Category Archives: games

Game Night, Heroic Aleworks, Woodbridge VA


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



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

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

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

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

Tonight was the night!

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

NOVAG’s Winter Game Day 2016


SLIDESHOW of Game Day pictures.. tons of them are Artemisium which I played in

On January 31, 2016, NOVAG threw it’s usual quarterly Game Day, Winter version. The location was the Centreville Library in the multi-purpose room. There were about ten tables in play. I think we had a pretty good turnout considering the recent weather.

Here are a few pictures!

GAME TITLE: WWII  Air Battle
GAME MASTER: Dennis Wang
PERIOD: WWII
SCALE: 1/285
RULES: Air Force/Dauntless (Note: same system as mentioned in this blog post from 2014)
GAME DESCRIPTION: Air Force/Dauntless with computer assist. 3″ hexes and 1/200airplanes (Wings of Glory scale) with telescoping flight stands equipped with climb/dive,bank, altitude indicators. Bring your tablet/smartphone/laptop equipped with a WWWbrowser. Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook all OK. Paper and pencil notrequired/used. Novices welcome. Rules PDF free on the Web or at the meeting.

GAME TITLE: Fontenoy
GAME MASTER: Tim Tilson
PERIOD: War of the Austrian Succession
SCALE: 15mmNUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5
RULES: Black Powder
GAME DESCRIPTION: In the spring of 1745, Marshal de Saxe prepared to invade theAustrian Lowlands, and take Tournai. Facing him was an Allied army under the 23 yearold Duke of Cumberland. DeSaxe wanted to defeat the Allied army before starting thesiege. Thus he planned to goad them into attacking him. First he dispatched a columntowards Mons. Cumberland accepted the bait and moved his army there, while deSaxeproceeded to Tournai. Realizing he had been hoodwinked, Cumberland then marchedtowards Tournai where deSaxe awaited him on terrain of his choosing. The French werein an extremely strong +L shaped position, with the village of Fontenoy forming thehinge. The flanks were protected by woods and the river Schedlt. Finally deSaxe hadmade the position stronger with the use of redoubts. At 2:00 a.m. the Allied army wasunder arms and ready to advance.

GAME TITLE: Assault on Hoth
GAME MASTER: Phil Pournelle
PERIOD: A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
SCALE: Galoob Micro Machines (1/188)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6
RULES: West End Game’s Assault on Hoth
GAME DESCRIPTION: Imperial Forces have arrived to destroy the Rebel hideaway on the ice planet Hoth. The only hope for maintaining the rebellion is to use the Ion Cannons to enable transport ships to evade Imperial StarDestroyers. General Veers and his ATAT forces have been dispatched to destroy the Ion Cannon and the defenders of the base. Luke Skywalker leads Rogue squadron in a desperate attempt to delay the Imperial Forces long enough to for Princess Leia to complete the evacuation and escapein the Millennium Falcon. Will the Rebel Alliance survive? Or will the Imperial Forces prevail? Will Luke be captured and turned to the Dark Side? Take

command of either Imperial or Rebel forces and decide the fate of the galaxy

GAME TITLE: Ranger RECCE
GAME MASTER: Michael Byrne
PERIOD: Modern
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6
RULES: Force on Force
DESCRIPTION: With all SEAL teams on missions, elements of the elite Ranger RECCEunit and 3/75th Ranger Battalion were tasked to secure a high value target. Aerialinsertion had not worked in the past, so the Rangers would make their attack overlandfrom a staging point. The terrain was more difficult than expected and the attack startedat day break. Can the Rangers capture the high value target or will he escape again?

(I played Artemisum (bel0w) and took lots of pictures of the game in progress.. see them HERE)


GAME TITLE: The Battle of Artemisium – 480 BC

GAME MASTER: Brian DeWitt
PERIOD: Ancients
SCALE: 15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8
RULES: Greeks at Sea
TIME: 2 Hours
GAME DESCRIPTION: The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and others, and the Persian Empireof Xerxes I. The Greek fleet was protecting the flank of the army at Thermopylae, whilst attempting to not being cut off themselves. The Persians needed to force their way through either at of Thermopylae or Artemisium to outflank either position. The Persians were at a significant tactical advantage, outnumbering the Allies and having “better sailing” ships. The “better sailing” that Herodotus mentions was probably due to thesuperior seamanship of the crews; most of the Athenian ships (and therefore the majorityof the fleet) were newly built, and had inexperienced crews. This scenario represents part of the first day of the battle when the Persians saw the Allied fleet rowing towardsthem and decided to seize the opportunity to attack, even though it was late in the day,as they thought they would win an easy victory.

Notes on Artemesium.  This was the same game I played at Fall-IN! 2015, run by the same GM (Brian DeWitt) using the same rules (Greeks at Sea).  I chose Persia this time.  We started out trying to have a plan, forming a line moving down the table, but that didnt’ last long as the Greeks burst into our formation.  It was an embarrassing start for the Persians as my left wing took some casualties from boarding and capturing.  I lost two ships to capture — the Greeks get elite marines, and my opponent always seemed to have a “Fierce Marines” chit and a 1 or 0 initiative chit to use handy.  Shrug.  It is what it is.  Even with only 1 damaged ship left, I did do my duty to Ahura-Mazda and rammed one of the Greek hulls, sinking it.  I then was trying to maneuver around to ram his other damaged hull, and the game was called.  Result was a Pyrrhic victory for our side.  We killed 1 more ship than they killed or captured from us, but they sank the flagship.  I think the rules are great, but tend to favor the Greeks too much.  You just don’t want those Greeks aboard your ship.  Gar played as a Persian as well, and was up against  a kid who was hand picking his initiative chits (perhaps he was confused about blind drawing?) so he always had the jump on Gar with an initiative of 0 many turns in a row.  Still, Gar did some damage on his ships as well, he was no cake walk.  He really enjoyed the game.  More importantly his buds were texting him during the game and he was sending them pictures.  Now THEY want to come to the next game day.  Our job here is done!

Oh, I did make a little movie of Artemesium.. have fun.

The Cards Against Humanity guys give Chinese workers a paid week off. That’s awesome.


I have no idea of what 8 Sensible gifts for Hannukah is or how it plays (although I hear socks are a nice choice), but I’m pretty bowled over by the actions taken by the folks who make Cards against Humanity.  I like these guys.  I already knew they had a sense of humor (they did do a fundraiser for actual bullshit, after all), I didn’t grasp their sense of… well, humanity, dang it!

Read the details, right here If you scroll down the same page, you’ll see actual holiday vacation snaps these workers took with their families.

Bravo, CAH people. I wish I could give you more of my hard earned dough, but I’ve already purchased the hell out of CAH.. twice! Maybe I’ll look into this Hannukah thing, it looks fun now that I read your web page about it.

(I have also heard that CAH’s Max Temkin took some individual initiative lately.  He has also sent a small gift to the militia group occupying the wildlife refuge in Oregon: a 55-gallon drum of lubricant.)

Figures that demand “there’s a game in there, I just have to find it”


Have you ever come across a line of figures that, really, you’d love to game with because they’re just fantastic, but there’s no real *game* associated with them?  This happens to me frequently.  There they sit, on the shelf, trying to send you a message and getting under your skin.  Like wearing too-tight underwear, it gets annoying, but not in that bad way.

Some TEN years ago I found the perfect Flashman figures.  (if the Flashman reference is vague to you, read here, then go and read the books and thank me).  They were made by Chiltern miniatures, which appears to have ceased being an independent concern back in 2012. They were beautiful and huge.  Not really 28mm, more like 33mm, and not matching anything I currently had in my collection, which was on the upper side of 25mm and lower side of 28mm.  They were posed exactly like the old illustrations of the novels.  Go to Amazon.com to see the comparison, and check against published pictures here, here and here.  It’s impressive sculpting.  I loved them and if you read the 2005 blog post, I bought every one of them, admired them, then put them in a drawer.

From TMP.

Why? It’s a favorite character of mine, isn’t it?  Sure it is.  The problem is how they are cast.  I could overcome the “they are huge” factor by fudging here and there, that’s not the real issue.  It’s just.. what KIND of game would they ever be used in?  A small skirmish?  Really?  Sure, Flashman is bellicose, but he’s really sculpted for a tableau here– I doubt there are many shoot-em-up war games that require a figure dressed in cricket togs or as the Crown Prince of Denmark.   I’m sure I could jam a figure into a full up skirmish game but he’s really sculpted to accompany figures from a pre-defined narrative.. the books.  So we’re back to where we started.. what kind of game could I make from these?  A roleplaying game set in the 19th Century British Empire?  Now that’s possible.  Sadly that might require a much bigger supporting cast of figures, and since most of the Chiltern figures didn’t match anything else of mine, into a drawer they went. Maybe I’ll flea market them some day.    The problem was I just couldn’t make a game out them.. and not being a rare figure collector, what’s the point?

The pre-written narrative is the challenge.  If it’s too restrictive, you can only do so much with it.  Another example.. I found a bunch of figures that were designed for Army of Darkness.  These were from Leading Edge, a company that specialized in reproducing miniatures directly from science fiction and horror films.  I think they are out of business, as well.

Well, there’s the rub.. I could definitely make a game out of it.   And that game would have to be something pretty close to “A bunch of undead critters storm a medieval castle in search of an unholy book to steal”.  Mind you, I wouldn’t mind that premise, I LOVE Army of Darkness’ final battle sequence.  I just can’t see making any OTHER game than the scenario these figures were cast specifically for.   I can easily find dozens of skellies, zombies and such in roughly the right scale, and paint them up.  I even have a Warhammer Mighty Fortress that might do the trick for the castle.  But, but.. is there any OTHER kind of game I could make here?  Probably a few smaller scale ideas like skirmish games and such.  Ash at the Windmill.. Ash in the desert.. etc.  But it would always be what it is, a game about the movie Army of Darkness..  not a bad objective, but it isn’t flexible.

When I was at Fall-IN! 2015, I finally bought a few packs of figures I’ve been passing by for a couple years now.  These are in the pulp range in 28mm:

In case you haven’t figure it out, these are figures of: Orthodox priests, Monty Python’s “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” figures, More modern priests and altar boy figures, Middle Eastern Women with Burkhas, and Orthodox Jews.  All with guns.

I’ve loved this line for a long time, and I knew someday I’d buy them (and others like them), it’s just the age old problem.. “Sure these are great figures, but what kind of game can you make with them?”   And after having a palaver with Otto Schmidt last weekend, we hit upon a great idea for a game that could every one of these figures and more like them:

What if the Apocalypse had happened?  Just not the one you were expecting?  What if.. everyone in this figure line was a character in Heaven?  Yes, that heaven.  Fluffy clouds, Doric Columns, Harp playing (if you want).  I love this idea.. the figures are sculpted as if ready for a big gunfight.  They all are playing into perceptions of Intolerance.. as if the player is getting a message that ‘to WIN, I must start shooting the nearest THEM group”.  What if that wasn’t “winning” at all?  What would they do?  After all, they are in heaven.  God wouldn’t want them to kill each other.  It’s heaven!  They made the grade!  They are here, they made it!

“But, but but… what about that group of people over there?  Aren’t I supposed to, you know, hate them?”  The ensuing game could be a lot of fun, but I could see where people might resent it.  Still, I like the idea and I’m going forward with it.  I just need to buy some suicide bombers and virgins now.

Game Camp 2015 Day 5 (Friday): FUTURE TANK!


Revised Epub forthcoming!

Our final day! I was debating whether to run WAR ROCKET or FUTURE TANK for this day and opted for Future Tank. FT has a lot of physical activity and chaos involved in the design and that would definitely appeal to most of the campers this week!

If you follow these pages from time to time you’ll know that I’m interested in the designs of Mr. Jim Wallman of Great Britain. This kindly gent has put up the rules to many of the games he works on (as I do). One of them that caught my eye was a much older design called TANK DUEL. This was a little semi-roleplaying experience where the players play the roles inside a WW2 era tank. I think it’s charming and a great fit for kids. However, being the tinkerer I am, I had to play with it a bit, projecting the time scale and technology forward a little into the near future of conflict. FUTURE TANK is a spiritual successor and cousin to TANK DUEL, uses many of the same concepts and roles, and really differs only in the setting and the increased number of tasks that are available on a technological battlefield.

Ideally, you’re supposed to have IDENTICAL terrain on both sides of the curtain– that was impractical, so the double blind really represented a “haze of uncertainty” rather than a true double blind application. I would have liked the map to have been just a trifle larger in all dimensions.

We had two crews of future tank players– Loader, Gunner, Driver, Commander, and Sparky.

Loader had to run to the table and get a specifically colored M&M for specific shell types.
Gunner basically would AIM the turret of the tank and shout FIRED! to indicate a shell had gone out the main gun.
Commander would give a wide range of orders to Sparky, Gunner and Loader, as well as fly the recon drone.
Sparky scanned the battlefield, linked with other tanks on Battle net, and operated ECM.
Treads drove the tank on the battlefield, and moved the model around.

When a crew on a tank hears PING!!! they have 5 seconds to exit the room or they are all dead. Here we see a knocked out Future Tank. Most tank duels ended at close range.

Future Tank was an experiment that I think will be a great game. The players loved the sense of tension and uncertainty given by the double blind curtain. The fun element was guessing where your opponent would be the upcoming turn. Adding to the uncertainty was the fact that your scanning wasn’t 100% accurate. The scan roll would be slightly distorted if Sparky rolled reds over blacks on the scan dice, but not high ENOUGH reds over blacks..

Sparky’s plotting board he uses for a SCAN task, plus an orange BLIP TOKEN (placed by me) showing where he should correct to. The two magnets represent Sparky’s best guess where the two tanks are in relation to each other. great visual fun when you are double blind.  You can see many previous locations marked by Xs.

The guys loved it. I’m going to continue developing FT as it needs the text cleaned up a trifle. The ideas are all good, I think.

The Commander’s Remote Control Drone, which he can fly to increase his chances of finding enemy tanks.

We ended about 145 and then ran the classic end of the year ice cream party, and played Cosmic Encounter. A great time was had by most. I had a couple of “bad actors” who were clearly dumped there by parents who didn’t see that it wouldn’t be a good fit. What the heck, we tried to keep them occupied, including letting them go shoot baskets for an hour each day, which helped.

Otherwise another great year for gaming camp. if you think on it, most years I can manage 1 or 2 new games per camp– I try to make at least one of them be a big “Grand Slam” game on Wednesday. THIS year, I had FOUR new games, two of which were commercial. Dungeons and Dragons: Attack Wing, Ride that Fury Road, Future Tank (and possibly) War Rocket. There rarely is time to run 5 games in week, so I knew that was an ambitious schedule at the outset. The kids loved White Line Fever, but the feedback was that they enjoy Big Danged Boats more than WLF, so I will bring that back for next year.

More pictures of Day 5

Video Games are now being saved to the Internet Archive


List of just a few of the Video Game centered videos on IA.

“The Internet Archive is working with multiple external parties, including the IGDA’s Preservation SIG and Stanford University’s How They Got Game Project to preserve all kinds of rare and difficult to source video files relating to videogames“. I think it’s fitting that they do this– video games, for better or worse, are most definitely part of the American culture (at very least) and certainly a part of a child’s psyche growing up, almost all over the world.

The video game culture really started in the early 80s and was somewhat omnipresent after that– though paradoxically less socially relevant in these days of beautiful rendered 3D graphics. The 90s might have been the height of Video Game culture, or perhaps right around 88 to 92. The Archive captures and stores many artifacts from that era, like playthroughs, interviews, and reviews. Remember– this material was written when all this stuff was brand spanking new, and if it seems somewhat disingenuous now, keep that in mind.

For an example of some of the (charming! I had one!) Commodore 64 playthrough material, check out this video of a Rocky Horror Picture Show Commodore 64 playthrough.

You can also play old videogames and early computer games in flash format, in the Internet Arcade, here. Now that’s a lot of fun. I just played JOUST again for the first time in 20 years.

Perhaps these aren’t the collected works of Chaucer or the poems of Christopher Marlowe, but they are (or were) a very vibrant and active part of American culture, and I’m glad someone has taken the time and huge effort to amass this collection of relics. Well done, Internet Archive!

Games in Sacred Texts


An editorial by Geoff Englestein on the Dice Tower podcast reminded me of the view the Gautama Buddha took towards frivolous activities, namely gaming, and how they could be a roadblock to achieving true enlightenment.   That got me to thinking of Games mentioned in sacred texts, particularly boardgames as Miniature Wargaming, RPGs and Videogames are all relatively modern developments.

First, back to Buddhism as well as a shallow dive into some Hindu texts.

The Gautama weighs in:

His list of “best practices” for one seeking enlightenment is contained in the he Brahmajala Sutta, one of the first of 34 suttas (collections of aphorisms) of the Digha Nikaya (the Long Discourses of the Buddha).   Games are especially enumerated in the 17th precept of the Majjhima Sila, which lists 16 of what were interpreted as “games” back in ancient times.  It’s an illuminating list but much of it entails condemning playing with toys.  The boardgame specific ones are as follows:

1. “Games on board with 8 or 10 rows”.  This probably references Ashtapada specifically, which is a pre-chess game played on an unmarked, checkers-like gridded board with no colors.  The game was essentially a race between both sides to thread through a preset pattern of “castles” on the board.   Chaturanga is played on an identical board, but is more chess like.

Truly ancient examples of Ashtapada and Chaturaga style game boards.

2. “The same games played on imaginary boards.” (Akasam Astapadam was a variant of Astapada which was played without a board, mentally, and means “Astapada in the sky”).  It was either a fun mental exercise or perhaps people were too poor to afford game components.

3. “Marking diagrams on the floor such that the player can only walk on certain places”  may sound a little clumsy, but parse it out and you have a precursor to our modern game of hop scotch.   Not exactly a boardgame but it’s amusing to see it on the list.  The reference is probably to a game called Parihâra-patham, which played similarly to hop scotch but with a very different path on the ground.

4. Either remove pieces from a pile, or adding pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to “shake”.   This sounds like Jenga to me, but it could also be Pickup Sticks.  Not much else is written about it.

5. “Throwing Dice”  There are any number of dice games originating in India, but this probably specifically references gambling games similar to craps.

6. “Dipping the hand with the fingers stretched out in lac, or red dye, or flour-water, and striking the wet hand on the ground or on a wall, calling out ‘What shall it be?’ and showing the form required–elephants, horses, &c”  That sounds somewhat confusing but after you parse it for a bit it starts to sound a lot like modern Pictionary, doesn’t it?

7.  Ball Games.  Could mean anything really, but probably something like Kick Ball.

(8-14 reference playing with toys, but 15 is interesting)

15. Guessing another person’s thoughts.  This could be just wild guessing but I suspect it’s a game with directed questions similar to 20 questions.

So there you have it, The Buddha wasn’t a game guy like you or me.  I’m not a scholar of Buddhism but I have read a little here and there, and I suspect the Buddha wasn’t condemning leisure pastimes with any degree of vitriol, he was simply listing the activities to be avoiding as being harmful to spiritual discipline along the path to enlightenment.

The Buddha’s list is relatively well known, and an interesting window into the past, especially about boardgames.  I could see playing variants of some of these today, and actually I have (Chaturanga, for certain, is a fairly famous variant of Chess).   I wondered if there was any other religion that even mentions diversions of the mind with such precision as the Guatama Buddha did.

A ritual dice game is mentioned in the Yajur Veda, to be played at coronations (and it is mentioned in passing that the King was allowed to win).    Other than that I can’t find much in the Upanishads or the Rig Veda.

Islam

Well, the Prophet Mohammed did not appear to enjoy games any more than the Buddha did. In the Koran, specifically this citation, the Prophet appears to equate the playing a game of chance to the consumption of alcohol, which he had strong reservations against:

YUSUFALI: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan’s handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divining arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside in order that ye may succeed.
SHAKIR: O you who believe! intoxicants and games of chance and (sacrificing to) stones set up and (dividing by) arrows are only an uncleanness, the Shaitan’s work; shun it therefore that you may be successful.

To clarify, later on, Mohammed did state that “He who played chess is like one who dyed his hand with the flesh and blood of swine” which appears to lump in boardgaming with other enticements of the flesh. Reference here.

I’m not going to find a lot of material about ancient Islamic games, I think.

Judaism and by extension, Christianity

There’s not a lot written about ancient Jewish kids’ games, although there is some:
Zec 8:5: “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof”; and Gen 21:9 margin, where we read of Ishmael “playing” (metscheq).

Perhaps this “playing” reference could be read as “Mocking” as well, the translation is open to question.  Of specific games however.. there’s almost nothing at all in the Old Testament.

Playing with ball is alluded to in Isa 22:18: “He will …. toss thee like a ball into a large country,” possibly this indicates some form of organized sport or recreational outdoor game.. The question of Yahweh to Job (41:5): “Wilt thou play with him (the crocodile) as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?” suggests that tame birds were some form of amusement for Hebrew children.

The New Testament has one reference to children’s play, namely, the half-parable about the children in the market-place who would neither dance to the flute as if at a marriage feast nor wail as if at a funeral (Mt 11:16 f parallel Lk 7:32).

Dice games: dice were known to the ancient Egyptians, and Assyrian dice have been found, made of bronze with points of gold, but there is no trace of them in the Old Testament. The New Testament’s most famous game of chance, the use of dice by the Syrian soldiers who cast lots for the raiment of Jesus at the cross (Mt 27:35 parallel Mk 15:24; Lk 23:34; Jn 19:24) may have been dice (as we know them, six sided cubes) or some other primitive chance mechanism.

Kugelach Stones

This is not to say that the Ancient Hebrews and early Christians were a dour lot; they amused themselves in a myriad of ways– dancing, mimicry, storytelling, running and archery contests.  Even though there aren’t references to them in holy scripture, ancient games did exist in Jewish (and by extension, Christian) culture.   Hebrew children had a tradition of a game called Kugelach, which is very similar to Jacks.   The Ancient Hebrews also seemed to be fond of variants of the grid-based games that were similar to ancient Roman style games (reminiscent of 9 Man’s Morris) as well as Indian ones like Ashdibada– though who invented what first is uncertain here.    What is fairly certain is that Jewish culture inherited many games from external sources- primarily Roman and Egyptian.  There is some evidence of Mancala style games being imported from African sources, as well as a game similar to Fox and Geese called Dogs and Jackals.

Dogs and Jackals game tablet found at Tel Megiddo archeological dig

Conclusions

What’s to make of all this?  Mostly that the tradition of boardgames and similar amusements– meaning a physical map to move pieces on with some chance element (probably a six sided dice) would appear to be primarily an Asian development that an amusement-starved world would adopt whole-heartedly as  cultures came into contact with each other and cross-pollinated.

And that perhaps Buddha needed to lighten up a little about games. 😀

Sign of the Pagan, by VPG (a review)


Sign of the Pagan Victory Point Games

Sign of the Pagan
Victory Point Games
www.victorypointgames.com Designed by Richard Berg

Game Scales:

  • 1 counter=500 to 1000 men
  • 1 hex=200 yards
  • 1 turn=30 minutes +/-

Sign of the Pagan is not just an obscure and preachy Sword and Sandals movie from the 1950s, but also a hex and counter style wargame published by Victory Point Games as part of their Gold Banner Product line.  Sign of the Pagan was published in late 2013, and I’ve only played it about three times since I received it, so I’ll admit my understanding of the game is not what it will be, though overall pretty positive.

Sign of the Pagan is a game that focuses on The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, which comes down to us as “The Battle of Chalons“, which featured two large forces, Hun and Roman (by contemporary standards) .  The forces on either side were neither entirely Hunnic nor very Roman, but were instead coalition forces of polyglot troops loosely allied on either side.  The Western Romans, by this point in history, really weren’t close to being recognizable as the force that had conquered Gaul under the early Caesars centuries before.   What was left was disciplined (for its day), mounted, and well armored, but not present in enough numbers to counter the Hunnic invasion.  The local commander, Flavius Aetius, led a coalition of very willful and militant local tribes consisting of Visigoths, Salian and Ripuarian Franks, Sarmatians, Armoricans, Liticians, Burgundians, Saxons, Librones and other Celtic or German tribes.  The invading Hun army, led by Attila, consisted primarily of Hunnic Empire cavalry but also sizable contingents from the Ostrogoths, Rugians, Scirii, Thuringians, Bastarnae, Alamanni, Gepids and Heruli tribes.  The outcome of the battle was decided rout of the Hun Coalition, as predicted by the Hunnic diviners the night before.   I won’t wax historical in this post as there are some good historical sources to read up on Chalons here and there around the internet, not the least of which being Wikipedia.

As a somewhat linear battle develops, as I play my first game of Sign of the Pagan.  The lines are never that coherent for very long!

We have a great setup here– two coalition forces with allies that have the potential to be treacherous (some of them, anyway).   The battle and troop mix favor shock factors such as heavy infantry and medium cavalry, all of which are in the mix.  So how well does Sign of the Pagan do as a game?

The rules are a potage of elements that the designer, Richard Berg, has served up before.  Activation is accomplished by Contingent Activation markers (CAMs) which have been around in one fashion or another since A Famous Victory.   All very understandable.  Players select CAMs, then roll for initiative winner and the winner places his CAM on the map.  The remaining CAMs are put back in an opaque cup.  Contingents are activated by drawing from a cup in random fashion thereafter.  Movement is pretty standard stuff, and facing counts.

Combat comes in two flavors, Missile and Shock.   Missile is nothing we haven’t seen before– units have to be in range, units have to be seen, the firing unit must have a missile factor, and there other factors possibly in play, such as movement and whether the unit is engaged.  Missile Combat is resolved on a Missile Fire CRT which is fairly bloodless- the worst result being a DISORDERED marker.  Shock Combat is handled somewhat differently, and is heavily modified by troop type,   Position advantage, Momentum, and current Morale.  The goal is to get the enemy disordered twice; that eliminates them.  I found that a preliminary arrow shower followed up by a rush of men with swords and axes is the best combination.


Also included in the game are eight OPPORTUNITY CARDS (above) for either side which are shuffled, and four are drawn for both sides.  The Opportunity Card is like a “one time interrupt” event that modifies the outcome of the current battle.  The rulebook states they can be played at any time– a general rule that is modified by the event description on the card.  Note that there are really only FOUR cards– the other four of the eight are “no events” just to add a little variability and randomness.  Even so, I suspect you could play a bluff with a No Event card if you have the right stuff theatrically.

In the three games I’ve played so far, the rulebook appears to lay things out in a fairly sensible manner and there was nothing about Sign of the Pagan‘s mechanics that was profoundly difficult to grasp, on the face of it.  And yet… there were many occasions where I was confused or just plain interpreted the text incorrectly.  Some of the steps and exceptions to combat are vaguely worded and I found myself re-reading parts of the book again and again in order to grasp the designer’s intent.  If that fellow is engaged with that fellow and another fellow comes up and attacks from here, the rules state this exception… 

Personally, I think the rulebook would have been greatly improved with an illustrated example of the first 3-4 turns of a game, just to see how movement, activation, command and combat actually work.  There are a smorgasbord of mechanical elements to this game that appear familiar but ultimately made me feel like I was eating ala carte.   This is not to say it isn’t an enjoyable game– once I got the hang of things, I really liked it.  This is an interesting period, very rarely a subject of a wargame design.   I liked the period, I liked the tactical situation very much.  I liked the treacherous Alans tribe– shades of the Kobayakawa clan in Berg’s earlier Shogun Triumphant!

On the material side the components really won me over.  The counters are published in that new big, chunky style favored by Victory Point games.. they are solid in the hand and don’t blow away when you sneeze.   The graphics for the counters are decent but not eye-catching, the map is elegance personified.  The printing is a little muddy in places (particularly the color charts) but very readable.

If Sign of the Pagan is illustrative of the VPG’s continuing efforts in promoting nice little one-shot battle games with great components, all at an affordable price, than I’m all for it.  I was already a fan of VPG but games like Sign of the Pagan will induce me to stay that way.

Board Games for Kids’ events, 11-18 years old


What’s this all about?

Playing Cosmic Encounter at the 2014 Game Camp. Still a massive hit.

I’ve been running game camps for kids for a little under a decade now, and a big portion of what success I’ve had with them is due to adding board games to a mostly miniatures-based program. Board games, especially designer board games (or Family Board Games, or Hobby Board games, take your pick..) fill up the gaps in a program where I’m setting up some big miniatures game and need to keep kids occupied for an hour or more on one side of the room.

I’m going to start recording the board games we use at Camp to keep kids engaged and having fun, and the reasons why I choose them.  I envision this piece to be an ongoing narrative that I update on a semi-regular (quarterly) basis.  There’s just too many to try to create an all encompassing list; once I’ve compiled a few, I’ll move this up to a page tab.

Let’s get started with my FALL of 2014 Recommendations if you are looking to find games that will play well with a group of kids from about 11 to 18 years in age, with a few hours to kill here and there.  I’ll try to do another one in January 2015.

COSMIC ENCOUNTER 

It’s no small secret that Cosmic Encounter is my favorite board game of all time.   I’ve mentioned it a few times here and there.   What was a surprise was just how readily younger kids take to this game.  There’s something about the Nomic quality of the changing Alien powers, the component mix from FFG, and the generally silly atmosphere.  I would recommend the FFG version over all others, for the artwork alone, but also the range of choices that add to the customization.  I think CE’s easy to perceive goal, plus ever-changing nature, makes it far more accessible to younger children than I gave it credit for before.

GET BIT

 

Get Bit was a charming little surprise I discovered through Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop web show.  It’s a simple positional race game not unlike GMT’s earlier Formula Motor Racing (which is another great candidate for a kid’s camp, but I’d play it with Matchbox cards).    Players put their cute plastic robots in a line in the water, followed by a shark with a taste for robots.   Single number cards (from a finite hand of cards) are played that move the robots around in order.   The last robot in line gets “chomped” and loses a limb.  When he loses all limbs, he’s out.  It’s no suprise WHY kids like this– it’s all about cartoon violence, of course, but there’s also some great decision making and strategy implied in the card play.  Immensely popular.

TSURO

Tsuro is another one of those great discoveries that came into my radar through the Tabletop show.  I knew it existed, and I knew that it had been out since 2006, but I had never played it.  I already had Metro by Queen Games, which reminds me of it quite a bit.  Essentially this is a path-finding puzzle style game where the players try to keep their dragons on the maze-like path built by placing tiles.   It’s simple and easy to pick up, and very visual.  The theme is a little more exciting than Metro (which is about streetcars), so I would recommend Tsuro over Metro.

THE RESISTANCE

 

It’s a little too easy to call  The Resistance “a Werewolf/Mafia variant” but people often do.   Certain elements are very similar to Werewolf, to be sure– such as the day/night turn and turn-based mechanics. However, the addition of the cards and the “going on a mission” theme really gives this humble little game a great framework that (I think) forces the players into using deductive logic much more than Werewolf ever will.  Werewolf games can devolve into silliness rather quickly– which is why I don’t recommend them that highly for younger kids, they might take accusations too seriously and have their feelings hurt.   The Resistance takes a similar riff and adds the cards and mission element on top of it, which tends to distance the younger players from the J’accuse! flavor of Werewolf.  Notes to adults: don’t even attempt to run this if you don’t have at least six committed players, and do NOT take the sixth spot yourself.  You’ll need to be in charge for the first game, anyway.

CODE 777

Code 777 is a modern reworking of Mastermind (in some respects).  It is a good design for 2-5 players, and I suspect 4 is optimal.  Each player has a Scrabble style rack with three tiles on it– tiles are a certain color and number, or have a certain symbol behind them.  The players have a grasp of certain facts– there are only so many of this tile, or so many of that tile, or so many blue tiles, etc. etc.  Cards are played with questions on them that help the players deduce their own sequences.  That’s right, their own– the tiles face outward; so the other players know only what every player except themselves are displaying.  The players can glean a lot of knowledge to make deductions with from what they see in every tile rack except their own.  Code 777 is a much older design (from 1985 at least, and maybe older) but has recently been reprinted by Stronghold Games.  This is a great game for problem solving and deductive logic; it never fails to keep kids engaged.

ROOM 25

 

Room 25 is a great maze style game where the maze starts built and flipped over and gradually is revealed by the player’s tokens exploring the map through trial and (often) deadly error;  the players assume a set series of roles (six, maximum) which are quite colorful but functionally identical (sadly; I think this could be improved upon in an expansion).  The game can be played cooperatively (boo!) or semi-treacherously (yay!) where some of the players have hidden traitor roles.  The theme of the game is very similar to a series of Canadian Horror/SF films called Cube/Hypercube etc.   Players have a limited series of actions, two per turn, which either affect their own player token or the token of whomever is on the current tile with them.  Room 25’s goofy imagery and characters, the changeable map, added to a soupçon of treachery makes this game a perennial favorite with younger teenagers.

ROLL THROUGH THE AGES

 

Roll through the Ages is the game that got me started on the notion of adding board games to the miniature-heavy events I was running for camp.  For some reason, over the years, I have  had my share of children who suffer from Asperger syndrome and even high functioning Austism.  These are special cases– they want to be engaged but they sometimes can’t engage at the same level as other children.  Sometimes they quickly grow bored of the main activity.  I was in such a bind several years ago and on a whim, I pulled a copy of Roll Through The Ages, which I had bought that week on an enthusiastic recommendation from Tom Vasel.  RTTA is a great game– you are really playing yourself more than an opponent, so there isn’t a lot of social interaction to stress a kid out, and lots of challenges and decisions to make as you try to score high by rolling for civilization advantages and building great works.  It’s an elegant little dice game with great chunky components.  Anyway, to get back to my story, I had an Asperegers’ kid.  He was bored and being disruptive.  I handed him Roll Through The Ages and explained very quickly how to play it.  It took him all of 5 minutes to figure it out (all of my kids are smart!).  He was entranced.  He played RTTA non-stop, for the rest of the week.  I had half a pad of score pads after he was done.  I didn’t care, he was happy as a clam and said it was his best camp that Summer.  Go figure!  It was the success of this desperate experiment in board gaming (totally unplanned, I just happened to have it with me that day) that led me to include board games as a regular part of the curriculum.

ZOMBIE DICE/MARTIAN DICE/NINJA DICE/LUCHADOR DICE/CTHULHU DICE…

This is a catchall for games that are all somewhat thematically similar, play fast and easy, and feature a series of specialized, thematic highly colorful dice that interact with each other in a specific way.

The granddaddy is Zombie Dice, where the players are playing the roles of the Zombies in a Zombie movie, looking for brains; there is also a very similar game where the players are playing the role of the Aliens in a UFO invasion called Martian dice.   You can play a Ninja on a special mission in Ninja Dice, Re-theme Zombie Dice with Hunting Dinosaurs and you have Dino Hunt Dice, and finally play a game of re-themed Put and Take with Cthulhu Dice.   The mechanics differ from game to game, but they all are rich in theme, very colorful, very simple and resolve and play very quickly.  This kind of game handles 3-4 kids comfortably.  The up side is they are all very affordable and you can probably buy all of them if you have a large crowd of kids.  Maybe even throw a dice game tournament, who knows?

Conclusion:

I could go on and on with this post but I think I’m going to limit these to about 8-10 at a time so I don’t feel rushed.  The games in this posting have all been played at kid’s camps and although some games have failed to garner support, these have all done pretty well since I started.  I hope you find these suggestions useful

Game Camp for Kids, Day 1: The Magi!


Hey, hey the gang’s all here!

It’s that time of year again, when I run a Gaming Camp for kids at St. Stevens and St. Agnes’ School in Alexandria, VA. This camp will be a week long and it will focus on tabletop gaming. Mostly miniatures based with either a fantasy or science fiction theme. I like to keep the rules pretty simple and easy to teach. The trick between success and failure with these things is to keep the children constantly occupied. About 3 years ago I started mixing boardgames with the miniatures games so there isn’t any waiting around and thumb twiddling. Last year, I introduced THE MAGI, a game of Wizardly combat using hand gestures for spells. The game is an old postal game from the 80s that I dusted off and turned into a miniatures game (which, by the by, the creator was wholeheartedly in favor of and gave permission to do).

The game started at 10ish and proceeded to almost 3PM, with one break for lunch.

Wizards fighting it out in the Arena. In the foreground, a Summoned Ice Elemental plods towards a target. In the background, a Summoned Battle Ogre attacks the purple wizard, or the rock lava wizard, I can’t recall which . The giant crystals provide illumination, and could be destroyed, plunging the cavern in darkness.

The whole intention of the Magi is to defeat as many opposing wizards as possible. There’s no way anyone has enough time to kill every other wizard, but that’s okay in a free-for-all situation. The Magi has a unique magic system that is played totally with hand gestures. I have simulated the wizards ruminating over what to cast next by creating a largish deck of cards with 6 hand gestures on them– Clap, Flick, Wave, Digit pointing, Palm Proffered, and Snap. With these 6 gestures, you can build dozens of spells– Summoning Creatures, Tossing Missiles, etc. The trick is to play them in an order to have them go off in time to do something useful for you.  For example, if you want to cast a DISPEL MAGIC (a very useful spell), you perform the somatic (hand) gestures for C-D-S-P (Clap, Digit Pointing, Snap, Palm).    The rules stipulate you have to stand up and perform the gestures, in sequence, then show the cards.  If another wiz has an interrupt spell, he can stop the spell as soon as he recognizes it.

 

 

I toned down Elementals from last year’s camp Now they cause less damage, and I wrote a codicil in the rules that when two elementals that are opposite of each other (Fire and Water, etc), they are attracted to each other and will make an effort to move toward each other to cancel each other out. It balanced the big damage the Elementals were doing in previous games.

The game was not quite the bloodbath that it usually is. We had two Wizards who preferred to hang around the edges of the conflict, avoiding conflict and trying to get that PERFECT spell card set.  That’s a mistake in the Magi.  It’s much better to fire off a series of tactical spells (like Missile, or Elementals) than that Finger of Death spell that requires 9 cards.

It was a great game, and we had a lot of laughs.  Here’s a slideshow!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/54189591@N00/tags/magigc14/

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.

ARES #1 has arrived


One Small Step’s KICKSTARTER ARES #1 arrived last night. I really didn’t have time to do a thorough examination of the contents, but it broke down like this:

MOSTLY science fiction short stories and articles. Nicely laid out, perfect bound. Haven’t read anything yet, Hope there’s some talent in the stable.

ARES #1 cover

One gaming insert, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks.  Not much on this yet, either.    It’s hex-based, individual units of the standard Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry mix versus units of Tripods– hard to say what size yet.  Hexagonal counters.  Large hexes. Folded map insert, counter insert.

Cover page of insert game, WAR OF THE WORLDS by Bill Banks

Overall a very nice first effort. They’re really pushing to get a subscription (which is in the neighborhood of a hundred bucks). I may just purchase the next one to see if they can continue to keep up the standard and decide then. I’m a big fan of the idea of a SCIENCE FICTION based magazine with game in every issue, and this is the first one of these since, well, since OSS’s own GAMEFIX was being published (most of their games were SF, near future or just kind of silly).

I’ll try to get some time in to do a solitaire game review of War of the Worlds next week, God Willing and the creeks don’t rise.

Cards against Humanity in Second Life redux


Humans are virtual avatars, the card hand is handled via a HUD (heads up display) that the player can see and the other players cannot.

Humans are virtual avatars, the card hand is handled via a HUD (heads up display) that the player can see and the other players cannot..

You may or may not have played the game CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY.. suffice to say it’s much like APPLES TO APPLES or MAD LIBS but very politically incorrect. One person (the “Czar”) plays a black card, which is the Question, and then the players play the white card as an answer, and the non playing Czar player votes for the best without knowing who played them. Simple game, loads of laughs. The player in SECOND LIFE (a virtual world) sits at a table that offers them a “HUD”, or heads up display, that maintains the hand of white cards for the players, where they can play against the black card. The entire game action takes place in the HUD itself; there is no “in world” element. So players just play their white cards and react accordingly when the Czar votes on their choices. Pretty easy and elegant.. the game play is absurdly simple to execute and all the player has to do is select and vote when its their turn to be Czar. Don’t know who built this, but I’m impressed!