Category Archives: 15mm

S-177 On the Seas of Tekumel, AAR


This is a general After Action Report (AAR) of a game from the recent HISTORICON 2015 show last weekend called On the Seas of Tekumel.

On the Seas of Tekumel. GM: Steve Braun. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel.

Background: The Tekumel universe was created by Professor MAR Barker, back in the 1970s and possibly as early as the 1940s  (I’m not a Barker scholar, though I know a few).  VERY broadly speaking, Tekumel is a planet that has been colonized by many alien races — the humans who become the “Tsolyani” and the other alien races who have also shown up: Hlǘss, Ssú, Hokún, Mihálli, Nyaggá, Urunén, Vléshga.  Many of these are distinctly non-human in flavor, sporting six legs or radically different physiology, and certainly different philosophies.  At some point in the distant past of high science, a “Bad Thing” happened and Tekumel, its moons and other surrounding planets were transported to a pocket dimension.  As a result, there is no more contact with any of the alien’s home planets, and no more advanced technology, although many artifacts are here and there on the landscape.  Professor Barker took this setting and with the help of Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, created one of the world’s first roleplaying games, THE EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE, back in the 70s.  I owned a copy, which was much thumbed through but rarely played.  D&D was always easier to grasp (although far less elegant) and my gaming buds liked their RPGs like they like their coffee, dark, bitter and easy to grasp.  Empire of the Petal throne has enjoyed a long lasting niche popularity over the years and has gone on to be republished and expanded upon by the fanbase.   There have been five novels, by Barker (I believe), I only have read two of them and found them very interesting, if a little dry.

The Seas of Tekumel is a a brainchild of Steve Braun, whom I believe is a teacher in Maryland, and without a doubt a fan of Barker’s work. He adapted material present in the Petal Throne series (there’s a lot more to it now, contributed by subsequent generations) to a simple, fast playing game mechanic about naval warfare on the ship to ship level. To paraphrase one of his comments– if you are a diehard naval gamer that stresses over armor thickness and gun calibers, this is likely not the system for you. Units of movement are single small ships for the various racial types on Tekumel, all of them roughly 15mm in scale and of galley or large war canoe vintage. The simple sailing rules of movement preclude full speed straight on movement into the wind (which makes sense). Players play a single ship and its crew, which all have a secret goal to attend to.

The playing area was a standard 5 x 8 smaller playing surface– aquatic with small volcanic islands represented on them.. most with alien vegetation and some with structures. Dotted here and there were “opportunities” to loot sites for artifacts from the past.

I was assigned the H’luss, the native species of Tekumel, which are a sort of large six limbed insectoid race. They are depicted as being xenophobic in the extreme and rather hateful of the alien usurpers (which is how they view all the other races). Of all the races on the board, I was the one with a submersible, which looked like this:


The H’Luss Submersible, which I captained.

I had had this faction the last time I played and it was a lot of fun to play them. Unliek everyone else on the board I didn’t move normally== I plotted movement on a piece of paper and showed it to the GM to give him an idea of where my submersible was. Last year, I played it to the hilt and it made for some hilarious moments:


Picture from Historicon 2016 game

We had a much denser playing field than last year, it would seem.  I misread my goal entirely and as it had something in their about this being OUR water (being natives) I thought I had to look for a well!  Nope, he meant “Go steal alien tech and kill them all”.. so I wasted some time on non-existant subtlety, I admit it.

I made up for it by trying to reprise the old “surface and swamp the ship” trick which worked last year.  A large Tsolyani Frigate was parked on the same island as the Hlutgu, who were my victims last year.  I tried to surface under the (now empty) ship and drag it away, leaving the Tsolyani stranded.  It partially worked!

The Xenophic H’luss take the human frigate for a Missouri boat ride

Unfortunately a Tsolyani frigate is substantially heavier than the Hlut Go canoe and I ended up submerging quickly or it would destroy the boat. Mission accomplished, though, they humans were dispatched without a shot fired.

Out on the rest of the seas of Tekumel, the ships were fighting a hard scrum.  I surrendered any idea of taking the Humans frigate for myself, and indicated to the (giant lizardmen, forgot their name) that they could have it, even if they get more points from it. The smaller group of pirates with canoes were all swamped or died fighting. The various other ships got into a traffic jam in the center. The (big lizards) and (giant artificially made people) then got into it right above me, so I swam under them and came up behind them. I had to get some tech.  See that red McGuffin on the back of his boat?  That was part of a multi-piece “something” that it turned out I had to go look for.  Might as well start at the beginning.

I surfaced next to their stern and brought MY ancient artifact on deck to fire at them.  The results were.. unusual.   The weapon of the ancients fired, then blew up, making the back of the enemy craft (and his replacement captain) into plasma.  Oddly it didn’t do much to my boat, beyond killing one of the lower ranked H’luss crew.

And that was about that for the game.  It felt short but it was about 4 hours.  I didn’t get the chunk of artifact, but I did prevent my enemies from claiming it.  I had wasted a little too much time trying to achieve a wrong goal early on to acquire it it.  Victory was determined mathematically, based on things accomplished.  I narrowly beat out the guy who took the empty human frigate as prize, because the GM was being nice about me attaining my goals.  So the stunning victory of the H’lussi on the high seas underscores our basic philosophy: GET THE HELL OFF OF OUR PLANET, ALIEN SWINE

If memory serves, I think the HAWKS (Hartford Weekly Kriegspielers) had an entire “Tekumel track” at last Historicon, and this was just one of those games.  I may be hallucinating.  I know I played in this game, and had a great time with it– the rules were simple, the setting was exotic and the game told a story.  Well deserved bravo zulus to Steve Braun for putting on this game, I really enjoyed it.

Here is a slideshow of every picture I took for the Tekumel game

 

Digital Rule Project: Limeys and Slimeys EPUB


Ships firing in an L&S game. Original 15mm resin hulls

Limeys and Slimeys is a rule set for miniature warfare set in the Age of Sail (Napoleonic/Revolutionary War) period. I don’t think anyone who has played a game of Limeys and Slimeys will complain about horrifically complex the rules are– the original version was printed on 3 very small pages, and seemed so simple at first glance that one might wonder what the attraction was.  The rules came as an insert with the Limey and Slimey kits.. usually a resin hull (or two) plus a ton of 15mm unpainted Minifigs as standins for the crew figures.   Obviously the rules were there to sell the kits*…

And yet, there’s a LOT of game in those 3 pages– I have played many games of L&S (usually shepherded by Brian Whitaker, of the Historical Miniature Gaming Society (HMGS)). The measuring was all by eyeball and the gunfire was usually devastating. Who cares, it was a blast!

Just for fun, I made a copy of the Limeys and Slimeys rules in EPUB format. These have been out there for a long time as a DOC or PDF file so I doubt there will be a big kerfluffle about making it available for Tablet computers and book readers.

My version of the cover for the EPUB

The L&S Epub is available (as usual!) on the DIGITAL RULES PAGE

(* parenthetically, I bought a few of those Limey and Slimey kits.. the earlier hulls were pretty great, later bootlegged ones were scrofulous).

Game Camp 2014 Day Four: The End, CE, Room 25 and X-Wing!


The END! of BDB that is.

BDB

The Grand Finale of Big Danged Boats. Cedric (running O.R.C.), smashed through the front door but met up with a gigantic horde of Slithin and Mercenaries. He put up a valiant fight but in the end was overwhelmed by slashing Slithin blades. So Gordon won, more or less, but it was a great and epic game!! CLICK the PICTURE above to see a slideshow of the last hours of BDB 2014

Thursday was a fun day but very busy. BDB got voted in for a morning event to finish off the last remnants of the Day 3 battle. The morning session was basically to finish off some critical boarding actions and the final attempt at taking the Orbs. Needless to say, it did not go well for the Allies. Being young fellers with their bloodlust up, they concentrated on attacking each other while Gordon looked on in puzzlement. Cedric’s O.R.C. troopers finally got IN the tower but were overwhelmed by the Tower Guard. So Gordon “won” if it really matters. The session threw off my original schedule quite a bit, as BDB is a bear to put away– even with many little helpers. We managed, though, and it went faster with a lot of hands helping. I got things to a point where I could get the rest of it done quickly and Garrett set up and played Room 25 which was pretty much a group activity though not everyone played (It’s only for 6 players.. they need to make an expansion!).

CLICK ME!

We got BDB put and while I was grabbing a sandwich a spontaneous game of COSMIC ENCOUNTER started. I have no idea if the kids really KNOW how to play CE by the rules or not, but Gar knows it, and it seemed to be going well.

While that was going on more kids drifted away and started Painting with Mr. Chris Johnson, for which I was grateful for the visit.

We were very fortunate, as always, to have some donations from WARGAMES FACTORY to paint with. The kids loved them and EVERYTHING GOT USED! Don’t believe me? Check it out here:

Thanks, Dixie!

Our last event was running a game of X-Wing Miniatures. This was severely curtailed but played fast and furious like X-Wing does.

Perhaps unbalanced?

I tried to balance this one but I hadn’t played in a long while, and I suspect the Empire is truly doomed. No matter, we’ll run TWO simultaneous games tomorrow, but I suspect this might force me to cut out an Ice Cream party in the afternoon. Too much to get through!

Game Camp 2014, Day Three: BDB Quest for the ORB Pt. 2


On Wednesday, we played out the rest of the Orb of Power scenario for Big Danged Boats. It was a very frenetic game, with lots of odd stuff happening that tested BDB’s boundries. Big Danged Boats is a design that’s hard not to tinker with, and I’ve been working on ways to speed it up a little. I like the combination of shooting, boarding, fighting and magic that I’ve developed so far. It’s a good mix, but I designed to build a narrative, a story, and it’s not the most speedy game ever. On the other hand, it’s a lot of laughs. What other universe has Squid Gods, Dead god’s feet, and Armored Cheeses?

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY

The Iron Dwarf player (Spence) came to grief early today. The Plunger took many hits from the tower and eventually was uncrewed. The Damage track also went to critical, and a severe engine failure was the result, requiring two turns of Wrenching to fix.

The guys wanted to run it through to the finish. The idea of allying together against a third party seemed to be an anathema to some and other players took to it. One side of the board was Chaos with ships shooting at each other and backstabbing galore. The other side was like an exercise in barter economy– Reed (playing Battenburg, who had bought a ton of reinforcements) traded off Slingers for Gold, Gnomes for Gold, and generally acted like a capitalist. The Wood Elves, the Karstark Gnomes, and the Little People Brigade all acted in close concert with each other, made deals, made room for each other to pass and navigate around each other. So it all looked like they were on board with the “Fighting Gordon the Enchanter” thing.

The Red Menacer charged to the assistance of the Plunger, and managed to get two Dwarf Marines on board to Wrench on the broken crank propeller. Unfortunately, the Seng were sailing through in an incorporeal state and a traffic jam might have ensued if he were “solid”.

The Seng sailed THROUGH the Dwarf ships in incorporeal state. On the other side, the Augmentation price for the spell ran out and Patrick wasn’t willing to pay any more gold to keep it alive. So the Wizard was going to go up in a nimbus of blue flame, but Patrick booted him out of the ship at the last second. “Nice job, Wiz, SEE YA!” BOOM!

The O.R.C. immolates themselves in revolutionary martyr fashion!

The Orcish Revolutionary Council (O.R.C.) performed in revolutionary martyr spirit. They sailed right at the front door of the Tower, as if to ram. One of the Martyrs tried to ram the front door but got caught up in melee, and pulled the “Stupid” result from the Red Badge of Courage, and so ran around the tower base instead of self-immolating.. The next martyr managed to impale the aquatic mine with his pump charge, and a disastrous explosion took place.

About mid game the tone of the game changed and the knives started to come out. The Little People Brigade boarded the Von Ripper of the Iron Dwarves. Amazingly they didnt’ choose to eat the Holy Mushrooms and transform into Gnogres. And they won! Those are some tough Gnomes!!

The Alliances that were in place at the start of the game started to fall apart. The Karstark Gnomes turned on the Iron Dwarves. The Bone Brigade, which had been shot to pieces in its ill conceived attack of the previous day, scrapped with the Foot of the Dead God and the Primus, starting the day off with a nasty event card on the Cult and exploding their one and only artillery piece, which angered them to no end. Primus fought with the Bone Brigade at a distance, and he retaliated with every missile weapon he has at his disposal, wiping out most of the BB. The Bone Brigade player (Cameron) didn’t understand the impact of talking smack one turn during an ambush, and then begging for an alliance the next. The Seng managed to board and capture the Plunger, and operate it (clumsily) to spar torpedo the Blue Magoo from the Little People Brigade, doing severe damage.

The Seng could only operate the Plunger slowly and clumsily, being man-sized and trying to operate a Dwarf-sized submarine.

The other successful boarding of the day, The Von Ripper, under new Gnome management.

The cult of F’Vah pulled out their big trump card, Summoning the Squid God, and it was hideously effective.

Goodbye, Black Galley! And suddenly, it was no more!

The Bone Brigade was a shambles– shot to pieces by the Rats and Cultists, and missing one ship to the Squid God, but they bounced back playing the Faction card: Surprise, They’re already dead! which brought back 5 skeletons to life, so at least the Deadnought fought its way clear of the mess.

And the Rat Men managed to at land a small lodgment at the bottom of the tower..

And then the allies on the far end, the Rat Men and the Cultists, fell out when the Cultists turned on them like a prison punk in the showers.

The Cultists hit the Rats with the Squid God, and destroyed the Primus…

By the end of the day, the game was left still not resolved, so the fellows requested at least another session in the morning.

Here’s the Slide Show of today’s FUN!

Game Camp 2014, Day Two: BDB Quest for the ORB Pt. 1


Tuesday was a day taken up with running the MAD QUEST FOR THE ORB OF POWER scenario again. This was the scenario I ran at HISTORICON two weeks ago, with minor changes– we introduced the Little People Flotilla in this game, as well as Aquatic Mines.

The objective of the game was the same– Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard Tower, with a lot of hired swords and big guns surrounding his little island. He has spent a lot of gold and a lot of time hijacking the Orb of Power, a magical artifact of such great power that it will upset the balance of power in the Middle Sea for generations.

Gordon’s Tower

THIS IS PART ONE OF TWO Basically the kids navigated around the tower, encountered outposts of mercenaries on the outer ring fo Gordon’s defenses– just mercenaries and gun batteries. This proved to be tough work for the Brothers of Saint Brendan, who dropped off a landing party of four coracles full eagerly rowing Brothers, trying to perform a conversion or two.

Woops! Don’t row in front of a battery of quick firing guns!

The Bone Brigade attacked straight out at full speed and made the base of the tower quickly, but got shot to pieces by missile fire. They did get a major landing party ashore under fire, which is commendable. They were immediately engaged by Tower Guards, and the issue is still in doubt.

The Wood Elves and the Little People’s Flotilla were slow to come into conflict, just fighting with one battery which was quickly subdued.

Sylan Terror (Wood Elves) and Things 1 and 2 (LP Flotilla)

The Seng covered a lot of distance and when it became the back of the tower was mined with aquatic mines, effectively used a Spell of Gaseous Form to go over the mines with no harm coming the their ship, the Grey Empress Tzu.

As the game is a bit of a bear to set up, with lots of figures and pieces, we didn’t get started until late, and could only play for 2 and a half hours. I budgeted some extra time to play BDB, and it paid off, we will be running this scenario tomorrow first thing. It’s really heating up to be a fun battle.

Here’s a SLIDESHOW of the BDB Game, enjoy!

BDB: Introducing the Tiny People Flotilla


In the islands of Middlesea, the “Big Folk” have charted the course for the lives of of the wee for thousands of years. In a world of Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Orcs and other larger framed entities, the smaller folk of Middlesea have tried to make their own way, largely ignored and under-appreciated by the Big Folk, who considered them by turns amusing or annoying. The current generation isn’t accepting their second place status any longer! The Gnomes of Kanthus, The Fauns of the Black Oak Wood, The Wee Folk, and (occassionally) the Gulley Dwarves have created a new Federation, the League of Tiny People. They have recently banded together to create their own Naval forces out of a sense of desperation. The Tiny People Flotilla was the result of this effort. The Flotilla is a motley collection of vessels which suit their smaller stature & unique natures.

The Kanthus Tug (R), Aquatic Mines (Bottom), the Fire Ship, the Sacred Grove, and Thing 1 and Thing 2.  Kanthus gnomes & gnogr in ships for contrast. Click to embiggen

The Gnomes of Kanthus are not like their close relatives in Battenburg. Unlike their urban cousins, they are taller and stouter, and generally better at Melee fighting. Kanthus Gnomes are less mechanically inclined than Battenburg Gnomes, and favor a mixture of steam technology, Stahlheim cannon, and their own biological weaponry. The Kanthus Tug tows a sacred grove into a warzone, with at least one Mushroom grove on it. Eating a sacred grove mushroom will cause the Gnome to turn into a Gnogr for ten turns before he either recovers or dies. The Kanthus gnomes also use pollen flingers which can cause groups of infantry to be overcome with sneezing (one stick range, incapacitates target for following turn). The Sacred Grove is a small island of turf that is planted on a large towed raft. As an offensive tactic, a Gnome will leap to the Sacred Grove and consume a mushroom, then turn into a Gnogr the next turn. Gnogrs fight with an extra dice in combat, and can take 2 hits instead of 1, which makes them almost as doughty as the Spartans, but with more staying power.

Two new additions to BDB arrive with the TPF: Fire Ships and Nautical Infernal Devices

Although lacking in the industrial facilities of Stahlheim, the Iron Forge Dwarves or even the Battenburg gnomes,  The Tiny People Flotilla is still a very clever group of mechanics and improvisers that makes the best they can from all of their contributions.      The Fauns are credited with first coming up with the idea of Fire Rafts.  This will be pushed in front of the Kanthus Tug until it is within drift range, then released, drifting down among clusters of larger ships, catching a wooden rival with FIRE and eventual explosion.   The Wee Ones (Leprachauns) invented the notion of hidden aquatic firepots.  These are infernal devices that can either be dropped from the back of a vessel, placed with hidden placement (using the Ipad method), or as a depth charge for submarines.

The Sacred Grove raft, demonstrating two pollen flingers and two trays of Sacred Mushrooms. A recently turned Gnogr is on the raft. 1 mushroom converts one Gnogr.

Fleet Tactics: the TPF will operate as an independent flotilla, much like the Dwarves and Undead do. So all ships will move and conduct operations on the same initiative round. The TPF will prefer standoff tactics, as they aren’t as good at melee fighting as the Big People. They will have one Medium gun each in the Kanthus tug and Thing 1 and 2 ships, thought the Gully Dwarf Longship (not pictured above) is more like a Ragnar brothers longship, without any cannon.

The TPF makes its debut at the Game Camp for kids, next week! I look forward to chronicling their exploits.

BDB: Summon the Squid God? Now we have a squid god.


One of the more peculiar groups in Big Danged Boats game is the mighty Cult of F’Vah, the inhabitants of the FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD. The cult is a pretty strange group, consisting of a small cluster of high priests riding on a platform that serves as a floating altar for calling up their God, F’Vah the Squid God.

The Cult of F’Vah sails into Danger!

Certain factions in BDB get their own thematic FACTION CARDS, or capability. This is a balancing mechanism to give them an edge on more powerful opponents. The Cult of F’Vah has a unique capability from their Faction Card. Useable once per game, they can SUMMON THE SQUID GOD for free.

Summon the Squid God!!!

When played, F’Vah would show up and slap a ship with the equivalent of a mega-ram factored tentacle slap. Prior to a recent discovery, I had a few tentacles stand in for F’Vah to demonstrate his Mighty Presence:

The Squid God Slaps the Gnomish Siege Machine SILLY!

The tentacles were a lucky find from AUGIE’S GAME STORE ONLINE. They are made of durable vinylish plastic, similar to heroclix stuff.

I like the tentacles just fine and they certainly work, but the implied menace of a really, really pissed off aquatic god was missing. The Cultists can summon him once for free; in subsequent turns they can summon him again (in tentacle form) by removing (sacrificing) one of the crew… and he may or may not start getting angry. If he DOES get angry, he might just show up in person to protest. That’s the form I wanted to capture for the game. And so I did.

All hail the mighty F’VAH! Destroyer of Life!

The idea being that F’Vah might show up and try to eat the High Priests if they anger him unduly. This is a model from Scotia Grendel in the U.K. It’s the “Swamp Creature”. I love the look of this one.. the big angry eyes and the way he’s encrusted with plant life. Had to get it. I’m not crazy about the tentacles, which had to be drilled and pinned before epoxying. So I’m just going to stick with Auggie’s Kraken tentacles for now and I painted F’Vah to match. I think it’s a great model and I think it will add some fun to our games.

All Hail the Squid God.

Game Camp Day 3: Cosmic Encounter, Get Bit and Big Danged Boats


Wednesday was a big success. Garrett and I ran two elements of gaming: Gar ran Cosmic Encounter the best danged boardgame in the universe, in the morning, while I set up Big Danged Boats.

It’s gratifying to see how quickly the younger crowd picks up on a classic like CE and they were roaring with laughter, arguing over the finer points of the rules, etc. in next to no time flat.

We had lunch (and Gar ran GET BIT while doing so)

BIG DANGED BOATS being ready, we commenced to hand out ships. BDB has had some major redesign in gunnery, damage control, and ramming since our last outing. I’ve also handled the notion of reinforcements by instituting a Mercenary Market phase at the start of the game, and added reinforcements on a card on a side table. Worked like a charm.

I won’t dwell on the substantive changes but suffice to say that combat is leaner, with fewer choices and exceptions and just a straight roll for size of gun versus armor protection and other modifiers. Reducing the kegs of boom powder helps. I had factions run out of shots. By turn 3 the most armored ship on the table was smashed to pieces, sinking, when a prodigy of Wrenching rolls saved their butts.

Here’s a little slide show of the day’s events:

Ships engaged were THE FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD, the Dwarven IRON COUNCIL STEALTH FLEET, the SIEGE MACHINE (gnomes), the DEADNOUGHT and BLACK GALLEY (Bone Brigade), The PRIMUS (rat men), the SYLVAN TERROR (wood elves), and the HOPLITE (Spartan CosPlay society).

This was an agressive game and it definitely had the children showing the adults up from the last time I range a game. They were ferocious. As you can see here, young Kennon got into her role of summoning the Squid God.

Perhaps too well:

They thought this was so twisted they are now asking to play it tomorrow morning, so another, third day of running games day and afternoon.

Big Danged Boats Recap, first Convention game


So, as I posted on here, HISTORICON 2013 was the first play of BIG DANGED BOATS (BDB) for more than4 players as a Convention Game. I think it went pretty well. I ran BDB on Thursday night and actually regretted not running it again.

BDB at HISTORICON 2013

So, on to my impressions. First of all, BDB did meet my expectations of the kind of game I wanted to make. I was looking for something slightly ridiculous and over the top, set in a “fantasy universe” of sorts, but not the classic elves and dwarves and fairies, even if they will be included for the sake of familiarity. Secondly I wanted to end up with a fantasy naval game that isn’t a retread of UNCHARTED SEAS in a larger scale. The emphasis would be on gunfire and boarding actions, but wouldn’t be nearly as abstracted as in that game– I wanted to see the figures going over the side and fighting hand to hand with crews on other ships– recreating the old pirate movie scenes where hordes of men swing across on ropes and heroically slash at each other with cutlasses, sneering and having camera op moments. To achieve that, the universe can’t be very gun heavy, or the game becomes a naval gunfire game. To get there, I limited gunfire (well, attempted to) by limiting ammunition. That didn’t work as well as it might. I gave each ship 1 or 2 red kegs of “Boom Powder”. Each keg carries five shots. The wealthier and more technological societies have more boom powder, the more primitive cultures have less. In practice, 10 shots (2 kegs of boom powder) turned out to be a LOT of shots for this game. People spent more time maneuvering to get a shot than actually shooting. Solution: make it 3 shots per keg rather than 5.

BDB has many home made markers, templates, measuring devices, figures, tokens and etc. From the little rock bluff (clockwise): Shining Moment Coins, Action Cards (blue card box) Oar Gauges (red, behind bluff), Yardarm to yardarm template, and the wind arrow in the background.

Logistical Tail: I made a TON of homemade game aids for this game– Action Cards, tokens, markers, measuring sticks, turning angles, wind markers and one yardarm to yardarm template. Even so, I could see that the game needed this– there’s just too much going on every turn. Players have to be sure of the Wind on all sides of the table, that’s why there’s a giant wind arrow. They have to see the weather change, that’s why the weather gauge is so large. The turning templates could have been a little cleaner, but they do what they are supposed to. The red and blue distance sticks worked like a charm. No tape measures. The only thing that didnt’ really work for me were the boarding markers (not big enough) and targeting markers. I may have to (dang it) go to Litko for this, though their stuff is rather small for this scale.

Ships: I wanted to use a preponderance of commercially made ships with some kit-bashing here and there. So a lot of the ships you see in this game started life as Old Glory Shipyards or earlier hulls (in some cases, much, much earlier). I have been collecting 15mm boats of various flavors for a long time now, and I only have some of them painted up for this game. Since I wanted ships that were highly visual, thematic, and somewhat ridiculous looking, I had to improvise a few of them from found materials, like a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a foot, or a kid’s boxing glove candy holder toy. All of which were heavily kit bashed to make the ridiculous visual fit the game.

The Holy Frenzy: an Old Glory 15mm Historical cog, with homemade Celtic Sail (she is the ship of the Brothers of Saint Brendan), detachable coracles from Museum Miniatures, and a kitbashed fighting platform up top. Painted umber with sienna highlights and red accent coloring.

The Primus, the partially armored steam powered cheese of the Rats of Ingoldsby. Made from an artificial display cheese for kitchen remodeling displays. Not much done to the cheese– added a wooden fighting platform up top, steam pipes, and a fighting platform below, plus scaled naval fittings (wheel and vents) added in haphazard style. Oh, and painted PRIMUS across the back (points if you get the reference). Ratmen figures from Magister Militum.

The Flagship Junk of the Seng, the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire that sell Boom Powder here in the Middle Sea. They are up-gunned compared to the rest of the players, but not overwhelmingly so. The Junk is a toy from the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie which is happily in scale. Didn’t do much to it, just painted the sails and trim to accentuate the red and dark grey color scheme for the Seng Fleet. Figures are Boxer Rebellion era Chinese, since they had muskets.

The Scarlet Castle, the Fighting Platform the Seng tow behind their flagship. Limited mobility by Sweep Oars when moving independently, designed to be towed into a battle and cut loose, bringing firepower to bear on enemies. Has rockets (up front) and some Jingal Teams, plus lots of handguns. Old Glory “Junk Wars” Junk, painted dark grey and dark red to match the Seng Junk color scheme.

Bone Brigade Flagship

Bone Brigade Flagship “Deadnought”, with giant skeleton arm lobber. This is an old, old flea market find– I think it was an illegal copy of an old My Galley Sally hull, but I have no way of knowing where it comes from. It was so pitted and rotten looking, all I did was give it an all over brown gray rotting wood color with some glowing green fungus highlights. The arm and superstructure are kit-bashed from craft sticks, brass and a piece of halloween decoration. Troops are Old Glory’s old fantasy line, Black Foundry.. I painted them with brass weapons to give them that “aged” look

Black GalleyThe Bone Brigade Black Galley, which is imagined to be a sort of ramming and missile fire consort to the Flagship– all archers from Alternative Army. Another ancient find, this was purchased at roughly the same time and probably from the same source. Just as bad of a casting, but painted black so it’s not as noticeable.

Killing three birds with one stone: left to right The Hoplite, from the Spartan CosPlay and Athletic Society, the Gnomish Siege Machine, and The Red Menace of the Iron Dwarves. The Hoplite was an Ebay Purchase that came already painted to my satisfaction and I didn’t do much except put an artillery platform up front for a medium gun. Spartans are all old Museum Miniatures. The Siege Machine ship is 100% kit bashed out of various craft bits, plastic card and a kid’s boxing glove candy holder. I wanted a HUGE, slow menacing ship as a funny juxtaposition with the rather tiny and peaceable looking gnomes. Gnome figures are a combination of Splintered Light and Peter Pig 15mms. The Red Menace is the CSS Manassas from Old Glory’s ACW 15mm line, with a flying dwarf launcher in the back and a wacky red and gold color scheme. Dwarf crew as a mix of Old Glory’s Black Raven and Alternative Armies (for “High” Dwarves) and some old 15mm Battlesystem (for “Gully” Dwarf Crossbowmen)

Killing more birds with one stone: L to R The Stinkwater, pirate ship of the Dredd Rott Pyrates, the Red Ragnarok (Ragnar Brothers dragon ship), The Sylvan Terror of the Wood Elf faction (top, the green galley) and the Freya (right), also a Ragnar Bros dragon ship). The Zombie Pirate ship was a very fortuitous Ebay find, relatively recently. Unfortunately I ran out of time to make it look as rotted and scabrous as it clearly needs to be for a Zombie Crew, but it at least looks the part in broad outline. Pirate figures are from Rebel Minis. The two dragon ships are Old Glory historicals from their “Dragon Wars” line– one painted medium brown with red trim, the other with green trim. Figures are an old 15mm Mighty Armies “Barbarians” pack, less the reindeer chariots– I wanted barbarians but not TOO Viking like. The galley that made up the Sylvan Terror is another mystery find from the past.. it’s more than a decade old and my memory fails me. Painted green/light green with a sculpy ram (the one that came with was missing) and a decoration in the back added by me.

Not Pictured, since it didn’t get run by a player: The Sea Eagle, the galley of the High Elves. This was essentially THIS HULL by Old Glory Shipyards in their Galley Wars line. Painted in blue/light blue/light yellow color scheme, with Alternative Army High Elf Archers (I think.. maybe they are older than that) in a matching color scheme. They also have a Sea Eagle figure (Dungeons and Dragons miniature) that they can launch as a limited aerial attack, and a light gun facing forward.

Group shot with Plunger and Von Ripper.

Not the best picture for display purposes, but you can’t have everything, where would you put it? The Plunger (far left) and the Von Ripper (starboard of the Red Menace) round off the Dwarven Stealth Fleet. Plunger is a historical CSS Hunley model from Old Glory Shipyard 15mm Historicals. Von Ripper is a CSS David model from the same source. The Plunger is pretty much a straight historical paint job– all rusty gun metal. The Von Ripper is also rusty metal with artillery platforms added fore and aft with Alternative Army dwarven artillery crews and Battlesystem “Gulley Dwarf” archers. The design philosophy behind the dwarves was that there is only a tiny minority of them that wish to go to sea, so they have trouble crewing large vessels. They favor ships that stand off and punch from a distance.

Foot of the Dead God

A big disappointment (for me) was that nobody selected The Foot of the Dead God, “ship” of the crazed Cultists at Historicon. I found a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a human foot, painted it like rotten flesh, and built up a platform up top. The crew is basically Hyena Men from Splintered Light along with Evil High Priests from the same source, and an Essex mercenary Artillery Crew.

Mechanics: I’m going to have make things a lot simpler. I tend to design for everything and the kitchen sink, and that complicates things. Things that worked: the way the ships move-– different ships (Steam, Wind, Magic, and Rowed) move in different ways, and they all worked together pretty well. One thing that surprised me was how competitive oared ships were with Steam Ships and Sailing Ships. At the Historicon game, Bill Alderman, playing the Spartans in a small galley, managed to catch up with the slow moving Steam powered Gnomish Siege Machine and board it, and commence to kick Gnomish butt. Jeff Simpson, running the Stealth Fleet, pushed the steam powered Von Ripper to the limit, and failed his Boom Check roll when he changed gears. Fortunately he had an Engineer card to play and they fixed it immediately. The Holy Frenzy, a sailing ship, was at the wrong angle to the wind until it changed, and then he swooped in with the wind behind him taking advantage of the extra wind. We actually changed weather twice, and the wind speed got up to “Squall”, which gave the sailing ships lots of speed. Unfortunately Brett Abbott had the Oil on Troubled Waters card, and that stopped the windy weather.
I also liked, in general, The Cards and Shining Moment Coins. The cards are a major “something” a player can do one time, to help himself or hurt someone else. The Shining Moment coins are rerolls of critical dice, and count as victory points at the end of the game. That worked.

The Mighty Siege Machine Chugs out to battle arming it’s steam powered Bopper.alas, Captain Chris Johnson did not pilot her to glory that night.

Things that I liked less: Initiative. Confusingly written. I’m probably going to go with playing cards or chips next time. Ramming Procedure: The Sequence should be Move, Check to see if Ram is possible, Ram, throw grapples, then if that works, place a marker to board or attempt to back out. This got all jacked up from turn to turn. I’m going to look at this more closely. Boarding Procedure: Too slow. I built a very cool yardarm to yardarm template, but I didn’t build enough of them and setting up a boarding combat was too slow and had too many steps. I’ll streamline this. Gunnery in General: The basic model is relatively easy– so many dice for a heavy gun, so many dice for a medium, so many dice for a light. But I wasn’t sinking any ships with gunfire. That mostly killed crews. And gunfire checked damage off of a grid in hull points and other things.. crew, gun, etc. Also, the whole volley fire thing from crew weapons (muskets, archers, crossbows) caused too much confusion, as I had three flavors of gunnery– we’ll make it ONE form of gunfire (unaimed volley) and we’ll work with the dice rolls to add things like “hit a leader” or “hit a critical dude”.

Gun Fire Scarlet Castle versus Bone Brigade

Gunfire didn’t sink a lot of ships. Musket fire (and bows, and crossbow bolts) did. In the picture above, the Scarlet Castle pours hand cannon fire into the Deadnought (Bone Brigade) which dropped the crew down quick a bit. The Bone Brigade was nonplussed. Life (or non-life) is cheap to them.

Sequencing was a little confusing, with too many exceptions. I’ll tighten that up. Damage was not lethal enough. An easy thing to fix.

In this situation we have the Ragnar Brothers in Two Dragon Ships, boarding the Stinkwater, and being boarded in turn by the Wood Elves, then assaulted by the coracles of the HOly Frenzy. Who goes first here?

Things I had but didnt’ use: Cards were fairly limited. I had cards designed for some factions, giving them special abilities. Reinforcements in the Hold: I also had a ton of reinforcements for most factions who had a ship big enough to have a hold, just not a great way to commit them to the game. Objectives-– the basic game is a pig pile. It might be fun to add objective markers for some games.

SO that’s my critique of my own system, BDB v. 1.2 Things I’m going to add: A decent magic system– probably card driven. I have three or four more factions imminent– the Trader Guild, which seeks to manufacture Boom Powder themselves and wishes to cut the Seng out of the equation; the Little People’s alliance (Fawns, Leprachauns and Gully Dwarves), Lizard Men and Orc boats.

What happened in the game?

It was a lot of fun. We had almost every ship in the game except for the Foot of the Dead God and the Sea Eagle. The Holy Frenzy was hampered by contrary winds early in the game and then swooped into a four way boarding action later deploying his special coracles to try to capture a ship. The Ragnar Brothers were quite aggressive, taking on the Wood Elves in a boarding action and the Stinkwater (Zombie Pirates) simultaneously, then being rammed in turn by the coracle assault after their numbers diminished. The Wood elves used their wood-ripping ram quite effectively against the Stinkwater, then got rammed and boarded by the Ragnars. The Primus steamed into battle and took advantage of their special power to turn on a dime to bring their cannon to bear almost every turn. The Seng got stuck into it with the Bone Brigade and had their tow rope ripped apart by them. The Spartans were incredibly aggressive and boarded and slaughtered the Gnomes at a terrible cost. I eventually called the game as ships got crews depleted to the point of no return. By points and by acclamation, the “Victor” was Aaron Bostian (who provided these pictures). Well done, sir.

Your Intrepid GM

In general, I’m happy with BDB but need to wrench on it a little longer. Big Danged Boats is large, grandiose, goofy and ridiculous, just as I had imagined it to be, and it certainly maintains its own internal logic. So I’m fairly pleased. Thanks to those players who showed up and played.

As mentioned above, Aaron Bostian (Fellow gaming blogger on the Fancy Wars Blog, check it out) was present running the Bone Brigade and he took MANY pictures. Here is a nice slide show if you’d like a look. SImply click on the image below:

Click to see slideshow. Thanks to Aaron Bostian for all these fantastic pictures. You are a gent sir.

BDB Ship Charts 2.0


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BDB Ship “Red Ragnarok”

If you have even a passing interest in BDB (running this Thursday night at HISTORICON 2013), have a look at your options for ships below.  These are the craft that will be creating mayhem on the Middle Sea.

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BDB Cover


BDB Cover

HISTORICON 2013 and BDB: Finishing up for the big show, one more faction for sure


Let’s see… Big Danged Boats is about finished. I’ve got happy to glad tweaks to the rules, I need to work on some game aids and markers, and I need to do some finishing touches on the models. For once, I’m not in a hell-bent rush. It’s a nice feeling.

So the final roster of ships and factions for HISTORICON will be:

The Ragnar Brothers: Red Ragnarok and Freya (2 ships)
The Gnomish Siege Machine
The Sylvan Terror (Wood Elves)
WindRider (High Elves)
The Primus, the Armored Cheese of the Rat People (Floating Cheese)
The Foot of the Dead God & Assorted Cultists and Mercenaries
Plunger, Van Ripper and SeaHame (3 Ships, the Fleet of the Sea Dwarves) plus floating launch for flying dwarves.
The Bucket o’ Lymph (Zombie Pirate Ship)
The Seng (2 Ships: Flagship Junk and Red Castle War Barge)
The Deadnought and the Black Galley (Bone Brigade, 2 galleys)
The Holy Frenzy (1 Ship, Brothers of Saint Brendan)
The Hoplite (Spartan Athletic club and CoSplay society)

That’s 17 ships in 15mm scale. I’m too nervous to make it any larger than this.

I have parts and plans to build three more factions, but it won’t get done for HISTORICON:

The Slitherin (Lizard Warriors riding a giant Sea Turtle)
The Iron League (two steam powered casemates, one with a retractable claw)
The Blarney Stone (A ship with a giant punching leprechaun as the weapon)

Here’s some pictures of the Zombie Pirates of Stinkwater, nearing completeion:

The Bucket o' Lymph, the Zombie Pirate Ship

The Bucket o’ Lymph, the Zombie Pirate Ship

Zombie Pirates cluster around the guns.  This is a big ship, perfect for boarding.

Zombie Pirates cluster around the guns. This is a big ship, perfect for boarding.

The Bucket is one of the largest ships I'll have on the table.  About the size of the Seng's Junk

The Bucket is one of the largest ships I’ll have on the table. About the size of the Seng’s Junk

As a faction, the Zombie Pirates of Stench Water have a little faction power called “The Power of Stench” which is played as an interrupt to movement. Which card is played, any ship downwind of the Pirates (by the weather gauge) within a certain distance loses an activation from gasping and choking.

I will be making the rules available for playtesters for a peer review, stay tuned for that if you are interested.

To Do List:

I’ve made one yard arm to yard arm Boarding Resolver. I don’t think I’ll need two, but maybe.
I need to make at least one more steam template
Paint up my game tokens
Finish draft 2.2 and make some charts by condensing it all down to two pages
Smoke stack for the Primus
Base and Paint the Base of ALL the figures – including the reinforcements
Finish the Flying Dwarves, and their launch
Make Submerged tokens for the Plunger
Clarify flying models, sticky fire, reinforcments and submerged attack in the rulebook
Make ship sheets
Label
Expecting poker chips for fatigue and magic, they haven’t arrived yet.

Longer range– another paddlewheel for the Iron Kingdom boats, and a platform for the Slitherin’s sea turtle so the Lizard men can have something to fight from.

My cards were a disappointment. The print job from Arts Cow bled over the edges so I had them redone. They should be back in time for H’con.

So far, so good!

New Ships, Paddlewheels on the Cheap, Oar Concepts for BDB


If you been following along with the bouncing ball, you know that I’ve been working on a 15mm fantasy boat project called BIG DANGED BOATS (If not, read more HERE).  15mm is a fun scale to paint in because it’s small enough for my mediocre painting skills to be less easy to see and large enough to highly visible on the table.  I like 15mm in a naval context as it is a good scale for boarding actions, and this game is going to emphasize that form of Naval Combat.  6mm seems to lose the figures in  the melee.  I’ve really not had a problem finding ships and items to kitbash to make into boats for this game.  Old Glory have made the bulk of them, and they are nice for the level of detail that Joel Gregory (the principle sculptor that I know of) puts into them.    However, many of the smaller OG Ships are sculpted somewhat small and narrow for big sprawling boarding action games so I’ve had to improvise and adapt a wide range of hulls from various flea market finds, toy builds, and kitbashing.  The first ships come from a couple of truly revolting finds from a flea market a long time ago.  They are resin galleys of a sort.. perhaps from the same era as “My Galley Sally” games.  They came unpainted and were clearly some sort of knockoff casting.. horrifically pitted and with poor levels of detail.  When I was building out my first ships for BDB, I was looking at these hulls, trying to figure out how they could possibly be useful.  They were at least boat shaped, but it would take hours and hours of effort– filling with putty and sanding smooth– to make these hulls look even mediocre.  OR.. I could make them a kind of ship that actually is SUPPOSED to look rotten, and that is the approach I went with.  Here are the DEADNOUGHT and BLACK GALLEY, Ships for the Bone Brigade faction in BDB.    These two ships are oar powered by Undead Crews that never feel fatigue, which gives them an advantage in this game.  Unlike other ships in the middle sea, Bone Brigade ships do not use Boom Powder weapons.   Count Saliestro, the head of the Bone Brigade (a Vampire), is a trifle conservative about modern inn0vations, and prefers to use the giant rock lobbing capabilities of the Deadnought for missile fire.

BONE BRIGADE

The Deadnought from the Bone Brigade

Deadnought Bridge

Top of the superstructure, DEADNOUGHT, with Count Saliestro, center.

Close up, Bone Brigade crew getting ready to fight

Black Galley

The Black Galley, another horrible casting I found in a flea market. I’ll have make this look even MORE pitted and rotten to make it match the horrendous Deadnought.

Carry On, Constant Reader, there’s more!

BDB 1.0: Two New Ships, Primus the Armored Cheese and The Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan


Two new factions to introduce today.

The Rat Covens of Ingoldsby are excellent scavengers, but terrible engineers and innovators. Long has the hive looked to the sea lustfully, wishing to extend its power to the waters near the coasts around their rat covens. Yet they have no shipbuilders, no gunsmiths, and very poor carpenters. What’s worse is that the Rat Covens’ tradition of callous disregard for contracts or agreements when it doesn’t suit them has led to them developing a bad reputation amongst the communities of naval shipbuilders. A naval career didn’t look promising.. that is until the recent peregrinations of Thunderpumper, a nearby rock giant. Having taken a wedge of cheese for his lunch, he was disgusted to discover the entire wheel had “gone off”. With a curse, he tossed it into the ocean, where it floated ashore, almost directly in front of the Rat Coven entrance. Sharples the King Rat took this as a divine omen, and he commanded the Rat Crew to dig tunnels through the cheese, bolt on some discarded ironclad armor salvaged from a shipwreck, and fit the cheese with three cannon and a fighting platform. Powered by a very balky steam engine that the Rat Crew has only a shaky notion of how to maintain, the ensuing partially armored cheese, dubbed PRIMUS by the King Sharples, is a slow and ungainly cruiser, but with a remarkable ability to spin in place, and unintentional side benefits from its unique materials. Stale cheese, as it turned out, can absorb cannon fire from multiple directions before losing flotation. The balls sink in about a foot and stop. The real risk to the Primus is if cannon fire can puncture the rat tunnels in the interior, which would rapidly fill up and cause the ship to overbalance. Without a doubt, the Primus is one of the most interesting “ships” to sail the Inner Sea.

The Great Armored Cheese PRIMUS, with crew on deck.

The Great Armored Cheese PRIMUS, with crew on deck.

The Primus Gun Deck, with a small fighting platform built from Scavenged armor pieces

The Primus Gun Deck, with a small fighting platform built from Scavenged armor pieces

The Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan are acknowledged mariners and shipwrights, and are known for building a sturdy, squared off carrack style ship that is a steady sailor and very stable in a storm. The Holy Brothers consider themselves Evangelists doing the Greater God’s work by arbitrating disputes and smiting heathens. Their ship, the Holy Frenzy, is well suited for doing the Lord’s Work and for cracking the occasional reprobate skull. With two cannon and a prayer platform for praying for gentler weather, the Holy Frenzy is a ship to be reckoned with.

The Holy Frenzy from above, showing the fighting deck.

The Holy Frenzy from above, showing the fighting deck.

The Holy Frenzy, closeup on the prayer platform, where the senior fathers pray the weather down a notch

The Holy Frenzy, closeup on the prayer platform, where the senior fathers pray the weather down a notch

That’s all I have now, Soon I will have the Ragnar brothers and the Bone legions in a follow on post.

New Cards for Big Danged Boats


As you might know from reading this blog occasionally, I’m working a silly project with 15mm Scaled boats. There’s actually a game design in there, and it is equally.. shall I say, less than serious. A critical element in game play are special action cards that get drawn before the game starts. They are special “extras” that give the player a temporary or permanent advantage during the course of play. Here are about 25 or so, hosted as a slide show on FLICKR. Since WordPress.com has limitations about FLICKR slideshows, I’ll have to post this as a link. Click the Squid God card to see more.

Summon the Squid God. Click Card to See Slide Show of other Game Cards Hosted on FLICKR

Slideshow from FLICKR (Direct Link)

To see more about BDB, click HERE.

Enjoy!