Category Archives: Miniatures

Retro: The Great Amish Rake Fight Games, 2002-2003


Another in a series of visits down memory lane to the world of Retro gaming.

The subject of this post was a game that many have referenced in public over the years but few actually saw.  That’s because it was only played twice in public and once for practice at Bob Giglio’ s house.   Namely: the Great Amish Rake Fight.  This is a semi-legendary game (if I do say so, myself) that gets bandied about now and then with a “remember when” twinkle in everybody’s eye.  My name is associated with it, to be sure, as I was one of the two people who ran it and one of the small group of dedicated ninnies who built it and contributed to it– and I think I’m as good of a reference as any.

Your Humble Narrator, suited up as referee at the first running of the Great Amish Rake Fight Game (Cold Wars 2002).  The very real beard is visual proof of the lengths I used to go to for a sight gag.  I actually shaved it off at this con!

Please note: Bob Giglio, co-GM of ARF, has kindly provided some material, corrections and most importantly PHOTOGRAPHS of the 2002 event.  Photographs provided by Bob, and where direct quotes apply, they are cited.

The Great Amish Rake Fight game, or ARF, as it has been referenced from 2003 onward, has its origins in an email conversation held  between Del Stover, Bob Giglio, and other members of the HMGS Marketing Outreach program.  If I’m recalling things correctly, someone, I think it was Del, mentioned that there wasn’t any historical battle sites local to Lancaster PA’s HOST facility that he could properly leverage to get a historical crowd to come running to see.  Or something like that.  In my own wise-assed way, I interjected, saying words to the effect of “nonsense.. I have been making Amish Military units for the great Amish Rake Fight game, haven’t you heard of that?”  Big laughs all around.   I had pulled the name from an old USENET group from the dawn of the Internet that had (at the time) very little to do with gaming.

The thing is, I actually had been slowly building militarized Amish units (squad sized), for a game that I ran a lot of back in the day, THE RULES WITH NO NAME.  This is an excellent Western skirmish rules set that used to be free for the download, but has since become a commercial product, so I won’t provide a download link.  My idea (then) was to create an “Amish versus Outlaws” game, where some bad guys were riding into town with the intention of looting it blind, and the normally pacifistic Amish were driven to extremis to protect themselves.  My thoughts where give the Amish player some form of hero figure plus 1-4 scut troops of various abilities to follow him around and engage with the Outlaws.  The Hero figure could either be a young Amish fighter armed with a rake, or a churn, or a buggy whip, axe, shovel, anything handy.  Or he might be an Elder, whose job is to “Shame” the outlaw with an effect akin to stunning him.  I had some great buildings that would have worked in a Western setting, and I was working on some ideas for Amish secret weapons to counter the technological advantage the outlaws had (guns).  That was about where this game was when I mentioned it in the meeting.  Bob Giglio loved the idea.  I mentioned some of my ideas, he immediately ran with it and we started collaborating on the spot.  There was a lot of polite tittering from those we mentioned the concept to and repeated “yeah, rights”, which only firmed our resolve to make the game happen.    Over the next few months, Bob and I, joined by Neil Brennan and Chris Johnson, worked on the figures, the terrain and the rules.   I already had about 40 Amish painted up.  Bob added some special figures he had done (and painted much better than my meager efforts).    Terrain was simple, a ground cloth covering a 6 x 10 area with a road (representing Route 30) and some ERTL farm buildings and other structures to represent a portion of the Amish town.

28mm AMISH FIGURES (It’s easier than you think)

The Amish figures proved to be easier to pull off than I had imagined.  I started with a big bag of Old Glory’s 25mm Western range, namely the WAGON TRAIN SETTLERS.  There are some very useful conversion figures inside– men with small carbines and buggy whips and such.   I recall Joel Gregory had cast some useful farm implements (butter churns, shovels, etc., but ironically no rakes).  He graciously donated to the project and I replaced rifles for shovels, etc.  I also used the many female figures in the bag, as well.  One showed a severe woman stirring something in a bucket on the ground with a long pole.  I dubbed that figure “Vat Women”, and painted them up with a severed head in the bucket, as if she was rendering it down for something.  Honestly, I can’t recall what she did in game terms other than look cool.

WP 17: Old glory Wagon Train Settlers

Old Glory’s WG-17 bag of figures was (and is) a hell of a bargain; even after the price has gone up I believe I managed to convert the entire bag of 30 figures into either useful Amish Line troops, weapons crews or something very decorative and Amish looking.  Conversion notes– I bent the hat brims to something resembling flat.  Where the hat had a rounded crown I filed it flat.  I painted the hat straw colored with a narrow black ring around it.  Shirts were uniformly pale blue denim.  Pants black or blue.  Coats Black.  I removed all rifles and added farming implements.  I left the buggy whip in the buggy whip figure’s hands– that’s one implement an Amish man WOULD have..  Women’s dresses were grey, black or blue.  Very easy to pull off.   All figures were mounted on pennies.

To this, I added single Dixon Old West Range figures from the “Mexican peon” range and Stagecoach and Townsfolk ranges.  I bought a lot of WG76, WG77, and WG78, as all of these are using in-scale farming implements as part of the original sculpt.  Conversion was not as easy as the OG Settlers– I had to file and flatten the sombreros, file down the sandals a little to so the toes aren’t as pronounced and paint the formerly bare feet as boots.   I did add a few macabre touches, like drilling the off hand of one of the peons and adding a head modeled as if it were recently severed and being held by him.  A little hard core for Amish, but hey, the whole POINT of this game is parody, so why not.

Just a few candidates for conversion from Dixon miniatures Old West line:

WG 76

(remove rifle)
WG 79

WG 92

Bob Giglio contributed several figures from Westwind’s Gothic Horror Range, none of which I can find pictures of at this stage.  They were mostly the Bohemian Villagers or something like that.  They looked like Amish people.. kinda.. if you squint a little.  The Amish never went in for the lacy shirt look, but they did have agricultural tools.  Bob also provided some Boers from the Old Glory Boer range that definitely fit, though it was hard to find Boers without guns.   Great wagons.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. This picture depicts the Amish figs post-conversion. Most of these are converted Old Glory Settlers except these: the Amish male waving a machete is an ex-Mexican Peon, as is the Amish directly to the right of the Meek standing at the end of the bridge.  Partially obscured is a Westwind figure to the left. Yes, the Amish had standards, see below. CLICK PICTURE to enlarge

Amish Flags used as Unit Standards

Transport

Civilian automobiles were a mix of  diecast modern vehicles that were kinda, sorta in 1:64 scale (nominal for 25mm).   We had several State Police cars, using the Pennsylvania State Police logo.  We also had a police copter.   There were several cars parked as props in front of the large barn where the game starts off; in addition there were some construction equipment that I picked up from a toy set that seemed sized right.  The big surprise was the ubiquitous Amish buggies.    If you’re a scratch builder and have gamed in the 19th century, then you probably know of the pencil sharpener covered wagons.  There’s also one modeled along the lines of a Amish buggy.  I thought this was a dubious choice, but you know, once Bob had painted up a mess of these, they really looked great and roughly in scale, if somewhat smallish.

Voila, Cheap Amish Buggies, available in bulk at any sleazy souvenir stand in Amish Land

I made the ubiquitous little orange triangle signs for the back of each buggy and even tried to make “Scythes” to make them killer buggies, but the latter looked terrible, so we gave up on that idea.

 Terrain

Terrain was pretty easy.  I was collecting a lot of ERTL farmville sets back in those days, which are nominally scaled for 1:64.  I had two big barns, and we had diverse smaller buildings from craft store holiday sets and such that worked in that scale, as well as one scratchbuilt Amish Stripper palace that offered “Lapp Dances”.  Yeah, parody can be fairly broad at times.   Bob built us a good looking Route 30 for one end of the map, and Bob also built some streams, roads and hills to break up the terrain a little– and he did it effortlessly.  It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Bob in this way.  We’d discuss the problem of terrain and ZIP! he’d go to some part of his basement, find the right thing, or build it from scratch, no muss, no fuss.

Bob adds:
(with the exception of the barns) The terrain was all done by me, including the first ever Lapp’s with the sign that said “We have Lap Dances”, well before MBA had created one. ;-)

See the map:

The Great Amish Rake Fight games, terrain

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection.  Here’s a shot of Amish in action near the Amish Market. Some of the local thugs are approaching on the lower right. You can see one of the painted pencil sharpener buggies and some of the Christmas Village buildings we used for structures. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Route 30 terrain, built by Bob. Plus some of the signs I made and the diecast cars.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. More fun on Route 30

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Roadhouse, with a custom billboard. State motorcycle cops on the right.

Here’s some Road Signs I made up using a color printer, a laminating machiine and some wooden bits

Rules

Rules… What can I say?  Bob G. and I are two very different GMs.  Bob is a very procedure oriented GM, who likes the details, and likes to have this resolved before the game starts, preferably by playtesting.  He is not adverse to using a published set of rules.  I’m more of a “GM for effect” kind of GM, and have been known to make something up for the sheer dramatic hell of it on the spot.  Once or twice.  With that said, ARF was going to be a game where the mechanics really weren’t THAT important.  I knew that going in to the project.  Most of the fun was going to be had with the theme and the setting and the way we were riffing on a non-violent race of people being secretly capable of violence and possessing weapons of mass destruction.   I mean, with that premise, who cares how far someone moves and someone shoots, as long as they do it consistently?  I pushed for THE RULES WITH NO NAME early on, but didn’t really care if Bob was pushing for something else, so we went with THE BOOTLEGGERS, a gangster rule set Bob was very familiar with and had run huge games at HMGS events in the past with.  Being a game that could handle fire and movement and relatively modern weaponry, I was game.  We had to modify it a bunch for the Amish secret weapons.  Oh?  What were those?

The Amish Secret Weapons

 If there was something (besides the figures and terrain) that really “made” ARF .. ARF, it was the secret weapons.  These were a collection of Amish inspired weaponry that had a definitive impact on the game, but could be codified using the Bootleggers rules.  To be honest, I forget a lot of them, but the rule was they had to be goofy, there had to be a model representing the item, and it had to be modified “Amish stuff”.. e.g. Agricultural implements.  There’s not a lot of pictures of this event, but the ones I remember are:

The Pie Flinger: This was a device (taken from an Ertl farm toy) that was manned by the female Amish figures.  The presumption was that it fired a hot sticky pie into the onrushing hordes of progress, automatic style.

The Poopn’flinger:  I can’t remember what the backstory was on this thing, but it featured an outhouse-catapult kind of arrangement.  So it would “Fire” poop..

Bob adds:
The Poop-a-Flinga was the creation of Chris Johnson’s fertile(?) mind. It was an outhouse with a large Y-branch in front of it (for the slingshot base) with two long rubber bands stretching into the door of the outhouse, from which the “projectile” would be fired. I think it was on wheels or something, so it could pivot accordingly, to “acquire” a target. Very creative, to say the least — good show Chris!

Der Super Kow:  This was a cow (also manned by a female figure) that was fed a mash of beans and oats.  If an enemy gets within a certain distance, the crew bonks der Kow on the nose, and lights a fire near the tale.. KA BOOM!  Natural flame thrower.  Pretty much a one shot weapon.

The Harrower of Death: This was the weapon of the Mennonites in Black, an allied faction working with the Amish.   It was somewhat verboten in terms of Amish-tech, as it had a steam engine.  The model was another useful pencil sharpener model familiar to VSF/Steampunk miniatures enthusiasts:

This had a big harrower from ERTL’s “Farm Country” set attached fore and aft, the idea being it would drive into crowds and rip them apart. Yeah, pretty bloody for such a peaceable people.

Bob adds:

Also remember, one of the “abilities” we gave the Amish, with a nod to “Children of the Corn”, was that they could go into any cornfield and take a turn to “teleport” to any other cornfield on the board (with a chance of a mishap, naturally).

Last, and by far not the least:

The Amish Cow-ta-pault:  This was, simply put, a giant medieval catapult that fired a live, irate cow into oncoming vehicles.  The cowtapult stole the show, as we will see later on.

Force Composition:

The Amish were divided into roughly 6 groups of ten skirmishers each with a “special” .. either an Amish Self-Immolator (Amish Guy with  a giant fertilizer bomb) or a Meek (remember the “elder” figure that could freeze enemies with a “Shaming?”  That’s a Meek).   The individual female figures mostly were used as Weapon Crews on the secret weapons.   Oh, yeah.. we had a John Book character (From WITNESS).  He was like an Amish Super-fighter.

What about “the Bad Guys”?

Hey, it you have half a brain you’re probably figuring out we were pretty subjectively sympathetic to the Amish in this game design.  YET, we had to have an opposition of sorts– one that was consistent and logical and with 21st century technology, meaning small arms, police weapons, maybe a SWAT team here  and there.  As far as I can recall there was a hodgepodge of groups on the “Forces of Progress” side:

A Gang of Gamer types, from a nearby historical miniatures gaming convention going on that weekend (ARF shamelessly breached the Fourth Wall all game long).  Melee weapons at best.. I think all they did was drive up to the fight and get their butts kicked.

A Board of Development e.g., the BoD (with cunningly altered names) from said convention, who want to buy up Amish-land and build a giant, NEW convention center for holding gaming conventions in, right on that spot, so they are here to check up on their investment. I think some of them had saps and pistols.

Two gangs of Biker Thugs, 10 each, approaching from the direction of Route 30.  Armed with melee weapons and pistols.

Some Union Goons that are being paid off by the Board of Directors to persuade the local Amish to get out of the way of the construction equipment.  Melee weapons and some pistols.

A Grader and a Bulldozer to destroy Amish Buildings.. which is how the “Bad Guys” counted victory points

Local Pennsylvania Cops, armed with shotguns and pistols.  They arrive very late.

A SWAT Team for air dropping into the melee from the chopper (only it never happened, as I will narrate presently)

Scenario

So, we got to this point where we had all this keen stuff.. and couldn’t explain why people would be fighting with one another.  Hmmm….  I was going with the Secret Weapons being the driver.. that some tourists had taken pictures of the secret weapons project in a barn and an altercation had taken place, and mayhem ensued from there.  The thinly disguised HMGS BoD was thrown in by Bob and Neil, which I thought was funny, albeit perhaps a tad overdone for reasons that had more to do with HMGS politics at that time then good natured ribbing, but once we were playing most of that was forgotten.   Anyway, it turned out to be a good plot driver, since the BoD is now there to oversee the demolition and laying the foundations for their new convention center (some issues never go away, eh?) while the Amish just want to defend their age-old way of life.. classic cinematic moralizing, I loved it.    It made it pretty easy to target the bad guys and to define a “victory condition” of sorts– The Amish start with all buildings intact and so many VPs.. if the bad guys demolish a building, VPs go down, etc etc etc.  Such things didn’t matter much to me, then and now.  I was awarding victory based on a sense of style, myself.

PEL Listing 2002 Game

2002 Title: AMISH RAKE FIGHT (ARF) – The Battle of Lancaster!
Hosts: Brother Robert Giglio & Brother Walter O’Hara (NOVAG)
Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)
Scale/Period: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man) / Modern (i.e., 2001 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)Rules: “Hold Still, Brother, While I Must Smite Thee” (adapted Bootlegger rules by Steve Barber Models – Modified)
Time & Game Length: Sat. Noon, 4 hrs
8 Players
Special Requirements: Adults only; must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event! Intoxicating beverages will facilitate admission to game!!
Game Description:The local Brothers of the Staw Hats & Highwater Pants have had enough of taunts, slights, and insults, and are walking amok! Armed to the teeth with all sorts of farming implements, join them in their righteous fight against local youths, yahoos, and tourists. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that “War is Heck”. This will be a war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists (US style) – “Thee be careful amongst deem English!” [PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it!] Line up and grab your rakes, pards, it will be (I promise you) an event not to be missed.
Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.

PLAYING THE ACTUAL GAME, COLD WARS 2002 and 2003

Most of my recollections are of 2002.  I’m pretty sure in 2003, the bad guys won.  If memory serves we ran this Friday night.  We had a full crew, though could have made room for 1-2 more. I remember we were located in the Distelfink ballroom at the Lancaster Host, location of Cold Wars 2002.    We were right up front next to the front doors, and I showed up wearing an Amish Hat and beard, and a Hawaiian shirt.  Bob G. wasn’t into the costume thing and showed up in classic Hawaiian.  I bought a shoo-fly pie to award to the winner.    Bob explained the rules to players not familiar with the Bootleggers rules, and we started.  It went pretty smoothly.

Almost immediately I was tapped on the elbow.  It was Del Stover, at that point working in outreach and ‘marketing’ for HMGS East (as we were known in that bygone era).   Del was escorting a reporter from the local newspaper around, he said, and he was wondering if I would take OFF my Amish hat.  “To the devil with you!” I started to say, and then he said “I”m begging you.”  Well, dammit.  If you put it that way.. I’d been “Meeked”.  ARF Player John Camarano, however, had no such compunctions and happily put on the hat until the reporter left.   On a humorous note, the reporter was looking at the PEL and spied “The Amish Rake Fight” was set to run that night, while she was there.  “What’s that??” She asked.  “Oh, nothing, nothing…” squeaked Del, not wishing to create an incident that would create fear and loathing for HMGS in the local Amish community.   “Here, let me take you to this fine Napoleonics game…”  “NO.. I want to see the Amish Rake Fight, that sounds CUTE!” said the reporter.  So not only did they show up, they featured us in their article rather prominently, much to Del’s consternation (at the time.. he has since said he should not have worried so much).  Quote “Hell, *I* should have worn the damned hat!”  That was then, this is now.. it’s funny how people take things.  Almost everyone walking by laughed uproariously at this concept, but  I well remember the look of shock and horror from one historically-leaning GM that wasn’t a fan of “silly” games.. he must have been driven bonkers at the prospect of an Amish Skirmish game!  Seems funny now.

As mentioned already, the game scenario was fairly complex with many factions. Essentially, some tourists have stumbled on a dark secret of the Amish and were taking pictures. The Elders objected, a scuffle ensued, and to the amazement of the onlookers, the Amish grabbed farming implements and proceed to open up a can of whup-ass on the tourists. Only one got away to raise the hue and cry at the local biker bar– Zinks Route 30 Tavern. Big Paul and his surly crew thought they’d have a little fun and “get some payback” so his group of bikers lurched into motion under the guidance of John Camarano (our esteemed NOVAG presidente).

Meanwhile, a group of nefarious “corporate board members” were on 
their way with some “Union Enforcers” to “break up this mess.. 

YHN taking the lead as GM; this was before the notorious hat incident.  Bob G. is in the right rear corner of this photo.  To my right are the lead Amish Players, John Camarano and Cleo Hanlon


The little Amish Roadside market was a scene of carnage and  destruction… the board barrelled down the road in their trucks,  intent on pushing their weight around. A “meek”, a class of Amish ‘fighter’ that does not physically attack but has a ‘fleeting sense of shame’ effect that makes the opposing player drop his weapons and apologize (which we make the player do, publicly and loudly) stepped out into the road, but was callously ridden down by Ricky Retardo the driver.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Bob resolves a fine point of game mechanics with some Amish players

As in the playtest, this caused the  ultimate demise of the truck, which lost control after encountering an Amish Self-immolater (a sort of “suicide bomber” equipped with a fertilizer bomb) crashed into the market.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. Route 30 minutes before the sacrifice of an Amish Self-Immolater. You can just make him out to the right of the grey wagon in the center, holding the barrel. A fuel truck was inbound, and the explosion would crater Route 30.  You can see a mixture of Amish and modern vehicles in this shot. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

While the occupants sat there, stunned, the Amish descended on them with scythes, rakes,  clubs and buggy whips. It wasn’t pretty.

The Amish Battlefield. The Big Barn, with the Amish rolling out secret weapons, and the terrified tourists in the front lot running. Click HERE for a larger view

Meanwhile, back up at the main barn, the battle had indeed been joined. Big Paul and his goons made a foot sortie across the bridge, and got stopped by a meek (BTW, John Camarano did a magnificient job of grovelling when he failed his morale check). The third, and smallest, Amish faction was in the process of doing a human “Frogger” game while running across Route 30. The last buggy got “clipped” by a speeding car but emerged only shaken. Unfortunately, one of the two Amish Self-immolaters got ridden down at that moment, by a fuel 
truck of all things. The ensuing blast caused a crater in Route 30,  stopping traffic in both directions. A group of ‘gamers’ from a local gaming convention, just back from eating at a local all-you-can-eat, were attracted to the noise and pursued the third group of Amish. 

Cleo Hanlon, NOVAG newsletter editor and later HMGS Newsletter editor, and best Amish player. She spectacularly took out a State police chopper with a cow flung from a cowtapault.

Cleo Hanlon (one of our newsletter editors from NOVAG– she had  bought a bonnet to play the game with, which I thought to be a superb touch) wheeled out the giant Cowtapault. She was defending the big barn area. Her first launch hit a tree. Her second smacked into the side of one of the approaching vehicles. Another bounced in the lane. Her LAST shot, though, hit the side of a Pennsylvania State Trooper police helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing.  Our howls of glee could be heard from one end of the Distlefink to 
the other.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Action Mid Game. This shows the entire battlefield with all buildings. The BoD have arrived upper left.  CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Brother Dave ran the last attack group, which contained the Harrower  of Death and the Mennonite in Black. He engaged the Union enforcers at the base of the hill in an unequal contest, but held his own. Coincidentally, he was also running John Book, who manfully rammed the oncoming pickup with a “borrowed” corvette, took some wounds, and  wisely beat feet out of the melee.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Dave Bullis (L), Amish Player, Brian and Kathy Higbee. (R) Not sure what side Brian played.

In the end, it was decided to give the victory to the Amish, who had successfully defended their lands and way of life (for a while). It  was no contest, we awarded the shoofly to Cleo. Best Yorkist player:  John Camarano, who displayed childlike glee with the windup monster truck the goons were running.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Close to endgame, 2002. Here come the State Cops, run by Dewey. Just prior to the Cowtapault Coup.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. This was Endgame 2002. I’m on the left helping Sister Cleo set up her cowtapault, Bob helps the State Cop player on the right.

PEL Listing, 2003 Game

2003  Game Title: ARF2 (AMISH RAKE FIGHT) – The Wrath of Lapp!Game Hosts/GMs: Brother Robert Giglio, Brother Walter O’Hara, and Brother Cornelius Brennan (NOVAG)Sponsor/Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)Game Description:It’s back…by very popular demand…ARF! When the smoke finally cleared from last spring, the Lancaster Valley stood safe from greedy, unscrupulous developers. Now a new threat looms, as the Lancaster tourism craze hits a new low, and the truce the local Brothers of the Staw Hats and Highwater Pants signed with the Board of Development (BoD) isn’t worth the cow patty it was written on. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that ‘War is Heck,’ just “thee be careful amongst deem English!”[PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it! Special Requirements: Adults only – must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event. Recommended – players with Amish clothing – to facilitate enjoyment of game!] Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.Scale: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man)

Rules: “O Brother, Hold Still While I Must Smite Thee” (Home Rules modified from – Bootlegger Rules by Steve Barber Models)

Period: Modern (i.e., 2003 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)

Players: 8

Game Time & Length: Saturday Noon, 4 hrs

For Cold Wars 03, we wanted to create a sequel of sorts, where the Amish marched on the host and we had a giant altercation in the Host Lobby between gamers, golfers and Amish people.  It didn’t work out.  We could have made the terrain easily enough but there just aren’t that many golfing and gamer figures out there, and it would have been difficult to kit-bash this.  So we ran the basic game described again one more time, with different players.  In this game, the bad guys (spearheaded by Tim Mullen if memory serves) were VERY aggressive and managed to destroy three Amish Buildings, which made them the clear winners.   I never took any pictures of this game, either.

Bob recollects:

We also had players in costume for that one. If you recall, two guys dressed in overalls, straw hats, and barefoot, etc., came down the stairs and we just laughed, as they were two of our players. Also, and most importantly, the 2003 game saw an Amish family come by, look at the game (and have a long chat with Neil Brennan), and smiled very, Very wide (and wickedly), as they “got it”, and laughed at the “fun” aspect of it. That for me, was priceless!

I remember those guys!  They were brothers from the Central PA area and they really knew the Amish lifestyle.  I haven’t seen them in ten years.   They used to be convention regulars.

The never run 2004 game

Our concept for this was that the Amish were going to “take the war” to the Board of Development (at the Lancaster Host of course), so the next day they show up, and wail on first a pack of golfers, and then on the big gang of golfers, goons and gamers at the hotel.  I was a bit daunted by the idea of terrain for this, but in retrospect, I think we could have managed a hotel lobby and a big of golf course easily enough.  The figures for golfers and gamers would have been a challenge.

Bob recalls:

Since I did the bulk of the terrain for these, and since the idea was to have the Amish “assault the Lancaster Host” during the time one of the conventions was being run, I would have had to have a decent model of part of the Host in 28mm. Not to mention all the gamer figs, golf carts, etc.

Now, unknownest to you, I found the gamer figs at one of the GenCons/Origins I attended. They were all from the Knights of the Dinner Table range in miniature. This range was perfect, and had gamers in all body types, from pointy nosed to very wide bellies, and even in a wheelchair. Just what I needed and priceless! However, they were very expensive (about $3 USD or more per figure). I also found a golfcart that fit perfectly, but never went back for more (I think these were in the toy section of WalMart, Target or Toys R Us way back).

To this I can add the fact that I had also found pencil sharpener golf carts that were a bit large, but would have fit as background objects.   I still see the problem of golfers and gamer miniatures being a limiting factor.   Since we didn’t want to just reprise 02 and 03 for a third year in a row, the game ran out of steam until such time as we have a new story to tell.

Conclusion:

So that is my Great Amish Rake Fight narrative.  In retrospect, this was one of my best games, ever, even if it only ran a couple of times– why?  Because it kind of took the mindset that “history games have to be serious” and blew a big, noisy raspberry at it.  In fact, the folks at the Society of Daisy presented us with a medal for our efforts at adding a little levity into wargaming.  This was “The Daisy Medal”, which I am a proud recipient of.    I wish I had more photographs of this game, I really do.  I was quite pleased with it,  but as usual for those days was more busy running things then trying to create a giant ARF archive– so a lot of data has been lost.  The only web-gallery that had pictures went belly up years ago, and now all I can extract from the wayback machine are the three big pictures you see here.   If any gamer out there ever took pictures of these two games, please consider sharing them with me.  I’ll give you credit. As for other artifacts, I had the rule changes to Bootleggers riding in my email account for a long time but I can’t find it any more .   Shrug!  it’s the journey, not the destination.

Epilog:

Many years later, maybe 2009 or so, I was wandering the Exhibitor’s Hall at a HMGS convention, when I bumped into Howard Whitehouse.  We exchanged pleasantries and noticed that the the exhibitor vending a Seven Years War miniatures line right in front of us surely looked … Amish!  I made a pointed observation (to Howard) that it’s puzzling how a non-violent people would play with so-called “war toys”.  “Excuse me,” a voice drawled next to my elbow, “But I’ve never heard of metal figures hurting anybody!”  It turned out to be the Amish figure manufacturer… and he WAS Amish, not Mennonite, from a relaxed order that allowed for him to go out amongst us English.  Howard blithely mentioned ARF in passing and my association with it to the guy.  He blinked, swiveled and asked: “You’re Walt O’Hara, then?  You put on the Amish Rake Fight?” “Y-y-yes.. but let me point out, it was fairly sympathetic to the Amish, actually, and I…” He cut me off.  “We’ve heard of YOU.. we thought it was HILARIOUS!!!” he clapped my back and gave me his email address(!) to send pictures and a write up to.  That was a funny encounter.  The ONE GROUP I thought wouldn’t EVER find out about the Amish Rake Fight would be the Amish themselves.  But they have ears everywhere…. everywhere….

You be careful among them English!

.

Chariots and Such: NOVAG Game Day Winter 2014


Thanks to the tireless efforts of the NOVAG leadership, the NOVAG Game Day was held at the Centreville Library on Saturday 15 February 2014. I like this venue a lot, it’s relatively easy to get to by everyone, adequate parking, close to a lot of food choices, and as far as I know, free for us to use. The down side is its on the Western side of Fairfax County and we could probably have one on the Eastern half, or at Victory Comics, or something, just to spread it out a bit. For the time being, though, I like Centreville just fine.

It was also cool to see Dennis Largesse, pioneering game shop owner of the LITTLE SOLDIER in Alexandria, drop by for a visit.

Dennis Largesse

NOVAG Game masters had ten events on the schedule. For the most part it appears that they came off as advertised.

10:30 am – Battle of Chickamauga, By Mike Pierce

Chickamauga, Regimental Fire and Fury rules

10:30 am – Command & Colors Napoleonics , By Eric Freiwald

Command & Colors Napoleonics, rules: GMT

10:30 am – Jousting Tournament, By Brian DeWitt

No Pictures

11 am – Stop the Goeben, By Bill Cira

Stop the Goeben GHQ rules

11 am – The Trenches of Onganjira (German South-West Africa, 1904), By Roy Jones

No Pictures

11 am – Kloster Kamp, By Tim Tilson

Kloster Kamp, rules Black Powder

12 pm – The First, By Roxanne Patton

No Pictures

12 pm – Fireball Forward, By Mark Fastoso

1 pm – Air Force/Dauntless, By Dennis Wang (see previous blog post for a dissection of this event)

3 pm – Roman Chariot Race, By Brian DeWitt

I attended with my son, Garrett (15). As I’ve said in the previous post, we arrived at noon thirty more or less. We played AIR FORCE/DAUNTLESS almost immediately and my reactions to that game are captured in the previous blog post.

There was a nice assortment of games out and I liked them all. I wanted to play in the Goeben game but it didn’t end until we were well into the Air Force game, which is what I came to play. We brought a few board games and were going to put out one to play amongst ourselves when Brian DeWitt asked us if we’d like to play his Roman Chariot game. We were game for that!

And off we went!

Both Gar and I have long experience in Chariot racing games. Gar has played my Fast Shuffle Chariot Combat Racing game in the past and other chariot games, I am an old hand at Circus Maximus, Circus Minimus and various chariot games. So both of us are of the mindset that when it comes to chariots, spare no effort to get out and get ahead of the pack if you can. ANY which way you can. I have played Brian’s rules before, or something close to them in 54mm scale, by another GM at a HMGS convention. They are relatively simple at four pages. The big problem with games of this kind is that once the field thins out a bit it becomes clear who will be the winner, and people tend to glaze over until the end. I didn’t think that happened here.

The Race is 2.5 laps. Going into the first lap, we are still bunched up. And the attacking has already started, top left.

Garrett’s chariot met its grisly end fairly early. That suited him, he shrugged and went back to scrolling up and down Redditt. Of course, his stiffening corpse and wreckage added some challenges to the course.

So long, little buddy!

No time to remain sentimental, I had a race to try to not lose. Brian’s rules have elaborate drafting mechanics so I got to the rear of the conga line to avoid having to deplete an endurance chip (black or green poker chips).

For some reason I ended up (in the Orange chariot) the target of a lot of the other racers, as I did here when they tried a squeeze play:

YIKES! Get me out of this

Too bad for the guy on the left, his homicidal efforts got him in hot water. In Brian’s rules when one chariot rams another, there is a dice differential roll which can run into the negative numbers. When he rolled a two and I rolled an eleven, he knew he was in trouble.

-5 or more on the attack table ended up flipping the ATTACKING chariot. See ya later, Doofius!

The joy of being attacked continued unabated during the next turn.

Ramming someone into the wall (in this case, me in the Orange Team) is an age-old tactic in chariot race games.

I was actually expecting to die going around the last curve (for me), as I had to go over a wreck somewhere, I didn’t have that many options. Actually driving over Garrett’s corpse only jostled me a little bit and I got back to the inside lane quickly, tearing down the track ALL OUT that turn

I knew it couldn’t last! Fred Haub’s chariot rammed me, I guess he was a little miffed I tried to do for him in the preceding pass. I skidded into the wall and disintegrated.

Sadly, keeping an “all or nothing” pace has its risks, and my ticket got punched going into the last lap. I shrugged off driving over wreckage, a whip attack, and rammed another chariot (Fred Haub’s, ineffectually) on the way down to the end, but got rammed back for my pains, damaging the chariot even more. It was actually the corner strain test that did for me; I lost control during the turn and skidded sideways into the wall; the chariot turned to flinders. And that did for me!

I like chariot games.

So that was NOVAG’s Winter Game day for 2014. Lots of fun, easy to execute, and relatively cost-free. Thanks to the NOVAG leadership for putting this on, and the Fairfax County Public Library system for hosting us.

Slideshow of the entire game day

Slideshow of just the Chariot hijinx

A simple method to use hidden information in Miniature games


Well, simple if you have a tablet with a camera and a photo editor app, that is.
Say you are running a miniature wargame with lots of hidden information in it, like the location of snipers, minefields, ambushes, “hot zones” etc.  This can be problematic in the normal “God’s eye view” of a miniature battlefield.  I’ve seen various ways of hiding hidden movement in plain sight, or tracking it off the battlefield, with various degrees of success.   I’ve tried this recently, and it works perfectly.

Say you have a battlefield laid out, or you are about to.. just one little detail.  You ask the defending player– “where are the hidden units?”

Then take a picture of the battlefield using your tablet camera, like so:

Map 1: the battlefield. The defender needs to set up a minefield, a sniper and an ambush.

Quick like a bunny, switch to a photo editor of some kind that allows fast edits and saves, and where you can use your finger for a stylus.

I use “AVERY” but there are a lot of photo editors out there.

Then, bring it up in an editor, hand it to the defending player, and have him mark the actual photograph with edits showing where this stuff is on the map. He knows where it will be, but the assaulting player will not.. until he encounters it.

Map 2: Marked up with hidden points. Mine field on left, sniper, bottom left. Ambush point, top center.

SAVE out and use it as a reference when the action starts.

Sure, that’s absurdly easy. Easy and fast is good when you have people waiting to start playing! Total time elapsed, less than five minutes.

EDIT: LordAshram from the Miniatures Page suggests, and I concur, that you make a picture for each hidden map feature, so you can only depict a single hidden map feature at a time. In the example above, there would be a minefield map, a sniper map, and an ambush map. Easy enough to do– and you wouldn’t have the pain in the neck of showing ONE thing on the photograph and trying to hide the other things with your hand or a piece of paper.

The Largest Game I’ve ever seen– Borodino 92 NOW with pictures


NOTE: I was recently contacted by Mr. Gary Jones, who just happened to be at the Battle of Borodino 1992 for THIRTY MINUTES, and he took a plethora of pictures which he has made available to me.  My thanks to Gary for this invaluable visual record!  The following narrative relates events to the best of my recollection.  Where I have erred or omitted, I apologize in advance.

Those were the days…   I zoned on this in 2012, but I had an anniversary of sorts.  22 years ago, roughly, I attended what ended up being a formative event in my participating with miniature wargaming.  The year was 1992, I was working for Booz, Allen and Hamilton.  One of my work colleagues was Patrick Berkebile.  Pat was interested in miniatures, just like I was, but we were both kind of still on the outside looking in.  Patrick approached me about participating in a project he had heard about– recreating the Battle of Borodino (1812) in grand tactical scale .  This was the project of Mr. Tony Figlia and the late Wally Simon.  They wanted to create a gigantic gaming experience that would simulate the Battle from the “thousand foot up” vantage point.  This was a project most hobby players couldn’t hope to emulate on their own;  the amount of figures and terrain required spiraled way out of control.   So Simon and Figlia quickly built French and Russian teams, built around the order of battle as we knew it, working from public sources, especially David Chandlers’ Campaigns of Napoleon and Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars.   Patrick, his brother (whose name I have forgotten, alas) and myself signed up and were assigned to the French team.  In the order of Battle, we were assigned IV Corps, Commander-in-Chief: Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy (Napoleon’s stepson, who ended up commanding the entire Grande Armee on the retreat to France).   I recall that the Corps were divided into Divisions, and I ended up with the supporting cavalry corps (which was divisional sized):

My Unit: Corps Cavalry : Général de division Ornano

12th Light Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Guyon – 6 squadrons (~800 men)
— 9th Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel de Bruneteau de Sainte-Suzanne (3 Squadrons)
— 19th Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Vincent (3 Squadrons)

13th Light Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Villata – 8 squadrons (949 men) — 2nd Italian Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Banko (4 Squadrons)
— 3rd Italian Chasseurs a Cheval: Colonel Rambourgt (4 Squadrons)

Bavarian Cavalry Division: Major Général von Preysing-Moos

21st Light Cavalry Brigade: Major Général von Seydewitz
— 3rd Bavarian Chevau-Légers Kron-prinz: Colonel Elbracht (4 squadrons)
— 6th Bavarian Chevau-Légers Bubenhofen: Colonel von Dietz (4 squadrons)

22nd Light Cavalry Brigade: Major Général von Preysing-Moos
— 4th Bavarian Chevau-Légers: Colonel Seyssel (4 squadrons)
— 5th Bavarian Chevau-Légers: Colonel Gaddum (4 squadrons)

I’m not sure what my “Cavalry Corps” represented in terms of actual men per figure, but I do recall that I purchased one large bag of 15mm Old Glory Chaseurs A Cheval to represent all of them– all the Italians and all the Bavarians.   AND I had lots of figures left over!   This is what they looked like:

Old Glory Chasseur figures, from the OG 15s website. Pretty much the same paint scheme I used.  My uniform painting resource was Osprey’s NAPOLEON’S LIGHT CAVALRY.

I gave away those figures years ago since I have never really collected 15mm Nappys.  Even for such an early effort, and my dubious painting skills, they really didn’t look too bad.  Of course 15mm usually does from 3 feet away.  I took my time and tried to paint scientifically but fell behind, so the night before, my girlfriend (and later bride) jumped in to mass paint horses for me, grumbling good-naturedly.

Day of Battle

The Battle of Borodino 1992 game took place in a giant field house located on Fort Meade, Maryland.  The initial battlefield looked like this:

Borodino Battlefield.  The Blue line of tables is the French set up area, the Green line of tables is the Russian.  Troops would enter the center battlefield (brown) from these locations.  The Red spot was my approximately location in the center.

Borodino Battlefield. The Blue line of tables is the French set up area, the Green line of tables is the Russian. Troops would enter the center battlefield (brown) from these locations. The Red spot was my approximately location in the center.

There were tons of gamers present– almost 100% men in those days.  I didn’t know it, then,  but I was encountering a lot of people I would come to know in the years to come as my participation in the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (East) grew.    My troops came on the blue table and my general position for the next two days of the game was generally in the area of the red spot in the picture above.

Pictures:

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.

This is looking North along the battlefield of Borodino.  The French are on the left.  I can’t make out myself in this gaggle of people but I’m there in the center. 

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.

Looking South down the battlefield.  The participants are in the bleacher end of the battle, which indicates this is probably the second day.  You can barely make out famed historian David Chandler in the first row, just to the right of the fellow raising his arm and speaking.  This was the reading of the referee’s results, which took a while with all the cheering going on.

Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  French to the left.  The swampy clearing to the right of the Fleches where I spent most of Saturday is in the foreground.

Randy Meyers and Wally Simon played Napoleon and Kutuzov (respectively) and assumed positions on elevated chairs some distance away from the setup tables.  During the course of the battle, their only communication to the 0battlefield was by written order via paper, carried to the corps commander the supreme commander wished to influence.   I remember that Randy was using binoculars to determine what was happening on the field (as his historical counterpart would have used a spyglass).

We were using a set of rules called EMPIRE 2 by Scott Bowden. The only Napoleonic miniatures game I was familiar with (then) was Napoleon’s Battles by Avalon Hill, and Empire was very, very different.

I certainly wasn’t a seasoned veteran or anything, but I got the sense (then and now) that Empire 2 was a compromise candidate for a rule system. It was dense, chart heavy and there were some rules that made little or no sense to me. There were also rules, as we will see, that contributed to a memorable event in wargaming for me.

I roleplayed the Corsican General Phillipe Ornano to some extent, and was essentially attached to Eugene de Beauharnais’ IV Corps on paper and at the outset of the battle.  That meant I was theoretically under Patrick Berkebile’s orders, but he was involved in heavy infantry fighting the first and second days so there really was nothing for the cavalry corps to do.  IV corps was left of the Fleches (the center of the battlefield in our setup)– very hilly terrain and not ideal for cavalry fighting.  I was new to all this, but I didnt’ need an expert to tell me that.   So by mutual agreement, I detached from IV Corps and was stationed to the right of Davout’s I Corps slightly to the right of the Great Redoubt.   The player running Davout’s role was also very distracted by the largely infantry and artillery fight around the Redoubt on the first day, but he did take the time to assign me to something to do– and it turned out to be pretty valuable, as things fell out.  To the right (South) of the Redoubt from the French perspective was a largely flat area with few terrain breaks, just some marsh in areas.  As I and IV corps were concentrating on the attack, they didn’t have sufficient frontage to extend far down before connecting to the Corps on our right, which was Poniatowski’s V corps if memory serves.    Into that flat, somewhat marshy gap he placed me.  That is, Ornano’s Cavalry “Corps”, which really was a smallish Division.  I had another unit of “Lithuanian Cossacks” attached to me as skirmishers and scouts.  Not much of anything happened during the early half of the first day from my perspective.  My Lithuanians skirmished with some proper Russian Cossacks from the Hetman Platov, run by none other than Pete Panzeri, future HMGS President.   The Russians had the better of my Lithuanians, to my chagrin, and they were pretty badly cut up– at least I think so, I had to have an Empire 2 translator (referee) talk me through the complicated charge/countercharge process using their rules.

More Pictures:

Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  Fierce infantry fighting in the village of Borodino.

Pictures provided by Gary Jones

A staggered line of French Chasseurs. They might have even been mine! Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Massive Infantry Assault. On the French left, I think. Pictures provided by Gary Jones

Later in the day, I noticed that the good Hetman was emboldened by his earlier skirmishes and was massing a very large cavalry attack; first a line of Cossacks, then a line of Hussars, then another line of Lancers of some kind.   The big advantage to being outnumbered in this situation is that it gives you plenty of time to get ready while the other guy is getting his big, dramatic charge ready.  So I put my tiny division in a line to receive and poked Davout in the shoulder, nodding towards the disturbing development with cavalry.  He was concerned, but also had most of his assets committed to the ongoing battle around the Redoubt.  His comment was the kind of supervision junior commanders the world over revel in: “Yikes!  Improvise and do the best you can to hold those guys off– if they get in on my right flank, I’m in deep trouble here!”
The Russian cavalry flanking move began late in the first day, and as the three lines moved forward, I noticed something.  They were on the edge of a marsh that edged firm ground from the rise where my small line was located.  If I acted promptly, I could have the advantage on them.  So once again with the assitance of a very patient referee, General Ornano sounded the charge and the Cavalry Corps tore across the field to hit first edge of Cossacks as they were just coming out of the swamp.  And here is where the confusion of Empire 2 parted, and I could see, for an instant, how brilliant those rules were.  I charged HOME on the first line and due to a fortuitious roll, totally ROUTED them.  But this was only light cavalry.  The fun really started when they retreated away from me at high speed.  They collided with and dashed through the line of Hussars behind them.  Due to some obscure rule about broken units passing through formations, the line BEHIND them broke, and ran for the rear.  Now the last line did not break, but seeing the bulk of the attack heading for the horizon, Platov turned his Lancers around and adopted a covering position, and thus the threat of the first day was over.  Davout, looking on from my left, was astonished.  “You’ll remember that“, he said.  “That was a once in a lifetime thing that just happened“… and he was right.

Randy Meyers and the Napoleonic Command team (if memory serves, Neil Brennan was Berthier) implemented a nice touch for French commanders.  If they did something pretty spectacular, they would dispatch a staff runner with a piece of paper, which represented the award of the “Legion D’Honor” on the battlefield.  In some cases (Bob Giglio, for one, playing Latour-Marbourg) battlefiled promotions ensued.  It was only a little piece of playacting, but I remember feeling kind of proud of myself for getting a “Legion D’Honor” award for my defense of Davout’s right flank at Borodino, and having these crusty wargaming veterans clap for the newbie.

I had taken some losses, which has an impact on your formation.  There may or may not have been some house rule about reorganzing units with losses in effect, but in any event I didn’t do much else for the rest of the day, just moved my guys back to a covering spot and reorganized.

picture from the actual game, back in 1992. Credit: Small Wars website, see below.

The second day dawned with us present and ready to fight but the Russians were in even less shape to go on the offensive than they had been on the first day.   I patroled my area of the field, but Platov had moved off during the night and was now plaguing another sector of the field.  The Austrian Duke Schwarzenburg’s corps was to our right, to the right of Poniatowski.  On the second day, the Austrians got stuck into it with the Russians as the Russians attempted to flank to the left of the line.  The entire Austrian corps refused the right and didn’t allow it.   This created a comical situation where the Austrians were running out of room to maneuver as the Russian attack bent around them.   To compensate, they kept relocating tables  to extend the action to the Southwest, creating a kind of sharp bend in our lines.

About midday the Corps Commanders in the Center had been fighting a largely infantry action  for almost two days and the casualties were piling up.  Napoleon decided to go for plan B.  Murat moved his cavalry corps in besides Davout, to my left.  Looking for something to do, I asked the player running Murat if I could tag along.  He didn’t mind.  So the gigantic charge around the back of the Fleches and Redbouts began.  It achieved great results, getting in behind the line in the center and causing a regular smash up.   My guys just went along for the show and because I was getting bored just watching everyone else.

The impact on the larger battlefield appeared to be to draw the entire event to a close.  That suited me fine; I had been playing for a day, almost two, and for much of that time I did nothing but watch over a field.

Here’s a few from that moment:

Massive Cavalry Assault. Pictures provided by Gary Jones.  This also makes me think Mr. Jones visited the game during the second day.

More cavalry scouting. Pictures by Gary Jones

David Chandler himself was present, dressed as a French Marshall.  He was much impressed with the effort and consulted on the victory conditions at the end of the second day.  It was agreed, by gentleman’s agreement, that the French had indeed won this thing, mostly through NOT emulating the historical French disposition and tactics.   Three cheers were heard for both sides, then the French side launched into Le Marseilles.   The Russians counted with “Winter is coming! Winter is coming!  Winter is coming!!!!

David Chandler, noted Napoleonic Era historian, was present. A delightful guest and a thorough gentleman.

And so we headed home.  That was my first really big wargame event.  I had been to Historicon before this, and had played miniatures games before, but nothing on this scale before that, and only very rarely since.

This epic miniatures battle has become something of a legend for many who were there or wish they were.  Yet, it took place at the dawn of the Internet age.  There are surprisingly few references to the 1992 Borodino game anywhere on the Internet except a small snippet in the Baltimore Sun HERE.   I recall the old extinct Courier wargaming magazine published a small piece on the game with one blurry halftone photograph.  I remember taking pictures.. lots of guys took pictures.  But this was in the days just before the advent of cheap digital photography, and if I have the film pictures of this event in a shoebox somewhere, I lost track of them years ago.  I have only found a few blurry scanned pictures on a website called Small Wars, which recounts the 1992, 2002 and 2012 Borodino games– the organizers of the 1992 game have continued the tradition every ten years since then.

Fortunately, I have found a new source for images.  Read below.

A note on the new photos: I despaired of ever seeing visual references to this game again, until I was contacted by Mr. Gary Jones, who by the grace of God was just passing through that day and managed to snap a few pictures.   22 years later, he contacted me through this blog and the battlefield pictures you see included are almost all taken by him.  Many thanks, sir!

Miniatures from Borodino 92:

Mr. Jones also picked up a few painted figures from a vendor present, probably it was GAJO.

Not sure of the Scale, but the units appear to be from Waterloo. Credit: Gary Jones

More figure purchases by Mr. Jones

More figures by Gary Jones

As a player, this game did have a big impact on me.. as a player and a designer.  I knew I liked historical wargaming and still do.  I also knew I didn’t have any love for those Empire 2 rules, or really games at this level.  I admired the huge aspect of the game simply from the logistical end of things, but had no wish to emulate a game at that scale again.  Without a doubt, I had a great time and that countercharge against Mr. Panzeri’s Cossacks is one of those golden moments that keep you in wargaming forever.   My largest miniatures game became the game that really got me involved in the hobby, at the end of the day.

New Project: Victorian Science Fiction — The Great War against the Cthonians


So after purchasing a few new PicoArmor Mark I packs at Cold Wars 2013, I was taking a look at all this stuff and a bunch of things I had laying around the house– old Monsterpocalypse bits and Dystopian Wars and Leviathans.. all of which is essentially unused.  I can either flea market it or make it into something.  I’ve already mentioned this in this post: The Great War Against the Cthonians, so this isn’t a new idea.  This is a game about leftovers and using as much stuff as I already have as possible without buying new things.  So, what the heck, in for a penny, I started painting up the armor and support sections of what I’m starting to envision is the multi-national force that will encounter the Cthonian army when it emerges from the deeps to lay waste to mankind. 

This is mostly Dystopian Wars, almost all of which I found on sale at a Game Store in Fredericksburg.  There’s Pico Armor MK V tanks among the large (British) Light Tank Battallion.

What’s in Work:

Front to back German Medium tank platoons, German Heavy tanks, French Corps L’Aeronautique, British Light Tank Company

Side view, French Corps L’Aeronautique, British Light Tank force, Support Artillery, French Air Launchers, French Superheavies

Medium and Large class German SteamPanzers, French Aeroplanes, the start of the British Light Steam Tanks

Lastly, some Infantry plus support weapons and Cavalry, mostly from Oddzial’s Army, WWI era. There are some interesting possibilities here. I’m thinking of making them American, but of the “blue shirt and khaki pants” era, just for fun. If it is too hard to do I’ll just make the whole mess of them khaki. I picture these as being Companies with supporting weapon stands. There’s also an Artillery Section, bottom right.

Aesthetics: I got some painting done over Thanksgiving– add the French Superheavies (you can see them in the back of the first and second picture above) and the French Corps L’Aeronautique into the painted category. I’m not going crazy with the detail.. just a lot of dull metallic (flat, not brassy) with some color highlights and some gold and silver here and there. I don’t really agree with the constant “Brown and Brass” color aesthetic that fanboys and girls tend to associate with the Victorian/Edwardian era. Brass isn’t a good structural element, and I reckon the national factions would PAINT their tanks a certain color (or range of colors). Right now it’s Olive Drab/Khaki for the Brits, Red Baron style or blue/gray for the Germans, and Metallic with a highlight of bright blue for the French. I’m not sure how I’ll paint Americans in this one.

And.. AHEM, this is a Victorian Science Fiction game, not a “Steampunk” thing. I never liked that term.

What’s left for the Human Ground Forces: Since I’m envisioning this game to be a sort of micro-armor VSF NATO style arrangement fighting monsters on the outskirts of a European medium sized city, I’m going to add a few more armor units to really spread the game out a bit. I’ll likely buy more Infantry, both as a supplement to what I already have for the Humans and ALSO as Fishmen and Cultist Infantry for the Cthonians. Now THAT will be a painting challenge!

I’m going to Flea Market or Ebay my Leviathans sets, except for one expansion fleet which I will donate to this game, suitably kitbashed and painted. I don’t want the aerial element to overwhelm the game, so one small set of ships is all that is needed. I would add more but they really need something to fight and it’s a real challenge to add something Cthonian (which means underground dweller) to the aerial dimension of this design.

Monsters: I’m purchasing small amounts of various Monsterpocalypse forces, as my meager supply won’t be enough. This will be addressed in the next Status report on the Great Cthonian War.

Rules: No idea where this will go yet. I’m looking at adapting the Olympica design to this, but we’ll see.

I’ll post on this again in January or so. Ciao.

Legions of Steel, back from the Past.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Kickstarter video:

And the Kickstarter Page itself is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nyxsquad/legions-of-steel-the-video-game

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

Other links:

Legions of Steel Forum

The Great War Against the Cthonians


Okay, it’s just a notion, but I’ve been wrapping my head around what to do with my (expensive) Leviathans sets ever since trying to play the rules they published. In addition to that I have some odd bits laying around the basement, purchased here and there over time, like some monsterpocalypse pieces, and some Pico Armor, and some old unpainted Dystopian Wars armor sets… and it hit that all this stuff could coalesce nicely as they are roughly in scale with each other. What really convinced me was this event at HISTORICON 2013:

A nice repurposing of Leviathans

Note the 3mm scale armor, use of Dystopian Legions sparingly, and Trench like terrain. It’s a steampunk WWI!

The infantry supported by a deployed artillery unit

Honestly, I forget what this was called. I did like the reuse of several different gaming bits, like Leviathans, Risk Pieces, and Dystopian Legions units. I LOVE the WWI “trench” feel to the terrain. Perfect.

So, I got to thinking.. I don’t want to remake that game exactly, but a game where brave humanity fights a threat from below?  What if the general rising of Cthulhu actually happened– as is often threatened in the works of Messrs Lovecraft, Derleth et al but never actually comes to pass?  The books refer to the event as the end of mankind, but surely we’d make a better fight of it than that?

So here’s the plan..

Cthonian Side: The word CTHONIAN means “of or pertaining to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.”  I want a good catchall phrase for “An army of creepy tentacly squamous monsters in roughly 1:600 scale”.  For that, my main players are going to be the lower end units, which I’m mostly recruiting from Monsterpocalypse.  I picture them as being somewhat ill disciplined, with higher level monsters called Overseers keeping them in line.  There will be some much larger Cthonian units as onesie and twosie figures.

Sources:

CTHONIANS:

Mounted on flying stands and overlaid with a shade of nauseating green? Voila, Cthonian airial units– anachronism be damned!

I have to have something to face the Levianthans with after all.

An actual Shuggoth from CP Models UK:

Small Shuggoth, from the same source

More Flyers from CP Models

The Shambler, same source

Depending on how big these are, they’d make great Overseers. Same source, CP Models

Of course, there are several candidates from Monsterpocalypse:

Yasheth: from the RISE set

Cthugrosh, roughly the same size

The Humble Spitter Grunt. He’s a grunt in MY army, too.

The Tanglix can make a great Overseer unit.

Ultra Ancient Osheroth. Love what you’ve done with your tentacles!

Task Master. Another great Overseer unit.

Ulgoth from I chomp NY set.

There are many more Monsterpocalypse units, you get the idea.

Khurasan’s Magellenic Nomad looks like a possibility, as well.

HUMANS:

It’s a shorter list.

Selected Dystopian Legions Armor units.   I have some of these already, and might pick up a few of their mechanical walking men as well.

Pico Armor Mark V tanks:

I have five packs already.

Infantry Stands from Tumbling Dice/Odzial Osmy’s “Universal Items” list.

So, putting some of that together, and I’m fairly pleased with what I’m looking at here.

Infantry Brigade with organic Artillery Support (center) and two armored Companies on Flanks tackling a Single and a Quadruple unit of Tanglers, flanked by a double unit of Shivering Horrors.  Behind them is an Overseer, flailing his tentacles to good effect.

Infantry Brigade with organic Artillery Support (center) and two armored Companies on Flanks tackling a Single and a Quadruple unit of Tanglers, flanked by a double unit of Shivering Horrors. Behind them is an Overseer, flailing his tentacles to good effect.

Great Cthonian War

Another shot of this confrontation. Queens own Hussar’s company attacks a Double Unit of Shivering Horrors. Cthonians round bases, Humans square bases.

I’m not sure when this will finish up, or what rules I will use. Something home grown for sure. It wont’ get done quickly since I’m going to have to troll the flea markets to get some decent figures. Possibly in 2014 some time….

Donald Featherstone: an Appreciation


Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

The word is being passed slowly from across the Atlantic that Donald Featherstone passed away yesterday. For all my non Geek friends, Don was a pioneer in the area of tabletop miniature game design (mostly of the historical flavor), or “wargames”. Don wrote dozens of books and articles on the subject– dating back to before I was born.  He published a very influential newsletter called, simply, WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER which had its heyday back in the early 1960s.  I’ve owned and read many of Don’s books, but not all of them– there were so many on all sorts of historical subjects.  My personal favorites were his books on  Solitaire Wargaming, Naval Wargaming and Skirmish Games.   I’ve designed a lot of one-off miniatures games in the course of my adult life; virtually everything, including the silly stuff, has a soupçon of Featherstone’s influence in it somewhere.   The man to man Napoleonic game I’m working on right now, for instance, has equal dashes of Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun and Don’s Skirmish Wargaming in it.  When you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

Don in an article from the early 90s.

I only met Don one time, during the mid 2000s at a HMGS convention– Cold Wars, I think. He was very frail but his mind was sharp and gleeful. I had drinks with Don and Bob Leibl and Cleo Hanlon. He was amused that people were always assuming he had already passed and used the phrase “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated” at least once.  We didn’t really discuss wargaming or “the hobby” all that much.  As I recall, he was more interested in discussing football (not the American version) and some American television programs.  It was an odd tete a tete.

A reissue cover of a Featherstone title

If you haven’t read a Featherstone book, you really should.  They are mostly in the process of being republished in perfect bound trade copies by John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project.  Pricey but worth it– these are almost impossible to find unless you are a really dedicated deep diver at flea markets, boot sales and used book stores.  I couldn’t have picked up Skirmish Wargaming and Naval Wargaming without the History of Wargaming Project.  Thanks, John Curry.  It’s amazing and amusing about how much of our modern miniatures hobby can be traced back to Don Featherstone in England and Jack Scruby in America.  Everything.. including your latest hipster big-shoulderpad SF games, Fantasy games, D&D, etc.. everything… owes more than   a little to these men and the hobby they created with their tireless work and creativity.    Don Featherstone, for such a diminutive, soft-spoken fellow, wielded tremendous influence over the hobby back in its founding and  growth years.

A charming man, a great hobbyist and writer… I’ll miss Donald Featherstone.  In his honor, the OFM (on the Miniatures Page) is suggesting we run games that “don’t take themselves too seriously”.  What can I say?  I’m all in on this one.

Links:

Pirated 18mm Eureka SYW figures on eBay


misternizz:

The miniatures hobby is already a niche business, full of small businessmen that feel the effects of piracy in no uncertain terms. It be hooves all of us lead-pushing geeks to get the word out about pirates. Cheers to Fighting15s in the U.K. For spotting this.

[follows: reblog post from Oozlum Games blog]

Originally posted on oozlumgames.com:

IF

A Hong Kong based eBay user is selling painted, pirated versions of Eureka’s 18mm Seven Years War range. Fighting 15s has been following this user’s activities for some time, and at last has obtained examples of the figures and been able to compare them directly with genuine Eureka figures. Examples of pirated and genuine work appear in the pictures accompanying this news item.

Ebay user imfadcom (painting service CHYT) has been selling painted pirated version of Eureka’s SYW range since at least 2011. Fighting 15s became aware of this after attending Central London Wargames Club, where examples were fielded by one of the players in a large game. Thanks to that player we now have copies of the eBay emails relating to those items, identifying and confirming imfadcom as the seller, and have been able to make a more detailed comparison of the figures and take photographs.

As the photographs…

View original 569 more words

Getting a few 1:600 ironclads off of the back burner


Work in progress; Painting up some Union Ironclads and scenery bits I picked up at a Christmas Sale from Brookhurst Hobbies last year… The Tuscumbia (r) and Benton (l). I’m redoing the decks, I’m not satisfied how they turned out. 1:600 scale, Peter Pig Range 7 line. These are decent resin models, not the best manufacturer on this subject and scale, but I like the Range 7 stuff– they make very affordable resin cast dockyards and forts.

I don’t have a lot of historical sources for how either ship looked, exactly. It’s clear that the paddlebox on the Tuscumbia was painted from the photographs I’ve seen, so I made her a cheerful bright blue (then grimed it up with a wash). Ditto for the Benton. An 1880ish colored drawing shows her with a blue paddlebox, so I gave her a nice bright blue one just to liven her up a bit. Otherwise the casemate is gun metal with a heavy armor wash (to give it that grimey look). The wooden decks are a Desert Armor camoflauge color that I stained with a light brown ink. It ran a little and looks dirty in spots, so I’ll either repaint it or give it a lighter highlight to look weathered. Finishing touches: considering adding rigging wire to both ships and boats on davits on the Benton. We’ll see.

Benton and Tuscumbia

Benton (left) Tuscumbia (right). Both models from Peter Pig.

Next step: painting up some remote detonating water mine markers (called “Torpedoes” back in the day), some markers for damage, submarines and gunboats, and a largish pier for riverine civil war scenarios.

54mm Troll Shaman painted up for the Magi


54mm Wizard figures are few and far between, and usually cost a lot. A happy exception is the Iron Wind Metal’s Spellcaster line, which has about ten good figures in a useful scale for my game of THE MAGI. I’ve collected most of the entire run of SPELLCASTER line of 54mm Wizard figures over the years, from a variety of sources.  I’ve found extras of a couple of them– the Barbary Mage and the Human Mage are both figures I’ve found as extras in “buckets of stuff” in flea markets.  The only one I don’t have is the Elf Mage that comes with the Spellcaster game, and that probably isn’t worth buying a thirty dollar game (still! and it didn’t sell!) to get one figure and a repeat of a figure I already have (Moon Witch) to get.

In any event I was recently lucky enough to pick up two that I had not had any luck with in a long time, the LizardMan Shaman and the Troll Shaman.  It’s my intention to paint up at least these two– of what I have left in my “big Wizards” queue, I have the Lizard Man, the Lich, the extra Human Wizard, and a Tom Meier 54mm Wizard guy.

I got the Troll Shaman done over the weekend.  Here we go:

Ain’t he a handsome feller?

Top View

Full on

I painted him basic Greenskin with some green ink shadowing. Brown Skins with a tattered dark red cloak. All over wash in a brown tint to get the shadows and warts, with some highlighting and sprayed with Dull-Coate.

I like him. There’s a lot of detail here and he even has an interesting expression on his face. He’ll fit right in!

Friday: the End, and Zombietown USA


Friday dawned and with it the last day of Game Camp. Friday’s traditional game is ZOMBIE TOWN USA, which is a game designed by the kids at the camp in 2008, and embellished a little by me. For the audience, time and scale, it’s a great little game– no muss and no fuss, and I like to run it. Here’s a free copy, if you are interested at all. The not so subtle benefit of Zombie Town on Friday is that it is a game that fits in a smallish box plus a few terrain pieces and a ground cloth. The sum total of extra bits are a box of tokens, Heroscape dice and some sticks for measuring, plus some playing cards for initiative. Since ZT plays fairly quickly, I ran DO YOU WORSHIP CTHULHU? Which is basically a Werewolf knockoff by the Toy Vault with nice cards. That went over well.

While I was setting up ZT USA, the kids seized GET BIT and played yet another game of it. GET BIT was played many times during the course of the week. I showed them the Wil Wheaton Tabletop episode on GET BIT and some of them want to order copies for themselves now.

ZT USA started around 10 AM and played until 2 PM, with a break for lunch. This was a fun game. Players assume the role of SWAT team survivors from various police precincts, about two years into a Zombie holocaust. Most of humanity is gone and what little authority that still exists rests in small enclaves and armed camps. The players played a small group of police led by the cowardly LT Brannigan. The group had orders to investigate rumored large scale Zed migrations that had recently been detected in the desert. Accordingly the group has set up a CP in a crumbling deserted tourist town. On a patrol they were ambushed by a huge mob of zeds that have chased them two days and killed two of them. The game begins as they arrive at the edge of the town, on the run from an advancing horde. The object of the game is to cross to the Helicopter Pad at the edge of town without attracting too many rogue zombies.

The trick is to SNEAK, and not attract too many zeds. Of course, there’s always THAT GUY who freaks out and runs, and then the trouble starts.

Just to add a little contention, I played LT Brannigan, who was unnerved to the point where he had to run for it. He made the helicopter pad in 2 turns, but had to avoid zombies while he frantically called for the extraction chopper. Of course, he summoned all kinds of zombies during his noisy run to the pad.

As happens in this game, the more noise you make, the more zombies that show up. The more zombies that show up, the more noise you make killing them. Which summons more zombies. You can’t win!

I added a few random bits like Mutant Zombies, Butcher Zombies, Ventriloquist Zombies, and various things like random encounters. The horde showed up and that hastened the game to the gory end.

The Perimeter at the Helipad shrinking as the Zombies pile on.

For more Zombie fun, check out this slideshow:

misternizz's Story

We ended up at 1400, and packed it up to have an ice cream party. I asked the campers what their favorites were this week. Unquestionably, BIG DANGED BOATS led the approval rating from everyone, followed by THE MAGI, OLYMPICA, Fantasy Gladiators and Zombietown. They suggested I trim down from 5 games to 4, so they can finish one they started. Good point!

Another Camp done! Back again next year!

Quick and Easy Star Maps for X-Wing Miniatures


We’re running the Game Camp for Kids this week. On Tuesday, we’re running a multiplayer game of X-Wing Miniatures and we will need a larger space to play than usual. Now, I could send off to a special map making company like CorSec engineering, etc. or I could make something quick and cheap by myself. I opted for the latter, being on a budget this year.

Materials:

3 Yards black felt 11.00
1 can white primer (rustoleum) for 3.50
Pale Blue, White, Yellow and Red acrylic paint (already had it)

Place your felt on the ground and spread out flat. Using the white primer, Gently spray the black felt with white primer paint, but not up close. Hold the can at an angle from about 2-3 feet off the ground so the paint turns into a fine mist. The effect you’ll get will be a sort of cloudy white background, much like a starry galaxy background. Don’t overdo it or you’ll just get “Grey”. Let this dry. Felt absorbs paint very quickly, so it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Clouds on, just starting to spatter on pale blue stars

Then, in this order, mix separate batches of a watery paint from pale blue, then yellow, then white, then red. Consistency should be opaque, with lots of paint dissolved in the water. Using a flat brush, dip your brush in enough to get it wet with the watered paint. In a circular flipping motion, spatter the cloth with first pale blue, then yellow, then white, then a LITTLE bit of red. Go very liberal with the white and pale blue.

misternizz's StarMapMaking album on Photobucket

SLIDESHOW on photobucket

The end result isn’t QUITE as good as a professionally made star map, but it definitely looks exactly like what I want it to look like, is big enough for a table full of kids, and best of all, cost me lest than 15 bucks. Not bad, eh?

The Magi: Waving Hands for Miniatures, debuts


Here’s a game I’ve been wanting to make happen for a long time– bringing some version of WAVING HANDS into the spatial reality of miniatures.  I’ve had the miniatures painted and in a box for a year or more.  I’ve had the spell component cards done.  I just have to put it all together, which I finally have done.  The Magi will debut at the Summer Gaming camp for Kids I will be throwing in two weeks, and preliminary run through results have me very, very positive.  I like this game, but then again, I should since it’s been around forever and was pretty close to perfect as designed.  Waving Hands started in 1977 as a game submission that ended up being a magazine article in a defunct PBM magazine called Sauce of the Nile.    A long time ago I asked Richard Bartle, the original author, if I could make a miniatures variant.  It turned out he had always wanted to have the spatial moving and attacks element of this game but was constrained by publishing space in the magazine he published it in.  So the Waving Hands that I have played via email and admired all these years was originally visualized in a manner not too different from the version I am attempting.  My version, called “The Magi” because the good names are all taken, will move wizards either a short or long distance as a phase outside of spellcaster, then the wizard has a choice of actions, most of which involve spellcasting or fighting.  In my game, the spells are built by cards which are played in spell sequence face down by the caster, along with the actual somatic gesture which is public open knowledge (unless you are blinded).    Thus your wizardly opponents only know what they can see (and remember, and guess at).

As a PBM game, it’s frankly excellent.  With miniatures, I hope it will be the same.  The game mechanics are simple enough, Move, Move Short and Perform an Action, Cleanup.

This colorful cast of characters below are my Wizards.  I have 14 spellcasters from various origins.. including cave shaman and a magical Cyclops.

photo 4

photo 2

photo 3

photo 5

Many of these are the old Ral Partha/Iron Wind Metals Spellbinder Line, but not all of them.  Some I have no idea of the provenance of.  Aren’t they a colorful bunch?

The concept behind Waving Hands for miniatures is that this is a wizards duel.  Each wizard character has 15 hit points.  They cast spells by making gestures.  Gestures (in this game) are printed on cards.  Cards build your spell (hidden from everyone but you) but when put the gesture down you MUST make the actual gesture in public for all to see.  Thus the players have imperfect knowledge but if they concentrate they can take a guess at  what you are planning to cast and take steps to avoid  or counter it.    I’m looking forward to running this game.  AT LONG LAST.

Click here to listen to a longish ramble on everything you need to know to play:

2013 has become the year of bringing long procrastinated projects to fruition for me.  First Big Danged Boats and now the Magi.  What next?

Big Danged Boats Recap, first Convention game


So, as I posted on here, HISTORICON 2013 was the first play of BIG DANGED BOATS (BDB) for more than4 players as a Convention Game. I think it went pretty well. I ran BDB on Thursday night and actually regretted not running it again.

BDB at HISTORICON 2013

So, on to my impressions. First of all, BDB did meet my expectations of the kind of game I wanted to make. I was looking for something slightly ridiculous and over the top, set in a “fantasy universe” of sorts, but not the classic elves and dwarves and fairies, even if they will be included for the sake of familiarity. Secondly I wanted to end up with a fantasy naval game that isn’t a retread of UNCHARTED SEAS in a larger scale. The emphasis would be on gunfire and boarding actions, but wouldn’t be nearly as abstracted as in that game– I wanted to see the figures going over the side and fighting hand to hand with crews on other ships– recreating the old pirate movie scenes where hordes of men swing across on ropes and heroically slash at each other with cutlasses, sneering and having camera op moments. To achieve that, the universe can’t be very gun heavy, or the game becomes a naval gunfire game. To get there, I limited gunfire (well, attempted to) by limiting ammunition. That didn’t work as well as it might. I gave each ship 1 or 2 red kegs of “Boom Powder”. Each keg carries five shots. The wealthier and more technological societies have more boom powder, the more primitive cultures have less. In practice, 10 shots (2 kegs of boom powder) turned out to be a LOT of shots for this game. People spent more time maneuvering to get a shot than actually shooting. Solution: make it 3 shots per keg rather than 5.

BDB has many home made markers, templates, measuring devices, figures, tokens and etc. From the little rock bluff (clockwise): Shining Moment Coins, Action Cards (blue card box) Oar Gauges (red, behind bluff), Yardarm to yardarm template, and the wind arrow in the background.

Logistical Tail: I made a TON of homemade game aids for this game– Action Cards, tokens, markers, measuring sticks, turning angles, wind markers and one yardarm to yardarm template. Even so, I could see that the game needed this– there’s just too much going on every turn. Players have to be sure of the Wind on all sides of the table, that’s why there’s a giant wind arrow. They have to see the weather change, that’s why the weather gauge is so large. The turning templates could have been a little cleaner, but they do what they are supposed to. The red and blue distance sticks worked like a charm. No tape measures. The only thing that didnt’ really work for me were the boarding markers (not big enough) and targeting markers. I may have to (dang it) go to Litko for this, though their stuff is rather small for this scale.

Ships: I wanted to use a preponderance of commercially made ships with some kit-bashing here and there. So a lot of the ships you see in this game started life as Old Glory Shipyards or earlier hulls (in some cases, much, much earlier). I have been collecting 15mm boats of various flavors for a long time now, and I only have some of them painted up for this game. Since I wanted ships that were highly visual, thematic, and somewhat ridiculous looking, I had to improvise a few of them from found materials, like a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a foot, or a kid’s boxing glove candy holder toy. All of which were heavily kit bashed to make the ridiculous visual fit the game.

The Holy Frenzy: an Old Glory 15mm Historical cog, with homemade Celtic Sail (she is the ship of the Brothers of Saint Brendan), detachable coracles from Museum Miniatures, and a kitbashed fighting platform up top. Painted umber with sienna highlights and red accent coloring.

The Primus, the partially armored steam powered cheese of the Rats of Ingoldsby. Made from an artificial display cheese for kitchen remodeling displays. Not much done to the cheese– added a wooden fighting platform up top, steam pipes, and a fighting platform below, plus scaled naval fittings (wheel and vents) added in haphazard style. Oh, and painted PRIMUS across the back (points if you get the reference). Ratmen figures from Magister Militum.

The Flagship Junk of the Seng, the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire that sell Boom Powder here in the Middle Sea. They are up-gunned compared to the rest of the players, but not overwhelmingly so. The Junk is a toy from the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie which is happily in scale. Didn’t do much to it, just painted the sails and trim to accentuate the red and dark grey color scheme for the Seng Fleet. Figures are Boxer Rebellion era Chinese, since they had muskets.

The Scarlet Castle, the Fighting Platform the Seng tow behind their flagship. Limited mobility by Sweep Oars when moving independently, designed to be towed into a battle and cut loose, bringing firepower to bear on enemies. Has rockets (up front) and some Jingal Teams, plus lots of handguns. Old Glory “Junk Wars” Junk, painted dark grey and dark red to match the Seng Junk color scheme.

Bone Brigade Flagship

Bone Brigade Flagship “Deadnought”, with giant skeleton arm lobber. This is an old, old flea market find– I think it was an illegal copy of an old My Galley Sally hull, but I have no way of knowing where it comes from. It was so pitted and rotten looking, all I did was give it an all over brown gray rotting wood color with some glowing green fungus highlights. The arm and superstructure are kit-bashed from craft sticks, brass and a piece of halloween decoration. Troops are Old Glory’s old fantasy line, Black Foundry.. I painted them with brass weapons to give them that “aged” look

Black GalleyThe Bone Brigade Black Galley, which is imagined to be a sort of ramming and missile fire consort to the Flagship– all archers from Alternative Army. Another ancient find, this was purchased at roughly the same time and probably from the same source. Just as bad of a casting, but painted black so it’s not as noticeable.

Killing three birds with one stone: left to right The Hoplite, from the Spartan CosPlay and Athletic Society, the Gnomish Siege Machine, and The Red Menace of the Iron Dwarves. The Hoplite was an Ebay Purchase that came already painted to my satisfaction and I didn’t do much except put an artillery platform up front for a medium gun. Spartans are all old Museum Miniatures. The Siege Machine ship is 100% kit bashed out of various craft bits, plastic card and a kid’s boxing glove candy holder. I wanted a HUGE, slow menacing ship as a funny juxtaposition with the rather tiny and peaceable looking gnomes. Gnome figures are a combination of Splintered Light and Peter Pig 15mms. The Red Menace is the CSS Manassas from Old Glory’s ACW 15mm line, with a flying dwarf launcher in the back and a wacky red and gold color scheme. Dwarf crew as a mix of Old Glory’s Black Raven and Alternative Armies (for “High” Dwarves) and some old 15mm Battlesystem (for “Gully” Dwarf Crossbowmen)

Killing more birds with one stone: L to R The Stinkwater, pirate ship of the Dredd Rott Pyrates, the Red Ragnarok (Ragnar Brothers dragon ship), The Sylvan Terror of the Wood Elf faction (top, the green galley) and the Freya (right), also a Ragnar Bros dragon ship). The Zombie Pirate ship was a very fortuitous Ebay find, relatively recently. Unfortunately I ran out of time to make it look as rotted and scabrous as it clearly needs to be for a Zombie Crew, but it at least looks the part in broad outline. Pirate figures are from Rebel Minis. The two dragon ships are Old Glory historicals from their “Dragon Wars” line– one painted medium brown with red trim, the other with green trim. Figures are an old 15mm Mighty Armies “Barbarians” pack, less the reindeer chariots– I wanted barbarians but not TOO Viking like. The galley that made up the Sylvan Terror is another mystery find from the past.. it’s more than a decade old and my memory fails me. Painted green/light green with a sculpy ram (the one that came with was missing) and a decoration in the back added by me.

Not Pictured, since it didn’t get run by a player: The Sea Eagle, the galley of the High Elves. This was essentially THIS HULL by Old Glory Shipyards in their Galley Wars line. Painted in blue/light blue/light yellow color scheme, with Alternative Army High Elf Archers (I think.. maybe they are older than that) in a matching color scheme. They also have a Sea Eagle figure (Dungeons and Dragons miniature) that they can launch as a limited aerial attack, and a light gun facing forward.

Group shot with Plunger and Von Ripper.

Not the best picture for display purposes, but you can’t have everything, where would you put it? The Plunger (far left) and the Von Ripper (starboard of the Red Menace) round off the Dwarven Stealth Fleet. Plunger is a historical CSS Hunley model from Old Glory Shipyard 15mm Historicals. Von Ripper is a CSS David model from the same source. The Plunger is pretty much a straight historical paint job– all rusty gun metal. The Von Ripper is also rusty metal with artillery platforms added fore and aft with Alternative Army dwarven artillery crews and Battlesystem “Gulley Dwarf” archers. The design philosophy behind the dwarves was that there is only a tiny minority of them that wish to go to sea, so they have trouble crewing large vessels. They favor ships that stand off and punch from a distance.

Foot of the Dead God

A big disappointment (for me) was that nobody selected The Foot of the Dead God, “ship” of the crazed Cultists at Historicon. I found a dog’s squeaky toy in the shape of a human foot, painted it like rotten flesh, and built up a platform up top. The crew is basically Hyena Men from Splintered Light along with Evil High Priests from the same source, and an Essex mercenary Artillery Crew.

Mechanics: I’m going to have make things a lot simpler. I tend to design for everything and the kitchen sink, and that complicates things. Things that worked: the way the ships move-- different ships (Steam, Wind, Magic, and Rowed) move in different ways, and they all worked together pretty well. One thing that surprised me was how competitive oared ships were with Steam Ships and Sailing Ships. At the Historicon game, Bill Alderman, playing the Spartans in a small galley, managed to catch up with the slow moving Steam powered Gnomish Siege Machine and board it, and commence to kick Gnomish butt. Jeff Simpson, running the Stealth Fleet, pushed the steam powered Von Ripper to the limit, and failed his Boom Check roll when he changed gears. Fortunately he had an Engineer card to play and they fixed it immediately. The Holy Frenzy, a sailing ship, was at the wrong angle to the wind until it changed, and then he swooped in with the wind behind him taking advantage of the extra wind. We actually changed weather twice, and the wind speed got up to “Squall”, which gave the sailing ships lots of speed. Unfortunately Brett Abbott had the Oil on Troubled Waters card, and that stopped the windy weather.
I also liked, in general, The Cards and Shining Moment Coins. The cards are a major “something” a player can do one time, to help himself or hurt someone else. The Shining Moment coins are rerolls of critical dice, and count as victory points at the end of the game. That worked.

The Mighty Siege Machine Chugs out to battle arming it’s steam powered Bopper.alas, Captain Chris Johnson did not pilot her to glory that night.

Things that I liked less: Initiative. Confusingly written. I’m probably going to go with playing cards or chips next time. Ramming Procedure: The Sequence should be Move, Check to see if Ram is possible, Ram, throw grapples, then if that works, place a marker to board or attempt to back out. This got all jacked up from turn to turn. I’m going to look at this more closely. Boarding Procedure: Too slow. I built a very cool yardarm to yardarm template, but I didn’t build enough of them and setting up a boarding combat was too slow and had too many steps. I’ll streamline this. Gunnery in General: The basic model is relatively easy– so many dice for a heavy gun, so many dice for a medium, so many dice for a light. But I wasn’t sinking any ships with gunfire. That mostly killed crews. And gunfire checked damage off of a grid in hull points and other things.. crew, gun, etc. Also, the whole volley fire thing from crew weapons (muskets, archers, crossbows) caused too much confusion, as I had three flavors of gunnery– we’ll make it ONE form of gunfire (unaimed volley) and we’ll work with the dice rolls to add things like “hit a leader” or “hit a critical dude”.

Gun Fire Scarlet Castle versus Bone Brigade

Gunfire didn’t sink a lot of ships. Musket fire (and bows, and crossbow bolts) did. In the picture above, the Scarlet Castle pours hand cannon fire into the Deadnought (Bone Brigade) which dropped the crew down quick a bit. The Bone Brigade was nonplussed. Life (or non-life) is cheap to them.

Sequencing was a little confusing, with too many exceptions. I’ll tighten that up. Damage was not lethal enough. An easy thing to fix.

In this situation we have the Ragnar Brothers in Two Dragon Ships, boarding the Stinkwater, and being boarded in turn by the Wood Elves, then assaulted by the coracles of the HOly Frenzy. Who goes first here?

Things I had but didnt’ use: Cards were fairly limited. I had cards designed for some factions, giving them special abilities. Reinforcements in the Hold: I also had a ton of reinforcements for most factions who had a ship big enough to have a hold, just not a great way to commit them to the game. Objectives-- the basic game is a pig pile. It might be fun to add objective markers for some games.

SO that’s my critique of my own system, BDB v. 1.2 Things I’m going to add: A decent magic system– probably card driven. I have three or four more factions imminent– the Trader Guild, which seeks to manufacture Boom Powder themselves and wishes to cut the Seng out of the equation; the Little People’s alliance (Fawns, Leprachauns and Gully Dwarves), Lizard Men and Orc boats.

What happened in the game?

It was a lot of fun. We had almost every ship in the game except for the Foot of the Dead God and the Sea Eagle. The Holy Frenzy was hampered by contrary winds early in the game and then swooped into a four way boarding action later deploying his special coracles to try to capture a ship. The Ragnar Brothers were quite aggressive, taking on the Wood Elves in a boarding action and the Stinkwater (Zombie Pirates) simultaneously, then being rammed in turn by the coracle assault after their numbers diminished. The Wood elves used their wood-ripping ram quite effectively against the Stinkwater, then got rammed and boarded by the Ragnars. The Primus steamed into battle and took advantage of their special power to turn on a dime to bring their cannon to bear almost every turn. The Seng got stuck into it with the Bone Brigade and had their tow rope ripped apart by them. The Spartans were incredibly aggressive and boarded and slaughtered the Gnomes at a terrible cost. I eventually called the game as ships got crews depleted to the point of no return. By points and by acclamation, the “Victor” was Aaron Bostian (who provided these pictures). Well done, sir.

Your Intrepid GM

In general, I’m happy with BDB but need to wrench on it a little longer. Big Danged Boats is large, grandiose, goofy and ridiculous, just as I had imagined it to be, and it certainly maintains its own internal logic. So I’m fairly pleased. Thanks to those players who showed up and played.

As mentioned above, Aaron Bostian (Fellow gaming blogger on the Fancy Wars Blog, check it out) was present running the Bone Brigade and he took MANY pictures. Here is a nice slide show if you’d like a look. SImply click on the image below:

Click to see slideshow. Thanks to Aaron Bostian for all these fantastic pictures. You are a gent sir.