I’ve been on an H.L. Mencken kick lately.  Somehow, the Sardonic Sage of Baltimore sums up my enthusiasm for the mob rule that is the current election process in America.


There’s no point, no winners..

Event Counts by Category, Fall-IN! 2016

As often happens once a HMGS convention concludes, self-styled experts will claim a certain genre is overtaking historical game entries, it’s a general sign of decline of HMGS and et cetera, blah, blah.  Those of us who have been attending for years have seen the same old argument restated every year,  sometimes posting outrage at the large number of “alt games” at a convention while many attendees are still en route home.  Well, about that… As I have done for 12 previous conventions, I have created a Guidebook App module for Fall-IN! 2016.  In order to make that happen, I have to take data from many sources– tournaments, Hobby U, seminars, etc.  The most important source is what I build the schedule with, the Events sent to me from the Events Coordinator.  So I get to see the raw data from the registration database every convention.

Once all of that is put in spreadsheet form, it’s remarkably easy to sort the data by period, use the COUNTA function, and get totals by period.  There’s nothing particularly slick about my methodology, but I have confidence in it because almost everyone uses the categories established by HMGS as part of the event registration process, although this can be overwritten, and then a judgement call is needed.

So here’s the count, with a couple of caveats– I’m making a judgement about what is historical and what ain’t, and I agree, you might interpret this differently from me.  I am counting fun skirmish game categories like Westerns, Chariot Races, Gladiator fights and Pirate fighting as “historical”, since they take place in a defined historical period.  This year, I also include 2 “Other” games as historical, since they are roughly Napoleonic Age of Sail games, and I also include 3 games that label themselves as “Victorian Alternative Naval” as historical, since they use historical ships in “What If” scenarios.  I rolled up a couple of other periods and put “Pulp” in the “Non Historical” period (since I consider “pulp” mostly a kind of borderline fantasy period springing out of VSF).  I’m only counting non-tournament events.  Most importantly, this data is a snapshot as of last weekend.

So there you are.  Again.  Historical Games ROUTED Non-Historical Games, without question.  In very broad terms, non-historical alt style games are barely 17% of total.

What periods walked away with it? The classic 3, of course: World War 2 (75), Napoleonic (29) and American Civil War (23). That old devil Science Fiction (which I rolled up four flavors of Post-Apocalyptic games into, Zombies mostly) returned a 24, and Fantasy 18.  Surprising?  Hardly.  Many of those 75 WW2 games are rulesets that are commercial successes and very recognizable.. like Bolt Action.  There just seem to be far fewer F&SF household names at HMGS conventions– those players go to other conventions, it would seem.

So there you have it! Another convention, another year without the sky falling in.  HMGS shows are still firmly historical, by a wide margin.

GUIDEBOOK App for FALL-IN 2016, published

I have just received notification that the Guidebook app I’ve been working on for HMGS’s Fall convention, FALL-IN! has passed publication review and now can be downloaded.

I don’t intend to write up how to actually use Guidebook in one of these posts for every convention; the interface doesn’t change that quickly. I wrote a decent overview for COLD WARS 2016, check that post for an overview of features.

Quick Snap of the Events Schedule

I have (as of today) got the schedule and room layouts done, that’s the big job. I’ll be entering Hobby University, Speakers and Tournaments as soon as I get that information. It is downloadable right NOW, I advise you to run and get it as soon as possible.

Here’s the download page:

and here’s the guide online for viewing:

Please help yourself!

Notes: I got the events kind of in two discrete chunks that weren’t formatted for export the same and it took a little while to get that sorted out.. I apologize for the delay.

The one big new feature is the checking in function, which is (sigh) a paid function, so you won’t see it, because we’re kind of cheap and use the free, dumbed down version. It does have potential, though.. it appears you can now set a limit of gamers to your event (say, 8) and keep track of the people as they show up, AND maintain a waiting list of players. Cool stuff! Of course, I had to back that all out when they asked me to pay to upgrade.. sigh.

Update: as of 10/15, I have everything but the Hobby University and Seminars stuff done.  It will automatically update for you when you open it in the app.

Other than that, the basic “trade show” template that I use for miniature conventions is working just fine and doesn’t have other new features.

A sample Floor Layout page.

And here’s the QR code!

Frostgrave Sunday!

We had a short window last Sunday to get in a game of Frostgrave at the Comics and Gaming Store in Fairfax, VA. We were contemplating doing a published scenario, but didn’t have the right figures for it. So we did a free form Frostgrave game, my ad hoc level 4 Chronomancer versus level 5 (not sure.. maybe a Witch)?

I wanted to make the playing field dense. In Frostgrave, it’s far too easy to nail someone from the far side of the table, if there are no intervening terrain pieces to modify the shot (usually arrows). Also, the backstory of Frostgrave is Felstad (which the city this is supposed to be) is described as a dense urban environment, with narrow streets and all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We alternated putting out treasures, as per the rules.  There were four pieces that were relatively close– A, B, C, and D (see above).  E was a “lure” set in the “Orb of Power” which was a spell amplifier of sorts.  I figured I could score A, B and C from my entry point, even with Archers in the far area of the square.  I added a lot of standing terrain bits to break up line of sight.  When I play Subir, I can be certain of a few things; He’ll focus on spells that teleport, telekinesis, leap, or jump away from competitor gangs– or he’ll take option 2 and select spells that block me, like Walls.  One thing that he’ll always do is put a couple of archers up on a second level, where he can enjoy line of sight and pepper away as an annoyance.   He was true to his patterns– this was a night of Leap, Telekinesis, Teleportation and Archers set up high.

Subir’s fantasy sniper team.

I split into two teams, one lead by the Chronomancer and one by his Assistant.  My Chronomancer and his team hit the tower to retrieve Treasure B (above), and easily nailed C, but D was going to be hard to get to unopposed and E almost impossible.  There was also a treasure in the fountain behind the tower (not shown) that I’ll circle around to.

This is the Orb of Power, which is a Games Workshop Numinous Occulum model, repurposed (I have one too).  If the wizard stands in the Orb, he can cast spells with big pluses– think of it as a magic battery pack.  It was closer to Subir’s starting point than mine (point E in the photo above), so I didn’t really think I would get a treasure there, nor could I make use of the Orb.

My two groups moved close to each other and supported each other. Subir was much more spread out. I think he had the better idea.  Being a level 3 guy, I had some good hirelings.. A Man at Arms, two Archers, two Thugs, One Infantryman, one Thief.  A good mix of muscle and smash and grab.

The apprentice easily converged on Treasure C while the Chronomancer took Treasure A in the tower.  There’s another one in the fountain in the background.

he wanted to show off.

Or course, Subir would try a little razzle dazzle.  He telekinesed the treasure from the Orb of Power dome, and then LEAPed this thug (position A) to the second floor balcony where treasure D was.  He got to the treasure first, before my Infantryman could stop him (position B), crowed a little, and LEAPed out.

My Chronomancer basically did what Wizards do in this game.. got under cover, got up high, and got behind an Archer who provided cover.  My accompanying Thug moved the treasure to the map’s edge, as did the extra thug near Treasure C.

We did run the game with a rule I like to use– whenever you pick up a treasure, you roll on the Random Monster table.  This didn’t create a lot of distractions.. well, mostly, until…

No, it’s not Cthulhu. I don’t have a worm figure, and that’s what Subir rolled. Bad luck for him!

As Subir and his gang cowered behind some rubble, I tried something silly. I had placed a WIZARD EYE on the flat side of the wall, near that balcony Treasure D was on. I had STEAL HEALTH which works “In Line of Sight” to a target. So by extending Line of Sight, My Chronomancer was able to steal health from the Worm itself, from across the board. I even had to sacrifice a couple of hit points, to make a spell roll work, and immediately got it back from the demon! Now that’s a hoot! My attempt to intercept treasure D on the way off the board, which caused me to lose my Man at Arms, sadly, pincushioned with arrows.

Well, sadly, an urgent call from home cut our game shorter than I would like, or I would have nailed the treasure in the fountain, too. As happens a lot with Frostgrave, the game tied up 3 treasures to 3 treasures. I don’t collect warbands like Subir does so I didn’t roll for the treasures. I did lose a guy to an Archer attack, but that’s life, warbands are kind of expendable.

A great time, I only wish we could have played longer.

28mm Greek Galleys? Deal me in!

I’ve always been partial to galley warfare games, but usually at a drastically different (smaller) scale than what I usually play in.  What has come down to us about the naval warfare of the Ancient World is at best somewhat fragmentary.  There are some excellent books on the subject, including The Battle of Salamis by Barry Straus and Naval Warfare under Oars by by William Rodgers.  The thing is, we have a generalized idea of how these ships fought, and what they looked like from pictures and pottery shards.  We know these big battles like Actium and Salamis were fought in history.. but it’s hard to conceive in the minds eye of literally HUNDREDS of galley ships smashing into each other in a single engagement.  That’s why I’ve always played with galleys (when I have) in smaller scale like 1:1200 with an odd detour into 15mm sometimes.   The battles are just too huge to grasp what a single ship fighting another single ship action would be like.  The “Galley Period” for want of a better name for this period of naval science, lasted a long time and witnessed much innovation.  The swift, streamlined galleys of Salamis (481 BC)  bore only a superficial resemblance to the giant behemoths that fought in later periods.. slow moving ten banked monsters were at both sides at Actium (31 BC), for instance.  Yet both are “galley engagements”.   Much like how a 19th century 74 Gun Ship of the Line was a complex  instrument to navigate and fight, involving many concurrent, complex tasks, so must have the operations of a Greek Galley in 481 BC have been equally complex, with many concurrent actions transpiring to bring a ship to battle.  The Steersmen had to guide the ship into a path to ram.  The Rowers have to act in unison to increase the ship’s speed to make the ram a success.  The Overseer has to keep the pace and relay the Officer’s intentions to the rowers.  The Officer has pick his targets and deploy Marines and Archers.  The Archers are firing away at the enemy ship as they close.  The Marines are queuing up to  leap across the gap between ships and engage in brutal hand to hand combat.  All of this will only happen if the weather conditions are absolutely perfect; even a moderate swell could dampen martial ardor on galleys, which swamped easily.

So, as you can guess, there’s a lot going on in each of those tiny ship models we so casually assign number factors to, or damage points and ‘crew factors’.  Traditionally, we tend to ignore this level of action in favor of a more grand tactical view of ancient combat. … but.. .what if?  What if we had a scale where we could actually SEE some of this beehive of activity?  Would that make a great game, or a tedious one?  I suspect it depends on how much of the action you generalize.  In any event, the mechanics of any theoretical ship-to-ship galley warfare game would be a whole lot easier to envision in a larger scale, and as of today, that’s possible.  I noticed shared post on the Naval Warfare group on Facebook:

(image copyrights: Ironheart Artisans)

As you can see, this is a laser-cut nautical galley model in 28mm, not unlike my recent Maori war canoe purchase, only an order of magnitude more complex. The designer is Alex Landing, whom I exchanged a few pleasantries with on FB. His company is IRONHEART ARTISANS and as of today (9/30/16) the galley isn’t on their website but soon shall be. I was quoted a retail of 62 dollars each. Now that may seem a trifle steep but I don’t think so.. this is a complex model with a ton of parts. It will require careful assembly. The benefit is that the finished model will certainly A) look fantastic and B) provide enough room to model a ship to ship engagement in 28mm. I could easily envision a game design that models aspects of galley warfare that we rarely add to games, such as rower fatique, deck to deck battles, turning and navigating, oar sheering, and other fun period naval problems. I’m kind of excited about the idea of such a game, and now I might be able to make it happen. The figures wouldn’t be too hard to get– 28mm Greek peltasts and slingers for the Marines, plus Archers. The down side is that it will require a huge amount of playing area for relatively few players– can you imagine a six player game in this scale?

Dark Stories, a hint of childhood pursuits one card at a time #Discovery 4

A man lives on the twelfth floor of an apartment building. Every morning he wakes up, gets dressed, eats, goes to the elevator, takes it down to the lobby, and leaves the building for work. In the evening, he goes through the lobby to the elevator, and, if there is someone else in the elevator (or if it was raining that day) he goes back to his floor directly.

However, if there is nobody else in the elevator and it hasn’t rained, he goes to the 10th floor and walks up two flights of stairs to his room. Why?

The man is a midget. He can’t reach the upper elevator buttons, but he can ask people to push them for him. He can also push them with his umbrella.

If you grew up in America in the 70s and 80s, and went to Scholastic Book Fairs at your school, you probably recognize the little mystery vignette above. It (and hundreds of others) were compiled in a series of kids books called (usually) One Minute Mysteries or something like that. They weren’t published by just one publisher and the format changed over the years.  These were books that presented a vignette to the young reader, presenting only the information that he or she could read on the page.  They then had to arrive at the solution to the problem presented, given what they knew or could infer.   The little 10 year old me loved these, and bought many at book fairs or used book stores.   Of course, I was sharp enough to know the authors were trying to be educational, but they did it in a very entertaining way.

Flash forward.  I’m in a FLGS in Falls Church, VA a couple of weeks ago  (shout out to the Compleat Strategist).  I am browsing by the check out counter, just being there to pick up some card boxes and some Armada dice.  I see a box called DARK STORIES.  This is a Z-Man Games reprint of a much older (circa 2004) German game called BLACK STORIES*.  The premise of the card game is pretty simple– this isn’t a game per se, it’s an activity.  On one side of an illustrated card, the card leads you through a description of a vignette.  On the reverse, the card describes the story behind the vignette.  The “Stories” that are created are really a rehash of a classic “one minute mystery” for a modern age– and this version is designed to be interactive.  You get a series of facts, plus a moderately helpful illustration.   One person plays the role of moderator– this is pretty crucial as a role.  The other people are detectives.  The moderator answers questions with a firm YES or NO, but not anything else.  I added “IRRELEVANT” after watching a Youtube review later (this helps people from going down blind alleys and useless tangents).  I sometimes will also add “THE CARD DOES NOT SPECIFY THIS, BUT I INTERPRET THE ANSWER THIS WAY BASED ON WHAT I KNOW”.    That’s actually a bit of gamesmanship, it’s a lot more impressive than saying “Man, you got me, it doesn’t say!

I’m being coy and showing the French version of the cards, I don’t want to spoil anything.  If you’re French, whoops! Sorry, Frenchies.

My experience with Dark Stories so far has been overwhelmingly positive.  We have only played three cards so far, and I find it is perfect for a short drive somewhere local.  One card alone provides almost an hour’s worth of entertainment.  I have older kids, but they enjoyed it tremendously– they love puzzles as much as I do.  The material is far more adult and “darker” then the one minute mysteries of my childhood, but very well written and engaging problems.  So far.  I have to admit I have exerted self control and NOT read them all the way through, to prevent spoilers for myself (and by extension,  you!).   My family likes games like this, with a small footprint and maximum mental participation from everyone.  I wouldn’t recommend it for very small children (younger than 12, perhaps, it depends on the child), as there are some very dark subjects on the cards, murder being a recurring one.   If you can get past that, you’ll really enjoy Dark Stories if you love mysteries and logic puzzles.

At 9.95 a box and a little under an hour a card, that’s a lot of entertainment crammed into a tiny space.  There are at least 3 expansions, apparently each with 50 cards included.

* The original title was “Black Stories”, under the original German publisher, Moses.

Reblog: Antideluvian Miniatures Fantasy Range (#Discovery: 3)

I’m reblogging (below) which I do rarely, but that’s just to capture the page information, which doesn’t say much.

The Manufacturer: Antideluvian Miniatures.
The Range: “Pirates” (ahem, cough cough)
The Particulars: well, see for yourself…

Okay, nerds. I don’t think I need to ask “Who do these remind you of”? The Sad News is the company, Antideluvian, is sold OUT at the moment. The Good News is this is temporary: “we’ll announce on facebook and here, more have been ordered! Thankyou for your interest”

For more information, follow the link I reblogged below!

This range is currently being created, More splendid miniatures will be added regularily. see below for details and to buy ( all models supplied unassembled and unpainted );  FANTASY RANGE  Zorgan …

Source: SHOP – Fantasy Range

What if I programmed a 3 Day long SF Film Festival?

I like It’s about movies and making lists, which seems to be a very human activity. You can editorialize all you like, and share it with your buddies. As a thought exercise, I like to occasionally make a “Film Festival” list around a genre theme.

For a hypothetical Science Fiction Film Festival, I posit a long weekend, starting at Oh Dark 30 on Friday. Here is almost exactly 3 days of programming, not quite in any order. I did mix up the sub-genre a little.. some are classics, like War of the Worlds, Planet of the Apes, and Omega Man. Some are somewhat redundant, like Last Man on Earth (I’d play this back to back with its superior 70s replacement). Some are newer and thought provoking, like Darko and Convergence and Primer. Some are just low impact and entertaining, like Moon and the Europa Project. You’ll notice no Star Treks, Star Wars, Matrices, and other smash hits here. I’d argue they are probably only tangentially science fiction any more and more like science Romance. Still, there’s some good choices that would take up about: 35 movies times an average 2 hour running time divded 24 hours making almost 3 days exactly. We all know the program wouldn’t be that rigid– we have to allow for potty breaks, eating, time to switch movies, make announcements, etc. So this list would realistically be trimmed back between 3 and 4 movies for an actual 24/7 film festival. What would I cut? That becomes the question.

Stone Golem for Frostgrave

I have plans to run the Hunt for the Golem scenario published as an e-doc from Osprey Publishing.  As a scenario, it’s not overly ambitious, which is fine– I can handle 3 scenarios as a series of connected games.   It was harder than I thought finding a perfect stone Golem figure, though.  I’m not crazy about the construct figure from Northstar.  I wanted to go with a more classic formed golem look, as if out of Jewish tradition.  I couldn’t find anything from the old D&D miniatures line either.   However I did find something in the Bones line from Reaper miniatures.. paradoxically, it’s their version of a stone golem.

I like the look of this thing.. not exactly Judaic, but kind of Egyptian looking, which works, pretty much.

As with all Bones figures, you have to put the prep work in. I soaked it in water overnight, and wiped it off the next day to get rid of the mold release residue. Then I undercoated it in GW’s “Stone” color (really just a medium gray). Then I sealed it with a brush on dullcoate, and applied dark ink to capture the 3D, and a light off white drybrush to establish highlights.

The results are pretty nice! I might add a little moss and gunk on the legs, as I anticipate the golem has been stationery for a long period, and maybe draw some runes on him in places with a thin pen, as the golem is described in the source material as being covered with mystic ancient runes.

I’m liking Reaper Bones stuff.. definitely a useful line at an affordable price.

1:1200 Galley Challenge! Poseidon’s Warriors!

We who turn the wheel, and look to windward…

(T.S. Eliot, “the Wasteland”)

I have something of a challenge ahead of me. A while back, my friend Norbert moved to England and had a yard sale for all his non-WarMachine miniature wargame stuff to various old friends. I didn’t want a lot of his stuff, but one thing did catch my eye– a collection of 1:600 Greek and Roman Galleys. I immediately claimed it and pay-paled (is that a word?) Norbert what he was asking for them, thinking I had really gotten a deal from the description. Shortly thereafter, I received a large-ish box from New Jersey, and the reality set in. They weren’t 1:600 Xystons, which I had pictured in my own head. They were 1:1200 scale Navwar galleys, and a LOT of them. So, maybe not the great deal I was thinking I was getting, but still, not a BAD deal. Not at all.

The problem really isn’t how crude they are sculpted compared to Xyston– it’s more how to best use this unusual windfall of many, many 1:1200 galleys that landed in my lap. There’s about 60 plus, and they are all roughly about the size of the Byzantine Dromon you see in the picture here to the right, here.  So I’m not going to see a lot of variety, I’m not going to see a lot of detailed sculpting, and I’ve got large numbers of ships, all pretty much painted one color brown, some with sails, most without.  All of them are mounted on what appears to be chunks of basswood as the bases.  So, thinking this thing through, how can I have fun with this stuff?

  1. Large Numbers is a blessing, not a curse.  So what if I have a lot of the same kind of thing?  The fleets that engaged each other back in Ancient times weren’t that variegated, and they surely had large numbers.  This purchase is an opportunity to create a large scale fleet action.   Maybe not Salamis on a 1:1 scale, but perhaps Actium or smaller battles.
  2. Rules will have to emphasize Command and Control and Squadron Movement, not Individual Ship Micro-Management.  Large numbers of ships mean large headaches for movement every turn.  So I will have to adopt a miniatures system that resolves battles, moves quickly, and most importantly, doesn’t give players the choice of moving 25 ships a turn. I’ve seen this handled pretty well in the board game realm by WAR GALLEY (GMT Games).  Converting a board game for miniatures is easily handled by converting hexes to a tabletop unit of measure and figuring out how to turn.   I considered using the old RAM SPEED game from Metagaming, but it couldn’t handle 60 ships easily.  The old micromanagement thing again.
  3. Each miniature will require some sprucing up.  Essentially, I’m looking at mass quantities of Triremes, Pentaconters and Quadriremes painted assembly line brown and white glued to a basswood base.  I will certainly have to soak the ships to remove them from the basswood, and maybe soak the ships in green cleaner to remove the paint, or figure out how to redo it with minimal damage (these are very tiny ships at 1:1200 scale, many sails are glued on (painted an off white).  I would paint them a lighter base tan color and stain the wood with brown ink for starters, that will bring out the minimal detailing and look more like real wood.  I would also add some color highlights so squadrons can be grouped together.  Lastly, I will mount them on a nicer base, like a Rendara rectangular base.
  4. I might already have a set of rules that works, to some extent.  Astute readers might pick up on the fact that I’m a big fan of Osprey’s “blue series” of rules.  Some of them are hit and miss– I was not much of a fan of their last Fighting Sail rules, but really like other games they have published, like Dragon Rampant and In Her Majesty’s Service.  So, if Osprey announces something coming out that vaguely will trigger my interest, I generally pre-order it on Kindle.  Recently, I was notified that Poseidon’s Warriors was delivered to my Kindle account.  Looking through the ruleset, I can see that the game definitely pushes some of the right buttons.  Initiative is Igo-Hugo (still), but Player Fleets are divided up into squadrons, and squadrons are the activating units.   When a squadron is activated, all the ships in the squadron move, and then the fun stuff is resolved (firing, ramming and boarding).    There are rules for historical admirals, and advanced rules covering a wide range of subjects, from special weapons to flotsam and jetsam on the water.

Poseidon’s Warriors might not be as comprehensive, say, as Langton’s Naumachiae, which I also have! but they do present a good generalized, fast-moving approach to simulating smaller naval battles of the Greco-Roman era.  I like that a turn is basically:

  1. Initiative (Roll a 1D6 to see who starts the Igo-Hugo sequence)
  2. Operations (in initiative order– includes Moving, Ramming, Artillery Fire, & Boarding)
  3. Morale (Roll 1D6 vs. your morale number – assigned at start of game)

This is dirt-simple on the same level as Big Danged Boats.  I think I can follow it.🙂

I will check in with the Galley Project from time to time in the months ahead.  Don’t expect this to be finished quickly!

Star Wars Armada tournament at Huzzah Hobbies

I dropped by Huzzah Hobbies yesterday and they were having a tournament for Star Wars Armada. Sadly I didn’t know this was going on or I would have participated, even though I’m a relative newbie. I need to pay attention to Huzzah’s store calendar more often if they are going to do events like these. The event was going on on 8 tables, two battles per table, so that’s an impressive turn out.

I recorded a quick reaction audio on my phone here. I wanted to remember the bit about the Shapeways store selling Homemade 3D printed Armada variants. That’s exciting stuff.

The Shapeways shop is Mel Miniatures. You will want to visit this place if you have an interest in space games. Check out the Armada Ships page. The best part is that there is already a fan page supporting creating new cards for these ships, located here. That’s a pretty exciting development. I enjoy variety and think that the Armada game would be greatly strengthened with the introduction of smaller to mid-ranged ships on both sides– corvettes, frigates and escort ships. The introduction of new 3D printed ships is a great idea.

Armada Wave IV arrived at my house.

Background: FFG’s Star Wars ARMADA might be my new easy Starship combat game.  I love X-Wing Miniatures quite a bit, and I don’t regret investing in it.  However, I feel that the many waves that have come out for that game have compromised the tactical feel somewhat.  The ship miniatures keep getting bigger and bigger, and the light single ship fighter feel started getting lost when they started jamming larger, multi-crewed ships in the same tactical system being used for fighters.  That’s not a severe criticism, you can buy the ships  you want and scale X-Wing the way you want it and have a great time with it.  With that said, X-Wing is still (at the heart of it all) a WWI fighter plane game for single cockpit fighters.   The bigger vehicles make it clumsy.  I think it’s appropriate to have a second game system that focuses on big, lumbering platforms– the big ships firing the big guns and launching fighter squadrons (which are tiny clusters of fighters of X-Wing sized fighters) at each other.  That’s the kind of space-fight I like to see, and I haven’t really seen an accessible game at that scale since the old days of Full Thrust or Silent Death.  Sure, I know, there are other options out there (5150 Star Navy comes to mind, I’ve heard good things..) but I haven’t played them, or a game like, in quite a few years.   FFG’s Star Wars Armada is rooted deep in the Star Wars verse, that is true; but it still has the “big fleet” feel, combined with dirt simple mechanics I can teach to kids, and that’s what I’m looking for right now.  The Star Wars element is nice, not for me necessarily, but it does provide sort of a common cultural experience everyone can enjoy.

Yeah, that’s the ticket… THAT’S a space battle!

With all that said, I’ve been getting into the game by jumping into the deep end over the last year.  I’m still learning the nuances.  We ran a much streamlined version of the game at camp this year and I think it’s a winner.  I currently own six Imperial Destroyers, the Imperial fighters that came with the standard game, The Rogues and Villains pack (which are single ships that don’t seem to fit the notion of fleet operations, but you have to jam the Millennium Falcon & Slave 1 in somewhere, I suppose) , Two Rebel fighter squadron packs (plus the ones that come with the base game), two Home One MC80 Star Cruisers, three MC30C Frigates, 2 ea of Nebulon B Frigate and CR90 Corellian Corvettes, two Assault Frigates and one Imperial Assault Carrier pack. I know, this isn’t a balanced collection. I way overbought, but I’ve been finding some great deals from people who are piecing out their games on Ebay.. getting 2 Star Destroyers for 20 bucks, for instance. Unfortunately they didn’t come with the paperwork I need to make it useful for a game, but I didn’t know that going into it.

So with that said, and it was a lot, I pre-ordered the Fourth Wave of Star Wars Armada.  Armada “waves” are smaller than X-Wing miniature “waves”, judging by experience.  So expect maybe two ships a wave.  Fourth Wave is two ships, the Imperial Interdictor and the Rebel Liberty.   I couldn’t get an idea of scale from the ads on Miniatures Market, so I assumed the Interdictor was a giant “Dreadnought” style ship like Vader’s command ship in Empire Strikes Back.  It’s not that at all– more like a variant of the standard Imperial destroyer.  The Liberty is a classic “big gun” Star Cruiser for the Rebel Alliance.

The Imperial Interdictor Expansion

As I said, I thought this was going to be just a giant Star Destroyer at first glance, but it’s actually a variant of the Star Destroyer, albeit a smaller, less armed and armored version.  The Interdictor has one or two special variants on board that turn it into a specialty ship– namely the gravity well projectors.  In essence, what makes the Interdictor not just another Star Destroyer (but weaker) is this card right here (or left here technically).  The Interdictor has an experimental system for messing with the gravity well that ships teleport into and out of in the Star Wars universe, and it has the ability to stop ships cold (speed zero) when deployed.  This is a pretty neat trick.  Now, I just got the package last night, so I can’t tell you how I’d play this thing, but my instincts say don’t overbuy this ship– one will do, protected by another star destroyer close by or a couple of fighter squadrons– this ship would be easier to take out than a standard Star Destroyer.  I could see this being a fun thing to pull on your victims (friends) in a big, multiplayer game.   In a two player game it might be a little obvious.  The Interdictor is a quirky specialty ship, and I’m glad I got one– but only one.

The MC80 Liberty Star Cruiser Expansion

The MC80 Liberty type Star Cruiser appears to be exactly what I was expecting– a giant honking capital ship for the Rebels, with lots and lots of hitting power, decent expansion cards and great defense. Accordingly, a high point cost as well. The Liberty ship class is designed for striking power (forward) instead of broadside, like the Home One. It is less armed and armored on the sides and will need to keep its face to the enemy, so to speak. Liberty comes with a ton of great upgrade cards as well, which will add to flexibility and features of this hull. Again, this showed up last night when I got home– so I haven’t even taken it out of the box yet. My instinct would be to use this to lead an assault into a line of destroyers with some MC30C frigates or Nebulon B frigates in tow to keep the return fire un-concentrated. Like the Interdictor, I’m glad I just have one of these.. the Victory is less specialized than the Interdictor but it’s so powerful in a forward rush that it’s kind of overwhelming. Of course the proof is in playing it.


Wave IV has a couple of great ships in it, but not anything you would want mass quantities of either way. I’m still really digging Armada and have high hopes of continuing with it. I would like to see a decent update on how to play the game with multiple players, and new ship hulls that aren’t necessarily fighters or giant ships. If the next releases are all mid sized (about the size of an Imperial assault carrier in size) that would be fine with me.

Looking Forward

There’s a bunch of stuff that is either forthcoming, or I haven’t picked up for some reason.  The Rebel Transports look okay, but they will probably be the last thing I pick up– the scale is a little small to make them effective in a fleet game (but then again, I bought Rogues and Villains, so you never know).  I am interested in getting at least one Gladiator class destroyer.
The upcoming Wave 5 has some nice ships– I like the Phoenix Home and Imperial Light Cruiser.

Game Camp 2016 Finale: Frostgrave Friday

A conclave of all the Frostgrave Wizards I have right now.  Click to enlarge

The final Friday dawned for Game Camp 2016 this morning. My plan was to run Frostgrave in the early hours, and have an ice cream party. It did not work out that way. Even though I had a decent setup, it took far longer than I had in mind. This was even after I stayed up late building Frostgrave bands for my Wizard figures using the online tool, and saving the sheets out as PDFs.

The Terrain was a bit thin in places, but it looked good.

Thanks to my Cigar Box Battlemat and some nice pieces I’ve either built or picked up here and there on Ebay or Flea markets, I had enough to (loosely) fill out my table. I supplemented with some cheap Styrofoam grey hills.. nothing to look at but they do look the part and are suitably matching with the city.

The centerpiece was a Great Hall piece that I picked up at Historicon 2016 from Stonehouse Miniatures.  They were very nice about sending a display model (already painted) when my order was delayed.

You’re attacking ME? Oh yes, it’s ON!!

Sadly, it took so long to get people set up with magic spells, etc. that it really cut into playing time. The kids liked it, but the lesson I learned was set up the bands the night before, but ALSO give them a set of spells to work with along with that.. don’t waste time with any character creation stuff, even if I think personally that’s the funnest bit of Frostgrave as a game. The kids won’t be playing Frostgrave next week; I might, and I’ve played it it a lot. What I consider fun isn’t the same as how they see it– so I’ll just move the game directly into the looting and fighting next time I run it. Verdict: this will be my Tuesday game next year.

As is also customary we did our end of camp ice cream party, and the kids briskly destroyed 2.5 cartons of Neapolitan ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. As is also custom, I polled the gamers about what they liked and didn’t like. Results were:

  • Star Wars Armada: Like it, could be great, would play it again– learning it the rules slowed it down
  • Battletech: Didn’t like, found it too complicated and too slow. Fair points, we’ll work on it.
  • Big Danged Boats: Universally enjoyed and enthusiastically voted for a return enagement.
  • Frostgrave: Everyone liked, probably second favorite, wished we had more time to play.

I need to put a bigger effort into teaching painting correctly.  I wish I was good enough as a painter to feel smart enough to teach methods.  I’m not ham-fisted at it but I’m not anything more than workmanlike either.  I know my limitations.  It would be great to add to the program.  I ran out Tuesday evening and bought a few boxes of plastics for the kids to paint up but I kept the painting table more contained this year. Mostly this was to avoid wastage– in the past I’ve bought (or have had donations for) lots of miniatures that got assembled poorly and covered with gobs of paint and glue, then I end up tossing this gooey mess of glue, broken bits and paint-stained tarps out on Friday. I think this can be solved with a couple of days dedicated to teaching, with a shorter game in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what we’ll run next year, but BDB certainly still has legs, and I suspect Armada and Frostgrave will return too. The other days? Eh, we’ll work on something. I like presenting one new game (at least) every camp, so we’ll see what opportunities present themselves.

Thanks again to the FANTASTIC people at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School (lower campus) who bent over backwards to help me, thanks to the parents of the campers, and a big thank you to HMGS for sponsoring our camp!

and from me, too!

Gaming Camp Day 4: BDB and the Great Gnomish Civil War!!

So THURSDAY was an entire day full of Big Dang Boat goodness.  We knew going into it that BDB wasn’t exactly going to play lightning fast, but the game is so silly and rife for story telling the kids got into the journey, not necessarily “winning” anything.  I tried out a new initiative method that made a turn far more easy to wrap one’s head around than before, and we fine-tuned that.  The Campers really seem to have enjoyed themselves during this game.

Thursday also had two of our regular players out, so it played faster than the day before.  I played the Gnomes of Batenburg (running the Siege Machine) as Reid (our guest from the previous day who couldn’t come two days in a row).   I played The Bone Brigade defensively according to the player’s wishes.

Stefan plays the Ragnar Brothers here and he did a great job… landing on an island, assaulting the base there, wiping it out and looting the tower. It turns out the tower held the ORB OF COMMAND in the basement, but he didnt’ know what to do with it.. yet.

The Cult of F’Vah (driving the Foot of the Dead God) pulled up and (being allies with the Ragnars) volunteered one of their steersman-mages to research the Orb for the Ragnars. It took a while but he got the gist of what it was, how to use it and what it would do next.

The Garden Gnome “Hippies” took on the Industrial Gnomes of Batenburg. They were confused as to what to do, and being lead by a young man, decided to attack instead of negotiate. That works. Unfortunately it depleted both crews quite a bit. He did have Gnogres to fall back upon, however, and after consulting the Red Bag of Courage, boarded the Siege Machine with his blood-mad crew, ready to conquer or die trying

Visiting the Red Bag of Courage, to test whether one has the nerve to board an enemy ship during an action.. Will he draw “Blood Tested!” and get a +1? Or “Quaking in Fear” for a big minus? Or just get a “Flee” result? Who knows? It truly is in the hands of Dame Fortuna.

I tried to instill into Michael, the young man running the Little People Collective/Garden Gnome soldiers that his actions would start a civil War in the nations of Gnome-hood, but he wasn’t impressed.

Lastly, the Rat-men of Ingoldsby had a chance to be unlikely heroes yesterday! They moved the PRIMUS into ramming range and rigged a spar torpedo forward. Then they steamed full speed at the door with a charge attock a pole. Worked like a charm, blowing the left door off the hinges. Out jumped the Wizard’s Slithin bodyguard, ready to kill. Here’s the thing, when you purchase 30 slingers from the gnomes, you have the quality of quantity going for you. It was like firing buckshot. Eventually the enraged ratmen’s mercenaries fought their way into the base do the tower, climbing over a mountain of Slithin and Human dead. They moved into the hall of the tower expecting to find the Orb of Command, and found.. nothing. It had been in Piper’s Fort all along. Now one of the most fearsome battle weapons was in the hands of Ulf Ragnar of the Ragnar brothers, being backed up by the F’vaavian Cultists. What could possibly happen next?

So we ended it there and packed up BDB, and I gave out some shining moment coins for particularly great play. We handed the victory to the small coalition of Taylor, Stephen and Cedric, who didn’t mess around and acted like true allies. The Stahlheim and Sea Elves (run by Taylor) ran interference vs. the tower, The Ragnar Brothers raided the island that kept the Orb and slaughtered everyone (like one does) and the Cultists of F’Vaah deciphered the Orb’s Power and taught Ulf Ragnar how to use it. A great day of silly nautical fun!

Hail to the victors.. until the next time!

GC2016 Slideshow: HERE


Game Camp 2016 Day 3: Shiverrrr me Timmmmbers!

Wednesday and Thursday are pretty much “show piece” days. Big splashy games that have tons of prep and a really distinctive look. And they are silly.. very silly.

In that fine old tradition, I presented.. BIG DANGED BOATS, the cup and balls trick!

Normally I try to deliver something big and new for every camp, but this is a game that was specifically requested several times last year. I can take a hint.

So this is a variant of the old Orb of Power scenario, with a power mad Humans, Chinese Traders, Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and all kinds of Gnomes fighting it out with a mad wizard’s army.

The idea, of course, is that there’s a powerful wizard who has come into a significant MAGIC ARTIFACT (like they do) called The Orb of Command.    It’s hidden on one of the many outposts dotting the landscape, but the safe money is on the Wizard’s Castle at Red Bluff.

Of course, that’s the mission.  In reality, everyone just attacks each other.  It’s Chaos.

The Little People Flotilla just want to stay out of it.

The Ragnar Brothers and The Foot of the Dead God (foreground) raid Piper’s Fort, and have a small victory.

We’re not quite done.  This is a game that goes slow with so many people so we’re only half way through it all  It’s the journey not the destination.  The kids loved it.

Rules wise, we tried the initiative system and discovered using Initiative numbers 1-10 is overpowering.  1-6 works.  I’m altering the rules accordingly.   Seasoned players (and yes, I have them!) think it moves the game along faster and eliminates a lot of vague notions of what to do next. I’m keeping that rule in the manuscript and will have Artscow make me some cards.

A great first day of Big Danged Boats.

For the complete album, see this tag on Flickr: BDB-GC16

For everything for GC 16, try this album: Game Camp 2016