Category Archives: wargame

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


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

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

Benton and Tuscumbia

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

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

2013 Game Camp Day 2: Magi Round 2 and X-Wing Miniatures


Tuesday was a good day.  Due to popular request, I ran The Magi again for a second day.  This was a much faster game than the first one as there was less stuff for the players to figure out.  It was, however, the day that everyone got enamored with casting the Summon Elemental spell, which will require an edit, I think.  It’s much too powerful as written.

the Magi and Elementals in play

Fink the Wrathful casts his second Ice Elemental; in the background Weenus Bitterkins casts a Fire Elemental to destroy both of them.

BATTLE OF THE MAGI

The Wizards Fink the Wrathful, Jenna Greywind and Weenus Bitterkins were the standouts in this contest.  Sadly, my character, Fizban the Fabulist, got a face full of two ice storms in a row and died rather quickly once the Ice Elemental was cast.  It was  a great game that saw Jenna Greywind as the last Wizard standing.

Millenium Falcon cruises by

Who invited HIM?? (Click to see Slideshow)

After a quick gobbled lunch we set up X-Wing Miniatures, using the aforementioned new star map I made on Sunday. X-Wing isn’t a game to give a lot of people mental shakes but it is a tad more complex than what the campers had encountered so far; however, everyone liked it.. even if one or two complained that it was harder to understand. I think the game is elegant as written; the mechanics enhance the great theme and the ships interact together very nicely. The subtle differences between ships were far more acute in this multiplayer game than the one on one contests I have enjoyed up to now. I think the investment in the game paid off at this camp– I had more than enough ships for everyone and the game was stunning and visual.

X Wing Game Tuesday afternoon

The game was more or less a tie, but with an edge to the Imperium, running one Tie Advanced (piloted by Vader) and 5 regular Tie Fighters. The Rebels ran two A-Wings, 2 Y-Wings and 1 X-Wing (Skywalker). The special powers of Vader and some of the Tie pilots were decisive in a game where one extra dice roll can be life or death.

Second day in a row of running two games back to back. Tomorrow Gar will run Cosmic Encounters while I set up a big game of BIG DANGED BOATS.

and as always, a BIG THANKS to Wargames Factory LLC, who donated figures for us to paint!

Here’s a more direct thank you from the kids themselves!

Guidebook for HISTORICON 2013 available for download


The HISTORICON 2013 Guidebook app is NOW available for download as of 6:30 this evening. 7/11/13.  Follow instructions below.

The HISTORICON 2013 LANDING PAGE is here:
http://guidebook.com/g/3vcidah7

There’s directions on how to load it on your phone there.

The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Summer convention, HISTORICON, on 18-21 July 2013.  You can get in a big chunk of miniatures/SF/Historical tabletop gaming at this convention, and the Guidebook can help.

Just like before every con I make one of these for, this post is a short introduction to Guidebook, how to get it and how to use it for YOUR convention.

The screens are a little different on my Ipad, but the basic functions are the same no matter what platform you are using.  Don’t mind all the Cold Wars 2013 pictures and references, the information is essentially the same– I’m too lazy to take a bunch of pictures again for no good reason.

Front Page of the Ipad layout. The Menu is up the left side.  This is the “General Info” page, with the director’s blurb, address, etc.

First of, what is GUIDEBOOK?  This is an application, or “App” in modern parlance, that resides on a multitude of mobile devices (Ipad, Ipod, Iphone, Android smartphones, Android Tablets, and there’s even a version for browser enabled phones that can access the web).  GUIDEBOOK maintains a master schedule of every thing going on at a convention, Maps where everything is, general information about the convention,  plus maintaining a custom version of your own schedule that keeps a list of all the things you want to do when you go to a convention.. and reminds you when you when it’s time to do it.  Think of it as your, extremely personalized version of the paper program guide that can store on a handy device, beeps you when it’s time to go to the next item on your schedule and keeps a to-do list for you.

This is the Main Schedule page. Note the little color bars on the left hand side of the events? They’re color coded– RED for GAMES, BLUE for Tournaments, GREEN for Seminars, PURPLE for Hobby University, and Black/No Color for Operations

Guidebook is an application for supporting conventions, trade shows and other events by hosting a version of their event schedules, layouts, maps, and special data lists on a variety of portable platforms– notably the Apple IoS products Iphone, Ipod TouchIpad, any Android phone, and any internet enabled phone that can web-browse.  In essence, Guidebook takes the important stuff out of the paper program book you all know and love and puts it on a device you may carry around with you on a regular basis.

INDIVIDUAL BANNERS:
Each event on the schedule has a banner associated with it.  This will display on the top of the item you are looking at and everyone can see it.  These individual banners fall in the general groupings of GAMES (run by GMs), TOURNAMENTS, HOBBY UNIVERSITY, SEMINARS (programs) and OPERATIONS (general situational awareness stuff about hours of operations).  Individual look like this:


Any tournament game, including DBA, FoW, FoG, etc.

Press Conferences, Podcast events and Seminars

Nuts and bolts of the Convention.. when areas like the flea market open and close

Hobby University events

Regularly scheduled games

(A selection of event banners)

Directions on how to get and use GUIDEBOOK

The various links associated with these instructions are located on Guidebook’s GET THE APP webpage

Maps Page. Scroll right and left in the blue bar. Every room at the venue we are using is here, laid out for the convention.

Here’s some screenshots of individual event listings in each category

A GAME event
Selecting an event to put on your personal schedule, and the length of the alarm notification

If you have an Ipod Touch, Iphone, or Ipad 1 or 2, visit the Itunes App Store, for the Guidebook app.  Download it. Install it.  It’s free.  Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide.   There you go, that’s all you need to do.  Start browsing and bookmarking events you want to go to.

If you have an ANDROID phone, go to the Google Play store or some other outlet for Android OS apps.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located HISTORICON 2013.  Download that guide, and browse away.

Vendor list in the new layout
This is our vendor listing. It’s pretty simple.

If you have an INTERNET CAPABLE, but not Android or IoS phone, you can point your phone’s browser to this web link: http://m.guidebook.com  You will see a less graphical interface but it will contain the same amount of information as the other two platforms (IoS and Android).  Even nicer, when you use a web browser phone, it doesn’t count against our download limit.

I just sent the guidebook in to Guidebook.com, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.

ONCE YOU HAVE THE APP INSTALLED (Somewhere)

  1. Open it.  Do a “Search for Guidebooks”
  2. Find: HISTORICON 2013.  (they list them chronologically)
  3. Select HISTORICON 2013 for download.  This should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Then open it up.  And enjoy Guidebook Goodness.

Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for HISTORICON 2013– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bill Rutherford, or some other events person, and I will make the changes on the server, which will be communicated to the users as an update to the Guidebook ready for download.  You don’t have to do anything but hit “yes”.

Have fun, and I hope this is useful for you.  I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2013!

Disclaimers:

I did not program the actual app GUIDEBOOK software, just prepared the HISTORICON 2013 data module for free use.  I’m not an employee of Guidebook.com and don’t get paid to endorse them.  Use at your own risk.

An appreciation: “Col. G. Hairy Haggis, at your service”– aka William Landrum


56000aFacebook catches a lot of slings and arrows from critics these days, mostly about invasion of privacy. The flip side of that coin is that Facebook creates the opportunity to keep in touch with people you haven’t seen in next to never. So it was today, when I noticed this face popping up in my Recent Friends bar in Facebook.  I had forgotten who owned that face.  It was William Landrum, also known as “Colonel Hairy Haggis” on the many hobby bulletin boards he used to frequent, especially the Colonial Wars Yahoogroup.  So I finally said to myself, “why would he be a recent friend on FB?  He never posts anything!”  I’m not sure if Facebook was trying to tell me something, but when I went to his profile page, It turns out Bill passed away, over a year ago, and I had never heard the news from anybody in the multiple hobby communities online.

Colonel Hairy Haggis, as he liked to style himself, was always a consummate gentleman online and very pleasant in person.  He was also an inveterate tinkerer.  Bill had his own dental supply lab that did a lot of custom work for the dentist community were he lived.   He had access to an amazing amount of tools and was fond of casting his own custom toy soldiers or converting existing ones into outlandish creations.

Hairy Haggis in his shop

Hairy Haggis in his shop
More stuff

More stuff

56513c

Back in the late 90s, when I was running a game of my own devising called LE GRAND CIRQUE at conventions, Colonel Haggis was an occasional player and enthusiastic commentator on the game. At one point I created a conveyance called The Dowdmobile, with Elwood P. Dowd of HARVEY fame as the pilot. I didn’t have a giant rabbit to accompany Elwood in his conveyance, so I used the old cop out of “Well, Harvey is invisible, you see…” as my excuse. Colonel Haggis would have none of that. Using a conversion method, he created a giant armed rabbit out of an old Alternative Armies figure. It was fantastic, whiskers and all.  He did that because it “fit”, and he was right.  Bill also participated in my Le Grande Cirque du Wabash game waaay back in Historicon 2000, I think. Those were good times.

Bill Landrum was a wonderful guy; even tempered, creative, funny and a gentleman.  He loved Victorian affectations in speech and manner, and adored Victorian Science Fiction before it became “Steampunk”.   A born storyteller and always up for a joke or ready with a kind word. I wish there were more people in the hobby like Colonel Hairy Haggis. I’ll miss him.

Ebook versions of wargaming rules, new-ish from Osprey


Dux Bellorum on Amazon’s Kindle Store

Osprey Publishing has been a major player in wargame publishing since 2008, when they published Field of Glory, an ancients miniatures rule set from Slitherine.  During that time, I’ve seen more than one reference to PDF versions of their rules online, and they might be legal, but I’m kind of doubting it as they all seem to be listed on torrent download sites.  Heck, I may be wrong, but it just seems not on the up and up– Amazon doesn’t sell a commercial PDF of Field of Glory, for instance.   Since 2008, Osprey has overseen a small explosion of wargaming titles, publishing several high quality hardcover color illustrated rulebooks and expansions– including Ambush Alley, Bolt Action, Tomorrow’s War and several flavors of Field of Glory, including the latest Napoleonic version.  Some of these, depending on Osprey’s relationship with the original company, may be available as PDFs (Tomorrow’s War, for instance, is available as a PDF version).  On another front, there is an even newer line of small, “quirky subject” wargames that appear to be one-offs, and these are starting to hit Amazon as 9.99 Kindle books.  The latest being Dux Bellorum, wargaming in Arthurian England, and The World Aflame, an Interwar Period rules set.  That’s great news.  Why?  Well, mostly a personal preference kind of thing.  PDFs are great for retaining layout and color photographs and the original intent of the author.. but they are bulky beasts when it comes to storage.  I much prefer EPUB when I can get it, as .epub appears to be a platform independent standard these days.  It’s also a very lean standard of publishing.  Most epubs on my Ipad 2 are 1 meg or less.  Most PDFs on my Ipad (the ones with lots of pictures, anyway) are 12 megs or more.  Do the math.  Aha! you say.. Kindle IS a standard.  It uses MOBI files!  Well, yes, certainly.  But anybody with Calibre and Kindle for the PC on their computer can get around that in about five minutes, and load the file as an EPUB, most of the time.
Now, why would we want an electronic version of a rule set on a tablet or E-reader instead of good old dependable paper?  Clearly, the answer depends on the rules.  For something large, hardbound with lots and lots of charts and more importantly, lots and lots of rules exceptions, I probably wouldn’t go paperless for a rule set like that.  For a short, relatively non-complex rules set like the new paperback trade versions being published by Osprey, I embrace the change wholeheartedly.  I ran two games of my own design at Gaming Camp last summer with just the Ipad and some paper roster tables.. I had everything I needed to make the game happen at hand, easy to find and hyperlinked for lookup.  I’d much rather have an Ipad handy for a straightforward, simple game (maybe printing out some cheat sheets for everyone concerned in advance) then toting the rule book around everywhere.  Besides, it makes for some fun reading in the off hours.

A World Aflame at Amazon’s Kindle Store

Osprey, by the by, double tapped me.  I bought both of Dux Bellorum and The World Aflame from them, directly, as paper books first and now just purchased the Kindle/eventually Epub version– and I’ve pre-ordered In Her Majesty’s Name in paper, which will probably have a Kindle version as well.  Great trend, Osprey!  I applaud this.

A little bit of a follow-up: As luck would have it, my PRINTED copy of Dux Bellorum arrived in the mail last night.  A couple of points: Much as I would like to convert my legally purchased copy of the Kindle version of DB to Epub for use on my Ipad, I can’t.   Wargames published by Osprey appear to be DRM protected.  And, no, I have no intention of doing anything illegal, so it looks like I’ll be reading these rules on the Kindle app on my Ipad henceforth.  Secondly, there are some limitations to the Kindle version of the rules.  As any wargamer can attest to, a wargame has plenty of tables.  The conversion has to do tables right to be useful as a resource for GMs.  My reaction is.  yeahhhhhh sorta.  The alignment was a bit messed up and the tables in the DB rules overran the margin a few times.  Still, it was readable and I didn’t lose any information, per se, I just had to swipe left and right to see the stuff outside the margins.   The DB rules are primarily black and white (printed) with some color plates and minis photos.  The printed layout was not replicated like it could be in a PDF, but it was still readable and useful.  So overall I’m not unhappy about purchasing rules via Kindle.

SAGA: More than one way to skin a cat, if that’s your idea of a good time.


You know, sometimes a solution to a problem will stare you right in the face, and you can’t see it. When I mentioned my DIY attempts to make dice for SAGA to a fellow SAGA fan, he pointed out I was taking too direct an approach to the problem. “Oh? What do YOU do?”, I asked. I won’t go to far into the details, lest I anger the good people at Tomahawk studios, but I will let a picture tell a thousand words or something to that effect.

No, I won’t go into how and I’m not going to distribute this. I own SAGA outright and these modifications are my own for my personal use only. Just throwing out an idea here…

Hmmmm… glad I didn’t go overboard in making my own custom dice too much, eh?

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The Temperance Union vs. the Drinkin’est Town in the West: A Wild West Miniatures Scenario


Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1900

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1900 (Photo credit: State Library of South Australia)

I bumped into a friend of mine, Brian Whitaker, in the Vendor Hall at the recent Fall-IN! ’12.  I asked him for a copy of Viking Looters, which I now have Vikings for, and he reminded me about a very old Wild West game I ran back in the late 90s, when I was running Wild West games quite a bit.  Brian is famous for running “Women only” games, and remembered a game I had run way back in the day as a natural candidate.  This was the Temperance Union game, which was not your usual Wild West Shoot’em Up.  It was a goal-oriented game with essentially two sides, Temperance Crusaders and Drunks.  I was inspired by an old game we ran called “Prussia Needs Women” which we ran using GASLIGHT rules, which were all the rage back then.  The basic game involves scoring points by capturing drunks or destroying liquor.  I didn’t have anything written up that had survived 13 years and several computers, but I did have a decent recollection of this game, which I thought I’d pass on to you now if you’re interested.

The Ladies Temperance Union versus the Drinken’est Town in the West Scenario

If you already do Wild West, you have the buildings and terrain already.  This scenario is really aimed at someone who already likes Wild West Skirmish games.  If you have a few old ERTL Cow Town sets or some MBA adobe buildings, that should work for a town.  This is a town based scenario and the town should at least feature 2 saloons and a brothel or 3 saloons, a church, a sheriff’s office and the standard livery stables, stores, etc.

You’ll need some civilian figures, a town Sheriff, a few deputies and a big gang of drunks and a big gang of Temperance union ladies.   Suggestions for figure lines
For the Temperance League game are at the end of this post.  For mechanics, I basically took the core mechanics of turn sequence, timing, movement, firing, reaction etc from whatever I was using at the time, which was probably THE RULES WITH NO NAME, but it also should work with GASLIGHT which I was also monkeying around with back then.

League Women: First of all, find a whole ton of Western Females (See below).  You probably have them in your collection already.  They must be of the right sort– not saloon floozies but the proper respectable sort.   See if you can convert of some of them to carry axes.  Every female human player should run at least one if not two of these.  You can also add some dowdy and respectable male characters, like a reverend, or clerk.  A small marching band would also add a lot of color.

Barman with Whiskey

Drunks: In turn, look for a good set of drunks.  This may be harder than you think.  Most Western figures are firing pistols or rifles.. this game isn’t about gunfire (primarily). There’s still a few here and there (like guys dancing, drinking etc.from saloon sets that you can find here and there or even convert.  See the list at the end.

Lastly, make a bunch of whiskey barrels from little craft bits, and put them all over the town in strategic locations.  Of course there’s going to be a bunch at the saloon, but remember this is the Drinkin’est town in the West and everyone, including the pastor, has a stash.

Craft Barrels come in many sizes. Stain them Brown Wood colored and Ink in XXX on the side.

The Temperance Union is a giant gang of characters– you could make all the (female) players play them and play the drunks as the referee, or have a few (male players) run the drunks.   Considerations: if you have humans (preferably men) playing the opposition, they are prone to the chaos factor that makes the game more exciting.  As the referee, you kind of know the “right” way to play and will make decisions that way– it gets a little “stagey”.

OBJECTIVE: The League marches through town, seizing caches of that demon whiskey and destroying it on sight.  You can have them burn it (with impressive fireballs) or take an axe to it.  For each barrel destroyed the player got a reward token (I used pennies).  For each drunk captured (see rules exceptions below) to be dragged home by the ear, two pennies.

Rules exceptions  (above and beyond the rules you are using for game mechanics)

The Temperance Union Players

The women aren’t armed, except a few with axes for the barrels.  Instead, they use the power of SCOLDING versus a specific target 3″ away.  For each turn spent Scolding, the drunk will try to get away.  If he fails his Nerve test, he shuffles about looking uncomfortable and hangdog.  If he passes, he’ll move ten inches away from her and she will have to chase him.  Once “captured” the character will follow the League woman around docilely, his will broken and he just wants to go home and sleep it off.

I used a 3D6 method for starters, and modified it for other factors– level of drunkeness, whether the drunk was married to the Scolding woman, etc.  Looking for 5s and 6s to score a win.

The drunker the drunk (see below), the greater the bonus for Scolding.  Drunks might actually be married to some of the League characters (you have to set this up in advance, as GM) in which case they will seek to avoid being captured and run a greater distance of 15″ when they see their wives coming.  Wives get an additional scold dice when scolding husbands.  When five or more League women are in a group they can start a LOUD HYMN SINGING to anyone within 10 inch range (you might wish to get some of your female players to loudly sing “What a friend we have in Jesus” out loud at this point).  This gives an additional bonus for subsequent SCOLDING attempts– the men are willing to do anything if they just stop that caterwauling.   Women in the West didn’t usually get involved in gunfights (usually!).  So the Temperance Union will not do so either.  They are respectable women, after all.  Their last and best characteristic is WOMANLY VIRTUE.  Nobody who is playing their role correctly is going to shoot them.  The Code of the West states you can’t shoot a woman.  So even the drunkest drunk isn’t going to do that.. be he might grapple with them or Cuss them out but no gunfire.  Of course, younger (teenaged) Drunk players have a problem with that, being naturally bloodthirsty.  You’ll have to ride herd on that.

Drunks

Drunks can CUSS right back when they get scolded.  CUSSING doesn’t capture anyone but it repels women who must check nerve or back up out of SCOLD range.  In addition, drunks can get involved in a tussle with women actively involved in destroying alcohol stores.  This is GRAPPLING, resolved by the rules you’re using for melee and such.  Grappling is not hitting, it’s physically stopping a woman from taking an axe to a keg.  Code of the West and all that.

The drunks are always at the disadvantage in this game, I’ve found– and that’s the way it should be.  So I toss in a Sheriff and some deputies to balance things.  They will act in the interest of the business owner (e.g. saloon) and attempt to arrest the women.  If a woman character hits a deputy or sheriff, they can use physical force (of a non-deadly nature) to detain them and drag them off to jail.

VICTORY:

Add up the number of barrels at start and the number of drunks (x 2).  This number is the victory threshold
Each Temperance Union woman counts up pennies at the end of the game.  If the number of pennies captured is less than a quarter of the Victory Threshold, crusade was a failure, and the ladies will have to regroup and try again another day.  If the total is between a quarter and a half of the threshold, it was only a minor victory in the ceaseless battle against Demon Whiskey, and they will have to try again another day.   If they score more than half of the Victory Threshold, it was a Victory in the battle against Whiskey!!!  Of course, reading the results in reverse for the Drunks..

There were a few other things, but I’m not remembering them all that well.  That’s the core idea of this scenario, in any event.

Figure Sources (2012)

Wargames Foundry Miniatures

Temperance League:
Range Victoriana, VC002 pack: The Working Class (with minor mods), VC004 Ladies (no mods), VC006 Gentlemen Escorting Ladies,

Range Old West, OW11/3 Townspeople (School Marm) (Layabout makes a good drunk, Shopkeeper a good saloon owner)

Drunks:
Range Old West, OW115, Just Passing Through (all) OW118, Farmers and Cowhands, OW 114, Victorian Gents, OW112 Out on the Town

Brigade Miniatures

Temperance League:
Doesn’t have a lot of Western Civilian women, but Western Characters (5) could make excellent Temperance League MEN.

Dixon Miniatures

Range: Old West Line

Temperance League, single figs
WG10 Woman Walking, WG27 Lady standing looking stern, WG92 Mad Preacher (bible and shotgun), WG 37-40 (Pioneer women) all work very well converting rifles to axes for the barrels. Ditto for WGP 5  WG24 Young Lady with parasol, WG26 lady stepping up (with conversion)

Drunks
WG12 Gamble/Sutler, standing smoking cigar, WG93 Barman with whiskey bottle, WG95 Town gent waving hat, WG96 Town Chav, WGV 2 (violin player and man dancing jig) WGV 3 poker set, WGV 6 piano player and singer,

Old Glory Miniatures

WP-17 Wagon Train settlers has many women figures in it.  just the right sort.  The men can be decent Drunks, too.
WP-31 Country Doc with buggy
WBS-74 Civilians (Civil War Range) has tons of women and men that would be useful.

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Olympica Test at FALL IN! 2012


I have been working on an OLYMPICA game since the Summer, off and on, mostly off because of FALL IN! Prep work. See the previous Fall IN! post about the game I ran on Friday night at the convention. I had a team of about 6 players run through the basic Nix Olympica scenario, which entails hidden Web units (and Web Generator), customizable defense and a strong mechanized U.N. attack.

Your intrepid GM has a (Diet) Coke and a smile.

The rules, for reference, are here. I designed this on the fly for a gaming camp last Summer so it’s not a profound work of genius, but it does have some interesting notions that I like, such as dice pools, which allow an attacker and a defender to choose different dice that do different things to resolve an attack. In essence, red=attack, blue=defense, green=leadership, white=maneuver, yellow=”special”, e.g. Psychic Attack. Each player selects FIVE dice in the basic mechanic, and they can add in any combination of red,blue,white,green,yellow. They both roll at once and then you see what happens. I have made a chart (seen here, but this version has been modified, I just haven’t posted it yet).

Screen “Story” on Photobucket (Fall IN 2012 Playtest):
Olympica Playtest, FALL IN! 2012

Other elements that I like:

The webbies have hidden tunnel movement. Before the game begins, I give them a small white board and they draw the tunnel complex, then put tunnel mouths on the board (numbered) in a layout that matches the whiteboard. The BOAR drill can collapse a single tunnel in the complex, killing everyone inside it. That part worked.

Web Players building Tunnel Complex, Fall IN! 2012

The U.N. has air drop rules and in an attempt to emulate the original OLYMPICA rules, can crash if they fly too close to the Web Generator during a drop. Great idea, though nobody has managed to try it yet.

U.N. Lifters lining up an air drop, Summer Camp Playtest, 2012

The U.N. can fire by platoon, illustrating their superior equipment and training. That means they get the basic five dice and 2 more from each extra squad, making 9 dice total. The Webbies fire by squad, which puts them at a disadvantage in a fire fight. The Web players did not like that.

1 Webbie SQUAD vs. 1 Light Infantry PLATOON, Summer Playtest, 2012

The Webbies have STRONG POINTS (bunkers) that have various forms of SF-y style artillery– rail guns that fire in a long ranged arc, but require an observer, Gauss Guns, which fire in a flat arc, AAMs, which are designed only to take out Landers, Tac Missiles, which can hit air and ground units, and Direct Firing artillery. In the game I ran, I had three DF artillery up close in the Strong points, a Rail gun and a TAC missile. This provided overlapping defense all over the battlefield. The actual firepower wasn’t as deadly as I would have liked.

Combined Arms attack on Webbie Strongpoint with supporting Webbie Infantry Squads. Fall In 2012 game

The Webbies have hidden placement (using orange “?” markers). Everything except their strong points is hidden at first. Worked very well for the Webbies but the U.N. didn’t like it much.

here’s the sequence of events:

Pre-Game: Webbies make tunnel map, put down tunnel mouths to match map, put ? markers on terrain to hide troops. SOME of those are dummies. U.N. allocates troops to drop ships, and prepares ground forces for advance to the Nix Olympica crater, where the Web Generator is reported to be.

I had the players roll for activation each turn, but I blew that off.. I just roll once and that’s the number for the rest of the game.

PRE-GAME DROP: the players may attempt to start the game with a drop on the map, and the Lifter above the unit.

1. ACTION SEGMENTS — in Activation sequence, players conduct actions — Move, Move 1/2 and Fire, or just FIRE with a bonus. Combat happens. Once a unit has activated, I put a marker on it and it can’t activate again (unless defending in combat) until all markers are pulled off.

Where fire hits (on the ground), a dust cloud happens. You can’t see or fire through one of these.

2. MORALE EFFECTS — if the UN unit has taken a hit, one rolls versus MOR rating to retreat. If it fails, they move back 10″ and keep checking every turn. If the unit is a Gold Stripe (leader unit) or is in a platoon with a Gold Stripe, it roles against LEADERSHIP (green dice).

3. WEB PULSE — The Web Generator fires a web pulse withing 15″ of its’ location. If there is a Lander in the radius of the pulse, it is likely to crash. U.N. infantry are subject to conversion for three turns.

4. REMOVE SMOKE CLOUDS —

REPEAT, until all units have “I’ve moved” markers on them. Then pull markers and start all over again.

BIG pileup in the center, mid-game. The U.N. got stalled here, and it cost them the game.

OLYMPICA at FALL IN 2012:

This was a great chance to get feedback from players that are a bit more critical than then the kids at game camp. The results of (more or less) the rules you see above, slightly modified to make the U.N. more speedy and lethal, ended in a game that was a massive stalemate in the center of the board, and the Webbies easily achieved their victory conditions of keeping the U.N. from reaching Nix Olympica (and securing or destroying the web generator).

I’ve noticed this in all games run so far. The U.N. player is not NEARLY lethal enough. The Webbie player loses people, a lot of them, but usually wins– that is not how the boardgame played! I’ve increased the stats on the U.N. recently and that is what we played with at FALL IN. What happened was the U.N. got bogged down in the center, held back by guns that could only face forward, when they should have advanced into the crater. There’s also a big problem with sequencing, I think. SEVERAL U.N. units can pile on to a webbie infantry unit and he can continue to roll a fresh defense every time he is fire upon, and can, under the current rules, fire back. I had players complain about this giving the Webbie almost continuous fire, and they have a point. I may have to come up with something to address that.

Also, the Webbies didn’t like not being able to fire by platoon, like the UN can. My observation is that this leads to a very powerful Webbie tactical firepower.. which isn’t in the spirit of their attack and defense. I might allow it with some thematic mechanic, like they can fire by platoon if there’s a special web pulse that allows the generator to be visual. Or something. I’m working on it.

In any event, I’m still dissatisfied, it’s not quite right yet. Any suggestions are welcome. Can’t guarantee I’ll act on them, but I’ll read them, that’s for sure.

Fall-In! 2012 AAR and apologies


First of all, I apologize for the decline in blogging output from August to now. I haven’t had a lot of free time in the evenings. My daughter went off to college with all the attendant angst that represents, and I have been FALL IN! 2012 events coordinator for this past convention. For better or worse, it’s a time sink, and I haven’t had a lot of energy or creativity to blog much. More on this later. In any event, that’s trend that’s going to change starting right now. I actually have a draft battle report in the hopper that dates back to August. I’m going to have to get on the stick and move out.

(Here’s the obligatory SLIDE SHOW, on Photobucket.. I shy away from adding tons of pictures to these things because I’m not a great photographer and almost never take pictures of what people want to see anyway. If Flash isn’t working on this browser, click on the picture of the Aether Battleship to move on to Photobucket)

FALL IN! 2012

CLICK ME

CLICK THE AETHER SHIP TO SEE SLIDESHOW if the link above isn’t displaying correctly

So, right, on to one of my favorite kinds of posts, the semi-obligatory convention recap I’ve been writing since… hmmm.. 1996? So here we go– FALL IN. The Autumnal convention for HMGS. The red-haired stepchild made good. The cash cow, nowadays. The least worrisome convention in the HMGS pantheon. This was held the first weekend in November, 2012, at the current venue of choice the Lancaster Host. The Host has its detractors and its proponents; it is a bit worn down, it’s not particularly handicapped friendly and it is laid out in a manner that is somewhat confusing to new people. For me, a convention at the Lancaster Host is like an old Roman soldier putting his feet into his army sandals; not the most plush footwear but he’s familiar with every inch of it and it can continue to provide service for many many more miles. Dan Murawski was convention director for FALL IN!– and I have to say that he did a great job. Being a CD can be very challenging, not just with the job on the face of it, which requires many, many hours of work, but also the back-channel considerations that come with handling the delicate diplomacy of HMGS. I’m sure it was an eye-opener for Dan! Poor sap! Har har har har! Seriously, he done good and we owe him a big “attaboy”, a couple of Michelob tall boys, and thank you for his efforts. I worked very closely with Dan during that time and can attest that he was engaged with everything from start to finish, and he was outstanding in helping me resolve problems with the Event Management system.

And speaking of events: I wish I could say I am satisfied with the job I did, but I really can’t. Communication stunk, and it was often my fault. I would miss an email embedded in GMAIL’s “message tree” format, or just not have a lot of time to be on email or TMP or the loathsome Yahoo groups. For that, I can only apologize if you experienced a problem with game scheduling. I had some real life events in my life, mostly work related, which would have me getting home at 7 or 8 at night, most nights, in September. Not a good time to be sitting down to do FALL IN EVENTS at night, starting, say, at 10 or 11 PM. Mistakes creep in when you get to sleep around 2 AM, night after night. This is all fixable. I have told Dan that I would recommend someone else for next year.
For all that being said, we had a ton of events scheduled. Lead got on tables, games got played, and people were happy. That part I am proud of. It was a great show!

The typical stream of consciousness that I usually write in to do an AAR will be a little curtailed in this post, although it will follow my usual time narrative– Thursday I was concerned with sorting out the Addendum pages for the Program Booklet and marking tables with special purpose neon green duct tape. The experience put events in sharper focus for me. People claimed that one of the tables in my Distelfink layout had vanished and that was a mystery to me. The layout matched table for table on Thursday, but was all a hooey by Saturday. The missing table had been consumed by someone making some layout changes on their own without consulting the GM desk. Again, this is fixable but it might require a lot more proactive monitoring by the events people. Like, for instance, if an events shift hits a slow moment, it wouldn’t hurt to audit the Distelfink’s current table setup against what is published in the program book. Just thinking out loud here.

Events desk

“Yeah, sure, like, we don’t have much going on here, why not add another job to what we do already…”

So I had a beer or two Thursday night and some good conversation with friends in the bar, and finished table marking in the wee hours. The next day was Friday, which I spent doing the Flea Market, kibbitzing and Shopping… I found some minis I needed for my 7PM Olympica game in the Flea, which helped a lot. I also broke down and invested hard currency on a game I have been tracking since HISTORICON 2012– FANTACIDE by Alien Dungeon. Fanticide was definitely part of “the hotness” at this convention. The Alien Dungeon people were demoing it regularly and had all the battle packs packaged up for sale.

Fantacide on the Shelf at last

Now, I’m probably going to review it in depth in a later, non-AAR post, but I like the looks of Fanticide. It’s reasonably generic in terms of mechanics and isn’t going to give anyone wrinkles. Basically it’s a small unit fantasy skirmish game in a very unusual setting (a flat earth with a wormhole of sorts in the center). I dropped about 100 bones on the starter box Friday, which features the Fae (little woodland critters) versus the Libari (American Indian style centaurs). Not my two first choices (I like the Creeps and Flying Monkeys more) but that’s what they had in a starter box.

You can see a a little unboxing video here. Since WordPress doesn’t like the OBJECT or EMBED tags, just go to Photobucket to view it. Sorry!

What I like in this game is that it is goofy, fast playing and very customizable. You don’t HAVE to buy the miniatures they make– you can make a war band based on almost anything, as long as you have the basic elements (stickers, shooters, legends, masters, etc.). Personally, I would be hard put to NOT get “the Creeps” (eventually) and Flying Monkeys. Just because. Oh well, I guess that means I’ll be getting everything then.

The Creeps attack!

There was some empty space at the back of the dealer hall, so it’s clear we didn’t get a full house, but the standard vendors were there.

The Dealer Room, left to right (on Sunday, click to embiggen):

1 of 32 of 33 of 3

Other big games in Evidence were Fireball Forward (many new product demos), Command Decision (being played), Carnage and Glory 2 (being played), and Combat Action Command.   The dealer room had some new product, but for the most part, FALL IN isn’t the big con for product releases, and first tier vendors aren’t there in force.  So we saw more resellers than manufacturers present.

Friday night, I ran Olympica, which is a miniatures version of a very old paper microgame from 1978.  I have run this before but mostly for a kid crowd.  So the rules are far from perfect.   The game design includes customizable dice pools that do different things– attacking, defending, maneuvering, leadership, and a mixture of all or any of the above depending on the color dice you choose.  It’s an interesting place to start from, but my audience on Friday, being gaming geeks and tinkerers like me, soon had a bunch of suggestions for improvements, all of which I’m going to playtest.  In general, my feeling is that the game isn’t nearly as bloody as it needs to be to achieve the flavor of the original paper game, and I need to either shorten the map or increase the ground speed and lethality of the units involved.  Most games played so far involve bloody stalemates in the center as the heavily  armored UN heavy force punches its way through the Webbie line.

I’m going to save the OLYMPICA replay and design notes for a follow on post.  In the meantime, here’s a few pictures:

Olympica 1Olympica 2Olympica 3


Olympica 4Olympica 5Olympica 6

I’ll be rewriting the rules again, not drastically, but I’ll post on here what I come up with.

Moving on! Friday night! I packed up the game easily enough and put it away, then sat down on the edge of the bed in my room “just for a second”.. and ended up waking up at five in the morning. Exhaustian had set in. So, Saturday morning dawned. I actually had a big breakfast, which even though I had paid for it in cash, was mysteriously charged to my room. How they knew it was me, I don’t know. I wanted to play at least two games on Saturday, as I had been doing a lot of socializing, but not a lot of playing. Which is okay, by the by, some cons are like that. I signed up for JUTLAND 1914 at 11AM and Martian game run by Bob Charette in the evening.

JUTLAND 1914 SATURDAY 1PM to 5PM

If you’ve read this blog for a while you already know I was going to probably get into at least one Naval game. Jutland 14 was a hypothetical scenario that hypothesizes what would happen if the German High Seas fleet sailed out in 14 instead of 16. The rules were “Victory at Sea” which was published in a very old issue of Strategy and Tactics. We were fighting the middle part of a much larger hypothetical event, with the Super-Dreadnoughts of 1914 being engaged North of us, and the creaky, older pre-dreads being just South of us in the battle space. So we were fielding Ships of the 1906-to-1910 variety in my neck of the woods. Indeed, Dreadnought herself was in my division.

The British Line was comprised of these ships:

Vanguard, St. Vincent, Collingwood and Superb (division A)
Neptune, Colossus, Hercules (division B)
Dreadnought, Bellerophon, and Temeraire (division C, which I commanded, though Dreadnought was at the end of divison B)

At start of battle, the three British divisions are approaching the German line in 3 perpendicular lines, A to the North, B in the center and C at the bottom. The German line is heading North and the British lines to the East, with the intention of wheeling North and forming a line to engage with the Germans.

The Germans had these ships which were handled in two divisions. Oldenburg, Helgoland, Thoringian, Rheinland, Westphalian, Posen and Nassau.

The two fleets at start of the engagement.

Ships moving

Ships moving at start

Almost immediately, the lead ship of the division A (Vanguard) ran into some trouble, and a control room hit affected his steering grievously. So we were trying to turn into line just dodging the now very slowly moving Vanguard

Vanguard in trouble

The Admiralty is NOT amused by your shenanigans, Captain.

From the vantage point of division C, this battle was a mix.. my lead ship was the Dreadnought, attached to division B, and that was a ship that was targetted routinely but suffered very little damage until we were all in a line. The Bellerophon suffered many more hits but not enough damage to really degrade performance. The Temeraire.. well, we’ll discuss that one shortly.

Dodging the navigational screwup

From the untrammeled view of division C, this was easy to avoid.

Things looked bad for the Vanguard, things looked WORSE for the Neptune, which went up with a critical hit and died a nasty and quick death… before we were in range to fire a shot in anger!
When we got into a line abreast, sort of, the battle changed rapidly.

a line of sorts

Eventually we straggled into something resembling a line a’breast. We were badly spaced out but finally in a position to support each other with gunfire.

My division C was now at the tail end of a long line of gunnery that was firing at each of the ships in the German line in turn. As the Huns had a bit of a lead on us for most of the game only the Dreadnought (tailing division B) and Bellerophon (heading division C) could fire back. The combat system penalized ships with battle damage so it would move slower and not fire as quick. Gradually, the tailing German ships started slowing down, and that was when they were under the guns of the Temeraire. At that point, the tailing Germans (Posen and Nassau) were getting struck by 5 or 6 British ships in one turn. The result of this punishment should be obvious.. German ships were going to start going down. Temeraire, now that she was hitting, put both the Posen and the Nassau under the waves.

Neptune

Farewell, HMS Neptune!

The Germans made a run for it out of the battle zone, as they couldn’t match that kind of firepower, and it was clear our tactic would be to roll the line up from the bottom. As each German ship was overtaken by the end of the line it would be under the fire of 4 to 6 ships. They were already battered.

German fleet.. LEAVING

Gott im Himmel, let’s vamoose!

At this point we had about an hour or less left, but the Ref called it a draw, as the Germans were clearly on the run, two ships down. We had lost one ship (Neptune) and were shot up here and there, but not as bad as the Germans. The Ref said due to the nature of the British losses, and where we were in the larger, hypothetical battle he had in his mind, he would say the RN wouldn’t have been dancing with glee over the results of this one, but not unhappy either.

German High Admiral

The German High Admiral gets his chust rewards, ja!

The German High Admiral was adjudicated the “best player” and awarded the prize, a fat binder of technical data on the German High Seas Fleet. Great game!

Rest of Saturday…

I had a few hours before the evening game, so I schmoozed the Flea market a bit, and bumped into John Montrie and chatted a bit. He does the odd painting job for me when I want to trade time and quality for $$. He had completed a job for a game that I have been working on, a 54mm Napoleonic Skirmish game of my own design. I NOW have enough decently painted 54mm British Riflemen and Lights and French Voltigeurs to run this game, woo hoo!

Victrix 54mm Light Infantry. Nice job, Chort!

I was pleased, I sense you are picking up on that.

On the down side of things, I was shooting the breeze a bit with my friends Art and Derek from my gaming group in Northern Virginia during the day.   Derek and Art had been playing the new FFG X-Wing game (which is great, btw, I need to do a review of this).  Derek, having disposable income, had jumped in with both feet and bought a ton of it– two starter sets and several onesie and twosie ships.  He and Art had run a pick up game of X-Wing in the open gaming area and when they set to packing it up, noticed that someone had walked off with two of Derek’s ships!    Theft happens, even theft at cons (in the dealer room, I suppose) but it’s a rare event someone steals directly from someone running a game.  What a villainous scumbag.

The What Would Patton Do Podcast chaps were setting up in the main lobby. Their task was to inflict a live broadcast starting right after dinner. I’ve never listened to their podcast but I hear it’s fairly FLAMES OF WAR-centric.

WHAT WOULD PATTON DO? Drink beer and pontificate!

I’m not a huge Flames of War fan, it just doesn’t interest me much at all. However, it’s very popular (obviously) and the kids love it. So I would recommend it. The WWPD guys seemed like nice fellows, albeit loud! I didn’t stick around too long as the live ‘cast seemed to be geared towards giving away a lot of door prizes, which is always a good thing if you like FLAMES OF WAR. I did conduct a hard hitting interview with a WWPD observer which can be viewed HERE as WordPress doesn’t like the Embed or Object tag.

I wonder if there’s enough interest in a general, no specific-game miniatures podcast? WWPD seems popular and I know there’s a couple more, like parts of D6 Generation and such, but nothing that I would call a “generalist miniature gaming” podcast. Bookmark that.

WWPD

WWPD Hijinks.. setting up

After watching the WWPD gang for a bit I got an urgent request from Dan to take his ticket for dinner. Free food? How’s a man supposed to turn that down? I had a nice meal, idly gossiping with Scott Landis and watching Eric Turner hoover down prime rib and mashed potatoes so quickly that I was a little nervous putting my hands anywhere near his plate. It was a jolly repast, for all of that! Sadly, that did put me over the deadline for my 7 PM game, but that’s life. It went on without my humble contributions:

Bob Charrette

Sigh.. I hate missing out on a great Steampunk game.. and Bob Charrette puts on a great Steampunk game.

So I slouched over to the Distelfink to schmooze a bit and noticed if I had whined a little I could have gotten into Eric Turner (he of the speedy appetite)’s THEME game about the Battle of Queenstown Heights. It looked great!

Eric Turner

Shucks, that’s purdy.. and historically, thematically accurate! It deserves an award!

Hey, whaddya know. It DID get an award.. The award for best HISTORICAL THEME GAME of FALL IN!
Way to go, Eric!

He does seem quite taken with it, doesn’t he?

yo ho ho

Pssssst… word is that he sleeps with it…

Well done to MAJ Turner, but what we aren’t seeing is the OTHER side of the story… One of his players, Scott Landis, had to run the game for half an hour as Eric had been called away to do National Guard stuff that mercifully had been called off as he was halfway up 222.

Needless to say, Scott felt like he was left… holding the bag.

bag

It’s funny, because he’s actually holding a bag.

Nearby, Bob and Cleo Leibel had received the Soup Plate of Honor for their gigantic Colonial themed game!

bobncleo

Proving once again that “it’s not the silly hat, it’s the game BEHIND the silly hat that matters”

The Awards program was managed and executed by Ms. Christin Sciulli who put in a lot of effort to make it happen. Given that the Hurricane had happened that week, it’s a nine days wonder that most things happened, let alone the Awards event. WTG Christin

Saturday evening devolved into the normal beery, boozy yammering and socializing that one expects at these things. I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get in a pickup game or two, but I had a good time anyway. And thus, off to the land of Nod, and blissful sleep.

Sunday morning dawned, and I did my last trips around the Flea Market (disappointing) and the Vendor area (to by more Fantacide figures). And thence, headed homeward. It was a great FALL IN!, somewhat hampered in attendance from Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week– lots of cancellations to contend with. Attendance was lower than we would like but everyone seemed to have a good time. I’m glad I went! Cheers to Dan M. and his intrepid staff for putting on FALL IN! 2012 and doing a splendid job of it.

I’ll See you all at COLD WARS!

Microgames as Epubs


I belong to a Yahoogroup about the game Warpwar (among other things).  That game is having a 35th anniversary coming up.  What’s Warpwar?  Well, check out the Microgames Nostalgia page.    In short, it’s a cool diceless combat space game, the first big Micro format space game, and many regard it as an enduring classic.  There’s been a big push to recreate the game in a more portable format, with better artwork, for the 35th anniversary.  As a result of that effort, the group published the first (so far as I know) Microgame in the portable epub format.

WARP WAR showing up in my IBooks Bookcase view (click to enlarge). Whoever formatted this one did a great job.

Creating Epub rulesets wasn’t exactly the prime focus of the 35th Anniversary group, but it made me think.. isn’t this a great format for smaller games without a ton of pictures?

So you’re saying to yourself, “Self, why make a big deal about this?  I can purchase Wargame rules as PDF files already, what’s the big deal?”   This is a handy concept for a few reasons.  As EPUB is a fairly widespread format, it is accessible on most commercial reader tablets, and works on Ipads, Nooks and Kindles. It is designed to be read using a device and not printed out– though that’s possible as well if you use a web browser with a plugin (see the Epub Reader plugin for Firefox, for example, or Adobe Digital editions). As such, it might be a very interesting choice for deploying games.  Yes, commercial games are already sold (and also available for free download) as PDF files, which also work on tablets, Nooks, and Kindles. The big problem with the PDF format is the space requirements for the physical file, as it relies heavily on Postscript to define graphics, and that can lead to file size bloatage. Epub is a lot leaner, but the downside is that it is a lot clumsier to format and doesn’t handle graphics as easily as PDF will. Still, as you can see from the pictures above, it’s a format with some promise. Smaller games don’t have nearly the graphics requirements as some 50 to 90 dollar behemoth with color pages, and could really benefit from the epub distribution. I could easily see a set of epubs supporting a game, 1 being the text of the rules and 1 or 2 epubs being cheat sheets for easy reference, so you could actually play a game using a tablet computer. Now that might not appeal to a lot of the older generation of gamers that either love the feel of a paper book, or  kind of set in their ways.  That’s understandable.  The fact is, I rarely reference a full rule set during the course of a game.  I use some cheat sheets which I print out many copies of (which tend to clutter up the table and make it less than pretty).  If there were a few tablets around with access to the cheat sheet, you might not need to print ANY paper out eventually.   Yes, I know, it’s not going to happen overnight, or at least until tablets become a more eponymous feature of the gaming landscape.  Still, Epub is an interesting alternative to PDF distribution.

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Tabletop Army Managers: One area the Ipad doesn’t excel in (yet)


I’m a miniatures wargamer, and have been most of my adult life.  I like owning an Ipad and find it useful for ALL kinds of endeavors.  It would be logical to get the two pastimes to synch up so the Ipad can help to play wargames.  You’d think it would be a natural.  I already read books and magazines on an Ipad, reading wargame rulebooks would be a no-brainer.  And one feature that I thought would be simple enough has proven to be elusive– Army Managers and Army Creators on the Ipad.  The function I’m describing is the ability to enter tabletop army function into an application, and have it spit out a roster that could read directly on the Ipad, or sent to a printer.  Again, this seems like a natural to me, and not to hard to create using something like Microsoft Access.  Just time consuming.  So I was glad to learn there were some purpose made Army Generator/Manager apps in the App store.  That is, until I started to buy a few:

I looked into a few under “Army Generator” or “Army Manager” in the App Store


Sean Rogers Quartermaster

Sean Rogers Quartermaster

Sean Rogers’ QUARTERMASTER seems to have a tight interface and the necessary one-to-many relationships required to make an Army Manager possible. Yet, Mr. Rogers states up front that this is a Warhammer and Warhammer 40K app only, and frankly I have no use for it. I don’t play Warhammer and the App is hard wired to only run that.

So, we eliminate that one.


I also took a look at Broken Ninja’s ARMY GENERATOR app. It seems more generic than QUARTERMASTER but frankly I got scared away by the very bad reviews on Itunes.

Team Broken Ninja Wargame Army Builder.

It’s supposed to be buggy, but it actually does look like it could generate an actual generic fantasy, non-Games Workshop related army list.. I may have to revisit this.


Sadly, I did get rooked into buying a couple, starting with IRoster Fantasy (See below). I think the wording might have been more generic, or it was simple wish-fulfillment on my part.. I didn’t WANT it to be another GW tabletop army list maker, so I sort of invested the time and effort to give it a shot, which I’ll try to portray here. Before I get started with screenshots, I’ll describe my test case for utilizing an Ipad Army Roster app.

Requirements: Easy to use, customizable, able to define or work with armies that aren’t hardwired for a particular game system. The user SHOULD be able to create his or her own races, their own classes, their own statistics, their own army structures, from whole cloth. There should be a range of flexibility to the design– like many Windows based army generators enjoy.

As my test case, I tried to enter in an “Army” (really a fleet) from UNCHARTED SEAS. You might say, hey, that’s no fair! But they are points-based, divided into factions, and easily definable. It SHOULD be a natural, yes? Erm, no, as it turned out.

iRoster Fantasy

iList Fantasy utility

While I admire the look and feel of this Simon Genest’s iRoster Fantasy app, it became immediately apparent that the Fantasy in iRoster Fantasy is only supporting fantasy as interpreted by the Games Workshop company. The following screenshots are an attempt by me to “cheat” the app into creating a roster for my Uncharted Seas Thaniras Elves fleet. It was a dismal failure.

iRoster: new List

iRoster: creating new list

Already, it’s not living up to my expectations as defined above. I can’t even define the name of the fleet, I have to pick from GW’s list of Fantasy armies.

A different approach, staring with defining unit types

Unit customization

My thought was to create ship types as unit types, sort of swap out Elven Frigates for Elven Spearmen, as it were.

Copying Unit

Once created, maybe I could possibly copy the number of ship types to match number of hulls to the fleet numbers and come up with a fleet.

No such luck.  I couldn’t actually create a container object called “Thaniras Elves for starters.

You can’t create a new race. You have to take these Warhammer Fantasy ones.

So that means, the most “Elfish” I could make my Thaniras Elf example is to name it “Wood Elves” and do the mental juxtaposition. That only works if you’re playing with standard fantasy types, and it’s kind of a lame methodology anyway.

In the end, I gave up on iRoster Fantasy. It’s pretty, but it’s also hardwired for Games Workshop, which I thought you could cheat your way around, but no such luck. It’s too much of a headache to even achieve a half-assed attempt at forcing a square peg into a round hole.


Which brings me to my second attempt, Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager.

Cory Fong’s Tabletop Army Manager … sounds generic enough, yes?

I had MUCH more enthusiasm for Cory Fong’s app than iRoster right from the get-go. There appeared at first glance to be a high level of customization to this application:

Defining …

Wow, defining factors! A good start.

Race Names? Check!!!

If you are familiar with Uncharted Seas, you’ll see “Bone Gryffons” up there. Yeah! It can define races as well! Booyah!

The Entire Uncharted Seas “universe” entered in…

I went to the trouble of creating fleet “containers” for each race…

Then, individual ships per container…

My first stumbling block.. I couldn’t figure out how to create a class of an object, and repeat it in an army (or fleet). In this case, the Thaniras Raven frigate. I just wanted to create it once, and add, say, six of it to an individual instance of a fleet. I ended up thoroughly puzzled about how the designer approached this very basic concept. No biggie, I just created “Raven1, Raven2,..” and cursed it for a clumsy attempt at working around the designer’s intentions.

Evidence that the unit statistics are hardwired for Warhammer Fantasy. Sigh….

Well, here is where we get to the point where this app totally breaks down for me. At the most minute level, you can’t change the unit statistics. They are, simply put, Warhammer Fantasy battle statistics. Nowhere in the description does it say “This is for Warhammer fantasy only, don’t bother if you want to change this”. In the picture above, I’m trying to figure out a way of superimposing a stat line of Uncharted Seas stats as a NOTE to the hardwired Games Workshop stuff, but this is proving to be tedious, slow and frankly, a pain in the ass.

Trying to define a ship in this App.

And trying to define a fleet.

In the end, I gave up on the Cory Fong app, too, which was more disappointing than iRoster because it really LOOKED like it might get me where I wanted to go, and didn’t reveal it’s buried “hardwired GW” state until I had been banging away on it for over an hour to create something pretty simple. If I have to work that hard on creating workarounds for what should be a simple function, than the hell with it. I’m done. I believe Mr. Fong did acknowledge that the stats were hardwired in a followup email, but I can’t find it to quote it, it was a few months ago.

So, in the end, here we are, without the be-all and end-all in Army Roster/Manager apps, still looking. I would have thought the Ipad was a good medium and a great tool for this– less paper, easy access, quick to make changes. It turned out to be more daunting a challenge than I would have suspected. I thought an army list app would follow a sort of one to many relationship with the stats being definable up front, sort of like this:

But again and again I’m seeing anything but this. Which is great, I guess, if you play Warhammer Fantasy or 40K, but it pretty much sucks if you want to play anything else in the gaming universe. I’m hoping someone will be able to create that universal list building application I have in my head someday, because we’re not anywhere near that right now as far as I can see.

Oh, and a last word for App developers.  Call it what it is.. it’s NOT a “fantasy battle list generator”.. it’s a WARHAMMER battle list generator.   That distinction becomes important someone wants to play something other than Warhammer.  Mention it in BOLD TYPE somewhere before said person shells out 7 or 8 bucks, please.

The Passing of S. Craig Taylor


Flat Top, Avalon Hill era

Word has filtered in, via Yahoogroup and Facebook, of the passing of Craig Taylor.  This is third hand from Bob Coggins (who worked with Craig on Napoleon’s Battles):

“Bob Coggins asked me to let everyone know that S. Craig Taylor passed away this week. Cause of death was undetermined at this time, but will be available later, I’m sure. Bob’s computer is down at the moment so he will not be able to respond to any questions on line. We will let everyone know more details as they become available. Craig was a prolific and successful miniatures and board game historical rules writer and co-author of Napoleon’s Battles. I’ve known him since his Avalon Hill days when I was one of the staff playtesters on Avalon Hill’s version of the Australian Napoleonic game “Empires in Arms,” which Craig shepherded through the redesign effort and publication. His integrity and willingness to go the extra mile in game development was well known. He was an amazing game designer and developer with a long list of titles to his credit. The hobby has lost a true professional, a true friend. He will be missed.”

I can only echo Bob’s sentiments.  S. Craig Taylor was a creative giant and astute businessman, the mind behind designs that were revolutionary in their day and still played today: Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Napoleon’s Battles, Flat Top, Air Force, half of Macchiavelli, Sergeants!, Ship o’ the Line, half of Naval War, Development on Empires in Arms,.. Craig, along with Steve Peek, was one of the two men behind the Yaquinto Game company, which brought us classic games such as Swasbuckler, Armor, Battle and my favorite, Ironclads.

I wasn’t great friends with Craig but I have met and talked with him on several occasions at shows, from long ago ORIGINS to more recent HISTORICONS, where he was present manning the booth for his more recent venture, Lost Battallion Games.  For a guy who had such a deep impact on the wasting of my time (via WS&IM, Apache, Yaquinto Games of Various kinds, Napoleon’s Battles and Flat Top, even Ship of the Line, which I was playing with miniatures in the early 80s), I never got the impression that he thought his output was anything special.  He was always very easygoing, approachable and good humored when I talked to him.  I’ll miss Craig,  a talented designer and a gentle soul.  R.I.P. Craig Taylor.

Swashbuckler, Yaquinto Era

Can’t find a good picture of Craig in my files or on the interwebs, so I’m just putting covers of favorite games up in this post.  Our hobby will certainly less without you, Craig

Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Avalon Hill Era

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Review — British Napoleonic Peninsular War Flank Company [VX5401]


See previous review of Victrix Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805-1812

This is a follow up purchase to the Victrix Voltigeurs I picked up last month.  I have been acquiring and painting up 54mm Skirmisher figures for an ancient game I idea I had about man to man skirmishing in the Napoleonic era.   For the game to see fruition I’m going to need a relatively small group of figures from each side (8-10 maximum).  I want to ultimately pit Riflemen versus Voltigeurs from the late war era.  I own and have painted up about 10 of the Italieri 95th Rifles but they are a little largish compared to the Victrix Voltigeurs.  So I picked the British Peninsular Infantry Flank Company box as well.  This makes sense.  The flank company is sculpted and detailed to be a set of light infantry troops, which are sufficiently animated that they would make great skirmish troops.  I would have liked at least a couple of crouching/firing poses but these are probably sculpted to be deployed in formations, not as skirmishers.   No matter.  There’s enough variation in the basic body types that they look pretty animated to me.

Box Cover from Victrix Site

Box Cover

As before there are five or so sprues of various body parts and bodies to create customization with. From what I’m seeing here you can create a maximum of 16 figures from the sprues included. There are two officer figures and a drummer boy as well as several infantry in action or marching.

Group

Group of 5 sample figs: Drummer, Officer, and 3 Infantrymen

Closer: Drummer, Officer, Infantryman

3 infantry poses

I’m going to use the basic redcoat/grey trousers/black shako paint scheme for these guys, as generic late war period infantry British infantry types. Here’s a picture of the Victrix site’s suggested paint scheme:

Suggested paint scheme

Suggested Paint Scheme

The figures out of the box are made of a durable hard style plastic that assembles very quickly with styrene glue (Testors, in this case), which bonds quickly and holds well. Out of the box they are slightly oily, which is probably mold release spray residue. Recommend an overnight soak before painting. Flashing is minimal. There were some mold lines on the sides of the shakos that needed trimming but I found nothing else that required a lot of work– some poses require a little attention while the plastic cement welds are curing.

Though they aren’t exactly cheap (say, compared to Italieri’s molded plastic figures, at about 15 dollars more on average, US retail prices), they are wondrously flexible in their approach to customization. I really like these releases and I certainly plan on buying and building more. I won’t be fielding large armies of these, ever, but they are great value for the money and I enjoy the detail, sculpting and utility of Victrix 54mm scale figures. If this is a scale and period you are interested in, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Update: SJG’s BATTLESUIT in 15mm


Progress Report: follow up to BATTLESUIT in 15mm

I now have a sizable force of the Red Attack Force in 15mm, based, painted and just about good to go.  I was going to go with a straight interpretation of the counter set but as I started discovering some of the excellent options available in 15mm SF, well, it became easy to acquire more troops of a varied nature.  So that means what I end up with will not be an exact interpretation of Battlesuit in miniature, but something more generic with Battlesuit trappings.

Red Force, wide shot

Here’s where there will be some differences.

There are three basic suit types in the printed game, as described by this text:

3.01 Infantry. Ten different kinds of infantry units are supplied.
Four represent different models of armor, four represent
armor that has suffered various degrees of damage, and two
represent infantrymen without powered armor.
The front of each armored infantry counter shows that man
in “normal” status; the back of the counter shows the same
man in a state of shock (see Section 6.042).
3.011 Standard suit. This is the basic type of powered
armor. It has an attack value of 8, an ECM (electronic countermeasure)
value of 2, and a move of 5.
3.012 Assault suit. This is an improved model suit, more
effective but more costly. It has an attack value of 10, an ECM
value of 3, and a move of 6.
3.013 Command suit. This type is identical to the assault
suit except in its increased communications ability (not directly
shown in the game) and better ECM value. It has a combat
value of 10, an ECM value of 4, and a move of 6. Infantry
officers at and above platoon level use these suits.
3.014 Ranger suit. Another costly improvement on the
standard suit, the ranger has improved myoelectric “muscles”
and better jets, as well as extra “stealth” electronics; it is
designed for raiding and reconnaissance. It has a combat value
of 8, an ECM value of 5, and a move of 7.

Those suit types are here in this miniature version too, but I am also adding Specialist and Crew. Specialists are specialty drone and robot operators that operate equipment that either recons the extends the commander’s command space or attacks the op-for side. Crew man static support weapons

I was seriously contemplating printing stats for each soldier in BattleSuit format, see below:

Battlesuit counters from original game

This would entail using the stats: Attack strength / ECM / movement, printed on labels on the stand. Since I started working on this project I’ve gotten away from that view and will go with a more generic approach of three colors that could mean almost anything I want to plug in and a rank insignia. Thus I can swap out stats for the three boxes if I find a rules set I like better than Battlesuit in the future.

Major Rico's Stat line for his base.

I’m adding drones, just like the original BATTLESUIT game. These will come in a variety of sizes and are roughly in three types: recon, bomb and gun drones. My thought is to add one per base but I might turn it into a swarm of drones. I think there should be a handler or operator in the battlespace, so I’ve added Specialist figures.

I’ve also added a few robots, because, well, it’s science-fictional to do so. I found some nice ground based recon robots from GZG in 15mm, as well as a couple of autonomous gunbots on treads I’m classifying as “Boundry Security Droids”, whose job is to provide picket duty for a Company’s flanks. Just because I had one in inventory, I added a cool retro robot figure scaled to 28mm which looks good as a giant walking robot figure in 15mm.

So with that said, where are we?

There will be two forces of about company size in a science fictional universe. One will be predominately red and the other black. The red company will be more agile and mobile, the black will have higher numbers and hard hitting power.

Red is just about done, as you can see:

"Regular Suits".. mostly. Support weapons to the left.

More "Regular Suit" troop types, with heavy weapons team in front.

The Silver helmets I envision as elite Assault troop types.

I have a small squad of "Ranger Suits" that can perform rocket assisted jumps.

Command element up front, Rangers on the right, Assault in the Middle.

Recon bots (rear, upainted), Killabot Prime, Perimeter Security droids, heavy weapons, and regular grunts.

There are support weapons in battlesuit that look more like a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) than a larger bore sighted piece of bona fide artillery. So I picked up some more mortars and a field piece.

So far? I’m pretty enthused about the project. Terrain will remain a challenge, but I have some ideas about how to make that happen when I get round to it. I’m loving this project so far.

Cold Wars 2012 is right around the corner, Guidebook is now


The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) is holding our annual Spring convention, COLD WARS 2012, on March 9-11.  Unofficially, if you show up Thursday, you can also get in a big chunk of gaming, as well.

As I have done for the past two conventions, I have created a Guidebook helper app for this convention using the Guidebook.com event planning service and software.  Guidebook is an outstanding service that just keeps getting better with the strategic partnering decisions they have made in the last year. We have been using Guidebook’s entry level free service tier for the last two conventions, HISTORICON 11 and FALL IN! 11.   This limits the number of guidebook downloads to a flat 200 downloads per event.  That may not seem like much (and it has dropped from last year, when it was 300).  I think we could probably justify spending a flat 500 dollars to get unlimited downloads, but we’re building up to that usage level gradually.  We had under 300 downloads for HISTORICON and FALL IN, so with the reduction in the download amount this year we actually MIGHT have a bigger demand then supply for COLD WARS 12!  With all that said, here’s what GUIDEBOOK does:

ImageGuidebook is an application for supporting conventions, trade shows and other events by hosting a version of their event schedules, layouts, maps, and special data lists on a variety of portable platforms– notably the Apple IoS products Iphone, Ipod Touch, Ipad, any Android phone, and any internet enabled phone that can web-browse.  In essence, Guidebook takes the important stuff out of the paper program book you all know and love and puts it on a device you may carry around with you on a regular basis.

Directions

The various links associated with these instructions are located on Guidebook’s GET THE APP webpage

If you have an Ipod Touch, Iphone, or Ipad 1 or 2, visit the Itunes App Store, for the Guidebook app.  Download it. Install it.  It’s free.  Then “Search for events” and located COLD WARS 2012.  Download that guide.   There you go, that’s all you need to do.  Start browsing and bookmarking events you want to go to.

If you have an ANDROID phone, go to the Android Store.  Look up GUIDEBOOK. Download the app.  It’s free. Then “Search for events” and located COLD WARS 2012.  Download that guide, and browse away.

If you have an INTERNET CAPABLE, but not Android or IoS phone, you can point your phone’s browser to this web link: http://m.guidebook.com  You will see a less graphical interface but it will contain the same amount of information as the other two platforms (IoS and Android).  Even nicer, when you use a web browser phone, it doesn’t count against our download limit.

I published the guide yesterday, and it is currently being proofread by the Guidebook technical folks for final release and download.  You may look at a preview instance of the guide in your web browser in advance, right now.

Simply point your browser to this url: http://m.guidebook.com/1041/  It will probably ask for a preview code.  Type in this: spdtq52z

You can probably use the preview link above in advance with any browser capable phone.  Anyway, that should contain everything you want to know for COLD WARS 2012– Gaming Events with maps and table numbers, show hours, location, Exhibitors with table numbers, Tournaments, Painting University, the works.

IF THE INFORMATION CHANGES, up to and DURING the convention, that will be communicated to me by Bob Van Der Kamp, or some other events person, and I will make the changes on the server, which will be communicated to the users as an update to the Guidebook ready for download.  You don’t have to do anything but hit “yes”.

Have fun, and I hope this is useful for you.

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