Category Archives: Kickstarter

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.

Chariot Race by Matt Leacock

Okay, so technically speaking this isn’t a Kickstarter Incoming, it’s a Kickstarter Already Here.  Eagle/Gryphon games’ Chariot Race arrived about a week ago, and I’ve assembled it, stared at it on my desk for a week, and finally pulled it out and started playing it tonight. Bottom line up front, the results were pleasing, the game is simple and the mechanics are easy. If the designer, Matt Leacock, rings a bell, that’s understandable. Matt’s other big credit was a little game called PANDEMIC and another game called FORBIDDEN ISLAND. Both of these have sold in respectable numbers (for board games) and have appeared on the shelves of non-traditional retailers such as Target and Barnes & Noble stores in the U.S.

Negotiating the last turn.

Chariot Racing was a Kickstarter project (I backed it!). In terms of mechanics, the game bears a much bigger resemblance to an earlier game of Matt’s called ROLL THRU THE AGES. Both games have big, chunky wooden dice that have icons on them that trigger events that impact the game.  “Roll” was more Yahtzee-like, in that you were tallying goods and innovations on a peg board and scoring sheet to make your civilization grow.  Chariot Race uses similar dice, but the dice represent actions that affect your racing team for that turn only.


The rules are pretty simple, even simpler than Roll Thru the Ages, actually. Every racer keeps track of 3 characteristics in a game: Fate, Damage and Speed. This is done on a card with little pointers on it, like the old Mansions of Madness game (first edition). Speed starts at 4 in the basic game and the chariot sets initial speed higher or lower at start. Fate starts at 3 and go up to 10. Damage starts at 12 for an intact chariot and goes down to 0, at which point you die.

Attacking (Pointing for emphasis– blue attacks red!)

Every turn, the player can turn in 3 points of fate to clean up 3 points of damage for starters, then adjust current speed (not above the damage level) then Rolls dice and moves accordingly. There are five dice with assorted sides– a burst of speed of 2 that damages your chariot for 1, a plus or minus 1 speed for this turn marker, an attack by javelin or caltrop side, an “add one lady luck” to your luck score, and of course, lane changes. If you don’t roll the result, you can’t change a lane. You can, however, reroll by investing two lady luck points per every dice you reroll (which is similar to Roll through the Ages as well). You can see a picture of the dice sides on the Player’s Aid blog post for Chariot Race.  Then you MOVE.. moving in and out (lane changes) incur the same penalties as movement (one box per point of current speed).

This game probably plays best with four, we played this game with two plus an “AI” opponent. We took turns running the purple chariot, which started out as a runaway easy victor, but then he got up to speed ten, negotiated a turn wrong, lost tons of damage points, went over a caltrop (he had no lane changes– the faster you go, the fewer are your options), then his chariot disintegrated in the next turn where he almost lapped us.

So I will probably give the advanced rules a shot, which add some variability to the basic game, which is, well, pretty basic. You roll, you resolve what your speed will be after adjustments, you execute your turn. It’s definitely not Circus Maximus. Nor is it even Ave Caesar.  Chariot Racing is very random and one could point out the decisions needed to affect the outcome are few in number.  However, It is fun, not very complex, and it has a lot of things going for it– it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  You can tell that from the name of the game, which conveys “this is a game about chariot racing. That’s all it’s about, honestly”. The standard elements I love in a chariot game– corner strain, ramming, flipping, etc. are all there in very simplistic form plus you can also drop caltrops and throw javelins.. heck, that should be in EVERY chariot game. I know they are in the one I designed, which you can get an epub of here. So where am I at with Chariot Racing? I’ll play it for a while. I might even buy tiny 10mm chariot miniatures and paint them in team colors, to make it look like a chariot race (I do NOT care for the standup counters for the chariots). There’s something about it that seems so basic, such a Yahtzee like roll and move type game, that I really wonder about Chariot Race’s staying power. This is not in the same league as Pandemic, Forbidden Island or even Roll Through the Ages.. it won’t stay with me and be the stuff of stories.. Or it might be. I’m a natural pessimist, what do I know?

Garrett pulls out a victory after getting ahead of my chariot which was slowing down rapidly from all the damage it took. He, also, was at 2 damage points left when he rounded the last lap, but he had come from behind and not engaged anyone, so he had more points to burn than I did.

In summary, Gar gave me a few audio comments that wraps this one up. If I discover anything more noteworthy about Chariot Racing I will amend accordingly– give it a listen.

Links out to BGG Post for Chariot Racing, and components picture from The Player’s Aid interview with Matt Leacock.


Two Big Kickstarter Projects Bite the Dust

Ending a few months of speculation, events surrounding the fate of All Quiet on the Martian Front have solidified.  The last official announcement from Robot Peanut Studios, aka Architects of War, aka Alien Dungeon, was posted on their Kickstarter site today.  Essentially it confirms what a lot of people were speculating had happened to the troubled game publisher ever since they went incognito at the end of 2015.

Our sales plummeted precipitously in the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2015 and never recovered across our online retail operations as well as hobby shop and distributor sales. We could not maintain our business under these conditions and despite a continuing series of sales and marketing efforts, we have been forced to file for bankruptcy. The case has been filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania at case number 16-20247″

As predicted in Blaine Pardoe’s recent blog post, the models cost more than they projected to produce and they weren’t selling fast enough to generate income to keep the company going.  The operation didn’t have enough volume to keep the revenue stream in the black for any projected future.  Shipping was the other killer– which they were paying or out of pocket.

In other words, the Kickstarters LOOKED successful, but they were losing money on every pledge.  A sad ending for this franchise… which I had bought into but never contributed to the Kickstarter for.   Now I wonder what to do next– gobble up the fire sale Martian stuff or sell off what I have?  Sigh.  It’s the models.  The game itself, although worthy enough, was never a huge draw for me.  The miniatures, however, well, they kicked butt.

Another sad ending was the GOLEM ARCANA project, which announced today that it was ending production.   Golem Arcana was on my radar screen for a while, but I never bit.  This was a game (from the same folks who recently brought us the reprise of Shadowrun on Steam, Harebrained Schemes) that was digitally enhanced to sort of meld real time analog play with an app on Android or Steam that tracked the miniature’s progress in fights and displayed stat changes on the tablet.  Cool concept.

I actually was going to purchase this at Christmas time but got distracted.  Unlike AQMF, I don’t think I’ll be looking for a firesale here, because it requires an app to play, and eventually that app won’t be supported.  Still, I’m sad to see it go.

It’s ridiculous to call these developments a trend, but it is a sad ending for both of these high profile, innovative Kickstarter miniature gaming projects.  AQMF, in particular, really seemed to have potential for me.  I hope there is some form of followup to this from a third party, as has been rumored to be in development.  IF there is a lesson to be gleaned from all of this it would be: Don’t make the mistake of making a Kickstarter profit as a source of funds for operating your company.  Kickstarter is a means of transferring risk from the creator to the public for new products that otherwise might not get made.  So you have to communicate your passion and the virtues of your product to the investors to hope you’ll ever get the next project funded.  If these two Kickstarter fails have a common theme, that would be it– a failure to get sufficient momentum going to create something that could perpetuate itself.  I just don’t know.. it’s awfully easy to Monday morning quarterback something like this, a lot harder to create a working strategy for marketing breakthrough games to a public that might be a little jaded by big fanfare Kickstarter projects.

Kickstarter Incoming: Sultan’s Library

Disclaimer: This is a Kickstarter Incoming post.  That means the game does not exist in final form yet.  Therefore, any comments on design or components will only reflect what I have seen at the time this is written.

Company: Photon Games
Funding Status:
Current Status: “artwork about 50% finished” — from publisher
Launch Date: 02 June 2015
 Publication Date if Funded: January 2016

Today’s Kickstarter Incoming is SULTAN’S LIBRARY, a (mostly) card game design by Ryno Laurens. Players assume the role of an Envoy of the Sultan, sent out by their bibliophile employer to gather certain rare books and return them to his Library. Each envoy (see below) has a special action that is printed on their card. These special actions can be used during Action Rounds during the player’s turn.

Sultan’s library Envoys (From the PNP, may not be final images)

Each turn, a player has two actions for exploring the world and looking for books. Players need to pick up any books they find and bring them back to the Sultan’s Library for scoring. Once any Envoy has deposited 3 books, the remaining players finish out the round.

A turn (which  I think is the same thing as a round, I’m not sure) starts with players drawing 2 cards.  They then take two actions from this list:

  1. Explore the Area: ​You can pay the Explore cost of the Location you are in to look for a Book in that area. Flip over the top card of the Location Deck. If it is a Book, put it in your Location. If its a Location Card, you Travel to that Location. Discard your old Location Card.
  2. Pick Up a Book:​ When you are in the same Location as a Book, you can pick it up. When you pick up a Book, your Character is Holding that Book until you can Deposit it. You can only Hold 2 Books at once.
  3. Deposit a Book:​When you are in the Sultan’s Library, you can Deposit a Book that you are Holding.
  4. Play an Action Card:​You can play any Action Card that you have in your hand.
  5. Perform your Special Action:​You can perform your Envoy’s Special Action as noted on their Character Card.
  6. Travel to a Location:​You can move to any face­up Location by paying 2 more Explore points than is shown on that card. Discard your old Location Card.  Note: Location Cards have special powers that may limit player’s actions (see below).
  7. Scrounge: ​You may spend 2 Actions to draw 1 Card from the Action Deck.

A Location Card (from PNP materials, may not be final)

The turn/round ends when the player scores by placing books in the library.  The player also discards his hand down to 5 cards at this time.

Sample book cards from the PNP materials (may not be final)

I am not clear after reading the rules how the game progresses around the table, or how cards are played against other players, although the text on the card suggests what to do, but not really how.. play it like an interrupt?  Can the target player defend?

Journey Cards (may not be final)

I’m sure that will be clarified somewhere– again, I’m drawing conclusions from a vague description, some youtube videos and the PNP rule book, so I’m not clear on the inter-player dynamics of Sultan’s Library


I like the Arabian Knights style theme; it seems to fit the mechanics reasonably well.  The artwork (what is accomplished so far) is pretty well executed.  I think they are going for “Whimsical” here, and for the most part they achieve it.  The mechanics seem reasonable enough, but I’ve never played it, so I’m not entirely sure– there are elements of interaction that seem missing from the rulebook.  I liked the way the location cards added to the game narrative.    There’s potential here, I sense it.

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.

Ogre Pocket Edition– the 1977 game at a 1977 price!

Back in the day, we played the living hell out of OGRE, the first great microgame from Metagaming (then Steve Jackson Games).   If you’re familiar with OGRE, you already know the scenario– giant cybernetic tank “Goliath” against a small horde of ground unit “Davids”.    As I’ve reported on here (and has been mentioned elsewhere repeatedly), SJG accomplished its famous Kickstarter campaign to produce a giant 100 dollar deluxe version of OGRE.   It’s a beauty, no doubt about it.. but I started my long experience with OGRE playing the old microgame, so I didn’t buy one.  Not sure if I’ll regret that, either…

The POCKET edition.. the old microgame in everything but name!

Anyway, Steve Jackson is now servicing the other end of the market bell curve, e.g., cheapskates like me.  The “Pocket Edition” of OGRE, meaning, the paper version, with counters and map and all, is now available through WAREHOUSE 23 (or at local stores) for.. guess what?  2.95.  That’s 2.95, the SAME PRICE IT SOLD FOR IN 1977.

SJG Product description:

Now Ogre Pocket Edition takes the game back to its roots. A small rulebook, 140 counters, and the same bare-bones map Steve drew himself for the very first printing. And the price is the same as it was in 1977: $2.95. ($2.95 in 1977 dollars translates to be over $10 today when adjusted for inflation; this is Steve’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for your support for Ogre over the last three decades.)

Despite its “pocket” size, Ogre Pocket Edition will have more than enough counters to play all five of the “Ogre vs. Command Post” scenarios. It includes two different conventional forces (a Black force and a White force), with a whopping eight White Howitzers! That’s a whole lot of gameplay for $2.95.

For once, Marketing hyperbole is accurate.  That IS a whole lot of gameplay for 2.95.  Me? I own about 3 versions of OGRE, all of them over 15 years old at least.  But if you’ve never played it and want to introduce them to a great game that could easily tuck into a paperback book as a bookmark, this is the game to purchase.  Link below.

Warehouse 23 – Ogre Pocket Edition.

Why I’m all in for GMT’s TWILIGHT STRUGGLE (Digital Edition)

GMT’s Twilight Struggle boardgame is a great design from GMT Games.  Twilight Struggle focuses on the growth of Superpowers in the wake of the Second World War, and the emergence of modern geopolitical doctrine.  It is an event-driven game, and probably the least warlike war-game I know.  Meaning, yah, it’s a conflict simulation, but the conflict isn’t on a hexagon with a cardboard counter sitting on it.  This has been a favorite for a very long time and a consistently high placing game on the Boardgamegeek top 100.  For years, it was THE top game in the “Hotness”, or the most liked games in the top 100.

GMT was going to make a PC game out of this design and had an outfit gainfully employed working on it for almost two years.  That effort collapsed, as I have posted on elsewhere.  Bravo Zulu to GMT for recognizing they weren’t backing a winner and starting over.

Today, GMT announced a Tablet (Android and IoS) version of Twilight Struggle is in the works.  They are partnering with Playdek, who have brought us some off the best boardgame conversions for the Ipad and Android ever, but they need some seed money.  About 50K.  They are already halfway there, so I have every confidence this project will crowdfund nicely.  Still, if you are interested in supporting the effort and kickstartin’ for your share, here’s the relevant information.  (it went up 10K while I was typing this.  True fact).

Click on JFK to see the video.

CLICK ME TO SEE VIDEO (WordPress doesn’t like the embed tag)

I’m in for a modest amount.  I hope you might consider supporting this, If you like boardgames, you won’t regret it.


I’m sure there are honest Kickstarter promotions..

The thing is, I’m one of those naive UP FRONT backers on Kickstarters. It’s totally on track with that comment about empty promises and lots of G-D D-mned emails. So I don’t want to be cruel or anything, but this is funny!

Ares Magazine Returning: that is, if all goes well…

Remember my uber-enthusiastic “The Return of Ares Magazine.. sort of” post?  Well, this is the follow up.  One Small Step’s crowdfunding campaign that was being planned to relaunch the magazine has commenced. I’m excited about the Bill Banks WAR OF THE WORLDS game. Great topic, considering Alien Dungeon will be releasing something similar as a miniatures game in 2014, it would make a good tie in.

Here’s the pertinent information (source: OSS Press release):



Mission Viejo, California (28 December 2013) – One Small Step Games released a new trailer today in advance of its crowd-sourced funding campaign for Ares Magazine at Kickstarter, which launches next week.

The full-size magazine will publish bi-monthly and each issue will include 80 pages of fiction and other content that will wrap around a pull-out, complete, and ready-to-play board game.

The two-minute trailer not only gives glimpses of what the magazine will look like but also reveals images from the game to be included in the first issue, War of the Worlds by independent game designer Bill Banks (Ancients, Imperator).

The Kickstarter launches on 01 January 2014. The success of the Kickstarter campaign will put the magazine’s production into gear with a target delivery date of 01 May 2014 for the first issue.

More information is available on the Ares Magazine website The new Kickstarter trailer is available here:


One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including Millennium Wars and Politics as Usual. More information is available on the OSS website


Website: Inquires/Press:
Twitter: @AresMagazine
Press Kit:


Trailer 1:

Trailer 2:

Legions of Steel, back from the Past.

I’m familiar with LEGIONS OF STEEL by the Global Games Company. It was published in the early 90s and had a dedicated, almost fanatical following, mostly in Europe, but it was played a lot here in the States, too. My good friend Steve Gibson, routinely runs gigantic Legions of Steel games at the GENCON gaming convention, usually with 20 or more people playing. HERE he is running “Bug Hunt” back in 2009. He considers a flea market trip well spent if he can get his hands on somebody’s old LoS collection. Heck, I even have a copy of the basic blue box set, myself, but never did anything with it.

The “Blue Box”. I have one downstairs in the basement.

The premise of the game is very much similar to SPACE HULK or SPACE CRUSADE. The humans are a squad of super soldiers from “UNE“, a peacekeeping force invading a robotic complex housing the Machines. The Machines have a horde of man-sized robot soldiers to throw at the invading UNE unit called “Fiends”. Like Space Hulk and other tile map games, the humans have imperfect intelligence and don’t really know where the threat is coming from until it shows up. Mechanics were very simple, as I recall, and a lot easier and faster to resolve than the other two Build your Own Space Crawl games. I liked it, but when you have a friend who has a set all painted up and who has spent so much time and energy working on it, one has no resolve to paint his own LoS miniatures. 😀

With that said, I usually don’t do a lot of Kickstart testimonials on this blog. Why not? Because I get a ton of requests and it’s hard to be fair to everyone, even the guy who wanted me to endorse his new poker game on Kickstarter (Hah! Good luck to you, sir!). Stilllll, every now and then I can unbend a little. I got this in the mail from an outfit called “Studio Nyx” recently:

My name is Romain Soulie, I am a video game producer. I just wanted to inform you about the crowdfunding campaign our team will launch tonight. We want to produce the digital adaptation of an old board game licence, and I thought the combination of wargame, miniatures and Kickstarter may catch your interest.

We are adapting Legions of Steel on Android, IOS and PC platforms. This is a miniatures wargame released at the beginning of the 90s, and we believe it would be a great fit on smartphones and tablets. Our version will be a faithful adaptation with an asynchronous multiplayer mode, in a bird-view fashion.

Do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in knowing more about our project. I also invite you to visit our website and social network pages.

(I cut out the flattery bits, I know when I’m being played)

So I visited the Kickstarter page, and I actually like where they are going with this thing. They appear to be making a cross platform release of an arcade game that plays like a Legions of Steel game. With Android and IoS releases. Not bad at all. Honestly, the dungeon crawl style experience rapidly bores me on an Ipad– dunno what it is, but haven’t felt compelled to play Warhammer Quest all the way through to the end, and I”m not sure this game will grab me or not.. but I will probably try it nonetheless.  I like what they are doing with the interface.

Here’s the Kickstarter video:

And the Kickstarter Page itself is here:

If it’s not incredibly exorbitant, I just might give this a try.

Other links:

Legions of Steel Forum

The Goon got Kickstarted! YAY!!

Eric Powell’s THE GOON is a rare treat in life. The adventures of the slab muscled, scar faced Goon and his weasly partner Frankie (aka “knife to the eye!”), and the denizens of Eric Powell’s seedy, down at the heels Gooniverse, replete with armies of zombies, mad scientists, evil cults, and a barkeep that don’t give credit have kept me in stitches for a long time now. There’s been talk of an animated movie for years– but none of the big studios wants to touch an adult themed, violent cartoon right now. Eric Powell went a different direction, and Kickstarted it. I’m impressed with the talent on board already– Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown as voice talent, working below scale, just because they believe in this project.

Sadly, I found out about it way after the fact, while listening to a HOLLYWOOD BABYLON podcast. I’m bummed I didn’t back it, but I’m elated it is going to be animated. Deal me in with gusto! and…

Seriously, I recommend picking up THE GOON graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics straightaway if you are unfamiliar with them. Everyone I have recommended the Goon to has loved it and everyone got hooked. Try it!

IN HER MAJESTY’S NAME.. oh nooo, another project!

I’ve been trying to ratchet back on new periods .. okay, lets’ be honest.. I certainly think ratcheting back on new periods would be a good thing, I guess. It’s hard to achieve that goal lately, with the onrushing cult of the new that affects miniatures as well as boardgames. Latest example: IN HER MAJESTY’S NAME, imminent from Osprey Publishing. This has been a crowd-funded item from NORTHSTAR miniatures, but not, for once, from Kickstarter. In Her Majesty’s Name is a steampunk skirmish miniatures game by Craig Cartmell and Charles Mutton, to be published by Osprey Publishing in their “Little blue line” of odd period rules (I have two, as I have mentioned before– Dux Bellorum and A World Aflame). The descriptive blurb reads as follows:

It is 1895 and the world is in turmoil. In the decades to come, historians will reflect upon the cause of this state of affairs and many will point squarely at Charles Babbage. The perfection of first his Difference Engine, and then his Analytical Engine, gave the new scientific establishment in the Great Powers the tool they had so long needed in order to make a dramatic leap forward. The ability to make huge and repeatable sets of complex calculations revolutionized the world.

Within twenty years came the ‘invention’ of Cavorite, the perfection of miniaturized steam engines, electric light and motors, Radium Bricks, Arc weapons, Hydrogen and Helium Dirigibles, Road Trains, Calculating Artillery Engines, Sea and Land Dreadnoughts – the list is almost endless. Nothing is impossible when the wealth of a Great Power is coupled to the unlimited imagination of educated men of science and their engineers.

The one thing that all these marvellous advances have not brought is peace. Every Great Power has been jostling its neighbours for resources and more importantly, the latest technology. None can afford to stand still and allow its neighbours to advance their science and engineering unmolested. If they do, they risk being overwhelmed as the French were in 1861 by the Prussians’ mobile Calculating Artillery Engines, or as the Union was the year after that, with their ports put to the flame and successfully blockaded by the Confederacy’s Armoured Sea Dreadnoughts.

Some nations have also been tapping into older, more sinister powers, in order to produce an unholy combination of the mystical and the mechanical, such as the Prussian Todt-truppen.

Although there have been relatively few open conflicts between the Great Powers, a state of undeclared and secret war exists between them all. This is where the Adventuring Companies come in. These are the deniable clandestine agents of the Great Powers (and of other globe-spanning organizations). They act in the shadows pitting their skills, their wits and the latest technologies against each other, to obtain the latest scientific formula, artefact or other vital component.

Small groups of highly skilled and specialized operatives are brought together for each mission under the command of a trusted ‘Captain’. In Great Britain they work out of the Explorers’ Club in London. In Prussia their patron is the highly secretive Thule Society. In the USA they are mostly sponsored by the Secret Service. There are similar organizations in each of the Great Powers. They each have the choice of their nation’s latest arms, armour and other equipment with which to perform their missions. — From the North Star Website

If you’ve read any Victorian Science Fiction (especially The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), this is pretty standard stuff. Except this is a skirmish game set in that kind of universe. Not bad! I have traditionally used GASLIGHT or THE RULES WITH NO NAME when I wanted a go-too game for playing VSF battles. The skirmish scale suits me right down to the ground.

The book alone would be pretty interesting in itself (and I admit, I pre-ordered it), but there are all kinds of miniatures being released at the same time as the rules. Hence, the fundraiser. I am very impressed and find myself weakening.

The ranges are:

Lord Curr’s company:

Lord’s Curr’s Company

The Society of Thule:

Society of Thule

The Black Dragon Tong:

Black Dragon Tong

The Servants of Ra:

The Servants of Ra

Scotland Yard:

Scotland yard

An extra figure

Plus, a whole mess of nifty extra figures for different funding levels. This appears to be a common crowd-funding practice, adding incentives and bonus nifty things that the folks with deeper pockets get that the basic donors don’t. I have quite a few steampunk/VSF figures already, mostly from Eureka Miniatures and Old Glory (repurposed for VSF). I hope these match but I’m not concerned if they don’t. They look a tad bulky. The attraction of these rules and these figures is that the game will never require large armies of figures, from what I’m reading. It’s a straight skirmish game with individual figures. That means a low figure count and I won’t be breaking the bank.

What am I interested in buying? Well, all of them, really, but if I had to narrow it down to some good guys and some bad guys, I’d select Scotland Yard for one side (which is a traditional choice, I admit) and for the bad guys I’m conflicted. Prussians make wonderful bad guys, so I’m attracted to the notion of using the Society of Thule, but the Black Dragon Tong look wonderful. So I’m probably going to go with them, maybe supplemented with a few great Rail Wars figures that should match. In order of precedence I’d buy the Tongs first, Thule second, and the Ra Worshipers third. I don’t think one set is made any better than the other, I just am more interested in the Chinese mythology.

Terrain, ideally, should be fairly urban, and that’s always a problem in 28mm, as the bigger buildings take up lots of space on the table. I might be able to resurrect some of my Cow Town buildings but I don’t want to rely on that, they are far too American looking for this setting.

Anyway, I’m impressed. I’ve only purchased the (very reasonable at pre-order prices) rulebook so far on preorder so far and I probably won’t buy them until I finish a couple more projects for this Summer first. Still, this is VERY tempting!!!

Why I’m all in on an Ironclads Helper App

As long term readers will agree with an eye-rolling and a faint “no-duh” faintly escaping their lips, I like miniature wargames. I also like Civil War and later naval games, particularly featuring Ironclads– as in the new class of armored, steam powered ships that changed naval warfare forever during the American Civil War. 1861-1865 was a period of naval change that was no less than revolutionary. In less than a year, the Navy went from a polyglot, all wooden service that still used sail as the primary motive power for vessels to a multi-faceted technologically innovative force, capable of engaging in very modern combined force operations all over the Confederate coastline. As the role of the Navy expanded exponentially, it had to expand its technologies to meet a host of challenges– blockading the sprawling Confederate coastline, intercepting blockade runners. Patrolling rivers in the Western Theater. Bombarding shore positions. Landing Troops. Most importantly, meeting the nascent Confederate Navy on the water wherever it could be found. It was an exciting time in naval history, and I love it.

Naval combat in this age was a risky endeavor. The steam engines of the era were relatively new and almost always underpowered for the iron beasts they were propelling across the water. The ships of the day faced all sorts of perils from all quarters– Wind and rain and sickness and occasionally an enemy ship. The occasions when ships of the two fleets engaged in a shooting contest were relatively rare after 1863, sadly, but always a moment of high drama for both sides. Ironclads, and warships in general, were an expensive, labor and resource intensive item for this time period. Would they smash the enemy? Or would the engine blow up and the bow stave in? Even for the technologically advanced Union Navy, success was not always certain. Things… critical things.. could go wrong or be overlooked, often with disastrous outcomes.

Gaming the naval Civil War can be a ticklish proposition, depending on who your audience is. Do you go for a quick set of rules that emphasize maneuver and contact, like Beer and Pretzels Ironclads? Or something more abstract, like Hammerin’ Iron? Or do you try to get the best historical experience available. For my money, the game that simulated real, actual naval combat better than most others was the original IRONCLADS, by Yaquinto games, published way back in the 80s. This was a game that accounted for all those crazy factors in an ironclad fight– Armor slope and thickness and the position of the ships and the weather and the crew levels… etc., etc. A lot of people agree with me.. IRONCLADS was (and is) maybe the best historical treatment of ship to ship combat during the Civil War, even if it did start life as a boardgame. Converting it to miniatures never was a huge problem– I’ve played many games of Ironclads without hex grids.

The big problem I’ve always had with Ironclads, however, was the multi-stepped combat and the large number of chart lookups just to achieve some positive result. Ironclads can be a slow game– and it’s not a set of game rules I would currently use for a convention game. Why not? Mostly a combat resolution that takes several steps to resolve something simple, like “What happens when I fire my Parrot gun at that Casemate over there?” Most games I’ve played at cons have gone pretty slow as a result of the level of granularity. That’s the price you pay for playing a game with a fair degree of historical accuracy. You young whippersnappers don’t appreciate this at all, I know, but that’s what wargame design was like in the early 80s. Wargames were like fine sippin’ whiskey… you took your time and you savored the experience.

The Ironclad boardgame was in a limbo for a while. It got acquired by Excalibre, a reprint house, and they did an okay job on the components, but not stellar. The rulebook, which was pretty dense in the original, was now twice as dense as it was shrunk down to about 80% of the original size and the fonts were hard to make out (can you tell this is the version I own?). Somewhere along the way, Toby Barrett of Thoroughbred Miniatures picked up the rights to the system from the original designer. If you know anything about 1:600 Ironclad miniatures, you know there’s three main vendors, and Thoroughbred is the best of them, based on detail, casting quality and the depth of the line. (Though to be fair I think Bay Area Yards would be a serious contender if they expanded their selection a bit). Toby appreciates the complexity of the original Ironclads game; a game helper application has been lurking on the back burner for years. With the advent of Ipads, it appears he found the right platform. I agree. That’s why I think I’ll be taking advantage of the Kickstarter going on to make IRONCLADS into a game helper app. I’m not sure where they’re going with the helper app concept..will it play the game from start to finish? Hard to say, but it appears that they are creating something like SHIPBASE III for Ironclads, and that could be very useful for an Ironclads geek like me.

So I’m all in, even though I’ve got a lot of Ironclad minis already. I’ve been running Hammerin’ Iron 2 and BAPS Ironclads at conventions, for the speed, not the depth of the rules. I think it would be really neat to run a game of Ironclads to the finish with just an Ipad and some dice.

Here’s the link to the Kickstarter, Enjoy:

I’m building a Viking Ship tonight.

My son Gar knows better than to ask too many questions.

“Why are we stopping at Staples, Dad?”
“We’re out of glue”
“Why do we need glue?”
“I’m going to build a Viking Ship tonight”

(Gar nods as if this is the most reasonable response in the world)

Last night, I did receive a package from LASER DREAMWORKS, a one man band operation that makes beautiful 28mm ship kits as well as game tokens and other items. Laser Dreamworks appears to be a one man band with a limited line of kits mostly designed for the Age of Sail era (19th century). I spoke with that one man band (Matthew Green) recently and he commented on expanding the line for Greek and Roman galleys, cogs and ironclads.

We are finishing up a few other projects related to our Kickstarter Project that resulted in our new range of cannon. We expect to have all that wrapped up by the end of the year and I will be able to turn my attention back to some new designs.

I have had several folks ask for both galleys and ironclads and tramp steamers seem to be high on the list as well. I would certainly like to get to all of them eventually. I will probably do a galley first, followed by some kind of modification kit that could turn one of my existing sailing ships into a ACW varient. But if you have something specific in mind, please send me photos! I like to do actuall ships rather than just make something up.

If you do facebook, you can follow Laser Dream Works there and get a glimse of what I am up to at any given time.

The ship kit I ordered was the Viking Long Ship, the LDW kit that appears to be easiest, cheapest and least complex.   It was everything that I wanted it to be.

Viking Longship LDW

Assembled and Painted, from the LDW website

The kit is laser cut bass wood, and already punched so there’s nothing to trim with a knife. The parts have an adhesive film on the back of all four sheets to keep everything in place on the template. The kit comes with one sheet of instructions, which is ample for assembling the Viking Long ship.

Using, really, only a few dabs of white PV glue, construction time was less than a half hour all told.  I went from one template sheet (which you can see punched out in the photos below) to a three dimensional Viking Longship in no time flat.

And the finished product is really beautiful.

I’m going to have to stain it at some point, but I just love the simplicity of the ships’ lines at this point.  See below.



Suggestion: Get the small square bases for your 28mm Vikings.  It’s a little tight across the middle.


The kit I received had like two extra prows and a selection of decorated shields. I could go with the plain ones included in the kit (which you see loose in the photos above), or use the ones with the fancy patterns. I’m going with the fancy patterned ones, but I’m holding off gluing them on so I can paint them properly. Likewise I’m not going to mount the mast permanently, it fits in the hole in the bench snugly enough to be detachable for easy stowage. I suggest that anyone buying this keep it in bubble wrap as the for and aft Dragon head and tail look to be kind of fragile when packed. I think the whole ship with masts down could fit into a shoe box with some padding.

At a piddling 20 USD for this kit, I MORE than feel I have my money’s worth. I bought this as a prop for my SAGA and Viking Looters games, but if the guy from LDW is going to make more in this price and complexity range, I may have to come up with a scenario for fighting Longships or something. WHAT A BARGAIN!

So, in the end, yes, I built a Viking Ship in less than an hour. I’m impressed with the work of Laser Dream Works and hope to get more of their ships.

Kickstarter: The Short, Sharp Shock of Reality

By happenstance I came across this great graphic via Mashable yesterday, and it really sang to me.  You’ll have to blow it up to see it all (links to the graphic itself, just click on it).  Why is this interesting?  Kickstarter has become a viable publishing alternative to traditional, professional routes in the last 3 years– especially for niche hobby items like boardgames and computers games (two endeavors that were never anticipated by the founders of Kickstarter, who envisioned it would be an effective way of crowdfunding film, video and book projects).  Nevertheless Kickstarter was something of a success story for two games, ALIEN FRONTIERS (2010)  and OGRE SIX (2012), plus, possibly, some smaller projects like OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT AN AXE IN MY HEAD! (2012).   All of these were funded projects (in OGRE SIX’s case, overfunded by a wide measure).  What isn’t mentioned is just how many of these projects don’t make it, or even come close.  And if they DO make it, how long will it take between funding and delivery?  That’s where this chart comes in.

KICKSTARTER STATISTICS. Click graphic to embiggen. Image copyright Jeanne Pi and Ethan Mahlick 2012

Some interesting reality in that graphic. It derives from Kickstarter’s own statistics (which they are somewhat reticent about revealing, see reference 4 below, in “Related”) and this article.

Interesting factoids to take away: 44% of projects succeed. By inference, that means 56% of them fail. 9 out of 10 failed projects ever reach 30% of their funding goals. 97% of failed projects even make 50%! Only 25% of projects deliver on time. That’s not a rate of return I’d bet my future on, but that’s the beauty of crowdfunding– it’s not your money. From the empirical evidence, the smaller projects with more connected producers are the ones that tend to succeed, which is why we see a lot of board game Kickstarters, I think.


  1. Why Kickstarter is ripe for Scams
  2. Nearly half of all Kickstarter projects fail
  3. Kickstarter Failures revealed!  What can you learn from Kickstarter Failures?
  4. Kickstarter hides failure