We think 20 siders are so modern…


Foolish mortal! Actually, far from it. The dice (top) is a 20 sider inscribed with Greek letters, found in a Roman dig, date uncertain but probably at least during the Empire.

This was thought to be the oldest 20 sider on the planet.. and then…

As impressive as this is, it doesn’t hold a candle to this stone 20 sider below, ALSO with Greek letters inscribed, dating back to Ptolemic period Egypt.  Since the Ptolemies were basically Greeks, the Greek letters are no mystery, but one does wonder.. what GAME was being played here?  It’s clearly a gaming piece.

Same shape, same Greek letters…?

The recent appearance of an ancient stone 20 sider from Ptolemaic Egypt at a Christie’s auction has me pondering.. what lost game used this dice? The same basic dice with the same or similar characters, from two different historical periods.. if it was used for the same game, that game was around for hundreds of years, and is now lost. Probably.

We’ll never know of course, but I think it’s great that these things have been around a lot longer than the advent of Dungeons and Dragons “to hit” dice!

 

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retro Dungeon Delvin’ in the Crypts of the Pervy Lord Thule


Saturday evening, the second meeting of the Second Saturday Scrum club met in Langley Park, MD.  Namely, Jared, John, Francesco, me and my son Garrett were in attendance. We were caught up in a “dungeon crawl” using a mishmash of rules consolidated and augmented by Joe Procopio.  The core of the game is the Majestic 12 Ares system, with a little overlay of Songs of Blades and Heroes.   Joe did that one better by creating a system where the dungeon delve is created by cards and special dice.  The dice determine the size, composition and special features of the room, if any, and the cards amplify what’s found in the room.   It’s actually a pretty neat concept.  One big problem we had was rolling overly large rooms in a finite space; it became clear, quickly, that the map’s free space would be used up rather quickly if we relied on the dice mechanic as-is.  The rooms were just too big and we didn’t have infinite table space.  So we winged it and knocked the “room generation dice” down a few pips when rolling– or we would have a dungeon with lots of gigantic rooms that were having problems linking with each other.  The other part of Joe’s design that I personally liked was that we engaged as teams– Joe and Francisco played one team, Garrett and I another, and Jared and John the remaining team.  As teams made their way around the dungeon, all encounters were rolled (or pulled from the deck) by the team to the current player’s right.  This is a clever way to keep people engaged and preventing the game from going stale.

Our team was Sophia Irongrip of Felnore (some kind of fighter), Holford Stoutfellow (a cleric), Took Scratchbottom (a hobbit thief) and Archimedes the Grey (a wizard, whom I took to calling “Not Gandalf”).

There we all are, in our starting location on the map edge. We were about equidistant between the other two teams. That’s Archimedes and Took (whom I ran) in the foreground, and Holford and Sophia in the background.

We all started on convenient corners about as far away from each other as could fit on a large rectangular “Classic” Chessex dry-erase marker map, a map that gave the evening’s festivities a delightful retro feel. This is what I used to map D&D with when I was a wee lad.

These were our starting location templates. You can see where we started:

Our starting template (chosen by dice roll, natch) was top right. You can see it on the miniature view above. Photo from Joe P’s blog. Courtesy Ellen Procopio, used with permission

Our initial forays out of our start location led us to a couple of adjacent rooms. Oddly enough the choices that would have us moving to the West, and possibly connecting with tunnels that would lead to our dungeon exploring rivals, all ended in dead ends! So we moved out into areas we COULD explore, namely a room with a giant floor mosaic with a visage so hideous it would induce immediate vomiting. I decided it was a mosaic of a giant undead dolphin for some reason, probably just the comedic value. My hobbit dutifully blew chunks and moved on to the next door after searching the room.

The great chunks inducing Dolphin mosaic. Archimedes continues to search the starting area.

Initial efforts at searching didn’t turn up much in either the wandering monster or treasure departments.  We encountered a room covered with bones that made a rustling noise when we tried to stealth over it.  Not very stealthy.

On other fronts, the opposing team run by John and Jared encountered a lot of traps, and more random monsters than us.  Notably some trolls.

Encountering some random trolls. They put up a spirited fight.

Whoops, that could ruin your day.To be truthful it kind of did for that team, keeping them stuck in place and unable to fulfill their “background mission” cards.

An example of the encounter displayed above. The other team bumps into “querulous Trolls” and had to spend quite a few turns dislodging them.Credit: Ellen Procopio

The other team run by Francisco and Joe didn’t fare  that well either.

As we had to take over the duties of running the opposition encounters, we ran the Orc Captain and two archers that popped up in the next room to Joe and Francisco’s party. This little room with minor monsters in it became a kind of Hougomont for the other side– they poured their attention and focus into killing these guys and hardly progressed into the dungeon beyond two rooms.  Here we have the Orc Captain charging the Monk character solo with a polearm, which did some damage.

The game session went about six hours with a break for pizza included.  We had expanded the map to the point where most of the sections were JUST ABOUT touching, but there wasn’t a connection between areas on the map yet.

Jared and John’s view, other side of the table.  The map areas are almost touching, but not quite. The circular object is an improbably huge fountain in a tiny hidden room that got randomly rolled.

The capper of the evening was One of the advneturers on the Joe/Francisco team unearthing a “Major Room” with a large gang of undead orgy participants in a hidden room.

Yes, you read that right. An unending orgy of undead whose sole purpose is to suck weary travelers into the festivities and become NEW undead unending orgy participants. Erm.. yeah.

“Thule’s Unending Orgy” was about as close as we ever came to seeing the actual crypt of Thule which would have been nice.  We had a private mission to urinate on the crypt to earn ourselves 150 VPs, but we never found it.

At this point it was like 1030 at night and I had to beg my leave from our gracious host, as it’s still a haul to Northern Virginia.    Based on treasure count alone I suppose the victory goes to Jared and Johns’ team, who looted the troll bodies.

My team encountered some tiny critters here and there (Spiders, Death Scarabs) and generally dealt with them by shutting the door and going elsewhere.  Perhaps it wasn’t courageous but our fighter types kept wandering off and expanding the map, leaving the support staff (thieves and wizards) who weren’t the best fighters to bump into them.  My hobbit was a realist.  He just avoided them.

So that was my first foray back into old school dungeon crawling in a  long, loooong time.  I had great time, so did Gar.  It wasn’t so much the presentation (which was great), it was the retro feel, the friendly banter, and the overall great time we had doing a simple game much like ones I played in my youth.  I loved it.

Visit Joe’s Blog here to see an expanded writeup, nicer pictures (courtesy of Helen) and a lot more depth into his design process.

The Fantasy Trip comes home to SJG (and apologies)


Hi. Long time no blog to you, if you’re still reading this. Things.. happened. My house is rebuilt *mostly<* and we are moved back in, and life has become a lot of unpacking and sorting and continuous throwing of stuff out. LOTS OF STUFF out. I need to. I made a promise to winnow my gaming collection down to 1/3 of its current size. This is no small feat. So I admit it, I haven’t been posting a lot. Sorry. I’m going to change that, right now. I’ve been painting and playing again, and I’m enjoying that. More on that later.  — W.

The Now Not quite so young Steve Jackson, holding older copies of the Fantasy Trip, 35 years later.

My first post of 2018 is really kind of old news, but I couldn’t just let it just pop up on the radar without commenting on it. First, a little history. A long time back, in the bad old late 70s, there was a tiny company in Texas called Metagaming Concepts. Metagaming was on the forefront of a trend I like called “Microgaming”. This was a concept where pretty much everything you needed to play a complete, self-contained game was presenting in a tiny ziplocked bag, with stripcut counters and a kind of ho-hum map. For usually 2.95 SRP. Teen-aged me loved the idea of these (and I pay tribute to them with an entire page of this blog, actually). Most of these micro games were tiny standalone boardgames, but the third and sixt in the series were part of a tiny roleplaying game (the first publication was Melee, which dealt with fighting and monsters and such, and the sixth was Wizard, which picked up the magical end of things). The series encompassed by the two products was called “The Fantasy Trip” (TFT). They were the product of a very imaginative young man named Steve Jackson who already had a little game named OGRE under his belt. TFT became a big hit (for Metagaming) and generated enough revenue to expand the line, going from ziploc to small (crushable) cardboard box, then on to advanced melee and wizard (which were folio sized and jam packed with material) and Tollenkars Lair, which expanded on the system even more. Every kid in my social circle was at least noddingly familiar with D&D. Of course we were. Some had tried some of the alternatives in those days, such as Traveler, and Metamorphosis Alpha and one or two more non-TSR systems, especially the Fantasy Trip.

TFT was remarkable in its simplicity. Everything, and I mean everything, derived from three simple statistics. You started with a template character and customized him with remaining points. You were limited by things like strength and dexterity so there were some weapons you just couldn’t use. Spells were even simpler (and kind of painful). I loved the system, myself, but wasn’t a fanatic about it.. even though D&D was miles more complicated and did a lot of the thinking for us, we liked poring over all those misleading charts, I guess. TFT was cooler than that– it made it so simple, we mistrusted it. That’s all there is? It would take a couple of years for me to grasp something Steve Jackson understood from day one.. you’re playing a story, you’re IN a story, when you are playing RPGs. You’re not in a rulebook. It’s about the story, first and foremost, so why not make the rules as simple as possible?  That’s what I like about TFT, and why I collected everything they made, mini-adventures and all, before Metagaming went out of business.

If you know your hobby history, you already know that Steve Jackson and the head of the defunct Metagaming Concepts, Mr. Howard Thompson, did not (from all reports) part ways amicably. Steve Jackson left Metagaming with the rights to his OGRE/GEV universe intact, but he could not come to an agreement with Thompson about The Fantasy Trip. Rather than sell the rights back at a reasonable price, Mr. Thompson shuttered the doors, turned off the lights at Metagaming and disappeared from public view. And so it has been, for thirty five years. The rights to the coolest alternative RPG from the distant past was in a legal limbo– held by a company that had long since ceased to exist. Sigh.

Until now that is. This statement was posted on the daily Illuminator at the Steve Jackson Games website, somewhat recently:

December 26, 2017: The Fantasy Trip Returns Home


The Fantasy Trip:  At the beginning of my career, long before GURPS, I created a roleplaying game called The Fantasy Trip. For decades, the rights have been held by Metagaming, a publisher which is no longer in operation. I’m very pleased to announce that I have regained the eight TFT releases that I wrote myself: Melee, Wizard, Death Test, Death Test 2, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, In the Labyrinth, and Tollenkar’s Lair.This is just an initial announcement, to invite you to celebrate with me a day that has been a long time coming!I have no idea yet about release schedules. I will probably have to answer most questions with “I don’t know yet” – but feel free to use the button below to go to the forum discussion of this post, and try me . . . or just share memories of the game!— Steve Jackson

Wow. That’s some amazing news there.  The Fantasy Trip comes home, at long last!  “But wait, SJG already HAS a RPG system, one that they have been supporting for 35 years– GURPS*, right?”  Well yes, that’s true, and SJG has put a lot of work into supporting it, too.  Although GURPS 1.1 certainly bore some resemblance to Melee/Wizard, they really were different systems, and the GURPS of today really bears little resemblance to the TFT of 35 years ago.  There will be a lot of work to be done to get the older system up to snuff– in a lot of ways.  The graphics for the old TFT were funky, and  I like them, but they are from a very different time and place than 2018.  There are a lot of conventions to work out to make the TFT titles fit into the SJG portfolio.. how will it fit in the product catalog?  A GURPS alternative?  A competing product?  This is going to be more complex than just reprinting an old game (which is becoming the craze these days).

In any event, I’m delighted to see these old friends resurface again, after being in limbo for so many decades.  I look forward to seeing TFT back in print again.

GURPS: Generic Universal Roleplaying System.   See here.

Kickstarter OGRE miniatures set one arriving


I’m happy to report that the Kickstarter package I backed, OGRE MINIATURES SET ONE, has arrived at the Casa, and it is everything I expected and more.

I backed this Kickstarter out of a desire to see Ogre miniatures back in production, even if for a limited amount of time.  I personally like this version of Steve Jackson’s OGRE far more in miniature form than in board game form.  OGRE Miniatures, the base game associated with the old metal miniatures, is without a doubt a workmanlike approach to the subject of a giant Cybertank being harassed by many flea-like smaller attackers. The OM rules reflect the board game OGRE origins very well, and are certainly easy, but not that sophisticated, either. I have used (older, metal) Ogre Miniatures with GZG’s Dirtside in the past and it works just fine. The important thing is to have the miniatures! That’s why I’ve purchased two sets with the recent SJG kickstarter– one with Blue Ogres and red small units and one colored in reverse.

The basic boxed set comes with 40 minis.. no, that’s not a typo or exaggeration.

The miniatures are plastic, the hard kind that uses Testor’s glue to assemble.  You’ll need an exacto to trim the smaller bits off the sprue and you’ll probably want to soak the finished models in soapy water to remove any trace mold release from the finished model before painting.  I think plastic is a good thing; the original, long out of print metal miniatures were not exactly cheap even in 1992.  With this kickstarter you get a ton of models, in just about the same scale, with just about the same amount of detail as the metal models.  It’s a win-win.

Large Red Ogre, a Mark III and a Mark V come in the box

For some reason Steve Jackson Games seems to think the color of the plastic is important. Thus it Kickstarted a basic red OGRE with blue small units set or the reverse, blue OGRE with red units. The red Ogre is shown above (unassembled). As I purchased two sets, I added the second set in reverse colors, e.g., blue ogre, red small boys.

Large BLUE Ogre, also a Mark III and a Mark V.

and here is the reverse….

GEVs, Heavy Tanks, Infantry, Missile Tanks, etc.  One in blue and one in red.

And here are the small boys, e.g., a sprue of GEV vehicles and a sprue of heavy tanks. (above)

Plastic Color really isn’t that important to me; my thought was I was going to field a force of Paneuropeans (which this set is) in yellow and one in red, much like the old Ogre Miniature rulebook depicted them. I know I did a BackerKit purchase of at least one more set (in green). I will probably paint them the Vatican colors.

Yes, OGRE miniatures set 2 did Kickstart recently and I took them up on their offer, but only one set (so far). I may expand this, as it is mostly Commune units and elements that got introduced in OGRE Shockwave. It’s a great time to get these kind of miniatures. I have always liked the OGRE visual design and it’s nice to have an option that isn’t too burdensome financially.

Fall-IN! 2017 Event Data, compared


Since I’ve started doing Guidebooks for conventions, I’ve had access to all of the events run at a HMGS convention, and it usually shows up in convenient CSV delineated format.  Since a burning issue that gets debated (usually within 24 hours of everyone getting home) is “game period x was overrunning this or game period y was under-represented”.  I like to look at the actual numbers.  So here we go!

Preconceptions:

I didn’t include tournaments, as they are tracked separately– I have no idea how many actual events get played in any tournament.  I may in the future but since I’ve started without them, I might as well continue without them.

I don’t include any last minute addendums, walk ups, or any game run ad-hoc or open gaming at a show.  My data is ONLY as good as the one time submission sent to me by Dan Murawski, early in October.

I classify games in two broad categories: Historical and Non-Historical, because, really, this is the heart of the matter for a lot of people– Is HMGS being overrun by non-historical games?  However, you will see how I fit games into those categories easily enough.  Some things are easy to classify, others, especial games that use “Other” as a period descriptor, are not.  For the most part, these events follow the classic HMGS period descriptions we have been using since we started throwing conventions.

And now, the data:

Some of this is kind of fuzzy. Like, is “Age of Piracy” a big tavern brawl? What are “Other” period games? Is “Future” like.. NEAR future? Is an alt-history game a fantasy game? a science fiction game? If you split hairs to finely, your brain hurts. So here I was kind of conservative in classifying events, to give the data the benefit of the doubt.

So, a little bit less than 19% of all events was classified as “Non-Historical” by me (and me, only). That includes fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic, Pulp, Dieselpunk, cyberpunk, gnome-punk or whatever cutsie term you come up with. If it has a blatantly fantastic element, it’s on the right side of the data list.

This is what that looks like with a pie chart.

Hmmm.. doesn’t even look like a quarter this time, does it?

The top 3 time periods are not very surprising. World War 2 and Spanish Civil War accounted for 77 (apologies for the typo, the last item in the list should read WW2 & SCW, not WWI). American Civil War games made up 28, and Napoleonic 27. World War 1 and the Russian Civil War trailed by only a few events at 23.

Draw you own conclusions about trends. As I’ve said before when I post this.. you will really only have a meaningful trend after a dozen or so more conventions, I think.  I can throw this out there: When you compare 2017 data to 2016 data, the results are almost identical. Historicon 2017, by contrast, was a few points higher.

Postscript:

You’ll note that I’ve been saying in several of these posts that the data will not be very meaningful until we collect several data points and start drawing trend lines.. so we can’t really grasp what a “trend” is in conventions until I have about (in my mind) at least 5 or 7 results from the same show, same time of year. Why? Because there are all kinds of variables that affect results. You need to stick to a baseline once it’s started and even if you collect more, similar data, stick to your guns. With all that said, this is fairly interesting: I managed to pull together (retroactively) data from 2014 and 2015 Fall INs. Interesting results. First of all I’m not happy with the 14 data and I can’t swear it’s fully representative– the sheets I pulled from my computer seem patchy and incomplete. We were learning how to do Guidebook then, and I got my data in chunks. Still, the ratios seem right. So here we go, the start of an actual trend line:

What’s that? A seeming decrease in the number of Non-Historical games at HMGS conventions? It would seem to be (in a very general sense) to be heading that way over time. It’s way too early too say, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

Yes, there is a Guidebook for Fall-IN! 2017


Main Screen (Guidebook on Web) Fall IN! 2017

 

Apologies!

To all the good folks attending Fall-IN! 2017, I have to apologize.  I haven’t been Johnny on the Spot with Fall-IN! 2017’s Guidebook app.  There’s a good reason, but you probably don’t care.  Oh what the heck, I’ll tell you.  About a year ago at the end of October, a ten ton tree dropped on Casa O’Hara. The damage was devastating.  My family has endured a long year of rebuilding, being temporarily homeless, and living in a tiny rental as the contractors did their thing.  We are (right now, this week) hitting the end of the tunnel at last.  The contractors are finalizing the work on my house and we are moving back in starting this weekend.  I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m clever enough to figure out this isn’t the time to go to Fall IN!.  I like being married!  Anyway, all that work (and the recent departure of a beloved family pet just last week) has been a distraction from Guidebook building duty.  Mea Culpa. 

HOWEVER!

I have not left you all in the lurch.  I wouldn’t do that. I have taken the
data Dan Murawski and Jeff Kimmel sent me and updated and published the
guidebook app as of last night.

It doesn’t display the usual tender loving care I usually put into these
things; Missing are the room maps, Tournaments, Hobby University, and
Speakers (if there are any), social media stuff.  Included are: the events schedule
(with room locations and table numbers), The Vendor Hall map and
vendor listing.

That is about all I have time for, sorry. I don’t consider the omissions
crippling. Unless you are a rank newbie, you can navigate the Host
blindfolded by now. If you ARE a rank newbie, ASK someone. Wargamers are a
generous group and will help you find your table.

The table number will tell you where the room is: D-35 is “Distelfink table 35”.
Usually I spell that out but I don’t have the time.

I don’t have time for a lot of screenshots.  If you have downloaded Guidebook before, the instructions are the same as last HISTORICON.  The user interface is about identical.

WHERE TO GET IT

The Fall IN! 2017 Guidebook Landing Page will provide you with the download links directly for FALL IN! 2017’s Guidebook, for both Android and IOS, plus instructions of how to implement GB on phones with web browsers. You should be able to download both kind of clients there.

Fall-IN! 2017 GUIDEBOOK on WEB will provide you with interaction with the app on a website (use this with your smartphone web browser if you don’t have a client installed)

MadMax34 Turning Templates from Things from the Basement


I have been playing around with the Mad Maximillian 1934 car combat rules for a little bit now as the past two posts can attest to. I am enjoying the game very much. One thing I wanted to do was assemble the little turning template that comes in the rules, but the only way I thought it would be durable enough would be to print it on card stock, laminate it, THEN cut it out and punch it so it could rotate.

Yeah, I could do that. OR I could send www.thingsfromthebasement.com a few bucks and get a very durable laser cut wooden one of my very own. Or maybe two. So I did that instead.

Template

There’s not a lot to this thing. Two pieces ; one with an arrow going IN and another with an arrow going OUT. There are graduations on the template itself which will effect how many fate and fortune dice to roll. The template starts off on this single sheet. Punch out everything carefully. The top circle (as show) will overlay the bottom one. The two tiny bits and the inner circle are there to keep the spindle rotating nicely. You may want to be sparing with the glue here, you don’t want the two main circles to bond together accidentally or the template is worthless.

Once you build the spindle out of the two tiny bits (that make a kind of stand up X together, you put the small circle on top of that (very sparingly with glue) making sure the top circle and bottom circle can rotate.

With paint on

At the end of that drill, you have this. The bottom circle rotates and indicates where your turn is going to be and how risky it is. Coloring the areas on the edge of the wheel to match how it is depicted in the rule book is a bonus that I recommend. Green is no danger, Yellow is some danger, Red is dangerous!

In my mind, this is the Cadillac option, if you’ll pardon the car pun. It’s durable, inexpensive and works like a charm. Not nearly as large as I thought. A very handy option indeed.

Turning template in use

Here is a time lapse photograph of a template in use. The Three Wheeler moves forward 4 and attempts a slight left hand turn, sufficiently into the yellow zone to be risky.

And there you have it.  That’s from Things from the Basement (URL up above).  I think it’s worth the tiny investment.  I got two!

More on Mad Maximillian 1934, an ongoing project


Part 2 of 2.  In which I greatly expand on the Mad Maximillian 1934 material…

BRUMM Bentley Le Mans 30 Touring Car, an Ebay Purchase modified with a twin Vickers MG and two drivers from Sloppy Jalopy.

Mad Maximillian 1934 (MadMax34) is a very small scale skirmish game set in a dystopic past– that’s right, the past, during the Depression.  The publisher, Mana Press, doesn’t flesh out the back story very much, as I indicated in the previous post.   Just take it as a given that some form of world wide calamity has occurred some time after WWI, roughly corresponding with our Depression.  The setting has a decidedly English focus, which I like (although the publisher and the miniatures manufacturer are resolutely Australian).  I just don’t associate English country roads with Dystopia, which lends a little charm to the idea.  The theme of the game is car combat– on a much lower end technologically than comparable games from the past– such as Car Wars or games of that ilk.  The Interwar years are a favorite period for me, and MadMax34 is definitely positioned “in there somewhere.”  The rulebook, from Mana Press, is about 56 pages, with photographs on many pages and blueprints for cars and a turning template in the back part of the book.  As far as I know, there isn’t a printed copy of the rulebook available at this time, but I could be wrong.  I got mine as a watermarked PDF from Wargame Vault.  I don’t regret the purchase.  I can read the rules on my tablet, which is maybe slightly less handy than paper but that’s fine by me in the long run.

One of the two Eureka kits I purchased for this game. I modeled this on the GREEN MACHINE example in the book. Two rocket pods on a sliding sheet metal rack, and fixed forward facing MGs.

Mechanics:

In terms of game mechanics I don’t think MadMax34 is going to give anyone a serious headache.  They are dirt simple and “bucket of sixes” based.  I like that– not every game has to be about gun calibers and armor thicknesses and firing aspects.  The key mechanic is to roll a FATE roll and a FORTUNE roll.  The outcome determines if you pull off your slick maneuver, or flip your tin lizzy into a scrapheap.  Simply put, FATE = “bad things” FORTUNE = “good things”.

1936 Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb, Auto Union 5.3L C-Type. I fudged the year, as I liked the diecast model. Diecast conversions are a lot of fun– this one has two Lewis MG firing forward and either a couple of oil slick generators or paint sprayers (see red cans).

Taking an example right out of the rulebook, During the Movement Phase, Player A wants to make a tight turn.  Her vehicle is already damaged, which adds FATE dice (everything is 1D6 based, but Fate should be red and Fortune white for ease of play).  So she rolls a 3,4,5,6,2 & 6.  Like a lot of games using buckets of six siders, you count 5 and 6 results.  Player A counts 3 Fate here. 
Player A then responds with a Fortune roll of Vehicle Handling plus Driver Skill, which sorts out as: 3,6,4,1 & 6.  She scores two Fortunes.   THEN, subtract Fate from Fortune, and that’s the modifier of -1.  Yikes.  Go to Skidding test. 

“Old Number 3” Another fine diecast conversion, this from some Pacific Rim diecast manufacturer. Ford 32 basic black pickup, with Rocket tubes (2), Vickers mounted on hood, and some welded on extra armor here and there. I added a harpoon guy from Pulp Figures to give the vehicle a little verisimilitude.

Activation and Initiative, Turn Order, blah blah blah

In my  mind, there are only so many ways you can design a game that involves vehicles shooting at each other, in motion, even at lower speeds.  You have to take into account current acceleration, shooting, defending, maneuvering safely and at high risk, and what happens when you take damage or don’t make a turn.  That is the core of it.  I’ve played around at this myself– see: White Line Fever.  They are all equally valid, great ways of simulating these factors.  MadMax34 does a very good job of factoring in these elements in a straightforward fashion.  Initiative is easy.  The player moving at the highest Speed (at start of turn) Activates, or goes first.  If tied, the smaller vehicle goes first.  If tied, roll a danged dice, won’t you?  Activation leads to performing each of the three actions in any order the driver chooses: Move, Attack and Special.

A Brumm Bugatti type 30 (diecast, found on Ebay) with a Lewis MG up top and an improvised anti-tank rifle bolted on the left plays chicken with an oncoming Green Machine. I’m sanguine about this chances.

There are several nuances to movement and honestly I’m not going to go in depth with each one– a thumbnail would be: You can adjust speed up or down by one, with no problems.  You can STOMP on the brakes but these vehicles are ramshackle and you may need to check the car to see if it skids or not.  You can FANG IT (accelerate as fast as you can) but that also might cause the rather battered engine, which is likely running on corn squeezings these days, to explode or some other dramatic response.  Really, my favorite bit of these rules is the turning template, which is design elegance.

This is a PDF template in the rules, but you can order a laser cut version from THINGS IN THE BASEMENT (whose picture this is). I just ordered two of them. Click on the picture to visit their store.

Simply place the incoming (up facing) arrow aligned with the front of the vehicle, and twist the the adjustable (top) arrow in the direction you need to go. The farther you turn it, the more FATE DICE you have to throw to make the turn. I like this. It might be difficult to use in tight terrain but I’ll figure it out. There are special rules for special maneuvers like the bootlegger’s turn, and what happens when you skid or flip, but I won’t describe them in detail. Crashing is pretty bad in a MadMax34 vehicle, you basically roll to see how severe it is.. the consequences are rather tough on these (well used, poorly constructed) vehicles.

Click Me

The first model I bought from Eureka. This is a sport racing vehicle (generic “Flyer”) with a pintle mounted AAMG in the back. I love the figures– they are very dynamic. These kits are designed with a high degree of customization in mind; I went very basic with this one. Click on the picture to see the customization kit and other vehicle kits at Eureka.

Winning is a rather loose concept, and usually involves pounding the snot out of your opponents. There are scenario goals that determine victory conditions. There are about 4 scenarios in the rules (I think).

Vehicle Construction/Availability

MadMax34 comes with design-your-vehicle modules, just like the old CAR WARS game did. You have about four chassis sizes and each of them has a number of hard points assigned. The more hard points, the more creative you can be with what you strap on to the car to create mayhem with. Most of the vehicles I created had very few hard points– 5 or lower (five being average). I may have stretched the concept of “hard points” by including hand weapons, which I don’t agree would take up a mounting on your vehicle. I also add additional armor here and there and that technically is using a hard point as well– how many, I’m not sure. One of the reasons I hesitated jumping into this project was my perception that vehicles and drivers would be hard to find. That has NOT proven to be the case. A typical browse through Ebay will provide auctions for diecast vehicles that are perfectly within period. I have fielded a Bugatti Type 30, a Bentley Touring Car, a shabby 1932 Ford Pickup, and an odd “Shelby Walsh Hillclimber” that looks suspiciously futuristic but was historically built in 1936. Close enough.

Bentley Touring Car (1930), a diecast model, chasing a generic 3 Wheeler Cyclecar from 1st Corps (resin kit with metal bits). I’ll probably add more weapons to these or improvised armor, as both have hard points to spare. The Bentley is a BRUMM Diecast vehicle, easy to find on auction sites.

In addition, I highly recommend 1stCorps in the UK for period armor vehicles (if you want to build the largest vehicles in the game), they also have a section for pulp style vehicles (not many) with a lot of style. I picked up a generic 3 wheeler Cycle Car and put a dual Vickers on it, along with a gunner that is armed with a side arm. In addition, I picked up a WWI era dispatch motorcyle with a Maxim machine gun installed, and added some civilian touches.

WWI era BEF Dispatch motorcycle from 1stCorps.  I added a passenger figure Sloppy Jalopy, and painted the driver and gunner in a non specific “uniform”

Of course, you can also get miniatures from Eureka Australia or USA, under their small (but hopefully growing) Mad Maximillian line. The twist is you can always use the same kits to make more than one radically different vehicle. I’ve only touched the surface of customization, I want to build a flame thrower car next. The real difficulty is obtaining vehicle weapons (which I found from a number of sources) and especially drivers. The scaling between Eureka and 1stCorp isn’t a perfect match by a long shot, but when the drivers are sitting down, it’s hardly noticable. Stan Johansen (of Road Warrior 20mm fame, I’ve mentioned him on here before), also makes some 28mm driver and gunner figures– pretty rudimentary but it does the job nicely– and a paintjob hides a lot of things. He also has a ton of add on hand weapons like ATRs, shotguns and the like, so their figures are customizable, more so than Eureka or 1stCorps. In addition to THAT, Sloppy Jalopy has some very spirited and thematic looking drivers and passengers (the Tommy gunner on the back of the Motorcycle is one). You need to check those out!

Another look at 1st Corps three wheeler touring car, decked out for mayhem. I may add some more armor.

I don’t see terrain being a big obstacle. This game plays well on a 4 x 6 and even smaller space– I don’t recommend having more than 10 players due to the scale. Ground scale isn’t specified anywhere, but the models are large, and I forsee problems with table geometry. So maybe some craters, maybe some rubbled buildings.. a dirt road, some hills, dead trees, barbed wire.. I have all those already!

In conclusion

As I’ve alluded to, this has been a fun project to work on, especially the part about customizing and creating vehicles out of kits and diecast. I haven’t tested it yet but I plan to as soon as I move back in to my house. The vehicles were variably priced (the resin kits actually more expensive than the diecasts I found on Ebay, but more militant looking).  The rules are very straight forward and almost expendable, really.  You could play this with a game of your choice as long as you track the basic elements of road combat games– speed, shooting, protection, damage.. etc.  My only disappointment (and it is very minor) is that the period fluff is almost absent.  There is a long wheedling narrative at the front of the document but it isn’t a very conclusive or convincing depiction of the setting (can’t help kvetching, this is a favorite historical period of mine).  Other than that, I would recommend it highly.

STUFF:

Slideshow of all my conversions and kit vehicles built so far on flickr

Some Youtube “Project Videos”

From the rulebook, Mana Press. A collection of the Eureka Miniatures custom cars— except white lightning (second from bottom), which doesn’t seem to be a kit you can buy.

SOURCES MENTIONED in both posts

  • 1st Corps (WWI range and 20th Century Follies. Also some good individual standing figures)
  • Eureka Miniatures USA (and of course, Australia) The basic customizable car kits are produced by Nic Robson’s Eureka miniatures and Eureka USA for us Yanks. I highly recommend the custom parts kit you can purchase as an extra. You can also buy drivers and gunners (3 types) individually.
  • Company B is a company that sells period authentic vehicle mount machine guns– mostly twin mount Vickers and Lewis. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
  • Sloppy Jalopy sells a great line of 28mm drivers and passengers, right inside the period..
  • For individual pedestrian figures, try Pulp Figures. In scale and totally in period.
  • Copplestone’s gangster figures also work as pedestrians.
  • Hexxy Shop sells all kinds of interesting bits for vehicle conversion and customization, although their SF stuff is pretty futuristic.
  • Stan Johansen makes a Road Warrior line which is very futuristic but features drivers and gunners in 28mm that are dressed with minimal detail, so they work in the 1930s.

Eureka Miniatures’ Mad Maximillian 1934: A new Obsession & Frustrations


Part 1 of 2.  So, yeah, this is a thing. I’ve been noticing these larger scale old timey racing and fighting vehicles at the Eureka booth the last few shows, and I’ve restrained myself.. until now.  Why? Because there’s a new set of rules for these vehicles, and I rather like them.  I have no idea who Mana press is, but they are publishing rules to accompany Eureka Miniatures’ figure line called “Mad Maximillian“.  I like it when rules show up.. it makes it a little harder for a great visual idea (1930s roadsters with machine guns) to just fade away, another flash in the creative pan.  I suspect I could have cobbled something together out of my own White Line Fever rules, maybe, but those are somewhat futuristic post apocalyptic, Mad Maximillian is unique in that it is ‘In the past-post apocalyptic” if that makes any sense.  Set in 1934, a very alternative 1934 where gun equipped roadsters move from place to place in the landscape, trying to win trophies and gun down the opposition.  The “why” part isn’t’ really clear.   Has there been a world wide collapse?  A new war?  Civil Chaos?  The fluff is pretty cryptic, so things are flexible in terms of history.  Here’s a little bit of color text from the first page, as told from a fictional bartender:

I’m told. There’s still infected towns out there, rumour has it, where nobody dares to go.  Maybe it was them hi-falutin flappers, wheeling and dealing at the high-end of town.  Making all of their money on shares, off the back of us poor workers. And they goes and spends it on champagne and bugattis, caviar and fancy planes. Wasting all that money, right up until the Crash, when it all went bust! And who pays for it? Us – that’s who! And we’re still paying for it right now! Just look at what’s happened to the cost of Gas – it’s as precious as the booze I’m serving ya. And you know better than me what fuel can mean out
there on the Road. “No Gas, no Ride” – amen, brother.

So, somehow, the world has gone to pot, like it does.. and people are clamping period weaponry on their cars to take to the road and rustle up fuel and other scarcities.  I think.  You know, like one does.

The scale is 28mm, the art direction is rather whimsical, and I have been charmed, completely, by the idea.  Eureka is supporting this game by producing 4 basic car types plus a pack of accessories and stand alone crew purchases.   Their approach is to field the basic body types and have the end user customize to his or her heart’s content.  There’s the Flyer, a two seater with a gunner cockpit in the back, the Roadster, a one seater with a similar body but a more “finny” rear end.  Some odd 3 wheeler type of vehicle, and a gigantic “Interceptor” vehicle that looks like a twelve cyclinder roadster.

Conversions of period diecasts

Converting diecasts?  post-apocalyptic?  Well, if you know me, you know I’m all in.  Therein lies the confusion, and the fun.  The thing is, this is a 28mm scale game.  There really doesn’t seem to be a consistent industry scale for 28mm diecast.  I know (when I was designing WLF and converting matchbox and hot wheels) that 20mm equates to roughly 1:64 and HO scales.  There is no good rule of thumb once the scale creeps up!  I have recently purchased three great Old-Timey vehicles from Matchbox’s Models of Yesteryear line– and each time discovered what was being advertised on Ebay as 1:43 showed up looking suspiciously like 1:64 (matchbox sized).  So if you are going to do conversions with existing commercial diecasts, make SURE it’s 1:43, which, supposedly, is the rule of thumb for 28mm.  As far as “Models of Yesteryear” vehicles, this site is a really good source for research.   There are some great historically themed choices out there but A) you will need to do your homework (is it REALLY 1:43?) and B) be aware that the larger the diecast, the more likely it is being sold as a “collectible” vice game model, so the prices will be astronomical for the truly interesting models.   So far, the only for certain matching vehicle I have found has been a 1934 Ford Pickup truck which is perfectly in scale with the “Flyer” (see above).    Further conversion notes: You can get period authentic vehicle weapons (Lewis Gun/Vickers Guns) from Company B, which sells them separately.

“White Lightning” from the Mad Maximillian rulebook

With that said, some vehicles in the rulebook don’t appear anywhere else, which is confusing and a little frustrating. The rulebook cites (and pictures the “White Lightning” three wheeled motorcycle (above) but it isn’t for sale on the Eureka Website. Possibly it can be made by buying other car kits and using their accessories (I notice the really high fenders on the White Lightning are also in the “Roadster” kit, but that’s all I can identify from another kit). This could be a very expensive option for customization.

“Green Machine”, from the Mad Maximillian rulebook

Even with the customization kit for sale, there are some head scratchers. Note the gently rounded front end with two vertical machine gun slots on the “GREEN MACHINE” model from the rulebook. There’s just no way to replicate this design with parts you can purchase from Eureka that I can see. I mean, you can get CLOSE, but not exactly the same. I think.. it’s hard to tell from this angle:


spare parts, from the Eureka USA website

I’d like to build what they call the Firefly as well, which looks like it is the Flyer main body with a standardized custom front end, but, again, I’m stymied. There are no customized wheel covers in the spare parts package.

They MIGHT be part of another car kit, but given they cost either 22 or 30 dollars EACH, I’m not going to be buying one for cannibalization purposes.  So, Eureka!  Add these to your spare parts!

An alternative source of 28mm period vehicles
Credit: 1stCorp website, 20th century follies, three wheeled roadster

There are other sources of period 28mm vehicles out there, of course, just not many period authentic civilian ones.  I have gone to 1stCorp in the UK for additional vehicles in their “2oth century follies” and “WWI” lines.  I have picked up the three wheeled roadster (I now have plenty of machine guns to add) and a Motorcycle with sidecar (and 30 cal).   I probably will also get four wheel speedster with female driver and possible a suitable converted military vehicle.  So as it stands I’m at about 6 vehicles (depending on if the scales work) which is more than enough to jump into this game with.  I’m looking forward to this.. the terrain should be simple enough.  I have enough wrecked buildings and roadside clutter to make it work.

In conclusion, thus I have discovered another project to have fun with.  I’ll close with a few pics of my first roadster (the Flyer) painted up straight out of the box, as it were.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

reblog: Four Howitzer Defense (Session Recap)


Apparently we CAN blog about the OGRE video game Playtest now. That’s cool. I’ve got some material on it and will be posting later this week. In the meantime here’s the classic Four Howitzer defense (this goes back to a very early Space Gamer magazine article, I believe) as envisioned using the new OGRE video game. I’m going to try it myself.

Source: OGRE FACTORY Blog, great blog about the OGRE/GEVverse.

Source: Four Howitzer Defense (Session Recap)

The Blind Goose-Killer of URK (by F. Key)


Say, I haven’t done something like this in a while. Here’s a reading of Frank Key’s THE BLIND GOOSE KILLER OF URK, a fun little travelogue with a fun ending. Sorry about the peaks and levels, it’s a little raspy in places.

This recording is posted here https://misternizz.podbean.com/e/the-blind-goose-killer-of-urk/  or can be played directly below from Soundcloud

 

Mare Nostrvm for the PC


I rarely reblog, but A) I just signed up for the beta for this, and I’m somewhat excited at the prospect; and B) the folks at ROCK, PAPER, SHOTGUN have done a fine job describing this upcoming Matrix Games treatment of a favorite historical subject of mine, galley warfare in the Greek and Roman age. It’s by the people who brought you Qvdriga, the nifty little chariot racing game Matrix put out a few years ago. I agree with the authors; the subject is in safe hands indeed.

Click on the picture to check it out.

click to see article

If I actually get on the Beta team (unlikely, but maybe), I’ll post my own observations and reflections.

Simple Fog of War in Boom! Zap!


My plan was to debut the playtest game of Boom! Zap! (my pulp SF reworking of the old Rules with No Name engine) at camp this year, but there was such a clamor to run Frostgrave for another day and Big Danged Boats for another day that it kicked Friday’s game right off the schedule. Too bad, I had invested a ton of time and $$ purchasing and building hallway terrain from Gamecraft, and it looks fantastic (although I really need to work on a paint scheme for reuse). With that said it is very durable and I can use it for next year’s camp so it’s nothing wasted.

I love this stuff– it’s the Science Fiction Spaceship Corridor line from Game Craft, who makes a lot of laser cut wood gaming accessories. It’s durable, goes together with wood glue, and pretty much idiot proof. After you assemble it, it fits together nicely:

The idea behind this stuff is to use it for corridor and setting for a couple of games, one being BOOM! ZAP! (pulp SF) and the other SPY RUN (retro 50s, 60s and 70s spy game) both are 28mm skirmish level and both interact with the terrain (hallways) in a very specific way. One element I’ve been wanting to try is limited perspective based on terrain. Bear with me, this may sound complicated at first, but I think it will pay off in entertainment value.

I’m trying to prevent the God’s eye view benefit from playing factions interacting with each other in enclosed terrain (an outpost). YET! we are in a universe where things like recon probes, motion detectors and the like exist. So groups moving around should have some limited intel about other groups moving around. So prior to contact I create blip tokens similar to those used in the game SPACE HULK.

Each blip reads as a group of people or moving mass (like robots) in the complex or terrain. They enter the complex through three possible entrances (two airlocks, one underground shuttle). Initially, before they are revealed by moving into proximity with each other, all groups move as blips. As they move through the complex, they can, if they have the right equipment, send a probe droid ahead to recon for them for a certain amount of distance. The probe can (under an operator’s direction) move around corners and report back what it sees. It could be empty and likely will be:

empty hallway
Empty Hallway

Or maybe not!

In either case, the Referee takes a picture with his cell phone. He then displays it to the faction reconning the hallway.

Whoops, it is truly empty? What are THOSE?

Eventually as groups move closer together the blips resolve into groups and the hidden system isn’t needed. I just think this might be a fun addition to a skirmish game set in a world with a high tech level. background.

New OGRE Video Game Trailer for Steam Release


Oh yes, it will be mine.

OGRE Miniatures, Wave 2 spotted


As you may or may NOT know, I’ve been an enthusiastic backer of the OGRE miniatures project by Steve Jackson Games in the last year. The Kickstarter project funded almost immediately and when they made Backerkit offers, I increased the number of miniatures and bought two more basic sets above and beyond the two sets I started with (one all red, the other all blue, the backerkits green).

A bit of background. OGRE Miniatures have been around for a while in different forms. If I’m remembering things rightly, the defunct MARTIAN METALS may have made some original OGRE Miniatures. I remember seeing a few blisters here and there in shops, and adds for more, but these may have vanished from mortal ken now– even the lost miniatures wiki doesn’t have pictures of them. Well, if you’re an old guy like me you know Martian Metals went defunct long ago and that was a sadness– I liked their attitude, their sculpting was at least, ahem, enthusiastic, and they were very tied in with microgame publishers like Metagaming, which was unique. Sigh. All gone now!

OGRE miniatures didn’t come around for a second chance until the actual OGRE Miniatures game and accompanying (metal) miniatures in 1992. This was the old OGRE scenario without the hex map, and along with the rules, SJG themselves licensed out the production of many packs of OGRE miniatures, both Paneuropean and Combine, over the next ten years. You can still find these here and there on the Internet. They started at 19.95 new but now are going for a princely sum. SJG muddied the waters a little by releasing DELUXE OGRE and DELUXE GEV, sometime in the late 90s, which were essentially magnum sized versions of the old microgames, done with the same metal miniatures from OGRE Miniatures. I own the DELUXE OGRE set myself, but actually (ahem) never painted it. Now I wish I had!

Demand is a fickle mistress and all good miniatures lines have their day in the sun, then they kind of fade away. So it was for OGRE miniatures. SJG ceased production of the line back in the oughts, and that, we thought, was that. Until the Kickstarter for giant-ass OGRE showed up, that is. Suddenly, Steve Jackson Games was flooded with cash as hundreds of people pledged to pay 100 dollars for what was once a 2.95 microgame! Tier after tier after tier was reached and just what the heck extra could you give these people? Who KNEW there this many OGRE fans left alive? So Steve started looking back at this ancient chestnut (designed in 1977) and started coming up with ideas about how to ride that OGRE wave again. OGRE miniatures was obvious (along with a modernization of the ancient PC game, see last week’s post), but who wants to have a warehouse full of metal? SJG had tried that in the past. It didn’t work out. Instead, why not try plastics? Thus the OGRE Miniatures Set 1 kickstarter (mentioned above) was born, funded and over-funded. Interest with modern customers seems as intense now as it was back in the 90s. There is one problem, though. Set One is comprised of only all the units from the original OGRE game– Infantry, GEVs, Missile Tanks, Howitzers, Heavy Tanks and an OGRE MK III. There were several new units introduced in GEV, and further expansions in SHOCKWAVE. So there’s plenty of demand to fuel this train yet.

Today, the Kickstarter update posted a series of tantalizing pictures that indicate that work on SET 2 is already commenced and the first rough prototypes have been produced (in many colors, don’t pay attention to that quite yet).


Wide shot. As you can see, there’s a GEV PC, what looks to be an OGRE III, a light tank, a SuperHeavy tank, a light GEV and a mobile howitzer pictured here.

I’m not sure what will be included in Wave 2 yet, but it looks like it will emulate the units in GEV, on a guess. That works for me. GEV increases the tactical choices in OGRE exponentially, and gives us new terrain to play in.


GEV PC empty…


GEV PC with INF stands in it.

Light GEV. A bargain, you could get two for the price of one and it moves like a GEV.


Fencer variant OGRE; one main gun turret option.


Fencer, Second variant main gun turret.


Superheavy Tank. If memory serves this is a SHOCKWAVE unit, so perhaps there will be a mix of unit releases going forward?


Mobile Howitzer. I remember them looking a little different…


Light tank, introduced in the GEV game. This looks pretty close to the original sculpt.

So that is what has been released in today’s press release.  Keep in mind this is an early look and not remotely production model quality– production figures won’t be released in pastel and neon colored plastics, either.  There are some odd compromises here and there– I don’t care for the infantry figures quite yet, the light GEV has very little detail, and the Mobile Howitzer just looks, i don’t know, odd.  With that said, I’m encouraged because they’re putting out a FENCER for sure, and maybe even another variant OGRE other than the III and V.  Who knows?