Monthly Archives: March 2010

HMVS Cerberus, for *free* on the Paper Shipwright


I love the pre-dreadnought era of naval history, with its giant flaring brass ventilator shafts, underpowered guns, white paint and coal funnels. The fleets are so charming and picturesque looking. It’s a great pity (from a naval history enthusiast’s point of view) that there really are no great clashes of Great Powers during the late 19th century– sure, a few minor scrapes like Lissa, Yalu and the Fashoda scare, but no substantial clash of cordite and steel until the great battle of Tsushima, which occurs right on the cusp of the Dreadnought class of warship.

Thanks to the “pre-dred” Yahoogroup, I’ve discovered a paper model of the HMVS Cerberus, a pre-dreadnought ship christened by the pre-federation Australian state of Victoria. The Cerberus was ordered in 1868 by Victoria to provide protection for Port Phillip Bay. Cerberus was the first major warship to rely on steam propulsion alone. She was a breastwork monitor, her turrets being raised on an armoured breastwork to improve her sea-keeping. Cerberus arrived in Port Phillip Bay in 1871 and never left. Sold for scrap in 1925, she was sunk as a breakwater in the bay in 1926.

Here is a picture of the Cerberus as launched:

Cerberus Ship Model

Cerberus Ship model, early (Launching) configuration

The model is available HERE and can be configured in the paint scheme she launched in (for free download), or as a purchased model that depicts her later appearance.

Model Details
Scale Length/Width Pieces Sheets Difficulty (1-5)
1:250 27cm/7cm 340/700 5 x A4 3/4 [?Help]

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Gibson on the Web


My friend and occasional tormenter, Mr. Steve Gibson, has put up a gaming blogsite.  If you’ve read this blog over time, you’ll know I often speak highly of some of Steve’s projects, such as Circus Magicus, and his epic Legion of Steel games, and the 50 plus player Wings of War games, and the Gladiator games, and Ares, and Gibsonsystem. 

Circus Magicus

Circus Magicus Ice Game at Christmas

I hope Steve populates this thing now that it is started– he’s a clever designer and has a sense of fun.  And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

http://stevegibsongames.files.wordpress.com

Rifles, Shotguns, Pancakes and Werewolves


[all photos: S. Gibson]

I had a fun weekend camping with my son’s Boy Scout troop at Fairfax Rod and Gun Club,where my friend Steve is a member and sponsored the event. 25 scouts and 15 adults participated. I worked as a supervisor for the rifle range activity, where every scout passed the accuracy requirement for Rifle merit badge, including Gar who put five up and five down three times in a row.  I was very impressed with how quickly he took to the rifle and I think he is showing some aptitude for it. Unfortunately he didn’t have enough time to qualify on the Shotgun range, 0ur time being restricted there.  I am told by those who would know that we shot off 5200 rounds of 22 long rifle ammunition.  The boys all learned the part of a rifle and what comprises a cartridge.

Garrett Shooting Rifles

Always be prepared for a Zombie Apocolypse, Dad!

Dinner was a sort-of-stew that the boys put together– hamburger, macaroni, cheese and some chopped up peppers and onions, covered with cheese.  It actually was pretty good, and reasonably filling.   We had a great fire Saturday night and we played two games of Werewolf, a favorite party game.  I led the first one and Allen Eisenburg led the second one. We had a blast. I froze in my tent overnight, even with a pad down and a 40 degree bag. Lessons learned.. bring a bag liner or blanket next time and a danged pillow. I’m sore today.

Rifleman

"Hold your breath, sight in between the zombie's eyes. Steadily pull back on the trigger, directly back to your shoulder"

Fortunately, since I couldn’t sleep, I did have my Ipod touch with me, and I watched DEAD SNOW and the FOURTH KIND to while away the hours. Blessedly coffee was ready in the morning and the lads enthusiastically made pancakes and bacon.

What a great weekend… pancakes, boomsticks, bacon and werewolves.

The Nafziger Collection is online for public viewing


George Nafziger, author, naval officer, historian and purveyor of the Nafziger Collection publishing company, is a name familiar to members of HMGS East, the miniature wargames community that I am also a member of. George has been a familiar face in the vendor area for many years, and a recent Board Member.  One of Mr. Nafziger’s specialties is the research and publishing of orders of battle (OOBs) for armies involved in various wars from medieval times until the 20th century. For years, these OOBs have been available as commercial items, or included into larger history volumes. Recently, Mr. Nafziger took the unprecedented step to make this research available to all, via a website hosted by the U.S. Army. In his words:

I have donated the notorious Nafziger Collection of orders of battle to the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Research Library (CARL). It is online and free to the world. I’m afraid I do not have the URL and I understand that it is still in a “teething” process, but it is there.

You may be wondering why. There are several reasons. First, technology was killing me. The collection was in WordStar, a DOS-based program, and Windows XP and Vista would not allow me to print the documents, so I found myself having to maintain a Windows 98 machine (and a spare, just in case). Sooner or later, I would no longer be able to get to the data. Technological changes would lose it to me (and you).

Second, I’m 60. Sadly, I’m not going to live forever. I imagined, not unrealistically, that since my wife and kids know nothing about the collection, could care less about it, would see a Windows 98 machine and think “junk” and place the computer, its hard drive and all the collection on the curb for the garbage collector, that my death would result in the disappearance of something that meant a lot to me as a hobby and a labor of love. Soooo, when approached by a friend two to three years ago, I realized this was the best solution. Besides, there is some sweet irony about a Navy Captain having his stuff figure so prominently on a U.S. Army website. 🙂 And, in some sense, maybe I will achieve a modicum of immortality, leaving a legacy that will haunt you all long after I’ve shed this mortal shell.

And with that, if any of you are silly enough to want to order something on the old website (which is still functional), I will take your money, but pretty soon I’m going to take it down and leave a link to the army’s website.

Enjoy, make use of it, and consider it my gift to the wargaming community.

I don’t suppose I need to point out what a treasure of research this action has provided historians, history buffs and wargame designers. I am very appreciative of this gesture and will be a frequent visitor in the years to come.

You may view the Nafziger Order of Battle Collection at the U.S. Army’s CARL website, divided by century.

Use this link as a “Finding Aid” (as the OOB PDFs are not displayed by name)

Thank you, George.

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Battle Machines, from Jada!


CAR WARS in lovely large scale Three Dimensions

I saw some interesting post-apocalyptic trucks at a recent game event at Cold Wars and was surprised to see they were die cast, not conversions. And in 1/64 scale, which seems unusual. The line is called “Battle Machines” and they are from a small company called Jada Toys.

Chevy Bel Air with Gatling

Gatling Gun enhanced Chevy BelAir.

I saw this Thursday night, during the Zombie game, when some folks near us were running a sort of post-apocalypse auto arena in 28mm scale (which this scale roughly equates to).

Deadly Ford Mustang model.

I’ve been working on a “Road Fighting Game” for some time now.. where the road spools out as an endless cloth road that runs down three tables. These diecast toys would fit right in to that idea with little or no modification. I am officially Psyched about these things. The diecast are pricey, but NOT out of the ball park. Road Warrior, here I come.

The Complete line of Jada Battle Machines in 1:64 Scale (roughly 28mm).

Announcing the Battle Machines Line

Cold Wars 2010 wrap up


Cold Wars: I made a conscious decision to break out gaming events I ran or played in from the rest of this Cold Wars narrative, because I’d rather have a series of small posts instead of one big long rambling stream of consciousness narrative that people would never read.  So the last two days of posts have been “the games he played” and this post will wrap things up about the convention in general.

I visited COLD WARS 2010 on Wednesday last week.  Cold Wars is the Spring convention of the hobby society I belong to, named HMGS East.  HMGS East is a society founded with the goal of teaching history through the play of miniature wargames, and we put on three big conventions a year– HISTORICON, COLD WARS and FALL-IN!   This Spring we added an unprecedented extra day on to the Cold Wars show, which I found hard to get used to for some reason.   Our convention director was Mr. Frank Preziosi, a very capable and pleasant chap.  He was seconded by his wife Michelle on registrar, Paul Trani on dealer-wrangling, Mr. Bob van der Kamp on events, and Mr. Dudley Garidel as Volunteer Staff Wallah.  I was volunteering for this Cold Wars, and got assigned to work on the events board and Gamemaster support issues, which is easy duty compared to the registration area.   In the years since I ‘retired’ from running Cold Wars, I have worked staff on events desk, and I find I like doing this job– you get to meet virtually everyone in the convention, and I like helping people fix little problems, so it is a nice fit for me.

Ogres on Friday night!

Ogre Miniatures!

We were open, briefly, on Wednesday night, until 9PM.  We solved a few table problems and that was about it– no tickets to hand out.  Not much else to do, so I actually went to bed early (for a convention).   Thursday, I again worked the morning shift on the events desk until about noon. It was quite brisk, actually.  I didn’t get much of a look at the dealer’s area that day, but did get into a game of Steve Jackson‘s OGRE MINIATURES that afternoon, recounted here. This was a four player game which came out being something of a draw or even marginal victory for the Vatican player.  A game that was both silly and nostalgic all at once.

I grabbed a quick din-din and jumped into Mr. Jim McWee’s Zombie game.  He was running a post-apocalyptic zombie infestation game based on Mr. Pete English’s home brew rule set and the novel World War Z by Max Brooks.  What can I say?  Life’s tough in Zombieland.  We played teams of zombie hunters trying to loot the town of all useful items.  The zombies had different ideas.  Our team was broken up into two groups– Team A and Team B.  I was in team a.  We decided early on to cooperate with each other, so when I activated a Zombie (or “Zed”) nest in the vacant lot, they didn’t stop, but ran for  a small cottage on the outside perimeter.  Not much to see here.   The Zombies were sort of thin in the street, so I mentioned to my teammate that maybe we should dash across the street.

Whoops!  Should have measured.  His group was about half an inch short of the door.  Guess who got the very next activation card?  Do you have to ask?

medium shot, zombies

Whoops! Activated a ZED NEST for my random event...

The very NEXT activation was the Zombies, and they swarmed out and all over him.  One of his people was horrifically eaten right in front of our eyes.  “Wow, that sucks… BYE!” I said, and went quietly out the back door, over the hedge and up the road a bit.  The rest of the game was like this.  We didn’t really succeed in looting the town, but we got SOME stuff, and my group lost nobody.  So that’s kind of a win in the Zombie Apocalypse.

After zombies, I hung out with a few folks and chatted with them about many things, he state of HMGS being a primary topic.  Then I hit the hay gratefully and came too about 900 the next day.  I had the afternoon shift on Friday, which was simple enough.  So I had a nice long breakfast, and managed to hit the flea market (where I found absolutely nothing) and the dealer’s area.  Again, not much found there either.  I bought the Thaniras elves faction for Uncharted Seas, at last.  I also bought some smaller ships for the Human Fleet which needs a little jazzing up.  I worked until 8PM that

Ironclads Friday

Ironclads on Friday

night, and sleezed my way into an Ironclads game called GET THE LOUISIANA, which is recounted HERE.  I had a lot of fun with this game, and I appreciate the work the GM put into it.  I even got the prize for being the first captain to lose a ship (har, har, very funny!).

Not a lot of the typical boozey hanging out that night; I had to be awake early for the membership meeting the next day.

Might as well say it here.  The topic of HMGS East moving HISTORICON, our biggest and most prominent show, from the Host facility at Lancaster, PA to the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC) in Baltimore, MD has been talked to death here there and everywhere.  When the two BoD members that seemed most active in the decision to move approached me for my opinion, I gave it to them.  They did what they did, which is (apparently, from the testimony given) commit the HMGS Society to a costly venue using a poorly worded contract as our agreement.  Our risk was and still is VERY high.  I had been to the BCC back in September 2009, where I reported on the event here in a fair and objective fashion, identifying answers for the issues I could find– parking, safety, food, etc.  I had promised the individuals responsible for the move that I would give it a fair shot.  By Fall-In 2009, it was apparent that the BCC move was verging on being a costly and terrible fiasco.  One board member stepped down from his office.  Another was not reelected.  I have avoided a long series of nasty and critical posts on this subject there, although I couldn’t resist a little dig with the Oh, Baltimore! the Trading Game post back in December.  Gradually, it became clear that the BCC thing had the earmarks of a first class disaster, and there were many questions put forward about the particulars– WHY was this signed?  Who did this?  What is the level of risk?  Mr. Orest Swystun had been out front on the the Miniatures Page and Yahoo groups about holding an informational session right after the membership meeting.  So I wanted to catch this.

Charge of the Light Brigade

The excellent charge of the Light Brigade game, lower lobby, Saturday

The membership meeting was very pro forma and resolved reasonably quickly.  We nominated a bunch of new candidates.  I  nominated Otto Schmidt.  He declined.  After the meeting, we went to the “informational session” in the Top Flight room, chaired by Orest Swystun.  Unfortunately it was a big letdown.  I had submitted a series of prepared questions that might have stirred a response that was “off script” for the board of directors.  Orest had received these and had promised to answer them after vetting them through an attorney.  He never got around to reading them.  Instead, the meeting was more of a pep rally for Valley Forge than an expiation of sins for the BCC.  That all changed when Mr. Michael Montemorano got up to speak, informally recounting any informal advice given as an attorney to the BoD over the Baltimore issue.  This portion of the meeting was quite informative, and brought to light many interesting items– notably just who signed what, and when, and why… which had been suspected by everyone of course.  To everyone’s credit, the 300 pound gorilla in the room was never mentioned by name (having left earlier, muttering) but the strong inference was present.

Sky Galleons of Mars

Sky Galleons of Mars

So who’s to blame for the BCC fiasco?  There’s plenty of it to go around.  A certain individual who signed contracts without authorization or approval of the BoD, that much is clear.  A certain board that should have deposed him years earlier, but didn’t.  Lack of regulation, lack of oversight, lack of paying attention to the details.  It’s all there for everyone to share.  I have resolved not to flagellate individuals over this issue in this blog, for a lot of reasons– primarily, attacking people isn’t going to help, and right now HMGS needs all the help it can get.  Things are that serious.  Talk to Orest Swystun about it, I urge you, if you haven’t been paying attention.  I think a lot of members just want their three conventions a year and walk away whistling with their hands in their pockets when the hard stuff comes up.  NOW is the time to pay attention, because if you don’t, we may lose those three conventions.   You have been warned.

In any event, some explanations were given, in a sort of weak and crippled way, and I bailed on the meeting as I had to get my shift going.   I worked until four o’clock or so.  It was brisk but uneventful for me, but not elsewhere.  Down in the Exhibition Hall (the tennis barn), the vendors appear to have been seething.  Part of HISTORICON’s move to a new venue will be a large increase in vendor rates– 295% in some instances.  I’ve spoken to a few vendors about this in a nonchalant fashion, and they appear angry but resigned to me.  Baxter Key (of Wargames West, and as canny a vendor who ever breathed oxygen) explained it to me this way: “Look, I did the math.  I’ll have to reconfigure and limit what I can bring, but I can make it work.  I just had to crunch the numbers, measure a new layout carefully, and now I know I can do it.   It’s all in the numbers“.  Other vendors were not so blase.  Apparently, one vendor was so incensed at the price hike that he had had some shirts made up proclaiming Historicon to be Extorticon.  Allegedly, he was quietly told to pack them up and put them away, or he’d be asked to leave.   I didn’t see this happen, but I did see one of the shirts, so I have no reason to say it didn’t.  I will say it’s a shame it had to come to such a pass, as the dealer is a solid guy who has supported our conventions for years, and he would be greatly missed (by me in particular, as I am a steady customer).   Still, it’s HMGS’s venue and as hosts, they may invoke the ‘weapons’ clause if they feel offended.  It’s just not something I would recommend to improve the board’s standing with the membership.

I’m not going to get into board meetings, or what was gossiped about, or who shot John, beyond what I have seen and can report on.  I do know that feelings are running very high at the moment, and there is a lot of anger and not a lot of trust.  I don’t want this new blog to become part of the gigantic bitch-fest that is The Miniatures Page Convention or Club threads, or even the Yahoogroup for HMGS sometimes.  I thoroughly support the current Board of Directors of HMGS East and do not envy their current task of trying to rebuild the society from the ground up.  I think they’ve been forthcoming, as best as they can under the circumstances, and I have at least learned the answers to some of my questions, even if I had to hammer away at it to get it done.  So all the best to them and I wish them success.  A lot of us older guys have a big chunk of our adult lives tied up in service to this organization and involvement in this hobby,and we don’t want it to vanish overnight.   The BoD isn’t perfect and they will make mistakes, but at least they stepped up to the plate and volunteered to run for the job, which is more than I did.  So I’m giving them some slack and I hope others do as well.

Slideshow for the whole weekend:

With all that spouted on, Meetings and shift being over, I had to run and pick up some accouterments for my pick up game of UNCHARTED SEAS by Spartan Games that evening (Saturday).  Uncharted Seas is a fantasy naval battle game that I’ve become quite taken with (you might have noticed a post or two on the subject if you read this blog regularly).  I had spent the morning membership meeting with my computer on, making up ship charts in MS Excel.  Now I had to print them out, get some dice and pencils (hey, I told you I had packed in a rush, right?) at Jeff and Monica’s Harmony House Hobbies vendors (I really recommend them to any gamer, board or miniatures based– they have that little something you absolutely need to get that game ready at the last second).  I also picked up some rock formations for table top terrain.  I have a Monday Knight productions Sea Terrain mat, but one of those by itself without any breaks in line of sight makes for a boring game.  Adding rocks to hide behind is key to giving a scenario some subtlety and maneuver.   The game went over very well indeed.  I was full up for players and really enjoyed playing and running it.  More details are here.

We played the game through to a reasonable conclusion.  Al Heydon won by a huge margin, due to his lucky shot that immolated a Battleship, a Cruiser, and several frigates of the Human Imperial fleet.  Al had brought up a cruiser and three WarCroc frigates from the Orc fleet and had executed a linked attack.  He rolled well- enough 4s,5s, and 6s to get on the Critical Hit table, and he rolled snake eyes on that– so BOOOOM!!!!   It’s kind of hard to beat that point spread, even with almost all of Al’s ships being sunk by the end of the game.  After Uncharted Seas, Steve Gibson, Art, Christopher and Jeff stayed and we all played the DOMINION card game together.   I found it to be fun and interesting, but I wasn’t singing hosannas about it either.  I like the “constructable” aspect of the game, and the element of luck involved.  Still, of the games published in the last year, I’m still far and away a fan of Small World.

After they packed up and head out to the hotel, I hung out downstairs where some unnamed individuals were cracking a keg.  Sitting around and BSing with fellow attendees is maybe the best part of coming to a convention, and that’s what we did– gossiping like schoolgirls one second, telling dirty jokes the next, and mutual gamer gross-out yarns.  Oh yes, Pete English had us all beat in that category, by far and away.  Always a pleasure, sir.

Woke up rather fusty the next day, a bit groggy from going to bed at 3 AM.  Hey, I had to do it ONE night of the con, right?  Had a nice breakfast (late) and checked out, packed the car, and made one last dash at the dealer room.  I didn’t buy anything.  So it goes.  And then homeward.

Summary:  Everyone ends these things with their nose in the air and proclaiming “Attendance was light”…  it didn’t feel that way to me, but I did leave the lot a few times and had no problem finding a parking space upon returning, and that’s a bad sign.  One thing I noticed (being at the events desk) was that I felt like there was a HUGE number of cancellations this year, and maybe not so many events run as previous years.  I don’t know if this is certain, I haven’t done any analysis to back it up.  I don’t know the attendance numbers or have access to our financial results for this convention, but I assume business was brisk enough to find us in the black this time.

I want to thank Frank, Michelle, Dave, Dudley, and all the rest of the staff members and leads for their hard work, due diligence and cheerful disposition in making COLD WARS 2010 happen.  I had a fantastic time, and it is directly attributable to your efforts.

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Other Cold Wars 2010 Posts on this blog:

Ironclad Action: Get the Lousiana! at Cold Wars 2010


I always liked the Yaquinto game line, back in the day, and one of my favorite games was Ironclads, back then.  Yaquinto’s IRONCLADS and IRONCLADS EXPANSION were the definitive word on a boardgame simulation of Ironclad combat during the American Civil War and afterwards.  The level of detail came at the cost of complexity.  There was a lot steps that a player had to go through to hit a target, penetrate the armor, cause damage to the enemy ironclad, etc. etc. etc.  So I didn’t play it very much, but I did like it. 

IRONCLADS from Yaquinto also makes a great miniature game for the detail oriented.  I attended a great Ironclads event at the recent COLD WARS convention Friday Night, called SINK THE CSS LOUISIANA.  This was tremendous fun, although I’m finding Ironclads a bit tedious for a modern convention game.  Too many steps! 

The situation was as observed in the map below: 

Tactical Situation

Start of Game

 The US fleet approached from around the bend, under the fire of the Shore Battery at position B, causing a lot of damage.  I was assigned the USS Indianola, which was promptly shot and sank while passing under the Confederate gun battery at point B.  Sigh.  We sang taps for the crew and I was given the USS Choctaw as a replacement, and she proved sturdier.  The CSS Lousiana started moored at the pier at point D.  Because she had serious engine problems, she could only move in reverse.   There was also an armed sidewheeler at point C and also point E on the map above– with some serious high caliber guns.

The survivors rounded the bend easily enough, with the one casualty being my ship (damned tinclad, anyway!).  As we chugged North we were once again under the fire of a shore battery at position C.  We moved to the far right hand side of the river to avoid becoming  a target for that battery.  Most of our ships ran the gauntlet and attacked the CSS Lousiana.  Too many, in fact– we kept almost bumping into each other wjo;ed trying to range in on the enemy ships. In the USS Choctaw, I lost several opportunities to zero in on the CSS Louisiana, and only hit her about seven times.   Many of us, including the Choctaw, managed to fire on the sidewheelers and they were sunk promptly.

In the end, it was a grudging draw at best. The Louisiana lived at game end, but was shot up. In contrast the US Navy had lost a ship and was badly damaged in places. If the game had gone longer, we WOULD have sunk it. But we didn’t do it on time, so there you go. 

Slideshow, of course: 

I always enjoy a grand Ironclad game, even if the actual number of ironclad engagements were miniscule. I think there’s a better way of running the simulation than the old Yaquinto rules. One can hope! In any event, I had a great time at the game and I’d like to thank the GM for making a space for me. 

Choctaw fixes Lousiana in her guns

The Choctaw sights in on the Lousiana. Blessedly, the Benton is not blocking LoS at the moment.

 Facebook Users: you can view a slideshow on FLICKR via this link 

Related: Yaquinto Ironclads on Boardgamegeek 

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Up, AetherShips! Space 1889 at Cold Wars 2010


Logo for 1889F-262 – Sky Galleons of Mars 1889
Fri. 6:00 PM, 5 hrs, 10 players
GM: David Kasper and NOWS
Prize: prize for best player
Victorian Science Fiction 25mm,
Rules: modified Sky Galleons of Mars


The time 1889. The place Mars. The British fleet must teach the Martian rebels a lesson by bombarding Parhoon. Come join in the fun. Large cloud ships against flouting gunboats. Lots of color. Lots of figs. Lots of dice.

I’ve always been a fan of steampunk, but I don’t like it all dark and gothic as the modern fans seem to.  For me, the Vernian style VSF of an old Edisonade with bright and shiney Victoriana themes all over it was the more fun world to play in.  Indeed, that is a criticism I could levy on most game themes these days– gameworlds seem too inherently pessimistic in tone.  Not so with Frank Chadwick‘s Space: 1889, however.  Here was a universe with guts and optimism.  Dashing officers and cheerful non-coms facing down hordes of Martian aboriginals, flying around in liftships and blasting away with quick firing cannon.  This is the essence of Steampunk. 

Imagine my delight, when I attended HMGS‘s spring wargame convention COLD WARS 2010 last weekend and discovered a room with Cloudships and Aphids battling it out in true 25mm scale.  I was impressed! 

Giant Kite

Giant Martian Kite (Sorry for the crappy picture)

Unfortunately, I got there too late to get in the game, but I did hang out and kibbitz for a while, oogling the wonderful Aphid Aethership models and giant Martian “Kite” ships.  The modeler did a wonderful job. 

Alas, my good camera was home, I picked up a cheapo digital at wal-mart but it might have been better to get a disposable, after seeing how poorly it worked for the entire convention.  So here’s the slideshown on this event, but don’t expect great photography.  The event was in a poorly lit room. 

FLICKR Slide Show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48406853@N04/tags/cloudships/show/ 

I hope I can get into one of these at HISTORICON, work schedule permitting. 

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Ogre Miniatures at Cold Wars 2010


Event: T-393 – Steve Jackson’s Ogre
Thurs. 5:00 PM, 3 hrs, 4 players
GM: John Rentovich with Tim Kaufman
SciFi 1/285 micro, Rules: Steve Jackson’s Ogre

Ogre and its sequel, G.E.V., are tactical ground combat games set in the late 21st century. In 2085 A.D., armored warfare is faster and deadlier than ever. Hovercraft, tanks and infantry slug it out with tactical nukes. But the most feared weapon of all needs no human guidance. It’s the giant cybernetic tank called the Ogre.

OGRE MINIATURES!!! Talk about a trip down memory lane! I met my buddy Bill Alderman walking into the Distelfink ballroom and he sat in on this game with me. Bill took the left wing of the Vatican Guard (Mark 1 and 2 OGRES, smaller units), I took the Lutheran Armored Brigade right wing (Mk III OGRE “Martin Luther”, small units). It was marginal victory for the Vatican. We took out the Doppelsoldner and killed the Holy Father, which you don’t see every day of the week.  In turn, the Ogre Mark V that was our left flank was savaged by the Dopplesoldner (their right flank), being down to some treads at the end of the game.  My Mark III was in sad shape but could still fight, and I still had a small force of heavies and a few surviving GEVs at my disposal.

OGRE!

The Right Flank of the Vatican battle. My Mark III and supporting units.

Bill moved out smartly, doing all the right things, dispersing his troops to avoid being targets and moving forward.  I responded with a blocking force of GEVs doing the standard “Dash in/Dash out” attack favored by the GEVs.  I did some damage but got smoked by superheavy tanks.  The rest of my force, I moved to the left to take on the Doppelsoldner with the Mark V on my flank, using the III and the Heavy force.  Bill wasn’t prepared for me to dash out of his way like that.

The Five crashed into the Doppelsoldner and nearly ruined it, as the heavies took on the Doppel’s main guns and secondaries.  The Five moved on after smashing up in the city and ended up pushing into the Vatican rear flank.  I brought up the Three to the flank of the Doppel who was tangling with a company of my heavies.   It had lost so many treads it was almost a pillbox at this point, and the heavies got the last treads as the Three moved out of the city to take on the Superheavies and missile tanks, which were the only heavy armor Bill had left other than the old Ogre I and II.

Slideshow:

Direct Link to slideshow (facebook users)

We called it for time, and graciously gave the other side the marginal victory because, technically, they had more units in play. This game was a blast to play and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t played OGRE miniatures in years. Thank you, GM John Rentovich, for putting this one on.

Related:

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Ogre Miniatures on SJG

Spotted: the new Republic of Rome a “Peace Game” from the past.


Republic of Rome

The New Republic of Rome, seen recently at COLD WARS

At boardgame convenitons, everybody tends to play a lot of everything, and miniatures conventions aren’t that different in spirit.  For every diehard Napoleonic miniatures game going on at a minis convention, there’s a nook somewhere filled with the same chaps who play minis playing Descent, or The Hell of Stalingrad, or the Haunting House, or even The Republic of Rome.  High ticket, gorgeous multiplayer games with great artwork have been a staple at the HMGS Conventions I regularly attend.  I certainly understand this. Who knows when you’ll find that mix of people again, really?

Republic of Rome is a sentimental favorite of mine.  I can’t admit to playing it more than a handful of times– it takes a large time commitment I don’t have any more, and it is a very unique game design that might not appeal to everyone.  For one thing, to see it get lumped in with “war games” is misleading.  I’d call Republic of Rome a “Peace Game”.. a game not primarily focused recreating a historical battle.  Battles and military actions are part of things, yes, but they are played out “offscreen”.   The main focus of Republic of Rome is power and politics within the Roman Senate.  Within this framework, the players use diplomacy, alliances, persuasions, prosecutions, graft, bribery, murder and even conspiracies to advance their cause.  The subject matter and mechanics will always turn someone off. After all, this game doesn’t come with a map, or little army counters to move around capturing land and killing each other.  Many of my gaming buddies would sneer at gaming the edge of the seat action involved in gathering votes for a consensus in the Senate over the opportunity to flatten some Guards Tank Army ringing Moscow, for instance.   Different strokes for different folks.

It’s been a long, long time since I played Republic of Rome, a game design that dates back more than 20 years. I wonder if the passing of time would diminish or enhance my interest in games from my own past.  Frome what I hear, the game itself has not changed much, but the components in new version are simply gorgeous.  RoR is one of those games that figured prominently then but not so much more than a memory now. I’m intrigued, but maybe not enough to shell out what Valley Games is asking for it. I guess I’ll have to play it one of these days, and find out.

Uncharted Seas at Cold Wars 2010


Just back from COLD WARS 2010, in Lancaster PA.   I’ll post more on the subject (there is a lot to cover, trust me), but I’d like to give a recap of Saturday night’s Uncharted Seas game I ran as a pickup down in the Flea Market area.   I had to improvise a bit, as I had grabbed my box of ships, a water mat and shoved off promptly on Wednesday, forgetting any terrain bits, the markers, and all the recent Litko fantasy battle markers I picked up at Fall In.  I hadn’t run US since last Summer, and had forgotten a lot of it, and frankly wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked to be.  It would have been nice to run it last week before the Con at the Game Parlor on Thursday night, but I couldn’t get out to TNGG because of family stuff.   Add to that the confusion from almost a half year of constant editing of the rulebook via Spartan games’ forum website, and the game had some different nuances than I had recalled from the last time I ran the game.  I’m glad I bought a new rulebook recently, as there have been some changes and rewrites here and there.

I spent some of the rather momentous HMGS East membership meeting on Saturday morning creating fleet sheets in Excel, which came in handy later.

In any event, I was lucky to have a chap who was a fan of Uncharted Seas show up and sit in.  As my friend Al Hayden had arrived first, we immediately dubbed the new, knowledgable chap (named Al) “Other Al”.  OtherAl had read the rulebook more recently than I had, and was a great help to me in sorting out the new rules.

This was the layout and the relative starting position of the fleets.

Map Uncharted Seas Cold Wars

Map, showing relative starting positions of the Six Fleets I had in play.

Art played the Bone Griffons (undead), Steve played the Imperials (human), OtherAl played the Iron Dwarves, Jeff played the Shroud Mages, Christoper played the Dragon Lords, and First Al played the Orc Raiders.

Here’s the usual slideshow!

The game started with the typical scramble for position.  As the ship models are so large and I only have the one dinky water terrain cloth from Monday Knight Productions, this phase is fast and decisive–fleets were shooting at turn one.  I really need to get a wider and longer game space to run this game with effectively.  Steve and First Al got involved in a fight almost immediately, Steve taking broadside shots at Al and Christopher (being between them and a natural target).  First Al detached a cruiser and a force of Croc Frigates to attack closer in.  Al got incredibly lucky; rolling a lot of damage in a linked attack, he exceeded Steve’s critical rating and rolled on the Critical table.  Snake Eyes!  The magazine went up, vaporizing the human Imperial battleship, two cruisers, and all but two of Steve’s frigates (Christopher had done for the other cruiser earlier).  It was the most decisive critical I’ve seen.   

Christopher crept up the side of the battlefield, staying close to the rocky outcrop (and losing a frigate in collision along the way).  He later came to grips with the orcs, and savaged them at a distance, knocking First Al down to one cruiser and a couple of Crocs.  First Al had the wind against him for the last half of the game (courtesy of Art’s changing the wind card) and could not close to board, and thus was shot to pieces.  On the other side of the table, OtherAl fought with both the Shroud Mages (Jeff) and the Bone Griffons (Art).  Art did rather well against the Iron Dwarves, but OtherAl hardly took any losses– later Art moved the Bones to the center of the table and engaged both FirstAl (the orcs) and Christopher (the Dragon Lords).  Jeff did reasonably well as the Shroudies, taking out a dwarf cruiser.

The game lasted about four hours, taking it slow.  It will go faster next time as I got the flow of the new rule changes pretty quickly.  We liked the game, I think, at least I did.  I’ll definitely run this one again at a convention, it’s perfectly suited to fast play.

Action Shot

Action Shot, late in the game

PBeM: Dune Selecting Factions


PBeM starting up. I am playing a DUNE game (the boardgame, the old Avalon Hill version) via the electronic and paper zine BORIS THE SPIDER, run by Paul Bolduc.  First step: selection factions.

This is the list of preferences I sent in:

1. Fremen
2. Empire
3. Atreides
4. Guild
5. Harkonnen
6. Bene Geserit

Dune Board

Dune

I’ll keep the blog posted on how I do– don’t expect victory, I havent’ played this since I was 20 something.

Related:

Your History Moment: John Quincy Adams’ diary from the great hereafter


John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United StatesWell, not exactly the great hereafter.  John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, left a voluminous set of diaries and personal papers for his son, Charles Francis Adams, to sort out and publish after he passed away.   John Q. Adams was a prolific diarist, and he wrote in nicely truncated, terse entries that filled several volumes.  If you’ve been reading this journal for a while, you may realize where this is going.  As it turns out Adam’s diary style is perfect for adapting to Twitter, the micro-blogging phenomenon of recent years.  Following in the footsteps of Samuel Pepys and George Orwell, John Quincy Adams now maintains a daily Twitter account.. from beyond the grave.  The J.Q. Adams Twitter feed is the project of the Massachusetts Historical Society, who retains possession of many of the Adams papers (from both President Adams) and a full set of original published diaries.  Jeremy Dibbell, a librarian with the Massachusetts Historical Society, says that:  “His short entries are surprisingly rich, full of wonderful details about his reading, meals, weather, and shipboard activities.” In short, they are perfect for the 140 word format imposed by the Twitter service.   I love reading journal entries from the past such as the Pepys, Orwell, and Adams diaries.  They offer a window into an entire other world– not from the perspective of great events and earth-shaking historical moments, but from the day to day struggle of living.  I tend to be cynical about many things related to Social Media networks.  For every nugget such as Pepys and Adams twittering we seem to have five waifish college girls trying to get me to see explicit pictures  or ten self-acknowledged network marketing experts earnestly trying to propel me into the world of .. something, I can’t figure out what they’re talking about.   Still, when I discover something like this, it’s all worth it.  I can always filter out the junk.  In honor of this discover, I have added John Q. Adams and his Twitter feed on the right sidebar here on the Third Point of Singularity blog.  This can easily be added to whatever RSS feed aggregator you use, such as bloglines, or yahoo, or Facebook.  Here is the RSS feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/43919215.rss

Related: John Quincy Adams on Twitter

Children and Games: Changing and Staying the Same


D&D

Playing D&D across the generations

I came home the other night and was sitting down in my normal chair having a little post-work/post-school meeting of worlds with my son, Gar. I must have missed his first mumble or two, because gradually I understood he was describing an adventure he had taken part in, where he was a half-orc with a Jade Sword, and fighting Ninjas with different colored uniforms (and different lethality levels), and getting treasure. “And then we drew a map as Michael called out what the room looked like, on graph paper,and moved our guys around. It was fun!”

I blinked.

Gar was describing playing a tabletop roleplaying game. The old fashioned way. Not on a video screen. Not on a computer. With real, live people, using his own imagination to fill in the pictures. I pressed him for details. “It’s called Dungeons and Dragons, Dad. I play with Michael and some other kids at school during lunch. Didn’t you used to play that? You know what D&D is, don’t you?” (adopting a pained, “do I have to tell you everything?” expression). “Why yes, I may have heard of it somewhere.”

I was absurdly pleased. For all the noise about “growing my own set of opponents”, I don’t really push my hobbies on my children. The most we manage is a beer and pretzels card game at Chinese carry out (fairly regularly). These are not very taxing and for the most part, the kids love that kind of game. But anything really complicated? Nah. I don’t want to turn them off from games. Some things, like the Ameritrash collection in my basement, are an acquired taste.

So to discover that independently, with NO prodding from his bumptious father, Gar has A) hooked up with some gaming buddies, B) picked up D&D (which can be pretty thorny for newcomers), and C) plays it enthusiastically.. well, it’s genuinely heartwarming. That’s the only word for it.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Vivat for the next generation!

Oh, I didn’t mention the best part: “Dad, could you run one of these for us some time?” “Oh, think I might be able to help you there. I’ll have to go look in my study for some materials…”