Category Archives: Fun

Cold Wars 2017, a minor pilgrimage


the Mighty Susquehanna!

The Mighty Susquehanna!!! (we shout this every time)

Hurray!  Once again the sun dawns on a trip to an exotic faraway location where I can play toy soldiers all weekend long.  As happens this time in March, The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society held their annual SPRING convention, namely, Cold Wars, last weekend.  The “exotic faraway location” being, of course, Lancaster PA, a location about as faraway and exotic as day old Wonder bread, but hey, we like it, so there.

Note that Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I celebrated by my standard boycotting of feeling obligated to wear green.  As I’ve said many times, the Irish have given much to America.. so much beyond buffoonery, drunkenness and stuff like this.  I prefer to have a little dignity about a Saint’s Day.

Gar and I had our mutual acts together and the van packed the night before, so we aimed at being on the road at 7:30, with a predictable, actual start of 8:30.  Sigh, that’s entropy for  you.  Journey was uneventful, but longer than usual because THIS time, we stopped for breakfast.

mmmm.. coffee

New Oxford Family Diner.  They made a decent egg white omelette, and the coffee was passable.

Our arrival was 1230ish, even with petal to the metal (legally of course). I really had had ambitions to TRY to get into a Frostgrave event this weekend, it didn’t pan out. I did, however, get a chance to see some splendid Frostgrave scenery for the ongoing tournament in the tournament area.

Click to Enlarge Frostgrave Photos

I also had a notion of getting in an event during the day Friday but that didn’t pan out.. the siren song of the Exhibitor Hall and Flea Market delayed my steps. I was happy to bump into a flea market guy selling bulk 28mm individual figures from a few historical periods– Romans, Gauls, Germans and Vikings, etc. I picked up a bunch of 28mm Vikings (for Viking Looters and SAGA).  I’m not sure what manufacturer this was; I didn’t ask too many questions.  Also, on Friday, I picked up more Copplestone KISS KISS BANG BANG figures for a game I’m designing called SPY RUN.  Wait’ll ya see, wait’ll ya see.

So I wandered around for a bit, talked with friends, and say some great games being run.  Nothing that knocked my socks off, but that’s okay, a lot of people were having a good time.


Homemade ironclad miniatures– using air dried modeling clay!


Now, that’s OLD school.


Big ships, pirates.. yep, Brian Whitaker is around.

Later on we foolishly risked losing our parking spot to go out and get dinner, my son being no great fan of Hall Pig (we were at the ass end of beyond, anyway, and Sherpas ain’t cheap). I have to say, normally, I’m no great fan of chain restaurants in a neighborhood where there are tons upon tons of locally owned and operated family joints, but there was something about a Cracker Barrel, mashed potatoes, roast beef, and coffee, near a fireplace.  It was in such stark contrast to the outside I got positively drowsy.  So I was still in a good mood when I attempted to come BACK to the Host and park.  I’ll be the guy to bring this up; what idiot left the front right parking lot (diagonal from the Lampeter half snowed in for the entire weekend??? The convention lost about 20 parking spots, maybe more, due to there being gigantic drifts piled up from snow removal.  Don’t they use snow blowers in Lancaster?   It was a lousy job of snow removal, and it impacted us.

Might as well bring it up since people who didn’t show up will wonder.  How is the Host these days?   Well, kind of a mixed bag.  I didn’t stay there (more on that miserable experience later) so I can’t comment on the state of the rooms that got rennovated.  The physical plant appears to be operating, but there were still signs of wear all over the place that badly needed fixing and attention.  Basic stuff, like the railing to the handicapped entrance ramp only held up by one post stuck into crumbling concrete.  If someone ever puts their weight on it, they’re in for a nasty fall.  The hotel appeared to be operating normally otherwise– no overflowing toilets, the heating and a/c worked.. the wireless was just an gigantic joke.  I tried periscoping and/or Facebook Live from the show, and it just kept dropping connections.

Conventions at the Lancaster Host.. they are not for sissies.

Live Action Dripcam footage on Instagram


Caesar Vs. Pluck

Once back, I got a spot in Jeff Wasileski’s Caesar Vs. Pluck game.  This is an adaption of Howard Whitehouse’s older Science vs. Pluck for the Roman era.  Yours truly played the Imperial Heir Domitian, younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian.  Jeff’s games call for much playing of roles and skullduggery as a rule.  As I had played Domitian before in 2013, the last time Jeff ran a a game of CVP, I took the role of Domitian again.  This was a great scenario.  Barbarians (The Ruritani and Schwetti?) have taken over a local Imperial city on the coast, and have been despoiling it for a couple of weeks.  Domitian, spoiled brat that he is, yearns for some glory to get out of his older brother’s shadow.  Well, he got some glory in spades, as it were. Like last time, Domitian has been entrusted with military command, and a couple of decent veteran soldiers to make sure he doesn’t mess everything up.  The command is split into land and sea.  Domitian plans to land a naval force, offloading some Romans and wiping out pirate reinforcements, while a veteran legion drives the barbs to the sea.  That was the theory anyway.  Jeff loves games with factions and we played it to the hilt.

Romans on the attack

Pirates getting a lot more than they bargained for

Flaming naptha pirates come to grief.

Landing force seems overwhelmed

Meanwhile the field army was in trouble!

I played Domitian exactly like one SHOULD play Domitian– ambitious, angry, trying to prove himself (he’s very young in this time period). I have to say, the Romans killed like champions in this scenario. I dropped off the landing barges on the beach and went in for the Ram on the nearest Pirate galley with my Liburnian. We didn’t sink it but we did damage it, and then my gladiator cohort boarded it and turned the crew into chutney. Just like that. THEN, the gladiators rowed the ship over to the local hijacked grain ship, thinking they could liberate that too… mistake! The hatches to the hold burst open and 25 pirates swarmed out– the good kind. Against 9 gladiators. The gladiators held a line and marched right at them. Oddly, the pirates took some casualties, broke their morale, and they dove over the side. I mean, ALL of them. And the grain ship was ours. So we rowed back around to the where the galleys were still engaged in with Greek Fire shooting ships. We tried to sink one from a distance but lost patience and rammed the hell out of it, sinking it instantly. With that, the pirate naval forces were gone, decimated.

Gladiators solve problems.

We landed some boat crews and soldiers. They supported the land forces that were expanding a toehold on the beach. And, as soon as the Gladiators supported the flanks, the beach side barb forces were crumbling right and left and running for it. The land side forces initially did NOT do nearly as well, also playing their roles to the hilt and were non-cooperative. The Barb cavalry was pretty vicious, in fact. Eventually, things started to stabilize, and a line was formed.

Romans capture the signal tower on the hill

I feel like if we had played a few more turns, the naval force would have fought all the way to the land force. Everything around the naval force had taken to the hills. Rome clearly had a smashing victory by any measure, especially when a cave of pirate loot was discovered, destined for the coffers of the Roman treasury. THAT’s a victory. Now, I’m not sure I played Domitian exactly how I’d like to think was accurately. Domitian wasn’t exactly a killing machine in real life, but I played it as best I could– petty, backstabbing, and tyrannical. GREAT game, and Jeff and his son Nick won a PELA for it. Well deserved.

I took a ton of pictures of Caesar vs. Pluck.  If you want to see a screenshow, click on the Roman Eagle:

The Wasileskis basking in the glory of their well deserved award.

After we finished there we went to the hotel and finally checked in. Word of warning, do NOT bother with the tiny Red Roof motel on the Host side of Route 30. OMG.. it redefines the term “Spartan”, given that the Spartans enjoyed cold baths, hard sleeping surfaces, and occasionally dealing with angry Persians. This motel is 1 star at best; only because they won’t let you rate it lower. Sigh. It was cheap. Next time I’ll pay more and be able to sleep.

The next day..

Since the Red Roof dump we were staying in deigned not to serve any kind of breakfast, we did Panera, and then went back to the convention.  Even on Saturday, it was a hard slog finding a parking spot, but we managed way out at the end of the expansion lot they built where the Congressional used to be.   I suppose that’s good news (no parking should equal high attendance, usually, but I think you can blame a lot of no parking in this instance on inadequate snow removal).

There were still some great games on Saturday, though I thought the space wasn’t filled up by any means.


7TV Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha

Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha, a setting for 7TV

Once again, I did a run on the dealer’s room since I had a ticket for a 7TV game run by a gentleman named  Keith Frye at 2:00 PM. I’ve wanted to play 7TV for a long time now.  The system is kind of/sort of set up as a roleplaying game of a television show from mythical 60s or 70s spy shows.  So every game will have a kind of ridiculous retro style to it that I find very entertaining.  The mechanics aren’t very complicated… mostly rolling against skill checks, which is really just a way of validating “doing crazy stuff”.  And crazy stuff there was!!!  This was a great crew of players, many of whom I have played with in similarly silly games run by other GMs.  The plot wasn’t hugely complicated.. or was it?  The action took place on a giant petroleum platform called the Fafnir Alpha.  There were spies, corporate troubleshooters, regular shooters, strikers, spies, super criminals, and a giant alien blob creature.  One predictable side got in a predictable gunfight with another predictable side, and while they were hung up with that, I tried (as Archer, yes, that guy) to intercept some kind of briefcase and get off the platform.  Since it seemed clear that I wasn’t going to get to the helicopter in time to do that, I had Lana shoot the pilot dead, which lead to a series of unfortunate and somewhat hilarious results: 1) there was now no way off of the platform for, well, anyone; 2) the briefcase was still on the platform; and 3) the faceless super-villain made a heroic leap for the diving (uncontrolled) helicopter and managed to control it before it hit the drink!  What a great time!

I have a ton of photographs of this game, if you want to see them in a flickr slideshow, go here.

I’m blanking on what we did for dinner, but again, it wasn’t hall pig.  I know I made a quick run to the dealer’s room to get some pre-dreadnought 1:2400 ships from Viking Forge, then got back in time to play SAIL POWER at 8:00


Jolly Jack Tars.. or the Dutch equivalent

Sail Power aka, another excuse to spank Scott Landis

I played this game at FALL IN, and had a great time–  it was a combat-centric game set in the age of sail,in roughly 15mm scale.  The sailing and combat mechanics are a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, perfectly understandable.

This game was very different from the one I played at FALL-IN! Even though I was sailing a giant Indiaman, with tons more cannons than the single gunboat I was sailing in last game, I fired nary a shot. This was ostensibly because the scenario was more nuanced than “just shaddup and try to sink Scott Landis”. Scott was indeed present, but managed to escape justice and hot shot by scampering away and engaging in some chicanery with the Spaniards and local merchants. Next time, next time. I actually enjoyed THIS game more than the last one– my goal, as the Dutch player, was to bring a suitable bribe to the Spanish governor in the fort at the center of the table and have him commit to the ongoing war with the English on our side. The British want the same things, of course, but I got there first, with a large suitcase of bribes (3,000 gold and a chimpanzee). I played the diplomatic thing to the hilt, rendering honors going into a Spanish port, running in the guns when at the dock, etc. Sure, it’s fun to smash your opponents to flinders sometimes, but it’s also fun to bribe Spanish governors in SAIL POWER’s meta game, of sorts. Garrett and I (and Scott Landis) all had a great time.

Yes, I have tons of pictures of this game, too. You can see a slide show here.

It was cool to see Eric G.’s ROAD WARRIOR game on Saturday night, but I was involved in Sail Power and couldn’t play.  The 28mm stuff is very impressive but tends to make for a very crowded and slow race IMO.

Speaking of Garrett, and we weren’t, what was HE doing all this time? Killing big stompy mechs, that’s what. Garrett has become quite a fan of Battletech in the past two years, and he’s not bad at it.

Click on the picture to see his slideshow, and here’s Garrett’s review of Cold Wars 2017:

Cold wars 2017 was a blast, great fun the whole time. My father and I arrived on Friday, I partook in a game of battletech (a favorite of mine), kicked some butts, and took some names. Many fun moments were had that game, such as my mech falling, getting back up only to be knocked over by an enemy who fell over as well. The next day, I played battletech most of the day, the game was pretty eventful, with great plays by everyone involved. The GM(s) running battletech gave out a miniature for every kill you got in the game, in total I received 11 of them. Saturday ended with a game of Sailpower, a large boat game with a fantastic rule set. Sailpower was a great time, the people running it were fun and the game was great,t a nice mix of trading, fighting, exploring, and strategy. Finally on the last day, my dad and I checked out the dealer’s hall and the flea market, we found some cool things we could use for games. Cold wars 2017 was great I had a fun time there playing games and socializing.

Sunday was largely predictable.. nothing in the Flea, no last minute purchase in the dealer’s area, so we saddled up, got some breakfast and then we bolted for lands South.

Homeward Brave Soldiers, homeward! Farewell, Oh Mighty Susquehanna!

Observations and Whatnot: Cold Wars 2017 was a great time for me personally– I played in the kind of games that I love to play in, played enough games to keep me amused but not flat out exhausted, got enough rest and nutrition to not feel like dropping dead on the way home and just generally had a great time. That is not to say that I think CW17 was particularly well attended (I know it’s corny to say “it looked light” but it really did, and that was probably because of the recent snow). The new owners of the Host have (mostly) fixed the roof and I hear hot water was present without renting a rent-a-plant. I can’t vouch for the room redecorating, I stayed in a horrid motel down the road a bit (my one star Yelp review is HERE). I do think there are many features of the ‘rennovated’ hotel that don’t look like they have changed at all. Word is that Lancaster will host all three conventions in 2018, so here we all are back again!

In any event, this was one fun Cold Wars, despite the snow, despite the awful motel, despite a leaky roof.. I had a fantastic time and so did Garrett.

The Garden of Earthly Delights


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

and yes, you’re welcome. 🙂

Warpath Chili


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

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

Warpath Chili (Printable)

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

Enjoy!

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


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

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

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

Play Now:

NOVAG’s Winter Game Day, 29 Jan 2017, Centreville VA


(Note: I have some reports that the inline pictures are not viewable on this post.  They are to me, that’s a little mystifying, but it might be a permissions issue– I’m using Google Photos instead of Flickr for this post.  Here is a link to every picture I took, which is public: https://goo.gl/photos/3GzUcNgKknah5hFQ9)

Today was NOVAG’s Quarterly Game Day (Winter 2017) held as usual at the Centreville Library. This is the big meeting room facility at the library and it can hold roughly 9 setups for miniatures games, roughly equivalent to a 5 x 8 table at a convention (somewhat smaller). This gameday was fairly well promoted on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere and attendance was fantastic– every table had something on it and every game ran the length of the gameday (pretty much), from about 1 to 5.


Ron Prillman Routs some Russians. I think.

I’ve posted the PEL elsewhere, and every game but two (the Space Hulk and Russo-Polish game) was played.


Okay, maybe it was some Americans.


… and Dave Luff is astounded at the results!!

Jason Weiser runs his game with Mike Pierce in the background. Okay, yeah, it was Eastern Front. The green paint job fooled me.

This was Battlegroup World War II “The End of the Iron Dream”.. looks like everyone enjoyed themselves. I like the fire effect Jason was using with a flickering tea lamp under the smoke cloud.

Peter Schweighofer was there with his new rule system aimed at kids, Panzer Kids Deluxe. This looked like a blast from where I was sitting. Tons of kids at this game con, this is a great sign!

Brian Dewitt, kind of an iron man of running games at cons and gamedays, took a break from Chariot Racing and Ancient Galley Warfare, to make a game about Medieval Siege Warfare, the Siege of Skipton Castle.  I like Siege games, for some reason– and this looked like it was a hit with the younger set.

There was also a modern game of Force on Force going on in the corner, called The Battle of Yampil.  This was run by the Byrne brothers and seemed sparse in infantry and dense in armor vehicles.

Elsewhere, Roy Jones ran Sword and the Flame (Sand Dunes of Zwarfontein) NOVAG’s own Tim Tilson ran a War of the Austrian Succession game (15 June 1746. Piacenza), and Dennis Wang reran his cool variant of Air Force / Dauntless that used a tablet client to make moves. It’s a fun game, more on it here.

What was I doing?  Oh, I was busy.  I actually came to play in Dave Markley and John Koprowski’s Russo Polish War game, which is a favorite period for me.   They had cancelled but that was fine– as I came in I noticed Mark Fastoso, a GM I associate with running historical games, had set up a Napoleonic skirmish game using many Alternative Armies FLINTLOQUE game figures and DRAGON RAMPART (modified for Napoleonics) as the rules.  I asked if had space, he said “sure, wanna play?” and I said “I”m In!”.   This proved to be a good time– first time for me using both Flintloque miniatures (which are charming!) and the Dragon Rampart rules, which make total sense to me and are a blast.  Bear with, here on the many pictures of this game, this is where I was for most of the day and I only nicked off to snap a few of other games now and then.

See the rest of them here in this GOOGLE PHOTOS album!

I tried Facebooking live on here which I posted publicly to the Facebook Alternative Armies group in three parts: ONE TWO THREE (I made this public share specifically so it could be viewed by everyone).

and compiled it all here on a YT, but it’s kind of small:

In summary, a great time and it’s always fun catching up with people you don’t see that often, even locally. Kudos to the organizers, another fun event.

Seeing RED (audio)


Story by Zenryhao Narration by W. O’Hara

Charlie’s Back… (audio)


Naturally Disastrous First Look


Here you go, I just received the first production copy of Naturally Disastrous by Silver Lake Games. This is a recent funded Kickstarter.

The premise, as promised by the designer, reads like so:

Naturally Disastrous is a 1-6 player co-operative dice driven game of peril and adventure. Your mission is simple enough. Arrive at your destination, verify the conditions and then set up a long range communication array to deliver your findings back to your superiors. Easy, right? Your visit to Earth is supposed to just be a quick investigation into how the planet is doing.

As you enter the atmosphere massively destructive storms make it hard to navigate. Giant volcanoes, earthquakes, thermal gas explosions and flooding are rampant and tearing the Earth apart and what happens next? You and your crew are shot at by some natives claiming that you are violating their air space. As your ship tears itself apart and plummets to the desert floor you know that your only chance of survival will be to pick up the pieces of your communications array that are now conveniently scattered across the driest most self-destructing climate you have ever seen.

All you have to do is find and set up the four parts of the communications array and signal the mother ship to come heal this planet and get you out of here. You will have to navigate around the perilous hazards, avoid snipers who want you gone, secret agents who are stealing your technology, crazy mad scientists who want to perform experiments on you, and a completely different alien race who may even abduct you. Work together efficiently as a team and you will avoid a Naturally Disastrous fate! If you become mutated, you turn against your former allies.

The game is played on a randomized map, with randomly placed tokens. Each turn, the active player must roll to activate a disaster, and then has 3 actions per turn (move, probe, etc.) Combat is resolved with dice. As each part of the communications array is found, it must be transported to one of the corners of the map.  — From Boardgamegeek, “Description”

So my take on this is that this will be a game from the alien’s point of view, a sort of “Forbidden Island” without the sinking part of it.. maybe.  Anyway, we’re going to find that out as I will be playing it against actual humans in the next two weeks or so.  In the meantime, here is my reactions to an actual unboxing– literally the day after receiving it, so I have no idea of what the contents are.

Enjoy, and I apologize for the somewhat shaky Ipad camera. Most of my gear is packed away while my house is being rebuilt. I should get an Ipad stand, as I definitely needed two hands for this thing.

NOVAG/Potomac Wargamers Winter GAME Day 2017 Primary Events List


NOVAG Game Day will be on 29 January 17 at the Centreville Library, Centreville, VA

Administrative Details:

Winter Game Day will be held on Sunday January 29, 2017 starting at 1:00 p.m. at the Centreville Library.  The library is located at: 14200 St Germaine Rd, Centreville VA 20121-2299  (roughly I-66 and US 29).  The Library phone is 703-830-2233. This event is free.  The library opens at 1:00 for players. GMs may enter the side door starting at 12:00 noon.

GAME TITLE:  Siege of Skipton Castle
GAME MASTER:  Brian De Witt
PERIOD:  Medieval
SCALE:  25mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8
RULES:  Home

GAME DESCRIPTION: Bring your ladders, catapults, rams burning oil and rocks to either storm or defend Skipton Castle. Rules will be taught.

GAME TITLE:  Piacenza
GAME MASTER:  Tim Tilson
PERIOD:  War of the Austrian Succession
SCALE:  15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5
RULES:  Black Powder

GAME DESCRIPTION: 15 June 1746. Piacenza Italy. After concluding peace with Frederick of Prussia in December 1745, Maria Theresa ordered Field Marshal Ulysses von Browne to Italy with a small force.  The Austrians marched over the Alps in late winter and upset the prevailing Allied dominance in Lombardy.  Browne quickly retook a number of outposts and Milan.  The Spanish evacuated Parma, retreated north to Piacenza and entrenched outside the city.   With the arrival of the main Austrian army under General Liechtenstein, the Spanish were outnumbered 56,000 to 26,000.  However, the entrenchments greatly favored the Spanish and so Liechtenstein settled down to a siege.  On June 14, a French relief force under Marshall Maillebois arrived on the Allied left wing, south of the city, shifting the balance of forces in favor of the Allies. Browne sensed an Allied attack, and refused his left wing, deploying it behind the Canale San Bonico. At first light, the Allied right wing advanced. 

GAME TITLE:  “Halle 1806”
GAME MASTER:   Tom Bierschenk
PERIOD:   Napoleonics
SCALE:     15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:    2-4
RULES:    Napoleons Battles 4th Edition

GAME DESCRIPTION:  17 October, 1806:  Bernadotte’s I corps rushes to cross the Saale river at Halle and destroy the Duke of Wurttemberg’s Reserve Prussian Corps, the only remaining intact large Prussian force between Napoleon and Berlin.  Bernadotte must restore his honor, after having shirked his duty at Jena/Auerstedt.

GAME TITLE: Sharke’s Bridge
GAME MASTER:  Mark Fastoso
PERIOD:  Napoleonic Fantasy
SCALE:    28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Dragon Rampant

GAME DESCRIPTION: Lt. Sharke and his Chosen Orc Rifles have been ordered to destroy a bridge on the border.  Seems like an easy mission but he has been accompanied by Colonel Simm’Orcson, a rather buffoonish officer, and his men who are out for glory.  All seems quiet at the bridge and Simm’Orcson despairs at losing his chance for fame and fortune until he spies a cannon being moved into position across the river.  He immediately orders his men to cross the bridge and capture the gun!  Lt. Sharke stares in shock at Simm’Orcson and his men cross the bridge he is about to blow to kingdom come.  This is a Napoleonic Fantasy game using Flintloque figures and Dragon Rampant rules.

GAME TITLE:  Sand Dunes of Zwarfontein ( German South-West Africa)
GAME MASTER:   Roy Jones
PERIOD:   Colonial
SCALE:     25mm The Sword and the Flame (Modified)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:  The Sword and the Flame (Modified)

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Herero War is over – the Nama Wars have begun! The alliance between Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi and the Kaiser is shattered! A combined Nama force of Witbooi troops and those of Simon Kooper confront the Germans at Zwarfontein. The Germans have mobile mountain guns, but the Nama have some

GAME TITLE:  White Eagle, Red Star
GAME MASTER:   John Koprowski and Dave Markley
PERIOD:   1920 Post WWI Poland
SCALE:     20mm – 1/72
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Too Fat Lardies’ Triumph of the Will /If The Lord Spares Us

GAME DESCRIPTION:  It’s 1920 and Vlad, Lenin not Putin, is moving west to spread the Glorious Workers Revolution to Western Europe and …Amerika.  Can the out gunned and under manned Poles save Civilization from the Godless Bolshevik barbarians?  Man your machine gun; pilot your fighter plane; or drive your armored train into the Polish fight for freedom…or ride into glory with Seymon Budonny.

GAME TITLE: Panzer Kids Desert Skirmishes
GAME MASTER: Peter Schweighofer
PERIOD: World War II
SCALE: 15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6
RULES: Panzer Kids Deluxe

GAME DESCRIPTION: Command tank forces battling for control of the North African desert in World War II using these beginner-friendly rules. Maneuver British and German tanks around dunes, oases, and other obstacles to destroy enemy tanks and win the day. Drop in to learn the rules and fight a quick skirmish or stick around to try some of the optional rules to add depth to your game experience. Wargaming beginners welcome. Kid-friendly game; ideal for players 7-12 years old.

GAME TITLE:  WWII Air Battle – Wildcats vs Me-109s
GAME MASTER:  Dennis Wang
PERIOD:  WWII
SCALE:  1/285
RULES:  Air Force/Dauntless

GAME DESCRIPTION: Air Force/Dauntless with computer assist. 4″ hexes and  1/200 airplanes (Wings of Glory scale) with telescoping flight stands equipped with climb/dive, bank, altitude indicators. Bring your tablet/smartphone/laptop equipped with a WWW browser. Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook all OK. Paper and pencil not r equired/used. Novices welcome. Rules PDF free on the Web or at the meeting. On 26 March 1945,  FM-2’s from 882 Squadron Lieut Comdr. GAM Flood, RNVR) off HMS Searcher, escorting a flight of Avengers along the coast of Norway, was attacked near Christiansand by a flight of eight III Gruppe JG 5 Me-109Gs. The Wildcats (now called “Wildcat instead of “Martlet” as the Fleet Air Arm adopts the USN names for carrier aircraft in January 1945) shot down four of the Me-109Gs at a cost of one Wildcat damaged. A fifth 109 was claimed as damaged. These were the last British Wildcat victories at the end of WWII

GAME TITLE: End of an Iron Dream
GAME MASTER Jason Weiser
PERIOD: WWII
SCALE: 20mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  8
RULES: Battlegroup WWII

GAME DESCRIPTION: It’s the typical story, 1945, a German garrison in East Prussia is holding on by their fingernails to stave off the inevitable. Someone at OKW had the bright idea to send in some supplies to them, and thought, if we’re going to do that, why not launch a local counterattack to open a corridor to them? Suddenly, an entire company sized Kampfgruppe is now on the move at night against a Soviet force of unknown size, trying to blast open a corridor to a garrison that may not still be there.

Can you make a silk ear out of a sow’s purse and complete this fool’s errand.

GAME TITLE: The Battle of Yampil, 19 June 2014
GAME MASTER: Mike and Patrick Byrne
PERIOD: Modern
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6
RULES: Force on Force

GAME DESCRIPTION: Before a cease fire takes place pro-Russian rebels launch an offensive to take more towns.  The Ukrainian Army launches a counter attack to encircle the rebels.  Can the rebels stop the Ukrainian counter attack?

GAME TITLE: Space Hulk
GAME MASTER Stefan B. Tahmassebi
PERIOD: 40,000 AD
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  4-6
RULES: Space Hulk 2012

GAME DESCRIPTION: Terminator Space Marines versus hungry Tyranids.

Chosen Men. Maybe just the thing for all those 54mm Nappys


A long, long time ago, I used to keep a little notebook I’d take on work travel.  I’d just sketch things down in it, some fiction, and the occasional idea for a game.   Big Danged Boats came out of that notebook.  So did a bunch of other things that eventually saw the light of day.  One of them was an often visited, often alluded to project I called Voltigeurs and Riflemen.  This was a skirmish game I envisioned taking place during the Napoleonic era.  The units were single figures or small groups of up to four figures.

54mm British Riflemen, Peninsular War and Waterloo, Italieri, my collection

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

For my own reasons, I wanted the scale to be 54mm a figure.  I love this size for Skirmish games; they are easy to see and easy to handle, and the size forces the battlefield to be manageable on one table.  My original inspiration was an old book by Paddy Griffith called NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN.  It’s a fun book about several versions of napoleonic games that Mr. Griffith designed over the years.  Nothing I’d try these days, but one design I did really like was his version of a man to man Napoleonic game.  This really doesn’t happen very much in this niche of miniature wargaming.  Napleonics is for big battles, right?  Lovely uniforms, massed infantry formations, artillery batteries, cavalry charges with hussars ranked knee to knee, resplendent down to their pink piping and pigtails.

Well, sure it is.

Still, I often imagine what it’s like in that space in between where the big battalions meet and crash into each other.  There has to be a No-Man’s land where small groups of deployed skirmishers meet each other, for just a moment in time, before the big formations crash into each other.  For that glorious 15 minutes to half an hour, there should be a place on a Napoleonic battlefield where individuals continue to make a difference, where Skirmishers can attempt to pick off officers and sergeants, disrupting the enemy advance.   Such a game would have to move fast, represent individual soldiers by preference, possess command and control tracing back to individual leaders, and somehow represent the impact of that larger battlefield entering their little skirmish bubble during the course of the game.  Skirmishers, after all, were detached from larger companies.  Designated Light formations certainly could skirmish AND form formations.  British Rifle Companies lived in the skirmish zone, their entire purpose in life was to leap nimbly about, find cover and load their slow but accurate Baker rifles to harass, impede and otherwise disrupt enemy attacks by killing the chain of command from a distance.  Napoleon was not as firm of a believer in the rifle, but the Voltigeurs were also trained to screen an advance and act as elite marksmen for the French side of the field.  It’s when these two types of soldiers– the nimble, slow-firing Britons and the nimble, faster-firing but more inaccurate French, intersected as screens for the big attacks, THERE is where a man to man game of Napoleonic warfare makes sense.

The V&R rules (* Voltigeur and Rifleman) I came up with featured breaking a turn down into segments.  Again, this was heavily influenced by the Paddy Griffith book I mentioned above.  You rolled for characteristics of the soldiers in your company, just like a roleplaying game.  STR came in handy for giving more hit points and in melee, DEX allowed you to reload and aim faster and better, MOVE may allow a few more inches of movement more or less a turn, AIM was for firing, LDR was for Sergeants, Corporals, Lieutenants and Captains, and was great for Rallying, Moving men into and out of formation, and giving orders.  As Paddy G. had envisioned it, every action took a segment.  Where he and I parted ways was I thought he got a little too microscopic with his approach to actions and segments.  Picking up a ramrod was a segment.  Cocking a musket was a segment, attaching a bayonet a segment etc.

The “Action Chart” from Paddy Griffith’s ancient Napoleonic Man to Man Skirmish Game. This really impressed me when I was 15.

Every portion of the British Musket drill was broken down into segments.  I thought that was fascinating when I was 15 and read Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun for the first time, but as an adult, now I can see that that would make for a miserable game for modern tastes.  I didn’t have 30 years of experience back then.  I don’t think any player these days, especially convention wargame players, have the patience for such micro management of actions.  So, in fact, would V&R be miserable, as first I imagined it to be.  I streamlined the actions to six for muskets and eight for rifles, seven if taploading– and it still doesn’t play fast enough for me.

Detail from a rogues gallery spreadsheet with many V&R characters rolled up.

I have looked for smaller scale miniature games that might work– I have high hopes for Sharpe Practice by Two Fat Lardies (and purchased it!), but it appears to be maybe one scale size too large, and maybe a little too much for 54mm figures.  Great rules, though.. if I get a whole passle of 28mm Nappy figures, I’m going to be all in for this rules set.

 For 54mm scale, though, I needed a rule set that emphasizes individual actions, not group actions.  That’s why I started on Voltigeur & Rifleman– I still need something that’s relatively fast moving, and the V&R approach won’ t hack it without a lot of re-work and playtesting.

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

As I’ve covered in past blog posts, I tend to pick up most of Osprey’s “blue line” of wargame rules in a semi-desultory fashion.  Some of them are great, some of them are bad, and some of them are mediocre.  Since they are relatively inexpensive (for modern wargames, most of which tend to be hardbound and full of illustrations to drive the price point up), and even more inexpensive as Kindle publications, I usually put most of them on pre-order as Kindle publications and hardcover if it REALLY catches my eye.  Since this book came out nearly simultaneously with the release of ROGUE STARS*, I said “what the heck” and pre-ordered both in paper.  There’s always something entertaining in a Napoleonic skirmish rules set.  Wow, I’m glad I did.  Immediately, I can see there are many, many elements of what I am looking for in Chosen Men.  The average force size is 3 to 6 units of maneuver of 5 to 20 models each.  I would be reducing that.  The average gaming area will be 4 x 4 feet, I will be attenuating that and rifle/musket range or the riflemen will become ridiculously powerful.  Models have stat lines very similar to the ones I posted about in the illustration above, only it’s Melee (M), Resilience (R), Command (C), Wounds (W), Tactics (TAC) and Stratgy (STG).  Melee is personal fighting skill, with sword or bayonet, Resilience works like Constitution or “Toughness”.  Command is more like Morale in classic game design, as in being “In command, or capable of accepting commands”.  Wounds is self explanatory, Tactics is like “Action Points”, and Strategy is only used by Officers or Sergeants– used to get their units to do special actions, and there is a finite number of STG points.  Dice are all six-sided (I like this, but I don’t require it).  Actions are determined to be successful by performing checks against skills, and two models opposing each other would determine outcome by roll-offs.  There’s a lot more to it, but there is the gist.  I love some of the extra chrome to give it exactly the setting I’m proposing– the skirmish events that take place in the grey area between the big battalions, where they start to encounter each other.  One chrome element that lends “that big battle right over there” flavor is the “Cauldron of War Strategies” table.

The “Cauldron of War” is similar to a random events table that I came up with in V&R that provided that crucial “meta event” that I think has to be there for a game like this, set in this time period.  You KNOW there’s a big event happening just to your flank or behind you– but that may or may not intrude into your personal little bubble of battle space.  The Cauldron of War abstracts this element out nicely.

Chosen Men isn’t perfect for what I want to do with it.  It’s not an exact fit for 54mm scale.  For one thing, formations are still kind of sort of a thing in Chosen Men (though not the focus of combat or movement).  I don’t know how that would fit in a man to man skirmish game– except maybe I do.  Chosen Men measures fire combat and movement from the unit leader– the Sergeant or Lieutenant, etc.  Formations form on him, and ranges also are measured from him.  I’ll have to seriously tinker with ranges, scale and ground scale to make it work with 54s.  I may have to write some conversion rules to make it fit.  For instance, the standard units are like 6 figures for Chosen Men, and I was thinking 3 figure at most for 54mm.  With that said, I like Chosen Men, it has the right feel for me and I’m willing to test this conversion here as soon as my tin soldiers get out of the warehouse.

Visting the Udvar-Hazy Center,29 Dec 16


Since we aren’t currently on a Cruise ship in the Carribean, sipping sugary rum drinks and wondering how the hoi polloi get by (this is a subject for another post, perhaps– we had to cancel our cruising plans) we decided to go visit the Udvar Hazy museum of flight and aeronautical technology near Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA today. I took about 109 pictures, which I’d love to embed as an album on here, or even a slideshow. Sadly, Google’s move from Picasaweb to Google Photos makes identifying single albums in Google Photos next to impossible. So it goes. Below are a few links to many pictures of aircraft. The slide show works, but you won’t be able to read my comments. Mass adding of photographs also eliminates captioning somehow, so if you want to read my reverant, sometimes snarky, sometimes awe-struck commentary, you’ll have to go directly to the album, below.

Click here for SLIDESHOW

Click below to see the album

Enjoy. We had a blast visiting this museum.. it always has something new tucked away in a corner I haven’t seen yet.

My Christmas Story begins with a Decca Long Play album


DECCA ‎– DLP 8010: Ronald Colman, Charles Laughton ‎– Charles Dickens Classics: A Christmas Carol And Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, to be precise. This is a vinyl recording that appears to have been assembled from two separate recordings of Charles Dickens stories that originated for the radio some time in the 1940s.

This was a Christmas album of two of Charles Dickens’ famous works– the Christmas Carol, which is justifiably famous, and Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, which is perhaps less so, being bundled in with the Pickwick Papers, which is probably regarded as among Dickens’ lighter works.

The album was first pressed in the late 40s, and reprinted in 1950 under the sleeve you see above.  Side A was Charles Laughton’s light hearted and jocular recounting of the Christmas Chapters from the Pickwick Papers. The story is very lighthearted; a recounting of the members of the Pickwick Club visiting relatives for Christmas in the country during the Victorian time period. If you haven’t read the Posthumous History of the Pickwick Club (aka The Pickwick Papers), give it a try. The Christmas chapter is a classic. My brother and I used to joke about “Joe, the Fat Boy” who was always found in a corner attacking a mince pie and falling asleep. The Pickwickians attend a great Christmas party and dance a lot, eat prodigiously, and kiss under the missletoe. It’s a fun story. The Laughton recording is outstanding, and he had the perfect voice for it:

Listen to the Audio here:

If that doesn’t work, try this. The Audio isn’t as good, but it is clear.

Side B was performed by Ronald Colman, possessor of that ultimate refined English gentleman voice, playing Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. There are few works in English literature so completely associated with the holiday than a Christmas Carol, and I don’t feel as if I have to recount the plot of old Ebenezer’s redemption and moral rescue– almost everyone knows it, or should. This particular
recording was full of all the sharp audio stings associates with old time radio plays: sudden guitar strings, organ music and all. It was downright creepy when I was 7 or 8 years old, though gradually I was less scared by it. We played it constantly during the Christmas season until, I think, my mom threw it away, as it was hopelessly scratchy by then.

Listen to the Audio here:

(if that doesn’t work, try this, though the audio isn’t as good)

There’s not much more to this memory. I remember playing this record on a succession of record players owned by my mom and dad. My older brother, in particular, enjoyed this record maybe even more than me. The crackling and hissing of this ancient vinyl album was in its own way very comforting, as was the tinny, otherworldly audio of programs recorded for the radio back in the 40s. It’s odd to think about that record, as I often do at Christmas, being as old as it was. The original recordings by Laughton and Colman date back to the early 40s, when my parents were either in middle school or high school. The Decca Long Play record that I recall (the cover you see above) was pressed in 1950, and later on in 1970, but my parents must have found their version in an old record shop or thrift shop somewhere. It was ancient even for them. Of course, in a technological age I’ve found cleaned up audio copies on the Internet Archive (easily), and I can listen to this any time I want to. But there’s an essential element missing, and it’s more than the lack of a hiss and crackle as the ancient needle made the ancient vinyl yield up the golden tones of Ronald Colman once again, barely. I think it’s all about life experience.. nostalgia, as I’ve been reflecting on lately, is kind of a prison. It’s a way of telling us we missed out on something or something has passed us by. I don’t feel that way listening to these old recordings, now. More like a bemusement grown out of experience, and more of an intellectual, vice emotional detachment when I absorb the life lessons of Mr. Dickens one more time. There’s something universal about Dickens’ Christmas message– about keeping kindness and generosity of spirit in our hearts more than just one day a year. A message that transcends faith, politics and petty squabbles. Would that the world grew up listening to that message more often.

The Spectacular Debut, Short Life and Magnificent Death of the Fat Box


My father, James, has always been the handiest of fellows.  Growing up, we only got a color television when he decided to build one himself, from an old Heathkit product.  Sure, the colors were tinged green and cyan much of the time and you had to fine tune it with this panel of circular dials in a rack you slid out of the television, and then you had to do that visually, but what the heck, it was color.  My Dad had a knack for that kind of thing– his basement was a mad scientist refuge of shortwave radios, satellite trackers, antenna parts and shop tools.  Before he was an early adopter in everything you can conceive of in the electronic realm, his big passion in life was (and is) small wooden boats.  Being a product of the Naval Academy, he was thoroughly enmeshed in naval history and culture, but his big thing was always the small coaster vessel or harbor sailing boat– preferably wooden and hand crafted.  He made a mahogany and teak double-seat kayak by himself.  It was solid work and a thing of beauty.  I remember helping him varnish it (inexpertly) as a youngster.  His next small boat project was to build a small harbor sailing boat from a famous design, the Pelican.


(that’s not it; I don’t have any actual pictures of our Pelican. Ours was blue)

This was a fun little craft with room for our family of six on board.  It may look kind of squat in this picture, but with the wind hitting her just a few points right of dead center she could really scud along at an amazing clip.   I remember we sailed her all along the harbor of Monterey Bay when my dad was at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Of course, even the best sailboat design will require a small outboard motor from time to time.  Dad found the one he wanted, too.. in Great Britain.

This is a British Seagull Two Stroke marine outboard engine.  The Seagull wasn’t loud and flashy, but it was small, dependable, and could cheerfully propel a hull of up to about 26 feet in length, so it had a lot of power in its tiny frame.  The Seagull was designed for small boats (mostly wooden) so naturally my dad knew a lot about the Seagulls and no other outboard motor would do for him.  He made arrangements  to have a Seagull outboard motor shipped all the way from Wolverhampton, England to Monterey, California.  This is where our story picks up.

The Seagull arrived after about three months of anxious waiting on my dad’s part.  The engine was everything Dad could ask for, and would ultimately render years of good service.  What caught my eye was the shipping container.  This wasn’t reinforced cardboard, no sir.  The Seagull shipped in a sturdy wooden box, already cut to be converted into a storage container (there were rope holes already drilled in the side for future carrying loops).  A good Internet picture of this container remains elusive but these should give  you some idea:

The crate was longish, about 4 feet and some inches long, and wide, maybe 2 feet 6 or slightly under. I was entranced with this thing. British Seagull Co Limited had built a sturdy container to be sure, but what to do with it now? We didn’t have a garage to store it in in Naval housing. Dad planned on hanging the Seagull on a wall in the shed, so when I asked to have the container he just shrugged and said why not. Immediate plans started forming in my head.  We were too old to play “forts” with it, it wasn’t going to work as a tree house, so there was only one thing for it– downhill racer.  In that era (California, 1970s), soapbox derby racing was still a thing.  Soapbox racers hardly looked like the boxes they were named for.   They were streamlined, space-age looking and went down a hill like poop through a goose.  We reasoned, hey, this is an actual BOX, we can put wheels on it, and get into soapbox racing! Yay!

Dad wasn’t one of these over-protective parents.  His views about child safety were at best, laissez-faire but not remotely Darwinian, exactly… Experience being a good teacher, burnt hand teaches best, etc. etc..  So he helped us with construction in a bemused, Dad-like fashion.  I think the idea of the DIY reuse/rebuild racing cart appealed to him.  Wheels weren’t an issue.  We salvaged some very utilitarian axles and wheels off of some cart or something.  They were tiny, the axle was  slightly wider than the wheel base of the Seagull box, so it seemed perfect.  Did we measure it? Nah!  That’s for wimps!  We eyeballed it!  Then we installed our new axles roughly straight-ish by using a series of nails as “U clamps” by bending them over the axles.  This was a design decision that would come back to haunt us, as we’ll investigate presently.

Steering?  Well, as you can see from the pictures above, the box came equipped with handle holes if the owner wanted to store the motor in the shipping case.  Dad drilled a hole through the front support and attached a wheel that could pivot on a bolt in there (using a countersink drill bit to give the nut some  breathing room).  We then added a wheel axle attached to a piece of 2 x 4 wood he cut to match the axle and attached it to the box and rotating nut.  Two eyelets were attached to the front of the rotating piece of 2 x 4 and cut pieces of clothes line were attached.  Then the bitter ends were run up to the two holes drilled by the company for carrying handles and pulled in to box.  By pulling really hard on one rope or the other, we could steer this mammoth object while in motion, and pull them both out to tow it back up a hill.  Smart, huh?  Wellll.. hm.. as it turned out, the steering system was more theoretical than practical, and that’s something you should probably nail down early in any wheeled vehicle design.  We’ll circle around to this later.

So the day arrived for to take our monster off of the blocks and out for a sail (as it were).  We wanted to give it a cool name like Comet or Pirate or Cheetah..  Dad solved it in laconic fashion by saying “Call it the Fat Box, because that’s what it is”.  We liked that– it had a certain panache all its own.   So we pushed Fat Box out of the driveway and started to pull it up the nearest hill.  Fat Box seemed enormous to us (though it really wasn’t, based upon the pictures I’m seeing).  There was room for two kid-sized people max– my neighbor Scotty (about a year younger than me) was along for the ride.  The nearest hill was La Mesa drive.  La Mesa drops off from the hill where the elementary school is and descends for a long straightaway down into military housing.  The Fat Box was heavy, and we had another guy along to ride with and help with the pulling.  His name was Ricky Graves and he was a heavy kid, red faced and sweating, but exactly who we needed– because he was pretty strong, too.  At the top of the hill I remember I was in the box with the neighbor kid (Scotty) and Ricky was holding on to it like an anchor.

I should point out we didn’t overlook safety gear– we were wearing my Uncle Jerry’s M1 Marine Corps helmet.. I was wearing the liner and Scotty wearing the brain bucket.

Nothing but the best for us!

So the Fat Box was on the lip of the hill. Scotty and I were nestled in the box itself, with myself in the back, feet braced against the center brace, and with the two steering cords all the way back at my end. Eyeing the steep grade, Ricky asked the only sensible question uttered that day. “You sure you want to do this?” You know, sometimes science isn’t about “Why?”, it’s about “Why the hell NOT??”, and we were feeling reckless. So Ricky shrugged and let go, and immediately we received our first lesson in momentum and potential energy. For such a crudely built and ungainly vehicle, the Fat Box LEAPED into top speed almost immediately. I mentioned this hill was steep, right? Looking back, all I could see was Ricky Grave’s astonished look as his face dwindled away rapidly.

DOWN we zoomed.. fast, fast and going faster, and our first design flaw became apparent. Nobody had even thought for a second about a smart way to slow this thing down. No brakes! Since we were at that moment bumping and bouncing down a steep hill right out into a busy intersection, heading into a suburban neighborhood with steady traffic, suddenly I had what Go enthusiasts call “atari“, or that moment of perfect clarity. We had best work on that “Slowing Down” part of downhill racing, and fast. Fortunately, my ten year old self wasn’t all about romantic notions.. I had come prepared. I fished out a length of wood, and tried to push it down on the back wheel to get it to slow down by friction. I suppose that might have worked in the Old West on a buckboard wagon or something, but in reality, here on La Mesa hill at top speed, the lumber flew out of my hand when I attempted the “stick in the wheel” method. As we tensed up, we couldn’t help but notice the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon dead perpendicular to us at the bottom of the hill, rapidly approaching. I put everything my frame could put into heaving on the left hand steering rope, and we discovered the limitations on the steering system. The way the lines were rigged, the more you pulled on them, the more resistance there was from the angle of the rope rubbing against the holes and the forward bottom leading edge of the Fat Box. Suddenly, we were discovering the vast gulf between what looks like it will work in the shop and what actually works in the field. What was going to be a frantic 45 degree skid into a roughly sideways to the direction of travel configuration ended up being about 5 degrees left of center. VERY fortunately the Pontiac moved out of the way just in time as we swooped by the first intersection and shot into the neighborhood beyond, still going downhill, still not showing the least signs of stopping.

As we rolled down La Mesa drive, we actually passed an early model Volkswagen Bug with a young Navy mom inside it frantically waving at us to slow down. The grade was greatly diminished now but still downhill, so we thought our chances were fair to middling we might survive if we could get off the street and ditch into a lot a little further down. There was a small lot full of gravel and leaves that we sometimes played kickball in just a another block down on the left. Scotty had been crouched in a little ball, his helmeted head peering over the edge of the Fat Box, eyes wide, the entire trip so far.  He looked like a demented version of that old Kilroy was Here graffiti.  I yelled at him to grab the steering on the left and yank, hard.. I got up and bracing myself on the center strut, leaned out to the left a little. Gradually the Fat Box overcame inertia and heeled over a bit– and we shot straight at the little abandoned lot with the gravel. At this point, several things happened at once. The rear axle, which had been held on with bent nails, was never really on “straight and true” because, of course, we eyeballed it, remember? This was causing the back wheels to roll a little bit left of true and wobble a lot.  When we tried to get the craft to yaw gracefully to the right, the tortured axle gave a mighty SNAP of disapproval and was now two pieces.  The back of the box settled into a violent skid on the wood strut that had been carrying the axle and suddenly forward momentum was being dissipated as kinetic energy and splinters.  Scotty was never a steady hand at the tiller, and gave up active steering for cowering and covering his head.  For ONCE the wheels turned in a direction we were trying to make them turn but this time violently overcompensated, so now we were approaching the curb to the little gravel lot in parallel, rapidly decelerating.  The Fat Box slammed into the curb, and proceeded to flip, free of the  bounds of earthly gravity for one, critical, beautiful second– and the constraints placed upon it by the heaviest object on board, that is, your humble narrator.  You see, I, too, was now enjoying a nanosecond of aerial ballet as I ejected out of the top (where I had been leaning to get the Fat Box to turn into the lot). I  proceeded to glide like an ungainly chicken fired out of a cannon.. and land face first in gravel and dirt, sliding about 6 feet (I think.. it’s all a little blurry).  I laid their groaning for a bit (with some spectacularly vivid contusions and scrapes, but otherwise undamaged).  Eventually getting up, I found that the Fat Box was now as thoroughly destroyed  as a thing can be– the combination of flipping, Scotty rolling around inside it, and the stresses of landing had done for the poor thing.  The front was missing, the side was caved in, the British sturdiness we had admired a cruel lie.  Fortunately Scotty was less hurt than I was and laughing like an idiot.  I was momentarily saddened to see our grand design go down in flames like this, but for one glorious moment, we were about as cool as kids can be.  That has made it all worth it.

So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended.  I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…

Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections.   Thanks

For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:

So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well.  I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew.   After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend.  It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.

Road Trip!

The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so.   So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.   I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there.  Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).

(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”)  I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason.  Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.

Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html

I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!

(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted)  might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)

After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result.  it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours.  Maybe more.  I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it.  I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself.  If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!

Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018?  My take is: not really.  The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16.  “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions.  The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in.  Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return?  Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY?  Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center.  Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially?  Who would have that kind of influence?  Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation?  Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest.  That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it?  Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity?  I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring.  The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest.  Just saying.

This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.

So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.

We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table.  I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend.  He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline.  It’s very spiff.

Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth.  This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain.  I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.

Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market.  It was a learning experience.  I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results.  Small stuff sells.  Miniatures sell.  Boardgames? They don’t sell.  I ended up taking two boxes  home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus.  I’ll do it again.  One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.

So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience?  It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff.  I guess it beats Ebay.  We’ll have to work on presentation next year.  Perhaps, silly hats?  All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40.  That last hour dragged.

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I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…

We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many.  There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one.  Sigh.  Such are the demands of commerce.

Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant.  Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak.  I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.


No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!

Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II.  So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys!  Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG.  They deserve the iron man trophy!  Great setup.. what a fantastic game!  (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).

I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend.  Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events.  The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis.   He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island!  WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered.  The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed.  The models are exquisite.  IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful.  You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.

I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…

We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games.  Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook.  Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play.  Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction.   There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors.  The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks.  Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked.  There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked.  On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper.  I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least).  I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank.  There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show.  As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!

(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ.  No Surprise there.  It’s a done deal, we knew that already.  Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid.  Knock me over with a feather!).

Do I think this is a good plan?  Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen?  Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not.  Nope.  Abandoning the South is a very bad idea.  Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them.  I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit.  Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse,  I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did.  When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding?  Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”.  Okay.  Well, he might have a point.  A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars?   No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit).  When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”.  I wonder where that could be?  I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking.   Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large?  If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose.  Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.

Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.


“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=


Farewell! Farewell!

Aside

I’ve been on an H.L. Mencken kick lately.  Somehow, the Sardonic Sage of Baltimore sums up my enthusiasm for the mob rule that is the current election process in America.   There’s no point, no winners..