Category Archives: Miniatures

Historicon 2018, where all the bodies are buried


Just kidding!  I had to lead with an attention-getter.

Historicon 2018 was last weekend, at the Lancaster Host “resort”, Lancaster, PA. Like all great HMGS conventions, it started with the Mighty Susquehanna.

Once you are across yonder Susquehanna, your path will take you to our favorite shambling wreck, the Lancaster Host. Looking better than ever.

The front of the Lancaster Host. The only way in is the former handicap ramp on the right side, or the Lampeter Room.

That’s an example of your “basic intentional irony”, there. It wasn’t better than ever. I can say the giant piles of slag and rubble which were present at COLD WARS 2018 have been removed.   The giant steel CONEX containers, which took up so many parking spaces at the previous con, were still present.  I’m going to get more in depth about the facility later, so we”ll get to that presently.

Weirdly, I parked in front of the convention the entire time easier than I could behind the convention which is the exact opposite of what is normal.  Given that the room I stayed in was about as far from the front of the show as you can possibly get, it actually would have been easier to park out in the back of beyond.  Go figure.

I’ll get back to the facility in a bit.. for now, onward to the show.   I showed up just in time for the staff briefing and immediately started the brief on learning the registration system.  I actually was assigned to Events and the Help Desk, as it turned out, but it doesn’t hurt to learn things.  As I said back in the Cold Wars 2018 post, the new Registration system (that is, the system to get you into the show, prints tickets and etc) works very well, and might be the best I’ve seen for small events.  What a giant leap forward we have taken here.  If only it was around ten years ago.  Result: More people pre-registering, tiny lines, really fast throughput.  The downside: if a guy shows up to game and pre-registered events, the system will spit out however many tickets he pre-registered for.  If he adds a spouse, it will spit out that same amount of tickets again.  So people were using the tickets to get into events, and “overbooking” them.  I hear they are working on it.

1. Wednesday: Up and Rolling, new EVENTS procedures 

The intention of Wednesday night is to be open in advance of the convention.  So after “class” we ended up building the GM Help and Awards desk, building the pegboard and recording the vast number of cancelled, relocated or changed games on a chart everyone could read.  Our process is changing from having tickets printed by a printer before the convention and spending Wednesday sorting, punching and bundling them for each day days in advance to a process where we print them the night before each day and Events guy sorts and bundles the tickets every night.  I think.

The massive amount of cancelled games by Friday afternoon. We made an effort to reach the GMs who committed to running these games to try to get an explanation for the cancellation.

The equally large number of CHANGED/RELOCATED and ADDED (New) Games. I’ll discuss this below

Like registration, Events Management is an evolving business processes as well, and I welcome these changes. When you start auditing the numbers, HISTORICON experienced a significant percentage loss in events run by cancellation. Roughly 10% of the games scheduled were not run due to cancellations (numbers based on what you see above plus cancellations leading up to convention, after PEL deadline. We kept the numbers. Jody Miller, the convention director, wished to have every GM that cancelled on Historicon to be contacted in some fashion, so we could get some idea why. So if you got called, it was either me or Dan Murawski wondering why we had an empty table with people sitting around it at the show. We also had events guys out on the floor, every time slot where games were running, auditing the tables to see A) if the event was set up, B) How many people showed up to play and C) if the person running it is the same person who is registered to run the event. I’m relatively sure we got a decent sampling of numbers between Thursday and Saturday. Why is HMGS auditing tables? I think we are trying to get a “right size” number for events at conventions. I know that for the first time maybe ever, people were actually getting rejected for running events at HMGS conventions (by people, I mean a friend of mine, Ed Watts, for certain). I don’t know how widespread this was. I do know that the renovations at the Host caused a scarcity of space for HISTORICON 2018; if you check the second picture of two above you will see the rooms that had to be moved around due to the HOST ROOMS being unavailable (among other things). We did attempt to communicate the changes via the whiteboard you see above, as well as the big email Joby Miller sent out Monday, detailing some of the challenges that Historicon 2018 was going to face with the Host, especially since the facility had not bothered to communicate how their construction was going to impact our con in advance. Swell, thanks, Host. Let me reiterate something. NO, the staff of this convention did not have any idea that some of these room changes had taken place until we got there. YES, communication was maintained with the Host in the lead up to the con, and NO, they didn’t mention the changes. So if you have a beef with events, please understand we had to work with the facility we had and had to move mountains to make changes at the last second to accommodate everyone who had been screwed over. I am not part of the HMGS leadership, BoD or even a staff lead, but I was there and observed this myself.

2. Thursday: SOCOM and SORCERY, and other things

So as I had committed to by being a volunteer, I had a long session working the Events Desk on Thursday, which was made somewhat difficult by the slim number of games being left for that day. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear is our new system makes pre-registering for games the true path forward. That means the older method of tickets and peg boards is taking it on the chin these days. I do know we didn’t have a lot of games to start with; after the morning rush we didn’t have much at all.

The peg board at START of Thursday, like maybe 10 AM

After my shift, I was immediately on board to play my first scheduled game of the convention SOCOM AND SORCERY run by Miles Reidy. If you were at COLD WARS you might have noticed the WW2 era prequel to this game, called DAK and DRAGONS. I didn’t play in that one but I did in this one. Hmmm.. what can I say about this game? A coalition force versus an OPFOR force are both trying to capture an evil-ish Egyptologist who has succeeded in summoning ancient Egyptian spirits back from the dead! The Coalition force was US Rangers, US Marines, Brits and I dunno, maybe French? versus an OPFOR of mostly vaguely Afghani types. Along the way, we encountered.. resistance.

Recent aerial reconnaissance has discovered ominous Egyptian
ruins near the head of the Nile River. It must be something big as multiple
teams of crack troops are being dispatched to find out exactly what is going
on. SOCOM and Sorcery is THE definitive historical simulation of modern
squad level tactics vs. the Dark Gods of Egypt. Perhaps you can answer the
age-old question – can a TOW missile take out a Dragon? SOCOM and
Sorcery 2.0 is an improved version of last year’s very popular game and uses
simple homebrew rules. Children are welcome w/ Parent.

One of the Coalition teams takes on a charging hoard of Centaurs and an armored Rhino, straight out of Herculoids.

The Marines player never even moved his troops. Meanwhile, we're killing like champions.

After the mountain range (where you can see I placed a sniper, who came in handy), we encountered a Saurian jungle, replete with dinosaurs. Note the suspicious trap doors. It’s almost as if we are being invited to…

.. an underground lair beneath a pyramid! That’s my Ranger company forming up before breaching the wall.

This lead to a maze of underground chambers, and a big central denouement in the grand chamber.

What can I say about SOCOM AND SORCERY? It was ridiculous, outrageous, ahistorical, fantastical, in your face, transgressive and challenging. In other words, it was tailor made for me. Miles Reidy plays the stereotype of the “historical GM” well and then demolishes it with over the top hilarity. I liked it a lot. Might have been the favorite game I played all weekend. My team came pretty close to winning this thing but one of the OPFOR guys (on a motorcycle. Underground) zoomed in and scooped victory at the last possible second. What a pisser. It was my friend Jeff Wasilewski, though, so that was okay. 🙂

I probably took a gazillion and six pictures of this one, which can be accessed here.

Got finished with SOCOM around 4PMish, and had a couple of choices.  A younger, more energetic me might have scampered down the hill to the dealers area to spend lots of money in the one hour I had available to me.  The older, cynical me with bad knees said “Piss on it.. let’s get something resembling real food for dinner“.. so off to Ruby Tuesdays and their excellent salad bar.

Food.  Let me talk about that.  The food at the Host was simply awful.  Like, the worst in years.  The chow line near the bar was the only one operating in the hotel, and all they could manage was Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and Pulled Pork sandwiches, plus chips and soda, or fries.  The Host explained that their kitchen was severely restricted due to the ongoing renovations.  That’s okay? Well, understandable, I suppose but not really, these renovations seem to just keep on taking forever.  Let me tell you what wasn’t okay.  Right in the middle of the convention, THE HOST RAISES THE PRICES OF FOOD BY ABOUT 50% ON ALL ITEMS.  So not only are we be fed greasy slop, we have to pay half as much again for it.

I’m really, really, getting tired of the Host and their excuses.  I’m not hiding it.  It’s like the new owners are deliberately trying to alienate one of their oldest and dependable customers.  Check that.  It’s not “like” that, it IS that.

After a lovely dinner of mostly-salad-bar, I came back and attended the evening session of the flea market “Wally’s Attic” in this case because it was up in the Showroom.  I found absolutely nothing I was interested in spending money on, but did bump into a lot of old friends and got to shuck and jive and talk HMGS BS.  You know, like we do.

Don Carlucci enticed me to play a fictional naval engagement they had set up on the floor of the stage. I liked the view of the engagement.. the ships are yards away and one guy moves them (in stocking feet). You assume the role of the commander from a distance. The rules were Seekrieg, and played like this:

after five minutes of charts, checking armor plating, distance and penetration factors, with weather and aspect modifiers.. my eyes glazed and a I was fantasizing about rolling a six for close air support:

A little out of period for pre-dreadnoughts but eh, what the heck.

Funny thing, getting old.  I had zero interest in staying up until 3 AM to discuss HMGS politics.  So I sloped off to bedsies.

3. Friday: Events, Presentations and Primal Screaming with Shrek and Donkey

Showed up Friday for an events shift to minor pandemonium.  Friday has (traditionally) more events scheduled than Thursday so we opened early and dealt with rush hour for about a solid hour before it petered out and we once again didn’t have much in the way of tickets left.  The Game Awards/Help desk portion got started and they were sending out GM teams to find the best in each time slot.  I have to tell you, they were pretty strict.
(Godzilla foot)

Once again there the “common terrain table” being lent by the Miniature Building Authority. Nice port setup. I noticed Stan Johansen using it for a moderns game.

The special effects were AMAZING! WTG Stan!

Friday proved to be a day of challenges, big and small.. and smelly.  Since I wore my orange “volunteer” shirt with pride, I was approached by a very upset individual explaining that someone had.. how to put this.. decorated the walls in the bathroom.  With organic material.  Do I have to paint a picture?  Whoever did this certainly had to.

Finger painting! With effluvia! It really happened! Fortunately I was working with a staff lead that could keep her head about things.

Games were really kicking into gear on Friday, which is the most popular day to run events at H’con.

I was going to go to the SPI seminars (shocker, I do attend one or two) being run by our guests of honor, Al Nofi, Jim Dunnigan, Howard Barasch and David Isby. Alas, it was not to be, as Joby required an assist putting together a presentation about the new convention center in downtown Lancaster. More about this later. I did get done in time to visit the exhibitor’s hall for about an hour, and I bought some stuff for Mad Maximillian from Eureka USA and Stan Johansen miniatures.  After a quick dinner at Sonic, I parked (again, in FRONT of the hotel) and went down to the evening game starting at 1900 hours.

Jeff Wasilewski and his son, Nicholas, collaborate on ‘musical wargames’ that are usually held at Historicon.  I have always found them to be a weird gumbo of improv theater, music trivia and primal scream therapy– but don’t let that throw you, they are always entertaining!  The Historicon 18 game was SHREK AND DONKEY INTO THE WOODS– which I think is a reference to the famous Disney movie series and the musical and movie Into the Woods (2014).. which I haven’t seen– so I admit shamefacedly that half of the references were lost on me.  The “hook” of this game is to use a very rudimentary set of skirmish rules married to the very loosest of plot structures, crammed with all sorts of primary and secondary characters from the main musical theme.  I opted for Jack, of Jack and the beanstalk fame, represented on the table by a cute little Victorian tyke.  I had my reasons. If you are a primary “famous” character like Shrek and or Donkey, you had better measure up to expectations musically and with your accents.. I wasn’t sure I could pull of a Scottish Ogre for several hours and the jive-talking donkey didn’t seem like he had a lot to do. Since the only big goal of the game seemed to be defeating the giant (from where I was standing.. i.e., in front of the giant), why not choose a character for which the giant (actually his widow, as turns out) had a particular antipathy for?

There’s Jack about a foot away from the Giant’s right toe. The props in a game like this are amazing.. the Wasilewski team spent many a spirited evening looking for Chinese legs.

Yes, there were plenty Shrek era toys as well. Here we see Cinderella (in blue) whom I allied with early until it became clear our big master plan to trip the giantesses’ feet with Rapunzel’s hair was being duplicated by another, far louder, self-congratulatory set of players. So it goes!

Where did they find all these Shrek toys?

And… finale. Since I had given up on getting in front of the crowd pulling off the caper we had tried with the hair, I opted for my secondary goal, finding “Milky White” and escorting her off board. I admit, I tried to feed the baker’s wife to her, Mason Verger style, because it looked like she was making a play for the cow. Still, all was forgiven after the cow puked her up. So when asked what great achievement I had made to claim victory at the end I did my best Paton Oswalt impression.. Uhhhhhmmm.. found a cow????

Victory in these things usually goes to the person or group who can scream the loudest and has a small modicum of talent in the Euterpian art. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

Personally, Donkey’s player earned it for a spot on Eddie Murphy impression, in my opinion.

Really the point is not to win, exactly, but to try to pull off something outlandish and entertaining, somewhat in the scope of the rather rudimentary rules. This is actually harder than it looks, and requires imagination, improvisation and an encyclopedic knowledge of music trivia.

At end of the evening, I was for early snoozeland again after a Guinness for me parched throat..

Saturday dawned and Joby was once again pushing hard to have the people who had cancelled without notice at least contacted. I called a few myself. Saturday tickets went in the usual point-blimfark as is usually expected. Again I had an evening to game in and a day to kill once I was off shift. Even though the hours are long I had a pretty great crew of volunteers to work with, with senses of humor and a can-do attitude. We were cracking each other up constantly.

As always there was some great games displayed in the passing show.

Age of Reason, by Mike M.

Lace Wars


Hmm.. you know, for a man of the cloth, “The Minister of War” wouldn’t bless my dice while visiting SOCOM and SORCERY. What happened to Faith, Hope and Charity, Father?

I was going to meet my friend Mark for lunch at Red Robin down the street, but he was late so I attended the second day of SPI lectures from the Nofi, Barasch etc. (Dunnigan couldn’t make it). It was all rather entertaining and an eyeful about how difficult retail was back in those days. There were some seriously unprincipled characters running around here and there– not the SPI staff, but some of the people they made deals with later, were pretty sketchy by modern standards.

Here’s a little bit of Al describing the old days.

It was a great addition to the show and I’m glad someone could line this up.

Mark and I got lunch, talked about politics and societal ills, and did hit the vendor hall later. I bought a mix of small stuff- A range of homicidal clowns (why? Why the hell NOT?) Some Frostgrave figures, some books, some terrain. I was pleased I didn’t overdo it. Some vendors had purchased a keg of beer and were sharing, which made the crowd quite mellow and happy

Beer selfie

I was very impressed with that.. just a nice gesture of goodwill.

Oh, I got a ticket for sumptuous feast from the Vista Dining room I had to spend for dinner.  There were people staring at me while I was eating, which was kind of unnerving.

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Beyond the Black River!


Fhrank the Cimmerian hawked and spat, shifting the great weight of his battle axe so he didn’t pitch forward on his face, as he was wont to do when he carried it extended in front of him in rough terrain.  “Hssst” exclaimed Costrano, his limewashed man-bun bobbing just a few feet in front of Fhrank’s line of vision.  “Quiet! These woods are crawling with Picts!”  Fhrank spat again, contemporaneously.  “Bah.  Let them come.  I have yet to see one of these tree-hiding curs put up a decent fight in all the time I’ve put in soldiering.” Costrano’s hawk like visage showed concern as he waved his hand frantically.  “Ssst!  The idea is to inflict surprise, you Cimmerian oaf!  You’re making more noise than a band of Turanian mercenaries on payday!”   Both of them were cut short by the harsh rasp of Subotai, the local squad leader.  “If you gentlemen would be SO kind as to hasten your pace, we are expected in yon stockade at roughly the same time as Captain Conan, not an hour later.  Mind any patroling Picts.” Fhrank winced. “CAPTAIN, now, eh?” he rubbed his chin.  “Someone’s putting on airs.  If there were any Picts patrolling these woods I suspect they would have made their presence known, by now.  We’re safe as houses!

At that exact moment…

A giant Pict, one of the larger, brutish ones, leapt out of the cover of the surrounding greenery, so common in this part of Scotland.  With a snarl, he swung his heavy bent-handled killing maul directly at one of the archers.  Subotai jumped in to go hand to hand in melee with the brute, taking two serious wounds!

SNARRRRRL!!!!

The now suddenly abashed Fhrank let out a classic Cimmerian “By Crom!” and jumped around the engage the Pictish brute, who was busily trying to carve Subotai into chutney. Costrano had a cooler head, and put two arrows neatly into the Pict’s eye, and he dropped, suddenly deader than fried chicken.

At that moment, the inevitable happened..

Fhrank the Cimmerian, seeing his colleague Subotai sore beset, whirled around with his massive battleaxe, ready to shorten a Pict by a foot or so. Alas, the battleaxe was SO absurdly massive the momentum carried him almost completely around, and he feel flat on his face in the mocking Scottish Jungle Mud.

Costrano the Archer winced and shook his head, slowly looking up at the evening sky, as if to beseech a higher power. Then he bent to the task of helping Subotai, who genuinely was in a bad way after the Pict attack.

(and many other fun things happened, too!)

Last Saturday was the monthly meeting of the Second Saturday Scrum club at my friend Joe Procopio’s house.  We generally play skirmish level games that can be played to conclusion in one evening.  I have run Frostgrave for the Scrummers on occasion.  Joe was fine-tuning a game for his HISTORICON event, which will be a two part “Beyond the Black River” scenario set in the Conan story of the same name by Robert E. Howard. The story is set close to the prime of Conan’s life when he’s serving in the Aquilonian army as a Captain of mercenaries. A punative raid over the Black River into the land of the Pictish wilderness (see map) went all pear-shaped.. and now all of the Pictish tribes have risen up and counter-attacked into Aquilonia. The first scenario is a rescue of sorts, trying to recapture some hostages being held at the Pictish stockade in the center of the steamy Scottish (?) jungle *.

We played that one out, with two characters each, an archer and a melee specialist. I picked up a big barbarian looking guy (Fhrank the Cimmerian) and Costrano, the Archer. Since I provided a lot of the archer figures my archer had been a Viking, sporting one of those Viking Man-buns. No matter, I determined that man-buns were the height of Fashion in Brythunia, where I imagined he was from.

Joe used the jaw-breakingly named “Sellswords and Spell-Slingers” rules from Ganesha games. In general, I liked the mechanics, which were easy enough– roll to beat a “danger number” in most cases. HPs for both creatures and characters were quite low and that made some critters horrendously overpowered. I liked that most of the rules that we would be using fit on one card.

One page, basic rules.  We didn’t have to deal with casting magic, actually so it was easy to lay it out on a small card

Joe, being the graphically inclined, creative guy that he is, put in a nice effort in creating story arc driven cards that would evoke the theme and events of the original Robert E. Howard story Beyond the Black River. You can listen to the original here on Librivox, I think it’s one of REH’s better stories.

All the Events, Traps, Characters, Story arcs, Initiative, etc. was handled by small specialized card decks, all created by Joe and using old pulp art as illustration.  Exceedingly well done.

Initiative is handled by number cards. Then the initiative player can roll 1, 2, or 3 20 siders to hit an activation number. If he rolls 10 or more, great, he gets an action for each success. If he fails one, something happens– an event is pulled from the event deck. This could be something as prosaic as Fhrank the Cimmerian tripping over his own two feet (which did happen as depicted above, turn one, right in the middle of another event, an Ambush card) or it could be summoning up a giant evil forest critter, or an Ambush, or more pictish infantry reinforcements. All in all, it’s a pretty elegant, simple system, and though I am no fan of Ganesha’s Song and Blades and Heroes, I did find myself liking this system. The rules evoked the setting perfectly.

Scenario 1 Highlights, “Rescuing the Hostages”

Both Scenarios: Figures were a mish mash of 28mm scale, including some lovely period-evocative fantasy barbarians from Mirilton.. very Conan-like.  I lent Joe some Viking archers to stand in for Picts here and there.

We played all of the first scenario, which ended up with us chasing off Zogar Sag the Pictish wizard who was controlling the giant beasts, rescuing ONE of the hostages, and fleeing as Pictish reinforcement cards kept piling on and on and on. We gave Joe some feedback about that.. if you don’t have enough Pict figures, maybe you need to put a limit on those kind of cards, eh?

So, kind of sort of a victory for Scenario 1. Though, scandalously, Conan (run by my son Garrett) died in that one, so technically he’s not around for Scenario 2. He’s a player character of course, so it was only a flesh wound. Edit: it wasn’t Conan that died, it was his archer companion, who had to be left behind.

Scenario 2 was different and boy did we learn our lessons from Scenario 1. This time we were in the fort on Thunder River (again, read or listen to the story, it’s in public domain and can be found in many places). Our job was to rescue villagers being overwhelmed by Picts coming from the Western edge of the board. THIS time, we kept the archers pretty close to each other, and every band of Picts that ventured out was met with a withering storm of arrows. Or at least a refreshing shower of them. Archers are the real killers in this scenario and the melee guys can be useful but are better when they are supported. I had the only archer that could actually heal people (Costrano), so he was doubly useful.

A little bit of Scenario 2 action (we had to call it at 1030 PM)

The Melee fighters sprint towards the villagers to help them escape the Pictish wave.

We didn’t have time to conclude Scenario 2, but I think we did better overall than we did for Scenario 1– we kept together more and supported movement and avoided ambushes.

SO that was my evening struggling with those dangerous Picts in ancient Scotland. Joe got some good feedback to tweak his Historicon scenario, and we had a great time indulging in old-school fantasy barbarian mayhem. I liked the rule set, which isn’t a brain bender by any means. It plays clean and quick and was useful for evoking the setting for a Conan-themed game. I look forward to using it again, and to Historicon.

All the pictures I took (and borrowed from Facebook) on Flickr

* A note about all the Scottish jokes.  “Picts”, as any student of ancient and medieval history knows, were one of the native peoples of the island that would become Britain, particularly in the Scottish area.  For some odd reason Picts show up in a lot of REH’s work– I think he must have had a fondness for them.

Cold Wars 2018, fighting in the rubble of the Host


So another Cold Wars has come and gone, and 2018’s is in the rear view mirror. I left Friday morning and arrived at the Host around 2, which is puzzling, since I stopped nowhere.  As always, the rituals and observations must be strictly observed:

the mighty.

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I’m going to gush here, so even though I suspect she’s heard it before, I’m going to say it now and say it loud: Congratulations to Paul Trani and Heather Blush for solving our registration throughput problems.  Take it from me, who is not often complimentary.  I pre-registered, for the first time EVER, for a convention.   I walked in what I think will be the new lobby (where the front half of the Limerock room was), walked over to one of three kiosks, entered my name, and hit a PRINT BADGE button.  Literally I was in Cold Wars in a shorter period of time than it takes to type this sentence.  That’s real progress and it solves real problems.

I’ll have some observations about other Cold Wars procedural issues later on in this ramble, but I’ll go through my own narrative first.

Friday Highlights

I arrived later than I would have liked but it wasn’t too late to not nose around a bit.  My most immediate scheduled activity was a painting class taught by Dorothy Catapano.  I’m SO glad I took this.  I am gradually building up a force of 54mm Napoleonic figures for my own purposes and Dorothy was teaching a class on painting large scale figures.  I’m an indifferent to competent painter usually, but I learned quite a bit in this two part course.

It may not seem like it from this photo but we made some progress!!

I took a quick (well, not that quick, due to its location) pass at the Dealer’s Hall Friday afternoon, not buying anything memorable.  Since the new layout of the old Tennis Barn facility is radically redone, there is no ramp at the balcony end any more, so it was a long weary trudge down to and back up from the Exhibitor’s Area.

The new layout for the Tennis Barn.  The balcony end is on the right in this picture and is now sealed off.  The building can be entered at the far end (left, above).  So quite a walk now..

I’m certainly hoping that eventually there will be a parking lot down here.  Just saying.  Walking DOWNhill was no problem but I saw more than one oldster with the same kind of arthritic knees I have looking at the walk back UPhill with some dismay.

Hungarian shoes 20% off today, comrade!

I really regretted giving up my parking sport, which by Cold Wars past standards, was terrible.  By 2018 standards, I was lucky to find anything at all.  I had to register for my hotel, though, and grab a quick bite.  It all took too long, and I ended up getting back well after the 7pm start time for my Friday night game.  I walked in to see a line forming on the stairs up to the Showroom, and like any good Soviet from the 70s, I simply got in line.  “Psst.. what are we in line for?”  “Night time flea market.” “Whaaaat?  That’s crazy talk!”.

No, no it wasn’t. Due to half of the Lampeter being used up, we had to use the showroom for the Wally’s Basement flea market. Tsk tsk..

Here’s a first: Flea Market at night. #coldwars2018

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The move to the showroom was driven by a lack of suitable alternatives, but it wasn’t a particularly good replacement.  Lighting is so terrible in the showroom that I often saw people using their phones as flashlights to view items better.  I found exactly nothing I wanted and didn’t have the patience to give it another pass through.  I was getting a headache from all that squinting I was doing.

Fortunately I had an alternative to the game I missed.  As in Alternative Armies.. Flintloque.  GM Mark Fastosio has adapted Flintloque figures to run using Osprey’s Dragon Rampant rules.  The scenario was complex but the execution simple enough.  If you’ve read the Sharpe’s Rifles series, you’ll probably recognize the players well enough.  The French (elves) are bringing an artillery train through a small valley that has two passes to get into it and a series of flat hills around it.  There are a few stands of trees here and there for cover, but otherwise this is a bleak landscape.  Sharke’s chosen Orcs start the game in a copse of trees in the center, and they react accordingly when the main force deploys coming down both sides of the hill into the valley.

Sharke’s Chosen Orcs at start

As soon as the French committed to a course of action, so did Sharke, running for the high ground between the two advancing columns. Probably a mistake. Ya think? Well, they did kill like champions, for a while.

Whoah!  Lookit all dem Frenchies!!

Vive La Toadies!

Um.. we’re supposed to stop that, si?

I played Major Blas Vivar (from one of the Novels).  Well, not him, but his little brother, who is kind of identical sort of.  I called him Little Joey Vivar.  The Vivar brothers are Spanish (e.g. Dark Elves) military officers in charge of small detachments of infantry and guerillas.  We bravely advanced towards the enemy and then discovered the unique quality of Dark Elves– they suck as soldiers.  On both flanks, we were decimated in any standup fight (or really any fight).  We tried our best, but Dark Elves tend to scamper and dissolve in a fight.  What we did have were wizards, three left.  I did manage to cause a few retreats (at least) and a few casualties on the French side using Lightning Bolt spells.

Run for the hills, boys, we’re completely boned!

I like Dragon Rampant as a rules system; I have never played the core Flintloque rules to compare it to but Mark thinks it’s a great improvement, so I believe him.  I had a great time, even if we were “ahem” underperforming somewhat.  Numbers tell in a situation like this, and the Frenchies had them and we didn’t.  So it goes.  Note: I took many pictures of this game but didn’t post them all, you can see more by viewing this Flickr Slideshow.

A few choice observations on the long, long FREEZING walk to my car at 1 in the morning:

(I was staying at the Quality Inn down the road, a nice enough place, old and worn but clean enough and affordable– and free breakfast).

Saturday observations

I had an early start game on Saturday.  This was Buck Surdu’s game called Duke Morrison and the Great Zeppelin Raid at 0900.  The description had two winning features for me– zeppelins and GASLIGHT.  GASLIGHT is a venerable skirmish wargaming system written by Surdu and Chris Palmer.  In a nutshell, it supports game narratives on a smaller scale, mostly pulp and VSF, without a lot of hard statistics.  The player plays the part of a “lead” or hero in a cinematic style game, plus usually a sidekick and/or assistant leader, and the rest of your faction/group are (ahem) straight from central casting as spear carriers.  Easy cannon fodder.  Your core character can do a lot, your secondary character almost as much, but the rest of the mob are a mixed bag.

The Setting

The setting was fabulous.  This was a laser cut kit of a rigid airship that was sold for a brief time about two years ago– not for cheap, either.  I was impressed, it’s lovely to look at and a great setting that supports the three dimensional aspect of a skirmish game– lots of great places to run, jump, duck for cover, and leap down from above.    The setup was a standard multifactional game, Nazis and Gangsters versus rocketeers, sailors, scientists and beat cops.  You know, like they do.  I played the Nazi She-wolves of the SS, Zeppelin Truppen, and the real hero of the game, Carl “Slasher” Dooley, the one man murder machine, who eschewed firearms for a straight razor to cut elaborate scrolled “S’s” in his victim’s sternums.   Carl bravely fought against the forces of militarism, slicing three sailors and an NCO into chutney without firing a shot.

My Nazi She-wolves, with apologies to Ms. Doris Wishman

The end of the scientist

The main deck became a charnel house of DEATH!!!!

To keep this post moving along, suffice to say that many parties boarded or attempt to board the zeppelin with the intention of collecting various macguffins to claim victory with, before the auto timer went off and the boarding shuttle full of loot descended on autopilot.  My Zeppelin Truppen died off to a man pretty early, but the thugs under Slasher Dolan performed very well, nabbing a mcguffin (the only “bad guys” to keep one all game) and moving it to a part of the ship where it would be difficult to retrieve.  Slasher proved to be exceptional as a scrapper– until he met his demise in a fusilade of bullets.  The only somewhat intact group I had left were the she-wolves, who approached under cover as much as they could, springing on the aircar at the last possible second and going hand to hand in the last possible second.  A big fight ensued, leaving the last of my she-wolves dead as well as my gangster second in command, Dewey Oxburger.  However, the “good” guys were down to their last man.  My two last goons (from central casting) sauntered over, looked over the parapet and fired a single shot each below at the last guy in the aircar, neatly putting one through his eyes.  So in the last possible second, the good guys experienced a huge reversal and we won.  These are the situations I game for.  We all laughed loud and long at that outcome.  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

I took a huge amount of pictures (some of them might be repeats) which you can see here in this Flickr Slideshow.  However, you might wish to Check out this Slideshow for the REAL TRUTH.

Directly after the game I had session 2 of large figures to finish up with, and then I was free for the rest of the convention.  I did some desultory shopping but found some things I needed.. mostly little scenery bits and bobs, some Frostgrave figs, some terrain and a couple more nautical things from Sea Dog Studios.  I went back to the room for a bit– mostly to get late lunch or early dinner– I was kind of on a one meal a day regime here at the con, so kind of hungry at this point.

Honestly, I meant to get back to the convention that night and weasel into another game, I really did.  Nancy Ott was running one that I wanted to get into, but frankly, I just didn’t want to hassle with the parking.  There was so little of it available that no matter what you did you ended up walking a long, LONG way in the cold wind, and that was starting to bother my knees.  So I puttered about with some new purchases in the room and watched a new series on Netflix instead.

Now, that’s the meat of the convention, right there, here’s the logistics part.  I want to state this categorically– I had a decent, not great time, and it wasn’t remotely the fault of HMGS, the planning, or even the execution.  The Host did its best, but this was not a hotel that I consider ready for OUR convention.  For once, when they said “We’re sinking money into improvements“, they really meant that.  It’s very clear they are doing.. just that.  BUT they are also trying to make a buck and operate at the same time, while renovating, and that has an impact on a convention of a certain size.  Here’s what I had a problem with:

      1. The parking was miserable.. much worse than the worst it’s been.  Why?  Because most of the spots were taken up by rollaway dumpsters, parked construction equipment and CONEX containers.
      2. It was nice to experience the Host’s new fitness plan for all us aging, overweight gamers by forcing us to go up and down the hill to the far side of the tennis barn, but that kind of limited me to only two real visits.. (see above for pictures).   I wouldn’t mind making the same trip when it was just a smidge warmer.
      3. Man, rubble was everywhere, in giant slag heaps.  This wasn’t too awful but it contributed to the tight parking problem and general feeling like we were now in a game of FALLOUT set in the ruins of the Lancaster Host….
      4. Lastly, the flea market, which is a huge attraction, is almost unworkable in the space we had available to us.  I couldn’t see a thing for sale unless I had a flashlight.  No, I’m not kidding– I really didn’t want to go bother going back to any additional sessions.

     

I want to make this very clear– everything that caused a problem, WAS NOT THE FAULT OF THE BOD, CONVENTION PLANNERS, or HMGS.  The Host is going through some badly needed renovation.  We all knew this was needed.  The floor plans have changed radically in places– it appears the new lobby may be in the tournament area and the business area (near the Paradise Room) is now walled off for some reason.  That’s just two things, there are more.   So we may need to suck it up, buttercup for a convention or two.  Given what they had to work with, I am very impressed with the job Heather and company have managed.  The registration system is incredibly great.  The money spent on banners and signs and dividers– which members used to scoff at, contributed to organization and flow.  The staff was its usually courteous and helpful self.  In general, I liked the convention.  I didn’t see a huge amount of games that interested me personally, but I did see some– there was just a lot of same-old, same-old about it all.

I’ll close here with a deep appreciation of the Sissyphian efforts put in by this convention staff.  They did a great job and should be appreciated for it.  I hope conditions at the Host continue to improve over the Summer so Historicon executes with no hiccups.

(note: I didnt’ take the normal catalogue of games in progress pictures, as I’m guessing that kind of thing is getting stale.  I did take some of the games I was in and the facilities and such.. which can be viewed here on Flickr).

John Carter Kickstarter from Modiphius


Modiphius Entertainment is a company I don’t know much about, to be honest.  After a little research I’ve discovered they were behind the successful Age of Conan kickstarter that I kick myself for not being part of.  I guess I’m not a boardgame hipster these days, I’m out of the loop!   They are also behind a series of recent reprises of the Mutant Chronicles, Fallout, and Star Trek boardgame licenses as well as a distinct Conan RPG line.  These accomplishments may mean little to you if you aren’t a fanboy of these franchises, but I have nothin’ but respect for managing to snare so many great intellectual property licenses for boardgame conversions.  Bravo, Modiphius.  The best part? Even if you have no intention of playing the boardgames, if you like skirmish games each game comes chock full of heroic scale miniatures.  Not bad.

One of the largest pledge levels is almost 400 USD. I’m just going to gulp and let them one pass by.

Which brings me to.. JOHN CARTER.  Now, if you’re a regular reader you probably already know I’m a big fan of things Barsoomian.   As my big cheerleading review of the 2012 movie indicates, I was on board for seeing Edgar Rice Burroughs on the silver screen.  I’d totally love playing miniatures games in the Barsoomian universe.  Which is fortunate, since the new John Carter Kickstarter from Modiphius is going to inundate us with what is clearly John Carter (movie) inspired minis.  This kickstarter is being presented as a roleplaying game– not a boardgame with vignettes like Conan or a skirmish game like Mutant Citadel.  That might be appropriate– I could see it as a small scale skirmish game OR a big mass troops miniature wargame on a grand tactical scale (but probably at 15mm or smaller).  It’s been done before.

The miniatures displayed all appear to be strongly influenced by the 2012 movie, and I suspect the deal Modiphius made was with Disney, not the Burroughs estate. Certainly many of the figures look very close to the movie cast with some exceptions. I have no real issue with this; with the glaring exception of the leading man, I had no problems with the Disney movie visuals. They will look spectacular on a table, all painted up. Right now, like a lot of kickstarters that display primarily 3D renderings as the art, it’s hard to get a feel for what these figures are going to be like. There’s a lot of them, to be sure. I hope this series takes off and they introduce the many species from the books that aren’t represented here, like the Yellow Men of Mars, the Thurns, and the Chessmen.

Good God almighty, almost 700 bucks to realize everything in the roleplaying game, all the books and all the figures.. GULP. (squeaky voice) “that’s eh.. quite an investment”..

I love the idea of this, love the sculpts (and don’t lecture me that they aren’t canonical, okay?  I don’t WANT to play with nude Barsoomians, alright?).  Like a lot of headlong jumps into Kickstarter land, I’ve learned to be cautious about committing this much cash up front..  So I may end up being an enthusiastic cheerleader from the sides, cheering on the guy who actually bought all this stuff and playing games when he or she runs it, yeah, that’s the ticket.

I have too many projects already, dammit.  Keep saying that…

 

Golem Night (Frostgrave at Scrummers)


Saturday night (just past) was the Second Saturday of the month and therefore, a Second Saturday Scrum night. I was asked by the regular gang last month to put together a Frostgrave game for the upcoming session. I have a decent amount of Frostgrave stuff, having run the game for the past three years at Game Camp, and I thought I could come up with something. 🙂 Having only a very limited knowledge of Ghost Archipelago and almost none of the right terrain for it, I opted to stick with the familiar and created an entry level scenario for old fashioned, Frozen-City-of-Felsted Frostgrave.

Felsted in all its frozen glory…

Frostgrave Figures I have plenty of– almost one each of Northstar’s initial run of Wizards and Apprentices (except Witches, I believe). I also have a healthy amount of supporting cast players, goons, soldiers and warband fodder. I usually bring a box or two of Saxons and Vikings to backfill any Soldiers and Goons.

Warbands and Wizards: We had six players.  I created 6 warbands in advance in case anyone there didn’t want to go to the bother of creating one.  I made a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, an Enchanter, a Necromancer, a Summoner and an Illusionist.  There were two level 3s and 4 level 2 wizards.   I created them using Ash’s Warband Manager on table top space.  I love the utility as it prints up some nice warband sheets and does most of the mental work for you.  Unfortunately it also has lot of options to add stuff from ALL of the supplements that have been published so far, so I ended up blithely adding Javelineers and Crow Masters without really knowing what they do or having any reference to them– I just thought they would be cooler than the standards thugs, thieves and archers everyone uses their first time.

Summoner and goon approach the ruins of Felsted with caution…  Photo by Joe

So it probably would have behooved me to at least download the myriad PDF materials I have purchased as supporting material for Frostgrave to my tablet reader  that explains all the new stuff.  As a backup… Live and learn.

Rival treasure seekers square off in the ruins..  Photo by Joe

Frostgrave is probably optimized for four players maximum because it actually plays better in a small space.  When you have lot of space on either side, the players tend to not get to grips with the opposing players and instead run in, grab treasure and exit immediately.  One of my frequent opponents gears his warbands specifically for what I call “the smash and grab” approach– lots of spells that move players and treasure quickly and efficiently to the board edges, and not much else.  That’s definitely an approach, but not one I relish.  I like mixing it up with other players.  So that’s why I created.. GOLEM NIGHT.  I came up with 1 major victory goal for each player– which I called “Cheap plot devices” during the game.  Most of the action was centered around artificial constructs (aka, Golems) and I had a goal for a Clay Golem (who has a magical strip of bark rooted on its back that could be used for healing) two goals were for an Iron Golem (one was to collect its head, another to collect a wand it was carrying).  A (rather disgusting looking) Flesh golem had a famous anti-command dagger stuck in its side.  Another was a giant Stone Golem which was just there to confuse people.  I also added 2 smaller quests about drinking the waters from the Amphora of Wisdom and three books and three keys, but that really didn’t get anywhere.

The Enchanter Party, using one of the new supporting characters (Pack Mule), managed to make it to the center rubble pile in the circle, before retreating to board edge.

The cast of characters included Joe Procopio (our host), Jared Smith, new guy Rich McKee, John Sears, and Garrett O’Hara. I played to balance the numbers a little, but kind of went easy on the goals and victory conditions because.. erm.. I knew them in advance. As it turned out the cheap plot devices didn’t really pan out well– nobody accomplished their goals except me– I drew the Dagger of Chaos (stuck in the Flesh Golem). Garrett and Rich actually killed the Golem and I bribed Garrett for the dagger from my store of money. So, ironically, I was the guy who achieved his victory conditions, by bribery– not valor.

Here comes a Flesh Golem!  What’s that stuck in his side?

Mostly we collect Victory Points by counting treasure points and adding spells cast and opponents slain. Since we played one side of the table, roughly one group of allied Wizard schools against the other group, I can state categorically that the other side won on points. However, we did outright KILL two of their Apprentices, which is nothing to sneeze at. Our problem was that the treasure just wasn’t abundant on our side of the board.

FREE AT LAST!! AFTER 1000 YEARRRRRSS!  (there were some genuinely comedic moments, as we see here when Garrett’s party had an unexpected and nearly fatal surprise).

So all told I’d say this was a great night, even if it didn’t unfold quite as I had planned. Since I tend to be a tough self-critic I’ll say this– I didn’t give the guys the option to create their own warband, and probably should have– I just think it’s a time-waster. Secondly, some wizards (like my own) had very few spells that worked offensively (e.g. had the power to cause another person or group harm). I was in a hurry when I created the warbands and probably should have seen this problem coming. Live and learn. Also I probably should check to see if flunkies are described in the core rulebook before adding them to warbands. I thought it played reasonably well once we got started and created a lot of potential for laughs. Thanks go out to Joe P. as usual for providing a nice location for our evening entertainment.

You cannot defeat this foe!  Photo by Joe

HERE is my Flickr album of pictures from the game, mostly taken with a Samsung, but some taken by Joe and Jason and posted to Facebook.   Since I was organizing this game I didn’t take all that many.  HOWEVER!  Please visit Joe’s SSSC Blog for his report on the event, complete with lots of lovely pictures taken by Joe’s wife Ellen.  I love the filter she used to sort of give each picture a crispy, just-snowed atmosphere.

parts of My warband– an Elementalist and his apprentice, whom the warband manager called “Elizabeth”, so what the heck, I made her a female from my Viking victims.  (photo by Ellen P)

Just a couple of the golems queuing up for GOLEM NIGHT.  Photo Ellen P.

I had a great time as usual, this is a great group for Frostgrave!

Embarrassing Design Relics you can’t explain


What where these?

A long time back (about 14 years ago) I ran a game called Sergeant Slaughter in Bun Bun land.  The game puts players in the role of not-so-elite space patrolmen, all kitted out for a hard fight, encountering and pursuing a group of Alien terrorists called the Vilssh.  The game starts with the Vilssh exiting a scene of recant carnage via a form of extra-dimensional gate; as the space patrol squad pursues them down a corridor, the Vilssh phase out as the space station they are on starts to shift out of reality.  with nothing left to try the space patrol pursues them through the malfunctioning gate, and they all get sucked into … something different.  It’s not important what.. what is important for this post is that I developed a sort of whimsical set of science fiction tactical rules to play a game with (I had the concept long before the rules). I remember almost nothing about “Quien es mas macho” and how it was played. I recall it had special cards I used for everything and a couple of dredel-like tops that were used as randomizers. Oh, and I gave everyone rabbit’s feet. I think it was a pretty standard bucket of dice kind of thing, but I can’t say for sure– I wrote them up in a day and never edited them. There is no surviving copy I could find, even on paper. As I was rooting out my cellar after the tree disaster, i started throwing out some older boxes of junk and bingo, there was the box for Sergeant Slaughter.  I pitched the dollar store rabbits and cutesy dollar store terrain stuff, but kept the human figures.  And these cards.

A sampling of cards.

As I recall (I found the little tops too) there was a colored font on the labels on tops, with initials like “AD” “AR” etc. Given that a preponderance of the cards are like the one in the center, my guess is this was some form of activation and combat card rolled into one– and the combat system might have been run from the combination of cards in your hand and the little top results. Just how I did that is lost to time– I have no digital copy of the SF rules (called Quien es mas macho) and I know they were supposed to be jokey and cinematic. I find myself liking the flavor text on the random events cards, too. Why not? I wrote them, of course.

Cards and tops.. hmmm.. sure it’s silly, but how did I ever think that would catch on? It’s slow and clumsy at best.

Going through the deck and with the tops in hand, I’m trying to resurrect this system in my head. Since the only outcome of the randomizer (tops) was a series of Combat results-style initials (I’m reading AR as Attacker Retreats, AD as Attacker Defends, etc.) I remember my mindset back in the day.Each regular card has a range of actions (usually 3) to pick from.  So that tells me there was a set order of actions– Fight, Fight (Melee) Full Auto Fire, Move Full.. all these are fairly evident at the bottom of the card.  So the card gives a list of possible things to do in a turn, the top a series of initials, and the numbers a range of something.  Maybe there was a threshold somewhere.. printed out.. and these were numbers to beat in certain situations.  This raises all kinds of questions.  How long would executing a turn actually take, given that you have to select a card, check out the possible actions, and then threshold number in approrpriate font, and roll a little top an wait for it to stop.  THEN read the two letter result and see what he actually could do.

It all seems kind of slow and like it’s trying too hard to be clever.  I wouldn’t design something like this today, although I still love cards and odd randomizers (like tops?) to play with.  If you can come up with a better explanation for how all this came together, I’m all ears.  Unfortunately the only person who was definitely there and might have remembered how this all came together as a game tragically took his own life last year, so I’m just going to keep guessing.  I’m not going to throw this stuff away quite yet, but I doubt I’d use them as *I think* they were originally designed.  Spinning tops and cards are cool– but the way I think they were designed to work seems way too slow to be fun.

Mega Space Hulk, it’s a thing


So Garrett and I had opportunity to attend our second Second Saturday Scrum Club adventure, which is a rather high-falutin’ term for a bunch of older guys (and Gar) sitting around and jawing about games and stuff while we try the latest Miniatures concept.

The concept for this session was a brainstorm between Joe and Jared.  Both of them had fond memories of playing Space Hulk, the eponymous Aliens clone game from Games Workshop when they were much younger.  Read about the history and concept of the game in this great blog post, the author does the subject justice. My experience was minimal– I played one time (back in the 90s, probably with the second edition) and I remember it being very, very deadly for the Space Marines. Guess what? That memory’s pretty accurate! I was game to give it another shot, of course, and even own my own set from the the third edition that got published sometime in the 2000s.

The pile of expended “activation blip” tokens for the Gene-Stealers grew and grew as we cleansed the ship of their foul abomination.  Twas a long bloody event indeed!

So what makes our session particularly interesting is that most people play this game with one boxed set’s worth of materials, which really only supports two players (three or four if you split your forces, I guess, but it’s not really designed for multiplayer). Since six dudes on average show up for Scrummers, how to play a mega game with multiple players? As it turns out, easily, but you have to combine a lot of Space Hulk sets. I’m certain there were at least three present, although we played with a combination of old and new miniatures. Jared did most of the construction on the resulting very large map.

Giant map of 3 of the later vintage Space Hulk tiles, as designed by Jared Smith.  red dots are doors.  Triangles are entry points for Gene Stealers.  Green is the far edge where half our force started.  Photo from Joe Procopio’s blog post

As you can see, three sets makes a giant honkin’ layout indeed.

Final layout.  That’s Steve “Mr. Tekumel” Braun on the top right there.  Photo: Joe Procopio’s blog

Game play was pretty fast, and deadly chaotic.

Gar and I were on opposite ends of the Ship. Gar was near the insertion point of the landing torpedo. I was across the ship from him. Our goal was to support each other, claim a few victory points, and then bug out when the things started to get all twisty. To quote Luke Skywalker, “Things didn’t go as planned”.

Space Hulk is very deadly.. genestealers can spawn almost everywhere and even with the Blip Token mechanic, they come out of nowhere and just won’t stop.

Each squad/figure had 4 Action Points (APs) a turn, plus an additional 1-6 Aps per sergeant figure, per turn.  Entering  a room triggers an event from either “inner” or “outer” room decks.  VPs per objects found and there were two special VP events– finding the Chapter Librarian and extracting the genetic code of the dead Captain figure.

So the game cards try to funnel you to the center rooms. We discovered the Dead captain figure pretty early in the game. Unfortunately, he was in a room off of a single corridor with TWO Genestealer entry points, feeding right into the corridor. Having this down by MY end it was evident that I should make a big effort to rescue the captain’s genetic code. Unfortunately, all I could manage was to get slaughtered. My priest, whose job it is to extract genetic codes, got swarmed and killed in an eyeblink. It’s awfully easy to die in this game.

There’s the captain.. in a room right next to TWO genestealer entry points.  We got chopped into chutney trying to achieve the victory condition of extracting the Captain’s genetic code.

Fortunately things were going better a the far end of the board, where, despite bumping into just as many Genestealers, they did find and rescue the Librarian, they found some nice loot and a Chaos Marine!

This actually worked out well (initially) for our side, as the Chaos Marine popped in to a room full of Gene Stealers, and just fired away at the NEAREST TARGET..

Alas for us, an urgent message from home informed us that Audrey (my beloved) was locked out of the house, and we had to cut the evening short. At that point I was down to two functioning marines (both of them schlubs) and Garrett down to three. As we drove home, Garrett was ecstatic about how much fun the evening was– “What was that game called again, Dad?” “Space Hulk, it’s an oldie but a goodie..” “Space Hulk, huh? Who made that again?” (shaking head in disbelief, kids these days). “That would be GAMES WORKSHOP, son.” “Wow, man, we have to try more games like that.. Games workshop…

Oy!

Anyway, a big thanks to JOE PROCOPIO, once again our most excellent host, and everyone who attended– it’s not the game so much as the company, really (okay, the game helps too)– This is kind of a new experiment with getting some like-minded players together “of a certain age” and it really is a lot of fun for me. Surprisingly, Garrett is enjoying it as well, and he’s a youngster. Joe blogs about every event, like I do, and waxes far more eloquent than your humble servant.  Here is his latest blog post on the Space Hulk Mega Game.

My pictures can be found on the Flickr account here.  And who knows, maybe this slideshow thing will work this time (it requires Flash).

Thanks again to Joe and Jared for putting together this awesome layout and playing the Genestealer faction.

Kickstarter OGRE miniatures set one arriving


I’m happy to report that the Kickstarter package I backed, OGRE MINIATURES SET ONE, has arrived at the Casa, and it is everything I expected and more.

I backed this Kickstarter out of a desire to see Ogre miniatures back in production, even if for a limited amount of time.  I personally like this version of Steve Jackson’s OGRE far more in miniature form than in board game form.  OGRE Miniatures, the base game associated with the old metal miniatures, is without a doubt a workmanlike approach to the subject of a giant Cybertank being harassed by many flea-like smaller attackers. The OM rules reflect the board game OGRE origins very well, and are certainly easy, but not that sophisticated, either. I have used (older, metal) Ogre Miniatures with GZG’s Dirtside in the past and it works just fine. The important thing is to have the miniatures! That’s why I’ve purchased two sets with the recent SJG kickstarter– one with Blue Ogres and red small units and one colored in reverse.

The basic boxed set comes with 40 minis.. no, that’s not a typo or exaggeration.

The miniatures are plastic, the hard kind that uses Testor’s glue to assemble.  You’ll need an exacto to trim the smaller bits off the sprue and you’ll probably want to soak the finished models in soapy water to remove any trace mold release from the finished model before painting.  I think plastic is a good thing; the original, long out of print metal miniatures were not exactly cheap even in 1992.  With this kickstarter you get a ton of models, in just about the same scale, with just about the same amount of detail as the metal models.  It’s a win-win.

Large Red Ogre, a Mark III and a Mark V come in the box

For some reason Steve Jackson Games seems to think the color of the plastic is important. Thus it Kickstarted a basic red OGRE with blue small units set or the reverse, blue OGRE with red units. The red Ogre is shown above (unassembled). As I purchased two sets, I added the second set in reverse colors, e.g., blue ogre, red small boys.

Large BLUE Ogre, also a Mark III and a Mark V.

and here is the reverse….

GEVs, Heavy Tanks, Infantry, Missile Tanks, etc.  One in blue and one in red.

And here are the small boys, e.g., a sprue of GEV vehicles and a sprue of heavy tanks. (above)

Plastic Color really isn’t that important to me; my thought was I was going to field a force of Paneuropeans (which this set is) in yellow and one in red, much like the old Ogre Miniature rulebook depicted them. I know I did a BackerKit purchase of at least one more set (in green). I will probably paint them the Vatican colors.

Yes, OGRE miniatures set 2 did Kickstart recently and I took them up on their offer, but only one set (so far). I may expand this, as it is mostly Commune units and elements that got introduced in OGRE Shockwave. It’s a great time to get these kind of miniatures. I have always liked the OGRE visual design and it’s nice to have an option that isn’t too burdensome financially.

MadMax34 Turning Templates from Things from the Basement


I have been playing around with the Mad Maximillian 1934 car combat rules for a little bit now as the past two posts can attest to. I am enjoying the game very much. One thing I wanted to do was assemble the little turning template that comes in the rules, but the only way I thought it would be durable enough would be to print it on card stock, laminate it, THEN cut it out and punch it so it could rotate.

Yeah, I could do that. OR I could send www.thingsfromthebasement.com a few bucks and get a very durable laser cut wooden one of my very own. Or maybe two. So I did that instead.

Template

There’s not a lot to this thing. Two pieces ; one with an arrow going IN and another with an arrow going OUT. There are graduations on the template itself which will effect how many fate and fortune dice to roll. The template starts off on this single sheet. Punch out everything carefully. The top circle (as show) will overlay the bottom one. The two tiny bits and the inner circle are there to keep the spindle rotating nicely. You may want to be sparing with the glue here, you don’t want the two main circles to bond together accidentally or the template is worthless.

Once you build the spindle out of the two tiny bits (that make a kind of stand up X together, you put the small circle on top of that (very sparingly with glue) making sure the top circle and bottom circle can rotate.

With paint on

At the end of that drill, you have this. The bottom circle rotates and indicates where your turn is going to be and how risky it is. Coloring the areas on the edge of the wheel to match how it is depicted in the rule book is a bonus that I recommend. Green is no danger, Yellow is some danger, Red is dangerous!

In my mind, this is the Cadillac option, if you’ll pardon the car pun. It’s durable, inexpensive and works like a charm. Not nearly as large as I thought. A very handy option indeed.

Turning template in use

Here is a time lapse photograph of a template in use. The Three Wheeler moves forward 4 and attempts a slight left hand turn, sufficiently into the yellow zone to be risky.

And there you have it.  That’s from Things from the Basement (URL up above).  I think it’s worth the tiny investment.  I got two!

Simple Fog of War in Boom! Zap!


My plan was to debut the playtest game of Boom! Zap! (my pulp SF reworking of the old Rules with No Name engine) at camp this year, but there was such a clamor to run Frostgrave for another day and Big Danged Boats for another day that it kicked Friday’s game right off the schedule. Too bad, I had invested a ton of time and $$ purchasing and building hallway terrain from Gamecraft, and it looks fantastic (although I really need to work on a paint scheme for reuse). With that said it is very durable and I can use it for next year’s camp so it’s nothing wasted.

I love this stuff– it’s the Science Fiction Spaceship Corridor line from Game Craft, who makes a lot of laser cut wood gaming accessories. It’s durable, goes together with wood glue, and pretty much idiot proof. After you assemble it, it fits together nicely:

The idea behind this stuff is to use it for corridor and setting for a couple of games, one being BOOM! ZAP! (pulp SF) and the other SPY RUN (retro 50s, 60s and 70s spy game) both are 28mm skirmish level and both interact with the terrain (hallways) in a very specific way. One element I’ve been wanting to try is limited perspective based on terrain. Bear with me, this may sound complicated at first, but I think it will pay off in entertainment value.

I’m trying to prevent the God’s eye view benefit from playing factions interacting with each other in enclosed terrain (an outpost). YET! we are in a universe where things like recon probes, motion detectors and the like exist. So groups moving around should have some limited intel about other groups moving around. So prior to contact I create blip tokens similar to those used in the game SPACE HULK.

Each blip reads as a group of people or moving mass (like robots) in the complex or terrain. They enter the complex through three possible entrances (two airlocks, one underground shuttle). Initially, before they are revealed by moving into proximity with each other, all groups move as blips. As they move through the complex, they can, if they have the right equipment, send a probe droid ahead to recon for them for a certain amount of distance. The probe can (under an operator’s direction) move around corners and report back what it sees. It could be empty and likely will be:

empty hallway
Empty Hallway

Or maybe not!

In either case, the Referee takes a picture with his cell phone. He then displays it to the faction reconning the hallway.

Whoops, it is truly empty? What are THOSE?

Eventually as groups move closer together the blips resolve into groups and the hidden system isn’t needed. I just think this might be a fun addition to a skirmish game set in a world with a high tech level. background.

Playtest Rules for BOOM! ZAP! a pulp SF skirmish game


Here is a playtest version of BOOM! ZAP! a very light hearted attempt at creating a set of workable 28mm PULP Science Fiction skirmish rules for tabletop games.

I’ve been looking for a very light set of rules for running a sort of “Space Port Bar” or “Cantina” game akin to the Blood and Plunder Tavern brawls but in a pulpier era for a while now, at least 2009. I’ve tried a few out but have been disappointed with a lot of them.  What you see here is a very, very high end look at the subject as I’m finding “Pulp” to be a much broader subject than people give it credit for. Do we mean Flash Gordon and Emperor Ming? Crash Corrigan and the Undersea Empire? Buck Rogers and Killer Kane? Do we mean John Carter and Planetary Romance? Do we mean the Skylark of Space? Do we mean the Rocket Man? Commander Cody? There’s a lot of subgenres that are evident, and ONE set of rules just might not cut it. So in an attempt to make a one size fits all approach to a very broad picture, I’m starting with a decent set of Western Skirmish rules, the old RULES WITH NO NAME that appeared in an old MWAN magazine way back in the day. This version has been Science Fictioned up a bit, and I’ve added a very broad brush attempt at Gunfire, Melee, Robots, Rocket Packs and Aliens. There’s so much I can do with this idea, don’t even think this is the final.. I’m adding to it as we go, consider this 1.0. I need to add explosions, malfunctions, space ships, beserk robots, planetary romance, more swordplay, anti-grav travel, and a host of other appropriate topics. This will be enough to get me started in a low key way.

If you want to get in touch with me with suggestions or questions, try me at misternizz@gmail.com

In the meantime, you can download BOOM! ZAP! here.

T-574 Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!


This is an AAR of Thursday night’s game of Frostgrave, at HISTORICON 2017, put on by the masterful GM: Jeffrey Hiley.  “Masterful” is faint praise for Mr. Hiley’s terrain building skills, which put the rest of us pikers to shame.  Case in point, his Frostgrave city, an expanse upon which I have gamed in the past, sans the harbor area:

Add to this a new feature, a frozen harbor full of ships, a longish quay that had clear shooting from end to end and lots of open lines of sight everywhere, and you have some beautiful terrain that could make for some really tense moments in Frostgrave.

Frostgrave, Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City!. GM: Jeffrey Hiley. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Frostgrave. Amidst the frozen ruins of the ancient city Frostgrave, wizards battle in the hopes of discovering the lost magics and treasures of a fallen empire. Each player will take the role of a wizard from one of the 10 schools of magic.
Leading an apprentice and hired soldiers into Frostgrave you will compete with other wizards also trying to find lost secrets. Play on custom made, award winning terrain. Kids 12 and under welcome, accompanied by an adult.
Rules taught, beginners welcome.

The Lighthouse in the Frozen Harbor.

The scenario for Treasure Hunting in the Big City sets up two teams, good and evil.   On the good side were four warbands, led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Thaumaturgist, and a Witch.  On the evil side were also four warbands each led by a Chronomancer, an Elementalist, a Witch, and a Necromancer.  The sides were very reasonably balanced.   I got the Good Chronomancer.  The GM wisely handed out pre-made warbands with pre selected spells.  This is smart– for a couple of reasons.  First, creating a Frostgrave character takes some thought and takes some time– you have to think about the kind of character you want to play and how you want to play him or her.  Offensive? Defensive?  A character that can take care of himself or others?  Or someone who can throw out fireballs with gay abandon?  Secondly, those crew rosters and figuring out point costs may be easy math, but it also eats up loads of time.  So for a convention, certainly, pre-made rosters are the way to go with Frostgrave.


My Chronomancer and his hired goons step out smartly.

My Spells were: Crumble, Fleet Feet, Decay, Elemental Bolt, Spell Eater, Mind Control, Push and Leap.   This is a good selection, for a Chronomancer.  I would probably select something similar.  The only downside is a Chronomancer’s ability to reach out and impact other groups is pretty limited.  On the other hand, the ability for a Chronomancer to influence matter is pretty good.  Crumble can bring down walls, it can make holes appear under people’s feet.  Decay can make weapons crumble into dust.  Fleet Feet is a passive bonus but it does have a benefit of extra movement for either the Chronomancer or his goons.  The other spells are mostly set up to move other things or other people distances– which helps getting treasure off the map!

Not much in the way of cover out there on the ice floes.  Great treasures, though!

If you know aught about Frostgrave, you’ll know it’s about looting, first and foremost.  The Wizards enter the frozen city, each with a specially picked team of hirelings, and they exit with as much treasure as they can carry.  In Jeff’s game there were treasure tokens all about.  Some were worth more than others– if the treasure token had a gold coin under it, then the treasure was one that implies greater risk, and thus with a greater value (of 10 VP per treasure).   Our four teams on the good side were set up with two teams on my left and one on my right.


Good witch team on my left with giant bear companion (Top). This was mirrored by the evil witch across the table with Troll mirroring Bear for the evil side (Bottom).

My starting position was more or less just a tiny bit right of center.  I was in an area of smaller medieval town buildings, next to a ramp going up to the big causeway that goes up to the big round castle.  Except for the causeway, I had clear control of a high ground with plenty of cover– the third floor of a crumbling townhouse.  Not exactly controlling the right side of the board or anything but offering up good opportunities if my opponents get careless.  I had a lot of good line of sight spells– crumble, push, decay, etc, but nothing that could hurt people from a distance except Elemental Bolt, which has a high casting cost.  So I took my archer and parked my Wizard up high in the drafty crumbling top of the house with the Archer, looking for targets, and sent out my band of thugs to gather and loot with great joy.

I wish I had a sexy tale of my wizard entering into duel with another wizard and slinging bolts and such but it wasn’t like that. I took a commanding presence as I said, and my thugs had a relatively easy time of it. This was due to terrain for the most part. There was a commanding archway directly in front of me which masked the movement of my band (and my wizard and apprentice) nicely. My thugs all got treasure except one. I made good use of my spells and they failed about a 1/3 of the time. Most of them were Fleet Feet to make my people move faster. I hardly ever had another wizard in my sights at any point, but did my best with missile fire and crumble offensively. I never bothered with Elemental Bolt (it’s not a favorite) but I do love Crumble– one of my favorite spells of the Chronomancer group. So I tried to drop a wall away from someone who was next to it and maybe get him to fall. He saved. Then I tried a PUSH on him and it failed. So in order to do a one-two on the bad guys, who were up in the citadel, I started crumbling giant holes in the wall to see IN to the citadel. I did cast a successful DECAY at that point, but that was pretty late in the game now. Oh, and I used MIND CONTROL at one point, which was a lucky roll at 14. I wanted to control a giant rampaging Owl Bear out on the ice floes that was menacing my Thaumaturgist ally, but Jeff plays with spell ranges, and I couldn’t nail him. As a consolation, I was allowed to Mind Control the troll and have him rampage against his former master. That was satisfying.

So my Wizard never really came under fire, nor did my Apprentice.  They were in position to support each other and didn’t risk themselves very much.  This in my mind is appropriate for Chronomancers– they don’t have a way of bringing a world of hurt on other people, but can make things happen.  The closest I came to taking losses was when I sent two thugs and a knight up the ramp to the causeway to grab an extra point treasure.  The knight ran across the causeway to come to grips with the enemy forces in the citadel, while my ally to the left attacked them from the rim of the citadel.  There’s something to be said for having it easy– I had a very clear hand with the loot items.  There was never much danger but the treasures were only worth ten points instead of twenty.

The guys to my immediate left definitely got into it more than I did. They lost an apprentice, but killed two of the enemy apprentices. That was our highest level casualty. The guy on my right (a Thaumaturgist with some good spells) had his hands full and saw the most combat of the entire game. He fought a troll from the enemy Witch team, then ran out on to the ice flows where the good treasure was and got into it a suddenly appearing arctic Owl Bear. So he took the most casualties from the Good side.

At the end of the day, we (the Good Wizards) had a large numerical edge in the Victory Point category.  This was a great event, very entertaining and clearly demonstrating the amount of work that went into prepping the terrain for the spectacle.

HERE is a slideshow of every Frostgrave snap I took.  There are a bunch of them.

Discovery: Brother Vinni and Ganesha 28mm retro Science Fiction stuff


file under #smallwars

I recently made an interesting discovery.  I like my science fiction with a tinge of science fantasy, specifically of the pulp visual nature, prevalent in American culture from about the 40s to the 70s historically.  So I’ve been slowly pursuing a project you can see on the bottom right, under the heading “Science Fiction Bar Fight along the lines of the Draco Tavern” (Classic Niven Reference for the win).  I’ve posted on my retro SF efforts in the past on here.  Given the long winter of being homeless (see the post about the tree), I’ve had time to paint and have stuff painted.  My collection has grown dramatically.  Alas, as the Wargame Supply Dump has gone out of business I have jumped in and attempted to buy as much of his line as I can before it vanishes.

A lot of the current offerings in 28mm don’t have the exact right “fantastic feel” to them.. just a tinge of silliness and whimsy, like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Like fins and bright colors and big oversized ray guns and and goggles and leather helmets and such. I’m always looking for figures like this– I’ve been buying and painting GAFDOZ for years and recently made the aforementioned binge buy of WSD before it folded tents. The problem is where do you go from here? That’s what this post is about. Will it be possible to find more 28mm figures with the proper wacky pulp retro look and feel? Well, yes, but I’ll have to go about it judiciously.

One element of the amorphous “pulp SF universe” that I feel is is important is robots. I mean the big rounded edged clanky guys you used to see in the old serials. I found some candidates that make perfect sense in this setting.

I discovered Brother Vinni, a 28mm figure manufacturer who specializes in resin cast Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical figures.  I believe? the manufacturer is from Russia.  I really like Brother’ Vinni’s small SF Line, particularly the “Nuclear Sandlot” category.  The humanoid figures tend to be more slender than the figures I have to compare them to– mostly in the GAFDOZ range, which are “beefy”.  However, robots don’t have to be in any specific scale, even androids.  One assumes there will be a variance.
The Nuclear Sandlot robots appear to be sculpted with an eye towards the FALLOUT computer game. If you’ve played it, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I picked up the Flying Bot  figure which looks like the robot major domo figure from the game. It’s easy to put together.  You’ll have to do some standard prep actions before painting– soak in water overnight, and be sure to drill the hole out a little.  The figure doesn’t come with a stand, per se, but does come with a transparent peg to mount on a stand of your choice.

Here is my version, after cleaning, drilling and mounting on a MDF circular base. Good choice, actually– this model can get a little top heavy and you’ll want something heavier to keep it upright.  I ended up painting the robot a gun metal color overall, with some bronze highlights, a bronze colored security weapon and bright red lenses on the security camera arms and main ray gun face.  I gave it a sort of thinned out black ink to give it a little grime and depth, and a couple of coats of medium shiny sealer– I’m giving all the pulp stuff a shiny coat because it seems to fit the subject.

I also picked  up two Observer Bots which also seem to be inspired by FallOut.  I plan to make these part of the game– any character with a comunications rig sculpted on it can use an observer bot to see down a hallway.  These tiny little floating soccer balls have a perfect look for pulp

Same approach to cleaning, drilling and mounting.  The observer bot has a little whip antenna that has to be attached, be careful, this will get away from you.  The hole for the stand up flight pole was totally filled in with resin so I had to drill it out carefully.  The model has holes in it for some sort of whisker antennas (four of them) but these were not included.  I suppose someone could heat up a piece of sprue to stretch out and make them from scratch, but I didn’t see the point of it.  That’s my only complaint about Brother Vinnie’s kits.. don’t advertise an element of a model in the assembled pictures that isn’t provided in the final product!

Last robot I got is ALSO inspired by FallOut, I think.  It matches one of the standard robot types found in the game, and Uncle Vinnie just calls this “Robot“.

This was probably the easiest figure to clean up, assemble and paint. The overall aesthetic is kind of like a pint-sized Robbie the robot character from Forbidden Planet.  He’s going to make a decent robot butler or some other kind of servant.   I also mounted him on MDF, painted an overall gun metal with bronze highlights, and gave him a little grime (thinned black ink) and a semi-gloss coat like the robots above.  “Robot” fits in well with the pulp figures I already have, being somewhat tiny but then again, who says robots have to be huge hulking figures to be useful?  Nobody, that’s who.

Now, on to some figures that I loved, loved, loved in the adverts, but the reality was kind of a mixed bag.  At least you have the bottom line up front.  On to Ganesha Games 28mm Science Fiction line, being manufactured and distributed Alternative Armies.   I was very intrigued by the latest releases that were recently trumpeted on the Alternative Armies website about Lord Phalag and his companions, Psi-Knights and Combot combat robots.   Lord Phalag is a Baron Harkonnen looking chap in a floating chair, looking very corrupt and dissolute, and slightly evil. He has an enforcer brute companion named Graul Granite who reminds me of the Thing from Fantastic Four, and some female alien type modeled to look like she has some form of psychic power or whatnot named Skarra.


(Image: Alternative Armies)

I was in as soon as I saw the floating chair. Now that’s a great sculpt. Very decadent looking.

Also of note were a gang of Psy-Knights waving about some sort of light energy beam sword weapons. Hmm. Wonder who these guys are supposed to be? You can take your guess:

Image: Alternative Armies

Well, I had to have those guys, too. I was pleased that Alternative Armies will through in a “Combot” robot with each purchase from this line and got one of those, too.

Now, here’s the rub. These are beautiful sculpts.. very pulpy, nice detail. I want to build and paint these. This is what showed up at my door.

No instructions. No bases. Nothing. Just kind of a jumble of parts. The feet aren’t even attached to a slot to go on a slotta style base. Nothing. The figure of Lord Phalag is my favorite, but I’m going to have to figure out how to put this thing together. Worse, I’m going to have to figure out the flying base too.. I know there are companies that sell these, but apparently Ganesha is not one of those. So how do I base them? (BTW, the website DOES say “sold without bases”.. and it’s my fault for jumping on this without reading, I admit that up front, but I wanted this thing to work.. and thus enthusiasm overcame common sense).

Well, it’s going to take a lot of work to make these figures work. I suppose I’ll have to find some slotta bases (I don’t have any). The figures are cast without anything at all on their feet so I expect I’ll have to drill and pin to make the figures stable on a base of any kind. The Chair figure of Lord Phalag is the big disappointment. I’ll have to buy a flying base of some kind (no idea what will work, they don’t say and they don’t sell one) and the resin part is pretty smooth. There’s some metal bits to finish out the figure but the resin is so smooth something tells me I’ll be drilling and pinning there as well. I’ll make it work but it won’t be a fast process.

In summary, it’s a mixed bag. I like the sculpts and detailing of everything I’ve purchased lately, but the Brother Vinnie models came together significantly more easily than the Ganesha Games stuff will. Everything seems to fit well with other pulp figures I already have, so I’m pleased, but grumpy about all the work I’ll have to do for the Ganesha stuff.

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.

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


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

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

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

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

Well, sure it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

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

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

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