Monthly Archives: February 2017

Game Night, Heroic Aleworks, Woodbridge VA


Courtesy of Meetup.com’s thriving Northern Virginia Pavilion group,  I received notification of a game night at Heroic Aleworks in Woodbridge, VA.   I had been unaware of this location until quite recently (through meetup, in fact), and wanted to give it a try.  Now, I like craft beer, and I like it a lot.. but not on a Thursday night during the work week, so I just limited myself to one sampler glass and a cold brew coffee.  Besides, I had my son (who is not 21) with.  I like this place.. the atmosphere is somewhat self-consciously nerd chic, with some obvious geek cultural references–



This was just fine with me and my son. The people there were very friendly– basically a handshake and my name was enough to start a tab. this place hearkened back to a friendlier, kinder way of doing business.

Most importantly, Heroic Aleworks has a keen awareness about the intersection zone between geeks who drink craft beers and other geekly hobbies, like comics, movies, and boardgames. The fact that they know their crowd this well and cater to it, has earned my instant customer loyalty.

Garrett and I got there late– not my fault for once, he has classes until 6, so we were to get there at a little after 7, southbound traffic and all. Heroic is in a light industrial area, like a lot of microbreweries are nowadays (there are two of them in two similar facilities less than a mile from where I work). Thus, food can be a little problematic.

We had time for one short-playing game. I brought a few choices along with me, a mixture of two to four player short games. We ended up choosing STEAM TORPEDO: FIRST CONTACT, by Iello. I had played this at the demo booth at HISTORICON 2014 at Fredericksburg, VA, and not all the way through. I thought it was good fun, and idly put it on my Boardgamegeek.com Wish List– not for any motive beyond my own “remember this one and get it later” reasons. My Secret Santa for 2015 ended up getting it for me, and there it has sat, on the shelf, unplayed, mocking me.. “I’m steampunk.. I’m naval.. I feature shooty things… PLAY ME…”

Tonight was the night!

It turns out Steam Torpedo is a light and fun little non-war game. It reminds me somewhat of an older game called RED NOVEMBER. That is mostly a thematic comparison. Both games feature submarines, steampunky settings, and frantically running from compartment to compartment to avoid disaster.

That is pretty much the point where the comparison stops. In Steam Torpedo, you use a series of tiles to create a custom submarine built up of modular components that do things.. shoot at the other sub, make your sub go, defend your sub, and fix your sub. Crew tokens make this stuff happen, and they do it by moving from compartment to compartment.

Complicating everything is the fact that each compartment is rated for structure and oxygen points– a finite amount of oxygen. Once you run out, your ship is done. Every TURN, you remove ONE oxygen from your ship.. somewhere. Every time a ship takes damage.. the target captain puts a damage marker (red) somewhere. Once you start using up the structure points for a compartment, it goes away (not in the physical sense– it ceases to function)

We ended up finishing the game about ten minutes before the event ended at 9 PM.  I pulled off a victory– not from any obvious tactical superiority on my part, it just worked out that Garrett’s design for a sub had more weapons than mine, and mine had more “fix your damage” compartments than his.   Thus, I was able to man both a “sandbags” station AND  a “welding station” to absorb most of the incoming physical damages.   I discovered since you have a finite amount of crewmen, it really doesn’t matter if you have a gigantic array of weapons.  You can only man some of them at any given moment.  So if your opponent has systems that allow his/her sub to avoid the initial onslaught of incoming points, gradually, the balance will shift and as they start taking out your systems in response with their one or two weapons that can activate, and you will be in a bad way to respond.

This event was a lot of fun– I like the location quite a bit but will probably have to leave early to get there in time to have something stronger than a sampler glass.  The folks there are very friendly and I like the decor, the root beer, and the way they cater to their crowd.  Good times!

The Garden of Earthly Delights


Studio Smack, and animation company I know very little about, recently put together a contemporary animation of Hieronymus Bosch’s GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS, the original of which is hanging at the Museum del Prado in Madrid.  It’s pretty amazing animation.  They did a beautiful job.  I like to look at it and don’t want to forget this exists.  So I’m posting it here.  Vimeo Link

and yes, you’re welcome. 🙂

Old Warriors Pass.


Take off your hat.  TAKE OFF YOUR DAMNED HAT and show some respect.

This week witnessed the passing of two legendary wrestling “heels”, namely William James Myers and Oreal Perras.  I’m sure you won’t recognize these names.  They harken back to another era, when the WWF was an entertainment empire that flirted with almost being respectable.. when wrestlers would appear in sitcoms, MTV videos, and low budget movies.  This was the 1980s Wrestling Entertainment explosion, and it was very much a big thing– commanding the television sets on Friday nights and filling arenas to capacity. I was never a huge fan of any of it– I wrestled in high school and had that snobbish holier than thou attitude about it.  Still, it was damned entertaining– with scripted feuds, special effects and exaggerated choreography.  I always respected the skill on display– if you could launch yourself from a turnbuckle every night and land without a concussion, make no mistake– you had skill.

So back to Myers and Perras.  You might have known them as George “The Animal” Steele and Ivan Koloff.  Both of these guys were professional bad guys (or “heels”) in the glory days of the WWF


George Steele


Ivan Koloff

Both of these men had a long career in the world of WWF Heels.  George Steele actually drifted into the sport sideways, after getting a master’s degree at Central Michigan University(!).  He drifted into wrestling (from coaching at the college level) in the Detroit area for sensible reasons.. to make a couple of extra bucks.  Originally he fought using a mask and calling himself The Student (left).  Eventually he was discovered by Bruno SanMartino who recruited him into the big leagues of wrestling entertainment.  George Steele developed his “incoherent brain damaged” brute persona mainly at Vince McMahon’s urging.  With his bald head, heavy features and literally inches of fur covering his lower body (the man was hairy!), George must have come off as the Missing Link.  The irony was that he was quite well spoken, very well educated (in science no less), and took pride in delivering well articulated promotional bits.  This irked McMahon, who interrupted his taping one night and told him “he looked like an animal, he should act like one!”  Steele, as a joke, drooled and gibbered into the camera shouting “ook ook ACK!”and scampering around like a mutant monstrosity.  McMahon, of course, loved it, and thus, George The Animal Steele was born.  He earned everlasting respect for playing another wrestler, Tor Johnson, as he appeared in the Ed Wood films in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD.

Ivan Koloff debuted in 1961 as “Red Mcnulty”, an allegedly Irish wrestler from Dublin who sported a beard and an eyepatch (left).   He wrestled primarily in the Canadian organizations until 1969, when he started for the World Wide Wrestling Federation, managed by Captain Lou Albano.  Koloff’s specialty appears to have been training and developing teams of thematic “heels”.. creating long lasting team called “THE RUSSIANS” with Vladimir Petrov and Nikita Koloff (his “nephew”), and often teaming with “The Iron Sheik”.    Since Russians were perennial bad guys in the Cold War era, the heel teams became quite popular and were around for a long time in wrestling’s glory days.

Wrestling isn’t all just crazy choreography and overblown ham acting at the microphone.  There’s a dark side to the “sport”.  I will always remember an interview Rowdy Roddy Piper (who died two years ago, at 61). gave about the drug abuse, constant pain and loneliness of professional wrestling.  You can see a little of it here:

Piper had broken most of the bones in his body (including his back) on multiple occasions. He played through the pain in situations that were downright dangerous. At age 49, he was back in the sport that he frankly detested, because he didn’t have a way of making a living– like so many of his colleagues, the sport had used him in the heyday, chewed him up and spat him out. In the last ten years, we have witnessed a startling amount of early deaths, murders and suicides by current and past wrestlers. I remember watching the entire interview with Roddy Piper on Sports Extra.. and my heart went out to the man. Pro wrestlers are like prostitutes. They use up their bodies and health for the vicarious pleasure of strangers until they can’t any more, and then they (usually) die.

I have to hand it to both Steele and Koloff– they had long and amazing careers in the WWF and successor organizations, and both of them managed to do something that wrestlers rarely do, life past 70.

RIP, George and Ivan. I hope the pain has finally gone away.

Small Wars: Vikings and Frostgrave


Since I’ve been somewhat hampered in my hobby pursuits by having my house almost destroyed, all my study packed up and the walls demolished, I haven’t had ready access to things that I traditionally spend the Winter on, like painting up miniatures for gaming projects.  I’ll live, of course, but I have a need to bump up my forces on a few nearer term projects, such as running a gaming camp this Summer.  Fortunately, my friend John Montrie, being retired, has been around to provide a brush for hire, and he’s helped bump up my forces when I’ve had to exchange money for time for the past few years.  And thank the Deity for that, too– I don’t think I could have gotten Big Danged Boats or Frostgrave off the ground without his timely assistance.  As he’s off to China for a few months I thought I’d pop up to Rockville and visit, eat some Mexican food and pick up some troops I had him working on.  Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results, or I wouldn’t be posting about it!  At Fall IN I had picked up another pack of Frostgrave Soldiers (the standard 28mm semi-medieval Soldiers, 22 figures, plastic, Northstar Games).  I also picked up some newer Frostgrave specialty figures– the Lich and Apprentice, The Crowmaster & Javileneer, and the Elementalist II & Apprentice.  All in pewter, 28mm, Northstar Games.

First off, the Goons.  These are the troops that make up the retainers and followers of the wizard figures in Frostgrave:

I gave John very little guidance.. if he has a fault at all, it’s that he tends to use the same four basic primary colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as uniform highlights. I don’t mind that so much, it allows me to cluster the henchmen in handy groups.  Still, I wanted something different so I asked John to focus on darker colors and purples.  He delivered!

Here are the new major characters in pewter:

Crowmaster and Javelineer

I understand what the Javelineer does.. he tosses Javelins.  What the Crow Master does I’ll have to read up on.  Maybe the Crow flies around like another set of eyes and spies on people.

Beast Crafter and Apprentice

This looks somewhat obvious- the Beast Crafter is some form of shapeshifter that can transform himself  into animal shape.

Elementalist II and Apprentice

This is the second form of the “Elementalist” Wizard from Northstar.  I think I might like the older figures better.. more dynamic.  Eh, what the heck, they’ll make good thieves.

Lich and Apprentice

I don’t know what a Lich is in Frostgrave terms.. I always thought it was the animated dead body of a powerful wizard– and usually appears as a skeleton in wizard regalia.  This looks more like Elric of Melnibone all tarted up or something.. no matter, it’s a cool figure.

That brings me up to 44 Soldiers from two packs, 22 cultists.  With the Dark Ages Vikings and Saxon figures I have painted up for SAGA and Battle Troll, I have something on the order of 120 figures I could use for “Goons” for Frostgrave warbands.  I’m still going to get the barbarian pack(s) and I’ll probably add some variety figures in there too (like a couple of all female warbands, a dwarf warband, a Chinese Warband, and an elven warband), but I have enough soldiers and wizard figures to comfortably run games of 10 players or more– maybe even a dozen.

Viking Looters

Another project I’d like to start running this summer is the venerable VIKING LOOTERS game.  This is a venerable convention game designed by the great Jim Birdseye years ago.  The scenario couldn’t be more simple – you are a Viking and need to get back to the boat first with the most loot (represented by pennies spraypainted gold). Your movement rate is based on the amount of loot you carry. All players start at the same distance from the boat. The fun comes in that each player is dealt several cards. Each card represents an event, usually bad for someone, usually the Viking himself.  The cards cause an opponent to drop pennies, fight battles, become pursued or otherwise delayed from returning to the boat. A turn consists of each player deciding whether or not to play a card on an opponent, or passing (not playing a card). Once all cards in a turn are played (face down on the table), the GM reveals them in an order that makes sense.

Yes, the “screw the opponent” factor is high.  I know I have plenty of fighting Vikings on board– about 44 of them.  However, I don’t yet have enough of regular people doing regular things– like the Saxon villagers, herdsmen, wenches, old women, and various random characters you meet in the game.  I’m still working on the villagers, but found a pack of Old Glory “Revenge” line Viking looters in smaller 28mm.  These are Vikings doing what  you associate with being vikings– raiding, drinking and taking stuff.

Most of these were crafted to have open palms for adding “stuff” to them.. like chickens, weapons, gold and jewelry, etc.

You can see there are some villagers in there– I also have some clergy. I am getting some sheepherders done and I still need some wenches and stock animals. Pretty much standard Dark ages figures.

I plan to run this game at camp.  As you already know, I have a great Viking Ship I built from a kit that I can use for a prop.  Scenery is pretty minimal.  I’ll add in a swamp that surrounds the ship except on the River side, with just one plank leading up to the boat and a big ship guard trying to rob you as you come on board– you can’t make it TOO easy!

Anyway, I love Frostgrave and always wanted to get Viking Looters off the ground, so that’s going to be my new project for the year.

Warpath Chili


Well, it’s that time of year. The Annual Chili Classic. I thought that I should mix it up a little since my CHAOS MARINE CHILI hasn’t won any trophies yet, so I went out searching for a thematic departure, and boy did I find one.  In one of the cooking websites run by a paper magazine, I saw “Pumpkin Bison Chili”.. I liked the sound of that, generally liking bison– and I liked the Native American theme to it.  Sadly, one trip to Whole Foods taught me that bison meat ain’t cheap, so I had to wildly improvise.  Since the only elements salvaged from the original recipe are Pumpkin, I retained the American Indian theme but the resultant chili was peaceful and mellow like the one I found.. this chili might Injuns to go on the warpath!  See what I did there?

Anyway, if you want to replicate, here it is.  I’m proud of it, even if it didn’t take the trophy.

Warpath Chili (Printable)

Notes– cook long and slow, a crock pot set for ten hours works, or a big regular pot set on simmer for most of a day.  Drain off the grease, after cooking chorizo and just before serving.

Enjoy!

Musings on Cannon Fire at Dusk, as I walk across the parking lot to an old minivan


(repost from Airy PersiflageThis is something of a wayback machine episode– I recorded it without thinking on an Ipad the week before the Inauguration and forgot about it.  I  kind of like it, however, and decided to post it.

I’ll admit this up front, I recorded this on an Ipad on the way home the week before the Inauguration, 2017, so it’s in the future tense. Our President has been in office for about two weeks now and I just found this audio Snippet on my Google drive.

I should know better when I hear cannon fire at the work place.. I left my job on the 13th of Jan that night and heard the steady syncopation of BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM and it took me a few minutes to realize what I was listening to. The Old Guard Saluting Battery, practicing for their big moment of giving the new President a 21 gun salute. Someone has to do this.. and if they are going to do it, they are going to do it right. I’ve seen this many times, and they are a good outfit– thoroughly professional. In the short gloomy dusk of a Friday evening in January, it completely mystified me for a moment. Only in Washington!

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