New OGRE Video Game Trailer for Steam Release


Oh yes, it will be mine.

OGRE Miniatures, Wave 2 spotted


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


GEV PC empty…


GEV PC with INF stands in it.

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


Fencer variant OGRE; one main gun turret option.


Fencer, Second variant main gun turret.


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


Mobile Howitzer. I remember them looking a little different…


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

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

Game Camp 2017 Day 5: A nautical finale


From: Thursday
Well, the day started with doling out some serious loot we got sent to us by Osprey Publishing.

Each kid got a oopy of either Frostgrave, Dragon Rampant or Horizon Wars. Osprey’s a pretty standup company, I really appreciate their assistance with prizes and the assistance of HMGS’ outreach program to help pay for expenses in putting on this camp. Truly, I was just expecting something simple, like a paper product of some sort, this was unexpectedly generous. The kids were suitably impressed. Keep in mind that most of these kids have never gamed with miniatures before, and today I heard one say “I know where I’m going.. Ebay!” “Why?” “to get some cheap Frostgrave miniatures“. My work here is done.

New Pulp SF rules

Schedule: well, Friday was scheduled to play out like this.. I was going to playtest BOOM! ZAP! (my first stab at Pulp SF rules) in the morning with five campers. One had to leave earlier in the week and I was going to run Viking Looters in the afternoon. I was a victim of my own success, as it were.  Everyone present wanted to continue playing BDB, and by that, I mean all day, right through lunch.  Big Danged Boats has become something of a standby in recent years; I’ve run it for six years easily (although not every year) and the campers like the spectacle.  The down side, of course, is you have a hard time adding new things to the lineup, which is important to me to keep things fresh.  Still, I do say on the first day, if you want to carry something over to the next day, just tell me and we’ll adjust the schedule.  Well, they told me loud and clear.  Believe me, “we love this creation of yours so much we want to cancel other things to play it” isn’t something that I’m complaining about!

 
For once, we saw the Stahlheimers depicted as something unique, not as standard humans.


The casualties on the Isle of the Dead were most impressive.

I’m happy to say that every session teaches you something.  I was blessed with some innovative campers who really took to the simple “bucket o’ sixes” philosophy of BDB, and had some suggestions to add in that I improvised on the spot.  For instance, the Bone Brigade (two galleys, one with a giant catapult, manned by mostly skeletons and a Wizard figure).  Why can’t that guy be a necromancer who can bring back casualties?  Well, why not then.  Also, could they have a plague cannon, like the undead faction in Uncharted Seas?  Well, sure, but it would be a “Plague Package” they put on the catapult, the necromancer has to be present to prepare it, and it fires an ensorcled skellie that is there to spread disease (slowly).  Not bad additions to the Undead factions– they fit.  I also improvised a fix to the damage repair rules and introduced new Ship Sheets, which are an improvement on the old ones.

Less complex and more streamlined than before.  Speed on the left, check of damage and roll for further bad things on the last box on the line.

So in this game concluding Epic, the Ratlings of Ingoldsby held back, not committing themselves to much, trying to get gold by treasure hunting and trading.  They did bribe the local militia to fight the Gnomes, but not much came of that.  The Gnomes of Batenburg played an aggressive game, Ramming Stahlheim’s Gauntlet Ironclad, deploying Gnome Marines, fighting shore parties, etc.  The Bone Brigade was also and took chances, using his fatigue chips, not holding back.  The Deadnought (the larger galley with catapult) got sunk late on Friday, stranding one of his landing parties on an island.  Oh well, plenty where they came from!

Our other big player was the Empire of Stahlheim, who ran the Gauntlet ironclad, a steam powered ship (which, btw, we changed– Steam isn’t as complicated now, and you break down a lot more). Stahlheim has probably the best ship on the board, in terms of defense, and it saved Stalheim’s hide many times. He lost most of his deck crew to crew fire.

It was a great camp this year– I definitely proved the value of War Rocket and Frostgrave games (Frostgrave being played for an extended day on Wednesday) and reaffirmed that Big Danged Boats continues to be a camp favorite.

I wish we had had more campers this year, this was the smallest I’ve run ever.. maybe I need to be involved in promoting it better? I have some ideas about that. I’ll talk to the good folks at St. Stephens when it comes time to plan for next year.

So until next year, thanks, parents, and thanks campers, for hanging out with us for a week in August. I’ll see you next year.

Click HERE for all pictures for Friday’s game.

 

Game Camp 2017 Day 4: Big Danged Boats


From: Wednesday

And Thursday brought us a return of a camp favorite, BIG DANGED BOATS.  This is a 15mm Fantasy Naval game of my own devising, and it has some weird elements, such as a foot of a dead God, and Steam Powered Cheese, and The Followers of Joe.  We had some delay setting up (remember, the kids wanted Frostgrave to go long so we had to postpone BDB for a day?  Well, it takes a while to set up, being kind of a labor intensive game to run.  Not to worry, though– they played Room 25 (by themselves! Twice!) while Garrett and I speedily set up BDB for a shorter scenario.   We got in a good amount of play but were no where NEAR resolution by 3PM.  All the campers but one were asking for an extension of BDB.  Okay, I get it.  One thing ten years of running this camp has taught me, is to be flexible.  So we are continuing over into Friday, cancelling the Playtest of BOOM! Zap! and running Viking Looters a few times in the afternoon.  Oh yes, and ice cream, and door prizes!  Osprey and HMGS both helped out in their own ways.  So we have some very good boodle to hand out tomorrow.

So, BDB.  I set up a pretty small scale scenario.  The Ratlings in the Steam Powered Armor Plated cheese, the Primus, versus human elitists from Stahlheim who are seeking the secret of Boom Powder, versus the Bone Brigade in two ships (black Galley and Deadnought) and the Gnomes of Batenburg, in the gigantic Gnomish Siege Machine.  Add to that the Seng passing through willing to see Boom Powder to anyone with gold to buy it.  I ran the Seng and the shore batteries.


The Bone Brigade (Black Galley front, Deadnought read. Undead Crew, Galley propulsion)

One thing I notice about modern youth is a general hesitancy to create a plan of attack in a game, be it Frostgrave, War Rocket or BDB. It’s as if they dont’ want to get stuck in it with someone they can’t beat or something. Fortunately, I had a youngster who set his Gnomish cap on taking out Stahlheim and charged in trying to ram his ship into submission with the Siege Machine’s Big Bopper Ramming extension. Stahlheim was in the middle of a complex negotiation for the outpost’s mortar (which the Stahlheim captain sneered at, citing poor workmanship. They looked up and suddenly saw the looming bulk of the Siege Machine bearing down on them. Fortunately, the ram sheared off and the Gauntlet retaliated by blasting them with two forward facing Medium cannon.


Gnomish marines attack later in the game.

Right when I thought there would be some proper bloodlust they desisted and made a deal.  Meanwhile, the Bone Brigade traded with the Seng, who were more than happy to take their gold from them.  The Bonies turned on the Gnomes in the long distance, shelling them with the Plague Package.


Firing a plague package at the Gnomes.

During the game the Rats of Ingoldsby Island didn’t do much. The Primus promptly broke down and they spent many turns wrenching on it. Then they sailed over to a bored guard captain and got him to shell Batenburg for a gold Piece. I do insist the players try to roleplay their parts.. that’s part of the fun. Garrett did a great job playing the lisping, amoral Rat King.

Stahlheim sailed around the guard rock and brought the Batenburgers back into view, letting a fusillade of cannon shot strike the Siege Tower. So much for peace!


The Gauntlet– probably the best defended ship on the Middle Sea

Right about then we broke for the day as we had lost some time setting up. As promised, we will run BDB in the morning tomorrow, axe BOOM Zap! and do Viking Looters and ice cream in the evening.

A good session!  The kids liked BDB.. a lot.  It is something of a spectacle.  We tried some innovations.  There are new ships: The Followers of Joe (not on the table),the Cat’s Claw (brought but not selected, much to Garrett’s displeasure), the Whaling Syndicate (A group going out to hunt the Tentacle Kraken beasts).   Nobody wanted the new guys– and of course the old standbys did get selected.  I designed a trading system so that players could do something else besides kill each other, but that’s really only going to work if we have about 8 players, so didn’t want to confuse the kids and worse, slow down the game.  I did renovate a few key mechanics.  First, steam power– instead of running that complicated throttle mechanism– which seemed great but just confused people, I now make steam powered ships roll for breakdown each turn at differing threshold numbers.  Then they roll on the Wrenching Table to build back distance and speed.  It’s simple but it works.  I redid the ship sheets to something smaller and less complex.  The damage track is streamlined to H, H/C, H/G and H/R (Hull, Hull plus Crew, Hull plus Gun, and Hull roll for it–which has some critical results).  It definitely plays faster.   The players also suggested a plague load for the undead ship’s catapult.. so they can fire plague on the target boats.  Great idea!  So we added it on the spot.

A very productive session!

More BDB pictures for Thursday HERE

On to Friday!

Game Camp 2017 Day 3: Frostgrave, extended, & Cosmic Encounters


Previous: Day Two-Frostgrave

Day Three dawned with a continuation of FROSTGRAVE by request of the campers.  The older kids love it; they like the super tactical feel, the way spells can totally mess up a plan, and the “spatial” feeling a three dimensional tactical game can be with miniatures.  You can’t get that same feeling on a flat screen.

Naturally, any game I can leave set up and not have to worry about setup times is a game I’m going to like, too.good

Right off the bat, both sides came on aggressively. The Good side got ensnared in the right corner with fending off the evil Sigilist and Elementalist (aka Johnny Flamehands). Our side was facing him with a good Soothsayer and a good Illusionist. The Illusionist somewhat dominated the right middle of the table. specatularly failing to cast a Poison Dart repeatedly so much that he was down 4 points. He redeemed himself when he was the second crew to visit the temple of Fundamental Evil in the dead center. Johnny Flamehands, the Elementalist, tried earlier in the game, and encountered a being so vile, so disgusting.. well, I’ll let the evidence speak for itself.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Anyway, there was indeed a Type III demon who was so messed up looking he caused everyone he came in close contact with had to check their Will at a big minus or run in fear. The Illusionist had a Transpose spell– he had tried it before with his Wizard and failed badly, so he tried it again with his apprentice and this time he rolled very high. By carefully placing himself to eyeball the contents within, he could see both the Type III demon blob and the Zombie that was standing behind it being controlled by the Elementalist.
Bam, ZIP! Guess what happens?

One EXTREMELY ANGRY, PEOPLE HATIN’ CRAZY DEMON who likes darkness transposed into the sunlight with a very confused zombie being blinked back into the temple! RUH ROH! Bad news for that Elementalist and his crew who happened to be standing right next to him, mouths gaping in shock and unspeakable horror!

We laughed for about 15 minutes.

That kind of changed the classification of the game from “Maximum Haul” to “Grab what we have and GIT!” Team Evil started leaving the left side of the board rapidly. Team Good had more distance and more leisure. We ended up calling the game and rolling up the treasure.. quickly, as the buses were coming. Team Evil won the day, but by less than ten points, surprisingly.

We also played the hands down, don’t argue with me BEST GAME IN THE UNIVERSE, Cosmic Encounter— you can tell I’m a bit biased. I sat in on this six hand game with Red Menace, Green Machine, Blue Meanies, Yellow Peril and Orange Crush. We create nicknames for our aliens by color (as you can see) so we had to settle on White Blight for me, since the cards came from an expansion set. I engineered a four way win (hey, I’m not ashamed) and it was a great time indeed.

and a little documentary evidence about how canny these little dealmakers were getting by end of game.

Day 3 was great!  A most satisfactory continuation of Frostgrave and an epic game of Cosmic!

All Frostgrave Photographs

All Cosmic Photographs

Tomorrow: Big Danged Boats, my own 15mm fantasy naval game.

 

 

Game Camp 17 Day Two: Frostgrave!


I chose FROSTGRAVE as my second game of the week for gaming camp. Frostgrave (by Osprey Publishing) is a game of Wizardly Looting of an ancient sorcerous city just beginning to emerge from a century of being frozen. Players play Wizards and their apprentices leading a small team of hired thugs and treasure takers into the city in search of gold, magic items and items of lore. The rules are pretty simple and easy to teach, the game is fast and ultra tactical. Naturally Frostgrave appeals to both youngsters and oldsters.

There was also a hue and a clamor to play Room 25 again, it’s a big hit.

We had a new camper join us today and he fit right in.  Frostgrave is a big hit as well, so much so that the kids requested we hold Frostgrave over for a second day.  I’m always flexible, that’s not a problem with me.

So tomorrow will probably be MORE Frostgrave, Cosmic Encounters and maybe half a day of Big Danged Boats!

For a slide show of today’s activities, click here.

Onward to Day Three: More Frostgrave and Cosmic Encounters!

Game Camp 17 Day One War Rocket and Room 25


So Monday dawned and it was our first day of Battle Camp. I have a smaller camp than usual; that’s just fine. Easier to manage. We were set up for WAR ROCKET by Hydra Miniatures when they came in. War Rocket is a very retro look at simple space combat. The trick to War Rocket is being in the right place at the end of a turn, since War Rocket has a turn sequence of Move, then shoot. The combat system is kind of anemic but the basic mechanics are easy to pick up, which is why I tried War Rocket for the first time at camp. Verdict was quite enthusiastic, War Rocket is fun and a keeper!

We also played Room 25, a board game based on those weird Canadian “Cube” movies.

This was supposed to be just a light lunch time game (I played, too!) and we ended up playing it until 1:30 and finishing up War Rocket. The game ended in a tie when the giant Zenethian mother ship (the big green saucer) was taken out with a lucky shot! Talk about pulling ahead at the last second.

My impressions– this is a great crowd, very smart kids who like games and were VERY quick to pick up on everything. In other words, my favorite kind of campers. Not bad for a group who had zero miniatures background!

More War rocket pictures

Where to find WAR ROCKET
A great first day.

Tomorrow: Frostgrave

On to Day Two!

Playtest Rules for BOOM! ZAP! a pulp SF skirmish game


Here is a playtest version of BOOM! ZAP! a very light hearted attempt at creating a set of workable 28mm PULP Science Fiction skirmish rules for tabletop games.

I’ve been looking for a very light set of rules for running a sort of “Space Port Bar” or “Cantina” game akin to the Blood and Plunder Tavern brawls but in a pulpier era for a while now, at least 2009. I’ve tried a few out but have been disappointed with a lot of them.  What you see here is a very, very high end look at the subject as I’m finding “Pulp” to be a much broader subject than people give it credit for. Do we mean Flash Gordon and Emperor Ming? Crash Corrigan and the Undersea Empire? Buck Rogers and Killer Kane? Do we mean John Carter and Planetary Romance? Do we mean the Skylark of Space? Do we mean the Rocket Man? Commander Cody? There’s a lot of subgenres that are evident, and ONE set of rules just might not cut it. So in an attempt to make a one size fits all approach to a very broad picture, I’m starting with a decent set of Western Skirmish rules, the old RULES WITH NO NAME that appeared in an old MWAN magazine way back in the day. This version has been Science Fictioned up a bit, and I’ve added a very broad brush attempt at Gunfire, Melee, Robots, Rocket Packs and Aliens. There’s so much I can do with this idea, don’t even think this is the final.. I’m adding to it as we go, consider this 1.0. I need to add explosions, malfunctions, space ships, beserk robots, planetary romance, more swordplay, anti-grav travel, and a host of other appropriate topics. This will be enough to get me started in a low key way.

If you want to get in touch with me with suggestions or questions, try me at misternizz@gmail.com

In the meantime, you can download BOOM! ZAP! here.

New Viking Looter Cards


I’m going to run VIKING LOOTERS (the old Viking Raiding game by JIm Birdseye) at game camp next week.  Much of the game’s action is handled through the cards.  The file that I received from Brian Whitaker was great but not formatted for standard business card sized cards– I kept losing alignment during printing.  So to remedy this I recently reformatted the card deck to use a standard business card template originating from Avery.  This is their “Graduation announcement” template which should fit most business cards blanks, including 5571.  I’m very pleased with how these came out.  If you have a use for this kind of game, here are the rules and the cards (the important part).  Cards are in PDF and Word.  Rules are in Word.

Microsoft Word link
Adobe PDF link

Rules

(the last sheet is blank in both PDF and Word so you can write some of your own)

I think the end result is worth the effort.

This is a fun time and plays well with younger folks.   The rules aren’t much, maybe a page and a half at most.  The big laughs come with how you handle it as a referee. Enjoy!

The OGRE Video/PC game: not a rumor any more


Remember when the Kickstarter for OGRE Deluxe came out and Steve Jackson Games suddenly had a couple of millions of bucks in pledges over what he required and was thinking fast about what to do with all that boodle?  He gave away the original version of OGRE (the 2.95 pocket game), he promised he’d re-do CAR WARS, he promised he would reinvigorate the OGRE Miniatures line (and he’s coming through on that), and one of the niftier ideas being kicked around was “Hey, if there’s enough interest, we’ll get that OGRE video game done again”.  That .. what?

If you’re blessed with an imperfect memory and enough years, you might remember the old, very old, personal computer game of the basic OGRE III/V scenario.  This was an authorized SJG product produced under license by Origin Systems.  I remember this: I owned a copy.  Back in 1986.  I think it came out for Atari, Commodore 64 and IBM PC.  I have to say, you may be wincing at the graphics but it delivered surprisingly decent game play back in the day:

I think there was an illegal shareware version on early Macintosh computers but SJG lowered the boom on that one.

Not sure of the sales figures here but I’m guessing they were modest. The program never had an GEV material and it was never revisited in all those long years since. Until recently. According to hints here and there and some outright enthusiastic statements on the OGRE boards at SJG, a revisit of the OGRE PC/Video game is most definitely in the works. The production company is AUROCH DIGITAL and they just recently released some very early production visuals.

As SJG is quick to point out, don’t think this is even close to final, so there’s no telling what the final renders will actually look like, but I’m finding this encouraging. The original youtube put out earlier in the year pointed at an OGRE-only scenario:

The stills tell a different story– clearly, GEV and SHOCKWAVE units will be included in the mix. I’m very glad of that– I do like the basic OGRE game and played the living hell out of it in college, but it gets kind of predictable once you perfect what you call the perfect OGRE strategy. I find GEV much more challenging.

I’m not sure of deadlines or what not, but if this gets to kickstarter level, I’m sure the old fanboy in me will probably respond.

What the heck, who am I kidding, they can just shut up and take my money, I know my limitations.

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.
  7. Methodology: I sorted events by category in MS Excel, then ran a CountA function for number of games in a category, then a SUM function on the category counts.  There is nothing particularly complex about the equation.

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.

Wellington


Deal with it.

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).