Historicon 2017, the numbers


Just a quick data analysis, as I have been making a point of checking actual quantitative data before I make statements about trends.

This is a count of what events were scheduled at Historicon 2017, held at Fredericksburg, VA.  I present these with some caveats.

  1. It’s based upon the PEL release data provided me by Bill Rutherford in June, roughly 21 June 17.  This is the data that makes Guidebook work.  It does not account for cancellations or additions at the time of the show, so there’s a fudge factor of roughly 1 or 2% at most.
  2. I am using HMGS’ categories for events, as we categorize them in the PEL and Program booklet.
  3. I can’t fairly add “Other” (which there was one of) to either Historical or Non-Historical
  4. Historical events were categorized as: 19th Century, Age of Piracy, Age of Reason, American Civil War, American War for Independence, Ancients, Colonial, Dark Ages, Early 20th Century, English Civil War, French & Indian War, Inter-War, Medieval, Mexican War, Modern, Napoleonic, Pike & Shot, Renaissance, Seven Years War, War of 1812, World War I and World War II
  5. Non-Historical events were categorized as: Fantasy, Future, Horror, Pulp, SciFi, and Victorian Science Fiction
  6. I’m not counting Tournament games, there is no way to know how many there were.

Historical Count

For a grand total of 415

Non-Historical Count

For a grand total of 111

Further Breakouts (historical, then non-historical)

To sum this all up, you can say with some confidence, that based upon the original events data, roughly 21% of it was non-historical gaming events.

S-177 On the Seas of Tekumel, AAR


This is a general After Action Report (AAR) of a game from the recent HISTORICON 2015 show last weekend called On the Seas of Tekumel.

On the Seas of Tekumel. GM: Steve Braun. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel.

Background: The Tekumel universe was created by Professor MAR Barker, back in the 1970s and possibly as early as the 1940s  (I’m not a Barker scholar, though I know a few).  VERY broadly speaking, Tekumel is a planet that has been colonized by many alien races — the humans who become the “Tsolyani” and the other alien races who have also shown up: Hlǘss, Ssú, Hokún, Mihálli, Nyaggá, Urunén, Vléshga.  Many of these are distinctly non-human in flavor, sporting six legs or radically different physiology, and certainly different philosophies.  At some point in the distant past of high science, a “Bad Thing” happened and Tekumel, its moons and other surrounding planets were transported to a pocket dimension.  As a result, there is no more contact with any of the alien’s home planets, and no more advanced technology, although many artifacts are here and there on the landscape.  Professor Barker took this setting and with the help of Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, created one of the world’s first roleplaying games, THE EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE, back in the 70s.  I owned a copy, which was much thumbed through but rarely played.  D&D was always easier to grasp (although far less elegant) and my gaming buds liked their RPGs like they like their coffee, dark, bitter and easy to grasp.  Empire of the Petal throne has enjoyed a long lasting niche popularity over the years and has gone on to be republished and expanded upon by the fanbase.   There have been five novels, by Barker (I believe), I only have read two of them and found them very interesting, if a little dry.

The Seas of Tekumel is a a brainchild of Steve Braun, whom I believe is a teacher in Maryland, and without a doubt a fan of Barker’s work. He adapted material present in the Petal Throne series (there’s a lot more to it now, contributed by subsequent generations) to a simple, fast playing game mechanic about naval warfare on the ship to ship level. To paraphrase one of his comments– if you are a diehard naval gamer that stresses over armor thickness and gun calibers, this is likely not the system for you. Units of movement are single small ships for the various racial types on Tekumel, all of them roughly 15mm in scale and of galley or large war canoe vintage. The simple sailing rules of movement preclude full speed straight on movement into the wind (which makes sense). Players play a single ship and its crew, which all have a secret goal to attend to.

The playing area was a standard 5 x 8 smaller playing surface– aquatic with small volcanic islands represented on them.. most with alien vegetation and some with structures. Dotted here and there were “opportunities” to loot sites for artifacts from the past.

I was assigned the H’luss, the native species of Tekumel, which are a sort of large six limbed insectoid race. They are depicted as being xenophobic in the extreme and rather hateful of the alien usurpers (which is how they view all the other races). Of all the races on the board, I was the one with a submersible, which looked like this:


The H’Luss Submersible, which I captained.

I had had this faction the last time I played and it was a lot of fun to play them. Unliek everyone else on the board I didn’t move normally== I plotted movement on a piece of paper and showed it to the GM to give him an idea of where my submersible was. Last year, I played it to the hilt and it made for some hilarious moments:


Picture from Historicon 2016 game

We had a much denser playing field than last year, it would seem.  I misread my goal entirely and as it had something in their about this being OUR water (being natives) I thought I had to look for a well!  Nope, he meant “Go steal alien tech and kill them all”.. so I wasted some time on non-existant subtlety, I admit it.

I made up for it by trying to reprise the old “surface and swamp the ship” trick which worked last year.  A large Tsolyani Frigate was parked on the same island as the Hlutgu, who were my victims last year.  I tried to surface under the (now empty) ship and drag it away, leaving the Tsolyani stranded.  It partially worked!

The Xenophic H’luss take the human frigate for a Missouri boat ride

Unfortunately a Tsolyani frigate is substantially heavier than the Hlut Go canoe and I ended up submerging quickly or it would destroy the boat. Mission accomplished, though, they humans were dispatched without a shot fired.

Out on the rest of the seas of Tekumel, the ships were fighting a hard scrum.  I surrendered any idea of taking the Humans frigate for myself, and indicated to the (giant lizardmen, forgot their name) that they could have it, even if they get more points from it. The smaller group of pirates with canoes were all swamped or died fighting. The various other ships got into a traffic jam in the center. The (big lizards) and (giant artificially made people) then got into it right above me, so I swam under them and came up behind them. I had to get some tech.  See that red McGuffin on the back of his boat?  That was part of a multi-piece “something” that it turned out I had to go look for.  Might as well start at the beginning.

I surfaced next to their stern and brought MY ancient artifact on deck to fire at them.  The results were.. unusual.   The weapon of the ancients fired, then blew up, making the back of the enemy craft (and his replacement captain) into plasma.  Oddly it didn’t do much to my boat, beyond killing one of the lower ranked H’luss crew.

And that was about that for the game.  It felt short but it was about 4 hours.  I didn’t get the chunk of artifact, but I did prevent my enemies from claiming it.  I had wasted a little too much time trying to achieve a wrong goal early on to acquire it it.  Victory was determined mathematically, based on things accomplished.  I narrowly beat out the guy who took the empty human frigate as prize, because the GM was being nice about me attaining my goals.  So the stunning victory of the H’lussi on the high seas underscores our basic philosophy: GET THE HELL OFF OF OUR PLANET, ALIEN SWINE

If memory serves, I think the HAWKS (Hartford Weekly Kriegspielers) had an entire “Tekumel track” at last Historicon, and this was just one of those games.  I may be hallucinating.  I know I played in this game, and had a great time with it– the rules were simple, the setting was exotic and the game told a story.  Well deserved bravo zulus to Steve Braun for putting on this game, I really enjoyed it.

Here is a slideshow of every picture I took for the Tekumel game

 

T-574 Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!


This is an AAR of Thursday night’s game of Frostgrave, at HISTORICON 2017, put on by the masterful GM: Jeffrey Hiley.  “Masterful” is faint praise for Mr. Hiley’s terrain building skills, which put the rest of us pikers to shame.  Case in point, his Frostgrave city, an expanse upon which I have gamed in the past, sans the harbor area:

Add to this a new feature, a frozen harbor full of ships, a longish quay that had clear shooting from end to end and lots of open lines of sight everywhere, and you have some beautiful terrain that could make for some really tense moments in Frostgrave.

Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!. GM: Jeffrey Hiley. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Frostgrave. Amidst the frozen ruins of the ancient city Frostgrave, wizards battle in the hopes of discovering the lost magics and treasures of a fallen empire. Each player will take the role of a wizard from one of the 10 schools of magic.
Leading an apprentice and hired soldiers into Frostgrave you will compete with other wizards also trying to find lost secrets. Play on custom made, award winning terrain. Kids 12 and under welcome, accompanied by an adult.
Rules taught, beginners welcome.

The Lighthouse in the Frozen Harbor.

The scenario for Treasure Hunting in the Big City sets up two teams, good and evil.   On the good side were four warbands, led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Thaumaturgist, and a Witch.  On the evil side were also four warbands each led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Witch, and a Necromancer.  The sides were very reasonably balanced.   I got the Good Chronomancer.  The GM wisely handed out pre-made warbands with pre selected spells.  This is smart– for a couple of reasons.  First, creating a Frostgrave character takes some thought and takes some time– you have to think about the kind of character you want to play and how you want to play him or her.  Offensive? Defensive?  A character that can take care of himself or others?  Or someone who can throw out fireballs with gay abandon?  Secondly, those crew rosters and figuring out point costs may be easy math, but it also eats up loads of time.  So for a convention, certainly, pre-made rosters are the way to go with Frostgrave.


My Chronomancer and his hired goons step out smartly.

My Spells were: Crumble, Fleet Feet, Decay, Elemental Bolt, Spell Eater, Mind Control, Push and Leap.   This is a good selection, for a Chronomancer.  I would probably select something similar.  The only downside is a Chronomancer’s ability to reach out and impact other groups is pretty limited.  On the other hand, the ability for a Chronomancer to influence matter is pretty good.  Crumble can bring down walls, it can make holes appear under people’s feet.  Decay can make weapons crumble into dust.  Fleet Feet is a passive bonus but it does have a benefit of extra movement for either the Chronomancer or his goons.  The other spells are mostly set up to move other things or other people distances– which helps getting treasure off the map!

Not much in the way of cover out there on the ice floes.  Great treasures, though!

If you know aught about Frostgrave, you’ll know it’s about looting, first and foremost.  The Wizards enter the frozen city, each with a specially picked team of hirelings, and they exit with as much treasure as they can carry.  In Jeff’s game there were treasure tokens all about.  Some were worth more than others– if the treasure token had a gold coin under it, then the treasure was one that implies greater risk, and thus with a greater value (of 10 VP per treasure).   Our four teams on the good side were set up with two teams on my left and one on my right.


Good witch team on my left with giant bear companion (Top). This was mirrored by the evil witch across the table with Troll mirroring Bear for the evil side (Bottom).

My starting position was more or less just a tiny bit right of center.  I was in an area of smaller medieval town buildings, next to a ramp going up to the big causeway that goes up to the big round castle.  Except for the causeway, I had clear control of a high ground with plenty of cover– the third floor of a crumbling townhouse.  Not exactly controlling the right side of the board or anything but offering up good opportunities if my opponents get careless.  I had a lot of good line of sight spells– crumble, push, decay, etc, but nothing that could hurt people from a distance except Elemental Bolt, which has a high casting cost.  So I took my archer and parked my Wizard up high in the drafty crumbling top of the house with the Archer, looking for targets, and sent out my band of thugs to gather and loot with great joy.

I wish I had a sexy tale of my wizard entering into duel with another wizard and slinging bolts and such but it wasn’t like that. I took a commanding presence as I said, and my thugs had a relatively easy time of it. This was due to terrain for the most part. There was a commanding archway directly in front of me which masked the movement of my band (and my wizard and apprentice) nicely. My thugs all got treasure except one. I made good use of my spells and they failed about a 1/3 of the time. Most of them were Fleet Feet to make my people move faster. I hardly ever had another wizard in my sights at any point, but did my best with missile fire and crumble offensively. I never bothered with Elemental Bolt (it’s not a favorite) but I do love Crumble– one of my favorite spells of the Chronomancer group. So I tried to drop a wall away from someone who was next to it and maybe get him to fall. He saved. Then I tried a PUSH on him and it failed. So in order to do a one-two on the bad guys, who were up in the citadel, I started crumbling giant holes in the wall to see IN to the citadel. I did cast a successful DECAY at that point, but that was pretty late in the game now. Oh, and I used MIND CONTROL at one point, which was a lucky roll at 14. I wanted to control a giant rampaging Owl Bear out on the ice floes that was menacing my Thaumaturgist ally, but Jeff plays with spell ranges, and I couldn’t nail him. As a consolation, I was allowed to Mind Control the troll and have him rampage against his former master. That was satisfying.

So my Wizard never really came under fire, nor did my Apprentice.  They were in position to support each other and didn’t risk themselves very much.  This in my mind is appropriate for Chronomancers– they don’t have a way of bringing a world of hurt on other people, but can make things happen.  The closest I came to taking losses was when I sent two thugs and a knight up the ramp to the causeway to grab an extra point treasure.  The knight ran across the causeway to come to grips with the enemy forces in the citadel, while my ally to the left attacked them from the rim of the citadel.  There’s something to be said for having it easy– I had a very clear hand with the loot items.  There was never much danger but the treasures were only worth ten points instead of twenty.

The guys to my immediate left definitely got into it more than I did. They lost an apprentice, but killed two of the enemy apprentices. That was our highest level casualty. The guy on my right (a Thaumaturgist with some good spells) had his hands full and saw the most combat of the entire game. He fought a troll from the enemy Witch team, then ran out on to the ice flows where the good treasure was and got into it a suddenly appearing arctic Owl Bear. So he took the most casualties from the Good side.

At the end of the day, we (the Good Wizards) had a large numerical edge in the Victory Point category.  This was a great event, very entertaining and clearly demonstrating the amount of work that went into prepping the terrain for the spectacle.

HERE is a slideshow of every Frostgrave snap I took.  There are a bunch of them.

Make me a hobby sweat lodge: HISTORICON 2017


And so HISTORICON, the big Summer show of the Historical Miniature Wargame Society (HMGS) was upon us on July 12. After working a half day, I drove down to Fredericksburg in my ancient Dodge Dakota pickup (painted primer black, you can imagine how fun this was in temps nearing 100 F).  My options were few, the van being in the shop.

Yes, the inevitable happened while driving a primer black vehicle in 103 degrees.

After suitable recovery time in air conditioning, I ventured over to the Convention center to do something approaching being helpful:

As can happen on the first night, we had our share of crowds– the pre-registration line, of all things, was moving glacially. Eventually everyone got sorted with a minimum of grumbling and people set to doing what the do here, setting up their games or playing pickup games here and there.  Here I am, walking around the Exhibit Hall A the night before the convention started.

There not being much in the way of dinner options at that time of night, I went to COOKOUT, a local chain I’ve discovered, and had the solitary dining through the car window experience.

Cookout.  Highly recommended– try the mocha milkshake.

I came back and commiserated with a few disgruntled people (not Southerners) who didn’t want (and didn’t vote for) Historicon to move to the Lancaster Host, a venue most of us think is on its last legs, promised renovations or not.  To expand on a theme introduced by Michael M. (who is a respectable fellow and wouldn’t want his last name revealed), Historicon leaving Fredericksburg to go back to the Lancaster Host is roughly like dumping your successful second marriage to move back in with your crazy ex-wife– you know, the one that half your friends loathe and half just tolerate.  AND you move back into that fourth floor walk-up she’s been living in since getting out of school, only now the plumbing and electricity are shot and the elevator hasn’t worked for years.  You find yourselves reminiscing about the old romantic days together, but you’re both nervous.  That twinge you feel? That’s a reminder of that time she stabbed you when she went off her anti-psychotics.  It’s only a matter of time…

Here I am, digressing again.

Thursday the convention really began in earnest.  I worked the events desk as a volunteer until 1 PM. Business was a-boomin.  The problem with Historicon in Fredericksburg is there are never enough events for the Fredericksburg space.  We ended up pretty much running out of most of them (as in giving tickets out to them) by 2 PM and had Friday’s games out by 4PM. It’s heartening that the big draw for these things still seems to be getting into a decent game. The Fredericksburg Conference Center, for all its flaws (and it has some, to be sure) is at least big enough to hold every game submitted and then some.  While we’re discussing convention interface, the Guidebook app was very handy this time around.  I expanded the social media options and added lists for staff and seminars.  It really worked like a charm.  Dan Murowski told me the board has approved expanding Guidebook with pay options, so watch out for Fall IN!

The Awards Desk gets better every year.

I did a high speed pass by of the Dealer’s area before running out for more COOKOUT libations. I bought some Pico Armor (I’m remaking the swordfish planes from Taranto) and new Frostgrave stuff.  The “big new thing” was a couple of big new things.  There was a Samurai warfare boxed starter set.. I can’t recall what it’s called but you get two starter armies in the box.  Nice!  The other big thing seems to be gangster games– the pump being primed by the release of MAD DOGS WITH GUNS and THE CHICAGO WAY.  In terms of games being played, I’d have to say that TEAM YANKEE is really catching on with the same folks who like FLAMES OF WAR so much.  I wanted to get in two games a day at H’con, but really ended up doing 1 a day.  My intentions are always good but I was kind of exhausted.  I ended up getting in to Jeff Hiley’s T-574 Frostgrave: Treasures of the Forbidden City game Thursday night and had the time of my life.  Great terrain, and a great crowd.  I’ve broken out an AAR into its own post following this one.


Visit this link for an AAR of Frostgrave

Flickr Slideshow of all the Frostgrave pics

I hung out late and kibitzed and chatted with the TNGG crowd in the lobby, then collapsed, woke up to a free breakfast, and went back to it.  The vast bulk of games seemed to be running Friday from what I could see.  Lines were long and competition fierce to get tickets.

(yeah, I know, these are Thursday tickets, but still…)

There were a lot of good games Friday.  I did jump right in to Ed Watts’ game called F-486 Conan, What is Best in Life? This game was run using the Matakishi Tea House CROM rules I reviewed on here a while ago. I really like the rule set which I wanted to get in to at least one game of before running it myself.  The game had been going on since noon and I showed up late, so I ended up basically running all the roles in Central Casting– the guard commander, the jail house sergeant, the attack dogs, the “other” guard commander.  This was my first experience with a larger group of players and a couple of things grew immediately clear about CROM.  It’s fun, it’s easy to pick up, but requires to player to make intelligent decisions about how to commit dice from dice pools.  That’s what the game is about, at the core.  If you’re a heroic character (like Conan, Bran Mak Moran, Red Sonja, etc) you will have a huge advantage.  If you are a spear carrier, your game experience is destined to be being part of a  human wave that gets chopped up by the heroes.  Recommendation: don’t play spear carriers.  It’s a great game for all of that.

The moment in the CROM game when my “Captain of the Crimson Cloaks” encounters Conan, Belit, and some red haired giant guy. All heroes. They made chutney out of my poor command. Click to see a slideshow of more pictures.

I was quite tired,  having very little sleep the previous two nights and having to be at the events desk early, so after getting three squads of units slaughtered trying to stop three heroic characters (and consuming some rather grody snack bar coffee), I made apologies and went back to the hotel to sit down for a second, then THIS happened.  I was just going to sit down for a few seconds and wait it out.. yess.. just a second or two...

You see, I was going to run back and join in F-402 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  but had just barely missed being caught in the deluge.  So I sat on the couch in my room, waiting out the gale, my eyes closed, and  traveled in time to 8:30 PM.  So guess what?  No game for me that evening.  Too bad.. I like Jeff and Nick Wasileski’s games quite a bit– they have an absurd level of detail and fanatical regard for historical accuracy.  They say.  I drank some beers with friends and yacked for a bit, and took some pictures:

DAK and Dragons.  You have to look this one up.. 

Dystopian Wars

A strangely familiar looking Chariot Game

Free Chick-Fil-A?  My day is made.  Good things are going to happen NOW.

The Wargame Lending Library made it’s debut and it was surprisingly popular

Bugs, Mr. Rico!

The Martians are coming!

Great End of WW2 setup, center of Exhibit hall A

Epic Pirate Game


7TV setting up

More 7TV

I took a LOT more, but that will make this post three times longer than it needs to be, so see the slideshow here.    My general observations are that the events I saw demonstrated a superb skill in creating terrain and replicating set pieces from source materials, be they history books, comic books or movies.  The ruins of Berlin terrain (you can see some of it above) was almost as good as looking at old black and white newsreels after WW2.  Standouts where the giant 8 hour pirate game that took up a big chunk of space (and a big chunk of Saturday), the 7TV game about Amelia Earhardt, the Frostgrave port city (already mentioned) and the gigantic Team Yankee game in the center of the hall.  One thing that I appreciate is that people seem very interested in the smaller concept rules rather than jumping from one full bore expensive gaming obsession to another.  For instance, three years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that someone would be running a game about Hyborea as a skirmish game– yet this Historicon had two games of CROM.I was introduced to 7TV at Cold Wars– now it’s an accepted rules set for campy lightly themed SF games. All good things.  People are starting to discover you really don’t need to have a giant library of expensive stuff to have a great time wargaming these days.   Crom and Frostgrave, for instance, can take advantage of the same kind of figures, and you probably have a lot of them already if you used to play D&D.  Historical games?  The same, only more so.  It’s a good trend.


Hobby University setting up

So, Saturday… even more people, even earlier working the events desk.  We had a brisk trade at the events desk, as Saturday was also very active.  We had our fair share of SNAFUs (double bookings, moving games, explaining deleted games, missing tables, misprinted tickets) which we tried to deal with courteously.

There were once again, some fine games running in the Exhibit Hall

A most excellent Russo Japanese naval game that was ending as I walked  up!

The RFCM demo team was here in force, showing off revised Men of Company B, I expect.

Part of the epic Team Yankee game in Exhibit Hall A.  More pics in the slideshow

I have a ton of Frostgrave snaps in a follow up, but thought I’d point this out

Just one of the many pictures of BEN FRANKLIN’S WAR, a visual treat.

What the heck, I know Jeff. the camera loves him.

And even more.

A personal favorite– AWFUL GREEN THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE as a miniature game

I hope this runs at FALL IN! I’d love to play it.

I had a quick run through of the Flea Market and the Dealer’s hall before my 3 PM game, Steve Braun’s Seas of Tekumel.   I didn’t buy much, except a light up temple for FROSTGRAVE and some Pico Armor and some old GW troops from Chort, and some laser cut terrain pieces.  Kind of a slim shopping experience.

Seas of Tekumel was a reprise of the same game, by the same name, from last Historicon.  I once again played the intrepid Xenophobics, the H’luss.  I like playing the H’luss– even if we don’t have the larger crews that the other ships were boasting, we did have the advantage of having the only submersible on the board, an advantage I took advantage of, replaying last year’s nasty trick with less dramatic results.   I took more pictures than this, so click on this one to see more.


The H’Luss submersible raises underneath a giant frigate to strand the crew on shore. Ha ha ha! I can’t believed they fell for it this year!

I wrote another post on this as a follow up; go HERE to see it.  My plans were to sit in at yet another game of CROM at 7:30 but this time plans got in the way.  I ended up hanging out in the lobby of Homewood suites and playing board games with some fellers.  HERE is a slideshow of all my Tekumel pictures.

Sunday was like most Sundays at game conventions– breakfast, lots of coffee,  a spin around the dealer’s and a spin around the flea.  Not much to add.

That was my HMGS Historicon Convention, and it was a great time.  The weather was quite oppressive at times, and it was a chore to walk across a parking lot in the middle of the day– like being in an Indian Sweat lodge.  That part I won’t miss, but like every convention, it was the people who made the difference.  I love these cons.

Obligatory pathos-laden final image:

Farewell, Fredericksburg! Farewell! (Or at least until the next BoD brings us back).

Wellington


Deal with it.

Bow your heads. Dr. Kauderer has exited the building.


I learned today that Dr. Howard Todd Kauderer had passed away. I have no words for this. I knew he had been ill. Yet, he was very active in social media, here and there, ran for the Board of Directors of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society fairly recently, and was always, always, a steadfast volunteer on virtually every convention I’ve attended for the past decade. It’s like he just left the room a few minutes ago or something.

Guys like Todd are the salt of the earth. They aren’t drama queens. They are courteous, and thoughtful, and they work like mules so other people can benefit. Without complaint. I’m not exaggerating, here. Todd usually worked registration at conventions, working long shifts (supervising), and usually a longer shift than a lot of people (who were also working like donkeys, I might add).  When the last dollar was counted and the bank drop made, then he would go have fun for himself.  This was a routine.

It would be disingenuous to say we were close, or even buddies. Todd was one of that tribe of people I only get to see 3 times a year. Yet, he was a very pleasant, kindly man to talk to, even if we ran in different social circles.


Todd welcoming his granddaughter into the world (from Facebook)

Todd, thank you for the gift of your hard work, the gift of your intelligence, and your steadfast decency over the years. May God bless you and hold you in His hand.  At the heart of it, our mutual hobby is all about people, and we should never forget the efforts of people who make the world just a little bit better by the application of patience and understanding.

http://www.sagelbloomfield.com/obituaries/Howard-Kauderer/#!/Obituary

Pulp Science Fiction Miniatures 2/2


And here’s some more of the same series.

Pulp Science Fiction Miniatures Project 1/2


I’ve been painting up a lot of retro pulp style Science Fiction miniatures in 28mm lately, as I’ve referred to in some previous posts.  I’m more of a fan of the Commander Cody/Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers style of retro SF, personally.  Collecting figures in this very narrow niche can be a challenge.  I’m going to post two posts of Youtube videos I recently posted that give an overview of what I’ve been working on. I usually post verbiage and still pictures, but what the heck, this might be fun to do as an alternative (occasionally).

Here’s 1 of 2.

The Dice of Generations


When it comes to geek “cred,” you either have it or you don’t have it. When I was a kid, there was no such thing as “geek cred”. That’s because the very concept of receiving peer social approval by being able to intelligently speculate on the origins of Boba Fett or recite Monty Python sketches verbatim was only rewarded by a very select crowd, and this was lore spoke of in hushed tones, hurriedly while we were looking over our shoulders to make sure nobody was listening. Lest the jeering start.

Kids these days don’t know how good they have it.

So.. when I reference these objects, I’m sure there will be people in the readership of this blog that are going to recognize them. They will know their origins. They will sigh wistfully at the rounded edges, the scratches, the almost vanished grooves where numbers used to be.

It is altogether fitting you should be wistful.  These are the very first commercially available D&D dice, designed specifically to play that game.  I’m not sure of their provenance, but it is likely they were manufactured around 1980 or so.  Sure, they are (technically, an Octohedran, a Dodecahedron, a cube, a pyramid and two Trapezohedrons, but to an earlier generation, these were the spiff.  Dice MADE to play D&D with.  They were a huge hit.  Everyone who played had a set.  So what if they were crappy dice?  So what if the ink had to be reapplied with a drafting pen, until the edges got so warn and rounded you weren’t sure if it was worth repairing?  So what?  These were D&D dice.  These opaque beauties weren’t much to look at but this is “how we rolled” when we were nestled in Jay’s basement, or my basement, or Pete’s house.  I never got rid of mine, but I did put them in my old 16mm film can, and stored it on top of a bookcase in my study when we moved into our last house in 2000, and there it stayed undisturbed.  When a tree fell on my house last October, we had a flooded basement and had to pitch everything.  Including my bookcases and tons of gaming stuff.  I didn’t give it any thought, but the can (and everything else in my study) was gone.

(going back in time for a moment): Many years ago, my son, then in 5th grade, came home all excited.

It’s this game we play at lunch time, dad.. one person sort of navigates with words, the other people kind of go through adventures, by calling them out and then we draw maps… it’s really really fun!

I realized my son was describing Dungeons and Dragons to me.  His very first game of it.  I had never pushed him into playing, or even really talked to him about RPGs.  He wandered there all by himself, and thought he was cool because of his great discovery.  He’s played D&D on and off since then, not every week but on a semi-regular basis.  Now that he’s out of high school, he’s got his first job at a Summer Camp for scouts, as a blacksmith.  I recently got an urgent call from Garrett.  There’s no internet at camp, no cell reception, and he’s bored and so are all the other young men down there.  Would I send him the D&D 5 edition Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s handbook?  I was tickled, and said, sure, why not, I can think of worse diversions.  Then I texted him back– “need anything else? Do you have dice?  You need special kinds”  He texted back.

“Got that covered. I found this when they were tossing all your stuff in the rollaway”

And he sent a picture of a little steel film can, full of crappy D&D dice from circa 1980.  And a few of the sturdier, cooler Lou Zocchi dice, too, from the same period.   I was speechless.   I realized, then, that these were the dice of generations.  They were kind of rounded and old and probably needed a re-inking, but my son, by himself, had wandered into the same hobby I had loved when I was his age.  He was having the same kind of fun we did back then, with paper, pencils, a good DM with some imagination, munchies… and a can of crappy old dice.  Some things don’t have to be the latest and greatest, when you have an imagination.

He texted me later asking “Hey, I didn’t ask, I just saw them throwing stuff out and the can rolled out.. it is okay for me to use these?  We don’t have a game store near here” I texted back… “Of course it is. That’s YOUR dice collection, now.”


Postscript: Garrett sent me a photo of him setting up for a D&D 5th edition game at the Summer Camp he works at. Note the little 16mm film can full of original TSR dice goodies, still giving good service, 40 years later.

Discovery: Brother Vinni and Ganesha 28mm retro Science Fiction stuff


file under #smallwars

I recently made an interesting discovery.  I like my science fiction with a tinge of science fantasy, specifically of the pulp visual nature, prevalent in American culture from about the 40s to the 70s historically.  So I’ve been slowly pursuing a project you can see on the bottom right, under the heading “Science Fiction Bar Fight along the lines of the Draco Tavern” (Classic Niven Reference for the win).  I’ve posted on my retro SF efforts in the past on here.  Given the long winter of being homeless (see the post about the tree), I’ve had time to paint and have stuff painted.  My collection has grown dramatically.  Alas, as the Wargame Supply Dump has gone out of business I have jumped in and attempted to buy as much of his line as I can before it vanishes.

A lot of the current offerings in 28mm don’t have the exact right “fantastic feel” to them.. just a tinge of silliness and whimsy, like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Like fins and bright colors and big oversized ray guns and and goggles and leather helmets and such. I’m always looking for figures like this– I’ve been buying and painting GAFDOZ for years and recently made the aforementioned binge buy of WSD before it folded tents. The problem is where do you go from here? That’s what this post is about. Will it be possible to find more 28mm figures with the proper wacky pulp retro look and feel? Well, yes, but I’ll have to go about it judiciously.

One element of the amorphous “pulp SF universe” that I feel is is important is robots. I mean the big rounded edged clanky guys you used to see in the old serials. I found some candidates that make perfect sense in this setting.

I discovered Brother Vinni, a 28mm figure manufacturer who specializes in resin cast Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical figures.  I believe? the manufacturer is from Russia.  I really like Brother’ Vinni’s small SF Line, particularly the “Nuclear Sandlot” category.  The humanoid figures tend to be more slender than the figures I have to compare them to– mostly in the GAFDOZ range, which are “beefy”.  However, robots don’t have to be in any specific scale, even androids.  One assumes there will be a variance.
The Nuclear Sandlot robots appear to be sculpted with an eye towards the FALLOUT computer game. If you’ve played it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I picked up the Flying Bot  figure which looks like the robot major domo figure from the game. It’s easy to put together.  You’ll have to do some standard prep actions before painting– soak in water overnight, and be sure to drill the hole out a little.  The figure doesn’t come with a stand, per se, but does come with a transparent peg to mount on a stand of your choice.

Here is my version, after cleaning, drilling and mounting on a MDF circular base. Good choice, actually– this model can get a little top heavy and you’ll want something heavier to keep it upright.  I ended up painting the robot a gun metal color overall, with some bronze highlights, a bronze colored security weapon and bright red lenses on the security camera arms and main ray gun face.  I gave it a sort of thinned out black ink to give it a little grime and depth, and a couple of coats of medium shiny sealer– I’m giving all the pulp stuff a shiny coat because it seems to fit the subject.

I also picked  up two Observer Bots which also seem to be inspired by FallOut.  I plan to make these part of the game– any character with a comunications rig sculpted on it can use an observer bot to see down a hallway.  These tiny little floating soccer balls have a perfect look for pulp

Same approach to cleaning, drilling and mounting.  The observer bot has a little whip antenna that has to be attached, be careful, this will get away from you.  The hole for the stand up flight pole was totally filled in with resin so I had to drill it out carefully.  The model has holes in it for some sort of whisker antennas (four of them) but these were not included.  I suppose someone could heat up a piece of sprue to stretch out and make them from scratch, but I didn’t see the point of it.  That’s my only complaint about Brother Vinnie’s kits.. don’t advertise an element of a model in the assembled pictures that isn’t provided in the final product!

Last robot I got is ALSO inspired by FallOut, I think.  It matches one of the standard robot types found in the game, and Uncle Vinnie just calls this “Robot“.

This was probably the easiest figure to clean up, assemble and paint. The overall aesthetic is kind of like a pint-sized Robbie the robot character from Forbidden Planet.  He’s going to make a decent robot butler or some other kind of servant.   I also mounted him on MDF, painted an overall gun metal with bronze highlights, and gave him a little grime (thinned black ink) and a semi-gloss coat like the robots above.  “Robot” fits in well with the pulp figures I already have, being somewhat tiny but then again, who says robots have to be huge hulking figures to be useful?  Nobody, that’s who.

Now, on to some figures that I loved, loved, loved in the adverts, but the reality was kind of a mixed bag.  At least you have the bottom line up front.  On to Ganesha Games 28mm Science Fiction line, being manufactured and distributed Alternative Armies.   I was very intrigued by the latest releases that were recently trumpeted on the Alternative Armies website about Lord Phalag and his companions, Psi-Knights and Combot combat robots.   Lord Phalag is a Baron Harkonnen looking chap in a floating chair, looking very corrupt and dissolute, and slightly evil. He has an enforcer brute companion named Graul Granite who reminds me of the Thing from Fantastic Four, and some female alien type modeled to look like she has some form of psychic power or whatnot named Skarra.


(Image: Alternative Armies)

I was in as soon as I saw the floating chair. Now that’s a great sculpt. Very decadent looking.

Also of note were a gang of Psy-Knights waving about some sort of light energy beam sword weapons. Hmm. Wonder who these guys are supposed to be? You can take your guess:

Image: Alternative Armies

Well, I had to have those guys, too. I was pleased that Alternative Armies will through in a “Combot” robot with each purchase from this line and got one of those, too.

Now, here’s the rub. These are beautiful sculpts.. very pulpy, nice detail. I want to build and paint these. This is what showed up at my door.

No instructions. No bases. Nothing. Just kind of a jumble of parts. The feet aren’t even attached to a slot to go on a slotta style base. Nothing. The figure of Lord Phalag is my favorite, but I’m going to have to figure out how to put this thing together. Worse, I’m going to have to figure out the flying base too.. I know there are companies that sell these, but apparently Ganesha is not one of those. So how do I base them? (BTW, the website DOES say “sold without bases”.. and it’s my fault for jumping on this without reading, I admit that up front, but I wanted this thing to work.. and thus enthusiasm overcame common sense).

Well, it’s going to take a lot of work to make these figures work. I suppose I’ll have to find some slotta bases (I don’t have any). The figures are cast without anything at all on their feet so I expect I’ll have to drill and pin to make the figures stable on a base of any kind. The Chair figure of Lord Phalag is the big disappointment. I’ll have to buy a flying base of some kind (no idea what will work, they don’t say and they don’t sell one) and the resin part is pretty smooth. There’s some metal bits to finish out the figure but the resin is so smooth something tells me I’ll be drilling and pinning there as well. I’ll make it work but it won’t be a fast process.

In summary, it’s a mixed bag. I like the sculpts and detailing of everything I’ve purchased lately, but the Brother Vinnie models came together significantly more easily than the Ganesha Games stuff will. Everything seems to fit well with other pulp figures I already have, so I’m pleased, but grumpy about all the work I’ll have to do for the Ganesha stuff.

The new Guidebook App for HISTORICON 2017 has been published


Greetings, this is my second try. I don’t know why or how WordPress just ate my previous posts but here we go again.


new Historicon 2017 guidebook, Web page version.

It’s that time of year. Historicon is upon us. You may want to use Guidebook, the elegant little convention directory app that works pretty well on IoS devices, Ipads, Android phones and any smartphone that can display a webpage.

Changes are pretty minimal in the interface (the part that the users see). The background content delivery technology is going through some changes, but most of that will be invisible.  General Info (front page, theme, address, directions) is the same, Schedule pretty much the same (and containing just Events and Tournaments this year).   My Schedule consists of events you’ve saved to your schedule.  Twitter works as before– you can live tweet during the convention.  I think the tags are #historicon #historicon2017 #hmgs_inc and #miniatures.  You’ll have to authorize access to twitter by the app itself.  Maps are the same, To-Do List is the same, and HMGS on Facebook points to the HMGS page on FB– you can post there from this app.  War College & Hobby University are now using their own list, making them easier to find.  Con Staff & where to find them is a list of staff leads.   Photo Album hasn’t changed, though it is underutilized.  Inbox is a way for con mgt. to broadcast to users in a hurry.  FAQs is a new list that I leached from the HMGS Historicon page.  Exhibitors hasn’t changed.

I know I have belabored the guidebook people taking the “Tracks” function away, but the addition of the new Seminars list has made it easier to compartmentalize events on Guidebook.  Schedule now just has Games and Tournaments in it, but you can sort tournaments out easily enough, simply by searching on the key word Tournaments:

And that sorts out all the tournaments.

HOW TO GET GUIDEBOOK FOR HISTORICON 2017

Simple: the landing page for the IOS version, the Android version and smart phones is here. 

The version on a web page is here

That should be enough to get you started.  Specific pictures of features are on other Guidebook blog posts on this blog (I’ve been doing this for a while) if you are interested.

Late edit:

People were emailing me saying they were having problems adding events to their personal schedules (the “My Schedule” item in the menu). I had to go back and turn check in ON, and republish, but that has it fixed. For review purposes, see the graphic below.

see the plus sign in a circle to the right of the event title? Click on THAT to add the event to your personal schedule. Enjoy the event!

Image

The Good Old Days



Reblogged from Vintage Wargaming.

So, yeah, that camp thing..


As I have posted about on here about once a year for more than a decade, I run a gaming camp for kids through the good graces of Saint Stephens and Saint Agnes school, Alexandria, VA, in the first week of August, every year.   I don’t pretend I invented the concept– in fact, I can look back at my own childhood and remember a guy who did something similar with Airfix plastic soldiers and Testor Paints back in the 1970s, and I feel like I am merely emulating his example many years later.  It turns out this is a growing movement, and other people are jumping in to run camps as well.

Here’s another camp I found out about up in Cambridge.  This looks dope!

I was approached by Kevin Kelly (from HMGS) who is putting together an article for an as-yet-unmentioned wargaming publication describing the growing number of gaming camps in the US (East Coast, anyway), many of whom are being sponsored and supported in some fashion by HMGS.  Kevin asked me for a contribution.  Given that editors can be fickle, this article might not have the same priorities as others, so in case it gets trimmed or omitted, here’s my contri:


I run a miniatures wargaming camp through the kind patronage of St. Stephens and St. Agnes schools, Alexandria, Virginia.  The school has an extremely unique Summer Camp program—it’s quite extensive, with several “specialty camps” on an assortment of subjects (magic, chemistry, nature, theatrics, etc).  My camp is a specialty camp called (currently) “Science Fiction and Fantasy Tabletop Gaming”.  I chose the non historical format on purpose.  My mission is to get children exposed to a non-plugged in, creative form of gaming.  I don’t think I’m going to manage that feat by jumping into the historical deep end with both feet, so I get them hooked on miniatures with subjects that are already familiar to them, namely SF and Fantasy.

Learning about the virtues of a tight linear formation using Warhammer Fantasy

The format of my camp is pretty simple– one week long, coed, 12-16 years old, although I allow older kids with permission.  Many of the gamers in my camp have been coming for several years and are starting to “age out” as their little brothers and sisters are coming in.  We run one game open for everyone per day during the week, usually a mix of commercial and home-brew designs.   I try to make at least one new game for every camp I put on– or introduce a new commercial game.  In 2016 I managed a record of sorts– I introduced Frostgrave (the kids loved it), Armada (they liked it, but it might have had too many special rules), Battletech (they didn’t like it– too charty) and brought back a favorite game, Big Danged Boats, my own 15mm fantasy naval game set in a fictional “Middle Sea”.  I actually wanted to run something else but I had a lot of repeats from last year and that’s what they emailed me to put on.

Nobody is perfect; this is why I use acrylics.

While I am setting up the big game event of the day, my son usually gets everyone to either paint miniatures (I usually have a bundle of good plastic figures from Perry, Warhammer, etc., whatever can be donated) or play board games most kids have never heard of.  Recent camp favorites have been Cosmic Encounters, Get Bit, Room 25, Munchkin (various kinds), Werewolf and other simple, easy to teach games.  I try to teach a little painting as part of the camp, but I find they usually don’t have the patience to  paint figures for more than an hour, so I don’t push it. In the past we have had a design day, where I’ll bring in some common items.. like markers, cards, sticks and cheap figures, and bring a few people who are interested into a huddle while they design their own game using the implements I provided.  One of the more popular games ever played at camp, Zombietown USA, started life as a game camp kid-only design about running from a zombie horde and catching a rescue copter.
I love working on this camp and for me it’s a kind of creative vacation.  Throwing a week full of games is a very creative spur for me to get everything together in time.  I’ve completed more longstanding game design ideas in the last ten years because I HAD to, to fill in a gap in the schedule.  The response has been enthusiastic– not overwhelming but in compensation I tend to get some very creative, fun kids who are looking for something new and so many of them didn’t know this hobby existed, or perhaps had heard a rumor of Warhammer or something like that.  I’ve been very fortunate that the Historical Miniatures Gamine Society has been supporting me in recent years by allowing my campers to attend HISTORICON free of charge!  I think it’s a mistake not to pursue introducing this hobby to a younger set in an organized manner– the hobby is a fantastic outlet for creativity and imagination, and it doesn’t plug into a wall or go online even once!

I’ll take enthusiastic application over precision when it comes to painting, sure, why not?

March Violets


March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)March Violets by Philip Kerr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Bernie Gunther series recounts the adventures and cases of one Bernard “Bernie” Gunther, private detective, State Policeman, SS police officer, and on into the postwar era. March Violets is the first volume of the Bernie Gunther series and the Berlin Noir trilogy– apparently the author, Phillip Kerr, wrote the first three in roughly quick succession and then wrote some other things and the fan base started clamoring for more Bernie. There are now a dozen of them. Bernie Gunther is an interesting type, although not exactly a unique one in fiction. He is a basically moral individual, working as a private investigator, roughly 38 years of age, a widower, and a former State Policeman. In some respects, a classic noir archetype. In others, he is quite unique. You see, this novel is set in late 1930s Nazi Germany, on the eve of the Berlin Olympiad. Bernie is called in to help a powerful industrialist, Hermann Six, solve a robbery and murder of his daughter and son-in-law. As the case unfolds, gradually Bernie discovers more and more layers to the secret, some of which go to the highest circles of power in Nazi Germany.

I got hooked on this book and read it in record time, because it was a mix of familiar and unfamiliar, a rewiring of the classic detective with a heart of gold set in the midst of one of the most evil regimes in history. One feature of Kerr’s prose is that he liberally sprinkles his novels with real historical characters and authentic sounding fictional ones. He also doesn’t write novels in a sequence. One is set before the war, another during, another after the war.. but later ones will jump all over the time period. As a die-hard history fanatic, I appreciated the appearance of Goering, Himmler and Heydrich in the story, and the backdrop of the Olympiad. I found March Violets to be very engaging and a real page turner. I rapidly polished of the Berlin Noir trilogy and am taking a break before reading more– I don’t want to overdose.

I would not hesitate to recommend the entire Berlin Noir trilogy, for starters.

View all my reviews

I’ve been a slacker


Okay, I’ll be straight up about it.  I’ve not posted anything in a long, long while.  There’s a reason for it, no matter how lame it may sound.  In late October of 16, I was in the garage cleaning stuff up, and Garrett was in the family room.  The day was sunny and cool, but the wind was rather strong.  We have many old growth oaks in the back yard of our property, sloping down to a creek.  I heard a very different sound– like a whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.. CRACKKKK, WHAM! … and then I heard yelling from Garrett, and ten tons of tree dropped on our house!

A particularly heavy old oak, one that went up and branched out into four trunks, had snapped at the trunk, a victim of gusting, twisty winds, and then it plunged into our yard, demolishing the fence, destroying our dagwood tree and flattening the back deck.  It also pierced the side and roof of the house, smashed windows and broke siding.

So, yeah. That happened. The house has been damaged. The grey water pipe flooded the basement, mold set in. A clean up crew had to basically knock out all the walls, box up everything.. and I mean everything that was in the bottom 3 feet of the bottom floor.. was boxed up and taken out to a rollup and discarded. A lot of game stuff, a lot of books. We’ve had to empty the house, which is being renovated and the roof fixed, finally, after months of wrangling with a contractor who didn’t give us a straight deal. There are now men, swinging hammers, in my house, and I’m very happy.

However, this has also meant moving to a rental house (tiny) where the only room for hobby stuff is a small slab table in the utility room. I’ve had to work late hours at the house, after a regular job, and it has taken its toll on my creative urge. I like to think I’m snapping back, though. I’m painting constantly, way more than normal. I went through a 1:2400 pre-dreadnought phase, and have painted up fleets for Yalu (1894) and Santiago de Cuba (1898) in late Feb and most of March. In April I started painting 28mm Science fiction guys to support a little game camp game. This has been a fun evolution and I’m really enjoying it, even if I’m not much of a painter. I’m also going to punch out some rules and rewrites I’ve had on the burner for a while. So I’m getting my groove back, and have a backlog of stuff to write about, so stay tuned.