Expanded Road Warrior Rules now as an EPUB in Digital Rules section


As part of the WHITE LINE FEVER project, which entails producing a post-apocalyptic Road Battle game in the spirit of ROAD WARRIOR and the upcoming FURY ROAD movies, I am using a set of rules written by Eric Goodlater that I have played at a few HMGS conventions (Fall IN! 14 and Cold Wars 15).   I liked the ease, and more importantly the SPEED with which they depict the finale of ROAD WARRIOR.  Eric was happy to share the rules with me, which showed up as a word file and a scan of a chart done in pencil.  ROAD WARRIOR is a pretty simple rule set heavily influenced by G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. skirmish rules.  Being a tinkerer kind of guy, I tinkered with it, and created an epub out of the results, which you can see here.  You can get it from the Digital Rules page. 

Jon Southard’s CARRIER (VG) for IoS project of Mr. Cyril Jarnot


Carrier Box

Cover

Jon Southard’s CARRIER game was published by Victory Games in 1990.   Victory Games was a subsidiary group of the venerable Avalon Hill Game Company, comprised of ex SPI Staffers that were on the beach when SPI folded.  From the start, Victory Games were designed and marketed to the serious gamer crowd; their games were known for lengthy rule books chock full of detail, and games that took a lot of thought and time to commit to.  I owned several of them in my day, notably VIETNAM, AMBUSH, HELL’S HIGHWAY, 1809 and a couple of the Fleet series games.  One game I did NOT own was the subject of this post, CARRIER, a solitaire design by Jon Southard, an industry veteran.  Given how high this game is priced in the secondary and tertiary boardgame market, it’s unlikely I’ll acquire it at this juncture, which is regrettable.  I love good solitaire designs– and Carrier is definitely a game that fits that category.

Carrier is a solitaire simulation of both historical and hypothetical carrier battles in the Southwest Pacific Theater during 1942 and 1943.  The player plays the U.S. commander, maneuvering recon flights and task forces to located and destroy the enemy before he can locate and destroy the player’s forces.  Game mechanics governing the movement of the Japanese are not all that difficult to grasp.  One of the aspects of the simulation I like is the ability for the game to surprise you.  You will not know the Japanese are on top of you until they are flying bombing runs on your airfields.  Carrier, like a lot of older wargames, is also a tough, slow playing game with a lot of charts and detail.  Or so I thought.

Splash/Front Menu

Mr. Cyril Jarnot, an IoS developer of no small talents from France, has been slowly working on a conversion of the game from a series of charts and counters onto an Ipad virtual map.  I had opportunity to try out this conversion in playtesting phase and so am able to relay a few impressions.    Note Bene, all pictures reflect a playtest version, not far from final release but not final at time of their capture.

To begin with, all the chart-checking to simulate the movement of Japanese forces is still taking place, only the computer (Ipad) is now being doing all the dice rolling behind the scenes, which make the Japanese movements far more mysterious.

They could be any number of things… from a tuna boat to a task force.. but they are definitely Japanese contacts.

and closer up… details reveal themselves after you send reconnaissance planes out to check what’s under those counters…

Oh ho, see what lays in wait to bomb my airfield, eh?

When you DO bump into the Japanese, combat can be multi-stepped and sequential.  To commit planes to combat, the US Player has to move them to various ready areas on his display to simulate where they are in the process of confronting the Japanese over a combat area.

The sequence you follow to commit planes to combat… and there is a LOT of air combat in this game.

You can’t just “commit  everything I got to CAP and hope for the best”– you have to move groups to the ready state, in a sequence, as you see here (above).  Once combat does occur (The Japanese come to you, or you search out and find a Task Force or incoming flight of planes), you will see this sequence:

If there is a CAP force over the target, it would engage the incoming planes first. If not, then they attack the ships (or shore) immediately., subtracting losses for AA Defensive fire.

The game is quite challenging on the Ipod, I was very pleased at how aggressive and uncompromising the AI is.  For one thing, you are outnumbered in this time and place in the war, and that always works against you.

oh.. THAT Japanese Task force.. as opposed to those OTHER Japanese Task Forces…

The game teaches itself at a nice programmed pace, similar to the old SQUAD LEADER “programmed instruction” approach from Avalon Hill. This is just as well– the game (in paper version) is pretty complex and that’s a lot of meat to chew on in one bite. Mr. Jarnot has taken the approach of cutting your meat up for you and feeding it to you in delicate little bites, a bite at a time. So keep in mind (as of this writing) you will have to go through ALL of the tutorial modules before “free play” can happen with CARRIER for the IoS. This decision is in spirit of the old Victory Game rules and Jon Southard, apparently, approves.

Now, is it a straight port? Is it replicating every nuance of the old paper map and counters version published in 1990? I am not educated enough to say for sure. I never owned Carrier. It certainly plays in the spirit of the old VG games I played back then; lots of complexity under the surface, and thankfully (for playing time) it keeps a lot of the chart checking behind the scenes. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I have no idea what Mr. Jarnot’s plans are for this game or how to get a legal copy for yourself; I will steer you towards the CARRIER forums on Boardgamegeek, where he is easy to find. Direct any questions to him there. I sincerely hope the IOS app I helped test becomes a commercial product, I would gladly pay for the final version, and support Mr. Jarnot’s efforts.

SLIDE SHOW OF CARRIER on the IOS PICTURES

TRANSITION, by Iain M. Banks (a short review)


TransitionTransition by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a late find for me. I’ve read most of Iain Banks’ novels at this stage, both the Culture universe novels and the more subtle thought-provoking non-SF ones. Transitionnever really registered on my radar for some reason. Transition is a far cry from Banks’ early Science Fiction series– both Culture and Culture kinda-sorta stories. Rather than a galactic soap-opera featuring privileged elites shuttling from crisis point to crisis point in the Galaxy on gigantic space ships, Transition is about the multiverse, or the theory that there are an infinity of universes that exist simultaneously. A shadowy organization called the Concern has learned how to jump from universe to universe, using a drug called septus. Two factions are warring with the Concern, the talented, ruthless Madame D’Ortolan and the talented, but more reasonable Mrs. Mulvahill. There are many characters in this novel and the story jumps from one to the other, often shifting narrative form from memoir to first person action story.

I’ve rarely felt the sensation of “That’s it? that’s all?” when I turned the last page of a Banks novel; this was a first for me. Banks spends an inordinate amount of time in building the setting (world building isn’t a term that applies– worlds-building might, though). We change from POV characters Adrian and Temujin Oh, and the Philosopher and a patient who clearly had previous ties with the Concern. There’s a great sense of building in this novel, but the payoff seems frenetic and rushed. I did NOT get the sense that Transition was any great commentary on our present times– OUR Earth, it turns out, is just one of the multiple universes and not a very important one at that.

For all that, it was an enjoyable change of pace from an author that wrote galaxy-spanning epics. I thought the setting was great and some of the characters were top notch (particularly the villainous Madame D’ortolan) but their nothing is really fully explained. We have a suggestion of just WHY the Concern exists (towards the ending), but no explanation. We know the motivations of the parties involved, but never is the WHY? explained anywhere. Personally, I wouldn’t rate it among Banks’ better works but it is eminently readable and enjoyable in its own right.

View all my reviews

White Line Fever car conversions Part 1


Slideshow of all Road Warrior photos: HERE

I have been playing Eric Goodlater’s ROAD WARRIOR rules at the last few conventions.  It’s the kind of game that you play at night with a lot of beer and pretzels nearby, and loud talking.    After the third game I decided I could probably run something like this and started purchasing Hot Wheels and Matchbox.  They are surprisingly cheap and there are manufacturers out there that will gladly sell you armor and weapon add-ons to make your bland kiddie cars turn into highway death machines.  I’ve bought, I think, maybe four bundles of Hot Wheels and some select matchbox packs, and they cost 4 bucks -ish each.  This yielded an amazing amount of useful cars for a Road Warrior style romp in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Hot Wheels, in particular, makes some pretty bizarre cars these days, all decked out in neon orange and green colors– and maybe just a tad too fanciful.  However, once you begrime them and turn the bright colors into muddy dusty earth tones, they look very appropriate for post-apocalypse and very interesting to boot.

Click to see closeup. Pre-conversion cars, all from a discount store, all sold in packs of five for four dollars and some change.  First challenge is to get rid of the DayGlo Hot Wheels color schemes.

I’ve started adding conversion kits from Stan Johansen Miniatures, plus plastic pieces (styrene) and pieces of the gridwork from needlepoint grids.

Vehicles in the foreground came from a Matchbox “military vehicles” set and a Hot Wheels “Horror Cars” set. Even the goofy horror cars start looking tribal when you give them a post-apocalyptic paint job. Click to enlarge

And a few more from the military set and a couple of cherry picked vehicles. That’s the same kind of car as in Mad Max just south of the reddish SUV with a turret up top. Had to have one of those. I gave Max a gatling gun, though.
Click to enbiggen

They look dingier, to be sure, but I’m not remotely finished. I’m going to give everything a big patina of rust and dust, so that means a lot of washes and then dry brushing. Also I have to color the windows/cockpits and add a few color highlights here and there.

An expanded look at what’s been done so far and what remains.
Click to enlarge

I’m not done yet with collecting; I’ve just got the easy stuff you can get from Wal Mart and comparable places in the Value-bundles. I have some specific vehicles I want to get in the game– I have a Nash Rambler on the way, and a Tanker Trailer (of course), and a Gyrocopter, which wasnt’ easy to find. I also would like at least two pickup trucks, a couple of vans and a Mystery Machine (from Scooby Doo), but that has eluded me so far.

The next post will be about other Vehicles (including the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile), the Tanker and any other vehicles I’ve picked up between now and then. I think a psychotic Lunch truck, a postal vehicle and School bus (in scale) need to be added! I’ll run this at Historicon of sure and definitely for game camp.

Relevant Links: 

Stan Johansen MiniaturesROAD WARRIOR accessories and miniatures
c
an help convert regular Hot Wheels and Matchbox into post apocalyptic Road Warrior style vehicles with weapons, armor and turrets.

Aberrant Games WARLANDS is a new series of rules set in post-apocalyptic ravaged highways.  The miniatures are nice– they have a Gyrocopter for the tanker chase, and several small dune buggies and motorcycles.

And of course, there’s the grandaddy of them all: Car Wars by SJG.

Wars and Battles: Review


Wars and Battles
Turned Based Strategy, multiple eras
Publisher: Kermorio (France)
SRP (as of writing) 6.99 base, 9.99 per IGC module
website: http://www.warsandbattles.com/

I was given the opportunity to play and review the recent game from the Battle Factory, called “Wars and Battles”.  The core of Wars and Battles is a hex based battle game with an old school look to it, set in a very narrowly defined battlefield in linked campaign.  Battles are launched from a standard interface that should be able to host future campaigns from other eras.

The main screen

Kermorio is gambling on a standard interface approach, somewhat modular with unit icons OR 2D pieces being the default view.  These are played on a standard 22 hex map with variable terrain features whose cumulative effect is usually reduction of movement or influencing combat or line of sight.

In game touch tip and tutorial help is very good, as you can see above.

A Campaign is essentially a linked progression of battle scenarios played out on these 22 hex battle maps.  Campaigns are in game purchases, with the base game being 6.99, and at time of writing, the Normandy Campaign in WW2 is available for additional charge beyond the default basic game.

Having played through the Normandie (sic) campaign, I would recommend this IGP.  Historical material is very well done and it’s clear research went into this game– each unit has a background piece and it’s more than a drag and click interface.  The historical campaign follows Normandy closely and I had no complaints based on what I know about the campaign from a historical viewpoint, which is a decent familiarity.    Campaign missions follow a progression from Easy to Very Hard, and you are debriefed for success or failure at the end of each one.

Mission Debrief, end of every scenario

I’m not sure if the map sizes will expand beyond the 22 hex per screen standard or the approach will be to stay modular.   I can see the benefits of a modular system when

More Normandy Fun

More of the Wars and Battles in tutorial mode

Artificial Intelligence in this game is decent to moderate and the decisions being made were okay, though predictable at times.   I found it to be overly defensive and not as aggressive as it could have been, but if you factor in that Normandy actually is a defensive campaign for the Germans I guess that makes sense.  The campaign structure is logical and sensible.  Players will accrue experience over time and replacement units to fill in for casualties.  In this respect I was reminded, strongly, of several other games I’ve played in the last year that use a similar progressive campaign structure– in particular and variation of Panzer General or its various incarnations over time, or near-knockoffs.  That’s neither here nor there– a campaign really needs some form of structure or it is difficult to execute, and the PG template works as well as anything.

The modular “game engine” approach is somewhat new for wargames on the IOS.  Kermorio has high hopes of porting the same approach to many different battles, including Napoleonic or ACW era battles.  I remain unconvinced the scales of those two eras will work in this engine, but I’d be willing to give them a try.

In Summary, Kermorio has had a very decent first outing with WARS AND BATTLES– which is a mix of old and new ideas that will appeal to hard core wargamers and newcomers alike.  For 6.99 plus a pittance for the IGPs, I certainly think there is plenty of value for the retail price.

Cold Wars 2015, the very chilly Cold Wars AAR


Cold Wars 2015 happened, at the Lancaster Host hotel in Lancaster, PA, the weekend of 6-8 March 2015.

Cold Wars traditionally runs from Thursday to Sunday, and though I usually go up on Thursday,  the Winter blizzard that dumped on Northern VA that day precluded that notion. Snow was EVERYWHERE and affected EVERYTHING, but fortunately the skies cleared up by Sunday. Friday was a very chilly first day.

Friday morning the worst of the anticipated nightmare journey through hills of slush and snow actually was in Northern VA.  As you can see below, the trip to Lancaster was no headache.

THE VENUE: The Lancaster Host is a venue that HMGS has used for decades now.  The site is old, worn down, the roof leaks, and there are definitely a lot of elements that could be more optimal about using this facility.  On the plus side it’s not an arm and a leg (comparatively speaking) and the management is always willing to negotiate some items and let us have a surprising amount of items for free, so that’s a plus.   I am always surprised to find it still standing, year after year.. I keep hearing rumors that the site is sold and the owners want to tear down the hotel and builds something new.   That event never seems to transpire, for all of the dire warnings, so we work with what we have, year in and year out.

CHECKIN: I had a rare opportunity to actually be a customer on the other side of the computer screen for Cold Wars, and went through registration on Friday morning with zero difficulty.  No lines, no wait, and the biggest delay was saying hi to everyone.   Paul Trani explained that the Host has installed a reserved high speed line to support a series of training events in the Showroom upstairs, and they made it available to us (for registration only, not for casual use) for no extra cost.

ATTENDANCE: The convention was surprisingly well attended after the recent heavy snowstorm.  There were the typical light spots in the program and empty tables everyone always complains about, but many games were well attended– some were a little shy of capacity from time to time but that’s to be expected.  My one big indicator that attendance was decent was the parking lot.  I had to park the Subaru in the boonies the first day, and had to park illegally after going out and comping back again after dinner.

Several events were cancelled (list below) probably due to weather

F-275, S-276. S-303, F-201, S-200, S-199.

EVENTS: The convention program did not vary overmuch from Cold Wars in the last few years– The Flames of War tournament moved  up to the Showroom (and, conicidentally, they raised 600 dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project!).  The WWPD (What Would Patton Do?) podcast team moved their live broadcast up to the Showroom to broadcast from there.  The WWPD team gave away about 2000 dollars worth of Battlefront and Warlord merchandise to the audience, so if you showed up you pretty much got something!  Not being a big fan of Flames of War, I had not really connected with these guys much, but I’m still very impressed with their operation now.  I had opportunity to meet Jon Baber from WWPD and he clued me in about the expansion of the WWPD Network (not just a single ‘cast anymore by a long shot) and the creation of the WWPD network app.  Very impressive stuff.   I have always thought HMGS should do more with podcasts that are complimentary to both parties– I could easily see Meeples and Miniatures showing up (if Neil lived stateside) and possibly the D6 Generation.  Who knows?  All it takes is someone asking.

I only had about half of Friday and all of Saturday for this convention (initially, anyway, my plans did change), so I had resolved to play more and make the most of my time.  The Guidebook app was very helpful here.. my method is basically to check off every possible game I had an interest in, then scanning “My Schedule” as it notified me of games starting on the hour then finding one that had an opening by walking up to the table and asking.

AEROSAN RACING: The very first thing I did after registration was get into a game of Aerosan Racing run by John Lunberg (F-319).  Description: “Take either a Finnish or Russian Aerosan and Win! Your opponents and the natural/supernatural world are out to stop you!”   I had seen this event before and really wanted to play it, but the GM has been running it usually when I was tied up working for staff duties.

A real Aerosan

The Aerosani was primarily a Russian invention– think of it as an Air Boat on skis with a machine gun, really useful for recon purposes during the Winter War.  John Lunberg constructed a 28mm course for the miniature Aerosani that was stocked with both natural obstacles, winter-themed beasts and even supernatural foes such as Animated Snowmen.  The concept was to drive around the course and be the first guy across the “Finnish Line”.   The rules were simple enough, but had a unique feature– if your max speed per turn exceeded current visibility, you could drive off at speed in an odd direction.  This happened to just about everyone in the game at some point.   I had resolved to go balls to the wall for the entire game and to shoot anyone in my way.. which turned out to be a strategy that made for good comedy, but it didn’t win races.  I like John’s approach towards resolving rules problems– “Is it funny? Then I’ll allow it”.. with that in mind, I present my game AAR in the same spirit:

After the Aerosani defeat (I came in second from last, as I said, my reckless behavior was good for comedy but not good for “winning”), I checked out the dealer hall quickly and didn’t buy much of anything except some Road Warrior heavy weapons from Stan Johansen Miniatures. They were shooing us out of there.

Gratuitous Balcony of the HMGS Cold Wars Vendor Hall Area, this one shot by myself, in March of 2015.  Click for more details.

VENDORS: I have to say, I wish the Exhibitor Hall had had more to choose from.  I passed right by the guys with the display cases of the the same stuff they had back when I first started coming to conventions years ago, and went to the vendors that had new things (like Alien Dungeon) or things I was rediscovering (like Stan) or had a broad range appeal (like Old Glory/Blue Moon).  The rest.. ehhh… I only can do so much.  I feel like shopping has become somewhat pro forma these days.  I’m not even a bona fide member of the Cult of the New, really.  I’m just not seeing a lot of vendor support for the lines I like.  I’m not even a manufacturer versus retailer snob.  Sure, I wish more producers would show up to these things but  I don’t mind getting them from a store.  Age of Glory does a fantastic job of servicing the hobby, for instance.   So does On Military Matters and Brigade Games.  How?  Stock rotation, pure and simple.  Nobody is getting energized about anything looking at the same old same old three times a  year.

My plan was to check in to the hotel grab fast food, and then catch Jeff Wasilewski’s excellent Pride and Prejudice/Sharp’s Rifles versus Zombies thing at 7.  Sadly I made the mistake of sitting on the edge of my bed.  My eyes shut for a second, and entropy took over.  When I woke up, it was 730 already.  Sigh!

No worries, I got into a game of SENTINELS OF THE MULTIVERSE with Steve, Art and Todd.

I played in local guy and fellow Novagi Steve Robinson’s Marine Assault game on Saturday morning.  This was great fun, but not my most shining moment as a strategist.  I believe in moving all-out in an assault situation.  The guy who cowers on the beach becomes the target.  Unfortunately, I probably should have been more cautious in my approach, as I leapt over the sea wall only to encounter the fire of three heavy machine guns as a result.  I’m embarassed to say my entire squad was chopped to pieces in one turn.  Oh well, that left me the tracks to run, and I had some fun with them. I should have known better than to go up against some youngsters.. they are lethal dice rollers, every time.

Here’s the SLIDESHOW, not in any order.

Steve won an award for best in show during that time slot! Good for you, Steve!

CANVAS EAGLES: From there, I played in a quick game of Canvas Eagles called “Bomb Off!”  The scenario was a tad contrived– both sides sending Bombers over no-mans-land at the same time- but it did lead to some interesting possibilities.

Getting close to total victory here. The Brit overshoots his target and doesn’t drop bombs; I get him in a deflection shot that carries over in the next turn, where he has to roll a total of 3 reds and 2 blue column damage. So long!

The GM was youngish, but a smart guy who knew his systems pretty well.  I waxed rhapsodic about the BLUE MAX system (from which CANVAS EAGLES is derived) and had to laugh when one of the players commented on the Wings of War miniatures and map being used with Canvas Eagles– “Hey, whatever works, right?  Canvas Eagles is free, the planes are kind of affordable.. I’m not going to spend money on 1:144 scale stuff“.   That sounds like something I might have said 20 years ago, too!  Normally I don’t much like games that require logging movement– it’s really just an audit trail in case someone challenges you about something you did wrong.  So usually they are never even looked at unless someone is bound and determined to derail the game as they figure out where to correct your moves for you.  Still, CE is easy enough, and as the GM points out, free.

There were a lot of good games being run all over– I thought the attendance was far better than anticipated and I don’t know of anyone who set up and packed up for reasons of no players, though I’m not saying it didn’t happen.

The Big Steamboat Game resurfaces. I’ve never played it– the GM gives the places away if you don’t show up on time, so the one time I tried I didn’t get in. Sure looks impressive! Click here to see more games on the flickr site. I should have taken more pictures, but ehhh they will show up in other AARs.

FOOD (AT HOST): I gulped down a rather pathetic Chicken Salad from the Host food vendors for dinner.  I’m losing patience with the Host Catering– the food is the same or worse as ever, there’s zero innovation there and higher prices.  I’d rather not leave the Host during a convention as the parking can be hideous at certain times.  However, I don’t feel like staying for overpriced unhealthy food, either.   I ate at the Salad Bar at Ruby Tuesdays, Panera bread for an egg white sandwich on Sunday, and the Waffle House Saturday.  I just can’t get excited about the same old greasy calorie jammed food from the Host any more.  Besides, it was Lent, dammit!

I had a couple of beers with Dan Murawski and Del Stover Saturday night before going to the Road Warrior Invitational game.  We witnessed something pretty new at HMGS Conventions..

BOOTH BABES! Well, more precisely, Booze Babes, handing out samples of a rather chemically enhanced Apple flavored Crown Royal concoction. Poor girls! I should have warned them what two comely maidens in tight costumes, free booze and come-hither looks might do to this crowd, of THESE KIND OF GUYS…

I will credit them with this– They tried their best to both understand and pretend that we were interesting chaps. The string of 19 year old men following them around like puppies was totally understandable.. the occasional 40 year old man.. well, that was just sad and uncomfortable.

Apple flavored Crown Royal tastes like cough medicine, anyway.

So I’m not sure where I got this wrong, but I was under the impression that the Road Warrior Invitational STARTED at midnight, and I was impressed with myself for showing up a half hour early.  Nope, it ENDS at midnight (or is meant to) and I was about an hour late!   No matter, I grabbed a motorcycle and joined in the mayhem.

ROAD WARRIOR INVITATIONAL!

This is a great game that is kind of convincing me that it’s my favorite pastime at conventions these days.  Eric Goodlander has converted a pack of post-apocalyptic matchbox and hot wheels vehicles to recreate the famous end sequence of the eponymous movie.  This game is a blast, plain and simple.  I was a bad guy last time and a good guy this time and I have been on the winning side both times.

Starting from the back of the pack, just left of center on the cycle. I was surprisingly effective– the bike can drive between wrecks easily and I made my sustain roll almost every turn.

Weaving between the wrecks (bottom center)

That’s the hippy team (Nancy Ott, driver) in the bottom center. They were on the side of all natural 420 goodness.

Nobody was standing on cars, actually– this is just a good representative shot.

I took a metric shit ton of Road Warrior game pictures, actually, and it’s too painful to insert all of them– here’s the slideshow

This is not so much a game as the social hour.  Various players engage in bad jokes, one-upsmanship and schoolboy (and girl) antics.   There might have been a few adult beverages present.  Jim Stanton was in fine voice and bellowed out “THE CHEESE STANDS ALOOOOOOOOONE” at the start of every turn.  I didn’t catch this, but apparently there was some form of bounty on his head, which nobody could claim as the good guys won, again.

The game wasn’t much in doubt after a certain point where the bad guys who were left were not in a position to catch up.  So a good guy victory, which of course Mr. Stanton took credit for.  There was much beer-fueled commentary and badinage afterwards.

Click below to listen to the 100th rendition of the CHEESE STANDS ALONE by Jim Stanton, the winner of Cold Wars Road Warrior Invitational!

Road Warrior: Jim Stanton, driver of the Truck, comments:

Click below for their rendition of ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE

Road Warrior: The Otts (the Hippies) comment:

Very fortunately John Montrie let me crash on an empty bed in his room, so I didn’t have to drive home directly.  The next morning, I hit the dealer’s room early, and ended up buying an armored tank deal from Alien Dungeon for ALL QUIET ON THE MARTIAN FRONT.  I plan on fielding a mixed American/Canadian force so I can add some cool UK vehicles.  I also bought some Blue Moon 15mm infantry for my soldiers.

And from there, homeward.. after breakfast– I wasn’t going to suffer through the Host’s version of a breakfast buffet, so I went farther afield.
A sad postscript as I dropped into to Jenny’s Diner on the way home:

So it goes! In any event, I got home, safe and a little exhausted, the way one does at these things. I had a very good time. Cold Wars 2015 was better attended than I would have guessed (considering the snow) and I think people had a good time at it. Aside from the general observations about food and vendors, I think I noticed the disproportionate number of youngsters there, which was very encouraging. As for myself, I showed up wanting to play games, and I got in FOUR of them so I feel pretty good about the convention. Well done, Frank Preziosi and crew.

ORCS and ORCS: BAD BLOOD by Stan Nicholls… revisiting my childhood


Orcs (Orcs: First Blood, #1-3)Orcs by Stan Nicholls
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Orcs and Orcs: Bad Blood

Orcs (Orcs  First Blood, #1-3) by Stan Nicholls

Orcs  Bad Blood by Stan Nicholls

These books are oddly nostalgic of the kind of fantasy I read when I was 14, and for that reason, I enjoyed it, for the most part. The novel is part of a longer series which apparently is bundled together in various collections, so you will find them under a variety of names. I read ORCS (the Origin story) and ORCS: BAD BLOOD, which follows up some years after the first story.

The world of the ORCS series is classic Basic Dungeons and Dragons, circa 1980s. An Orc band, led by gruff Stryke, is in the service of one classic evil Queen Jenesta. They are sent on a mission that initially succeeds but later encounters disaster, which causes the band to abruptly leave Jenesta’s service in search of the big boojum that has been stolen. A quest ensues, to get the 5 boojums (actually they are called instrumentalities). These are scattered all over the landscape in the keeping of various fantasy archetypes– I counte d Orcs, Goblins, Centaurs, Neirads, Merfolk, Brownies, Dragons, Elves, Trolls, and Dwarves in the first novel, and Zombies and animated Vampire Skeletons in the second.

All this stuff would be a delightful romp indeed, were the writing a bit above the juvenile level. The characters are stereotypes– from the evil sexually sadistic queen, to the manly soldierly Stryke, the sarcastic Coella, the Bluff and Stupid Haskir, the mystical Aelfred, and the Pugnacious Jupp the Dwarf, who has problems of his own being a dwarf in an orc band. The dialogue is exquisitely repetitious and unoriginal– author Nicholls goes back to the trough again and again to the same dialogue to bookend scenes. For instance, if I had a dollar for every time racist dwarf-hatin’ Haskir picks a fight with angry Dwarf Jupp, only to be broken up by a loud “SHUT IT!” from Stryke, well.. I’d have a lot of dollars.

With all that said… I know, I know.. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. I found myself liking these orcs. They, at least, are realized well. They are intelligent (enough), possess a sense of honor, love to fight, but aren’t stupid about it. They aren’t creatures of evil, rather a decent enough bunch who have been enslaved into service to previously mentioned evil Queen. Humans, in contrast, come off as mostly evil, stupid and fanatical. Which was kind of refreshing!

In summary– ehhhh this series isn’t exactly a classic and will be largely forgettable, but isn’t without enjoyable spots. If you want a decent popcorn read that probably should be labelled a “Young Adult” fiction, you might like Orcs.

View all my reviews

The Man in the High Castle, Episode One


Cover, First Edition

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE  (1962) is an alternative history novel by Phillip K. Dick, one of my favorite science fiction writers.   In this narrative, the Axis powers have emerged triumphant from World War II, Germany having conquered all of Europe and a good portion of Africa and the former Soviet Union.  Japan has conquered China, the pan Pacific islands and portions of East Asia.  Both powers invaded the North American continent, with Germany inhabiting the East Coast out to the Midwest and Japan inhabiting the West Coast out to the Rocky Mountains.  The year is 1962; an uneasy peace has existed between the two former Axis powers (now modern day Cold War Superpowers).  The Man in the High Castle is in many ways Phillip K. Dick’s most accessible work outside of his short stories and novellas, which I have always preferred to his longer form narratives.  An alternative history novel may not seem all that unique to modern SF Fans but it was quite the thing in 1962, compounded by Dick’s omnipresent themes of reality vs. unreality, and the boundaries of perception influencing the narrative for the POV narrator character.  All of of Dick’s narrators seem flawed to me; no exceptions here.

I had the opportunity to watch Episode 1 of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (streaming video on Demand, Amazon) the other night.  Amazon has started there own independent video on demand service some time ago (I am a fan of the web series BOSCH from the same provider, for instance).   From what I can see the plan is to break the book narrative down into several chapters on Video on Demand.

The plot of the series does not match the book except in the loosest possible terms– the general setting from the book is maintained and the same imminent danger of warfare between the two superpowers is indeed the crisis for both stories.

The visuals are quite stunning and iconographic.

Japanese trade ministers meet the Ambassador for the Reich, San Francisco embassy headquarters.

Time Square is greatly changed in this reality

Life in the Japanese Zone is less rigidly authoritarian, but just as dangerous as the German zone.

The landscape has become subtly different in the German zone.

My initial reqction was very positive.  I feel like the production company has labored long and hard to retain the core themes of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (the book) in the web show.   Some of the plot was changed inexplicably, especially making the Frinks single.  Very early on there is some evidence ( I won’t specify) that the characters are living in a world where something has gone wrong and history has been changed.

The Germans are more advanced in this universe and casually fly about in Rocket planes

Where it goes from here, I have no idea.  But I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far very much.  It has the same close set feel to it the book does, and they don’t overdo the special effects.

Video Games are now being saved to the Internet Archive


List of just a few of the Video Game centered videos on IA.

“The Internet Archive is working with multiple external parties, including the IGDA’s Preservation SIG and Stanford University’s How They Got Game Project to preserve all kinds of rare and difficult to source video files relating to videogames“. I think it’s fitting that they do this– video games, for better or worse, are most definitely part of the American culture (at very least) and certainly a part of a child’s psyche growing up, almost all over the world.

The video game culture really started in the early 80s and was somewhat omnipresent after that– though paradoxically less socially relevant in these days of beautiful rendered 3D graphics. The 90s might have been the height of Video Game culture, or perhaps right around 88 to 92. The Archive captures and stores many artifacts from that era, like playthroughs, interviews, and reviews. Remember– this material was written when all this stuff was brand spanking new, and if it seems somewhat disingenuous now, keep that in mind.

For an example of some of the (charming! I had one!) Commodore 64 playthrough material, check out this video of a Rocky Horror Picture Show Commodore 64 playthrough.

You can also play old videogames and early computer games in flash format, in the Internet Arcade, here. Now that’s a lot of fun. I just played JOUST again for the first time in 20 years.

Perhaps these aren’t the collected works of Chaucer or the poems of Christopher Marlowe, but they are (or were) a very vibrant and active part of American culture, and I’m glad someone has taken the time and huge effort to amass this collection of relics. Well done, Internet Archive!

Digital Rules: TANK DUEL, a fun team game by Jim Wallman!


After reading LITTLE LAMBENT METEORS last month, I was intrigued enough by the designs of Jim Wallman.  Mr. Wallman is a talented guy, with a sense of whimsy that I really enjoy.  He designs games about most historic eras and scales and on a number of obscure topics (like street riots!).  I like what he does.  You might, as well.  Check out his website. Next on the agenda for an epub conversion is TANK DUEL by Jim Wallman.  This is a fascinating approach to a double blind miniatures game that I really would like to try at my Summer Gaming camp for kids.  Basically, you assign a team of four (or more, or less) players to a single tank model– the Commander, The Gunner, the Driver and the Loader.  Each role has something very specific to do.  Combine that with double-blind sighting mechanics and an emphasis on running the game at breakneck speed.. well, this could be batshit crazy when it gets on the table.  Count me in! Tank Duel is available on Jim’s website for free download as a PDF.  I converted it to epub for about a 50 per cent size reduction.  You can find it on the Digital Rules page in the standard place.  Just click on the cover below. There is also a one sheet reference that outlines what the roles in the game do.  I’ve made this available HERE. copyright-td

Review: COMING HOME by Jack McDevitt


Coming Home (Alex Benedict, #7)Coming Home by Jack McDevitt   (Alex Benedict #7)-

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve said many times (often, in reviews on Goodreads.com) that a day with a bad McDevitt novel beats a day with no McDevitt novel whatsoever. The last two or three Alex Benedict novels haven’t been bad, exactly, but they have struck me as increasingly repetitive. COMING HOME follows closely on the heels of FIREBIRD, and the two share plot elements, particularly about the disappearing ships plot thread. The standard McDevitt plot structure is in play here (see my Firebird review for a rehash of it all), so there are no great surprises.

COMING HOME is probably the first novel where I’ve actually sort of egged on the author to get past the expected twists and turns of the standard plot structure and get to the meat of it all– when a mysterious white skimmer shows up to shoot up Chase and Alex at one point in the story, I found myself saying “Yeah, right, we all know they are going to get past that.. so move on why don’t you?”

I won’t reveal much about the plot, except to say that the big McGuffin this time is a mysterious long-lost cache of Earth artifacts, from the early days of space exploration. This gives McDevitt a chance to write a novel set on Earth in the far future, after severe climatic change and political/social evolution has had its effect. As the artifacts being sought are largely from the 20th and 21st century, we get to see the past from the perspective of someone searching for knowledge we take for granted as readers. It’s an interesting literary device– for instance, we learn that in the far future, only a relative handful of Shakespeare’s plays survive intact. Coming Home is also the most self-referential of the novels so far, as it features Chase Kolpath discovering the life of Priscilla Hutchens, the star of the other big McDevitt series. Hutch lived millenia before Kolpath, it turns out. A nice Easter Egg. For the first time, as well, Chase mentions writing her memoirs in the real time narrative so we experience Alex’s reaction to them.

Fair Warning, SPOILER ahead. The other great reveal, the one we have been building up to since Firebird, was the rescue of Alex’s Uncle Gabe from the hyperspatial rift his passenger liner fell into 20 years previous. When it actually happens, it’s kind of a non-event. For such an influential character throughout the series, Gabe kind of comes off as a non-starter. He’ll need fleshing out in later books.

SUMMARY: Coming Home wasn’t my favorite of the Alex Benedict series of novels. It was solid and workmanlike, but the repetitiveness is starting to become increasingly obvious with every novel and that is starting to affect my enjoyment of them.

View all my reviews

Cold Wars 2015 Guidebook App is available for download


Hello, Convention attendees!  Guess, what, it’s that time of year, Cold Wars 2015 is literally around the corner for most of us.   I have, finally, completed a decent first draft of the CW 15 Guidebook App for your convention attending pleasure.  I apologize for being late– I like to have it out at least a month ahead, or close to the PEL release if possible.  I received the loader data and did not notice that every single one of the GAME events loaded in as happening in May 2015.  So I just finished scrubbing the dates on each and every one.  That can slow things down a little.

What’s new?  

Not a lot really.  If you are Guidebook user from shows past the same color scheme holds– blue for tournaments, red for game events, green for seminars, purple for Hobby University.. if I ever get that data.  There’s a much longer and definitive KID FRIENDLY GAME LIST which has it’s own “track” in the schedule.  Look for ORANGE items.

Master Schedule screen with a few newish items added.

Kid Friendly events have this banner:

I’ve also added a local eatery button in the main menu– this is just a list of what I could find using YELP and the Host location with a five mile radius.  It is not definitive, but I hope to make it grow, and who knows, if we can get local restaurants interested in handing out discounts or coupons, maybe we can add those in too.

What’s missing??

The map I got for the Lampeter room has no tables on it.  That’s not the end of the world as the Lampeter holds tournaments and the Flea Market, and nobody really uses that map anyway.  I did not include it to prevent confusion.  If I get a fixed one before the show, look for an update.

I have not received the Dealer Hall layout and listing from Scott Landis yet.  It should be close to final so look for an update with this information before the show.

I have not received a Hobby University update from Heather Blush yet.  Look for an update before the show.

Updates.. how do those happen?

Simple.  Make sure you have Guidebook open and you are connected to the Internet somehow, usually a wireless signal.  The App will check for updates on the server.  If there is one, it will tell you and ask for permission to download.

So where do I get this thing?

HERE is the Cold Wars 2015 Landing page.  The page will have hyperlinks and bar codes to download the Android and IoS versions of Guidebook (the app) and the specific COLD WARS 2015 schedule which I have prepared for you.
HERE is a preview in browser link, so you can see what’s in the schedule.

QR Codes:

For the APP (only)

This will link to the download for Guidebook, the app

For THE COLD WARS GUIDEBOOK

This is the QR code that finds the guidebook schedule for COLD WARS 2015.

Enjoy your app, I hope it’s helpful and I’ll see you at the show.

If I have anything to communicate during the show I’ll use THE INBOX FEATURE on the app itself.

V/R

Walt

Click me to go to the landing page!

Little Lambent Meteors by Jim Wallman (Digital Library)


Hey! I haven’t converted a ruleset to epub lately. Here’s a great candidate right here:

Click on the Cover to go to the DIgital Rules page.

I stumbled upon this quirky little rule set by Jim Wallman recently. It is a simulation (or not, that’s really not the word for it), let’s call it a humorous study of exactly what’s referred to in the subtitle, rioting mobs of the 18th Century. Having played GANGS OF ROME in the not too distant past, I was immediately attracted to the concept of this game– I don’t see it playing in a scale much larger than 6mm myself, but it should be easy to paint!!

Disclaimer: the PDF version of these rules can be found in many places online– this is a simple epub conversion, for private use on your tablet computer, smart phone or e-reader.  There is no charge for this file, but don’t sell it, rename it or republish it.   If Mr. Wallman has an objection to this, I will remove the file immediately with my profuse apologies.

As always, click on the graphic above to go to the digital rules page, where you will find the link to the epub for this file. Thanks.

Replay: IRA raid on a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barrack & NOVAG Game Day


NOVAG and Potomac Wargamers hosted their annual Winter Game Day on Sunday 18 January 2015 at The Centreville Library in Centreville, VA.   All games kicked off at 1300, so there wasn’t any chance to play in an earlier game than that.  There were some great choices, but the one that caught my eye was: Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barrack Raid run by Lance O’Donnell using the Triumph and Tragedy rules set between 1900 and 1939.   These are a set of very tactical rules set in the early 20th century optimized for 20th century rifle ranges.  The scenario being played was two squads (called “Battalions” but really squad sized).  I had two groups of men of about 10 guys each (each with a leader with a pistol) and one Heroic Leader who could set demolitions and throw grenades (he had two).   Even dedicated IRA men are not exactly up to snuff militarily, so my initiative was the worst in the game (except for my hero).  We were also not as skilled as the RIC and Black and Tans were with firearms and other shooty things.   Here’s the scenario description: The local IRA needs to acquire rifles for the independence cause and has been planning to hit a rural Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks.  But the Black and Tans have been interrogating local villagers and have learned of the plot.  Can the IRA grab the rifles or will the Black and Tans get there in time to stop them?

The RIC barracks, Pretty much dead center on the table, next to the road.

Being, erm, descended from a few parties of interest in that conflict, I opted to take the IRA.  The map was simple.  Fields with a road bisecting it laterally.. In the center of the board was a two story structure (The RIC barracks) with a stone fence out back and two doors, front and back, starting the game locked.  The RIC is inside the building and they have been tipped off about the IRA.

My battalions used what improvised cover they could find. No windows in the side of house equals a covered approach.

I started in the upper NW and lower SW quadrant corners, and improvised a covered approach to the objective going as fast as I could. I was assisted in this by some woods in the NW quadrant and both a hedge in the SW quadrant combined with no side windows in the barracks building. The Black and Tans did not enter until Turn 3, which forced the impetus of action upon me.

The Black and Tans enter on Turn 3, giving me roughly five turns of having a numerical advantage (as it took them 3 turns of movement to get into a position to affect the battle).

My tactical plan was to rush to a position where I could be in range, lay down a suppressing fire on both windowed sides of the RIC barracks, blow the black door with demolitions and rush in to club and capture the hopefully very suppressed RIC men.

The RIC Men started spread out over two floors. As they started taking suppression losses, they all clumped together downstairs. A perfect setup for me.

I had to position my men along the stone wall to get some partial cover. Unfortunately the rules are a little hinky– ALL members of the squad had to be touching the wall with their bases or the defensive dice adjustment applies to none of them.. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them all there the first turn so had to take a few losses before we were hiding behind the wall together. We crowded up to the windows as best we could and poured fire into the room.

We fired in from behind the fence, then we rushed the windows and let fly. The Hero is readying his doorbreaking charge.  Meanwhile as you can see, the B&Ts are going to show up soon.

So far the initial plan was working pretty well. We had managed to get the first element behind the stone fence to fire into the barracks and contribute to suppressing the RIC constables. We had only taken one casualty on the approach. The other element had taken advantage of excellent cover to approach the FRONT of the building to pour in suppressing fire on that side. Rather than stay in the street, in the open, to engage the onrushing Black and Tans, I moved them back around to the REAR of the building to serve as the charging force in melee.

Meanwhile my second “battalion” dashed to the FRONT of the house and poured lead in throw the windows. The first floor became a slaughter house.

The second battalion had a chance to get off one fusilade of bullets into the RIC barracks room before they had to run for cover. See the Black and Tans coming down the road at full clip! That’s trouble.

As you can see, the RIC were in for it in a serious way. They lost 3 men and got many points of suppression which limited their odds.

The situation inside the RIC barracks. The RIC contingent was repeatedly sprayed with gunfire from both sides and suffered many hits to their morale after suffering wounding and a couple of kills.

The door blows.. and IN WE GO

The melee went for 2 turns inside before the last RIC Constables went Tango Uniform. Numbers can tell, and this was a situation where he could activate 3 or less and I was attacking him at a dozen people per attack. Having achieved the impossible and captured the RIC barracks, I wanted to try wiping out the Black and Tans.

Melee inside the RIC barracks after the door got blown successfully. That’s my second element charging in there, the ones that had circled around the building after firing in the front windows. Melee lasted two turns; the second to the last guy went down and then the last guy surrendered.

All this gallivanting about was taking up precious time. One thing I could not afford was getting into a prolonged gun battle with the RUC (Black and Tans) as they had better rifle skill, better initiative and higher morale. My best bet was to lure them into a long range shoot ‘em up, get them to run up close and toss my two grenades at them. Good plan, half-assed execution.

I was concerned that the RUC would run up to the front door or just fire into the windows of the barracks. After all, my victory conditions had just been met– I had captured the barracks. So I got my first element up against the stone wall and fired a couple of volleys at the Black and Tans. Sure enough the wheeled right and moved to contact, taking casualties as they advanced.

Unfortunately my heroic leader guy was a great demo expert but lousy grenade tosser, and the grenade flew off coordinates.  I do think that made the other player a little cautious however.

Charging in for the finale of the game. I believe I wounded at least two more before he was on the wall charging into melee (over the wall).

Final battle with the Black and Tans.

To speed up the narrative, the Black and Tans speed up the road, disappointed that Squad 2 hadn’t stayed around to be shot at, then deployed in line and shot up Squad 1, safely behind the stone wall. Squad 1 returned fire from where they stood, being somewhat protected. That winnowed the B&Ts dramatically and only 4 guys lived to make it to the wall, then 3… At that point we were in melee and I still had a relatively fresh squad– which had run around the building and was about to launch itself on the remaining B&Ts for a truly epic asymetrical fight. I’ll entertain someone who wants to fight to the death, but in games where it doesn’t seem to be worth it, I always offer an early out rather than commit to playing out something unwinnable. My opponent agreed that it was pretty hopeless for him and we called the game, which was an IRA total victory. I had captured the RIC barracks and either killed, wounded or accepted the surrender of every enemy on the table. I attribute success to moving fast, early, when I had a numerical advantage, not delaying the attack until everything was perfect, and having my two squad elements support each other by each providing suppressing fire into the building. The result was a lot of cohesion hits and some kills (maybe half). My specialist hero worked well setting the demo and blowing the door, but proved inept throwing grenades (I only had to throw one of two). It was a great time, I enjoyed going to NOVAG’s game day and seeing everyone.

OTHER NOVAG EVENTS

Fred Haub’s Medieval Massacre

More Medieval Massacre

Look, there’s Fred now.

Aspern-Essling Day 1 by Eric Freiwald, using Command and Colors Napoleonics.

More Aspern-Essling

Barbarossa company level game, Maciej Zajac. using BOLT ACTION.

More of the same.

Tim ponders his next move

Dennis Wang’s excellent game of Avalon Hill’s AIR FORCE using Ipads, Tablets and Smart Phones. I’ve played this before and really enjoyed it.

Tuscaloosa pensively sets his orders on his smart phone.

The Battle for the Areghendab Bridge – Afghanistan, December 2001 by Mike Byrne. Using FORCE ON FORCE.

More Force on Force

MORE PICTURES TO BE FOUND HERE

Word on the Street: Unspeakable Words Deluxe


Unspeakable Words Logo, Copyright 2015 Playroom Entertainment

We picked up Unspeakable Words (the original) back in 2007 or so, maybe a little later.   It’s a fun little diverting word game with a Cthulhu Mythos theme, which is right up my alley.  The goal is to form words from the single letter cards (all lavishly illustrated).  Each word completed requires you to roll against the word score to see if your sanity has come unhinged.  Dice being what they are, you will eventually lose sanity points (represented by cute little mini Cthulhu tokens) and eventually you will go batsh*t crazy.  The last one left sane won the game!  The mechanics aren’t that challenging but the theme is heavy making the game a family favorite.  Well, my family, anyway!

Box contents 2007 edition, copyright Playroom Entertainment

Contents (old art)

New box art

So WORD ON THE STREET is that Playroom Entertainment is about to launch a UNSPEAKABLE WORDS DELUXE on Monday. From what I’m reading there’s not much change to the basic mechanics, but the tokens will be changed and the artwork is redone from the ground up by John “Dork Tower” Kovalic. From what I can see of the new art, this will help the game– the old 2007 are was great and on target for Cthulhu geeks, but the “cutesy” new Kovalic artwork will have a much broader appeal, especially with families with younger kids.

The new version will be funded by Kickstarter (as of this date). You can visit the page HERE when it becomes live.