Category Archives: wargames

1:1200 Galley Challenge! Poseidon’s Warriors!


We who turn the wheel, and look to windward…

(T.S. Eliot, “the Wasteland”)

I have something of a challenge ahead of me. A while back, my friend Norbert moved to England and had a yard sale for all his non-WarMachine miniature wargame stuff to various old friends. I didn’t want a lot of his stuff, but one thing did catch my eye– a collection of 1:600 Greek and Roman Galleys. I immediately claimed it and pay-paled (is that a word?) Norbert what he was asking for them, thinking I had really gotten a deal from the description. Shortly thereafter, I received a large-ish box from New Jersey, and the reality set in. They weren’t 1:600 Xystons, which I had pictured in my own head. They were 1:1200 scale Navwar galleys, and a LOT of them. So, maybe not the great deal I was thinking I was getting, but still, not a BAD deal. Not at all.

The problem really isn’t how crude they are sculpted compared to Xyston– it’s more how to best use this unusual windfall of many, many 1:1200 galleys that landed in my lap. There’s about 60 plus, and they are all roughly about the size of the Byzantine Dromon you see in the picture here to the right, here.  So I’m not going to see a lot of variety, I’m not going to see a lot of detailed sculpting, and I’ve got large numbers of ships, all pretty much painted one color brown, some with sails, most without.  All of them are mounted on what appears to be chunks of basswood as the bases.  So, thinking this thing through, how can I have fun with this stuff?

  1. Large Numbers is a blessing, not a curse.  So what if I have a lot of the same kind of thing?  The fleets that engaged each other back in Ancient times weren’t that variegated, and they surely had large numbers.  This purchase is an opportunity to create a large scale fleet action.   Maybe not Salamis on a 1:1 scale, but perhaps Actium or smaller battles.
  2. Rules will have to emphasize Command and Control and Squadron Movement, not Individual Ship Micro-Management.  Large numbers of ships mean large headaches for movement every turn.  So I will have to adopt a miniatures system that resolves battles, moves quickly, and most importantly, doesn’t give players the choice of moving 25 ships a turn. I’ve seen this handled pretty well in the board game realm by WAR GALLEY (GMT Games).  Converting a board game for miniatures is easily handled by converting hexes to a tabletop unit of measure and figuring out how to turn.   I considered using the old RAM SPEED game from Metagaming, but it couldn’t handle 60 ships easily.  The old micromanagement thing again.
  3. Each miniature will require some sprucing up.  Essentially, I’m looking at mass quantities of Triremes, Pentaconters and Quadriremes painted assembly line brown and white glued to a basswood base.  I will certainly have to soak the ships to remove them from the basswood, and maybe soak the ships in green cleaner to remove the paint, or figure out how to redo it with minimal damage (these are very tiny ships at 1:1200 scale, many sails are glued on (painted an off white).  I would paint them a lighter base tan color and stain the wood with brown ink for starters, that will bring out the minimal detailing and look more like real wood.  I would also add some color highlights so squadrons can be grouped together.  Lastly, I will mount them on a nicer base, like a Rendara rectangular base.
  4. I might already have a set of rules that works, to some extent.  Astute readers might pick up on the fact that I’m a big fan of Osprey’s “blue series” of rules.  Some of them are hit and miss– I was not much of a fan of their last Fighting Sail rules, but really like other games they have published, like Dragon Rampant and In Her Majesty’s Service.  So, if Osprey announces something coming out that vaguely will trigger my interest, I generally pre-order it on Kindle.  Recently, I was notified that Poseidon’s Warriors was delivered to my Kindle account.  Looking through the ruleset, I can see that the game definitely pushes some of the right buttons.  Initiative is Igo-Hugo (still), but Player Fleets are divided up into squadrons, and squadrons are the activating units.   When a squadron is activated, all the ships in the squadron move, and then the fun stuff is resolved (firing, ramming and boarding).    There are rules for historical admirals, and advanced rules covering a wide range of subjects, from special weapons to flotsam and jetsam on the water.

Poseidon’s Warriors might not be as comprehensive, say, as Langton’s Naumachiae, which I also have! but they do present a good generalized, fast-moving approach to simulating smaller naval battles of the Greco-Roman era.  I like that a turn is basically:

  1. Initiative (Roll a 1D6 to see who starts the Igo-Hugo sequence)
  2. Operations (in initiative order– includes Moving, Ramming, Artillery Fire, & Boarding)
  3. Morale (Roll 1D6 vs. your morale number – assigned at start of game)

This is dirt-simple on the same level as Big Danged Boats.  I think I can follow it. 🙂

I will check in with the Galley Project from time to time in the months ahead.  Don’t expect this to be finished quickly!

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The Weekend: Gaming on the Mellow Side


I’ve been meaning to catch Otto Schmidt’s THE WEEKEND for a long time now. It’s been tough, as June is a busy month usually with high school age kids.  Now that one is in college and the other is in his last year, I thought I’d spread my wings a little and manage a day trip.  Background: the Weekend is held late June, and appears to be a 3 day affair, so it is about as much of a commitment as any small convention in terms of time.  As I recall, this was started by Otto Schmidt as an alternative for HISTORICON when the latter was slated to go to a much more expensive venue in Baltimore, MD (this did not transpire, for many reasons).  Otto wanted the Weekend to be a gathering of old friends who wanted to blab, gossip, game and hang out.  It is held at the Continental Inn off of Route 30 pretty much right across the street from the Lancaster Host, site of Fall-IN! and Cold Wars.

The Inn is an old building, family owned and operated.  It has seen some hard usage but is not what I would call “a dump” by any means.  The hotel has a major meeting space downstairs and other, smaller rooms here and there in the upper and lower lobby floors.  Frankly, I would have killed for a space like this back in the TriadCon days.  If we’d only known.   It’s not perfect– the handicapped facilities are about as non-existent as they are at the Host if not worse (no elevators in critical areas; no handicapped bathroom stalls) but you can always drive around back to the lower level to unload things, which is a plus.

There is a MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000) set up for this con but I wasn’t there for that.  No vendors that I could see, and a desultory bring-n-buy style flea market.  That was about the normal convention “stuff” present.


An exquisite Age of Reason battle in 15mm, created by Bill Grey, the Author of Age of Eagles. Click the picture to see more.

I got there a little after noon (due to traffic and helping get my son ready for camp).  Literally, I spent much of my time there BSing and catching up with friends, so I’d say Otto’s goals for this convention are certainly being met.  It was great seeing many people I haven’t seen in a month of Sundays, including Dennis Largess, Rich Low, Andy Turlington, Bill Grey, Bob Leibl, Cleo Hanlon, and Pete Frechtling.  And Otto of course, but I talk to him on the phone frequently.

Mr. Tracy Johnson ran AFTER THE HOLOCAUST, the old rare SPI game on a giant splodey map with army men. It had a great look to it. For other pictures, click on the picture above

When I got there there was an ACW game going on in the corner, and two being set up, an AFTER THE HOLOCAUST (SPI) game being rendered in miniature form by Tracy Johnson, a two player game set in 1714 being run by Bill Gray,  and an I Leonardo game run by Pete Frechtling.

I definitely wanted to play the I Leonardo game, by temperament and experience.  I’ve played in Pete Frechtling’s skewed version of the Italian Wars (with Leonardo Da Vinci tanks, helicopters, gliders and etc.).  So with your kind forbearance, I will sketch things out as best I can, providing something of an “After the Battle” report of sorts.

The basic set up was the Imperials holding a bastion with supplies on one side of a canal that opened up into a river.  There was only one established bridge over the river (made of stone) and it was being defended by a force of two commands of Imperials, with two Leonardo style tanks each (not the conical tanks, the flat ones).  The Imperials also had a ship loaded with mixed troops and cannon to defend the water entrance with.   On the far side of the canal were the Allies– British (red striped tank), Swiss (green striped tank) and French (blue striped tank).  Each Ally had one “castle” style Leonardo tank, painted as I have noted, plus a wild mixture of artillery, infantry and a little cavalry.  I took the French (blue striped) command on the far right of the line.  I had the tank as mentioned, a grenadier, Leonardo himself, some engineers, some cavalry units, some foot knights, and a bridging unit (important!).   The Swiss to my left were in the center.  They had more artillery than I and some ruins to hide in.  They kept a hot fire going against the forces that would venture clear enough to be shot at in the center of the line opposite us.  At the far left was the British and the Allies’ two ships.  The ships also (important!) had a bridging unit.   The idea being they would sail into the canal, beach, and construct the bridge from their ship to the opposing side.

I didn’t spend a lot of time tracking the naval conflict, but it was protracted and savage.

The English engaged such targets of opportunity as were available across the canal.  With the canal there to impede movement the battle became kind of a long ranged slugging match over the canal as both sides attempted to bombard each other.  The big guns on the Imperial side were their two flat rectangular tanks, and a flame thrower style vehicle that was somewhat hindered by being in the midst of a pack of infantry.

We were in a stalemate for the first few turns.. The French being the closest to the existing bridge (played by your humble correspondent) we were going to have to swarm over it somehow and take the bridge.. Unfortunately the Imperials had placed one of their two precious tanks to cover that very narrow defile, and they were aggressively defending with everything at their disposal, including a land rocket that misfired and went fizzing off in a random direction (panicking my troops but causing no damage).   My plan was to make a big demonstration and hoo-hah at the center bridge and focus the defenders there, while building my bridge train on the far right of the battlefield.

 
Now that’s a satisfying reaction! More smoke clouds please.

The Swiss did their best to support me, and were game to swarm over the center bridge as well, but we had to move the vehicles out of the way to accomplish this.  They had the advantage of some ruins to disperse into and set up artillery and other fun Leonardo style weapons (including a machine gun) to plaster the Imperial bridge defenders with.  I had a single artillery piece on my front which did some service fighting the opposing tank unit.  About midway through the game I steamed over the bridge and tried for a ram on the opposing tank.  Yes, I know this sounds decidedly risky but sometimes  you have to push things to win things.  The ram did not accomplish much, nor did the follow on fire into his sides at point blank range.  It wasn’t a bad idea, really, I just rolled pretty badly throughout the game.  I followed it up with a fusilade of infantry attacks which DID cause problems… the French grenadier tossed a grenade into the mix and it actually exploded more or less correctly, starting a fire and killing several of the crew.

Here we come, you knaves! Take that, and that, and that…

Meanwhile the bridge building gang on the right had succeeded at their task and the first independent bridgehead over the canal had happened.  The opposing player realized this and moved half-armored knights into the gap to engage with me.   On the left, the Imperials attempted to move all their infantry down the road, lost their general to gunfire, and moved their secret weapons out to engage the Allied Ships, which had bested the Imperial and were heading up the channel.  The flaming water borne holocaust the Imperial player was loudly fantasizing over (repeatedly) did not transpire, and thus the left flank was able to create a bridgehead over the canal as well.

Victory is nigh!!!

Although we were slated to play until 10PM, I was being frantically called from the home front, over a matter of shoes for my son’s camp.  Timing came together wonderfully, as Peter declared the game a victory for the Allies at the end of the turn where the second bridgehead had taken place.  This makes sense.  Although the center bridge was very much in dispute, I could still push men over the the entangled two tanks and even though the defenders had a larger group of infantry there, it was so narrow between the buildings he would never have the chance to use them effectively.  I actually welcomed such a push of the pike.    The much referenced “secret weapon” (flamethrower) amounted to almost nothing and the two Imperial tanks were heavily damaged.  The French tank (mine) had suffered damage but was still firing and reloading.  I was expecting casualties on the right flank as our crossing attempts had triggered some ambuscades from hidden troops.  Still, I could see the tide of battle was changing rapidly in our favor, and who was I to contest the GM’s view of things, anyway?  My thoughts on the I, Leonardo game system was that it seems remarkably bloodless.  Most of the Imperial arsenal was taking a heavy pound throughout the game and we really didn’t kill much of anything– we disabled a lot, and killed some crews.. but that’s about it.  I would like to redo the charts to this one some day.. just pondering.  I like the system itself just fine, but it’s really for a history geek audience who pretty much know the subject already.

For an amusing SLIDESHOW of the I LEONARDO BATTLE, click here.

As mentioned, I had to depart earlier than planned to solve a problem at home but I was glad I had an opportunity (at long last) to visit THE WEEKEND.

Post Apocalyptic Roadway Terrain– 32 feet of Hell-road!


I know, I’m posting a lot about the Road Warrior/White Line Fever game.   However, I’m just about done with the major bits.  I did promise one or two on terrain and some of the pedestrians and bike gangs.  So here we are, how to make 32 feet of Hellish Highway with a relatively cheap buy in.

I wanted a ground cloth for the base– looking like desert with a lot of dark spots and stippling to give it some shadows, and a road right up the middle.  Why 32 feet?  That’s roughly the size of 4 standard convention tables, which are 5 x 8, laid end to end.

When you are making a groundcloth, go cheap.  You won’t be using a 32 foot long groundcloth very often so there’s no need to spend a mint on the base material.  I chose a light tan muslin which cost me 2.95 a yard at Joanne’s Fabrics. AND I got a nice 20% off coupon just for looking for a store on their store locator, so it was cheaper than that!  We dropped in the Mart of Wal on the way home and picked up 3 cans of spray paint– dark brown, olive green, and a tan highlight.  These were Rustoleum for about 2.50 a can.  I also picked up two cans of the dirt cheapest flat black spraypaint at 96 cents a can.   We got home, laid it out flat in the yard, and started spraying.  What??? I didn’t wash it first and dry it? No way.  But we’ll get to that.

Start with the Brown. Don’t make a lot of straight lines– there are no straight lines in nature! Then overlay with the Olive to make shadows. Fix the bad spray lines by overlaying with Brown again. Highlight with the Tan.

After about 30 minutes of effort, you’ll have the base done.  It dries fast, but do yourself a favor, give it at least an hour before stage two.

There you go, 32 feet of land, done my way. It will be more than enough for a convention game.

Meanwhile, we went to the rubbish kip behind the grocery store, and found a nice sturdy WAXED CARDBOARD box.. the thick kind of cardboard.  Using an Exacto, I cut a rectangular space into the box bottom roughly 8 inches across and the length of the box, which is about 24 inches.

After an hour or so, I picked up the cheap black paint (remember the 96 cent cans?) and went out to the yard where the now-dry cloth was set up.  Starting more or less in the middle, I placed the rectangular stencil right down the center of the cloth (eyeballing it is fine).  How did I know it was the center?  Because I didn’t wash the crease out of it first, remember?  It made a handy guide for painting the road straight up the center of the entire 32 foot stretch.

Just like this… end to end, with a slight overlap so it is consistently black from section to section.

Gradually, you get a nice long stretch of tarmac

And voila, after about 40 more minutes of effort:

32 feet of Post-Apocalyptic Highway!

The end result isn’t charming, but it looks pretty good from the 3 foot high test. When you consider it’s pretty much a specialized bit of terrain for only a certain kind of game, I think it looks pretty great.

Sadly this pictures is on grass and not very flat, but this will give you an idea of the playing space. If I were doing it again I’d make the road six inches wide, not eight, but I can live with this.  Would it look better with little yellow line marks?

Summary: 10 yards of cheap muslin, 17 dollars with a coupon.  5 cans of paint about 12 dollars.  40 USD invested plus the time = End result, 32 feet of Road!

Cuba, a Splendid Little War: VPG’s other side of the story


The Spanish American war (1898) has experienced it’s fair share of myth-making. Remember the Maine. Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. The Battles of El Caney and Santiago Bay. America showing those dastardly Spaniards who was boss, eh? Stirring stuff. Except, well… yeah. It didn’t’ really have to be that way. In fact, the Americans might not have been involved at all. You see, the United States was only involved for three months (roughly) in an unequal struggle with a worn out and largely rudderless Spanish Military that STILL dealt an astonishing amount of casualties before being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the American onslaught. The Spaniards (by that, I mean, the occupying colonial power) had been fighting an on-again, off-again struggle with the Cuban Nationalists (by that, I mean the Spaniards who had settled down and created plantations on Cuba and wanted to rule themselves) for 30 years. The roots of the conflict were the Ten Years War (1868–1878), an independence movement by local planters that was stomped down by the Spanish Government, then the “Little War” (1879–1880), which was something of a continuation of the former struggle. Finally, The Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898), ultimately successful, had been fought for FOUR YEARS before the Americans poked their snoots into the conflict. One cannot hazard a guess how successful the latter might have been WITHOUT American military muscle around to devastate the Spanish position, but the main point of all this is the Cuban resistance to Spanish rule was not a new development, nor were the men who fought it necessarily poor fighters who needed American help to win. That is a major theme of the game CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR, by Victory Point Games. The game is a very simple card-driven game representing the asymmetric struggle between the Cuban forces and Spanish occupying forces during the third Cuban War of Independence.

Setup, CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR. First turn: all the action starts in the South.

The Cuban War of Independence is a historical conflict that really hasn’t been modeled much in game design– I would argue that it really wasn’t much touched upon in the only two wargames set in the era that I know of, REMEMBER THE MAINE! and GWAS: THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR. The former was an SPI/TSR era magazine game that mostly focused on the naval aspect of the war between the US and Spain that gave the land operations little thought. The latter was a pure naval game that focused on the fleet and small ship engagements between the Americans and Spanish Colonialists. So there was definitely room for a game that could tell the story of the Cuban versus Spanish struggle, which CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR does in elegant style.

For starters, the designer, Javier Garcia de Gabiola, understood that the conflict between the native Cubans and their Spanish overlords was the focus of the game, and  the later conflict that included the Americans (and garnered all the historical attention) was, while interesting in its own right, not necessarily the preferred option for the Cubans.  Therefore, if a player can the Cuban side can manage a win WITHOUT the American intervention (and beefed up firepower), he or she has a win to boast about.  I know I have yet to manage it!

Speaking of Americans, here they come, start of Turn 5

I digress.  Let’s discuss the game itself.  You can think of A Splendid Little War as a sort of a gateway drug into more complex card driven games, if that makes it easier to categorize.  Counter density is very low.  There are 18 Spanish units, most of whom enter the board as a result of spending resource points or playing action cards.  There a maximum of 6 Cuban “Corps” in the game– don’t ask me the scale of either unit, it’s not really important in terms of mechanics.    The map is area movement– with six areas marked for resource levels, with two cities (Havana and Santiago) that become one of the victory focuses of the game.     There’s a large deck of Action Cards that represent historical events that directly effect the units of either or sometimes both sides– a leader can be killed, for instance, or the yellow fever can decimate (flip over) a unit in a map section or .  The cards are either regular actions (underlined) that are used once, then discarded, or actions that can be used again after being discarded and reshuffled back into the draw deck.  Cards with a red border around the title can be used as a reaction card to a card just played.  Cards with a blue title box show up when the U.S. enters the war (more on this later).

Speaking of cards, and I know we were.. here’s a really nasty one. Play yellow fever on a stack of troops in a single area, and they have to flip over one. Since Cuban troops max out at strength=1, this can be a bad news for the Cubanos, as you see here.

Perhaps you are used to the CDG design style popular with a lot of GMT games (and other publishers) that stipulates that a card can be used once for it’s event (and discarded) or used repeatedly for some operational or command point number on the card.  The cards in a Splendid Little War are not like that– they are simple event cards that manipulate the board situation.  The designer fills the same design space as “operational points” by giving each side a very long laundry list of specific actions that can be conducted in rounds until both sides pass.  These are:

  • Play an Event card
  • Burn Fields  (Cuban Only) Burning fields will eliminate resources in a map area for the turn, but more importantly, it will also decrease Spanish prestige, more on this later.
  • Recruit (Cuban only),  roll to get more troops.  It has proven very difficult to do!
  • Lobby The Americans to intervene (Cubans) or stay home (Spaniards)
  • Move from map area to map area, but beware, it adds a spotter marker on the moving unit.
  • Attack the opposing unit in the map area.
  • Ask for Reinforcements (Spanish only),
  • Repatriate Units (Spanish only)
  • Protect Fields (Spanish Only) — Prevent the Cubans from
  • Form Search & destroy Column (Spanish only) — this means perform an action to find the Cubans hiding out in the bush
  • Captain General Actions  Some actions require a general to perform.  A Captain General Action is ordering a unit to perform an action from the Spanish Governor General’s office in Havana– it’s possible to lead from the rear but it costs you two resources to do it.

Generally speaking the turns work out to be a mutual action phase where players alternate rounds (Cubans first), they perform action and action until both sides pass in a row.  The players than conduct an Administrative Step where there’s some card hand and resource management, remove markers, and they check the US and Spanish Stance.

Important information on these tracks… note the big yellow arrows

This latter feature is pretty important.  There are four tracks on the game board that gauge progress.  One is a turn track, the other is a resource track.  The other two are all-important.  The U.S. War Entry Track starts at zero.  Various historical events (played with cards) OR lobbying will move this closer to 10, where the counter flips to the WAR side– at that point the American Units come on the board (including naval ones) and act in concert with the Cubans.  The Spanish Public Support Track starts at ten.  If the public support for the regime hits 1 or 0, that’s the game for the Spaniards.  The Spanish player is constantly trying to nudge this up through various actions– including fighting and eliminating Cuban units, protecting crops, and historical event cards.

The game plays pretty fast (only 7 turns), and the actions are simple to grasp and easy to resolve.  I’ve played both sides and I confess to preferring the Cubans– it’s pretty challenging to try to pull of a win as the Cubans without American intervention.  I’ve yet to do it.  The Cubans have to concentrate on moving across the map and capturing at least one city, or preferably two.  The Spaniards start with relatively few units on board but can summon more reinforcements– at the coast of political support on Spanish Public Support Track.  Spanish units are usually stronger than Cuban ones but on par with American ones– however, they can’t make use of that strength easily– they have to find the Cubans before attacking.  Cubans can stay still in a map space and not be seen, but many of their actions will cause a spotting marker to be placed on them, which gives the searching Spaniard a bonus to find them.

Whoops! The Cuban moved from Oriente to Camaguey this turn, he’s spotted! The Spaniard can’t attack without a General present, but he CAN if he uses a “Captain General” action, basically having the CG Call the shots all the way from Havana. For 2 RPs.

There are a lot of small, simple elements to this game that add up to a fast-playing, simple game of insurgency and counter-insurgency. Oddly enough the one game I was thinking of when playing Splendid Little War was GMT’s Cuba Libre. Sure, the mechanics are very different, the setting a different time but in the same place– and fighting a very similar kind of war. I really like this design– it’s a challenge to play either side and I’d say it’s relatively balanced. It plays fast, has several elegant elements that play off against each other well and most importantly there’s more than one way to win. Hard core wargamers might find it a little simple for their tastes– I wouldn’t. Cuba: A Splendid Little War is more of a history game that involves war than a wargame, but I’m glad it was published– it’s a real pleasure to discover a game on a somewhat obscure historical subject with so much historical flavor. I strongly recommend Cuba: A Splendid Little War.

Commander: The Great War, reviewed


Commander The Great War
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd
Available on PC, Mac  and Ipad
Itunes Link SRP as of review: $19.99

I’ve been meaning to get to this review sooner rather than later, but this is no light historically-flavored game, like my previous two Slitherine reviews (Quadriga and Frontline: Road to Moscow).  Commander The Great War  (CTGW hereafter) is designed for serious wargamers who are in it for the long game– and willing to pay a serious price for the privilege.   Yes, that’s right, CTGW is not going to be a cheap purchase, it’s 20.00 as of this writing.  Is it worth the high end price tag? Right up front I’ll say yes, it is, with a few caveats that I will expand upon.

SCOPE: Commander the Great War is a grand strategy scaled game. Players assume the role of supreme leader of a nation or coalition of nations on either the Entente Cordiale or Triple Entente sides of the Great War (meaning World War One in this instance). In pursuit of this role, the player will be making strategic decisions for the individual nations on his or her side, including army movements and attacks, naval movements (and resulting battles) as well as research and development of new military technologies.

Game Start and setup– with some nice multimedia bits

If I were to draw an analogy to a boardgame, CTGW relates to Advanced Third Reich and/or World in Flames the most, in that the player has to operate on the same grand strategic scale in a major theater of war, and there’s a similar diplomatic and research element to those games. Yeah, I know, World War Two. I just don’t know of any that fill the same niche set in the First World War era– certainly not Guns of August. In terms of computer games, Matrix Games’ own Guns of August (PC version) is roughly similar in scope, but not mechanics. To End all Wars (also published by Slitherine) looks similar in scope but is mechanically very different (being developed by Aegeon), but I have no experience with it.

The setting for Commander the Great War is vast; playing out on a hex map of Europe from North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula up to the North Sea, East to the Ural mountains, West to the Atlantic and French coast. That is a lot of hexes and a lot of ground to cover, especially in the grand campaign games after 1916, when so many fronts are opened up. This can get a little confusing on the Ipad, as one furiously swipes across the map to see what the enemy units are doing during his opponent’s turn.

There are five preset Campaigns:

  • 1914 The Great War
  • 1915 Ypres – Artois
  • 1916 The Battle of Verdun
  • 1917 The Nivelle Offensive
  • 1918 The Kaiserschlacht

Echoing the course of the Great War, the Triple Entente (Germany, Austria, Turkey) are favored in the first two scenarios and somewhat in 1916. In game terms, 1917 and 1918 become a real challenge for the Triple Entente player as more and more military technologies are present at start of the game (tanks, better airplanes, better artillery, armored trains, better ships, and etc).

I’m playing Serbia in the 1914 campaign versus the AI. Serbia is a thankless role, but the whole shooting match starts here and it’s worth a shot as the Entente Cordiale player. I do have the advantage of interior lines, and a ponderous response from the Austrians, but numbers eventually tell.

No matter which you select, don’t expect to be done with any grand campaign quickly. The AI is slow to make decisions (More on this later) and progress is very incremental.

Here are my vacation snaps from the invasion of the Low Countries (also the 1914 scenario). No grand Schlieffen Plan here; it’s more like a bulge forming in the Allied line as the Germans pour in after limited local success. This pattern repeats throughout the game– It’s ALL about finding a spot to break through and exploit– it’s a real gamble, and broad front assaults are almost impossible

There doesn’t appear to be any instructions or help file anywhere, but most of the action happens in a few screens and are very easy to figure out.    Mechanically, moving land troops is just dragging them from hex to hex and clicking on highlighted squares when the moving unit is adjacent to  enemy units.   Terrain and Zones of Control factor into movement and combat in a very general way, in that you will move faster on a railroad and be held up by terrain features, or not be able to pass an enemy formation.

Example of moving Serbian movements into the abattoir.

The mechanics aren’t the interesting part of the game, not so much. It’s the decisions you make per turn that will change the game one way or the other for the player. Those decisions are made using a simple five tabbed menu:

How to fight a war, emphasis mine!

The management menus lead to production, research, diplomacy and management sub-menus.  This is the point where I remind you of your role– you may want to fight those tactical battles, they’re fun and very visually rewarding.   However, you’re in it for the long haul here, and you are making decisions about what you’ll be doing not just this year, but the next two years.  So you need to start making the hard decisions early.. do I spend a lot of money on researching better weapons and hope I’m just lucky and don’t need a lot of infantry replacements?  Or do I feed more men into the meat grinder I’m dealing with right now?

The Diplomacy screen is rather innocuous, I haven’t seen much come as a result of using it.  Players need to focus on Production and Research decisions exclusively– resources are what they are– very precious.  You have what you have and you must spend them wisely to be effective.

Serbia’s rather bleak production options in 1914.

What can Serbia research this early in the war? Well, I’d choose barbed wire…

When you play a side, depending on the campaign you’re playing, you are playing multiple fronts and multiple nations, with multiple national priorities. The Serbian/Austrian front at the start of the war is pretty much a doomed confrontation, so the Serbians need to do what they can do to stall the Triple Entente until the other powers can get engaged. So that “Cheap Infantry now versus expensive Tanks later” equation doesn’t really work there, but it will for, say, Germany or England. You also have to consider what the major front you are working on needs– not just now, but in three turns. For instance, Russia could use those cheap cavalry units. Sure, they are crap troops– but they are great for moving vast distances without railroads fairly quickly, and can cut off troops nicely. The Germans will be tempted to spend it on better airplanes and artillery to force a result on the Western Front. The English may be the best power on Water but that superiority doesn’t necessarily last forever– and what about buying transports and more infantry, you know, to help those Allies out somewhere?

And this is where you get feedback from your decisions, each turn. What will be next in the production queue, what is coming up in the research queue..

There are a lot of variables in CTGW, and a lot to experiment with– just don’t expect a quick payoff. As I’ve already mentioned, this is a long game, and you NEED to be in it for the long game. Don’t bother if you want a quickly resolving tactical battle game like Frontline. That’s not the focus of Commander Great War. Even success creates tough situations– combat is often very bloody for both sides– when you lose most of your attacking force in a victory, what then? What happens next year when the other side comes roaring back in a counterattack? I certainly hope you planned for reinforcements!

What does all this mean? You have to plan ahead in almost every turn. In this respect, the game really generates interesting, and often historically flavored results. The game really does feel like World War One– there’s no way a broad front strategy works– The Western Front ends up a pushing match, the Eastern Front has great scope for movement. The best results for the Western Front is to exploit a salient and push through in localized areas. That often is such a grinder that the Entente player really IS tempted to explore other fronts like Turkey.

The technological developments really enhance that feeling. Germany is tempted to use its finite surface fleet early– but things really change for them when U-boats come into play.

If I sound enthusiastic, I am– however there are a few drawbacks to this game– it’s slow, which is why I found it harder to review, than, say, the last 2 Slitherine games I’ve bought. I find that the AI is very capable, but is facing so many decisions that it does bog down somewhat after about four turns. Before the last update, the AI was consistently freezing right about turn 4. That seems to be fixed. It’s still not greased lightning but remember, this isn’t an arcade game. Each turn will require a lot of actions on the player’s part, expect that to be the case for the AI as well. The other element that I find a drawback to total enjoyment is the lack of transparency. I often was stumped about units appearing out of the “Fog of War fog” that is on the edges of the map.. sometimes I was asking myself how the heck that unit got THERE.. teleporting? I also would like to know what the AI player’s decisions were in the proceeding turn. I know it’s historically appropriate for the human side to NOT know this, but it would help understand the mechanics, which certainly aren’t explained.

Summary: Commander Great War is like a sipping whiskey; drink it too fast and you’ll choke. CTGW is far too complex of a brew to be swallowed whole on first sip. You’ll have to be patient, take it in gradually. This game will reward patience and foresight, but not an arcade player. Commander The Great War is a game of elegance and simplicity, and it will reward a player with a strategic mindset. Is it worth 20 bucks? That’s up to you. I think there’s a LOT of game in that 20 dollars, and a real wargaming fan will consider his money well spent. Replay value is excellent.

Game Camp 2014, Day Three: BDB Quest for the ORB Pt. 2


On Wednesday, we played out the rest of the Orb of Power scenario for Big Danged Boats. It was a very frenetic game, with lots of odd stuff happening that tested BDB’s boundries. Big Danged Boats is a design that’s hard not to tinker with, and I’ve been working on ways to speed it up a little. I like the combination of shooting, boarding, fighting and magic that I’ve developed so far. It’s a good mix, but I designed to build a narrative, a story, and it’s not the most speedy game ever. On the other hand, it’s a lot of laughs. What other universe has Squid Gods, Dead god’s feet, and Armored Cheeses?

HIGHLIGHTS FROM TODAY

The Iron Dwarf player (Spence) came to grief early today. The Plunger took many hits from the tower and eventually was uncrewed. The Damage track also went to critical, and a severe engine failure was the result, requiring two turns of Wrenching to fix.

The guys wanted to run it through to the finish. The idea of allying together against a third party seemed to be an anathema to some and other players took to it. One side of the board was Chaos with ships shooting at each other and backstabbing galore. The other side was like an exercise in barter economy– Reed (playing Battenburg, who had bought a ton of reinforcements) traded off Slingers for Gold, Gnomes for Gold, and generally acted like a capitalist. The Wood Elves, the Karstark Gnomes, and the Little People Brigade all acted in close concert with each other, made deals, made room for each other to pass and navigate around each other. So it all looked like they were on board with the “Fighting Gordon the Enchanter” thing.

The Red Menacer charged to the assistance of the Plunger, and managed to get two Dwarf Marines on board to Wrench on the broken crank propeller. Unfortunately, the Seng were sailing through in an incorporeal state and a traffic jam might have ensued if he were “solid”.

The Seng sailed THROUGH the Dwarf ships in incorporeal state. On the other side, the Augmentation price for the spell ran out and Patrick wasn’t willing to pay any more gold to keep it alive. So the Wizard was going to go up in a nimbus of blue flame, but Patrick booted him out of the ship at the last second. “Nice job, Wiz, SEE YA!” BOOM!

The O.R.C. immolates themselves in revolutionary martyr fashion!

The Orcish Revolutionary Council (O.R.C.) performed in revolutionary martyr spirit. They sailed right at the front door of the Tower, as if to ram. One of the Martyrs tried to ram the front door but got caught up in melee, and pulled the “Stupid” result from the Red Badge of Courage, and so ran around the tower base instead of self-immolating.. The next martyr managed to impale the aquatic mine with his pump charge, and a disastrous explosion took place.

About mid game the tone of the game changed and the knives started to come out. The Little People Brigade boarded the Von Ripper of the Iron Dwarves. Amazingly they didnt’ choose to eat the Holy Mushrooms and transform into Gnogres. And they won! Those are some tough Gnomes!!

The Alliances that were in place at the start of the game started to fall apart. The Karstark Gnomes turned on the Iron Dwarves. The Bone Brigade, which had been shot to pieces in its ill conceived attack of the previous day, scrapped with the Foot of the Dead God and the Primus, starting the day off with a nasty event card on the Cult and exploding their one and only artillery piece, which angered them to no end. Primus fought with the Bone Brigade at a distance, and he retaliated with every missile weapon he has at his disposal, wiping out most of the BB. The Bone Brigade player (Cameron) didn’t understand the impact of talking smack one turn during an ambush, and then begging for an alliance the next. The Seng managed to board and capture the Plunger, and operate it (clumsily) to spar torpedo the Blue Magoo from the Little People Brigade, doing severe damage.

The Seng could only operate the Plunger slowly and clumsily, being man-sized and trying to operate a Dwarf-sized submarine.

The other successful boarding of the day, The Von Ripper, under new Gnome management.

The cult of F’Vah pulled out their big trump card, Summoning the Squid God, and it was hideously effective.

Goodbye, Black Galley! And suddenly, it was no more!

The Bone Brigade was a shambles– shot to pieces by the Rats and Cultists, and missing one ship to the Squid God, but they bounced back playing the Faction card: Surprise, They’re already dead! which brought back 5 skeletons to life, so at least the Deadnought fought its way clear of the mess.

And the Rat Men managed to at land a small lodgment at the bottom of the tower..

And then the allies on the far end, the Rat Men and the Cultists, fell out when the Cultists turned on them like a prison punk in the showers.

The Cultists hit the Rats with the Squid God, and destroyed the Primus…

By the end of the day, the game was left still not resolved, so the fellows requested at least another session in the morning.

Here’s the Slide Show of today’s FUN!

Review: Frontline Road to Moscow, an IoS wargame from Slitherine


FRONTLINE: ROAD TO MOSCOW 
Publisher: Slitherine Software
Price: 2.99
ITUNES link

When I saw the first glimpses of Frontline: Road to Moscow online, I admit I had mixed feelings.  On the plus side, this is a Slitherine product.  They are an outfit that knows military conflict simulation games– they’ve published dozens for the PC, and a few for the Ipad and other platforms.  They know their craft.  On the negative side, I have not been that impressed with Slitherine’s game interfaces on an Ipad, which often are straight ports from computer games and are hard to read on an Ipad.  Lastly, there was something about this game that seemed very familiar, as we will see!

Probably the smallest screen on the IPAD version

First of all, you should know, unless you’re remarkably lacking in perception, THIS IS A WORLD WAR II game, about war on the Eastern Front.  It is what most people would refer to as a “Wargame”, meaning it is a game that simulates conflict in a historical context, usually involving a war of some kind.  Veteran wargamers would call this a light or “not very complex” wargame.  In Frontline: Road to Moscow, you play a role– a sort of Eastern Supreme Commander.  You start with a few representative unit types, which become a coherent army of sorts, always heading East to the main objective, Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union.   Front Line is turn based, Igo-Yugo fashion, against an AI.  As a German general you fight 12 missions that are strung together episodically.  Slitherine definitely went for the “Storyboard” concept.. having the campaign unfold as an ongoing narrative that you play in a straight linear fashion, right to the finish line. I could see where this approach might get a little tiresome after repeatedly plays, but I’m enjoying it for now.

On the road to Moscow! You can see where I had success (green circles). The Airplane Icon on Minsk indicates that Minsk was an aircraft only mission. Next on the map is Mogillev (red burst icon directly to the right)

Along the road to Moscow, you’ll earn a kind of victory point called Prestige (or honor, or glory or whatever). Prestige will give you more SUPPLY during a mission, and Supply can be converted into new, tougher units with enhanced abilities. The scale in time and distance is somewhat abstracted. You are aware of the passage of time in a general sense by the progress of technological change. This impacts what units will be available the farther along you get on the road to final victory. For instance, your first mission will start you off with a pretty crappy German tank (the Panzer II, I think), Regular Infantry, Paratroopers (which are pretty great), and some artillery against the Soviets with some half tracks, a decent tank, regular infantry, and some other units in greater abundance. Each unit does one or two things unique to them, like Entrench, or Ambush, or Snipe, etc. As the game progresses, units will get tougher and you will have more choices of unit. There are apparently two expansion IGP modules that will expand potential units even further, but I haven’t felt the need to expand game play yet, it’s just fine as it is. So far.

A scenario/episode from fairly early in the game narrative. Unit choices on both sides are limited at this point; they will get better.

Combats between units are intense and bloody affairs, even when you are doing things right.  A typical battlefield is seen above.  There is an invisible hex overlay that regulates movement, and it recognizes terrain choke points such as rivers, bridges, woods, hills, etc. and will deny movement in certain circumstances and slow it in others.  For instance, a unit may not cross across most rivers, except on a bridge.  If another unit is on the bridge, it doesn’t cross the river this turn.  If it is next to blocking terrain, such as a cliff, river or dense woods, it will become evident when you select the unit where it can’t go. Actually firing upon opposing units is easy enough– move your unit within range and the opposing unit will display an overlay that indicates that it can be shot at.  Depending on what you’re shooting, you’ll have greater or lesser chances of causing damage. Regular Infantry, for instance, don’t do much damage to an enemy tank, but an anti tank gun surely does.  One thing I liked about combat is that it never a sure thing.  Bullets miss or ricochet all the time in this game, which is closer to reality than you’d think.  Combats can cause retreats, sometimes unexpectedly.   Missions (scenarios) are laid out with a pretty standard objective on some of them (take this town, bonus points if you take that town, etc.) but also they sometimes add in something unique, like “conduct an air strike for more victory”, etc.  Most missions seem like a race– you are funneled by the terrain into making a certain avenue of advance, or maybe two or three, but the maps constrain any wild sweeping maneuver around a flank.   Thus most missions become a flat out race to either bludgeon your way past resistance or fake them out and make an end run when an objective is lightly defended.

Only FAIR victory, hey, I had a single unit left! What the?

One thing I would point out for anyone new to the game– use your supply points very wisely!  You can heal a damaged unit up in the field with supply points and buy new units with them, but those points get used up fast, and in the early game, I found myself running out before achieving my objective once or twice.  Note a few obvious things; the enemy AI can heal up HIS units, too, and never fails to.  He also either purchases new units with his supply points or has reinforcements lurking in that foggy area you see around the edges of every battlefield.  I’m not certain if the AI is cheating or not; the Soviet AI player always seems to have more units than I do and always seems to have reinforcements that I do not. No matter, it makes the game balanced, and dare I say it, FUN. The opposing AI is NOT a genius.  I have end-run around it multiple times in the ten games I played for this review. However, it does seem to out-produce the German routinely, and it can win a game on numbers alone.

Unit Iconography, from the Tutorial. You can see the overlay that indicates the German unit may fire upon the Soviet unit, plus the opportunity for advancing fire.

Unit iconography and map graphics are quite good.  Normally, I find the little isometric soldiers and tanks to look a tad too cutesy..  not in the case of Frontline, however.  They are easy to figure out, not confusing, and I was never at a loss to sort out who was who with infantry and artillery.  Tanks do tend to look a lot alike, but you can always figure out who is a Soviet and who is a German by their orientation on the map.

So, in summary, that’s generally the game of FRONTLINE: ROAD TO MOSCOW:  you’re playing a role somewhat like a German field marshal, episodically advancing on Moscow, mission by mission.  You’re earning victory to spend on more units with more capabilities so you will eventually end up on the doorstep of the Kremlin.  Pretty cool and unique, huh?

Well, no, of course it isn’t.  We’re describing Panzer General from SSI from way back in 1994, aren’t we?  Ummmm, yeah, well, we kind of are.

As paradigms go, it may be done to death, but it’s still fun.

That’s not to say there aren’t differences. Frontline has a very similar flavor, but isn’t the same dish.  The Panzer General engine did tend to flood the game with units that were all rather bland and lacking any special functions– in Frontline, the units have much more individual character and there are fewer of them to move around. This cuts down on the micromanagement aspect of the older games. I liked PG back in those days; but I really wouldn’t go back 20 years to play it again. Or even Open Panzer, the direct clone of PG on the Ipad. Way too clunky on an Ipad for my liking.

“Hold the phone!” You might be saying. Doesn’t this game resemble TANK BATTLE: EASTERN FRONT, by Hunted Cow which was released a couple months ago? Thematically, sure. Tactically? Not the same game by a long shot.

Tank Battle: Eastern Front

You either like that standard engine of Hunted Cow’s or you don’t. I tend to like the Ancient Roman game of theirs the best. Hunted Cow has improved gameplay quite a bit, but it is still fundamentally the same hex-based scenario driven wargame that they make for many periods. I give points to Frontline for being a little more unique than Tank Battle.

So, further along in our summary, you have a game that is something of a blast from the past, kind of like a more narrowly focused Panzer General with much better graphics, fighting a linear series of engagements using a limited store of units to fight combats in. Is it worth my precious 2.99? The answer is YES, it certainly is a very entertaining investment for three bucks. I’m even going to pop for the expansions. Eventually. I imagine it will eventually run out of steam after you play it a few dozen times but it’s a decent gaming engine, with good graphics and an okay, not very great, but not too stupid AI that will try its best. I’ve played over a dozen games so far and I’m still very engaged with Frontline. Recommended for wargamers and non-wargamers alike- the game doesn’t have much history to teach beyond the broad brushstrokes, and the level of decision making is rudimentary at best,  but it is easy to follow and easy enough for new players.  For 2.99, I’d definitely recommend it.  For 6.99?  Eh, maybe not so much.

Added to Digital Rules: Warriors of Mars (TSR) in Epub


Quick announcement:

Visit the DIGITAL RULES page (tab up top) to get a copy

I’ve added TSR’s old WARRIORS OF MARS rpg/skirmish game/sourcebook for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom stories.  Warriors of Barsoom was written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume in 1974. I found the PDF for this game, quite by accident, on Archive.org, so I’m assuming the original owners have no concerns about free distribution, but will gladly take it down if TSR/Wizards/Hasbro squawks about it.   Somehow I don’t think they’ll get all that upset about it.  There’s an EPUB version on Archive as well, but it’s pretty bad– clearly someone ran a conversion script and didn’t clean up the file afterward.  I pretty much had to recreate it from scratch, which was a chore!  Visit the digital rules page if you are interested.

A simple method to use hidden information in Miniature games


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Featherstone: an Appreciation


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

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

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

Don in an article from the early 90s.

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

A reissue cover of a Featherstone title

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

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

Links:

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.

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.

James F. Dunnigan Wargames Handbook, now on Kindle


Third Edition, Wargames Handbook

When James Dunnigan’s Wargames Handbook, 1st Edition, came out in 1997, I immediately ordered a copy. After all, Jim Dunnigan is the granddady of wargame design, the creator of SPI Games, kind of the pioneer of the genre (along with Charles Roberts). It’s a worthwhile read, but also kind of surprising– as the author routinely bashed the hobby he created, predicting it wouldn’t be around long, etc. would get replaced by video games, etc., would get replaced by computer games, etc. From the perspective of 1997 that certainly appeared to be the case, but it really hasn’t happened. Not entirely. Despite the insider-snarkiness of the original I enjoyed this book. It gives the reader an interesting perspective on the early days of the hobby and the great designers from back in those days. Now the THIRD edition is for sale as a 3.99 Kindle book, on Amazon. Have fun, it’s worth a look. Previous versions are probably floating around the internet somewhere, if you look for them. Just sayin’

Wargames Handbook, Third Edition by iUniverseBooks

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

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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.

15mm SF update: Earth Force painting, Scenics acquired


So, my latest addiction is 15mm SF, as you can see by prior postings. My intention is to build a small mixed tech/medium tech village inhabited by farmers and miners, with a central administration building and a few outlying higher tech structures, then a hodgepodge collection of structures built out of whatever material is close to hand. My vision is that shipping containers would get a lot of reuse as structures, as well as a few mud huts (with high tech add ons like satellite dishes). As there is a distinct rebellious and religious element in the populace of the campaign I’m developing, I’m adding MBA’s 15mm mosque and maybe a few Mediterranean 15mm buildings. I’ve also added Blue Moon’s higher tech buildings (two of them) as the central complex. The rest of the structures are going to be kitbashed out of electrical utility boxes (about a dollar each), pencil boxes, and Papier-mâché style craft boxes from arts and craft stores. Since the colony does skirmish with native fauna on occassion there are some defense pillboxes on the perimeter near the agriculture fields to keep larger predators away. Other than that what troops there are are ad hoc levy types. I haven’t bought and painted them yet but I’m contemplating the Sahad by Rebel Miniatures. They match the arid landscape I’m creating. This week I painted most of the Earth Force group I’m using as the attacking force (well, base coat, anyway… pictures when they are done and I’m not too embarassed to show them). Overall color scheme is dark olive uniform with light grey highlights, black leather boots and gloves, green helmet and black googles. Support weapons get a blue helmet and armored troops metallic gunmetal shoulder and helmet pieces. Command/squad leader types will get some form of insignia.

Two great low cost finds this week:

A relatively modern looking Elevated Water tank for the settlement from Rix Products:

Rix Modern Elevated Tank

Water collection and storage would be one of those important tasks for my fictional settlement, and I can see this as being a victory objective for the attacking force. I could have gone with a HO scaled water tank with the classical cone top, but this strikes me as looking more science-fictional. Pretty cheap, too, I got it for about 8 bucks on Ebay.

Alternative energy sources:

The settlement would be challenged in its early years to create power cheaply and efficiently. There probably would be a range of technologies in evidence that seem positively 20th century for a SF setting, but if you think on it, they probably would be the easiest and most cost effective choices available for a struggling colony. Using that assumption as a baseline, I went with a lot of wind turbines and solar panels to generate basic electricity, supplemented with methane collecting and burning, water wheels, etc. I don’t want to go TOO deep in the weeds here so I’m representing the basic concept of homegrown power by adding a forest of wind turbines and solar panels. My go-to set is from Woodland Scenics Scene-a-Rama Alternative Energy Scene Setters (item WLS-4348). These are about 10 bucks from Woodland Scenics and you get two solar panels (for rooftops) and two wind turbines with each kit. I ordered 3, for 7 each, from Ebay.

Woodland Scenics Scen-a-rama Alternative Energy set

These scale very well against 15mm scale buildings.

I also picked up 3 OKI Wind Power Turbines. They are constructed for 6mm SF sets but scale very nicely to 15mm:

All this extra detail (alternative energy, water storage, soon– agrictulral plots) may seem extraneous but I think it’s the little details that make a game setting more memorable and tell a story.