Category Archives: Miniatures

Replay: IRA raid on a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barrack & NOVAG Game Day


NOVAG and Potomac Wargamers hosted their annual Winter Game Day on Sunday 18 January 2015 at The Centreville Library in Centreville, VA.   All games kicked off at 1300, so there wasn’t any chance to play in an earlier game than that.  There were some great choices, but the one that caught my eye was: Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Barrack Raid run by Lance O’Donnell using the Triumph and Tragedy rules set between 1900 and 1939.   These are a set of very tactical rules set in the early 20th century optimized for 20th century rifle ranges.  The scenario being played was two squads (called “Battalions” but really squad sized).  I had two groups of men of about 10 guys each (each with a leader with a pistol) and one Heroic Leader who could set demolitions and throw grenades (he had two).   Even dedicated IRA men are not exactly up to snuff militarily, so my initiative was the worst in the game (except for my hero).  We were also not as skilled as the RIC and Black and Tans were with firearms and other shooty things.   Here’s the scenario description: The local IRA needs to acquire rifles for the independence cause and has been planning to hit a rural Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks.  But the Black and Tans have been interrogating local villagers and have learned of the plot.  Can the IRA grab the rifles or will the Black and Tans get there in time to stop them?

The RIC barracks, Pretty much dead center on the table, next to the road.

Being, erm, descended from a few parties of interest in that conflict, I opted to take the IRA.  The map was simple.  Fields with a road bisecting it laterally.. In the center of the board was a two story structure (The RIC barracks) with a stone fence out back and two doors, front and back, starting the game locked.  The RIC is inside the building and they have been tipped off about the IRA.

My battalions used what improvised cover they could find. No windows in the side of house equals a covered approach.

I started in the upper NW and lower SW quadrant corners, and improvised a covered approach to the objective going as fast as I could. I was assisted in this by some woods in the NW quadrant and both a hedge in the SW quadrant combined with no side windows in the barracks building. The Black and Tans did not enter until Turn 3, which forced the impetus of action upon me.

The Black and Tans enter on Turn 3, giving me roughly five turns of having a numerical advantage (as it took them 3 turns of movement to get into a position to affect the battle).

My tactical plan was to rush to a position where I could be in range, lay down a suppressing fire on both windowed sides of the RIC barracks, blow the black door with demolitions and rush in to club and capture the hopefully very suppressed RIC men.

The RIC Men started spread out over two floors. As they started taking suppression losses, they all clumped together downstairs. A perfect setup for me.

I had to position my men along the stone wall to get some partial cover. Unfortunately the rules are a little hinky– ALL members of the squad had to be touching the wall with their bases or the defensive dice adjustment applies to none of them.. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them all there the first turn so had to take a few losses before we were hiding behind the wall together. We crowded up to the windows as best we could and poured fire into the room.

We fired in from behind the fence, then we rushed the windows and let fly. The Hero is readying his doorbreaking charge.  Meanwhile as you can see, the B&Ts are going to show up soon.

So far the initial plan was working pretty well. We had managed to get the first element behind the stone fence to fire into the barracks and contribute to suppressing the RIC constables. We had only taken one casualty on the approach. The other element had taken advantage of excellent cover to approach the FRONT of the building to pour in suppressing fire on that side. Rather than stay in the street, in the open, to engage the onrushing Black and Tans, I moved them back around to the REAR of the building to serve as the charging force in melee.

Meanwhile my second “battalion” dashed to the FRONT of the house and poured lead in throw the windows. The first floor became a slaughter house.

The second battalion had a chance to get off one fusilade of bullets into the RIC barracks room before they had to run for cover. See the Black and Tans coming down the road at full clip! That’s trouble.

As you can see, the RIC were in for it in a serious way. They lost 3 men and got many points of suppression which limited their odds.

The situation inside the RIC barracks. The RIC contingent was repeatedly sprayed with gunfire from both sides and suffered many hits to their morale after suffering wounding and a couple of kills.

The door blows.. and IN WE GO

The melee went for 2 turns inside before the last RIC Constables went Tango Uniform. Numbers can tell, and this was a situation where he could activate 3 or less and I was attacking him at a dozen people per attack. Having achieved the impossible and captured the RIC barracks, I wanted to try wiping out the Black and Tans.

Melee inside the RIC barracks after the door got blown successfully. That’s my second element charging in there, the ones that had circled around the building after firing in the front windows. Melee lasted two turns; the second to the last guy went down and then the last guy surrendered.

All this gallivanting about was taking up precious time. One thing I could not afford was getting into a prolonged gun battle with the RUC (Black and Tans) as they had better rifle skill, better initiative and higher morale. My best bet was to lure them into a long range shoot ’em up, get them to run up close and toss my two grenades at them. Good plan, half-assed execution.

I was concerned that the RUC would run up to the front door or just fire into the windows of the barracks. After all, my victory conditions had just been met– I had captured the barracks. So I got my first element up against the stone wall and fired a couple of volleys at the Black and Tans. Sure enough the wheeled right and moved to contact, taking casualties as they advanced.

Unfortunately my heroic leader guy was a great demo expert but lousy grenade tosser, and the grenade flew off coordinates.  I do think that made the other player a little cautious however.

Charging in for the finale of the game. I believe I wounded at least two more before he was on the wall charging into melee (over the wall).

Final battle with the Black and Tans.

To speed up the narrative, the Black and Tans speed up the road, disappointed that Squad 2 hadn’t stayed around to be shot at, then deployed in line and shot up Squad 1, safely behind the stone wall. Squad 1 returned fire from where they stood, being somewhat protected. That winnowed the B&Ts dramatically and only 4 guys lived to make it to the wall, then 3… At that point we were in melee and I still had a relatively fresh squad– which had run around the building and was about to launch itself on the remaining B&Ts for a truly epic asymetrical fight. I’ll entertain someone who wants to fight to the death, but in games where it doesn’t seem to be worth it, I always offer an early out rather than commit to playing out something unwinnable. My opponent agreed that it was pretty hopeless for him and we called the game, which was an IRA total victory. I had captured the RIC barracks and either killed, wounded or accepted the surrender of every enemy on the table. I attribute success to moving fast, early, when I had a numerical advantage, not delaying the attack until everything was perfect, and having my two squad elements support each other by each providing suppressing fire into the building. The result was a lot of cohesion hits and some kills (maybe half). My specialist hero worked well setting the demo and blowing the door, but proved inept throwing grenades (I only had to throw one of two). It was a great time, I enjoyed going to NOVAG’s game day and seeing everyone.

OTHER NOVAG EVENTS

Fred Haub’s Medieval Massacre

More Medieval Massacre

Look, there’s Fred now.

Aspern-Essling Day 1 by Eric Freiwald, using Command and Colors Napoleonics.

More Aspern-Essling

Barbarossa company level game, Maciej Zajac. using BOLT ACTION.

More of the same.

Tim ponders his next move

Dennis Wang’s excellent game of Avalon Hill’s AIR FORCE using Ipads, Tablets and Smart Phones. I’ve played this before and really enjoyed it.

Tuscaloosa pensively sets his orders on his smart phone.

The Battle for the Areghendab Bridge – Afghanistan, December 2001 by Mike Byrne. Using FORCE ON FORCE.

More Force on Force

MORE PICTURES TO BE FOUND HERE

Riflemen and Voltigeurs, 54mm scale


For my as yet unnamed single figure Napoleonic skirmish game, I have been painting/having painted several 54mm scale figures.  I’m focusing on light troops, so Riflemen and Light Troops on the English side and Voltigeurs on the French side.  More figures as they become available.  Here’s the latest developments:

54mm Voltigeurs

A group of six Voltigeurs from the ALL THE KINGS MEN line. The figures are somewhat more slender and a teeny bit shorter than other figures I am using, either from ERTL or VICTRIX. I think they’ll be fine. Voltigeurs were French light skirmisher infantry and I think the poses show are just perfect for them.

French Voltigeur COMMAND GROUP of an officer and a bugler. This will be roughly the same function as the British officer and drummer on the other side. Leaders and order transmission are part of the design.

British high commander 54mm

British overall (high) commander. Used for morale recovery mostly. There will be a related French figure as soon as I find a suitable figure.

Rifles Officer 54mm

Rifles Officer 95th Rifles, 54mm. Officers on the field are important to organize troops into a firing line and order volleys. They also transmit higher orders and improve morale. This solitary Rifles officer almost looks uncomfortable among all the the Froggy light infantry.

That’s everything. I’ll try to add a few more pictures of these new troops matched against the existing ERTL and VICTRIX figures to give you an idea of how the new ATKM figures match against them. I now have about 11 voltigeur figures, one mounted officer that will do for a higher command figure for the French, about ten light infantry (British) and 8 rifles (British). I have enough to start testing the design now.

More to come on this project, stay tuned!

What does the Foundry look like?


If you’re involved in historical wargaming at all you probably know who or what the Foundry is.. formerly Wargames Foundry, formerly Guernsey Foundry.  If you’re a Yank like me, you’ve probably got no idea what their headquarter is like.  I know I didn’t before a friend of Bryan Ansell, the founder of Foundry, published this video on Youtube:

Trying out the 3D Virtual Tabletop app


By happenstance I stumbled upon the 3D Virtual Tabletop app via a sidebar ad on RPG.NET– having just gone through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the designer was getting the word out, apparently. I’ve been playing around with mapping tools lately, notably Roll20.net to support role playing games. 3D Virtual Tabletop (3DVT) has some somewhat similar functions from what I can tell. I have not managed to run a game with it yet (see below), so I have only a basic first look understanding of how it works right now.

3D Virtual Tabletop Pricing Screen

First and foremost, 3DVT is a mapping tool for playing tabletop games with. The design clearly was aimed at small scale roleplaying skirmishes, moving character icons over a graphical map layer. It’s pretty simple at the core of it.

3DVT Player and monster icons on top of a dungeon room background layer that I imported

The client, out of the box (as it were) comes with several sample maps from various genres. The ones included in the game were apparently from Legendary Games, a maker of 2D terrain pieces in cardboard, designed for playing fantasy roleplaying games with a flat playing field and grid overlay to snap the figures to.

It was easy to find a few grids on the internetz and add them to the floor layer as objects. I probably could have done the same with new tokens (players) as well, as there are plenty of images out there to use.

Another example of terrain I imported

… and another, a “bridge” tile.

View is isometric by default, but the app can adapt to run a game from straight up looking down:

Much potential for more boardgamey things here….

Account management is handled by Google Sign in or by regular login.

If you DON’T have a subscription, don’t bother. There is no “trial period”.

Maps need to synchronized between players, which is handled by the server piece. To pay for that, you have to SUBSCRIBE, which costs about 9.99 a year, which I think is a very reasonable price, considering the capability you’ll be paying for.

Note that I couldn’t start an actual game, as I haven’t subscribed yet. A “trial period” would have been a nice feature, so I can see what I’m paying 9.99 for, cheap as it is.

The actual “Start a new game with other people” screen, which I couldn’t really take advantage of, as I haven’t subscribed. So I’m not sure what exactly happens next, but there’s some links to example games at the bottom of the page, and they’ll give you a good idea.

So this is as much as I know– I’ve loaded the 3DVT app on both IoS and Android. I’ve imported map tiles and moved figure icons around on it in a very impressive manner. I have not started a game or run a game as a host as that isnt’ a feature I can take advantage of right now. So, shrug.. I can see the potential for this thing, but I wonder how much better it is than Roll20? That application, though mostly browser based, handles everything including the mapping, and even does hidden reveals. 3DVT appears to be an app for just recreating the immediate action in a specific contained place and time. Great for running skirmishes or small tabletop miniature games. I could see this being used for boardgaming as well. Again, the jury is still out as to whether it will kill off RollD20 or not– although it does have one great quality: it runs on an IPad.

I’m cautiously optomistic.. and what the heck, it’s only 10 bucks a year.

3DVT is available from the Google Store, Itunes App Store and Amazon.

LINKS:

 

Wargames Illustrated announces winners of HISTORICON 14 painting contest


Paint Contest Results posted to Wargames Illustrated

Historicon 2013 Show Figure (contestant unknown)

Wargames Illustrated ran a painting contest at HISTORICON 2014 in Fredericksburg, recently concluded. The results are in and they are available for viewing on THIS PAGE.

Many thanks to WI for running this thing, I hope it becomes a standard item in all Historicons going forward.  Read the story for many pictures of other entrants– the paint jobs are stunning eye candy.

HISTORICON 2014 AAR


 

Last weekend, 16-20 July 2014, the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) put on their big convention for the year, HISTORICON. This was an anniversary convention– HISTORICON has existed 30 years, depending on whom you ask. HISTORICON, is as you might guess, primarily a convention for playing games with toy soldiers. It is and has always been historically themed and historical based games are usually encouraged over all others, such as SF and Fantasy.  That doesn’t mean that the latter aren’t represented at the convention, as we will discuss in due course.

Tragically (though we didn’t know it at the time), one of the earliest collaborators who created HISTORICON and was a founder of HMGS itself wasn’t going to attend the 30th Anniversary.  Mr. Bob Coggins, famous to many as the co-creator of Napoleon’s Battles, suddenly passed away Wednesday night as he was getting ready to attend HISTORICON. Sad news indeed, and tragically ironic, considering Bob’s past experience with HISTORICON.

Yes, there WAS an anniversary cake; however, it didn’t cost 6 grand, it was free! (Donation from CostCo)

The facility, the Fredericksburg Convention Center, has worked very hard to address problems with the main hall’s oppressive acoustics. Anyone who ran a game in the main hall in 2012 remembers the ear-splitting din on Saturday night. The hall is essentially a great concrete box, with no sound baffling– thus sound has nowhere to go but up, where it ricochets off the ceiling contributing to very loud crowd sounds. Last year HMGS put up draping and cloth area dividers, which helped a lot. THIS year they managed to get the center to put out cheap carpeting, which helps even more with sound abatement (and tired feet). I conducted no analysis on sound levels (not being equipped to measure it correctly), so I can’t say HOW much better it is, but to use an anecdote to illustrate, I was able to hold a normal conversation with Leo Walsh, the GM of the game I was in, on Saturday night during prime time, and I could hear him just fine even with a 40% hearing loss.  Contrast that with two years ago (no room dividers, not carpet) and I had to speak at a high volume just short of shouting in order to be heard at Howard Whitehouse’s Cairo game (20 + players), and I ended up with an ear splitting headache from the din on a Saturday night.  Good job, FCC.  Oh, and the chairs were very nice and accommodating of a gamer’s generous frame this year.

Carpeting didn’t extend ALL the way across the room, it was a money thing. This is the Flea Market area, Wednesday night setting up

Carpeting: not plush or shag, it kept our feet from getting sore and absorbed the din.

This was a good year for community outreach efforts. The City of Fredericksburg is, from all reports, delighted to have HMGS in place in July, as we fill the place up and have a healthy economic impact on the surrounding area, particularly the area restaurants. We saw some quid pro quo arrangements with Price Club (Free Anniversary cake), Krispy Kreme (free doughnuts) and some other vendors. This kind of arrangement can be invaluable in building up a community that supports a convention, and I think we’re making great strides.

Staff meeting, Wednesday Night

I worked staff for HISTORICON, events desk for four days, early shift, and creating Guidebook, which isn’t a staff job at HISTORICON.

Events were pretty “thin” Thursday, as you can see.

I encountered two consistent issues working the events desk this year: for one thing, people were complaining about just how few games were being put on at this event. Most games were already filled up with pre-registrants before anyone set foot in the convention hall. The remaining history games were snapped up very quickly, leaving a familiar hodgepodge of “history-ish” games (pulp, wild west, VSF, etc.) and lots and lots of Battletech.  So, from my 1000 feet up perch, if your game was historically themed, and you brought it to HISTORICON 2014, and you didn’t get any players– you’ve only got yourself to blame.  It was a Seller’s Market to be sure.  Where were all the History Games??

The Games

I have to fess up here. I was a slacker due to illness in the family and work issues. I just didn’t have my act together to run my game, and spent an inordinate amount of time re-writing a confusing rules section for Friday’s game on Thursday! So I won’t belabor you with 1000 pictures of historical miniatures, but I will mention a few that I thought really did a great job.

My game, THE MAD QUEST FOR THE ORB OF POWER, a Big Danged Boats game, did get run and went off very well indeed.  I’m very happy with how everything worked.  I’ve already posted on this elsewhere; take a ticket (click on the picture below) to view the AAR.

Not bad for a non-historical game run in a somewhat hard to find meeting room at the far end of the Convention Hall! Click me to see the AAR.

The Spectacular Martian Front game run as a demo on the reserved table spaces in Exhibit Hall A.  This game was astonishing eye candy, beautifully executed, and well deserving of a PELA, which I heard it received.  Hey, I certainly was encouraged.   You can see more pictures by clicking the Tripods below.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PICTURES FROM THE MARTIAN FRONT

Duncan MacFarlane ran a visually stunning Battle of Arklow (set in the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1798) all weekend long.  He admitted to me it was his first event at a HMGS convention ever.

Click to see more pictures from ARKLOW.

Frank Chadwick’s MARS NEEDS STEAM game (a reworking of his great old Soldier’s Companion rules) looks bat-shit steampunk crazy every year.  I think they went above and beyond with the terrain and vehicles this year.

The centerpiece of MARS NEEDS STEAM. CLICK to see more MNS photographs.

Tim Broome and (I think) Bill Rutherford put on a great D-Day game that focused on British Beaches.  The scale was somewhat attenuated but who cares, it was great fun.

Tim Broome’s award winning game. CLICK THE PICTURE to see about a half a dozen pictures from this event.

It really warmed the cockles of my heart to see this game being set up and included in the schedule. Many years ago, I ran a game series that focused on racing conveyances in a VSF universe. It was called LE GRANDE CIRQUE. It’s heartening to see the younger generation running with a similar idea.

VSF Racing game held Wednesday night and another time during the con, both were times when I couldn’t participate. .Dang it. CLICK THIS IMAGE to see more.

 

Bob Giglio appears to be getting interested in the Phillipine American guerrilla war (post Spanish American war) these days. Beautiful setup as always.

A really great mixed land/naval game apparently in nominal 6mm scale (I think, at least the land portion, the ships are too small) . Click to see more.

The games that were put on were the standard range of wonderful, professional layouts to guys putting felt cloth on the table.   As I’ve stated, there was a fair share of big beautiful alt-history games or history-ish games– more so, I think, than history.  Which could explain why the Mars game won our PELA award.  Why not?  It was well deserved.

PELA Awards

The standard boardgame stuff crept into the convention as well, and the crossover games.   All a good thing, I think.. I think of them as stepping stones.

X-Wing Miniatures from Fantasy Flight Games

I THINK this was an adaption of DAWN PATROL (TSR) in 1:72 scale.

As far as events were concerned, the ones that ran were of a decent quality overall and visually appealing.    There did not seem to be a lot of them, in my opinion.

Saturday, 10 AM. Just saying.

The Other Stuff

The hotel I stayed at, the Hampton Inn, was overall just fine to borderline mediocre.  Nothing at all wrong with it except, perhaps, for the wretched breakfast.  The actual phrase “Wretched Breakfast” dropped by to lodge a complaint that the kitchen was making it look bad.  Still, why whine about a complimentary breakfast?  It was what it was.

The bathrooms in the convention hall were less crowded than the first year, but the floor gets truly disgusting.  I’m not sure what can be done about that.  My friend, “Spastic Joe”, apologizes in advance for next year.

The Weather was the big surprise this year.  Meaning, it was lovely.  Last year, I think it might have crested the 100 degree mark.  That made walking even a short distance outside sheer misery– a gasping, sweaty affair.  This year a recent rainstorm had cooled things down somewhat and the temps hovered in the 70s. For the entire weekend.

Food: I ended up skipping said wretched breakfast after the first day and eating (most days) at Wegmans, which was within an easy, n0n-gasping, non-sweat drenched walking distance.

The Obligatory Wednesday Night Greasy Ball of Death at Five Guys proved to be the most unhealthy thing consumed the entire show. And my innards thanked me later.

Most of my meals were quick affairs as I ate by myself mostly.  Even being in an area with dozens of restaurants within easy distance, it proved to be easy enough to eat healthy or quasi-healthy.

If you’ve been reading along, I did the Guidebook app for this convention, and had excellent support from Mr. Bill Rutherford, Ms. Heather Blush, Mr. Dudley Garidel and Mr. Scott Holder.   About one quarter to one third of the attendees used or downloaded guidebook, and then we went over our “free” threshold so Guidebook (the corporation) froze our downloads at the show by Thursday.  It happens.  So if you tried to download and were denied, that’s what happened.

Exhibitors

To be honest, I didn’t buy much, and what I did buy was fueling my Gaming Camp for Kids I’ll be putting on in a few short weeks.  I was severely tempted by Alien Dungeon’s Mars game.  It’s just so wonderfully well thought out from a visual perspective.  I have no idea how it plays, but the toys, they are special (see above for pictures from the big demo game).

My two favorite places to stop at any HISTORICON is On Military Matters (who appears to not be servicing shows in Virginia) and Belle and Blade.  Belle and Blade had a great selection of newer films.  None of which I could afford, but that is as may be.

Hey, Look! It’s Dick Bryant’s grandson!

I did end up buying JUGULA and two of the card decks after finding out what Tomahawk studio’s latest scheme to make money is.  That’s really irritating– the game is virtually unplayable without special 12 dollar (a piece) card decks. that are literally symbiotic  in the rules.. you can’t play the game without them.

Flea Market

Wally’s basement was spacious and not too crowded.  After the initial rush I visited most sessions.  I’m profoundly unimpressed.  Everything that was there I could find for cheaper prices in other venues.  No great bargains for me.

My problem is a lot of this stuff I’ve seen for 5 or 6 shows running.

Summary:

I think it was a very pleasant convention.  Somewhat low in games played but who cares..  a very huge thank you to Paul, Kevin and everyone on the team.

Hey, someone brought an old fashoned “Palm Pilot” to the event. I don’t think Guidebook runs on it!

So until next year, I leave you with this Youtube from someone who dragged a camera round the event.   See you next year.

Photos: This is most of what I shot (about 119 pictures overall) for the whole shooting match, unsorted, which should have some new pictures I haven’t posted in this narrative, visit here.

The Union Forever! The Battle of Mobile Bay


Leo Walsh ran a 1:1200 scale game of the Battle of Mobile Bay on Saturday night at HISTORICON.  The rules were AGE OF IRON.    I jumped in and ran a small line of 90 day gunboats and double-ender style ships.

The UNION FOREVER!!

Most people know the Battle of Mobile Bay as the “one where Admiral Farragut said Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead“.. and (perhaps) that’s true.  There was a lot more to Mobile Bay than a few jingoistic slogans, of course.  Mobile Bay was one of the last great sheltered ports of the Confederacy, and as long as it was not thoroughly blockaded, the South could run blockade runners in and out with impunity.  So a Union victory at Mobile Bay would have strategic consequences for both sides.

Admiral Farragut’s plan was to attack Mobile Bay in two lines, with the ironclads closest to the local fort (Fort Morgan) where their armored sides would withstand the heavy siege gun fire, and the Wooden ships lashed together with the weakest ones outside the range of fire. The Confederates also set up a line of aquatic mines (torpedoes) that had the effect of forcing the ships to pass in front of the fort’s guns.  We considered that idea, then went for the idea of FOUR lines.

The miniature terrain, such as it was, followed the historical layout reasonably closely, although the OOB was greatly expanded from the original. In addition there was the CSS Tennessee, one other (ahistorical) casemate that started farther out in the bay and was pretty slow to engage. There were four other medium to small gunboats with sizable ordinance on the other side of the barrier.

Union Forces closer up

Originally our attack plan was going to be three lines, with the ironclads protecting the more valuable screw frigates, like the Hartford and the Richmond. Leo told us that would not keep the frigates from getting hull hits, so we spread the line out over four lines– the ironclads closest to the fort, the screw frigates in two lines, and the lighter 90 day gunboats and double-enders in line farthest from the fort. I offered to take that line over the line of mines (torpedoes) that was funneling ships towards the guns of the fort. My idea was that the lighter ships going over the torpedo line would offer a huge distraction to the Confederate gunboats on the other side of the barrier.

I’m in charge of the rickety ships on the right hand side.

If it worked for Farragut, it might work for me. I managed to slip my first two ships over the barrier with no difficulty. We engaged with 3 gunboats of varying sizes on the far side of the torpedo barrier. We were using Age of Iron, which is a pretty good rule set, providing a mix of history and playability. I’ve played with them before, though not in a long time. The rules certainly address differences in armor, ship sizes and and ship aspect. I had a surprisingly lethal exchange with two Confederate gunboats, one of which was pretty tiny and hard to hit, but as I got more and more ships over the barrier, it became obvious to the Confederate that the was stuck, cut off between a line of pilings that will rip out their hull and my line of gunboats.

Sometimes the “stupid strategy” is stunningly successful

One interesting thing about those supposedly weak 90 day gunboats and double enders: put enough of them in a line, and they throw out a tremendous weight of iron at a single target. When the second Confederate ironclad showed up, my line of gunboats laid into him, ship after ship, and in one turn he suffered from 4 armor hits and 6 hull hits, and was on fire. That’s pretty good for some wooden boats! Contrast that to the line of Screw Frigates that shot past the fort and engaged the Tennessee. We lost two of them, the Brooklyn and the Richmond, due to gunfire exchanges with the Fort and the Tennessee. I lost two ships from my line, the Metacomet (lost to gunfire) and the last ship in my line, the Port Royal, finally hit a mine and sank.

Victory!

Leo’s victory conditions were basically “Sink all Confederate ships”.. and by 1100 PM it looked like we were on the way to doing that. The Tennessee was pretty shot up, and couldn’t turn very quickly, so wouldn’t be able to engage again during the time span of the game. The other (ahistorical) ironclad very likely wouldn’t have survived another turn at the rate it was receiving punishment.

So, a Union naval victory, Huzzah~! Perhaps not as complete as the historical one, but we had more ships engaged, and were facing more Confederates, too. I had a lot of fun with this game and hope to play Age of Iron again very soon.

BDB: The Mad Quest for the Orb of Power at Historicon 2014


Down to the Sea in Cheese!

NOTE BENE: attached are some pictures I took with my Ipad during this game on Saturday. The complete package is HERE in a Flickr Slideshow.

I ran my first convention game in a while, a BIG DANGED BOATS game, with something other than “sail around and bash at each other” for a scenario.

We even sold out! WOOT!

The event description reads:

The return of a game of bloody conflict with dubiously seaworthy ships in an all out donnybrook to achieve naval supremacy. In this installment,Gordon the Enchanter has holed up in his Wizard’s tower with the stolen Orb of Power, a stout body guard and several siege guns to back up his demands. The Elves, who consider themselves to be rightful owners, would sell their own grandmothers to get it– resulting in a rare alliance between the hoity toity Sea Elves and the Earthy Wood Elves. Other parties (virtually everyone else) seek to own it themselves, or at least put one in the eye of those who have a better claim! Very kid friendly. very casual and extraordinarily silly game. Under 12, will probably require a parent to play with. Rules taught. 

Essentially this is gaming a rather dusty trope from fantasy– the local mad wizard gets his hands on artifact that grants him some special power, a group of distrusting allies band together to thwart his evil scheme, and etc., etc. The unique element is the nautical flavor– Gordon is locked up in his tower, along with the Orb of Power (which is a battery for Spells), and the various local powers in the Middle Sea have to figure out how to get him out of his tower by force. This is more difficult than it looks due to terrain and the small army of mercenary soldiers that Gordon has acquired to defend himself with. Gordon’s Tower is situated in the ocean near the large volcanic island of Ket, in shallow water dominated by many small rock formations. These would provide a solid ring of outer defenses to the Tower.

Newish to the BDB rules (which always seem to be evolving) are rules for landing parties and spell casting wizards. The latter are purchased like mercenaries early in the game using SMCs (shining moment coins). Both of these worked just fine– in some cases, splendidly.

The Rat Men of Ingoldsby and the Followers of F’Vah approach the tower nervously.

The game began with some intense jockeying for position as the ships approached Gordon’s tower. They were hampered by a ring of outposts on the rocks. Many of these had a small field piece, some pikemen and missile troops.

Lantern Rock Outpost getting raided by the Spartans

I need to streamline the rules a bit yet, they are still a little too kitchen-sink for my liking. I can’t help it, I’m a tinkerer. Most people got the ideas behind combat, maneuver and magic easily enough. I had fixed the broken weather table with a better approach. I’m not happy with how steam works; I will be redoing that one as well– I think I may just go to tokens (yes, another token) to indicate current speed, and then redo the speed change table to see if the ship blows up when changing speeds.

Various Ships on the Table

The ships chosen were The HOPLITE (Spartans), The PRIMUS (Rat-men), FOOT OF THE DEAD GOD (Followers of F’Vah), The STEELHEART (Empire of Stahlheim), The SYLVAN TERROR (Wood Elves), the three ships of the Ironforge Elves: VON RIPPER, PLUNGER and RED MENACER, and The GREY EMPRESS TZU (the Seng). Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The game commenced with the Wood Elves skirmish with one of the outposts to the South and the Spartans skirmishing with one in the North. Both did for their opponents in trademark style: the Wood Elves dispatched the opposition with a hail of arrows, the Spartans landed a landing party that took out the outpost, looted a cannon and rowed off with it. Style points all around for that.

Spartan Landing Party kicks butt

Meanwhile, the PRIMUS and the FOOT made their way to the base of the tower from various routes– with Gordon the Enchanter casting a STINKING CLOUD on the Foot which missed them. The 3 Dwarf ships and the Steelheart appeared to cooperate until it came closer to resolution– and then they fell out, with Steelheart ramming Red Menacer ineffectually, then the Von Ripper doing the same to Steelheart (due to the Stalheim player throwing in their “Sheer OFF!” action card).

The two technology driven factions, Stahlheim and the IronForge Dwarves, get into a fierce set-to South of the Tower. Hey, fellas, what about that evil despotic wizard?

At the far side of the battlefield, the Spartans and the Gnomes were getting fractious because they weren’t in at the denouement, like the other factions were. The Spartan player had to leave a little early, so we ruled, for the sake of game narrative, that he spent some fatigue points to charge the HOPLITE to the base of the tower but ran aground on the rocks, spilling his daunting Spartans, wizard and two cannon into the drink. The Rat-Men, perhaps guided by mercy, dispatched a lifeboat to pick up survivors (ahem, maybe it was ‘mercy’, or maybe they wanted a free wizard and the best melee troops in the game working for them?)

Rescue Ops underway. “Squeak! You work for uzzzz now, Wizzzard!”

The Gnomes of Batenburg wanted to get their grimey paws on the Orb of Power, too! They could see they weren’t getting to Gordon’s Tower fast enough, and the intervening terrain was just blocking them. So they had to go the long way around.. or did they? The Gnome player, a young lad (and BDB veteran) played his first Wizard Spell in the game, GASEOUS FORM, which turned the Siege Machine into an intangible mist that went right through the rock!

No GIANT ROCK CLIFF is gonna stop me! I’ll go right through it!

Unfortunately this put the SIEGE MACHINE directly into the path of the onrushing SYLVAN TERROR. The Wood Elves got their wizard to cast RIVER OF WIND which pushed the Siege Machine 3 sticks away. They maneuvered back into a position in front of the Terror and unloaded the famous (or not so famous) Gnome Marines. While this was being accomplished, the Wood Elves, now a bit thwarted from being in on the kill, decided to to board the Siege Machine (which they were up against). Boarding procedure requires the potential border to reach into the Red Bag of Courage and fish out a token, which will determine how things proceed. The Wood Elves, unfortunately, drew “STUPID” and that caused the boarding party to dash off in a random direction AWAY from the Siege Machine.

Ha ha ha, those Wood Elves sure are stupid!

Well, the main event had to get moving on so we were set up for the big fight in the tower to seize the Orb. Gordon the Enchanter had several artillery pieces guarding the center tower but each of them had been silenced and the big siege gun on the roof had collapsed when the wall went down to a FIREBALL spell from the Wood Elves. Gordon, his ears ringing from the explosion and in a foul temper, ran downstairs to join the defense. Gordon’s mercenaries (mostly pikemen) fought hard and long, knowing they were in a no-quarter situation. The Rat-men swarmed in and were cut down to a man.. er.. rat. Then the Gnome Marines gave it a try and they managed to gain a lodgement, then, finally, defeat the last remaining pikemen with the last three remaining Gnomes. And hurrah! A victory was had by the “Good” guys!

SHOWDOWN: Gordon, his pikemen and a line of Ratmen. They would get chopped down, but you can see there’s a line of Gnome marines ready to jump in right after! Victory!!!

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Orb Scenario was a hugely entertaining game for me to run and I’m relatively certain the players had a great time. The new material (Wizards, Landing parties) caused me to do a crash rewrite of the rules the night before, just to make sure everything worked together well. The new weather gauge really is superior to the old one, even if the old one was more colorful. The Steam Engine rules (and wrenching to fix things that break) will be rewritten for speed of play and elegance. Oared ships work well, so do Magic ships. I wish I could come up with a faster set of sailing rules but they do sort of make sense and are consistent to the universe– if a person is on the ocean in a ship that is powered by wind, they are going to have a slow time of it if they try to sail against the wind. There’s a lot of detail in the rules right now which I will pare down a bit for convention games. With all that said, the game DID play right through to a conclusive end, in the time allotted (slightly over actually, by request). So I’m pretty happy with BDB as it is, it just needs a little fine tuning.

Thanks for the great pack of people that came to play .. little Jake, Doug Kline, Kayla? Kline, Nancy Ott, and etc. BDB is a game that requires a sense of humor to play and I think we hit the jackpot there.

Waterloo Obsession.. One Man’s quest to recreate the battle man for man in 6mm


A retired Army gentleman describes his Battle of Waterloo fixation. Over the past 20 years, Mr. St. Clair has had an obsession to paint, man for man, the entire order of battle of Waterloo.

See the Washington Post article here:

Recreating the Battle of Waterloo with 250000 six millimeter tall toy soldiers

The accompanying video is here.. sorry I can’t embed this on WordPress.com

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posttv/entertainment/a-serious-napoleon-complex/2014/06/12/04dc09d8-f251-11e3-8658-4dc6c63456f1_video.html

6mm Napoleonics on the table

I have to wonder what facility could be used to display this Order of Battle in its entirety at one to one scale. It’s just so huge. Even the Battle of Borodino game I played in in 92 was severely constrained scale-wise.

Fun fact, there are some instantly recognizable names from NOVAG and HMGS in the article– like Bruce Weigle and Tim Tilson. Mr. St. Clair, whom I don’t recall meeting, appears to be a local boy.

Review: Saxon 28mm Warband from Gripping Beast (SAGA)


My Saxon War band
un-packaging!

Recently received was a 28mm Saxon Warband for the SAGA project. I won this on Ebay so I’m not sure what the MRP is on this thing, but since I won it from Architects of War’s Ebay store, I’m guessing its’ pretty close to 70 USD. That’s not at all bad for providing value.

At 2.12 a figure, that’s not bad for metal.

You get 33 figures:

  • 1 Warlord wearing chainmail, wielding shield and hand weapon (loose, to be added.. it will be a sword)
  • 4 Hearthguards, also armored at the Warlord level, with shields and mail and helmets. Less animated
  • 16 Warriors.. representing guys that have stood in a shield wall in SAGA terms, but don’t have more armor than a shield and maybe a helmet. All wielding spears.
  • 12 Levy.. these are the reluctant untrained chaps that are here out of feudal obligation. No armor, but they do have spears.

Quality is quite good. Not much of that lumpy bit of metal that makes a figure hard to stand up. No unbalanced figures. Mold lines were very clean. They were all quite sturdy, well sculpted without HUGE amounts of detail. That fits. Historically they wore wool cloaks and tunics, breeches and shoes equivalent to moccasins, maybe a big heavy belt in the middle with some pouches and knives.

The Warlord (left) and his 4 Hearthguard. Chainmail, shield, helmet, and wielding hand weapons. You can also see the spears that come with this pack.

Above you can see the Warlord and his Hearthguard. Click to enlarge.

Here are my dozen reluctant levy fighters. No shields, spears, and in need of enthusiasm.

Here’s my 12 Levy troops.. looking anxiously to their Warlord for some leadership.  Click to enlarge.

A stalwart band of Warriors who have seen the elephant at least one time and are ready to step up to the shield wall. Spears and Shields. One or two wearing a small helmet.

The 16 Warrior figures are the fellows who have stood in the shield wall and know what to expect. They will be the bulk of this Saxon Warband. Click to enlarge.

You get lots of stuff with a warband pack from Gripping Beast. In my case, lots and lots of loose, cast spears, some hand weapons, and their special flat green bases. I might have to buy some more, I don’t have enough for everyone.

Gripping Beast Saxons (Warlord, left, and two Warriors, right) compared to plastic Viking figures I’m using for SAGA.

Lastly, I thought I’d show you have the Gripping Beasts Saxons stack up against other figures I already have based and painted. In the picture above I have a Saxon Warlord facing a Viking Warlord, with two warrior types on either side squaring off. As you can see, they have a similar height, although GB figures are a tad taller foot to crown. You can solve that by using different base types. GB bases are very sturdy, but flat. (Click to enlarge photo)

Summary: I’m quite happy with my Gripping Beast SAGA Warband. This is everything I need to have someone to square off against the Vikings with. The warband is deficient in Archers, so I may make some changes there somewhere. Overall I’m glad I bought this warband and would recommend it enthusiastically. Great value!

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.