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.

NOVAG/Potomac Wargamers Winter GAME Day 2017 Primary Events List


NOVAG Game Day will be on 29 January 17 at the Centreville Library, Centreville, VA

Administrative Details:

Winter Game Day will be held on Sunday January 29, 2017 starting at 1:00 p.m. at the Centreville Library.  The library is located at: 14200 St Germaine Rd, Centreville VA 20121-2299  (roughly I-66 and US 29).  The Library phone is 703-830-2233. This event is free.  The library opens at 1:00 for players. GMs may enter the side door starting at 12:00 noon.

GAME TITLE:  Siege of Skipton Castle
GAME MASTER:  Brian De Witt
PERIOD:  Medieval
SCALE:  25mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8
RULES:  Home

GAME DESCRIPTION: Bring your ladders, catapults, rams burning oil and rocks to either storm or defend Skipton Castle. Rules will be taught.

GAME TITLE:  Piacenza
GAME MASTER:  Tim Tilson
PERIOD:  War of the Austrian Succession
SCALE:  15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5
RULES:  Black Powder

GAME DESCRIPTION: 15 June 1746. Piacenza Italy. After concluding peace with Frederick of Prussia in December 1745, Maria Theresa ordered Field Marshal Ulysses von Browne to Italy with a small force.  The Austrians marched over the Alps in late winter and upset the prevailing Allied dominance in Lombardy.  Browne quickly retook a number of outposts and Milan.  The Spanish evacuated Parma, retreated north to Piacenza and entrenched outside the city.   With the arrival of the main Austrian army under General Liechtenstein, the Spanish were outnumbered 56,000 to 26,000.  However, the entrenchments greatly favored the Spanish and so Liechtenstein settled down to a siege.  On June 14, a French relief force under Marshall Maillebois arrived on the Allied left wing, south of the city, shifting the balance of forces in favor of the Allies. Browne sensed an Allied attack, and refused his left wing, deploying it behind the Canale San Bonico. At first light, the Allied right wing advanced. 

GAME TITLE:  “Halle 1806”
GAME MASTER:   Tom Bierschenk
PERIOD:   Napoleonics
SCALE:     15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:    2-4
RULES:    Napoleons Battles 4th Edition

GAME DESCRIPTION:  17 October, 1806:  Bernadotte’s I corps rushes to cross the Saale river at Halle and destroy the Duke of Wurttemberg’s Reserve Prussian Corps, the only remaining intact large Prussian force between Napoleon and Berlin.  Bernadotte must restore his honor, after having shirked his duty at Jena/Auerstedt.

GAME TITLE: Sharke’s Bridge
GAME MASTER:  Mark Fastoso
PERIOD:  Napoleonic Fantasy
SCALE:    28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Dragon Rampant

GAME DESCRIPTION: Lt. Sharke and his Chosen Orc Rifles have been ordered to destroy a bridge on the border.  Seems like an easy mission but he has been accompanied by Colonel Simm’Orcson, a rather buffoonish officer, and his men who are out for glory.  All seems quiet at the bridge and Simm’Orcson despairs at losing his chance for fame and fortune until he spies a cannon being moved into position across the river.  He immediately orders his men to cross the bridge and capture the gun!  Lt. Sharke stares in shock at Simm’Orcson and his men cross the bridge he is about to blow to kingdom come.  This is a Napoleonic Fantasy game using Flintloque figures and Dragon Rampant rules.

GAME TITLE:  Sand Dunes of Zwarfontein ( German South-West Africa)
GAME MASTER:   Roy Jones
PERIOD:   Colonial
SCALE:     25mm The Sword and the Flame (Modified)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:  The Sword and the Flame (Modified)

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Herero War is over – the Nama Wars have begun! The alliance between Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi and the Kaiser is shattered! A combined Nama force of Witbooi troops and those of Simon Kooper confront the Germans at Zwarfontein. The Germans have mobile mountain guns, but the Nama have some

GAME TITLE:  White Eagle, Red Star
GAME MASTER:   John Koprowski and Dave Markley
PERIOD:   1920 Post WWI Poland
SCALE:     20mm – 1/72
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Too Fat Lardies’ Triumph of the Will /If The Lord Spares Us

GAME DESCRIPTION:  It’s 1920 and Vlad, Lenin not Putin, is moving west to spread the Glorious Workers Revolution to Western Europe and …Amerika.  Can the out gunned and under manned Poles save Civilization from the Godless Bolshevik barbarians?  Man your machine gun; pilot your fighter plane; or drive your armored train into the Polish fight for freedom…or ride into glory with Seymon Budonny.

GAME TITLE: Panzer Kids Desert Skirmishes
GAME MASTER: Peter Schweighofer
PERIOD: World War II
SCALE: 15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6
RULES: Panzer Kids Deluxe

GAME DESCRIPTION: Command tank forces battling for control of the North African desert in World War II using these beginner-friendly rules. Maneuver British and German tanks around dunes, oases, and other obstacles to destroy enemy tanks and win the day. Drop in to learn the rules and fight a quick skirmish or stick around to try some of the optional rules to add depth to your game experience. Wargaming beginners welcome. Kid-friendly game; ideal for players 7-12 years old.

GAME TITLE:  WWII Air Battle – Wildcats vs Me-109s
GAME MASTER:  Dennis Wang
PERIOD:  WWII
SCALE:  1/285
RULES:  Air Force/Dauntless

GAME DESCRIPTION: Air Force/Dauntless with computer assist. 4″ hexes and  1/200 airplanes (Wings of Glory scale) with telescoping flight stands equipped with climb/dive, bank, altitude indicators. Bring your tablet/smartphone/laptop equipped with a WWW browser. Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook all OK. Paper and pencil not r equired/used. Novices welcome. Rules PDF free on the Web or at the meeting. On 26 March 1945,  FM-2’s from 882 Squadron Lieut Comdr. GAM Flood, RNVR) off HMS Searcher, escorting a flight of Avengers along the coast of Norway, was attacked near Christiansand by a flight of eight III Gruppe JG 5 Me-109Gs. The Wildcats (now called “Wildcat instead of “Martlet” as the Fleet Air Arm adopts the USN names for carrier aircraft in January 1945) shot down four of the Me-109Gs at a cost of one Wildcat damaged. A fifth 109 was claimed as damaged. These were the last British Wildcat victories at the end of WWII

GAME TITLE: End of an Iron Dream
GAME MASTER Jason Weiser
PERIOD: WWII
SCALE: 20mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  8
RULES: Battlegroup WWII

GAME DESCRIPTION: It’s the typical story, 1945, a German garrison in East Prussia is holding on by their fingernails to stave off the inevitable. Someone at OKW had the bright idea to send in some supplies to them, and thought, if we’re going to do that, why not launch a local counterattack to open a corridor to them? Suddenly, an entire company sized Kampfgruppe is now on the move at night against a Soviet force of unknown size, trying to blast open a corridor to a garrison that may not still be there.

Can you make a silk ear out of a sow’s purse and complete this fool’s errand.

GAME TITLE: The Battle of Yampil, 19 June 2014
GAME MASTER: Mike and Patrick Byrne
PERIOD: Modern
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6
RULES: Force on Force

GAME DESCRIPTION: Before a cease fire takes place pro-Russian rebels launch an offensive to take more towns.  The Ukrainian Army launches a counter attack to encircle the rebels.  Can the rebels stop the Ukrainian counter attack?

GAME TITLE: Space Hulk
GAME MASTER Stefan B. Tahmassebi
PERIOD: 40,000 AD
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  4-6
RULES: Space Hulk 2012

GAME DESCRIPTION: Terminator Space Marines versus hungry Tyranids.

First look at WING LEADER Supremacy 1943-1945 by GMT Games


I’m terribly sorry about the vertical inclination.  I was snowed in and bored, and the box from GMT arrived last night (Oh joy!) so I thought I’d record a first look kind of post with an Ipad.  Pointed the wrong way of course!

Chosen Men. Maybe just the thing for all those 54mm Nappys


A long, long time ago, I used to keep a little notebook I’d take on work travel.  I’d just sketch things down in it, some fiction, and the occasional idea for a game.   Big Danged Boats came out of that notebook.  So did a bunch of other things that eventually saw the light of day.  One of them was an often visited, often alluded to project I called Voltigeurs and Riflemen.  This was a skirmish game I envisioned taking place during the Napoleonic era.  The units were single figures or small groups of up to four figures.

54mm British Riflemen, Peninsular War and Waterloo, Italieri, my collection

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

For my own reasons, I wanted the scale to be 54mm a figure.  I love this size for Skirmish games; they are easy to see and easy to handle, and the size forces the battlefield to be manageable on one table.  My original inspiration was an old book by Paddy Griffith called NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN.  It’s a fun book about several versions of napoleonic games that Mr. Griffith designed over the years.  Nothing I’d try these days, but one design I did really like was his version of a man to man Napoleonic game.  This really doesn’t happen very much in this niche of miniature wargaming.  Napleonics is for big battles, right?  Lovely uniforms, massed infantry formations, artillery batteries, cavalry charges with hussars ranked knee to knee, resplendent down to their pink piping and pigtails.

Well, sure it is.

Still, I often imagine what it’s like in that space in between where the big battalions meet and crash into each other.  There has to be a No-Man’s land where small groups of deployed skirmishers meet each other, for just a moment in time, before the big formations crash into each other.  For that glorious 15 minutes to half an hour, there should be a place on a Napoleonic battlefield where individuals continue to make a difference, where Skirmishers can attempt to pick off officers and sergeants, disrupting the enemy advance.   Such a game would have to move fast, represent individual soldiers by preference, possess command and control tracing back to individual leaders, and somehow represent the impact of that larger battlefield entering their little skirmish bubble during the course of the game.  Skirmishers, after all, were detached from larger companies.  Designated Light formations certainly could skirmish AND form formations.  British Rifle Companies lived in the skirmish zone, their entire purpose in life was to leap nimbly about, find cover and load their slow but accurate Baker rifles to harass, impede and otherwise disrupt enemy attacks by killing the chain of command from a distance.  Napoleon was not as firm of a believer in the rifle, but the Voltigeurs were also trained to screen an advance and act as elite marksmen for the French side of the field.  It’s when these two types of soldiers– the nimble, slow-firing Britons and the nimble, faster-firing but more inaccurate French, intersected as screens for the big attacks, THERE is where a man to man game of Napoleonic warfare makes sense.

The V&R rules (* Voltigeur and Rifleman) I came up with featured breaking a turn down into segments.  Again, this was heavily influenced by the Paddy Griffith book I mentioned above.  You rolled for characteristics of the soldiers in your company, just like a roleplaying game.  STR came in handy for giving more hit points and in melee, DEX allowed you to reload and aim faster and better, MOVE may allow a few more inches of movement more or less a turn, AIM was for firing, LDR was for Sergeants, Corporals, Lieutenants and Captains, and was great for Rallying, Moving men into and out of formation, and giving orders.  As Paddy G. had envisioned it, every action took a segment.  Where he and I parted ways was I thought he got a little too microscopic with his approach to actions and segments.  Picking up a ramrod was a segment.  Cocking a musket was a segment, attaching a bayonet a segment etc.

The “Action Chart” from Paddy Griffith’s ancient Napoleonic Man to Man Skirmish Game. This really impressed me when I was 15.

Every portion of the British Musket drill was broken down into segments.  I thought that was fascinating when I was 15 and read Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun for the first time, but as an adult, now I can see that that would make for a miserable game for modern tastes.  I didn’t have 30 years of experience back then.  I don’t think any player these days, especially convention wargame players, have the patience for such micro management of actions.  So, in fact, would V&R be miserable, as first I imagined it to be.  I streamlined the actions to six for muskets and eight for rifles, seven if taploading– and it still doesn’t play fast enough for me.

Detail from a rogues gallery spreadsheet with many V&R characters rolled up.

I have looked for smaller scale miniature games that might work– I have high hopes for Sharpe Practice by Two Fat Lardies (and purchased it!), but it appears to be maybe one scale size too large, and maybe a little too much for 54mm figures.  Great rules, though.. if I get a whole passle of 28mm Nappy figures, I’m going to be all in for this rules set.

 For 54mm scale, though, I needed a rule set that emphasizes individual actions, not group actions.  That’s why I started on Voltigeur & Rifleman– I still need something that’s relatively fast moving, and the V&R approach won’ t hack it without a lot of re-work and playtesting.

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

As I’ve covered in past blog posts, I tend to pick up most of Osprey’s “blue line” of wargame rules in a semi-desultory fashion.  Some of them are great, some of them are bad, and some of them are mediocre.  Since they are relatively inexpensive (for modern wargames, most of which tend to be hardbound and full of illustrations to drive the price point up), and even more inexpensive as Kindle publications, I usually put most of them on pre-order as Kindle publications and hardcover if it REALLY catches my eye.  Since this book came out nearly simultaneously with the release of ROGUE STARS*, I said “what the heck” and pre-ordered both in paper.  There’s always something entertaining in a Napoleonic skirmish rules set.  Wow, I’m glad I did.  Immediately, I can see there are many, many elements of what I am looking for in Chosen Men.  The average force size is 3 to 6 units of maneuver of 5 to 20 models each.  I would be reducing that.  The average gaming area will be 4 x 4 feet, I will be attenuating that and rifle/musket range or the riflemen will become ridiculously powerful.  Models have stat lines very similar to the ones I posted about in the illustration above, only it’s Melee (M), Resilience (R), Command (C), Wounds (W), Tactics (TAC) and Stratgy (STG).  Melee is personal fighting skill, with sword or bayonet, Resilience works like Constitution or “Toughness”.  Command is more like Morale in classic game design, as in being “In command, or capable of accepting commands”.  Wounds is self explanatory, Tactics is like “Action Points”, and Strategy is only used by Officers or Sergeants– used to get their units to do special actions, and there is a finite number of STG points.  Dice are all six-sided (I like this, but I don’t require it).  Actions are determined to be successful by performing checks against skills, and two models opposing each other would determine outcome by roll-offs.  There’s a lot more to it, but there is the gist.  I love some of the extra chrome to give it exactly the setting I’m proposing– the skirmish events that take place in the grey area between the big battalions, where they start to encounter each other.  One chrome element that lends “that big battle right over there” flavor is the “Cauldron of War Strategies” table.

The “Cauldron of War” is similar to a random events table that I came up with in V&R that provided that crucial “meta event” that I think has to be there for a game like this, set in this time period.  You KNOW there’s a big event happening just to your flank or behind you– but that may or may not intrude into your personal little bubble of battle space.  The Cauldron of War abstracts this element out nicely.

Chosen Men isn’t perfect for what I want to do with it.  It’s not an exact fit for 54mm scale.  For one thing, formations are still kind of sort of a thing in Chosen Men (though not the focus of combat or movement).  I don’t know how that would fit in a man to man skirmish game– except maybe I do.  Chosen Men measures fire combat and movement from the unit leader– the Sergeant or Lieutenant, etc.  Formations form on him, and ranges also are measured from him.  I’ll have to seriously tinker with ranges, scale and ground scale to make it work with 54s.  I may have to write some conversion rules to make it fit.  For instance, the standard units are like 6 figures for Chosen Men, and I was thinking 3 figure at most for 54mm.  With that said, I like Chosen Men, it has the right feel for me and I’m willing to test this conversion here as soon as my tin soldiers get out of the warehouse.

Visting the Udvar-Hazy Center,29 Dec 16


Since we aren’t currently on a Cruise ship in the Carribean, sipping sugary rum drinks and wondering how the hoi polloi get by (this is a subject for another post, perhaps– we had to cancel our cruising plans) we decided to go visit the Udvar Hazy museum of flight and aeronautical technology near Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA today. I took about 109 pictures, which I’d love to embed as an album on here, or even a slideshow. Sadly, Google’s move from Picasaweb to Google Photos makes identifying single albums in Google Photos next to impossible. So it goes. Below are a few links to many pictures of aircraft. The slide show works, but you won’t be able to read my comments. Mass adding of photographs also eliminates captioning somehow, so if you want to read my reverant, sometimes snarky, sometimes awe-struck commentary, you’ll have to go directly to the album, below.

Click here for SLIDESHOW

Click below to see the album

Enjoy. We had a blast visiting this museum.. it always has something new tucked away in a corner I haven’t seen yet.

My Christmas Story begins with a Decca Long Play album


DECCA ‎– DLP 8010: Ronald Colman, Charles Laughton ‎– Charles Dickens Classics: A Christmas Carol And Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, to be precise. This is a vinyl recording that appears to have been assembled from two separate recordings of Charles Dickens stories that originated for the radio some time in the 1940s.

This was a Christmas album of two of Charles Dickens’ famous works– the Christmas Carol, which is justifiably famous, and Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, which is perhaps less so, being bundled in with the Pickwick Papers, which is probably regarded as among Dickens’ lighter works.

The album was first pressed in the late 40s, and reprinted in 1950 under the sleeve you see above.  Side A was Charles Laughton’s light hearted and jocular recounting of the Christmas Chapters from the Pickwick Papers. The story is very lighthearted; a recounting of the members of the Pickwick Club visiting relatives for Christmas in the country during the Victorian time period. If you haven’t read the Posthumous History of the Pickwick Club (aka The Pickwick Papers), give it a try. The Christmas chapter is a classic. My brother and I used to joke about “Joe, the Fat Boy” who was always found in a corner attacking a mince pie and falling asleep. The Pickwickians attend a great Christmas party and dance a lot, eat prodigiously, and kiss under the missletoe. It’s a fun story. The Laughton recording is outstanding, and he had the perfect voice for it:

Listen to the Audio here:

If that doesn’t work, try this. The Audio isn’t as good, but it is clear.

Side B was performed by Ronald Colman, possessor of that ultimate refined English gentleman voice, playing Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. There are few works in English literature so completely associated with the holiday than a Christmas Carol, and I don’t feel as if I have to recount the plot of old Ebenezer’s redemption and moral rescue– almost everyone knows it, or should. This particular
recording was full of all the sharp audio stings associates with old time radio plays: sudden guitar strings, organ music and all. It was downright creepy when I was 7 or 8 years old, though gradually I was less scared by it. We played it constantly during the Christmas season until, I think, my mom threw it away, as it was hopelessly scratchy by then.

Listen to the Audio here:

(if that doesn’t work, try this, though the audio isn’t as good)

There’s not much more to this memory. I remember playing this record on a succession of record players owned by my mom and dad. My older brother, in particular, enjoyed this record maybe even more than me. The crackling and hissing of this ancient vinyl album was in its own way very comforting, as was the tinny, otherworldly audio of programs recorded for the radio back in the 40s. It’s odd to think about that record, as I often do at Christmas, being as old as it was. The original recordings by Laughton and Colman date back to the early 40s, when my parents were either in middle school or high school. The Decca Long Play record that I recall (the cover you see above) was pressed in 1950, and later on in 1970, but my parents must have found their version in an old record shop or thrift shop somewhere. It was ancient even for them. Of course, in a technological age I’ve found cleaned up audio copies on the Internet Archive (easily), and I can listen to this any time I want to. But there’s an essential element missing, and it’s more than the lack of a hiss and crackle as the ancient needle made the ancient vinyl yield up the golden tones of Ronald Colman once again, barely. I think it’s all about life experience.. nostalgia, as I’ve been reflecting on lately, is kind of a prison. It’s a way of telling us we missed out on something or something has passed us by. I don’t feel that way listening to these old recordings, now. More like a bemusement grown out of experience, and more of an intellectual, vice emotional detachment when I absorb the life lessons of Mr. Dickens one more time. There’s something universal about Dickens’ Christmas message– about keeping kindness and generosity of spirit in our hearts more than just one day a year. A message that transcends faith, politics and petty squabbles. Would that the world grew up listening to that message more often.

Chariot Race by Matt Leacock


Okay, so technically speaking this isn’t a Kickstarter Incoming, it’s a Kickstarter Already Here.  Eagle/Gryphon games’ Chariot Race arrived about a week ago, and I’ve assembled it, stared at it on my desk for a week, and finally pulled it out and started playing it tonight. Bottom line up front, the results were pleasing, the game is simple and the mechanics are easy. If the designer, Matt Leacock, rings a bell, that’s understandable. Matt’s other big credit was a little game called PANDEMIC and another game called FORBIDDEN ISLAND. Both of these have sold in respectable numbers (for board games) and have appeared on the shelves of non-traditional retailers such as Target and Barnes & Noble stores in the U.S.


Negotiating the last turn.

Chariot Racing was a Kickstarter project (I backed it!). In terms of mechanics, the game bears a much bigger resemblance to an earlier game of Matt’s called ROLL THRU THE AGES. Both games have big, chunky wooden dice that have icons on them that trigger events that impact the game.  “Roll” was more Yahtzee-like, in that you were tallying goods and innovations on a peg board and scoring sheet to make your civilization grow.  Chariot Race uses similar dice, but the dice represent actions that affect your racing team for that turn only.


Ramming!

The rules are pretty simple, even simpler than Roll Thru the Ages, actually. Every racer keeps track of 3 characteristics in a game: Fate, Damage and Speed. This is done on a card with little pointers on it, like the old Mansions of Madness game (first edition). Speed starts at 4 in the basic game and the chariot sets initial speed higher or lower at start. Fate starts at 3 and go up to 10. Damage starts at 12 for an intact chariot and goes down to 0, at which point you die.


Attacking (Pointing for emphasis– blue attacks red!)

Every turn, the player can turn in 3 points of fate to clean up 3 points of damage for starters, then adjust current speed (not above the damage level) then Rolls dice and moves accordingly. There are five dice with assorted sides– a burst of speed of 2 that damages your chariot for 1, a plus or minus 1 speed for this turn marker, an attack by javelin or caltrop side, an “add one lady luck” to your luck score, and of course, lane changes. If you don’t roll the result, you can’t change a lane. You can, however, reroll by investing two lady luck points per every dice you reroll (which is similar to Roll through the Ages as well). You can see a picture of the dice sides on the Player’s Aid blog post for Chariot Race.  Then you MOVE.. moving in and out (lane changes) incur the same penalties as movement (one box per point of current speed).


This game probably plays best with four, we played this game with two plus an “AI” opponent. We took turns running the purple chariot, which started out as a runaway easy victor, but then he got up to speed ten, negotiated a turn wrong, lost tons of damage points, went over a caltrop (he had no lane changes– the faster you go, the fewer are your options), then his chariot disintegrated in the next turn where he almost lapped us.

So I will probably give the advanced rules a shot, which add some variability to the basic game, which is, well, pretty basic. You roll, you resolve what your speed will be after adjustments, you execute your turn. It’s definitely not Circus Maximus. Nor is it even Ave Caesar.  Chariot Racing is very random and one could point out the decisions needed to affect the outcome are few in number.  However, It is fun, not very complex, and it has a lot of things going for it– it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  You can tell that from the name of the game, which conveys “this is a game about chariot racing. That’s all it’s about, honestly”. The standard elements I love in a chariot game– corner strain, ramming, flipping, etc. are all there in very simplistic form plus you can also drop caltrops and throw javelins.. heck, that should be in EVERY chariot game. I know they are in the one I designed, which you can get an epub of here. So where am I at with Chariot Racing? I’ll play it for a while. I might even buy tiny 10mm chariot miniatures and paint them in team colors, to make it look like a chariot race (I do NOT care for the standup counters for the chariots). There’s something about it that seems so basic, such a Yahtzee like roll and move type game, that I really wonder about Chariot Race’s staying power. This is not in the same league as Pandemic, Forbidden Island or even Roll Through the Ages.. it won’t stay with me and be the stuff of stories.. Or it might be. I’m a natural pessimist, what do I know?


Garrett pulls out a victory after getting ahead of my chariot which was slowing down rapidly from all the damage it took. He, also, was at 2 damage points left when he rounded the last lap, but he had come from behind and not engaged anyone, so he had more points to burn than I did.

In summary, Gar gave me a few audio comments that wraps this one up. If I discover anything more noteworthy about Chariot Racing I will amend accordingly– give it a listen.

Links out to BGG Post for Chariot Racing, and components picture from The Player’s Aid interview with Matt Leacock.

 

Right about now, 75 years ago…


(This was written when it was still dark out, around 6 AM EST, hence “right about now”)

The West Virginia and Tennessee battleships are ablaze after the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941The USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee ablaze in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 DEC 41

Right about now, 75 years ago, the first flights of “Operation Z” were cresting the hills over the North edge of the harbor at Pearl Harbor and lining up for their assigned targets on Battleship Row.*  In a bid to remove the strategic threat of any Allied response to seizing natural resources in the Southwest Pacific, the Imperial Fleet of the Empire of Japan was now launching a devastating near-simultaneous attack on the overseas territories of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In hindsight, this seems like an insanely foolhardy strategic objective, but in 1941, almost every mind in the Imperial War Cabinet was supremely confident of Japanese success.  Why not?  They had marched boldly into China, set up a puppet government, and had been busy looting for several years.  This operation could hardly be that much trouble.

The strike aircraft from the Japanese force came from 6 carriers, and numbered somewhere between 375 to 414 aircraft, mostly the Aichi 3A2 “Val” bomber, Nakajima “Kate” Type 97, and Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, which would soon become infamous.  The pilots had been practicing this attack for months; each sub-component of the massive attack wave had their own targets they were assigned to. The attack generally went in two waves; a massive first assault on the ships in harbor and a follow up wave that pounded airfields, shore facilities, oil storage and repair facilities. The attack, in the eyes of the Japanese, was an astounding success– 4 battleships sunk, 4 damaged, multiple smaller ships either sunk or damaged. The big exception was discovering the primary targets of the raid– the three operational carriers in the Pacific Fleet, weren’t present. Still, after the 2nd wave returned, the Japanese Fleet sailed back West again, confident that the hammer blow would keep the American forces crippled for a long, long time. Perhaps, if it had been 30 years earlier, they might have been right.

The Americans were in shock after the attack, to be sure, but they were also enraged. Decades later I was a little snot nosed college kid waiting tables in Rossyln, VA at the Key Bridge Marriott. A group of Pearl Harbor survivors were in DC for some ceremony commemorating the attack. Being nosy and just as big of a history buff then as I am now, I plastered them with questions. “What was it like?” Years later, I could still see it in their eyes- the rage and futility, the sense of helplessness, as these men remembered. “I remember seeing a sailor in a small utility boat in the harbor, screaming incoherently in rage, firing a pistol at the aircraft, like he was daring them to attack him personally. That was what it felt like, kid“. I’ve never forgotten that visual.

Ironically, the Japanese unwittingly performed a great strategic service for America, though nobody saw it at the time. By sinking aged, but still formidable surface battleships, Japan was propelling American naval planning into the modern age. In the short space of something like 119 minutes, the Japanese fleet conclusively proved the future did not rely on the status symbols of the battleship era. The Great Pacific War that had long been predicted was now on– and it would not be won by fleets of surface dreadnoughts from the World War One era. The future belonged to those carriers that had not been present that day– and the many other carriers that would join them as the United States switched to full wartime production operations.

For now, though.. 75 years ago, the infamy was very real. In a lot shorter time than it has taken to type this, America was experiencing real casualties on American soil, and as the fleet blinked its eyes, reddened by smoke and carnage and helpless rage, they were being transformed. It would be a very different America from this day forward, striding forth onto the world stage to fight (soon enough) three Axis powers. It all started today, right about now.. 75 years ago.

 

* Technically speaking, it would be about 4 hours in the future, not “right about now” due to time zones, but who’s counting?

Rock, Paper, Wizard! another hand-gesture spell game!


I’m liking Wizkids’ newfound dedication to producing small format, small concept games which play fast, have easy mechanics and lots of replay value (see the recent experience with BLANK WHITE DICE). So along with BWD I picked up another recent publication, ROCK, PAPER, WIZARD! (RPW) also from Wizkids, and decided to set it up and play a three “handed” game solo, just to see how it works– bottom line up front.. surprisingly well!

Flavor text sets up the basic scenario:

In Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard, the dragon has been slain, leaving behind a treasure over which to fight, and the players are wizards who are fighting to claim the most gold from the dragon’s pile.The players have a shared “spellbook” of cards depicting various well-known D&D spells, and each card shows a unique hand gesture that the player must make to cast, while pointing at another player as the target of the spell. All players choose their spells simultaneously, and the spells can move the wizards closer or farther away from the treasure or affect the game state in other ways as well. It’s a game of second-guessing, satisfying successes, and agonizing reversals as each spell cast potentially affects the outcomes of the following ones!

The first player to grab 25 gold pieces from the hoard wins.

Setup is easy. You have 3-6 Wizard characters that start on the center spine of a tiny folded map. The cave exit is on the left and the horde of dead dragon loot is on the right. Wizards start with 3 GP and throw spells at each other to move the other wizards or steal GP.


Basic Setup.

Every turn, the wizards choose an enemy wizard, target them for a spell (in their heads) and then they all chant “Rock, Paper, WIZARDS!” out loud and reveal the spell HAND GESTURE (printed on the card) .  The spells are resolved in a clockwise fashion starting from the wizard who was chosen to go first (as the potion bottle token attests to).

Caveat: since I was just playing around with RPW, I did not achieve the designer’s intent.   The game will (and should) play much better versus other humans, and isn’t a great solitaire design.  I had to come up with random methods of having the wizards attack each other, instead of the fist pumping “Rock Paper WIZARD” which would be much cooler but kind of stupid by yourself.  I achieved random attacks by tossing the wizard tokens in the air and figuring out who was pointing at whom when they landed:


Yellow lady Wiz attacks Blue Gentleman Wiz, he attacks Purple Lady Wiz

Choosing spells was easy enough, of the three in the “Spell Book”, only one was really offensive, CHAIN LIGHTNING.  Still I wanted to try some options so I only selected Chain Lightning for two targets and a Counterspell for the last one (see the setup photo above for the spells on the table).


Chain lightning! (Gold Lady Wiz)


Chain Lightning AGAIN (Purple Lady Wiz)


and Counter-spell (Blue Gentleman Wiz)

Resolving the Spells:

As near as I can tell, the following things happened.

Gold Went first, firing a CHAIN LIGHTNING at Blue, which spills over to Purple.

So Blue moves back 3, Purple 2:


Blue moves back 3, Purple 2 (since she was targeted by Blue)


Then Purple hits Blue with Chain Lightning as well. This knocks back Blue but also Purple.


Since Blue was Targeting Gold, but not with the same spell (instead, CounterSpell) it’s as if Gold’s spell didn’t happen, so everyone moves back a little.

End of turn stuff:

The left most spell card is discarded, and the Wizards are given financial rewards– 5 to the Wizard closest to the horde (Gold) and 3 to the next in line (Purple).  The new card is CHARM PERSON.

And the next turn moves on from there… I think  you get the picture of how this game plays.

That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell.  You play until someone hits 25 gold.  Based on what I’m seeing, that will happen fairly rapidly– I had no problem getting about five turns done on my first game, with no problem figuring the game out and no problem getting a game done.  What are my thoughts?  Well, I want to play it with at least four people.. Four seems optimal, maybe Six is too much.  Three is stretching the boundaries of the design a little and Two is one too few.  I like the “rock, scissors, paper” mechanic redone for spell casting and I think the way they implement spell cards is like a man commanding a dog who suddenly has the power to work a television remote– “Spot ON!”  RPW is pretty silly at the heart of it and probably will be played several times before running through the variations of spells and spell variations and counter-variations.   The game can (and should) be easily expanded with new spell cards, and I hope Wizkids thinks of this.

Rock, Paper, Wizard isn’t exactly a deep thinking game, but there ARE strategies, and decisions to be made– quickly, and with the right crowd this could be all kinds of silly fun.  As I also have some recent experience with a spell casting game that utilizes hand gestures (See multiple posts on THE MAGI), I was curious about this game.  I’d like to have some advanced rules for RPW, like summoning creatures and actually attacking in a way that causes harm to the opposing wizard, instead of displacing him/her.   I could easily replicate this game using miniature figures– I have several painted up in 54mm (as well as summoned creatures) for the Magi game and RPW might be fun as a low complexity introduction to the Magi, which isn’t exactly complex, either.

Bottom line, RPW is fast, cheap, easy to teach, easy to learn.  I can’t wait to play this with some real opponents.