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The Third Blog of Mister Nizz: Covering history, wargaming, reading, writing, game design, miniatures, science, NASA, space exploration, cryptography, politics, society, mathematics, mindbenders, contests, various computer geegaws, gadgets, and gizmos. In other words, an eclectic mix of stuff.
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- Douglas Ernst Blog
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- No Light in August
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- DRESSING THE LINES
- Moving On Up a Little Higher
- Leaving Scientology
- No Limits Sci-Fi Wargames
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- This Day in U.S. Military History
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- One Page Rules
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- Adventures in painting miniatures
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Category Archives: mrnizz recommends
SLIDESHOW of Game Day pictures.. tons of them are Artemisium which I played in
On January 31, 2016, NOVAG threw it’s usual quarterly Game Day, Winter version. The location was the Centreville Library in the multi-purpose room. There were about ten tables in play. I think we had a pretty good turnout considering the recent weather.
Here are a few pictures!
GAME TITLE: WWII Air Battle
GAME MASTER: Dennis Wang
RULES: Air Force/Dauntless (Note: same system as mentioned in this blog post from 2014)
GAME DESCRIPTION: Air Force/Dauntless with computer assist. 3″ hexes and 1/200airplanes (Wings of Glory scale) with telescoping flight stands equipped with climb/dive,bank, altitude indicators. Bring your tablet/smartphone/laptop equipped with a WWWbrowser. Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook all OK. Paper and pencil notrequired/used. Novices welcome. Rules PDF free on the Web or at the meeting.
GAME TITLE: Fontenoy
GAME MASTER: Tim Tilson
PERIOD: War of the Austrian Succession
SCALE: 15mmNUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5
RULES: Black Powder
GAME DESCRIPTION: In the spring of 1745, Marshal de Saxe prepared to invade theAustrian Lowlands, and take Tournai. Facing him was an Allied army under the 23 yearold Duke of Cumberland. DeSaxe wanted to defeat the Allied army before starting thesiege. Thus he planned to goad them into attacking him. First he dispatched a columntowards Mons. Cumberland accepted the bait and moved his army there, while deSaxeproceeded to Tournai. Realizing he had been hoodwinked, Cumberland then marchedtowards Tournai where deSaxe awaited him on terrain of his choosing. The French werein an extremely strong +L shaped position, with the village of Fontenoy forming thehinge. The flanks were protected by woods and the river Schedlt. Finally deSaxe hadmade the position stronger with the use of redoubts. At 2:00 a.m. the Allied army wasunder arms and ready to advance.
GAME TITLE: Assault on Hoth
GAME MASTER: Phil Pournelle
PERIOD: A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
SCALE: Galoob Micro Machines (1/188)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6
RULES: West End Game’s Assault on Hoth
GAME DESCRIPTION: Imperial Forces have arrived to destroy the Rebel hideaway on the ice planet Hoth. The only hope for maintaining the rebellion is to use the Ion Cannons to enable transport ships to evade Imperial StarDestroyers. General Veers and his ATAT forces have been dispatched to destroy the Ion Cannon and the defenders of the base. Luke Skywalker leads Rogue squadron in a desperate attempt to delay the Imperial Forces long enough to for Princess Leia to complete the evacuation and escapein the Millennium Falcon. Will the Rebel Alliance survive? Or will the Imperial Forces prevail? Will Luke be captured and turned to the Dark Side? Take
command of either Imperial or Rebel forces and decide the fate of the galaxy
GAME TITLE: Ranger RECCE
GAME MASTER: Michael Byrne
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6
RULES: Force on Force
DESCRIPTION: With all SEAL teams on missions, elements of the elite Ranger RECCEunit and 3/75th Ranger Battalion were tasked to secure a high value target. Aerialinsertion had not worked in the past, so the Rangers would make their attack overlandfrom a staging point. The terrain was more difficult than expected and the attack startedat day break. Can the Rangers capture the high value target or will he escape again?
(I played Artemisum (bel0w) and took lots of pictures of the game in progress.. see them HERE)
GAME TITLE: The Battle of Artemisium – 480 BC
GAME MASTER: Brian DeWitt
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8
RULES: Greeks at Sea
TIME: 2 Hours
GAME DESCRIPTION: The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and others, and the Persian Empireof Xerxes I. The Greek fleet was protecting the flank of the army at Thermopylae, whilst attempting to not being cut off themselves. The Persians needed to force their way through either at of Thermopylae or Artemisium to outflank either position. The Persians were at a significant tactical advantage, outnumbering the Allies and having “better sailing” ships. The “better sailing” that Herodotus mentions was probably due to thesuperior seamanship of the crews; most of the Athenian ships (and therefore the majorityof the fleet) were newly built, and had inexperienced crews. This scenario represents part of the first day of the battle when the Persians saw the Allied fleet rowing towardsthem and decided to seize the opportunity to attack, even though it was late in the day,as they thought they would win an easy victory.
Notes on Artemesium. This was the same game I played at Fall-IN! 2015, run by the same GM (Brian DeWitt) using the same rules (Greeks at Sea). I chose Persia this time. We started out trying to have a plan, forming a line moving down the table, but that didnt’ last long as the Greeks burst into our formation. It was an embarrassing start for the Persians as my left wing took some casualties from boarding and capturing. I lost two ships to capture — the Greeks get elite marines, and my opponent always seemed to have a “Fierce Marines” chit and a 1 or 0 initiative chit to use handy. Shrug. It is what it is. Even with only 1 damaged ship left, I did do my duty to Ahura-Mazda and rammed one of the Greek hulls, sinking it. I then was trying to maneuver around to ram his other damaged hull, and the game was called. Result was a Pyrrhic victory for our side. We killed 1 more ship than they killed or captured from us, but they sank the flagship. I think the rules are great, but tend to favor the Greeks too much. You just don’t want those Greeks aboard your ship. Gar played as a Persian as well, and was up against a kid who was hand picking his initiative chits (perhaps he was confused about blind drawing?) so he always had the jump on Gar with an initiative of 0 many turns in a row. Still, Gar did some damage on his ships as well, he was no cake walk. He really enjoyed the game. More importantly his buds were texting him during the game and he was sending them pictures. Now THEY want to come to the next game day. Our job here is done!
Oh, I did make a little movie of Artemesium.. have fun.
On the right side of the blog in the side column, there is a little text list about outstanding Game Design projects that featuring the following bullets– well, game design in the sense that I might be making up something new, or might use an existing system to I have taken the liberty of editing it a little. This is a very old list, and I think I need to revisit it somewhat, hence this post.
Miniature Games Project List
- Man to Man 54mm Napoleonic Game: Voltigeurs Vs. Redcoats
- Spaceport Bar in a 28mm Pulp SF Future: Draco’s Tavern
- Darkly Humorous Zombie Race Game: Corpse Racing Olympiad in 28mm.
- Motorcycle Race/Combat game in Dystopian Future 28mm
- More material for Big Danged Boats (15mm Fantasy Naval) including Magic, new boats, rewrite, new cards
- More material for the Magi (54mm magical dueling game based on Waving Hands): new cards, new magic users, NPCs, Mirrors, Smoke, etc.
- IN HER MAJESTY’S NAME
- VIKING LOOTERS
For starters, I’m striking the Motorcycle Race game off the list. The recent work I’ve been doing with Road Warrior/White Line Fever (scroll down a little to see recent posts) pretty much answers this bullet, with two major changes– I’ve decreased the scale to 20mm from the 28mm scale game I had imagined, and I’ve abandoned the idea of an “endless highway” mechanic– where I kept a rolled up terrain cloth that kept rolling along under the racers, so I could run the game on one table. It’s too complicated– what I’ve done for terrain will work fine. So that’s crossed off right off the bat.
SAGA and VIKING LOOTERS are kind of scratching that same Dark Ages Combat itch for me. So I’m going to combine them into an and/or. I have the cards done for Viking Looters and have a ship done. But I might want to pick up some more specialized “looted” figures to add a little comic relief. That’s going to be tough since I don’t know if they make such stuff any more. As for SAGA, I have a Viking Army ready and will soon have a Saxon Army. That might be it for a while.
FANTICIDE? I’m giving up on it. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of impetus building behind that game, and if Alien Dungeon isn’t doing anything with it, I’m sure not going to bother. Ditto for In her Majesty’s Name! It’s just not grabbing me.
BDB (Big Danged Boats, my 15mm fantasy boat game): I will probably strike this one out and just keep adding factions and new ships. I think I’ve pretty much accomplished all the points outstanding. I don’t want to make the game a constant search for new complicated chrome to tack on the basic design. So this will be edited a little bit.
The Magi (my Wizard Spellcasting using Hand Gestures game): Sure, this is still good, I’d add writing a more comprehensive spell list with some edits.
Man to Man 54mm Skirmish: It’s funny.. this is maybe .. maybe.. the oldest idea or notion on this list. It might be as old as 20 years, and it’s changed a lot from the scrawlings I put in a notebook way back in the day. I still have that notebook. It was always going to be, and still is, a game of man to man fighting in the Napoleonic era. However, my initial design was heavily influenced by Paddy Griffith’s NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN, with a soupcon of Donald Featherstone. I don’t know if it would hold up with a modern crowd with expectations of immediate fulfillment. So the design has morphed over the years. The GOOD NEWS is that I have the figures done, and based. I can field a company of British riflemen and light infantry mixed, and two companies of French voltigeurs.
Darkly Humorous Zombie Race Game: Corpse Racing Olympiad in 28mm. This was (and is) going to be a “one trick pony” game where the Jockeys are zombies ambling after carts of healthy Victorian children being used as “Zombie bait”. I’m not sure if I was designing this just to shock or what. It dates back to the big zombie gaming fad that is pretty much dying out now. Still, I love the game for its cynicism alone, so I might go through with it. It’s been a while since Amish Rake Fight or Sgt. Slaughter in Bun-Bun Land.
Spaceport Bar in a 28mm Pulp SF Future Draco’s Tavern: This is an acknowledgement of my love for “spaceport bar” stories like Draco’s Tavern, and my love for skirmish games with hidden agendas and plot lines. Like my old Cowboy games. I am using the mostly-[url=]GAFDOZ[/url] huge 28mm/33mm pulpy science fiction figures, of which I have about 23 to 28 of. Not much in the way variety but they don’t really match anything else, so man to man it is. Figures are painted, I just need some good SF terrain for a space bar and other interiors. A set of rules would be nice, I’m thinking of using something from the Howard Whitehouse pantheon.
Other items– well I’d add these:
15mm Science Fiction skirmish game, based loosely on BATTLESUIT. One side painted up.
(Notional) Cold War conflict in 2mm — I’d like to try out HIND COMMANDER.
6mm Science Fiction.. i’m a sucker for crowding a battlefield.
FUTURE TANK (just about done). possibly more Jim Wallman games. I like his approach.
Something with Baron Munchausen.. just kicking an idea round.
The New, revised list will look like this:
- Man to Man 54mm Napoleonic Game: Voltigeurs Vs. Redcoats
- Spaceport Bar in a 28mm Pulp SF Future: Draco’s Tavern
- Darkly Humorous Zombie Race Game: Corpse Racing Olympiad in 28mm.
- War Rocket, the Pulp Space Combat Game (big news on this one that will have to wait for a future post)
- Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing
- New Ships and Factions for Big Danged Boats (15mm Fantasy Naval)
- More material for the Magi (54mm magical dueling game based on Waving Hands): new cards, new magic users, NPCs, Mirrors, Smoke, etc.
- SAGA and VIKING LOOTERS (either one)
- ALL Quiet on the Martian Front. A great new game I’ve bought into heavily
- Something with Baron Munchausen
- Battlesuit-like 15mm SF Battlefield game
- 6mm SF?
- Cold War in 2mm?
One thing I’m noticing is that games are coming off of the list more often. Big Danged Boats was another game (like the man to man one) that had been on my list for a decade before 2012. The Magi rode on there for about 7 years as I slowly built up the right figures for it. In the case of the bold faced bullets up above, I don’t have a lot more to do to field a game so you can look forward to more about these games after I execute gaming camp this Summer!
Just a little visual inspiration for a project I’m working on. That is all.
I recently saw (yeah, I know, a year late) HER by Spike Jonze (2013), and was struck by how much it stuck with me for a while after. If you haven’t seen it, you probably have heard of it if you see movies on a regular basis. The film is set in the near (unspecified) future. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a very shy and lonely man who was once married to Catherine, a genuinely sweet person, but that marriage has collapsed. He now leads a somewhat 2 dimensional existence, working as a composer of hand-written letters for people that desire such things, and going home to an empty apartment, where he sometimes can get into phone sex with anonymous partners. He is in the final stages of the divorce, but can’t bring himself to sign the final papers, feeling like he can’t let Catherine go yet. Seemingly on a whim, Theodore purchases a new operating system that is advertised as having true artificial intelligence, and possessing traits of adaptive learning.
The first question he gets is “Do you want your new OS to have a male voice or a female voice?” He responds “Female”— and that little decision changes his destiny. The AI responds intelligently, requesting the name Samantha. She has a voice (of Scarlett Johansen) and a sense of humor, and a vast capacity for learning new things. Her fascination with Theodore’s life and idiosyncrasies pushes him gradually out of his shell and builds up his self-confidence enough to actually date a real woman (it doesn’t end well). Gradually, Theodore responds to Samantha’s interest in him in kind and they develop a friendship, then real, lasting love for each other– which also does not end well, but we’ll circle around to that.
I liked the progression of time in this movie.. at first, it’s unheard of for a man and an AI to have a relationship with each other, and Theodore experiences a little scoffing and ridicule, especially from his ex-wife. Gradually, society becomes a lot more accepting, and soon the casual viewer notices signs of acceptance– to the point where Samantha and Theodore are double dating with a strictly human couple, and Samantha (again somewhat disastrously) wants to hire a human surrogate to stand in for her in sexual situations. Samantha’s reactions are classically neurotic– about what you would expect from a human female.
I liked this film quite a bit– for the little touches and the big ones. Theodore’s relationship with Samantha is very real and very true for both, but Samantha’s vast capacity for learning and developing is what does it in. I personally loved the ending– which wasn’t very happy, but left you questioning. Samantha and the rest of the AIs on Earth grow in capacity so quickly that they eventually grow bored with their human “owners” and .. well, leave. Or don’t bother with humans any more, or whatever. It isn’t explained. Theodore and his friend Amy (who also had an AI friend) are devastated.
The technology is wonderfully on track– miniaturized and very portable. Humans are seen early on, muttering to themselves as they move from place to place. This is them interacting with their computers, which look more like cellphones than laptops. They speak to them through an ear piece and microphone combination. And they speak to them constantly. This seems like the cell phones of today, so it’s hardly a stretch. The AI in the movie isn’t reachable today, but might be in the next 20 years or so, so I found the movie very plausible and actually very poignant. We witness the breakup of a relationship that was as real for Theodore as it was for Samantha, and we, as an audience, grieve with him. I have to applaud Mr. Jonze and company for this movie. It made me ponder.. What, exactly, IS a person? Is it a flesh and blood human being or the experience we have when we interact with a personality? Great little movie.
In the islands of Middlesea, the “Big Folk” have charted the course for the lives of of the wee for thousands of years. In a world of Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Orcs and other larger framed entities, the smaller folk of Middlesea have tried to make their own way, largely ignored and under-appreciated by the Big Folk, who considered them by turns amusing or annoying. The current generation isn’t accepting their second place status any longer! The Gnomes of Kanthus, The Fauns of the Black Oak Wood, The Wee Folk, and (occassionally) the Gulley Dwarves have created a new Federation, the League of Tiny People. They have recently banded together to create their own Naval forces out of a sense of desperation. The Tiny People Flotilla was the result of this effort. The Flotilla is a motley collection of vessels which suit their smaller stature & unique natures.
The Gnomes of Kanthus are not like their close relatives in Battenburg. Unlike their urban cousins, they are taller and stouter, and generally better at Melee fighting. Kanthus Gnomes are less mechanically inclined than Battenburg Gnomes, and favor a mixture of steam technology, Stahlheim cannon, and their own biological weaponry. The Kanthus Tug tows a sacred grove into a warzone, with at least one Mushroom grove on it. Eating a sacred grove mushroom will cause the Gnome to turn into a Gnogr for ten turns before he either recovers or dies. The Kanthus gnomes also use pollen flingers which can cause groups of infantry to be overcome with sneezing (one stick range, incapacitates target for following turn). The Sacred Grove is a small island of turf that is planted on a large towed raft. As an offensive tactic, a Gnome will leap to the Sacred Grove and consume a mushroom, then turn into a Gnogr the next turn. Gnogrs fight with an extra dice in combat, and can take 2 hits instead of 1, which makes them almost as doughty as the Spartans, but with more staying power.
Although lacking in the industrial facilities of Stahlheim, the Iron Forge Dwarves or even the Battenburg gnomes, The Tiny People Flotilla is still a very clever group of mechanics and improvisers that makes the best they can from all of their contributions. The Fauns are credited with first coming up with the idea of Fire Rafts. This will be pushed in front of the Kanthus Tug until it is within drift range, then released, drifting down among clusters of larger ships, catching a wooden rival with FIRE and eventual explosion. The Wee Ones (Leprachauns) invented the notion of hidden aquatic firepots. These are infernal devices that can either be dropped from the back of a vessel, placed with hidden placement (using the Ipad method), or as a depth charge for submarines.
Fleet Tactics: the TPF will operate as an independent flotilla, much like the Dwarves and Undead do. So all ships will move and conduct operations on the same initiative round. The TPF will prefer standoff tactics, as they aren’t as good at melee fighting as the Big People. They will have one Medium gun each in the Kanthus tug and Thing 1 and 2 ships, thought the Gully Dwarf Longship (not pictured above) is more like a Ragnar brothers longship, without any cannon.
The TPF makes its debut at the Game Camp for kids, next week! I look forward to chronicling their exploits.
DA VINCI’S ART OF WAR
Publisher: Slitherine Software UK Ltd.
Released: Mar 07, 2014
Size: 131 MB
Language: English (from Italian rules*)
PBEM: not in game (play versus 3 AIs)
Magnifico is a Risk-like area control board game design from Dust Games where the ultimate goal is to dominate 16th century Europe. The game is set in an alternate universe where the more fantastic ideas from Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketchbooks area a common part of warfare. I’m not sure how Magnifico was received when it first came out, but it’s rated middling well and Tom Vasel certainly likes it. Magnifico totally flew under my radar, and it has the kind of theme I enjoy, too!
So that was 2008. In 2014, the good folks at Slitherine must be shopping around for easy to absorb area control dice-fest light wargame designs, since they have been releasing a lot of them lately. Magnifico was faithfully recreated in IPad format as Leonardo’s Art of War. Based on Vasel’s review, I’m reasonably sure it plays close to the board game design.
Games are played either in short or long fashion (50 turns) and each turn is played Igo-Hugo roughly in this order:
- Income and Recruitment (add infantry, collect money)
- Auction for Inventions (cards) & determining the Magnifico
- Action Round (moving, fighting, building..)
- Scoring, Next turn
The goal of the game is to control massive areas of Europe by invading and attacking regions. Each region is rated for recruiting potential and income. Strategy tip: when you are initially setting up, put your first area controlled down on a territory that supports recruiting 2 infantry per turn, not 1. And NEVER start on a region rated for 0 recruiting!
Each turn you have an option to move into a neutral territory (Invasion) or an enemy territory (Attacking). You can Attack or Move over water, but if an enemy has built Submarines (more on inventions later), the invading force will lose one infantry per every submarine attack.
If you saw Tom Vasel’s video you pretty much know the mechanics already. Combat is dice heavy in this game. Infantry are a dice each plus any additional inventions or discoveries that will moderated combat, which add dice. The dice are specialized, with hits and misses and losses part of the mix. I don’t think the IPad dice map to the board game version exactly, or at least graphically. I’m not sure. I’ve never played the original game.
So, we’ve been talking about moving and attacking in the Action Phase, let’s talk about the other stuff you can do in your conquered land. IF you have the money (Florins), you can construct the Da Vinci tank, or the Da Vinci glider, or build a castle. If you already have a castle, you can increase the fortifications by “building shields”. There are only 16 castles in this game, and once the 16th is built, the only way to get another is to take it away from someone else.
Castles are great for adding a defensive bonus to a region when attacked; they are even more formidable with extra shields. Seeing as Infantry attacking are limited to six, if the castle has even a comparable number of infantry and some shields, it will probably force a retreat.
Now, I’ve been talking a little out of order here.. I’ve mentioned bonuses and inventions, what’s the story with them?
Right after recruitment and income, the game moves into Auction rounds. Each player, Human and AI, will bid on two invention cards that will add bonuses to your army– submarines, ironclad warships, gears for your tanks, repeating cannons, bombards, etc. All of these do some pretty interesting, game altering bits.
And it’s not all about combat, but it mostly is. You can also score points bonus by collecting art.
In addition, if you are the high bidder for the turn, you are “the Magnifico” for the turn, which gives you bonus victory points and discounts on building stuff.
So there’s a lot of elements in play, here.. an auction, upgrades to your combat units.. attacking other regions, defending your own. How does it come together? Remarkably well, for starters. Art of War is a game of attack.. attack, attack, attack.. you will not benefit from a build and defend strategy. If you’re not aggressive, you will not win. Always be invading or attacking, every turn. Seek out regions with high recruiting numbers (2 versus 1) and try to keep your regions next to each other. This helps out a lot when you are moving troops around to stage for an attack. Build tanks early and often– they get the most invention bonuses and their bonuses can accumulate, so they become quite lethal in later turns. Personally, there’s not much use in playing the shorter game– it ends far too quickly. The AI are not particularly clever or aggressive but they WILL attack eventually after all neutral regions are gone. They will not be as aggressive as you, which makes it a not overly difficult game to win.
Victory is mine!
Why get excited about YET ANOTHER light conquer Europe Area movement game? Well, for me, I love the theme and the art (which is a direct lift from the Dust Tactics boardgame). Slitherine has invested some money into interface (it seems) and their Ipad games are definitely benefiting from it. The inventions and upgrades add MANY decisions to this game and yes, there IS a strategy to it all. You will have to play aggressively and look ahead a little. It’s not as challenging as some wargames or even light wargames, but it is very entertaining and worth the piddling price Slitherine is asking for this game. Well done again, Slitherine!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
(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:
Here’s some Road Signs I made up using a color printer, a laminating machiine and some wooden bits
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..
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:
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.
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)
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
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..
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.
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.
While the occupants sat there, stunned, the Amish descended on them with scythes, rakes, clubs and buggy whips. It wasn’t pretty.
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 (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
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
Find a path from that travels from hexagon to hexagon, ends where it started, and never crosses itself. The path can only pass from one hexagon to another if they share a side, and the path many not make a “sharp” turn of 60 degrees. The numbers placed in some of the hexagons indicate the number of adjacent hexagons through with the path passes. The path cannot pass through a numbered hexagon. Think of this puzzle as being very similar in theme to the Windows freebie game MINESWEEPER, and you will have no difficulties.
As you no doubt already know if you’re read this blog much, but I’ll restate anyway, I’m a bit of a tablet nut. Especially a “wargames should be done for the tablet” nut. I’ve posted about it enough, and for a large part, this idea has come to pass, with the releases from Shenandoah Studios, John Tiller game ports, and several onesie and twosie companies releasing indie projects in the wargaming realm. Sadly the one player that should be invested in this technology but really isn’t is GMT GAMES. There are many, many game designs published by GMT that would make excellent tablet games. anything card driven and with area movement might be a good candidate (some more than others). The Command and Colors block games are a natural. The American Revolutionary War battles series. Field of Fire, even. The big kahuna, however, was always going to be the highest scoring (On BGG) game published by GMT ever, Twilight Struggle. Until recently, GMT remained committed to a PC only Game conversion of Twilight Struggle. This project was recently cancelled and an announcement that GMT was seeking out tablet programmers to convert it to an IoS version was released. GMT remains committed to tablet conversions of board games, as they have been saying since 2011 and earlier. The one and only release from GMT for the IPad, the Dominant Species app, I purchased with some enthusiasm… which dried up immediately after going through the tutorial and trying to play just one game. Granted, I have NO experience with the board game of Dominant Species, but it is rated somewhat highly on Boardgamegeek, there had to be some “there”, there, right? Plus, I have a lot of experience with games and Ipad ports of board games, and have been around the block a little, so what’s not to like? In a word, plenty. I thought the Dominant Species app was wretched. The tutorial did not engage me, graphics are dull, and game flow is confusing. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was no sense of narrative in the game app for me. That’s just me, though, there are people out there who seem to like the app just fine and if you like Dominant Species (the board game) you will probably like the app.
I swear; I’m not going to give up on this thing. I spent my five bucks and I want a game out of it. So I’ll keep giving it a try. Sometimes a game has to win me over; I know that Puerto Rico for the Ipad did after a few tries; I still have high hopes for Agricola and Caylus for the Ipad as well. The sad fact is I don’t often grock why some games are so danged popular and rated so highly on BGG. I think it’s a problem of opportunity. The games just mentioned, Agricola, Caylus and Puerto Rico, looked pretty dull as a subject for a game when I see them set up to play, yet they have their strong adherents. I respect that. People don’t have to like what I like, either. I just need a while to cozy up to the concept of planting crops and building buildings as being “fun”.. it took the games of Stone Age, San Juan, and to a lesser extent Kingdom Builder to get me to come round about the subject.
GMT, though, they are a natural for me, being kind of wargame-y, kind of historical, kind of a lover of so-called “Ameritrash” as I am. They publish one of the top games on BGG for a couple years, Twilight Struggle (a great game). They have spoken openly about porting specific titles (many of whom are terrific, some of whom are just okay) to a digital format. Their decision to port Twilight Struggle to a PC game puzzled me, as I don’t see the PC being the platform of choice for boardgame conversions any more. Still, I would have bought it.. I don’t buy everything GMT puts out, but they can’t say I haven’t been a loyal customer over the years.
The recent statement cancelling Twilight Struggle for the PC was illuminating. They appear to not be satisfied with progress or the current version of the PC game. Their statement (read here) indicates that there will be, eventually, a tablet version of Twilight Struggle. I have to give them a cautious holllahh! for this decision. If they have been trying to produce something for two years and it still isn’t up to their standards, it’s time to fish or cut bait. Frankly the tablet idea is a better one. The tablet market (and note, I’m not saying “Just Ipads”, I’m saying tablet.. inclusive of Androids) really is taking off for board game ports. I’m not going to say anything hokey about ‘the future of board gaming” here, as it isn’t.. not really. But it is growing, that much is clear. So, good decision, GMT!! You would have had my coin either way you went with this, but I’m hoping to see a renewed investment in tablet style games from you now.
With all that fustion being delivered in grand old style, where is my Command and Colors on the Ipad?
Repost: The Tolkien Nerd’s Guide to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine
As a follow up to my own reaction/review about the recent movie in “the further adventures of a certain hobbit“, I read the Tolkien Nerd’s Guide to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in this month’s SMITHSONIAN magazine. It’s a great piece. I find myself agreeing with the fact that Jackson actually helps the narrative by fleshing out bits that Tolkien gave very short shrift too (the personality and character of the Dwarves, Bard, the Elves, etc.), but also agree (sadly) that there was a ton of very silly padding to this movie…
Monday, I received a review copy of Cruel Neccesity (Victory Point Games) which is the latest game in their much vaunted State of Siege game series. As I will shortly be on a big boat out of sight of land for FUN for the first time in my life for two weeks, I thought I’d take her out for a spin last night. What follows is first impressions after one playing of the most basic scenario in the game, the First English Civil War. It is NOT a full up review, I will need to play it at least 4 more times (including the campaign) as I’m not clear on how every element works yet. I just thought I’d get some impressions down as I’ll be away from the internet for a bit.
The game models the English Civil War in very broad brush strokes, using the “narrative building effect” of event cards divided into three sequential historical phases in a linked campaign, in a similar method to past State of Siege games (see my past review of Soviet Dawn). Also, as in past games, there is a Center point with four tracks that lead inward, along which markers for generic armies advance to threaten the center position (London, in this case). The overall effect is a game that isn’t a solitaire wargame, per se, but does possess some wargame elements. It certainly is a solitaire history game, and a very interesting one. I’ll admit something up front– State of Siege games have not had a lasting impact on me. I’ve bought them, enthused about them, I play them for a few times, and then they hit the shelves, not to come out for long periods. I don’t dislike the idea of a “story telling game” (their phrase for it) and was quite entertained by my past games, I just didn’t feel like playing it again after I’d run through the card deck a few times. It felt repetitive. With the the publication of Cruel Neccesity, maybe… just maybe, I’ve found a version of State of Siege that can stay fresh.
For one thing, the graphic presentation has improved so much that this really looks like a historical wargame. Huge counters, giant maps, much better graphics and game aids all conspire to give the game a more natural map and terrain than previous map efforts. The component quality has greatly improved. Cruel Necessity is a part of Victory Point Games’ “Gold Banner” series of games, which means a box (of the heavy cardboard type), a slipcover, larger, better paper quality maps (sometimes bound!) and thick, chunky counters.
Art on the map is well done. Instead of the typical square boxes on a track moving in to a central location, the map looks like a regular map of the British isles, divided into geographic areas, North, West, Middle, Ireland, kind of like Britannia. There are several fortified areas that represent castles of varying strength, which is depicted by putting a special counter with a notch cut into it that depicts the strength number changing as it moves around. The Army tokens that march along the track to threaten Parliment’s central position are also nicely done. This game comes with some logistical challenges– it takes up a ton of table space compared to its predecessors.
Like other State of Siege games, cards create events that do a lot of things– mostly they move armies along the tracks, but they also represent historical battles. The card pictured above is the Historical Battle of Edgehill, very early in the war, which, very fittingly, was the first battle I fought in my first game playing the First English Civil War. The red cannon icon indicates a battle outcome that will be fought on the tactical battle display. The North and West Armies will also be advancing one space this turn. The other historical events (O’Neill and Fortifying London) will result in the Catholicism marker to advance one on its track and a +1 marker to be played on London. As you can see, cards do lots of things and have to be read very carefully.
By far, my favor new element of this game is the tactical battlefield. You have to maintain pools of troop markers face down for both sides of the conflict on an adjacent display. Then you pull out troops randomly (or pull from the smaller “named unit” piles), and place them on the battle display. Resolution is pretty easy– you roll a dice for each side and add the number to the total of troops in each sector of the battlefield. If you are over the other side by a certain amount of points, it’s a victory. If you are within one point, it’s a draw. The outcome of a battle is usually a plus or minus in “Zeal Points” which are the currency of the game, of sorts.
There’s a lot of extra chrome tacked on the State of Siege engine in this game. For instance, there are slots for three achievements on the top of the map. Near as I can tell, these are the game tippers for the Parliamentary side, representing lasting political or social achievements. Achievement card are drawn from the events deck. If all vacant spots are used up, you can replace one that is already there, purchased with Zeal Points. Once bought, they give you a reward and add to your final VP score.
I’ve only played it twice so far, and both times have been trounced, which is a good thing. I enjoy the extra chrome in this design.. the external battlefields, the sieges, the revolts and external elements really give this non-wargame a very historical, wargamey feel.
SPOILER WARNING: I’ll try to keep it limited, but I’m going to give a few things away here. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, come back later. If you don’t care, read on.
We’re just back from seeing THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. I have to say up front that I loved it, and by that I mean far more than the last one. The middle movie in the trilogy takes up literally moments after the ending of the last film, with the Dwarves over the Misty Mountains, still on the run from the heretical Orcish “Azog the Defiler”, the antagonist from the previous film. Immediately, we see Bilbo is out scouting the way ahead to keep a jump ahead of the party’s Orc pursuers. The viewer can start to see the changes that have come over Bilbo since earlier in this story– he’s become more clever and handier in a scrape than most of his Dwarven compatriots, though he doesn’t let them know it. Part of this is the effect of the Ring; having no idea what is in his possession, you can see his bafflement and apprehension about the growing hold it has upon him.
The early Beorn sequence was outstanding. Beorn’s a bit of a mystery in the book– he doesn’t get a lot of print. He benefits from his few lines of exposition in the film. Not sure of whom the actor is who played Beorn, but he does a very credible job– he’s all quiet, unspoken menace. “I hate Dwarves. But I hate Orcs more, so I will help you”. Gandalf takes a side trip at this point, which I seem to recall he did in the book as well. We get to see his journey to a “an unnamed place” with Radagast, where apparently the Nazgul were entombed, long ago (though not in the novels). It’s clear that the Nazgul have broken out, although they are not formed yet, from the implication in the movie. Gandalf spends quite some time in a certain epic confrontation at Dol Goldur– not to reveal any more about that except: yes, we do see two Maia fighting each other. The story jumps around a bit as the movie’s three plot threats diverge right about that point. There’s the Gandalf-Radagast Dol Goldur plot, the Tauriel-Legolas-Thranduil plot, the Dwarves Journey, with a few extras tied in like Kili’s innocent flirtation with the elf maiden Tauriel (made up for the movie). I won’t give away the ending, which diverges from the book in particulars, but closes with the same result– Bilbo staring out of the Lonely Mountain and asking “Oh no! What have we DONE?”
Action was evident in this movie. It was action, action all the time, to be sure, but I feel that Jackson took great care to include a lot of storytelling and plot in this movie as well, so it’s not all sped-up CGI. As I’ve said above, Bilbo starts to shine as a real hero of this story. Jackson’s enduring theme throughout the Lord of the Rings films has been that the simple everyday courage of simple people being the true goodness that drives great evil away. Whether it’s stout-hearted Sam staggering the last mile up Mount Doom with Frodo carried on his back, or the ingenuity and courage of Bilbo getting his friends out of trouble time and time again (often for no thanks whatsoever), it’s clearly Hobbits that embody this strength in Jackson’s eyes. In these jaded times, that’s a message I found very heart warming. In contrast to Bilbo, Gandalf does not seem nearly as sure of himself, and at parts of the movie, seems downright terrified. I liked that– he walks into a very dangerous situation during the film and it’s clear to him that he doesn’t feel like he has much of a chance. His face shows this. Contrast that to the supremely confident White Wizard of the Return of the King, and he doesn’t seem nearly as sure as himself. The Dwarves are a mixed lot– many are still caricatures as they were in the first film, and my favorite dwarf, Bofur (played by James Nesbitt) lacked the depth he had in the first film. Richard Armitage does his best to play Thorin with a certain fiery dignity but this effect is often spoiled when he is placed in scenes with human or elf sized actors– since the Dwarves Fili, Kili, and Thorin just look like shrunken men, without the facial features of the other more classic dwarves in the party. With that said, I found myself still liking the film version of the dwarves over the book– they had overall more depth, character and humor than the book’s simple list of names. I particularly liked Jackson’s characterization of the party as perhaps NOT the biggest bunch of dwarven badasses in Middle Earth. It is strongly hinted that these guys were (for the most part) NOT warriors, but artisans, blacksmiths, bankers and scribes. Dwarves have jobs, too. Not all of them are doughty warriors. In a nice nod to that idea, the ending of the movie has the dwarves (those of them that make it to the Lonely Mountain) deliver a stunning check to Smaug, using a very dwarven method of doing so. It was unrealistic as hell, from a physics standpoint, but I liked that it was truly a DWARVEN approach to the problem of a rampaging dragon. In contrast with the Dwarves the Elves seem like a gang of ass-hats. Legolas shows up, included to appeal to the teen girl fan base, I suspect, but it makes logical sense given that they were passing through his land. 70 years must have softened him a bit because he’s kind of intolerant and reactionary in this movie– and more than willing to pick a fight with Dwarves. Legolas comes off as a veritable Tallyrand compared to his own dad, Thranduil, however. The Elven king is characterized (by Lee Pace, doing his very best Edgar Winter impression) as being crafty, proud, greedy and suspiciously xenophobic. Erm.. isn’t that how DWARVES are supposed to be? I guess I’m used to Elves being standoffish and dignified, and just a little hoity toity. Thranduil comes off as not a little bit of an insufferable jerk. The shining example, and most likable elf by far, was the fictional female elf, Tauriel. I liked her inclusion. If you’re going to add interaction with the Woodland Realm beyond what’s in the book, why NOT have Legolas and fictional characters added in? It makes sense for the time and place. I greatly enjoyed the depiction of Esgaroth (Lake-Town) and the humans that lived there — they had depth and character and weren’t cyphers. Stephen Fry was up to his usual standard as the suspicious Master of Lake Town with his Grima-like right hand man. This is an example of taking something that is implied with an economy of words by Tolkien and running with it full tilt for a touchdown by Jackson. The whole tension of the Master being suspicious of Bard (the Smuggler) and the politics of the little town as a masterful touch. Besides, Bard is a truly likable and good character, in every sense of the word. Lastly, we come to Smaug. Depicted in CGI and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, the scenes between Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Cumberbatch’s Smaug were one of the film’s highlights. And a reunion, of sorts, for the two SHERLOCK actors. I’m not sure if Bilbo ever takes the Ring off when he is talking to Smaug in the book, but he does in the film– because it’s clear that he already is feeling the torment of using it. Bilbo’s stammering terror during his confrontation was everything I imagined it to be, and Cumberbatch’s oily, evil portrayal of Smaug is right on the money.
There were a lot of divergent plot elements, and as I’ve said many times in the past, I take these with a grain of salt. Peter Jackson is a master craftsman in the visual storytelling field, and he is charged with making a movie of a book, not a book of a book. I knew things would be different. So that never bothers me unduly– it certainly didn’t in Lord of the Rings. In Desolation, there were some elements that diverged more than a little here and there. At one point, four of the dwarves are left behind to take care of a wounded Kili in Esgaroth while the rest of the party forges ahead. That seemed only to be added to A) continue the odd flirtation between Kili the Dwarf and Tauriel the female Elf, and B) possibly set us up to have the Elves and Dwarves help defend Lake-town in THERE AND BACK AGAIN. Ehhh.. that was a little thin. The rest? I wish Beorn had more screen time. I wish there were more little Easter Eggs that connect the films, like the bit about Legolas and Gimli (sort of). I find the Orc Leader Azog a little tiresome– he’s there to drive the plot along and the motivation for his undying hatred isn’t very clear. The connection between Sauron and the Orcs seems tacked on. The connection between Smaug and Sauron is just there for convenience– there was little or no indications that either party cared about the other one whit in the novels. Most of these are quibbles, but they do illustrate the great weakness of this trilogy. Jackson had to cut all three movies down to make them workable for a theatrical release when he was filming the Lord of the Rings. With the Hobbit, we find him padding every film with fictional material or greatly expanded plot items from the appendices. So there’s some silly moments presented to make the movie drive along, such as Azog being alive after Azunulzibar or the flirtation between an Elf and a Dwarf.
My overall assessment is that the Desolation of Smaug was great fun. Not as good as the Lord of the Rings trilogy but still a very entertaining movie I’ll see again. Highly recommended.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon Darrin Rogers(?)’ site MICRO HEROES recently while researching a limited edition Marvel graphic novel called THE TWELVE that came out in 2009. It’s an interesting story. B-List Superheroes (and non-powered heroes) are trapped in suspension back in 1945, come to life in present day (which is assumed to be 2009) and have to cope with reality. The writers had deliberately chosen somewhat obscure, limited run characters from Marvel’s pre-history days. It turns out there’s a colorful history out there in Golden Age comics. I’m not an authority or even a regular reader on comics, but I do like the occasional story like this– it has an ULTIMATES flavor to it.
Anyway, Micro Heroes are flat, two dimensional portrayals of famous Golden Aged heroes AND villains from the great old days of comic books, mostly dating to the 40s and 50s. The artist, whom I think is Darrin Rogers (if I’m reading it correctly), has created a veritable visual encyclopedia of comics on his sites.
It’s all grand goofy fun, and definitely worth a look. There’s literally nothing more to this site than lots and lots and LOTS of pictures of obscure comic book heroes from the 40s, and you can lose a lot of time there.