Category Archives: Big Danged Boats

Game Camp 2017 Day 5: A nautical finale


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

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

New Pulp SF rules

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE for all pictures for Friday’s game.

 

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Game Camp 2017 Day 4: Big Danged Boats


From: Wednesday

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

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


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

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


Gnomish marines attack later in the game.

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


Firing a plague package at the Gnomes.

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

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


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

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

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

A very productive session!

More BDB pictures for Thursday HERE

On to Friday!

Gaming Camp Day 4: BDB and the Great Gnomish Civil War!!


So THURSDAY was an entire day full of Big Dang Boat goodness.  We knew going into it that BDB wasn’t exactly going to play lightning fast, but the game is so silly and rife for story telling the kids got into the journey, not necessarily “winning” anything.  I tried out a new initiative method that made a turn far more easy to wrap one’s head around than before, and we fine-tuned that.  The Campers really seem to have enjoyed themselves during this game.

Thursday also had two of our regular players out, so it played faster than the day before.  I played the Gnomes of Batenburg (running the Siege Machine) as Reid (our guest from the previous day who couldn’t come two days in a row).   I played The Bone Brigade defensively according to the player’s wishes.


Stefan plays the Ragnar Brothers here and he did a great job… landing on an island, assaulting the base there, wiping it out and looting the tower. It turns out the tower held the ORB OF COMMAND in the basement, but he didnt’ know what to do with it.. yet.


The Cult of F’Vah (driving the Foot of the Dead God) pulled up and (being allies with the Ragnars) volunteered one of their steersman-mages to research the Orb for the Ragnars. It took a while but he got the gist of what it was, how to use it and what it would do next.


The Garden Gnome “Hippies” took on the Industrial Gnomes of Batenburg. They were confused as to what to do, and being lead by a young man, decided to attack instead of negotiate. That works. Unfortunately it depleted both crews quite a bit. He did have Gnogres to fall back upon, however, and after consulting the Red Bag of Courage, boarded the Siege Machine with his blood-mad crew, ready to conquer or die trying


Visiting the Red Bag of Courage, to test whether one has the nerve to board an enemy ship during an action.. Will he draw “Blood Tested!” and get a +1? Or “Quaking in Fear” for a big minus? Or just get a “Flee” result? Who knows? It truly is in the hands of Dame Fortuna.


I tried to instill into Michael, the young man running the Little People Collective/Garden Gnome soldiers that his actions would start a civil War in the nations of Gnome-hood, but he wasn’t impressed.


Lastly, the Rat-men of Ingoldsby had a chance to be unlikely heroes yesterday! They moved the PRIMUS into ramming range and rigged a spar torpedo forward. Then they steamed full speed at the door with a charge attock a pole. Worked like a charm, blowing the left door off the hinges. Out jumped the Wizard’s Slithin bodyguard, ready to kill. Here’s the thing, when you purchase 30 slingers from the gnomes, you have the quality of quantity going for you. It was like firing buckshot. Eventually the enraged ratmen’s mercenaries fought their way into the base do the tower, climbing over a mountain of Slithin and Human dead. They moved into the hall of the tower expecting to find the Orb of Command, and found.. nothing. It had been in Piper’s Fort all along. Now one of the most fearsome battle weapons was in the hands of Ulf Ragnar of the Ragnar brothers, being backed up by the F’vaavian Cultists. What could possibly happen next?

So we ended it there and packed up BDB, and I gave out some shining moment coins for particularly great play. We handed the victory to the small coalition of Taylor, Stephen and Cedric, who didn’t mess around and acted like true allies. The Stahlheim and Sea Elves (run by Taylor) ran interference vs. the tower, The Ragnar Brothers raided the island that kept the Orb and slaughtered everyone (like one does) and the Cultists of F’Vaah deciphered the Orb’s Power and taught Ulf Ragnar how to use it. A great day of silly nautical fun!

Hail to the victors.. until the next time!

GC2016 Slideshow: HERE

 

Game Camp 2016 Day 3: Shiverrrr me Timmmmbers!


Wednesday and Thursday are pretty much “show piece” days. Big splashy games that have tons of prep and a really distinctive look. And they are silly.. very silly.

In that fine old tradition, I presented.. BIG DANGED BOATS, the cup and balls trick!

Normally I try to deliver something big and new for every camp, but this is a game that was specifically requested several times last year. I can take a hint.

So this is a variant of the old Orb of Power scenario, with a power mad Humans, Chinese Traders, Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and all kinds of Gnomes fighting it out with a mad wizard’s army.

The idea, of course, is that there’s a powerful wizard who has come into a significant MAGIC ARTIFACT (like they do) called The Orb of Command.    It’s hidden on one of the many outposts dotting the landscape, but the safe money is on the Wizard’s Castle at Red Bluff.

Of course, that’s the mission.  In reality, everyone just attacks each other.  It’s Chaos.

The Little People Flotilla just want to stay out of it.

The Ragnar Brothers and The Foot of the Dead God (foreground) raid Piper’s Fort, and have a small victory.

We’re not quite done.  This is a game that goes slow with so many people so we’re only half way through it all  It’s the journey not the destination.  The kids loved it.

Rules wise, we tried the initiative system and discovered using Initiative numbers 1-10 is overpowering.  1-6 works.  I’m altering the rules accordingly.   Seasoned players (and yes, I have them!) think it moves the game along faster and eliminates a lot of vague notions of what to do next. I’m keeping that rule in the manuscript and will have Artscow make me some cards.

A great first day of Big Danged Boats.

For the complete album, see this tag on Flickr: BDB-GC16

For everything for GC 16, try this album: Game Camp 2016

So I built a Maori war canoe in less than an hour…


Last night, I dusted off the first of my HISTORICON 2016 purchases, a lovely MAORI WAR CANOE I bought from the Eureka USA booth at H’con.  The canoe is a representation of a giant ocean-going war canoe designed to convey a large war party from island to island in New Zealand.  This is a laser cut kit vended by Eureka.  I’m not sure if the kit originates with them or was created by someone else and Eureka just sells it, as the kit came in a plastic bag with almost no instructions.   None were needed, really– just a picture of the final model:


Eureka Picture

If that picture looks familiar, it ought to. Check out On the Seas of Tekumel, played last Saturday night at Historicon.

The kit wasn’t cheap, but not overly expensive either.  Just under 40 bucks.  Like the Viking Ship from Laser Dreamworks I built a while back, it is built in layers that stack on top of each other, building a hull with flat keel and high gunnels.  In addition there are scrollworked sidewalls, tail and prow to add on.  Glue might not be necessary but I added it anyway.  This kit is built for 28mm figures but I’m guessing 15mms will do just fine– my plan is to use it as a new ship for Big Danged Boats.

The kit assembled in about 30 minutes max.  I’m doubtful that it even needed glue, but I added some PVA glue (sparingly) here and there where it was needed, especially around the scrollwork.  The result was very attractive, and surprisingly sturdy.  My plan is to paint the hull portion a brick red and the scrollwork a bright yellow.


For armament, I’m going to install some 28mm scaled portable siege weapons, and have the two large ballista stand in as Harpoon throwers, and the two smaller ones as straight up ballistas. I might even mount a few swivel guns on the gunnels.

I’m not sure which BDB faction will get this, but one things for certain, this model is a beauty, and will look great on the table. I’m glad I bought it.

 

A new Initiative System for Big Danged Boats


Init Card idea for BDB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bdb-combat-example

Combat Example using new initiative rules.

Examples (refer to above diagram):

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

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

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

Game Camp 2014, Last Day: X-Wing, The Resistance, Cosmic, & Zombies


Today was our last day of Gaming Camp at St. Stephens & St. Agnes school, Alexandria, VA.

They call it “Fantasy Battle Camp” Well, okay, I can live with that. I guess “Wargame” doesn’t read well for a family activity.

So our last day was literally jam-packed as we attempted to cram anything we haven’t done yet in the remaining hours. I set up a Super Gigantic X-Wing Smack-down on two tables:

Far table: X-Wing (Skywalker) and Y-Wing versus TIE Bomber and TIE Fighter. Near table: TIE advanced (Vader) and TIE Defender versus A-Wing, B-Wing, Y -WIng and X-WIng.

X-Wing Miniatures was pretty popular with everyone who played it. The Basic game can be taught in a few minutes and the rules are dirt simple.

Once the kids got the nuances of planning where they wanted to be the next turn (and really, the turn after), the game was very speedy and I didn’t have to monitor it beyond a rule dispute or two.

Gleeful Rebel Pilots gloa.t after victory

We ended up getting in a demo game of THE RESISTANCE during lunch, which is an old favorite of mine.  This is a game that has a similar vibe to WEREWOLF but doesn’t require that “Open your eyes, close your eyes” thing so much.  We played with two spies and 3 resistance fighters.  The Resistance won.

After lunch we played a game that has become traditional as the Friday afternoon closer. We had to 86 the notion of an ice-cream party as originally planned, since I was less one helper (Garrett was sick). So we played the game associated with Friday at camp, Zombietown USA.  This simple zombie apocalypse game was designed by our 2008 camp, and revised by the 2012.   You can pick up a copy here.  You need a handful of SWAT miniatures, a lot of Zombies, and a handful of dice and some sticks.

More Zombies generated (Orange Tokens)

and… THE END!!! Zombies 18, SWAT 0!

The end of Zombietown had most of the SWAT forces overwhelmed and overrun by Zombies. The SWAT team couldn’t make any headway.. they insisted on running from one point to another, and that kept generating zombies faster than they could kill them.

And that was Game Camp! A great week, great kids– all of them very intelligent and quick to pick things up. Everyone liked BIG DANGED BOATS very much, and some were excited about the idea of the game possibly being published.

We played: Big Danged Boats, The Magi, Cosmic Encounter, Room 25, The Resistance, X-Wing Miniatures, and Zombietown.

I really enjoy running this camp every year, and have been doing it steadily since 2006. I will be back next year.

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!

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: The Mad Quest for the Orb of Power at Historicon 2014


Down to the Sea in Cheese!

NOTE BENE: attached are some pictures I took with my Ipad during this game on Saturday. The complete package is HERE in a Flickr Slideshow.

I ran my first convention game in a while, a BIG DANGED BOATS game, with something other than “sail around and bash at each other” for a scenario.

We even sold out! WOOT!

The event description reads:

The return of a game of bloody conflict with dubiously seaworthy ships in an all out donnybrook to achieve naval supremacy. In this installment,Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard’s tower with the stolen Orb of Power, a stout body guard and several siege guns to back up his demands. The Elves, who consider themselves to be rightful owners, would sell their own grandmothers to get it– resulting in a rare alliance between the hoity toity Sea Elves and the Earthy Wood Elves. Other parties (virtually everyone else) seek to own it themselves, or at least put one in the eye of those who have a better claim! Very kid friendly. very casual and extraordinarily silly game. Under 12, will probably require a parent to play with. Rules taught. 

Essentially this is gaming a rather dusty trope from fantasy– the local mad wizard gets his hands on artifact that grants him some special power, a group of distrusting allies band together to thwart his evil scheme, and etc., etc. The unique element is the nautical flavor– Gordon is locked up in his tower, along with the Orb of Power (which is a battery for Spells), and the various local powers in the Middle Sea have to figure out how to get him out of his tower by force. This is more difficult than it looks due to terrain and the small army of mercenary soldiers that Gordon has acquired to defend himself with. Gordon’s Tower is situated in the ocean near the large volcanic island of Ket, in shallow water dominated by many small rock formations. These would provide a solid ring of outer defenses to the Tower.

Newish to the BDB rules (which always seem to be evolving) are rules for landing parties and spell casting wizards. The latter are purchased like mercenaries early in the game using SMCs (shining moment coins). Both of these worked just fine– in some cases, splendidly.

The Rat Men of Ingoldsby and the Followers of F’Vah approach the tower nervously.

The game began with some intense jockeying for position as the ships approached Gordon’s tower. They were hampered by a ring of outposts on the rocks. Many of these had a small field piece, some pikemen and missile troops.

Lantern Rock Outpost getting raided by the Spartans

I need to streamline the rules a bit yet, they are still a little too kitchen-sink for my liking. I can’t help it, I’m a tinkerer. Most people got the ideas behind combat, maneuver and magic easily enough. I had fixed the broken weather table with a better approach. I’m not happy with how steam works; I will be redoing that one as well– I think I may just go to tokens (yes, another token) to indicate current speed, and then redo the speed change table to see if the ship blows up when changing speeds.

Various Ships on the Table

The ships chosen were The HOPLITE (Spartans), The PRIMUS (Rat-men), FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD (Followers of F’Vah), The STEELHEART (Empire of Stahlheim), The SYLVAN TERROR (Wood Elves), the three ships of the Ironforge Elves: VON RIPPER, PLUNGER and RED MENACER, and The GREY EMPRESS TZU (the Seng). Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The game commenced with the Wood Elves skirmish with one of the outposts to the South and the Spartans skirmishing with one in the North. Both did for their opponents in trademark style: the Wood Elves dispatched the opposition with a hail of arrows, the Spartans landed a landing party that took out the outpost, looted a cannon and rowed off with it. Style points all around for that.

Spartan Landing Party kicks butt

Meanwhile, the PRIMUS and the FOOT made their way to the base of the tower from various routes– with Gordon the Enchanter casting a STINKING CLOUD on the Foot which missed them. The 3 Dwarf ships and the Steelheart appeared to cooperate until it came closer to resolution– and then they fell out, with Steelheart ramming Red Menacer ineffectually, then the Von Ripper doing the same to Steelheart (due to the Stalheim player throwing in their “Sheer OFF!” action card).

The two technology driven factions, Stahlheim and the IronForge Dwarves, get into a fierce set-to South of the Tower. Hey, fellas, what about that evil despotic wizard?

At the far side of the battlefield, the Spartans and the Gnomes were getting fractious because they weren’t in at the denouement, like the other factions were. The Spartan player had to leave a little early, so we ruled, for the sake of game narrative, that he spent some fatigue points to charge the HOPLITE to the base of the tower but ran aground on the rocks, spilling his daunting Spartans, wizard and two cannon into the drink. The Rat-Men, perhaps guided by mercy, dispatched a lifeboat to pick up survivors (ahem, maybe it was ‘mercy’, or maybe they wanted a free wizard and the best melee troops in the game working for them?)

Rescue Ops underway. “Squeak! You work for uzzzz now, Wizzzard!”

The Gnomes of Batenburg wanted to get their grimey paws on the Orb of Power, too! They could see they weren’t getting to Gordon’s Tower fast enough, and the intervening terrain was just blocking them. So they had to go the long way around.. or did they? The Gnome player, a young lad (and BDB veteran) played his first Wizard Spell in the game, GASEOUS FORM, which turned the Siege Machine into an intangible mist that went right through the rock!

No GIANT ROCK CLIFF is gonna stop me! I’ll go right through it!

Unfortunately this put the SIEGE MACHINE directly into the path of the onrushing SYLVAN TERROR. The Wood Elves got their wizard to cast RIVER OF WIND which pushed the Siege Machine 3 sticks away. They maneuvered back into a position in front of the Terror and unloaded the famous (or not so famous) Gnome Marines. While this was being accomplished, the Wood Elves, now a bit thwarted from being in on the kill, decided to to board the Siege Machine (which they were up against). Boarding procedure requires the potential border to reach into the Red Bag of Courage and fish out a token, which will determine how things proceed. The Wood Elves, unfortunately, drew “STUPID” and that caused the boarding party to dash off in a random direction AWAY from the Siege Machine.

Ha ha ha, those Wood Elves sure are stupid!

Well, the main event had to get moving on so we were set up for the big fight in the tower to seize the Orb. Gordon the Enchanter had several artillery pieces guarding the center tower but each of them had been silenced and the big siege gun on the roof had collapsed when the wall went down to a FIREBALL spell from the Wood Elves. Gordon, his ears ringing from the explosion and in a foul temper, ran downstairs to join the defense. Gordon’s mercenaries (mostly pikemen) fought hard and long, knowing they were in a no-quarter situation. The Rat-men swarmed in and were cut down to a man.. er.. rat. Then the Gnome Marines gave it a try and they managed to gain a lodgement, then, finally, defeat the last remaining pikemen with the last three remaining Gnomes. And hurrah! A victory was had by the “Good” guys!

SHOWDOWN: Gordon, his pikemen and a line of Ratmen. They would get chopped down, but you can see there’s a line of Gnome marines ready to jump in right after! Victory!!!

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Orb Scenario was a hugely entertaining game for me to run and I’m relatively certain the players had a great time. The new material (Wizards, Landing parties) caused me to do a crash rewrite of the rules the night before, just to make sure everything worked together well. The new weather gauge really is superior to the old one, even if the old one was more colorful. The Steam Engine rules (and wrenching to fix things that break) will be rewritten for speed of play and elegance. Oared ships work well, so do Magic ships. I wish I could come up with a faster set of sailing rules but they do sort of make sense and are consistent to the universe– if a person is on the ocean in a ship that is powered by wind, they are going to have a slow time of it if they try to sail against the wind. There’s a lot of detail in the rules right now which I will pare down a bit for convention games. With all that said, the game DID play right through to a conclusive end, in the time allotted (slightly over actually, by request). So I’m pretty happy with BDB as it is, it just needs a little fine tuning.

Thanks for the great pack of people that came to play .. little Jake, Doug Kline, Kayla? Kline, Nancy Ott, and etc. BDB is a game that requires a sense of humor to play and I think we hit the jackpot there.

BDB Friday night at Historicon…


I’ve missed the deadline to submit my event in with the NOVAG club, but maybe they’ll extend me some grace.  I just plumb forgot.

Here’s the writeup.  Pardon my brevity, they wanted to keep the word count down.

Once again we’re up to fun and games on the Middle Sea.  In this installment, Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard’s tower with the stolen Orb of Power, a stout body guard and several siege guns to back up his demands.  The Elves, who consider themselves to be rightful owners, would sell their own grandmothers to get it back. Other parties seek to own it themselves, or at least put one in the eye of those who have a better claim.  This installment of BDB will feature magic rules and marine landings in a frenzied grab for power!!

So, new magic rules, landing parties and mariens will be new for this game.  Essentially there will be a rather tough nut to crack in the middle of the table.  Gordon the Enchanter has set up a little fortress with 3 large siege guns manned in the center.  Players will have fun with magic, countermagic and landing parties this game.

See you at HISTORICON!

(later edit: Looks like I’ll be in the PEL and in the NOVAG room, on a 6 x 12 table. Look for a Guidebook app update shortly)

Fall-IN! 2013 Post 1: the Games I ran


We’re back from Fall-IN! and I will be doing two blog posts on the topic, This is Post 1, the games I ran at Fall IN!, of which there were two.

Friday

Friday I ran a game of BIG DANGED BOATS, my 15mm fantasy naval rules set.  This was my event write-up.

F-110 “Fun and Games on the Middle Sea”

It’s a 15mm Fantasy naval extravaganza. Pilot a dubiously seaworthy, slightly ridiculous ship in an all hands battle for domination of the Middle Sea! Rules are Big Danged Boats for 15mm fantasy naval combat. If you’ve had a hankering for a naval game where you can take to the seas riding on a giant steam powered cheese, fighting evil squid headed cultists riding the foot of a dead god (and who hasn’t?), this is the game for you!! Rules are dead simple and aimed at fun rather than statistics. Children welcome, but 12 and under requires a parent to play along with. ROLE PLAYING IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. If you can’t summon an evil nautical Sea Dog persona for this game, please go play Flames of War! They’ll take care of you!

This game was, by my reckoning, maybe the third or fourth game received by the Events coordinator for Fall-IN! 2013.  It represented a significant effort on my part as it’s a bit labor intensive to put on.  Accordingly, I asked for  standard table size of 5 x 8, with a side table to help me set up with.  Somehow, when I showed up with my boxes of stuff  an hour early to set up, the table became a table that no less than three events were scheduled to use the same table simultaneously!  And no side table!  Since the tables had no numbering on them, it became a logistical chore of the first order to unscrew this problem.   Sadly I think I stepped on the guy next to me since my tables weren’t remotely ready, and HE had to move.  I apologize for this, whomever you were.  I attribute the problem to (perhaps) miscommunication on my part with the event coordinate, but apparently I was not the only person who had a table misadventure.  Organizational Note: Numbers on tables helps.  Printing the map of the table layouts so people can read it helps.  Proofing the Convention book helps.  Guidebook Note: break Distelfink map into two maps, North and South, so they are more readable.

The Game Itself

Big Danged Boat Ships (from Summer Camp)

BDB is a pretty easy game to play, but it has tons of components, ships, crews and whatnot to set up, all of which takes time to break out.   I’m going to an hour and a half setup time, because clearly, an hour isn’t nearly enough.  I am not happy with the rules as written so I haven’t really thrown the printed rules out there for a game, preferring to run it from my tablet computer.  I had some gentle criticism about not having a lot of paper charts for everyone to refer to.  I’ll fix that.

After being rattled during setup over the table fiasco, I didn’t get going until ten minutes after start time, and so it goes.

Factions were: The Gnomes of Battenberg  The Iron Dwarves, the Bone Brigade, the Imperial Navy of Stahlhelm (making its debut), the Cult of F’Vah, The Sea Elves, The Orcish Revolutionary Council or O.R.C. (also making a debut), the Rat-Men of Ingoldsby and The Pirates of Stinkwater.

Deployed, but not selected, were the Wood Elves of the Father Tree, The Seng, the Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan.

The Imperial Ram of Stahlheim chugs into battle, aiming for the Bone Brigade’s doughty Deadnought

Like most games we started with the ships entering the battle area from the surrounding ring of the table side. As a special incentive there were two maxi-kegs of Boom Powder on Skull Island to bring the action into the center. It was minimally effective.

The Rat Men steamed for the island, and got into a little contretemps with the Bone Brigade, firing on them and causing more holes in their wormy hull. The Bone Brigade in turn did their best to fight the Gnomes of Battenberg, killing more crew than they did damage.

Stahlheim’s Imperial Ram avoided direct confrontation and chugged up the starboard flank, turning sharply to bring on an engagement with Bone Brigade.

Crowded below decks on the Imperial Ram of Stahlheim

Some long range shots were fired but it didn’t deter the fight between the Bone Brigade and the Gnomes; boarding and counter boarding was attempted, decimating both crews. Neither the Gnomes nor the Skeletons of the Brigade enjoyed the experience, as the counter-boarding by the Gnomes broke off and they ran back to their ships, leaving two gnomes on the Bone Brigade Galley behind them. Presumably, to a fate worse than unDeath.

The Siege Machine Chugged onward to inevitable confrontation with the Ram of Stahlheim, and for the first time in the engagement deployed the fearsome Big Bopper ramming weapon to moderate effect.

Machen mit der Gross-Bopper!

Through a chain of circumstance mostly brought on by reckless over-gearing and stressing their steam engine, the Gnomes then had a critical overload in the engine dept, instantly annihilating their craft.  You just don’t get a better result than that, and even the kid who rolled 12 on the critical hit table (exploding his boat) recognized the Ragnarok-style entertainment of the moment– especially as he had an action card that stated “from Hell’s heart I stab at thee”.. which was perfect for this moment– it almost took out the ship next to it..

The Iron Dwarves with Mortar and Spotter rowboat steam out to engage the Sea Elves. Beyond the Sea Elves are the Dread Rot Pyrates on the Stinkwater.

The Iron Dwarves fought a somewhat isolated battle with the Sea Elves and the Dread Rot Pyrates at the far end of the battlefield. The Pyrates did what they could do which was mostly gun fire. The Sea Elves actually got involved in a boarding action (on the receiving end) after taking a lot of casualties.

Chaaaarge! into the Sea Elves!

That was quite late in the game, and good news for the Dwarves. The Elves tried to ram the dwarves and missed… sliding along the edge of the Red Menace and setting up boarding conditions perfectly.

Meanwhile, the O.R.C. player had deployed his Revolutionary Martyr rafts with their hand held spar torpedoes. The rafts sailed up to the Cult of F’Vah player and torpedoed the Foot, blowing themselves to mist in the process.

In Response, the Cultists summoned the Squid God.  In the background, the Primus fires on the Gnomes and the Black Galley sails by, peppering them with arrows.

The Cultists Summoned the Squid God (for free, using their card). It did lots of damage to the O.R.C. ship, but it was still afloat and pouring iron into the Foot. The Cultists can continue to summon the Squid God for 2 Magic Points per turn until they are depleted, but at that point they have to start sacrificing crew to bring their Magic Points back up again. The Cultist player was undeterred (perhaps some of the beers helped his belicose attitude) and consigned one of his crew to the altar of sacrifice with a casual “Ah, there’s plenty more where he came from…”.

About this time, we had to pull the plug for time reasons. I performed the new victory point calculations. Did anyone sink a ship? 5 points. 2 ships? 10 points. 3 ships? nobody sank 3 ships. How much damage have you taken? Who has the least? 3 point bonus. Did anyone perform a successful boarding? 5 points. How many Shining Moment Coins are left? Add them in to the total on a 1 for 1 point basis. Our victor was the reluctant Cultists of F’Vah (Player: Scott Landis), who was doing everything in his power (including donating coins!) to give the victory to one of the younger players, which just made him even more nice. 😀

Summary: I got a little rattled by the truncated setup due to the table fiasco, which was too bad because setup is important in BDB. I think we all recovered nicely. I had a great time playing it and I think the players had a great time too.

Game Two, Saturday 1400 to 1600 (approximately)

The Great Big Diabolical Dukeroo!
Distelfink (apparently on the table we were assigned)
Rules: The Magi (home rules)

Blurb:
In the long years since the disappearance of Graros the Unspeakable, your standard Vanished Evil Dark Lord that seems to be in every one of these stories, there have been many promising characters to step into his wormy shoes. The semi-annual Wizard’s Duel attracts many aspirants to leadership. Will you survive to become top wizardly dog? Oh, we’ll see.. We’ll see (evil laugh). Rules are “The Magi”, a miniatures variant of a very old postal game called Waving Hands, a game of casting spells with hand gestures. In this game, players will ALSO be using hand gestures to cast spells that do various things good or bad. Can you fire off that Lightning Bolt before your opponent casts an Impervious Shield? Was that a Shield spell, or does the Caster have Saint Vitus’ Dance? It’s all in the hands…
Simple rules, Children welcome (though 12 and under I’d wish to have a parent playing too).

THE MAGI debuted at Summer Camp, August 2013. It was a huge hit with children.

Essentially, this is a wizard’s duel game where movement and combat are standardized and the focus is on casting spells. Dice are not used. Instead, the wizard players use HAND GESTURES which are dealt to each of them on cards. The player builds the spell in front of himself, and casts it when it’s ready. At all times you have to to keep close track of what the other players are doing and when they do it, as well as keep something building and up your sleeve at all times. This game started as WAVING HANDS (a pencil and paper postal game) in England, and I adapted it (with kind permission from its creator, Richard Bartle) to a miniatures format. I love this game– it’s visual and easy to grasp, yet very challenging. There are three versions of the game I run, based on the audience. I ran the medium version, which requires spell cards to play face up so the opponent can see what the player is creating (or trying to) on the other side of the table.

Rules for everyone fit on index cards so it was astonishingly simple to teach.

Dueling Wizards: Weenus Bitterkins (right) casts a SUMMON SKELETON on Elric Firethrone (left) who responds with a SUMMON OGRE (a far worse monster). Oh Woe!

We had a nice turnout, about six players which is about right. Garrett (my son) played a wizard as part of that group. We ran OCK THE CAVE SHAMAN, WEENUS BITTERKINS, ELRIC FIRETHRONE, SELIM THE MUSSELMAN, SPLENDORA DEATHFIELD, and DOCTOR FATE in this game. I’m contemplating a campaign game of sorts, where frequently reused characters get a small bonus as their “Experience” at the start of the game– the same wizards get chosen so frequently. Essentially they all started on the edges, sidled into the centre, started fighting each other as fast as possible. The thing about this system is to get spell gesture cards put down as quickly as possible. EVEN IF THE OPTIMAL SPELL GESTURE CARDS AREN’T COMING ALONG. Something will work out, there are dozens of spells, and I’m going to add more. Players are slow to pick up on this and spend too much time trying to get the optimal combination. Shorter, tactical spells are often more effective than that Finger of Death you’ve wasted much of the game setting up for your ONE shot spell.

Oh well. It was a blast. Here’s a small slideshow, click on the picture below to see.

CLICK ME! I’M DOCTOR FATE!

So that’s the games I ran. Overall it was a very enjoyable exercise, though BDB could have been a fiasco with the gaming table situation. Fortunately the guy whose spot *I* usurped was cool about it. See you all at COLD WARS 2014!

Some last minute unit additions for Big Danged Boats


Several new units came off the assembly line today, and one or two of them might be run in my FALL IN! game “Fun and Games on the Middle Sea” Friday night this week.  It’s a little unlikely, since they got done very late, but you never know.

Tiny People Collective

The TPC is a collection of some of the smaller races inhabiting some of the islands in the Western waters of the Middle Sea.  There are roughly ten micro-nations in the TPC, but usually only  Leprechauns, Fauns, and Pixies are usually found on the high seas.

Faith and Beggorah!

Leprechauns from the Tiny People Collective

Faun company from the Tiny People Collective

More Fauns

I might have some boats for these blokes. I’m thinking they are on a sailboat of some sort.

Motivations:  The Tiny People Collective is a very loose coalition of tinier races in the Middle Sea who are banding together for protection.   They are not intrinsically technological but do not disdain cannon and other advanced weaponry, they just can’t afford it.  TPC ships ply the seas for security and trade, and will not initiate a fight but won’t run from one, either.  TPC crews often have a magical component to make up for the lack of cannon.

The Empire of Stahlheim

Stahlheim is the the most technically advanced human nation on the Middle Sea, not relying on the Dwarves for steam engines, cannon foundries or other technological advances, they have their own industrial centers within the empire, and are quite capable of creating ironclad armored steam vessels and cast boompowder weapons.  The Iron Dwarves are not very happy about the rapid rise of such a formidable military and economic rival, but try to keep relations amiable.

Motivations: The Stahlheim leadership can be characterized as slightly paranoid.  They consider the monopoly on boom powder held by the Sung to be a strategic weakness and are constantly searching for the secret of boompowder’s formulation.

Stahlheim ship infantry– pole arms, great swords and matchlocks.

Micro-Vikings

These are a tribe of Joms Viking Gully Dwarves.  They are in many respects like the Ragnar Brothers, both in their style of ship (rowed and sail).  They are reasonably fearsome in melee but don’t possess any boompowder weapons, nor desire any.

Let us at ’em!!

The Iron Dwarves consider this faction to be their awkward country cousins, and a trifle embarrassing.

Motivations: The Micro-Vikings are a happy lot, heavy drinkers and savage fighters that make their living as freebooters and adventurers.   They will board a ship for loot and pillage, much like their spiritual kinsmen, the Ragnar Brothers, whom they identify with.

More Wood Elves (Green) and High Elves (Sea Blue/Off White)

I’m still plugging away on the Magic System, and I’m frankly not sure I’ll have it ready for Friday, but at least the wizards are ready:

Poof! Abracadabra!

Not sure what I’ll get done, but I have plenty of boats done already, so I’m not going to panic about anything.

A Magic System for Big Danged Boats



In the existing version of BDB, magic, or “the ability to alter reality” is touched upon as a faction power– the goodly Brothers of Saint Brendan can pray the sea state down to calmer waters (by playing a special action card), for instance, and other factions can perform “magic like” actions like stench power from the Undead Pirates, or summoning a squid god, and et cetera– but they’re not really magic spells per se, just cool powers each faction can use.

Splintered Light Miniatures “Warriors of Magic” set– click to embiggen

So, I’ve been contemplating about adding single figure unites to the system, designated by a special base marking, playing the role of Wizardly types– just a single class of figure different from a LDR that encompasses someone who can render supernatural or divine assistance to a boat crew in crisis moments. I was greatly inspired by seeing Splintered Lights’ “Warriors of Magic” set painted up, so it set my mind to work, and I have picked up some 15mm wizard figures, starting with the pack you see above.

Assorted Demonworld Wizards and Shamans found on Ebay lately.

Assorted Demonworld Wizards and Shamans found on Ebay lately.

I also located some Demonworld Wizard figures from various alignments on Ebay. As you can see, the sculpts are quite colorful. All told I might have about 15 magical single figures, which should be more than enough for this idea.

Going through the old spell books from D&D I found a few that would work in the BDB universe.. things like warp wood or stinking cloud, or shock person or lightning bolt. Magic should be a close up activity, I think. So no more than 2 sticks away from the intended target. I would like the spells to be a mixed bag– clerical and magic users, all reasonably consistent with the universe. My thinking is that the spells could have level numbers and spell effects listed on a card. The card would be like a weapon that is fired at short range by a Magic User type. The MU rolls dice per spell, looking for 6s. The target person can fire off a counter-spell, if they have a wizard, but he may be of only a certain level to attempt this.

Effects would be varied, and hopefully it wont’ be enough to require generating a large amount of specialty spell tokens. Anyway, I would love to hear your thoughts.