Blank White Dice & the Required Solution


So, yeah, I enjoy a game with a nomic element to it.   What’s a nomic element, you ask?  Look, we’ve been at this before– it’s a game where changing the rules are an active part of the rules themselves.  The word “nomic” comes from the game design by Peter Suber, which was first mentioned in Douglas Hofstader’s book, Metamagical Themas.  Suber, a philosopher, envisioned a game where you could vote every round to change the rules of the game.  The game he created based on those principles involves a lot of making of motions and voting to make changes.  Voting and making motions may not sound like it’s edge of the seat entertainment for you.  It surely isn’t for me either.  I’ve observed a game of Nomic being played, and it was like watching paint dry.  On the other hand, I did like the way the game was subtly evolving as it was being played– that part was excellent.  Now, other games borrow “Nomic elements” for game play.  The most famous being Fluxx and Cosmic Encounter but there are others, like Dvorak.  The medium is usually a card game because the simplicity of a card lends itself to ease of understanding when a rule changes.  There’s an even simpler approach, involving dice and markers…

I’ve just discovered another great game with nomic elements, BLANK WHITE DICE, by Whizkids (BWD hereafter).  BWD is implemented with simple mechanics and simple components. Each player gets two dice, two color tokens, and a marker. A set of five cards that are always played are set out, and another set of five cards (decided either randomly or called for in one of the game scenarios) are placed to their right. This creates “the tableau”. The cards have large icons on them. The icons are symbols you can choose to “Tag” (write on) your dice with. Each card does a different thing, game wise.. either adding points, removing points, erasing dice, or retagging them. There is also a big “common” dice that a person can claim during the course of the game by playing a certain icon from a card (“Window”).  This gives the player an advantage of an extra dice.


A starting tableau.

Game starts with the players “tagging” four times. That means, writing a symbol on the cards in the tableau.. on any dice they like, but only four times. Then they roll. If it comes up blank (likely in the first turn), they spend the turn tagging a blank side. They keep rolling and gradually the Icons on the cards (transcribed into the dice by the expedient of wet erase marker) will quickly come into play. Mostly this is felt by either gaining points, losing points or changing one or more faces of any dice on the table.

The game rules are not particularly well-written; they use different words to mean the same thing and often make a very simple point seem overly complex. However, after about one game anyone can get the hang of it, and games run very quickly indeed– rarely more than 20 minutes. Blank White Dice is an excellent filler game at a very nice price (20 bucks MRP or thereabouts), and could make an excellent stocking stuffer this Christmas.

And now, the Solution (pardon the pun)

I watched Tom Vasel’s review of BWD, which was short and somewhat critical, some of it for very good reasons. I do agree that the rulebook could use another pass. I also agree that the technology of wet erase (and dry erase) markers with somewhat porous dice sides makes for dice that can get very grimy very quickly. However, just by chance I stumbled around to a perfect solution. Giggle.

My son and I were playing BWD down in the man cave and the first “erase” result came up. I got up to put some water in a red solo cup. Just by chance, I added a little Mr. Clean cleaner in the cup too.

Notice what happens!


Typical grimy dice after three games.

Dab a paper towel in the Mr. Clean and water solution, apply gently:

And voila!


Just dab it once and wipe off the excess with a dry paper towel.


It’s totally clean, now.


The dice on the left, next to the red marker, has never been marked. The ones on the right have been used for 7 games.

Tom decries the wet marker as being “horrible” and “problematic”. They sure were (problematic, I wouldn’t say “horrible”, per se) before I discovered the Mr. Clean method.  However, we found a quick dab and a blotting up cleaned it like new in seconds.

So, what are my thoughts? I love the nomic flavor, and I love the semi-deck building feeling of the game (dice building?). It’s a great idea for a fast game that plays back to back several times quickly. Tom thought it was more like an activity than a game, and he might have a point. I enjoyed it after several plays, and will definitely keep it. However, it’s not a real brain bender or “deep” game. Still, it was simple, fun and every game had unexpected changes. I’ll have it on the table again.

The Spectacular Debut, Short Life and Magnificent Death of the Fat Box


My father, James, has always been the handiest of fellows.  Growing up, we only got a color television when he decided to build one himself, from an old Heathkit product.  Sure, the colors were tinged green and cyan much of the time and you had to fine tune it with this panel of circular dials in a rack you slid out of the television, and then you had to do that visually, but what the heck, it was color.  My Dad had a knack for that kind of thing– his basement was a mad scientist refuge of shortwave radios, satellite trackers, antenna parts and shop tools.  Before he was an early adopter in everything you can conceive of in the electronic realm, his big passion in life was (and is) small wooden boats.  Being a product of the Naval Academy, he was thoroughly enmeshed in naval history and culture, but his big thing was always the small coaster vessel or harbor sailing boat– preferably wooden and hand crafted.  He made a mahogany and teak double-seat kayak by himself.  It was solid work and a thing of beauty.  I remember helping him varnish it (inexpertly) as a youngster.  His next small boat project was to build a small harbor sailing boat from a famous design, the Pelican.


(that’s not it; I don’t have any actual pictures of our Pelican. Ours was blue)

This was a fun little craft with room for our family of six on board.  It may look kind of squat in this picture, but with the wind hitting her just a few points right of dead center she could really scud along at an amazing clip.   I remember we sailed her all along the harbor of Monterey Bay when my dad was at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Of course, even the best sailboat design will require a small outboard motor from time to time.  Dad found the one he wanted, too.. in Great Britain.

This is a British Seagull Two Stroke marine outboard engine.  The Seagull wasn’t loud and flashy, but it was small, dependable, and could cheerfully propel a hull of up to about 26 feet in length, so it had a lot of power in its tiny frame.  The Seagull was designed for small boats (mostly wooden) so naturally my dad knew a lot about the Seagulls and no other outboard motor would do for him.  He made arrangements  to have a Seagull outboard motor shipped all the way from Wolverhampton, England to Monterey, California.  This is where our story picks up.

The Seagull arrived after about three months of anxious waiting on my dad’s part.  The engine was everything Dad could ask for, and would ultimately render years of good service.  What caught my eye was the shipping container.  This wasn’t reinforced cardboard, no sir.  The Seagull shipped in a sturdy wooden box, already cut to be converted into a storage container (there were rope holes already drilled in the side for future carrying loops).  A good Internet picture of this container remains elusive but these should give  you some idea:

The crate was longish, about 4 feet and some inches long, and wide, maybe 2 feet 6 or slightly under. I was entranced with this thing. British Seagull Co Limited had built a sturdy container to be sure, but what to do with it now? We didn’t have a garage to store it in in Naval housing. Dad planned on hanging the Seagull on a wall in the shed, so when I asked to have the container he just shrugged and said why not. Immediate plans started forming in my head.  We were too old to play “forts” with it, it wasn’t going to work as a tree house, so there was only one thing for it– downhill racer.  In that era (California, 1970s), soapbox derby racing was still a thing.  Soapbox racers hardly looked like the boxes they were named for.   They were streamlined, space-age looking and went down a hill like poop through a goose.  We reasoned, hey, this is an actual BOX, we can put wheels on it, and get into soapbox racing! Yay!

Dad wasn’t one of these over-protective parents.  His views about child safety were at best, laissez-faire but not remotely Darwinian, exactly… Experience being a good teacher, burnt hand teaches best, etc. etc..  So he helped us with construction in a bemused, Dad-like fashion.  I think the idea of the DIY reuse/rebuild racing cart appealed to him.  Wheels weren’t an issue.  We salvaged some very utilitarian axles and wheels off of some cart or something.  They were tiny, the axle was  slightly wider than the wheel base of the Seagull box, so it seemed perfect.  Did we measure it? Nah!  That’s for wimps!  We eyeballed it!  Then we installed our new axles roughly straight-ish by using a series of nails as “U clamps” by bending them over the axles.  This was a design decision that would come back to haunt us, as we’ll investigate presently.

Steering?  Well, as you can see from the pictures above, the box came equipped with handle holes if the owner wanted to store the motor in the shipping case.  Dad drilled a hole through the front support and attached a wheel that could pivot on a bolt in there (using a countersink drill bit to give the nut some  breathing room).  We then added a wheel axle attached to a piece of 2 x 4 wood he cut to match the axle and attached it to the box and rotating nut.  Two eyelets were attached to the front of the rotating piece of 2 x 4 and cut pieces of clothes line were attached.  Then the bitter ends were run up to the two holes drilled by the company for carrying handles and pulled in to box.  By pulling really hard on one rope or the other, we could steer this mammoth object while in motion, and pull them both out to tow it back up a hill.  Smart, huh?  Wellll.. hm.. as it turned out, the steering system was more theoretical than practical, and that’s something you should probably nail down early in any wheeled vehicle design.  We’ll circle around to this later.

So the day arrived for to take our monster off of the blocks and out for a sail (as it were).  We wanted to give it a cool name like Comet or Pirate or Cheetah..  Dad solved it in laconic fashion by saying “Call it the Fat Box, because that’s what it is”.  We liked that– it had a certain panache all its own.   So we pushed Fat Box out of the driveway and started to pull it up the nearest hill.  Fat Box seemed enormous to us (though it really wasn’t, based upon the pictures I’m seeing).  There was room for two kid-sized people max– my neighbor Scotty (about a year younger than me) was along for the ride.  The nearest hill was La Mesa drive.  La Mesa drops off from the hill where the elementary school is and descends for a long straightaway down into military housing.  The Fat Box was heavy, and we had another guy along to ride with and help with the pulling.  His name was Ricky Graves and he was a heavy kid, red faced and sweating, but exactly who we needed– because he was pretty strong, too.  At the top of the hill I remember I was in the box with the neighbor kid (Scotty) and Ricky was holding on to it like an anchor.

I should point out we didn’t overlook safety gear– we were wearing my Uncle Jerry’s M1 Marine Corps helmet.. I was wearing the liner and Scotty wearing the brain bucket.

Nothing but the best for us!

So the Fat Box was on the lip of the hill. Scotty and I were nestled in the box itself, with myself in the back, feet braced against the center brace, and with the two steering cords all the way back at my end. Eyeing the steep grade, Ricky asked the only sensible question uttered that day. “You sure you want to do this?” You know, sometimes science isn’t about “Why?”, it’s about “Why the hell NOT??”, and we were feeling reckless. So Ricky shrugged and let go, and immediately we received our first lesson in momentum and potential energy. For such a crudely built and ungainly vehicle, the Fat Box LEAPED into top speed almost immediately. I mentioned this hill was steep, right? Looking back, all I could see was Ricky Grave’s astonished look as his face dwindled away rapidly.

DOWN we zoomed.. fast, fast and going faster, and our first design flaw became apparent. Nobody had even thought for a second about a smart way to slow this thing down. No brakes! Since we were at that moment bumping and bouncing down a steep hill right out into a busy intersection, heading into a suburban neighborhood with steady traffic, suddenly I had what Go enthusiasts call “atari“, or that moment of perfect clarity. We had best work on that “Slowing Down” part of downhill racing, and fast. Fortunately, my ten year old self wasn’t all about romantic notions.. I had come prepared. I fished out a length of wood, and tried to push it down on the back wheel to get it to slow down by friction. I suppose that might have worked in the Old West on a buckboard wagon or something, but in reality, here on La Mesa hill at top speed, the lumber flew out of my hand when I attempted the “stick in the wheel” method. As we tensed up, we couldn’t help but notice the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon dead perpendicular to us at the bottom of the hill, rapidly approaching. I put everything my frame could put into heaving on the left hand steering rope, and we discovered the limitations on the steering system. The way the lines were rigged, the more you pulled on them, the more resistance there was from the angle of the rope rubbing against the holes and the forward bottom leading edge of the Fat Box. Suddenly, we were discovering the vast gulf between what looks like it will work in the shop and what actually works in the field. What was going to be a frantic 45 degree skid into a roughly sideways to the direction of travel configuration ended up being about 5 degrees left of center. VERY fortunately the Pontiac moved out of the way just in time as we swooped by the first intersection and shot into the neighborhood beyond, still going downhill, still not showing the least signs of stopping.

As we rolled down La Mesa drive, we actually passed an early model Volkswagen Bug with a young Navy mom inside it frantically waving at us to slow down. The grade was greatly diminished now but still downhill, so we thought our chances were fair to middling we might survive if we could get off the street and ditch into a lot a little further down. There was a small lot full of gravel and leaves that we sometimes played kickball in just a another block down on the left. Scotty had been crouched in a little ball, his helmeted head peering over the edge of the Fat Box, eyes wide, the entire trip so far.  He looked like a demented version of that old Kilroy was Here graffiti.  I yelled at him to grab the steering on the left and yank, hard.. I got up and bracing myself on the center strut, leaned out to the left a little. Gradually the Fat Box overcame inertia and heeled over a bit– and we shot straight at the little abandoned lot with the gravel. At this point, several things happened at once. The rear axle, which had been held on with bent nails, was never really on “straight and true” because, of course, we eyeballed it, remember? This was causing the back wheels to roll a little bit left of true and wobble a lot.  When we tried to get the craft to yaw gracefully to the right, the tortured axle gave a mighty SNAP of disapproval and was now two pieces.  The back of the box settled into a violent skid on the wood strut that had been carrying the axle and suddenly forward momentum was being dissipated as kinetic energy and splinters.  Scotty was never a steady hand at the tiller, and gave up active steering for cowering and covering his head.  For ONCE the wheels turned in a direction we were trying to make them turn but this time violently overcompensated, so now we were approaching the curb to the little gravel lot in parallel, rapidly decelerating.  The Fat Box slammed into the curb, and proceeded to flip, free of the  bounds of earthly gravity for one, critical, beautiful second– and the constraints placed upon it by the heaviest object on board, that is, your humble narrator.  You see, I, too, was now enjoying a nanosecond of aerial ballet as I ejected out of the top (where I had been leaning to get the Fat Box to turn into the lot). I  proceeded to glide like an ungainly chicken fired out of a cannon.. and land face first in gravel and dirt, sliding about 6 feet (I think.. it’s all a little blurry).  I laid their groaning for a bit (with some spectacularly vivid contusions and scrapes, but otherwise undamaged).  Eventually getting up, I found that the Fat Box was now as thoroughly destroyed  as a thing can be– the combination of flipping, Scotty rolling around inside it, and the stresses of landing had done for the poor thing.  The front was missing, the side was caved in, the British sturdiness we had admired a cruel lie.  Fortunately Scotty was less hurt than I was and laughing like an idiot.  I was momentarily saddened to see our grand design go down in flames like this, but for one glorious moment, we were about as cool as kids can be.  That has made it all worth it.

Ogre Miniatures Set 1 Kickstarter


Color me on board!  At long last, Steve Jackson Games is backing a project that brings back the long out of print OGRE MINIATURES LINE (out of print, incredibly expensive in after market) back as plastic miniatures.  The miniatures are designed based on the originals, match the originals in scale and look, and have been cleaned up and retooled for plastic molding process.  The only models currently in kickstarter are the basic OGRE set– it appears that you will be able to recreate the original OGRE scenario (with an Ogre III and an Ogre V to use).  The models are cast in a solid color, blue for the little guys and red for the OGRES.

As you can see they are doing a great job with the sculpts. The molds apparently have been purchased and the deal with China has been made.

You can even buy a reverse set in the primary plastic colors, courtesy of another funding resource


Original


Reverse colored

I’m pretty excited about this one– and I backed it! I may add on a reverse set, as well. The mere fact that SJG is calling this SET ONE means they will likely expand the rest of the OGRE universe.. exciting times!

DETAILS HERE: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/847271320/ogre-miniatures-set-1

 

So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended.  I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…

Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections.   Thanks

For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:

So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well.  I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew.   After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend.  It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.

Road Trip!

The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so.   So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.   I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there.  Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).

(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”)  I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason.  Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.

Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html

I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!

(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted)  might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)

After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result.  it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours.  Maybe more.  I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it.  I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself.  If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!

Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018?  My take is: not really.  The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16.  “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions.  The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in.  Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return?  Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY?  Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center.  Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially?  Who would have that kind of influence?  Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation?  Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest.  That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it?  Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity?  I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring.  The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest.  Just saying.

This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.

So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.

We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table.  I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend.  He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline.  It’s very spiff.

Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth.  This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain.  I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.

Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market.  It was a learning experience.  I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results.  Small stuff sells.  Miniatures sell.  Boardgames? They don’t sell.  I ended up taking two boxes  home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus.  I’ll do it again.  One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.

So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience?  It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff.  I guess it beats Ebay.  We’ll have to work on presentation next year.  Perhaps, silly hats?  All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40.  That last hour dragged.

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I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…

We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many.  There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one.  Sigh.  Such are the demands of commerce.

Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant.  Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak.  I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.


No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!

Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II.  So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys!  Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG.  They deserve the iron man trophy!  Great setup.. what a fantastic game!  (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).

I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend.  Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events.  The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis.   He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island!  WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered.  The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed.  The models are exquisite.  IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful.  You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.

I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…

We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games.  Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook.  Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play.  Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction.   There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors.  The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks.  Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked.  There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked.  On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper.  I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least).  I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank.  There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show.  As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!

(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ.  No Surprise there.  It’s a done deal, we knew that already.  Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid.  Knock me over with a feather!).

Do I think this is a good plan?  Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen?  Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not.  Nope.  Abandoning the South is a very bad idea.  Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them.  I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit.  Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse,  I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did.  When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding?  Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”.  Okay.  Well, he might have a point.  A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars?   No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit).  When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”.  I wonder where that could be?  I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking.   Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large?  If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose.  Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.

Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.


“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=


Farewell! Farewell!

The Creepy Anthropomorphic Drug ads for women trend


Has anyone been following the latest trend for women’s health product advertisements? It’s downright creepy. Admittedly my sample size is small but these ads play quite a bit on television in the US (East Coast). First of all, there’s “Mybetriq”, which is a drug that allegedly helps women control overactive bladder conditions. In these commercials, we are subjected to a cute little animated bladder creature. It’s not mean or anything, but very insistent, torturing a woman by interrupting her garden parties, her bowling games, and other relationships and activities.


No bowling for YOU!


Pssst.. we need to go.. NOW!


It’s not MY fault.. I don’t wanna be a MEAN lil’ bladder…

The creep factor is fairly high here.. she acknowledges the bladder beast as a being.. with rudimentary intelligence and needs, giving in to its demands with a suffering sigh. Even weirder, when she decides to “take charge” of her condition and consult a doctor (presumably a urologist), when he’s lecturing her, the bladder beast is in the room, sitting next to her, nodding along with the conversation. Like the bladder beast is included in the conversation. Ohhhh, creepy. Later, they are seen walking together, hand in hand, on the beach, looking at a beautiful sunset together. The implication is.. what? Happy Romance? Resignation? A new form of detente between bladder and human being? We don’t get the epilogue for this commercial.

My next sample is even weirder and more disturbing. This is a commercial for “Viberzi”, which is apparently a medication for women with frequently upset tummies. In THIS commercial, we don’t see an animation– instead the ailment is played by an actress in a nude colored body suit with intestines screen printed on the front. THIS ailment is a real bully. She cancels her victim’s plans FOR her, texting her regrets because she’s staying home with problem diarrhea. This Problem Diarrhea monster follows her around, doing things similar to the Bladder Beast from the Mybetriq commercial, ruining her plans, canceling things in advance, generally making her life miserable. Apparently she is doomed to living a lonely life. That is, until she, too, gets the courage to talk to HER doctor (presumably a gastroenterology expert).

Once again, the ailment monster is PRESENT, NODDING ALONG, during the medical consult.


In closing, ma’am, I have to ask, who’s your hot diarrhea friend? Is she single?


Going out? Nah, we’ll scotch that plan.. who’s in charge here? I am. Say it after me…

Once AGAIN, very similar ending here.. they walk on the beach, all happy now, but not holding hands (that might be too creepy). Later, as the victim is sparking with a young beau in a diner, Problem Diarrhea appears to approve of the man, as if giving her Problem Diarrhea blessing. Happy Ending, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.

Aside from the very similar structure for both drug commercials, it’s the “intelligent ailment” thing that I find the creepiest. I can only speak for me, I NEVER have a conversation with my bladder or bowels. I know the ad companies here are probably shooting for something cute and socializing, but honestly, I don’t care for talking, thinking, anthropomorphic diseases. That’s a little too weird for my liking. But hey, I’m not a gal, who knows?

Right now, I’m giving these kind of commercials the creepy Burger King award.

Aside

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

 

There’s no point, no winners..

Event Counts by Category, Fall-IN! 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

GUIDEBOOK App for FALL-IN 2016, published


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

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


Quick Snap of the Events Schedule

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

Here’s the download page:

http://guidebook.com/g/fallin2016

and here’s the guide online for viewing:

http://guidebook.com/guide/77787

Please help yourself!

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

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

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

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

A sample Floor Layout page.

And here’s the QR code!

Frostgrave Sunday!


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

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

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

Subir’s fantasy sniper team.

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

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

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

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

he wanted to show off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28mm Greek Galleys? Deal me in!


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

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






(image copyrights: Ironheart Artisans)

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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





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

For more information, follow the link I reblogged below!

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

Source: SHOP – Fantasy Range

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


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

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

Stone Golem for Frostgrave


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

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

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

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

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

1:1200 Galley Challenge! Poseidon’s Warriors!


We who turn the wheel, and look to windward…

(T.S. Eliot, “the Wasteland”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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