A quick post about Frostgrave Terrain


Continuing with the Frostgrave theme, here’s some recent structures I put together for Frostgrave or other skirmish games. Here are three ruined village buildings originally sold as Normandy scenery sold as “Bold Action 28mm Ruined Hamlet” by Warlord Games. These are three identical house kits that can be put together in any kind of way you want to put them together– which is a strength. I find that you kind of have to start with the largest corner pieces to have a second story, so all of mine kind of look similar. No worries, it’s easy enough to make them look different.

I assembled the pieces, primed them grey, went over with a medium shade of gray to bring out the details, glued them to small craft wood bases. Then did a small wash with dark tone to bring out the details. After the glue dried I sprayed with a fixative and sprinkled some white flocking on it to give it that snow fall look.

Hovel 1, with a big Octopus sigil on the second floor. That’s a little piece from Hirst Arts that I painted red and black.

Hovel 2 on a nifty round base. This one will take up less space.

Hovel 3.. I added the dollhouse bench as a nice detail. I like the way the snow is on the bench, too.

Here’s Hovel 3 with an Ice troll and a construct for scale.

The ice troll is a Pathfinder Miniature. I figure it fits with the theme of the game and I can stat it out eventually.

I wouldn’t want to use these for the internal part of a city but they will work great on the outskirts. The basic philosophy of Frostgrave terrain is to block line of sight to avoid long shots from across the table. These will help!

Ready Player One (A Review)


Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmmm.. anti-hero geek stumblebum, living in a dystopic future, fighting off an evil corporation, whilst co-existing in the omnipresent virtual reality world addiction that the global population seems to be addicted to? Why does it all seem so familiar? Because we’ve read this stuff before, back when “Cyber punk” was new, in the late 80s. The difference is that the author, Ernest Cline, can weave a fantastic narrative larded with self-referential humor, unabashed 1980s nostalgia and a fourth wall of 80ish geek/hipster speak. It’s hard to explain unless you grew up in that era (I did). Every page is like old home week, with the author patiently explaining this or that cultural relic from a bygone age in the most earnest terms. It’s all very amusing being lectured to by the protagonist about what the Tomb of Horrors (TM) is or how to win playing Joust (TM). That is both a great strength and a great weakness. I loved this novel, and found myself chuckling reading it, but my children (who are growing up in an era with little in common with it) can’t understand why I think it’s so great. So I fear my four stars is for me and my kind alone. I appreciated the world building– having spent extensive time in Second Life, there was much to the notion of virtual worlds that I found familiar (I suspect Cline has spent time there, too), including the paranoia and potential disasters of intersecting real life with virtual life. I enjoyed it for my own part and all my 80s geek brethren, but I wonder if everyone else gets it. Steven Spielburg optioned RP1 for a movie and is actively pursuing making it, so we’ll see how well this story will play on the big screen. It’s exciting enough visually but cyberspace has never been a good cinematic story (so far). I wish them success.

I like RP1, and will definitely read more of Mr. Cline’s work– I have his next book (Armada) in the queue as we speak. I hope it translates well. By the by, I listened to an Audiobook version of RP1 and then read it again (which I do from time to time when I want to make sure I didn’t miss something). The Audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton, a genuinely great guy, but he comes off a bit.. I don’t know what.. smarmy? for the material. Just an observation. I like him and his works, but the narration was just a little too “cool kid making fun of myself” for me.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora (a review)


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the reasons why I love reading fiction is the chance that every once in a while, taking a chance on a new author pays off handsomely. I don’t know much about the author, Scott Lynch, other than his Goodreads bio. What I do know is that I am thoroughly impressed with his skills at world building, character building and dialogue– not bad for a young writer writing a first novel. Not bad at all!

The Lies of Locke Lamora takes place on a planet “someplace” that was colonized by humans at some point in the past. The humans displaced (?) or perhaps inherited the planet from the now vanished Elder race that once inhabited it and have left durable artifacts that the humans make use of, particularly made of “Elder glass”, a durable material of surpassing beauty.

The novel is split between two interweaving narratives, one playing out in the past and one in the present. The past narrative develops the history of the titular character Locke, from child thief, to religious acolyte, to grown sharper and confidence man. In the present time, Locke Lamora is running an elaborate confidence game against one of the landed gentry of Comorr, the city where most of the novel takes place. His life is made complicated by competing gang bosses, a mysterious “Gray King” cutting into the action, and the presence of a mysterious “Bond Mage” called the Falconer.

I won’t spoil the plot, but suffice to say there’s a lot of violence and retribution, hidden roles revealed, and blood spilt. The plot is written well, but I found myself rooting for the protagonists and even feeling sorry for the antagonist(s). Their motivations are all reasonably well explained, except, possibly, the driving force behind the generosity of Chains, the benefactor and trainer of the Gentleman Bastards gang. Why is he so interested in creating a gang of confidence men out of a pack of beggar boys? It’s hard to fathom. I did enjoy reading the back stories and asides from the many characters, great and small in this novel. A sign of a good writer is the ability to make us care about even the smallest character, and Lynch does a passing good job at fleshing out people– I was genuinely pissed at him for killing off a couple of my favorite characters towards the end (I won’t say whom), as I had grown attached to them.

In any event, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a great first novel and a great introduction into the wider world of the Gentleman Bastards. I plan on reading the sequel and sincerely wish Mr. Lynch every success in writing more novels set in this world, with these characters. A very pleasant discovery that I don’t hesitate to recommend.

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Vitanda est improba siren desidia


“One musts avoid that wicked temptress, Laziness.” — Horace.

I admit it, I have posted a decent post in a very long while, since early March.  I just didn’t have a lot to say, even though I did go to a convention (Cold Wars) and had some opinions to voice about a few items.  I just haven’t had the inspiration lately.  However, as Horace taught us a few millennia back, sometimes the way out of a trench is to start digging and see what happens.  So here I am with a metaphorical shovel in tow, and we’ll see where this leads us.

Review: Frostgrave Cultists, by Northstar Miniatures


FROSTGRAVE CULTISTS Warband box
Plastic soldiers, 28mm scale, sold as sprues that are assembled into a variety of poses
URL: http://www.northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=7731
Created for the game FROSTGRAVE (Osprey Publishing) but can be used for a variety of skirmish games in the 28mm scale. Not really a good addition to historical army, the fantasy theme is very pronounced.

I picked up a box of Frostgrave “Cultist” figures at the recent Cold Wars convention. This is a big box of assemble it yourself plastic figures– and I mean big, you can make 20 figures with this box. The intent of the plastic soldiers is to quickly give a Frostgrave player suitably Winter-themed troops to rapidly bulk up warbands. I’ll stress up front they aren’t required to play the game– you can play Frostgrave with anything that seems to fit the scale and setting. I got them because they looked pretty good (I love pointy headed cultist heads), they are in scale, and there’s a lot of them.

The Box Cover. Click to enlarge.

Details: There are 4 sprues with 5 body variations on them (I think). Essentially a mixture of cloth, leather armor, maybe some studded leather. There are many head variants in this box, most of them with pointy hats, helmets or hoods. Only two bare headed head variants per sprue, I used those sparingly. There is also a few weapon variants sculpted to represent skull heads and skeletal arms. Decent variations for possible weapons– a two handed knobbed club, a bow, a crossbow (two handed), several variations of hand weapons, mostly a Kopesh, a small sword, various daggers, a couple of target style shields, a spear etc. There are some hand-only variations and nice extra bits (like quivers, pouches, sheathed knives etc) to add to the figures to increase variation. Sculpting is excellent here– very detailed and weird looking cultists with a variety that really sells it. The best part of this set is just how well the two-handed weapon sculpts fit on every body type provided, every time, with minimal glue. The plastic type is hard gray styrene, you will need a Testor’s style glue to construct them. Every body provided comes with a matching styrene circular base.

And here’s my first batch of cultists. I actually did make 20, one of them broke and was drying after a repair job. Click to enlarge

I only have them primed up at the moment but they will take a coat of paint nicely. I’m very pleased with my first “war band” purchase from North Star. I would give this a 4 out of 5, for a few minor nits about weapons choices (I would have liked to have a longsword carried by a human arm, and larger shields so we could indicate Men at Arms types, but that really IS minor).

If you purchase these, and North Star’s other warbands, they should mix very well with the regular soldier types and the follow-on skeletons. Don’t throw away the sprues whatever you do. I had to fix some broken weapons pretty quickly– be sure to use a storage system with some padding as the swords can be a little fragile. Scale wise they mix perfectly with 28mm pewter from the same company, but would also work with Warhammer Fantasy (although they might be a tad chunky in comparison), Reaper miniatures, even older pre-painted monsters from the D&D Miniature and Pathfinder miniatures lines, although the latter may lack detail in comparison.

I’m glad I bought these cultists, they will be very handy going forward with Frostgrave games.

Frostgrave at Comics and Gaming, Fairfax, 4/23


My friend Subir has been working hard on setting up a small but somewhat regular group to play miniature games somewhere near the loci of Fairfax City. We decided on Comics and Gaming in Fairfax City. This is a nice place, catering mostly to the M:TG crowd from appearances. They have a good selection of on the shelf gaming stuff supporting card gaming, board gaming, and mostly the big two or three of miniatures gaming. More importantly they have an annex room with a lot of standard 3 x 6″ tables.

SLADE THE NECROMANCER’s warband Click to embiggen.

Necromancer SLADE and Apprentice TIMMY late in the battle. Yes, Slade was laying low when he got down to TWO hit points. Click to embiggen.

After diving headlong into Frostgrave at the recent COLD WARS convention, I decided to bump up my Frostgrave holdings– I have (most of) the standard wizard types plus apprentices, in the process of being painted (along with a warband of generic soldiers). For Saturday I did a quick black primer of my Cultist figures and used my Necromancer figure, “Slade”, along with his apprentice, “Timmy”, then added a little flesh color here and there so they weren’t TOO embarrassing. Hey, I have my standards.

Frostgrave Cultists box, after assembly, pre-primed.

My Frostgrave warband, minimal paint slapped on (that day). Since they are a Necromancer’s warband, the black colors seem appropriate.

We are trying out campaign options for this game, which is new to me, since I’ve only run single skirmish games at conventions. This element of the game turned out to be a lot of fun. For starters we had to figure out where the Wizard hangs out (Page 137 of the Rulebook PDF). I chose a Crypt, since it seemed to work well with a Necromancer. Turns out I didn’t “get” what the benefits of a starting location were.. being from the Crypt, I can raise Zombies with a +2 effectiveness! However, since I can only have 1 at a time, what would the point of that be, it would only make a pretty simple spell just a little bit easier.

Slade (left) two thugs and an archer move out, with the boys giving the old man some cover.

Slade and crew (right foreground) work on one treasure token (purple) and Timmy moves under the overhang to mess with other players caught in the open. BONE DARTS away!

My main wizard, Slade, was under an overhanging building on the second floor, when someone got a bead on him and nailed him pretty good with an arrow from the second floor. Fortunately, not fatally.. but it did make him very cautious the rest of the game. Timmy made up for it by flinging the BONE DART spell right and left (it was my cheapest spell available). I nearly clobbered the Wizard on one of the opposing teams (dropped him down to 2 HPs), so he was as cautious as I was afterward– maybe more shy, since he exited off the board.

My opponent to the right played it cautious with his Wizards, keeping them under cover. and using spells that could move things and people (like Leap and Push) to get to the treasure quickly.

On my left, I was donnybrooking with Subir’s Thaumaturgic warband. He had a lot of levitating style spells, so his style was ALSO to hide his “Varsity” squad of Wizards and try to levitate the treasure off the table.

Well, the thing to do when everyone’s acting so danged cautious is act INcautious. SO I rushed the guy on the right and shot some arrows at his Apprentice Mage to threaten him.

Here’s my thug rushing the two archers covering the Apprentice to my right. I ended up killing them both.. eventually

Like any good skirmish game, Frostgrave is about finding and using cover and the terrain, and trying to take the best shot you have this turn. Here I am shooting at the Apprentice to my right.. it sure made him nervous.

The first game ended with us pretty much evenly splitting three pieces of treasure each by mutual consent. The tactical situation was at the point where there wasn’t much we could do to stop that outcome, so it seemed sensible to make good on what we had in hand. This was my first “campaign game” so my level 0 dude went up to 2 with all that treasure and experience rolling afterward.

The second game, it was kind of anti-climatic. The wizard I was up against threw down some wall spells which made excellent cover for me, but basically segmented the game into “this is my half, this is your half”.. so it was more of a treasure grab than a fight per se.

Yep, that’s a wall spell. On the gripping hand, he can’t shoot ME through it, either. Note my wizard climbing high up where he can shoot off spells from cover, and the thug going for the last red treasure on the roof. Nifty…

So, yeah, we were done about 9:00 with two games in. This experience confirms that I think Frostgrave is a hell of a lot of fun. We basically had a pick up game here with unpainted dudes, scratch built hodgepodge terrain, and I had a blast. Frostgrave makes for a very entertaining evening– it’s fast, easy to play and easy to teach. I was playing with a couple of guys who had some experience (one about as much as I have, one with a lot more). I don’t regret investing in this system and I look forward to expanding my holdings.

Things I noticed:

1) ash.pikselin.net, the Frostgrave warband maker, is SO DANGED HELPFUL. It keeps an editable warband roster on your ipad, saves it online to your account, and enforces the math of buying a warband. The only thing it doesn’t do (yet) is add the little plusses and minuses of campaigning.
2) I love my new fantasy urban terrain cloth for Frostgrave. It’s perfect (see the pictures).
3) I’m pretty pleased with my Necromancer, Slade, but his spells were bogus. I need to think it through a little better next time. I made some stupid choices.. my opponents loaded up with Push, Teleport, Heal and Leap, very useful for this kind of game, and everything I had was either too hard to pull off or not of much use for getting treasure.
4) I’m also really pleased with the NorthStar figures I bought, but they could easily work with other 28mm fantasy figures too.

So, yeah, that was a thing. I’m liking Frostgrave a lot these days. I’m definitely up for playing more of it with a regular crowd of players.

20mm figures for car combat games, from GW’s Dark Future game



Games Workshop's DARK FUTURE boardgame

As I reported in the last AAR on Cold Wars 2016I did hit up the dealer’s area and found a vendor selling off pieces to older games. I’m kind of still kicking myself for not buying up all of their old Heritage John Carter, Warlord of Mars stuff (and they had a lot of it), but those figures were kind of crappy looking even back then when they were new. I just know they would end up in a shoebox somewhere if I dropped a lot of cash on them, never painted, gathering dust. One purchase I have an immediate need for, kind of, is in scale drivers for open topped matchbox and hot wheels style diecast vehicles in more or less 1:64 scale. I’ve posted on other company’s products in this blog a few times about add on parts from Stan Johansen, Brigade Games and Ramshackle Games, even a few Aberrant scale items. One thing I didn’t think I’d ever post on would be in scale items from GW’s old Dark Future road combat game. If you aren’t familiar with the game it’s basically a circa-1998 standalone from GW, back when they were going gangbusters with standalone games and doing great things. I think Dark Future was heavily influenced by the success of Car Wars and related materials coming out of Steve Jackson Games back in those days– the premise is awfully similar but instead of cardboard cutouts, you got the full up Citadel-era GW miniatures treatment. The original board game came with adjustable cars and motorcycle tokens, and I think you could get accessory packs for pimping up Matchbox style diecasts in 1:64 scale. I found two bags of the accessory parts and two bags of the original motorcycle tokens.

Cyclists

I have tons of motorcyclists from Aberrant, Stan Johansen and Ramshackle games, but there’s always room for a few more. These were injection molded plastic parts mad in the 80s, so the scale is a bit “chunky” and the detail not quite up to metal (or even resin). However, they are quite durable and impart a sense of action. I wish there were more than one pose but I see these as being eminently modifiable. I could easily add a shotgun to the driver’s left hand in this pose and maybe even mount a heavier weapon on the motorcycle faring. Or a mine dropper in the back!

GW Dark Future Motorcyclists

Remember, these were board game pieces, of sorts. They weren’t produced as individual figures.

another angle of the DF Cyclist tokens

Drivers and Gunner Accessory Parts

I’m more excited about these than the cycles. This is a big group of cast metal accessory parts that might have been sold separately, I don’t know what was in the DF main box. Most of the drivers are cast exactly the same with a head variation of Garrison Cap (like a police officer), billed hat (ball cap style), bare headed, female headed. More importantly they really look like they could fit in a lot of my open topped vehicles. I like to put crew in them if I can.

Crew Figures

Gunners are fewer in number than drivers, but they appear to all be useful. most have a minigun attached to the figure.

gunners

So there you have it, I’ll post these incorporated into conversion as soon as they are ready.

The Status of the Lancaster Host, and HMGS’s commitments to future events


Given that Otto’s membership synopsis in my last Cold Wars AAR (for 2016) may have presented some unintentional inaccuracies or at least reporting bias, I have received a statement from HMGS about the current state of the Lancaster Host, HMGS’s business dealings with the Host, and what the HMGS BoD expects to be their way forward in event that the Host cannot fulfill their contracts. Here it is in full.

Walt:

This is an update to the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center (the “Host”) auction and ensuing proceedings. This is the same information that Scott Landis briefed to the attendees at the Friday night Cold Wars membership meeting and is provided for those of you who were unable to attend. (edit: I was not there — Walt)

What we know:

After the auction ended with no buyers meeting the minimum sale price, several potential buyers have continued to negotiate with the Host owners over the last few months. Two of these are nationally known hotel chains who plan to keep the Host in operation as a hotel. They have been examining the Host financial records and inspecting the building facilities. Some of the more observant of you may have noticed one such group over the weekend at Cold Wars.

We have been informed by Host management that the potential buyers all plan to renovate the building piecemeal starting with the HVAC and other essential internal systems. Rooms will also be updated and modernized. If this occurs, we will lose a percentage of rooms as the room upgrade will occur in phases. However, we are not filling the hotel now as many attendees stay elsewhere due to the conditions at the Host. The Host has essentially waived the room night requirement since many of their rooms are not usable. (Edit: This matches observations by Jim McWee, who observed that some of the rooms at the far end of the Host appeared cannibalized, with no door locks and broken windows. — Walt) Host management believes the sale will take place within the next two months. For HMGS, the timing is very important since we would need ample time to plan Fall-In!, whether it is at the Host or elsewhere. Should a buyer sink considerable capital into the Host the new owner may also elect to not honor the existing contracts as part of the terms of sale. We expect them to want to renegotiate our contracts to recoup some of their expenses.

Options and Alternatives:

At this point, the Host has not cancelled any future contracts, so Fall-In! 2016 and Cold Wars 2017 will go on as planned unless the Host or the new management cancels our existing contracts or cannot provide a usable facility. As you know, HMGS, Inc. cannot initiate a cancellation of either convention without incurring a substantial monetary penalty. We found alternate venues for Cold Wars 2016 and had cost feasible proposals in hand in December. We were prepared to move Cold Wars 2016 if necessary.

The Board has decided to pursue an alternate site for Fall-In! 2017 with proposals due for review at Historicon this summer. By then, we expect the Host’s future to be known and any work that has gone into considering alternate sites will expedite selection of a site for Cold Wars 17 and Fall-In! 16 should it be necessary.

Our Goal:

Our goal is to continue to run our conventions, whether at the Host, or another location. Event and vendor registration is open for Historicon 2016. We will continue to update to membership as soon as any new relevant information is received.

Respectfully,
On behalf of the HMGS Board of Directors

Kevin Kelley
HMGS, Inc. Director of Communications

I’ve heard much discussion about the future of the Host at Cold Wars. Apparently there is a significant requirement for meeting space for smaller conventions (of which HMGS is just one of several) in the Lancaster area. To give you an idea, concurrent with the Cold Wars 2016 convention was a quilting convention being held at several motels up and down the 30 corridor. The quilting convention was using meeting rooms at the Continental and other hotels further down Route 30. Clearly, the developers interested in the Host as a property see this as a business need they could make profitable. That’s good, but I’m not comfortable helping to pay a huge cost increase to help cover the renovations– they might raise the rates somewhat but only so far– the entire reason there is a need for smaller low-cost meeting space is that it is, by definition, low-cost. As one of the Host’s most reliable and faithful customers for the last 2 decades, I think we should have more bargaining power than this.

Cold Wars 2016: I’m out of order? You’re out of order!


I attended Cold Wars 2016 with my son Garrett last weekend, and generally had a pretty good time.  Generally.  I’m on staff for the other two shows of the year, Fall-IN! and HISTORICON, so I generally just go to CW as a tourist these days, and I don’t stay at the Host, as it’s usually full up by the time I’m planning on going to this show.  This makes for a short stay, as I can’t justify staying at a hotel for more than an evening.  Dutifully, we got on the road early for once on Friday and ended up getting to the show in decent time.  Cold Wars 2016 certainly wasn’t attended in record numbers, but enough people were there that parking was problematic on Friday morning at 10 AM, which is a good sign.  We both did something I had never done before this show, and that’s attend a Hobby University class on modifying and kit-bashing Matchbox cars for Post-Apocalyptic Car Combat games taught by Joey McGuire.  Mr. McGuire pooh-poohed my interest in his class, saying he felt I had already taken my class, since I have painted about 60 cars for White Line Fever.  Nonsense, there’s always something new to learn, and I learned something new here.  Actually, a few things, but first and best was a much better method of painting rust than I had used previously:
Start with flat black on all the shiny and metal parts.
Then go with a Burnt Umber dry brush, then with a Shadow’s Flesh dry brush, then actual orangey rust color. Then highlight with a darker silver.  the result is multilayered and subtle, far more subtle than the cars I’ve been doing.


Paint combination for Rust

And here are the results. I took the pickup, Garrett made a retro-cannon out of his “Nashlike” deco car


Killer Low-ridin’ Pickup truck
Gar made an up-armored “Stretch Nash rambler” with two Gatling guns on a rack up top.

I really enjoyed Joey’s class (which also taught me the benefits of Zip Kicker) and would recommend it to anyone. Special thanks to Lon Weiss from Brigade Games for providing packs of add on weapons and armor for this class.

Gar has become a big fan of Battletech (the FASA product, now owned and supported by Catalyst Gaming Labs). So he looked at the schedule and decided to go sit in on the Battletech Grinder games in the Cornwall Room all weekend.

The Grinder, apparently, is a Battletech competition where you play, get killed, and come back as a different, hopefully stronger, mech. Garrett ended up with a Battlemaster at the end but only had it for a couple of turns before they ended the Grinder. So it goes.  Thanks to the guy running this event (which was more than one table, it was a room of Battletech, btw), and thanks to MOST of Gar’s opponents for being nice to the newbie.  The less said about the loud-mouthed kid who complained bitterly about every roll of the die that went against him, the better.

I got into a pre-Dreadnought game Friday night.  I wanted to try out FROSTGRAVE but couldn’t get in to the Friday night game, it being full up.  So I went with a back up plan, and I’m glad I did.  I got a ticket to the Deadly Warfare games playtest of “Black Smoke and Blue Seas” or something like that.  More on this later, since I spent some time relieving myself of money in exchange for hobby items Friday until “go time”.

The dealer’s room was the dealer’s room.. we can’t expect the giant vendors of bygone days and should be grateful for the ones who show up in force, or the old standbys that are still making a showing, albeit in a greatly reduced footprint.

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

I got a copy of the Pre-Dreadnought rules (Black Smoke, Blue Water) we were about to play for the playtest, and starter fleet for Manila Bay.   I also picked up a cigar box battle mat for a medieval/fantasy city, probably for running Frostgrave on.  I got some nice pieces for Road Warrior/White Line Fever in a leftover parts bin at Hobby House, the new Cultists expansion for Frostgrave and the spell cards, because, well, they’re nifty looking and pretty handy.. besides, I wanted to thank Brigade Games for sponsoring Hobby University by throwing some coin his way.  I was going to get troop cards for BLUCHER, but, sadly, they were sold out when I went back for them.   I looked over the flea market as well, but didn’t find much of what I came there to buy.  I was looking for AQMF Martian stuff (which hasn’t taken a nose dive in price like I thought it might), as well as 15mm SF and some other bits and bobs.  Sigh.

Events: Given that I was only there from Friday morning-ish until late Saturday night, I didn’t see everything.  However, I did like most of what I saw.  The ballroom wasn’t jammed on Friday, which  usually has people complaining about the empty tables, but every game I saw didn’t lack for players (YMMV).

Friday night around 6PM I participated in the playtest game of BLACK SMOKE, BLUE WATER.  This is a game of Pre-Dreadnought era ship combat, with some important caveats; this game setting assumes about a twenty year leap forward in technology, so it adds some elements that would be missing in a straight up historical period game, such as air operations, submarines and etc.  The game played well.  I thought the combat in a multiplayer game really slowed down somewhat when the ranged narrowed and many options (based on calibers of weapon) opened up.  The designers welcomed feedback and got some good gouge from the players.

The game scenario was Manila Bay (the same fleets I had bought that morning).  The American fleet is entering the board just clearing Cavite island which has a battery that can shoot out 36 inches. Not having any operational need to land on Cavited, we just cheerfully ignored it and steamed onward, keeping more than 36″ out of range.  I ran the Olympia and the Baltimore.  For much of the fight we were the chief American ships engaging the Spaniards, but it was still a one sided contest (not in the Spaniard’s favor).  I felt bad for the Spaniards.. their Torpedo Boat force were pretty close to Cavite at the onset, but when it was clear we weren’t going near the place, they had to spend most of the game running in flank to engage the Americans, only really coming close in the last few turns.  The Spanish Admiral was quite aggressive, unlike his historical counterpart, and gave almost as good as he got.  In game terms, the Olympia was the best ship on the board (and that bears up with the historical battle).  Having guns of over 7″ was a big advantage in certain situations and that contributed to the American fleet sinking a Spanish battle cruiser.  We called the game after a certain point and discussed the mechanics.  For a small slide show of the engagement, please click on the picture below.

It was a fun game experience, and I do like the rules.  I find the combat to be a little drawn out, but what can I say, they are correct in modeling all that gunfire, such as it is.. each of the ships of the era had a veritable battery of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary gun types of various sizes and calibers.  They were effective in their roles, up to a point.  My torpedo (the only one that hit of the six that were shot) was what ended the one Spanish ship that sank, and that also seems to reflect history.. the ship guns weren’t huge and they weren’t very accurate.   It just seemed to be a remarkably bloodless engagement compared to the actual historical Manila Bay.

Some great games were going on in the Distelfink Friday night and Saturday day…

Jon Paul Cosgrove’s excellent “Zombies attacking a Prison that is suspiciously like the one he worked at” game had some amazing scenery.

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

There was a Russian Revolution/Civil War game going in the back, not sure who ran it but it looked like tons of fun.. and was a beauty to behold.

Oh and there was THIS THING, which was playing Saturday, I think:

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

Whatever! Looks like it was a blast to play.. and it certainly was colorful.

Jim McWee was running a zombies overrunning a town game that I think he has run before. Sure was nice and colorful!

There was even a naval game based on the Destroyermen series going on in the corner:


courtesy of Leo Walsh

The best part as always was seeing old friends again and jawing with some familiar faces we don’t see but a few times a year (if we are lucky):


(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

One game I wanted to capture in pictures was a double blind game of MIDWAY based upon the classic Avalon Hill game of the same name being played in the Distelfink.  It was fantastic.  Fortunately the guy who writes DE NERDIBUS got a few pictures of it and I include the link below.

Saturday morning Gar and I got in to the one game we both played together, which was S161: Frostgrave – Cold Harbor, run by Jon Lundberg.  I had a really fun time playing this.  I had a Chronomancer and small gang (including a polar bear!).  We slipped in to the city from the South side, hardly killed anyone (except for a rampaging killer snowman) and was altogether too polite — not a lot of blood was spilled.  Still, I got 4 treasures off the board, which is a respectable showing, I think.  Click the picture above to see a very small album of pictures from the first Frostgrave game I played Saturday Morning, if you have an interest.


(or try this link)

I did one more run on the dealer’s room Saturday but the stuff I was going back for had sold out.  So it goes.  I ended up taking a nap in a chair in the lobby, and checking in with Garrett, who was joyously stomping other big stompy mechas. as you can see here:

25807517041_4077e9b58e

He played until quite late in the evening, and it was a slugfest. Garrett’s comment about his day immediately brought up that age old stereotype. “Dad, the guy next to me was your age, almost. I’ve never smelled an adult that smelled that bad in my life.. do people not shower here or something? It could have gagged a maggot“. He didn’t understand why I was laughing until I hiccupped… (to clarify, the man he was referring to IS NOT PICTURED)

Apparently the Membership meeting went off while I was pre-dreadnoughting the night before. Here’s what I got from Otto Schmidt, who did attend:

I attended the membership meeting at Cold Wars on Friday night at 7 pm.

The following items were announced

Three hotel chains are in negotiations to buy the host, two are national changes one is a regional chain. THE HOST sales rep says that all of them will NOT tear the host down but will repair and restore it bit by bit, one section at a time. The guest rooms will need the majority of the work, but the meeting rooms will need not much more than some new carpets and cosmetic changes. The heating and air conditioning plant will be replace and some electrical work done and the bathrooms repaired. This was reported by the Bod who said that the impact on us would be, if we stayed, that the hotel would lose 60 rooms at a time as they were reconditioned, but that could be taken up by surrounding hotels. They did say that the room rate then would, according to the host, go up to $149 USD a night.

The BOD also said they were looking at other venues including YORK convention center and Lancaster Convention Center, both of whom had been rejected previously and Dave Waxtel is investigating a location in Somerset County NJ. No name was mentioned.

I had a report from the owner of the Continental hotel who is heavily involved with the local hotel organization that the host is in receivership (or soon will be) to the bank. This was not said at the meeting.

The Bod announced that Fall in 2016 will be at the host and Cold Wars 2017 will be there also. After that it would be as negotiations with the host and new owners progressed.

The BOD said they were looking at a cost saving measure of buying tables for the convention. They said their largest expense each year was $60,000 USD for table and chair rental. They were investigating buying these (folding chairs) and it would cost about $25,000 USD total. The original plan, (pre-auction) was to store these at The Lancaster Host and let the Host Use them for other events and the host would pay us a fee when this was done and that the cost of the purchase would then be amortized over about four years. This plan was put in abeyance after the auction kerfuffle, because it was realized that if we did that the tables and chairs would be seized if a foreclosure was processed, and it did not mater if we owned them.

If a bank or agency does this, the release of them would not take place till all creditors with outstanding charges against the hotel were satisfied, and any assets or possessions on site would be part of “inventory” and so sold off.

No discussion was made of the chairs and table rentals for Historicon in Fredericksburg and the rental cost was not broken out for that, nor was it said if the tables and chairs allegedly stored at the host (if it came to pass) would be trucked down to Virginia) nor the cost of haulage and dunnage for that.

Nominations of officers were made. The Bod will publish them in the newsletter. ”

(this is repeated on TMP and elsewhere, quotations Otto Schmidt)

There was some other reports about someone attending Salut in the UK (Dave Waxtel) and as to whether he was paying for it or the Board. Dave is. There was a lot of discussion (on TMP or elsewhere) as to whether a Salut “diorama game” convention will work in a US market (most Americans think not). There was some discussion about paying clubs or GMs to run large set piece games by helping them with their construction expenses. “This is paying GMs to run games” was mentioned from the floor. There was some contention– I could point out HMGS has paid GMs in the past and has the leeway to do it on a per show basis.. just ask anyone who has paid for “Uncle Duke” in the past.

As for the comments about the Host. Hmmm. I fully expected 2016 to be the last year I would be going to a Cold Wars game at the Host. I’m astounded that chains are interested in this property, but apparently it is fulfilling a requirement for mid-income to low-income convention gatherings that no other property around can fill, and there’s a real economic need for a property called the Host. Still.. there’s SO MUCH work to do to fix this place up..


The temporary physical plant, now taking up several parking places.. this keeps the place in hot water.. most of the time.


Downstairs toilets were broken most of Saturday– with big yellow “do not cross” police tape covering the doors. One of the urinals UPstairs broke, too (pictured). So at one point, there were only three urinals and 5 stalls for the entire Lancaster host facility (working).

Everywhere, everywhere.. there’s signs of decay and crumbling. The kitschy cool sixties rock exterior is crumbling off the building in several places. The railing up the side of the handicapped ramp to the lobby is now floating in mid air in all but two places.. The roof.. well, you know about the roof.

Saturday night I resolved to get into another game of Frostgrave, as I like the rules a lot. I really wanted to attend S244: Frostgrave: Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City. I was the last alternate to get in. Jeff Hiley’s terrain was simply fantastic. He won an award for it in the middle of the game! I played a Summoner for this game, and managed to nab 4 treasures.. but only got two off board by end game. We were doing the good versus evil thing, which suited me. This was my favorite game of the convention by a country mile; this is not to say I didn’t love the other games too, I just got into the setting so much with Jeff Hiley’s terrain efforts it was hard to come to any other conclusion.


Jeff getting an award.

We got into a big fight with some do-gooders at the choke points on the ramp. I think I was up against a Thaumaturgist at least. Sadly the only spell I had much of a shot with was LEAP, which did work most of the time, and Summon Demon, which was ineffectual most of the game. The rest of my spells were just too blinkin’ hard.

There’s a nice slide show of the Second Frostgrave game Saturday night below, if you have an interest. Just click on the picture.


(Or try this link)

As it was 11PM at this point, Gar and I had to bail out and head home.. it was an easy trip but we were already pretty tired so didn’t want to press our luck.

Sadly we had to miss Eric’s Road Warrior game, but it’s just as well, I prefer the HO sized one.

So that was our COLD WARS 2016. For me, it was the Frostgrave Cold Wars. I’m quite taken with that game and am painting up some warbands. The decrepit surroundings didn’t make the convention run less efficiently (though there were and are the usually carping about things that never seem to change, like long lines). I definitely gamed more and enjoyed myself more than I usually do at conventions. Thanks to all the crew who helped me get Guidebook done for this convention– Theresa, Paul, Scott, Scott, Heather etc. (see previous post on that subject. I did try a few new things this year, like taking pictures and uploading them to the guidebook. Not sure who can see these or if they are shared to the general guidebook user base or not. In any event, Guidebook was its usual useful self. The CD of Cold Wars really could care less about it, but the attendees do, so I’ll keep doing it despite official indifference.

Finally, if I could sum it up, I’d say this was a convention of interesting games and some good times.  My son came with me and I encouraged him to go off and find his own groove.. he hung out with guys his own age (or older) all weekend and had a terrific time.  I played in some great games, and saw some great games being played.  It was more of a game playing convention than a shopping con for me.

So as the sun set swiftly in the West, we drove home, tired and all conventioned-out. See everyone at HISTORICON!!!

(SLIDE SHOW of all Cold Wars 2016 pictures I took over the weekend)
(or try this link)

De Nerdibus: Cold War pictures (including the Midway double blind game)

Xin’s Lair: Cold Wars 2016 Frostgrave Game

Guidebook for Cold Wars 2016 is released


app for that

In a real crash program of data entry, I have managed to put together a Guidebook guide for Cold Wars 2016.  Thanks to Paul Trani, Theresa Presizosi, Scott Holder, and Scott Landis for their assorted (timely) inputs.

Guidebook has changed a bit over the years we have been using it for HMGS conventions.  I’m going to go over the basic screens now and show some of the new(ish) features.

A couple caveats up front.

First of all, we don’t have TRACKS any more.  That’s a pay feature and HMGS is too cheap to buy it.. so no more color coded dots and collections of categories of events.  I liked the color coding but even I am not sure if it’s worth the extra $$ Guidebook is asking to activate tracks, and I’m fairly bullish about Guidebook.  Secondly, I got a lot of the data for this guidebook pretty late (VERY late), so I didn’t have time to add little banners for “Event” “Tournament” “Hobby U” etc.. you’ll just have to figure it out yourselves this time, sorry.

Screenshots were taken on an Ipad Air, the smart phone menu will look different.

And now, the grand tour– if you don’t want to bother, scroll to the bottom of this post and all the download links will be there.

CW16 Guidebook Main Screen

This is the main screen (above).  The layout is a little nicer than before, and they have streamlined a lot of the “basic convention information” into a single screen.  The menu items are on the left in this shot because of the tablet I’m using (an Ipad Air).

Going from the top of the menu, down, here is Exhibitors– aka Vendors.  In the main listing I

CW16 guidebook individual exhibitor listing

This is an individual exhibitor (see above).  In this case Eureka.  The listing will mention location (table number on the vendor hall map, posted in maps), as well as some description and a website.  If the vendor has any sales or promotions for the show, this is the place to put it.  Note the “Add to T0-Do” link on the bottom. This places the listing on your to-do list (menu item) so it can be a note to yourself to visit this vendor in the exhibitors hall.

Next thing down is the speaker’s list (below) and an individual speaker (below that).

CW16 guidebook speaker's list

and detailed speaker listing.. There’s that handsome devil.

CW16 guidebook individual speaker

This is basically what GB used to refer to as “an extra custom list” and it used to cost big money, so I’m glad it’s free.  We can break out speakers into their own category this way.   Note that you can add a SEMINAR to your “to-do” list, as well.

Going down the list “Contacts” is just a small list for listing people on the convention staff. I haven’t populated it beyond Frank P, I might get to it before the show but I doubt it.

Inbox (next item down) is back from previous years.  This is simply a way for me (or convention management) to send an email to all Guidebook users at once.  I haven’t sent out a test message yet so there’s nothing to look at, I didn’t bother with a screen shot.

Photos:

Photo album is kind of new, and blessedly FREE.  Here’s how it works.. you take a picture(s) or two of a game you are in, or of something interesting.  You can upload it in Guidebook so that it appears in the universal show album.  Not sure what the capacity of this thing is as I haven’t tested it.  Here’s me uploading a picture in three easy steps:

one

selecting a picture or taking a new one

two

writing a caption

three

image in guidebook image catalogue

Images can be a really fun way of sharing not just YOUR game but all the games you played with your mates out to everyone going to the convention.

Schedule:

This looks pretty much like it has looked and works more or less the same way as in past guidebooks. Here’s a few screenshots breaking it down to a couple of individual events.

schedule page for a day

individual schedule item, Hobby U
A Hobby University event– note that Hobby U, Games and Tournaments will all look pretty much the same in the current schedule. I use a T- in front of Tournament event titles and the mortar board to represent Hobby U events.

individual schedule item, Game
A regular game event in the schedule.

MAPS are about the same as always with one nice feature. See the little blue arrows bottom right? That’s a zoom out arrow. Watch what it does:

before:

Map, not zoomed out

after:

 

Map, blue button removes menu for easier viewing

TO DO LIST basically is a reminder list you build by clicking on “Add to my to-do list” for various vendors, speakers etc.   You can also add items to it as “Add item”. I didn’t bother with a screenshot. No, WAIT, it turns out I did:

to do list

MY SCHEDULE is the schedule that YOU build by checking off schedule items in SCHEDULE. You can also set reminders to your self for Guidebook to nag you before an event occurs. This works as it has before, no major changes.

ATTENDEES works as it has before, this is NOT A REGISTRATION SYSTEM. It’s a checking in system, to tell OTHER GUIDEBOOK USERS “Hey, I’m here at the convention”.

GENERAL INFORMATION is all that stuff on the main page.. Google Maps, convention prices, schedule, directions etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS are back for this guidebook, in the form of Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter:
Twitter connection screen

I’ve plugged in these hashtags: #ColdWars16, #HMGS, #CW2016, and this account: @HMGS_Inc, since Cold Wars doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account.

Facebook:
Facebook Connection screen

This connects to the HMGS page on Facebook, like last year.

With all that said, here is where you go to get your GUIDEBOOK
https://guidebook.com/g/CW2016/

Here is the link to view it online. The screen layout is very similar to my Ipad Screenshots
https://guidebook.com/guide/53323/

Image

“Oh Magic 8 Ball…”


Mordheim Reivers Chili


Another year, another Chili Cookoff, another chance to excel at the culinary arts. This year, I took my entry into a new direction and though I only placed SECOND (snort), I am more than satisfied with the results. Herein is the recipe for MORDHEIM REIVER* Chili!

1 pounds ground beef chuck
1.5 pounds: veal/pork/beef mix for meatloaf (a tad pricier)
1 pound bulk medium heat Italian sausage
1 (15 ounce) can red pinto beans, drained.
2 (15 ounce) cans chili beans in spicy sauce not drained
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (I used garlic and herb flavored)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green chile peppers: Make this a mid-range pepper, not ghosts or habanero — I used two Serrano Peppers, carefully seeded and chopped fine.
3 cubes beef bouillon
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (I used Texas Pete’s, anything like that will work)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon white sugar (cuts back on the heat index)

Cook the meat in a large sauce pan, blending it all together in an amorphous meaty nirvana. Remove as much grease as you can, this is a pretty greasy combination and more of it will render out later, trust me on that.

In a slow cooker/crock pot: combine the meat, the beans, tomatoes and green stuff, stir well. Add in the spices and put it on a slow cook for ten hours, stirring well during that period. When finished, the pot will have a skin of grease on it and probably some extra liquid. Skim off as much as you can. This is a wet recipe. Serve hot with Fritos, cheese and other condiments as you see fit. Works great on a chile dog.

The result is a very flavorful chile with a mid-range bite to it.. not too hot but it has a heat element that will last a while.

* I know, you’re taking me to task for naming my chili recipes after GW products, I’m aiming for intentional irony here, people, work with me.

Image

By Their Deeds Alone Shall You Know Them


Colorized ancient image from a Doll Factory, Europe, 1931

By Their Deeds Alone Shall You Know Them – 2016, Walt O’Hara

Click to Enlarge

Puzzle 8 Feb 16. Question


I used to post puzzles as a regular thing on here and stopped when I was getting the impression nobody ever paid attention to those posts.  They probably still don’t but I miss doing it, so there.  Here’s February’s, and I might post another since it’s been a month of Sundays since I posted the last one.

Insert the given letters, one per cell, to complete a word square containing ten different words: five reading across and five reading down. We’ve placed all the vowels to get you started.

Have fun! Answer in the comments. I’ll post the answer in a week or so.

A new Initiative System for Big Danged Boats


Init Card idea for BDB

Sample Initiative (draft).  Available on GoDeckYourself.com (see below)

Big Danged Boats, or BDB, is a game of my own devising for larger scale, 15mm ship to ship combats in a fantasy setting. I’m shamelessly an admirer of its general goofiness and desire not to be taken seriously– and frankly, that tends to lead to the downside of my “what the heck, everything AND the kitchen sink” design approach. I love BDB as it is but there are so many components and so many differences in basic mechanics of ships that games become difficult to set up and difficult to execute. One of the existing elements I’m not crazy about is the initiative system, which is simply rolling a dice and counting up to 10. Simple, I guess, but it has no action/counteraction dynamic, like real initiative does.  Even worse, people sit around waiting for things to happen, and that’s not fun.

Therefore, I’m proposing a system of interactive Initiative bidding for BDB, inspired by a card game I vaguely remember. I’m not sure if we’re going to go with this or not but I’m certainly going to test it. Turns are structured around initiative actions– At start of game, each player is handed a deck of Initiative Bid cards, numbered 1-10. Every turn, he/she bids an initiative action or actions. They can then Move (Full), Shoot, Ram, Board, Cast Spells and maybe a few other things I haven’t thought of yet.  This is obviously a number 1-10. The lower number moves first. Higher numbers (when in missile range) subtract the lower numbers from their card. The difference is “reactions”. These are a number of specified actions the reacting ship can do in response to the initiative ship.  The turn continues until every ship captain has used every initiative bid card in their hand, and discarded them into their own discard pile.

Reactions include: Fire a volley, move a stick, cast a spell, abandon ship. I might add more. Note that RAMMING isn’t on this list.

In a multiple ship duel, engagement with ships with lower initiative numbers ACTING before an enemy REACTS.  If the ship is out of extreme missile range of any other ship (unlikely), it can move a single stick per action, or cast a spell (and possibly other actions).  If the ship is within missile range, but not ramming range, it may move a single stick per action, fire or cast spells.  If the ship can RAM within one movement stick (and wants to ram), it moves to ram.  If the opposing ship has at least one action left (from subtracting that ship’s lower initiative from it’s higher initiative), it may attempt a half move to avoid ram.  If it has more than one action left, it may move and shoot, or move and cast, etc.

A ship may also bank any unused actions in overwatch mode until the end of the round, at which point they must be expended.  The ship will remain stationery until something — the end of the turn, or a combat from another ship, causes them to expend their banked actions immediately.  Track these with colored beads or markers.

Note that the ship captain can’t reuse an initiative card until he/she has cycled through the entire initiative deck, 1-10.  Initiative cards are discarded to a discard pile after use and then then after the last card is used they may be picked up again.  (Design note, I may cap initiative cards at a lower number, like 7 or 8, 10 seems pretty high).

sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and all of them are mutual enemies, the default engagement is to the ship that is closest to the ship with the lower initiative.

sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and some of them are aligned, the lower initiative ship moves, the CLOSER ship reacts (enemy or ally), and then the NEXT CLOSEST ship reacts, etc.

bdb-combat-example

Combat Example using new initiative rules.

Examples (refer to above diagram):

  1. A, B, and C are all mutually hostile and have just drawn initiative cards.  B to C is medium gun range.  A to B is long gun range.  A to C is out of range.  Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6.  B moves first, and not caring which ship he antagonizes he decides to target C.  He has four actions.  He moves three sticks for 3, fires for one and he is done.  Ship C’s 6, minus B’s 4, is 2.  Ship C chooses to move for one stick and fire back in reaction.  Ship A would go last with three actions (7-4, and it is farther away than C).  He chooses to move two sticks closer to B and fire his main guns for 3 actions.
  2. A & B are allied versus C who is an enemy faction, and have just darw initiative cards.    B to C is medium gun range.  A to B is long gun range.  A to C is out of range.  Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6.  Lowest initiative ship B goes first.  B has four actions.  He moves three sticks and ends in a RAM condition on C.  C attempts to react away from the Ram but fails the save.  It has one more action and uses it to shoot a the incoming ramming ship.  A. Reacts (since it is in range of B) and moves closer to the ship to ship brawl, firing at C long range in support.
  3. All ships are mutually hostile.  B has moved with a 4 and shot at A with a ranging shot, and missed.  C has reacted to B but not moved. He moves next as a 6.  He chooses to expend all of his actions moving into a RAM situation on B.  Ram is resolved.  A moves next as he is a 7.  He has three actions (B’s 4 out of his 7 makes 3) and he uses them to move, fire at B, and save the last as an overwatch reaction.

In all cases, the captains can’t use cards 4, 6, or 7 (as applies to each) again until they have cycled through their entire deck of 1-10.

I made a quick initiative deck on GoDeckYourself.com, feel free to download (it isn’t final). Experiment with your own naval ships. Let me know what you think.