that badly needed fixing and attention.  Basic stuff, like the railing to the handicapped entrance ramp only held up by one post stuck into crumbling concrete.  If someone ever puts their weight on it, they’re in for a nasty fall.  The hotel appeared to be operating normally otherwise– no overflowing toilets, the heating and a/c worked.. the wireless was just an gigantic joke.  I tried periscoping and/or Facebook Live from the show, and it just kept dropping connections.

Conventions at the Lancaster Host.. they are not for sissies.

Live Action Dripcam footage on Instagram


Caesar Vs. Pluck

Once back, I got a spot in Jeff Wasileski’s Caesar Vs. Pluck game.  This is an adaption of Howard Whitehouse’s older Science vs. Pluck for the Roman era.  Yours truly played the Imperial Heir Domitian, younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian.  Jeff’s games call for much playing of roles and skullduggery as a rule.  As I had played Domitian before in 2013, the last time Jeff ran a a game of CVP, I took the role of Domitian again.  This was a great scenario.  Barbarians (The Ruritani and Schwetti?) have taken over a local Imperial city on the coast, and have been despoiling it for a couple of weeks.  Domitian, spoiled brat that he is, yearns for some glory to get out of his older brother’s shadow.  Well, he got some glory in spades, as it were. Like last time, Domitian has been entrusted with military command, and a couple of decent veteran soldiers to make sure he doesn’t mess everything up.  The command is split into land and sea.  Domitian plans to land a naval force, offloading some Romans and wiping out pirate reinforcements, while a veteran legion drives the barbs to the sea.  That was the theory anyway.  Jeff loves games with factions and we played it to the hilt.

Romans on the attack

Pirates getting a lot more than they bargained for

Flaming naptha pirates come to grief.

Landing force seems overwhelmed

Meanwhile the field army was in trouble!

I played Domitian exactly like one SHOULD play Domitian– ambitious, angry, trying to prove himself (he’s very young in this time period). I have to say, the Romans killed like champions in this scenario. I dropped off the landing barges on the beach and went in for the Ram on the nearest Pirate galley with my Liburnian. We didn’t sink it but we did damage it, and then my gladiator cohort boarded it and turned the crew into chutney. Just like that. THEN, the gladiators rowed the ship over to the local hijacked grain ship, thinking they could liberate that too… mistake! The hatches to the hold burst open and 25 pirates swarmed out– the good kind. Against 9 gladiators. The gladiators held a line and marched right at them. Oddly, the pirates took some casualties, broke their morale, and they dove over the side. I mean, ALL of them. And the grain ship was ours. So we rowed back around to the where the galleys were still engaged in with Greek Fire shooting ships. We tried to sink one from a distance but lost patience and rammed the hell out of it, sinking it instantly. With that, the pirate naval forces were gone, decimated.

Gladiators solve problems.

We landed some boat crews and soldiers. They supported the land forces that were expanding a toehold on the beach. And, as soon as the Gladiators supported the flanks, the beach side barb forces were crumbling right and left and running for it. The land side forces initially did NOT do nearly as well, also playing their roles to the hilt and were non-cooperative. The Barb cavalry was pretty vicious, in fact. Eventually, things started to stabilize, and a line was formed.

Romans capture the signal tower on the hill

I feel like if we had played a few more turns, the naval force would have fought all the way to the land force. Everything around the naval force had taken to the hills. Rome clearly had a smashing victory by any measure, especially when a cave of pirate loot was discovered, destined for the coffers of the Roman treasury. THAT’s a victory. Now, I’m not sure I played Domitian exactly how I’d like to think was accurately. Domitian wasn’t exactly a killing machine in real life, but I played it as best I could– petty, backstabbing, and tyrannical. GREAT game, and Jeff and his son Nick won a PELA for it. Well deserved.

I took a ton of pictures of Caesar vs. Pluck.  If you want to see a screenshow, click on the Roman Eagle:

The Wasileskis basking in the glory of their well deserved award.

After we finished there we went to the hotel and finally checked in. Word of warning, do NOT bother with the tiny Red Roof motel on the Host side of Route 30. OMG.. it redefines the term “Spartan”, given that the Spartans enjoyed cold baths, hard sleeping surfaces, and occasionally dealing with angry Persians. This motel is 1 star at best; only because they won’t let you rate it lower. Sigh. It was cheap. Next time I’ll pay more and be able to sleep.

The next day..

Since the Red Roof dump we were staying in deigned not to serve any kind of breakfast, we did Panera, and then went back to the convention.  Even on Saturday, it was a hard slog finding a parking spot, but we managed way out at the end of the expansion lot they built where the Congressional used to be.   I suppose that’s good news (no parking should equal high attendance, usually, but I think you can blame a lot of no parking in this instance on inadequate snow removal).

There were still some great games on Saturday, though I thought the space wasn’t filled up by any means.


7TV Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha

Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha, a setting for 7TV

Once again, I did a run on the dealer’s room since I had a ticket for a 7TV game run by a gentleman named  Keith Frye at 2:00 PM. I’ve wanted to play 7TV for a long time now.  The system is kind of/sort of set up as a roleplaying game of a television show from mythical 60s or 70s spy shows.  So every game will have a kind of ridiculous retro style to it that I find very entertaining.  The mechanics aren’t very complicated… mostly rolling against skill checks, which is really just a way of validating “doing crazy stuff”.  And crazy stuff there was!!!  This was a great crew of players, many of whom I have played with in similarly silly games run by other GMs.  The plot wasn’t hugely complicated.. or was it?  The action took place on a giant petroleum platform called the Fafnir Alpha.  There were spies, corporate troubleshooters, regular shooters, strikers, spies, super criminals, and a giant alien blob creature.  One predictable side got in a predictable gunfight with another predictable side, and while they were hung up with that, I tried (as Archer, yes, that guy) to intercept some kind of briefcase and get off the platform.  Since it seemed clear that I wasn’t going to get to the helicopter in time to do that, I had Lana shoot the pilot dead, which lead to a series of unfortunate and somewhat hilarious results: 1) there was now no way off of the platform for, well, anyone; 2) the briefcase was still on the platform; and 3) the faceless super-villain made a heroic leap for the diving (uncontrolled) helicopter and managed to control it before it hit the drink!  What a great time!

I have a ton of photographs of this game, if you want to see them in a flickr slideshow, go here.

I’m blanking on what we did for dinner, but again, it wasn’t hall pig.  I know I made a quick run to the dealer’s room to get some pre-dreadnought 1:2400 ships from Viking Forge, then got back in time to play SAIL POWER at 8:00


Jolly Jack Tars.. or the Dutch equivalent

Sail Power aka, another excuse to spank Scott Landis

I played this game at FALL IN, and had a great time–  it was a combat-centric game set in the age of sail,in roughly 15mm scale.  The sailing and combat mechanics are a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, perfectly understandable.

This game was very different from the one I played at FALL-IN! Even though I was sailing a giant Indiaman, with tons more cannons than the single gunboat I was sailing in last game, I fired nary a shot. This was ostensibly because the scenario was more nuanced than “just shaddup and try to sink Scott Landis”. Scott was indeed present, but managed to escape justice and hot shot by scampering away and engaging in some chicanery with the Spaniards and local merchants. Next time, next time. I actually enjoyed THIS game more than the last one– my goal, as the Dutch player, was to bring a suitable bribe to the Spanish governor in the fort at the center of the table and have him commit to the ongoing war with the English on our side. The British want the same things, of course, but I got there first, with a large suitcase of bribes (3,000 gold and a chimpanzee). I played the diplomatic thing to the hilt, rendering honors going into a Spanish port, running in the guns when at the dock, etc. Sure, it’s fun to smash your opponents to flinders sometimes, but it’s also fun to bribe Spanish governors in SAIL POWER’s meta game, of sorts. Garrett and I (and Scott Landis) all had a great time.

Yes, I have tons of pictures of this game, too. You can see a slide show here.

It was cool to see Eric G.’s ROAD WARRIOR game on Saturday night, but I was involved in Sail Power and couldn’t play.  The 28mm stuff is very impressive but tends to make for a very crowded and slow race IMO.

Speaking of Garrett, and we weren’t, what was HE doing all this time? Killing big stompy mechs, that’s what. Garrett has become quite a fan of Battletech in the past two years, and he’s not bad at it.

Click on the picture to see his slideshow, and here’s Garrett’s review of Cold Wars 2017:

Cold wars 2017 was a blast, great fun the whole time. My father and I arrived on Friday, I partook in a game of battletech (a favorite of mine), kicked some butts, and took some names. Many fun moments were had that game, such as my mech falling, getting back up only to be knocked over by an enemy who fell over as well. The next day, I played battletech most of the day, the game was pretty eventful, with great plays by everyone involved. The GM(s) running battletech gave out a miniature for every kill you got in the game, in total I received 11 of them. Saturday ended with a game of Sailpower, a large boat game with a fantastic rule set. Sailpower was a great time, the people running it were fun and the game was great,t a nice mix of trading, fighting, exploring, and strategy. Finally on the last day, my dad and I checked out the dealer’s hall and the flea market, we found some cool things we could use for games. Cold wars 2017 was great I had a fun time there playing games and socializing.

Sunday was largely predictable.. nothing in the Flea, no last minute purchase in the dealer’s area, so we saddled up, got some breakfast and then we bolted for lands South.

Homeward Brave Soldiers, homeward! Farewell, Oh Mighty Susquehanna!

Observations and Whatnot: Cold Wars 2017 was a great time for me personally– I played in the kind of games that I love to play in, played enough games to keep me amused but not flat out exhausted, got enough rest and nutrition to not feel like dropping dead on the way home and just generally had a great time. That is not to say that I think CW17 was particularly well attended (I know it’s corny to say “it looked light” but it really did, and that was probably because of the recent snow). The new owners of the Host have (mostly) fixed the roof and I hear hot water was present without renting a rent-a-plant. I can’t vouch for the room redecorating, I stayed in a horrid motel down the road a bit (my one star Yelp review is HERE). I do think there are many features of the ‘rennovated’ hotel that don’t look like they have changed at all. Word is that Lancaster will host all three conventions in 2018, so here we all are back again!

In any event, this was one fun Cold Wars, despite the snow, despite the awful motel, despite a leaky roof.. I had a fantastic time and so did Garrett.

Guidebook App for Cold Wars 2017


Cold Wars 17: It’s a Good Day to Die

Herewith is the scoop on the 15th Guidebook I’ve made for HMGS Conventions, Cold Wars 2017.  First of all thanks to Dan Murawski (events), Heather Blush (Hobby U) and Scott Landis (Vendors) for supplying 98 % of the data needed to make this guidebook.  It is a pleasure working with these people.

Anything new with Guidebook?  Not this time.  Most of the large scale changes with the Guidebook interface happened around the time of Fall IN last year, so if you learned Guidebook with that app, it’s the same thing this time.  I’m just going to hit the high points here as MOST of the people using Guidebook should be familiar with it by now (one can only hope, right?).

Features (these pictures were taken on a Lenovo laptop and an Ipad Air– screen geometry will be more condensed with a smartphone)

Main page isn’t any different.. you’ll note the spiffy visual tie in with the convention theme in the headline there.

Main page is where you’ll find the hotel street address and phone number, the theme information and a brief overview of the guide.

Schedule Page is roughly the same as always. Use the date links above to switch days. Select your event by double clicking, then it will bring up details on the event, including table number and room, duration, scale, GM, historical period, rules and the narrative of the game.

One note– you can ADD games to your personal schedule on the APP ITSELF.. this is NOT the same thing as actually registering for events. So don’t confuse them.

Map Pages:
show individual room maps and table layouts. Look at the table designation and then the corresponding table map. If you can’t figure out the acronyms in the schedule I added a graphic to use as a key.

Exhibitors Listing is the same as always. Take a moment to read the descriptions along with the Table Location. This list tracks the following data: Name of the Vendor, Table Number, a short description of the vendor’s products and the website for the vendor (if they have one).

I added some social media hooks (the free ones anyway). The Facebook link allows you to post directly to the Facebook page for HMGS directly from the guidebook app:


I think the Twitter app will post to twitter (you’ll have to log in the first time) with a hashtag of #ColdWars17 (if memory serves).

So there are the highlights for this convention. You can get the guidebook at the same locations as usual.

The Landing Page is here:

Just click the picture to go there. Scroll down from the spiffy visual reference to the COLD WARS 17 theme, and you’ll see links to the Guidebook Downloads for IOS, Android, and on the Web via a windows or smartphone.

And here’s the direct QR code:

So there you have it, Guidebook for COLD WARS 2017.  The only thing not included is Tournaments, which I will add in the next few days.  I may do a few happy to glad fixes right up to the convention itself.. If I do, Guidebook will tell you to update it when you open the app up.  Just open the app connected to the internet and it will download the changes I made itself.

Enjoy the convention and I will see you there.

Walt

EDIT 3/2: Fixed the problem with adding events to your personal schedule.  Had to turn CHECK IN back on as an option.

Game Night, Heroic Aleworks, Woodbridge VA


Courtesy of Meetup.com’s thriving Northern Virginia Pavilion group,  I received notification of a game night at Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge, VA.   I had been unaware of this location until quite recently (through meetup, in fact), and wanted to give it a try.  Now, I like craft beer, and I like it a lot.. but not on a Thursday night during the work week, so I just limited myself to one sampler glass and a cold brew coffee.  Besides, I had my son (who is not 21) with.  I like this place.. the atmosphere is somewhat self-consciously nerd chic, with some obvious geek cultural references–



This was just fine with me and my son. The people there were very friendly– basically a handshake and my name was enough to start a tab. this place hearkened back to a friendlier, kinder way of doing business.

Most importantly, Heroic Aleworks has a keen awareness about the intersection zone between geeks who drink craft beers and other geekly hobbies, like comics, movies, and boardgames. The fact that they know their crowd this well and cater to it, has earned my instant customer loyalty.

Garrett and I got there late– not my fault for once, he has classes until 6, so we were to get there at a little after 7, southbound traffic and all. Heroic is in a light industrial area, like a lot of microbreweries are nowadays (there are two of them in two similar facilities less than a mile from where I work). Thus, food can be a little problematic.

We had time for one short-playing game. I brought a few choices along with me, a mixture of two to four player short games. We ended up choosing STEAM TORPEDO: FIRST CONTACT, by Iello. I had played this at the demo booth at HISTORICON 2014 at Fredericksburg, VA, and not all the way through. I thought it was good fun, and idly put it on my Boardgamegeek.com Wish List– not for any motive beyond my own “remember this one and get it later” reasons. My Secret Santa for 2015 ended up getting it for me, and there it has sat, on the shelf, unplayed, mocking me.. “I’m steampunk.. I’m naval.. I feature shooty things… PLAY ME…”

Tonight was the night!

It turns out Steam Torpedo is a light and fun little non-war game. It reminds me somewhat of an older game called RED NOVEMBER. That is mostly a thematic comparison. Both games feature submarines, steampunky settings, and frantically running from compartment to compartment to avoid disaster.

That is pretty much the point where the comparison stops. In Steam Torpedo, you use a series of tiles to create a custom submarine built up of modular components that do things.. shoot at the other sub, make your sub go, defend your sub, and fix your sub. Crew tokens make this stuff happen, and they do it by moving from compartment to compartment.

Complicating everything is the fact that each compartment is rated for structure and oxygen points– a finite amount of oxygen. Once you run out, your ship is done. Every TURN, you remove ONE oxygen from your ship.. somewhere. Every time a ship takes damage.. the target captain puts a damage marker (red) somewhere. Once you start using up the structure points for a compartment, it goes away (not in the physical sense– it ceases to function)

We ended up finishing the game about ten minutes before the event ended at 9 PM.  I pulled off a victory– not from any obvious tactical superiority on my part, it just worked out that Garrett’s design for a sub had more weapons than mine, and mine had more “fix your damage” compartments than his.   Thus, I was able to man both a “sandbags” station AND  a “welding station” to absorb most of the incoming physical damages.   I discovered since you have a finite amount of crewmen, it really doesn’t matter if you have a gigantic array of weapons.  You can only man some of them at any given moment.  So if your opponent has systems that allow his/her sub to avoid the initial onslaught of incoming points, gradually, the balance will shift and as they start taking out your systems in response with their one or two weapons that can activate, and you will be in a bad way to respond.

This event was a lot of fun– I like the location quite a bit but will probably have to leave early to get there in time to have something stronger than a sampler glass.  The folks there are very friendly and I like the decor, the root beer, and the way they cater to their crowd.  Good times!

The Garden of Earthly Delights


Studio Smack, and animation company I know very little about, recently put together a contemporary animation of Hieronymus Bosch’s GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, the original of which is hanging at the Museum del Prado in Madrid.  It’s pretty amazing animation.  They did a beautiful job.  I like to look at it and don’t want to forget this exists.  So I’m posting it here.  Vimeo Link

and yes, you’re welcome. 🙂

Old Warriors Pass.


Take off your hat.  TAKE OFF YOUR DAMNED HAT and show some respect.

This week witnessed the passing of two legendary wrestling “heels”, namely William James Myers and Oreal Perras.  I’m sure you won’t recognize these names.  They harken back to another era, when the WWF was an entertainment empire that flirted with almost being respectable.. when wrestlers would appear in sitcoms, MTV videos, and low budget movies.  This was the 1980s Wrestling Entertainment explosion, and it was very much a big thing– commanding the television sets on Friday nights and filling arenas to capacity. I was never a huge fan of any of it– I wrestled in high school and had that snobbish holier than thou attitude about it.  Still, it was damned entertaining– with scripted feuds, special effects and exaggerated choreography.  I always respected the skill on display– if you could launch yourself from a turnbuckle every night and land without a concussion, make no mistake– you had skill.

So back to Myers and Perras.  You might have known them as George “The Animal” Steele and Ivan Koloff.  Both of these guys were professional bad guys (or “heels”) in the glory days of the WWF


George Steele


Ivan Koloff

Both of these men had a long career in the world of WWF Heels.  George Steele actually drifted into the sport sideways, after getting a master’s degree at Central Michigan University(!).  He drifted into wrestling (from coaching at the college level) in the Detroit area for sensible reasons.. to make a couple of extra bucks.  Originally he fought using a mask and calling himself The Student (left).  Eventually he was discovered by Bruno SanMartino who recruited him into the big leagues of wrestling entertainment.  George Steele developed his “incoherent brain damaged” brute persona mainly at Vince McMahon’s urging.  With his bald head, heavy features and literally inches of fur covering his lower body (the man was hairy!), George must have come off as the Missing Link.  The irony was that he was quite well spoken, very well educated (in science no less), and took pride in delivering well articulated promotional bits.  This irked McMahon, who interrupted his taping one night and told him “he looked like an animal, he should act like one!”  Steele, as a joke, drooled and gibbered into the camera shouting “ook ook ACK!”and scampering around like a mutant monstrosity.  McMahon, of course, loved it, and thus, George The Animal Steele was born.  He earned everlasting respect for playing another wrestler, Tor Johnson, as he appeared in the Ed Wood films in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD.

Ivan Koloff debuted in 1961 as “Red Mcnulty”, an allegedly Irish wrestler from Dublin who sported a beard and an eyepatch (left).   He wrestled primarily in the Canadian organizations until 1969, when he started for the World Wide Wrestling Federation, managed by Captain Lou Albano.  Koloff’s specialty appears to have been training and developing teams of thematic “heels”.. creating long lasting team called “THE RUSSIANS” with Vladimir Petrov and Nikita Koloff (his “nephew”), and often teaming with “The Iron Sheik”.    Since Russians were perennial bad guys in the Cold War era, the heel teams became quite popular and were around for a long time in wrestling’s glory days.

Wrestling isn’t all just crazy choreography and overblown ham acting at the microphone.  There’s a dark side to the “sport”.  I will always remember an interview Rowdy Roddy Piper (who died two years ago, at 61). gave about the drug abuse, constant pain and loneliness of professional wrestling.  You can see a little of it here:

Piper had broken most of the bones in his body (including his back) on multiple occasions. He played through the pain in situations that were downright dangerous. At age 49, he was back in the sport that he frankly detested, because he didn’t have a way of making a living– like so many of his colleagues, the sport had used him in the heyday, chewed him up and spat him out. In the last ten years, we have witnessed a startling amount of early deaths, murders and suicides by current and past wrestlers. I remember watching the entire interview with Roddy Piper on Sports Extra.. and my heart went out to the man. Pro wrestlers are like prostitutes. They use up their bodies and health for the vicarious pleasure of strangers until they can’t any more, and then they (usually) die.

I have to hand it to both Steele and Koloff– they had long and amazing careers in the WWF and successor organizations, and both of them managed to do something that wrestlers rarely do, life past 70.

RIP, George and Ivan. I hope the pain has finally gone away.

Small Wars: Vikings and Frostgrave


Since I’ve been somewhat hampered in my hobby pursuits by having my house almost destroyed, all my study packed up and the walls demolished, I haven’t had ready access to things that I traditionally spend the Winter on, like painting up miniatures for gaming projects.  I’ll live, of course, but I have a need to bump up my forces on a few nearer term projects, such as running a gaming camp this Summer.  Fortunately, my friend John Montrie, being retired, has been around to provide a brush for hire, and he’s helped bump up my forces when I’ve had to exchange money for time for the past few years.  And thank the Deity for that, too– I don’t think I could have gotten Big Danged Boats or Frostgrave off the ground without his timely assistance.  As he’s off to China for a few months I thought I’d pop up to Rockville and visit, eat some Mexican food and pick up some troops I had him working on.  Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results, or I wouldn’t be posting about it!  At Fall IN I had picked up another pack of Frostgrave Soldiers (the standard 28mm semi-medieval Soldiers, 22 figures, plastic, Northstar Games).  I also picked up some newer Frostgrave specialty figures– the Lich and Apprentice, The Crowmaster & Javileneer, and the Elementalist II & Apprentice.  All in pewter, 28mm, Northstar Games.

First off, the Goons.  These are the troops that make up the retainers and followers of the wizard figures in Frostgrave:

I gave John very little guidance.. if he has a fault at all, it’s that he tends to use the same four basic primary colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as uniform highlights. I don’t mind that so much, it allows me to cluster the henchmen in handy groups.  Still, I wanted something different so I asked John to focus on darker colors and purples.  He delivered!

Here are the new major characters in pewter:

Crowmaster and Javelineer

I understand what the Javelineer does.. he tosses Javelins.  What the Crow Master does I’ll have to read up on.  Maybe the Crow flies around like another set of eyes and spies on people.

Beast Crafter and Apprentice

This looks somewhat obvious- the Beast Crafter is some form of shapeshifter that can transform himself  into animal shape.

Elementalist II and Apprentice

This is the second form of the “Elementalist” Wizard from Northstar.  I think I might like the older figures better.. more dynamic.  Eh, what the heck, they’ll make good thieves.

Lich and Apprentice

I don’t know what a Lich is in Frostgrave terms.. I always thought it was the animated dead body of a powerful wizard– and usually appears as a skeleton in wizard regalia.  This looks more like Elric of Melnibone all tarted up or something.. no matter, it’s a cool figure.

That brings me up to 44 Soldiers from two packs, 22 cultists.  With the Dark Ages Vikings and Saxon figures I have painted up for SAGA and Battle Troll, I have something on the order of 120 figures I could use for “Goons” for Frostgrave warbands.  I’m still going to get the barbarian pack(s) and I’ll probably add some variety figures in there too (like a couple of all female warbands, a dwarf warband, a Chinese Warband, and an elven warband), but I have enough soldiers and wizard figures to comfortably run games of 10 players or more– maybe even a dozen.

Viking Looters

Another project I’d like to start running this summer is the venerable VIKING LOOTERS game.  This is a venerable convention game designed by the great Jim Birdseye years ago.  The scenario couldn’t be more simple – you are a Viking and need to get back to the boat first with the most loot (represented by pennies spraypainted gold). Your movement rate is based on the amount of loot you carry. All players start at the same distance from the boat. The fun comes in that each player is dealt several cards. Each card represents an event, usually bad for someone, usually the Viking himself.  The cards cause an opponent to drop pennies, fight battles, become pursued or otherwise delayed from returning to the boat. A turn consists of each player deciding whether or not to play a card on an opponent, or passing (not playing a card). Once all cards in a turn are played (face down on the table), the GM reveals them in an order that makes sense.

Yes, the “screw the opponent” factor is high.  I know I have plenty of fighting Vikings on board– about 44 of them.  However, I don’t yet have enough of regular people doing regular things– like the Saxon villagers, herdsmen, wenches, old women, and various random characters you meet in the game.  I’m still working on the villagers, but found a pack of Old Glory “Revenge” line Viking looters in smaller 28mm.  These are Vikings doing what  you associate with being vikings– raiding, drinking and taking stuff.

Most of these were crafted to have open palms for adding “stuff” to them.. like chickens, weapons, gold and jewelry, etc.

You can see there are some villagers in there– I also have some clergy. I am getting some sheepherders done and I still need some wenches and stock animals. Pretty much standard Dark ages figures.

I plan to run this game at camp.  As you already know, I have a great Viking Ship I built from a kit that I can use for a prop.  Scenery is pretty minimal.  I’ll add in a swamp that surrounds the ship except on the River side, with just one plank leading up to the boat and a big ship guard trying to rob you as you come on board– you can’t make it TOO easy!

Anyway, I love Frostgrave and always wanted to get Viking Looters off the ground, so that’s going to be my new project for the year.

Warpath Chili


Well, it’s that time of year. The Annual Chili Classic. I thought that I should mix it up a little since my CHAOS MARINE CHILI hasn’t won any trophies yet, so I went out searching for a thematic departure, and boy did I find one.  In one of the cooking websites run by a paper magazine, I saw “Pumpkin Bison Chili”.. I liked the sound of that, generally liking bison– and I liked the Native American theme to it.  Sadly, one trip to Whole Foods taught me that bison meat ain’t cheap, so I had to wildly improvise.  Since the only elements salvaged from the original recipe are Pumpkin, I retained the American Indian theme but the resultant chili was peaceful and mellow like the one I found.. this chili might Injuns to go on the warpath!  See what I did there?

Anyway, if you want to replicate, here it is.  I’m proud of it, even if it didn’t take the trophy.

Warpath Chili (Printable)

Notes– cook long and slow, a crock pot set for ten hours works, or a big regular pot set on simmer for most of a day.  Drain off the grease, after cooking chorizo and just before serving.

Enjoy!

Musings on Cannon Fire at Dusk, as I walk across the parking lot to an old minivan


(repost from Airy PersiflageThis is something of a wayback machine episode– I recorded it without thinking on an Ipad the week before the Inauguration and forgot about it.  I  kind of like it, however, and decided to post it.

I’ll admit this up front, I recorded this on an Ipad on the way home the week before the Inauguration, 2017, so it’s in the future tense. Our President has been in office for about two weeks now and I just found this audio Snippet on my Google drive.

I should know better when I hear cannon fire at the work place.. I left my job on the 13th of Jan that night and heard the steady syncopation of BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM and it took me a few minutes to realize what I was listening to. The Old Guard Saluting Battery, practicing for their big moment of giving the new President a 21 gun salute. Someone has to do this.. and if they are going to do it, they are going to do it right. I’ve seen this many times, and they are a good outfit– thoroughly professional. In the short gloomy dusk of a Friday evening in January, it completely mystified me for a moment. Only in Washington!

Play Now:

NOVAG’s Winter Game Day, 29 Jan 2017, Centreville VA


(Note: I have some reports that the inline pictures are not viewable on this post.  They are to me, that’s a little mystifying, but it might be a permissions issue– I’m using Google Photos instead of Flickr for this post.  Here is a link to every picture I took, which is public: https://goo.gl/photos/3GzUcNgKknah5hFQ9)

Today was NOVAG’s Quarterly Game Day (Winter 2017) held as usual at the Centreville Library. This is the big meeting room facility at the library and it can hold roughly 9 setups for miniatures games, roughly equivalent to a 5 x 8 table at a convention (somewhat smaller). This gameday was fairly well promoted on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere and attendance was fantastic– every table had something on it and every game ran the length of the gameday (pretty much), from about 1 to 5.


Ron Prillman Routs some Russians. I think.

I’ve posted the PEL elsewhere, and every game but two (the Space Hulk and Russo-Polish game) was played.


Okay, maybe it was some Americans.


… and Dave Luff is astounded at the results!!

Jason Weiser runs his game with Mike Pierce in the background. Okay, yeah, it was Eastern Front. The green paint job fooled me.

This was Battlegroup World War II “The End of the Iron Dream”.. looks like everyone enjoyed themselves. I like the fire effect Jason was using with a flickering tea lamp under the smoke cloud.

Peter Schweighofer was there with his new rule system aimed at kids, Panzer Kids Deluxe. This looked like a blast from where I was sitting. Tons of kids at this game con, this is a great sign!

Brian Dewitt, kind of an iron man of running games at cons and gamedays, took a break from Chariot Racing and Ancient Galley Warfare, to make a game about Medieval Siege Warfare, the Siege of Skipton Castle.  I like Siege games, for some reason– and this looked like it was a hit with the younger set.

There was also a modern game of Force on Force going on in the corner, called The Battle of Yampil.  This was run by the Byrne brothers and seemed sparse in infantry and dense in armor vehicles.

Elsewhere, Roy Jones ran Sword and the Flame (Sand Dunes of Zwarfontein) NOVAG’s own Tim Tilson ran a War of the Austrian Succession game (15 June 1746. Piacenza), and Dennis Wang reran his cool variant of Air Force / Dauntless that used a tablet client to make moves. It’s a fun game, more on it here.

What was I doing?  Oh, I was busy.  I actually came to play in Dave Markley and John Koprowski’s Russo Polish War game, which is a favorite period for me.   They had cancelled but that was fine– as I came in I noticed Mark Fastoso, a GM I associate with running historical games, had set up a Napoleonic skirmish game using many Alternative Armies FLINTLOQUE game figures and DRAGON RAMPART (modified for Napoleonics) as the rules.  I asked if had space, he said “sure, wanna play?” and I said “I”m In!”.   This proved to be a good time– first time for me using both Flintloque miniatures (which are charming!) and the Dragon Rampart rules, which make total sense to me and are a blast.  Bear with, here on the many pictures of this game, this is where I was for most of the day and I only nicked off to snap a few of other games now and then.

See the rest of them here in this GOOGLE PHOTOS album!

I tried Facebooking live on here which I posted publicly to the Facebook Alternative Armies group in three parts: ONE TWO THREE (I made this public share specifically so it could be viewed by everyone).

and compiled it all here on a YT, but it’s kind of small:

In summary, a great time and it’s always fun catching up with people you don’t see that often, even locally. Kudos to the organizers, another fun event.

Seeing RED (audio)


Story by Zenryhao Narration by W. O’Hara

Charlie’s Back… (audio)


Naturally Disastrous First Look


Here you go, I just received the first production copy of Naturally Disastrous by Silver Lake Games. This is a recent funded Kickstarter.

The premise, as promised by the designer, reads like so:

Naturally Disastrous is a 1-6 player co-operative dice driven game of peril and adventure. Your mission is simple enough. Arrive at your destination, verify the conditions and then set up a long range communication array to deliver your findings back to your superiors. Easy, right? Your visit to Earth is supposed to just be a quick investigation into how the planet is doing.

As you enter the atmosphere massively destructive storms make it hard to navigate. Giant volcanoes, earthquakes, thermal gas explosions and flooding are rampant and tearing the Earth apart and what happens next? You and your crew are shot at by some natives claiming that you are violating their air space. As your ship tears itself apart and plummets to the desert floor you know that your only chance of survival will be to pick up the pieces of your communications array that are now conveniently scattered across the driest most self-destructing climate you have ever seen.

All you have to do is find and set up the four parts of the communications array and signal the mother ship to come heal this planet and get you out of here. You will have to navigate around the perilous hazards, avoid snipers who want you gone, secret agents who are stealing your technology, crazy mad scientists who want to perform experiments on you, and a completely different alien race who may even abduct you. Work together efficiently as a team and you will avoid a Naturally Disastrous fate! If you become mutated, you turn against your former allies.

The game is played on a randomized map, with randomly placed tokens. Each turn, the active player must roll to activate a disaster, and then has 3 actions per turn (move, probe, etc.) Combat is resolved with dice. As each part of the communications array is found, it must be transported to one of the corners of the map.  — From Boardgamegeek, “Description”

So my take on this is that this will be a game from the alien’s point of view, a sort of “Forbidden Island” without the sinking part of it.. maybe.  Anyway, we’re going to find that out as I will be playing it against actual humans in the next two weeks or so.  In the meantime, here is my reactions to an actual unboxing– literally the day after receiving it, so I have no idea of what the contents are.

Enjoy, and I apologize for the somewhat shaky Ipad camera. Most of my gear is packed away while my house is being rebuilt. I should get an Ipad stand, as I definitely needed two hands for this thing.