NOVAG/Potomac Wargamers Winter GAME Day 2017 Primary Events List


NOVAG Game Day will be on 29 January 17 at the Centreville Library, Centreville, VA

Administrative Details:

Winter Game Day will be held on Sunday January 29, 2017 starting at 1:00 p.m. at the Centreville Library.  The library is located at: 14200 St Germaine Rd, Centreville VA 20121-2299  (roughly I-66 and US 29).  The Library phone is 703-830-2233. This event is free.  The library opens at 1:00 for players. GMs may enter the side door starting at 12:00 noon.

GAME TITLE:  Siege of Skipton Castle
GAME MASTER:  Brian De Witt
PERIOD:  Medieval
SCALE:  25mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8
RULES:  Home

GAME DESCRIPTION: Bring your ladders, catapults, rams burning oil and rocks to either storm or defend Skipton Castle. Rules will be taught.

GAME TITLE:  Piacenza
GAME MASTER:  Tim Tilson
PERIOD:  War of the Austrian Succession
SCALE:  15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 5
RULES:  Black Powder

GAME DESCRIPTION: 15 June 1746. Piacenza Italy. After concluding peace with Frederick of Prussia in December 1745, Maria Theresa ordered Field Marshal Ulysses von Browne to Italy with a small force.  The Austrians marched over the Alps in late winter and upset the prevailing Allied dominance in Lombardy.  Browne quickly retook a number of outposts and Milan.  The Spanish evacuated Parma, retreated north to Piacenza and entrenched outside the city.   With the arrival of the main Austrian army under General Liechtenstein, the Spanish were outnumbered 56,000 to 26,000.  However, the entrenchments greatly favored the Spanish and so Liechtenstein settled down to a siege.  On June 14, a French relief force under Marshall Maillebois arrived on the Allied left wing, south of the city, shifting the balance of forces in favor of the Allies. Browne sensed an Allied attack, and refused his left wing, deploying it behind the Canale San Bonico. At first light, the Allied right wing advanced. 

GAME TITLE:  “Halle 1806”
GAME MASTER:   Tom Bierschenk
PERIOD:   Napoleonics
SCALE:     15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:    2-4
RULES:    Napoleons Battles 4th Edition

GAME DESCRIPTION:  17 October, 1806:  Bernadotte’s I corps rushes to cross the Saale river at Halle and destroy the Duke of Wurttemberg’s Reserve Prussian Corps, the only remaining intact large Prussian force between Napoleon and Berlin.  Bernadotte must restore his honor, after having shirked his duty at Jena/Auerstedt.

GAME TITLE: Sharke’s Bridge
GAME MASTER:  Mark Fastoso
PERIOD:  Napoleonic Fantasy
SCALE:    28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Dragon Rampant

GAME DESCRIPTION: Lt. Sharke and his Chosen Orc Rifles have been ordered to destroy a bridge on the border.  Seems like an easy mission but he has been accompanied by Colonel Simm’Orcson, a rather buffoonish officer, and his men who are out for glory.  All seems quiet at the bridge and Simm’Orcson despairs at losing his chance for fame and fortune until he spies a cannon being moved into position across the river.  He immediately orders his men to cross the bridge and capture the gun!  Lt. Sharke stares in shock at Simm’Orcson and his men cross the bridge he is about to blow to kingdom come.  This is a Napoleonic Fantasy game using Flintloque figures and Dragon Rampant rules.

GAME TITLE:  Sand Dunes of Zwarfontein ( German South-West Africa)
GAME MASTER:   Roy Jones
PERIOD:   Colonial
SCALE:     25mm The Sword and the Flame (Modified)
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:  The Sword and the Flame (Modified)

GAME DESCRIPTION:  The Herero War is over – the Nama Wars have begun! The alliance between Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi and the Kaiser is shattered! A combined Nama force of Witbooi troops and those of Simon Kooper confront the Germans at Zwarfontein. The Germans have mobile mountain guns, but the Nama have some

GAME TITLE:  White Eagle, Red Star
GAME MASTER:   John Koprowski and Dave Markley
PERIOD:   1920 Post WWI Poland
SCALE:     20mm – 1/72
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  6
RULES:   Too Fat Lardies’ Triumph of the Will /If The Lord Spares Us

GAME DESCRIPTION:  It’s 1920 and Vlad, Lenin not Putin, is moving west to spread the Glorious Workers Revolution to Western Europe and …Amerika.  Can the out gunned and under manned Poles save Civilization from the Godless Bolshevik barbarians?  Man your machine gun; pilot your fighter plane; or drive your armored train into the Polish fight for freedom…or ride into glory with Seymon Budonny.

GAME TITLE: Panzer Kids Desert Skirmishes
GAME MASTER: Peter Schweighofer
PERIOD: World War II
SCALE: 15mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-6
RULES: Panzer Kids Deluxe

GAME DESCRIPTION: Command tank forces battling for control of the North African desert in World War II using these beginner-friendly rules. Maneuver British and German tanks around dunes, oases, and other obstacles to destroy enemy tanks and win the day. Drop in to learn the rules and fight a quick skirmish or stick around to try some of the optional rules to add depth to your game experience. Wargaming beginners welcome. Kid-friendly game; ideal for players 7-12 years old.

GAME TITLE:  WWII Air Battle – Wildcats vs Me-109s
GAME MASTER:  Dennis Wang
PERIOD:  WWII
SCALE:  1/285
RULES:  Air Force/Dauntless

GAME DESCRIPTION: Air Force/Dauntless with computer assist. 4″ hexes and  1/200 airplanes (Wings of Glory scale) with telescoping flight stands equipped with climb/dive, bank, altitude indicators. Bring your tablet/smartphone/laptop equipped with a WWW browser. Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook all OK. Paper and pencil not r equired/used. Novices welcome. Rules PDF free on the Web or at the meeting. On 26 March 1945,  FM-2’s from 882 Squadron Lieut Comdr. GAM Flood, RNVR) off HMS Searcher, escorting a flight of Avengers along the coast of Norway, was attacked near Christiansand by a flight of eight III Gruppe JG 5 Me-109Gs. The Wildcats (now called “Wildcat instead of “Martlet” as the Fleet Air Arm adopts the USN names for carrier aircraft in January 1945) shot down four of the Me-109Gs at a cost of one Wildcat damaged. A fifth 109 was claimed as damaged. These were the last British Wildcat victories at the end of WWII

GAME TITLE: End of an Iron Dream
GAME MASTER Jason Weiser
PERIOD: WWII
SCALE: 20mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  8
RULES: Battlegroup WWII

GAME DESCRIPTION: It’s the typical story, 1945, a German garrison in East Prussia is holding on by their fingernails to stave off the inevitable. Someone at OKW had the bright idea to send in some supplies to them, and thought, if we’re going to do that, why not launch a local counterattack to open a corridor to them? Suddenly, an entire company sized Kampfgruppe is now on the move at night against a Soviet force of unknown size, trying to blast open a corridor to a garrison that may not still be there.

Can you make a silk ear out of a sow’s purse and complete this fool’s errand.

GAME TITLE: The Battle of Yampil, 19 June 2014
GAME MASTER: Mike and Patrick Byrne
PERIOD: Modern
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6
RULES: Force on Force

GAME DESCRIPTION: Before a cease fire takes place pro-Russian rebels launch an offensive to take more towns.  The Ukrainian Army launches a counter attack to encircle the rebels.  Can the rebels stop the Ukrainian counter attack?

GAME TITLE: Space Hulk
GAME MASTER Stefan B. Tahmassebi
PERIOD: 40,000 AD
SCALE: 28mm
NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  4-6
RULES: Space Hulk 2012

GAME DESCRIPTION: Terminator Space Marines versus hungry Tyranids.

First look at WING LEADER Supremacy 1943-1945 by GMT Games


I’m terribly sorry about the vertical inclination.  I was snowed in and bored, and the box from GMT arrived last night (Oh joy!) so I thought I’d record a first look kind of post with an Ipad.  Pointed the wrong way of course!

Chosen Men. Maybe just the thing for all those 54mm Nappys


A long, long time ago, I used to keep a little notebook I’d take on work travel.  I’d just sketch things down in it, some fiction, and the occasional idea for a game.   Big Danged Boats came out of that notebook.  So did a bunch of other things that eventually saw the light of day.  One of them was an often visited, often alluded to project I called Voltigeurs and Riflemen.  This was a skirmish game I envisioned taking place during the Napoleonic era.  The units were single figures or small groups of up to four figures.

54mm British Riflemen, Peninsular War and Waterloo, Italieri, my collection

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

For my own reasons, I wanted the scale to be 54mm a figure.  I love this size for Skirmish games; they are easy to see and easy to handle, and the size forces the battlefield to be manageable on one table.  My original inspiration was an old book by Paddy Griffith called NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN.  It’s a fun book about several versions of napoleonic games that Mr. Griffith designed over the years.  Nothing I’d try these days, but one design I did really like was his version of a man to man Napoleonic game.  This really doesn’t happen very much in this niche of miniature wargaming.  Napleonics is for big battles, right?  Lovely uniforms, massed infantry formations, artillery batteries, cavalry charges with hussars ranked knee to knee, resplendent down to their pink piping and pigtails.

Well, sure it is.

Still, I often imagine what it’s like in that space in between where the big battalions meet and crash into each other.  There has to be a No-Man’s land where small groups of deployed skirmishers meet each other, for just a moment in time, before the big formations crash into each other.  For that glorious 15 minutes to half an hour, there should be a place on a Napoleonic battlefield where individuals continue to make a difference, where Skirmishers can attempt to pick off officers and sergeants, disrupting the enemy advance.   Such a game would have to move fast, represent individual soldiers by preference, possess command and control tracing back to individual leaders, and somehow represent the impact of that larger battlefield entering their little skirmish bubble during the course of the game.  Skirmishers, after all, were detached from larger companies.  Designated Light formations certainly could skirmish AND form formations.  British Rifle Companies lived in the skirmish zone, their entire purpose in life was to leap nimbly about, find cover and load their slow but accurate Baker rifles to harass, impede and otherwise disrupt enemy attacks by killing the chain of command from a distance.  Napoleon was not as firm of a believer in the rifle, but the Voltigeurs were also trained to screen an advance and act as elite marksmen for the French side of the field.  It’s when these two types of soldiers– the nimble, slow-firing Britons and the nimble, faster-firing but more inaccurate French, intersected as screens for the big attacks, THERE is where a man to man game of Napoleonic warfare makes sense.

The V&R rules (* Voltigeur and Rifleman) I came up with featured breaking a turn down into segments.  Again, this was heavily influenced by the Paddy Griffith book I mentioned above.  You rolled for characteristics of the soldiers in your company, just like a roleplaying game.  STR came in handy for giving more hit points and in melee, DEX allowed you to reload and aim faster and better, MOVE may allow a few more inches of movement more or less a turn, AIM was for firing, LDR was for Sergeants, Corporals, Lieutenants and Captains, and was great for Rallying, Moving men into and out of formation, and giving orders.  As Paddy G. had envisioned it, every action took a segment.  Where he and I parted ways was I thought he got a little too microscopic with his approach to actions and segments.  Picking up a ramrod was a segment.  Cocking a musket was a segment, attaching a bayonet a segment etc.

The “Action Chart” from Paddy Griffith’s ancient Napoleonic Man to Man Skirmish Game. This really impressed me when I was 15.

Every portion of the British Musket drill was broken down into segments.  I thought that was fascinating when I was 15 and read Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun for the first time, but as an adult, now I can see that that would make for a miserable game for modern tastes.  I didn’t have 30 years of experience back then.  I don’t think any player these days, especially convention wargame players, have the patience for such micro management of actions.  So, in fact, would V&R be miserable, as first I imagined it to be.  I streamlined the actions to six for muskets and eight for rifles, seven if taploading– and it still doesn’t play fast enough for me.

Detail from a rogues gallery spreadsheet with many V&R characters rolled up.

I have looked for smaller scale miniature games that might work– I have high hopes for Sharpe Practice by Two Fat Lardies (and purchased it!), but it appears to be maybe one scale size too large, and maybe a little too much for 54mm figures.  Great rules, though.. if I get a whole passle of 28mm Nappy figures, I’m going to be all in for this rules set.

 For 54mm scale, though, I needed a rule set that emphasizes individual actions, not group actions.  That’s why I started on Voltigeur & Rifleman– I still need something that’s relatively fast moving, and the V&R approach won’ t hack it without a lot of re-work and playtesting.

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

As I’ve covered in past blog posts, I tend to pick up most of Osprey’s “blue line” of wargame rules in a semi-desultory fashion.  Some of them are great, some of them are bad, and some of them are mediocre.  Since they are relatively inexpensive (for modern wargames, most of which tend to be hardbound and full of illustrations to drive the price point up), and even more inexpensive as Kindle publications, I usually put most of them on pre-order as Kindle publications and hardcover if it REALLY catches my eye.  Since this book came out nearly simultaneously with the release of ROGUE STARS*, I said “what the heck” and pre-ordered both in paper.  There’s always something entertaining in a Napoleonic skirmish rules set.  Wow, I’m glad I did.  Immediately, I can see there are many, many elements of what I am looking for in Chosen Men.  The average force size is 3 to 6 units of maneuver of 5 to 20 models each.  I would be reducing that.  The average gaming area will be 4 x 4 feet, I will be attenuating that and rifle/musket range or the riflemen will become ridiculously powerful.  Models have stat lines very similar to the ones I posted about in the illustration above, only it’s Melee (M), Resilience (R), Command (C), Wounds (W), Tactics (TAC) and Stratgy (STG).  Melee is personal fighting skill, with sword or bayonet, Resilience works like Constitution or “Toughness”.  Command is more like Morale in classic game design, as in being “In command, or capable of accepting commands”.  Wounds is self explanatory, Tactics is like “Action Points”, and Strategy is only used by Officers or Sergeants– used to get their units to do special actions, and there is a finite number of STG points.  Dice are all six-sided (I like this, but I don’t require it).  Actions are determined to be successful by performing checks against skills, and two models opposing each other would determine outcome by roll-offs.  There’s a lot more to it, but there is the gist.  I love some of the extra chrome to give it exactly the setting I’m proposing– the skirmish events that take place in the grey area between the big battalions, where they start to encounter each other.  One chrome element that lends “that big battle right over there” flavor is the “Cauldron of War Strategies” table.

The “Cauldron of War” is similar to a random events table that I came up with in V&R that provided that crucial “meta event” that I think has to be there for a game like this, set in this time period.  You KNOW there’s a big event happening just to your flank or behind you– but that may or may not intrude into your personal little bubble of battle space.  The Cauldron of War abstracts this element out nicely.

Chosen Men isn’t perfect for what I want to do with it.  It’s not an exact fit for 54mm scale.  For one thing, formations are still kind of sort of a thing in Chosen Men (though not the focus of combat or movement).  I don’t know how that would fit in a man to man skirmish game– except maybe I do.  Chosen Men measures fire combat and movement from the unit leader– the Sergeant or Lieutenant, etc.  Formations form on him, and ranges also are measured from him.  I’ll have to seriously tinker with ranges, scale and ground scale to make it work with 54s.  I may have to write some conversion rules to make it fit.  For instance, the standard units are like 6 figures for Chosen Men, and I was thinking 3 figure at most for 54mm.  With that said, I like Chosen Men, it has the right feel for me and I’m willing to test this conversion here as soon as my tin soldiers get out of the warehouse.

Visting the Udvar-Hazy Center,29 Dec 16


Since we aren’t currently on a Cruise ship in the Carribean, sipping sugary rum drinks and wondering how the hoi polloi get by (this is a subject for another post, perhaps– we had to cancel our cruising plans) we decided to go visit the Udvar Hazy museum of flight and aeronautical technology near Dulles Airport, Chantilly, VA today. I took about 109 pictures, which I’d love to embed as an album on here, or even a slideshow. Sadly, Google’s move from Picasaweb to Google Photos makes identifying single albums in Google Photos next to impossible. So it goes. Below are a few links to many pictures of aircraft. The slide show works, but you won’t be able to read my comments. Mass adding of photographs also eliminates captioning somehow, so if you want to read my reverant, sometimes snarky, sometimes awe-struck commentary, you’ll have to go directly to the album, below.

Click here for SLIDESHOW

Click below to see the album

Enjoy. We had a blast visiting this museum.. it always has something new tucked away in a corner I haven’t seen yet.

My Christmas Story begins with a Decca Long Play album


DECCA ‎– DLP 8010: Ronald Colman, Charles Laughton ‎– Charles Dickens Classics: A Christmas Carol And Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, to be precise. This is a vinyl recording that appears to have been assembled from two separate recordings of Charles Dickens stories that originated for the radio some time in the 1940s.

This was a Christmas album of two of Charles Dickens’ famous works– the Christmas Carol, which is justifiably famous, and Mr. Pickwick’s Christmas, which is perhaps less so, being bundled in with the Pickwick Papers, which is probably regarded as among Dickens’ lighter works.

The album was first pressed in the late 40s, and reprinted in 1950 under the sleeve you see above.  Side A was Charles Laughton’s light hearted and jocular recounting of the Christmas Chapters from the Pickwick Papers. The story is very lighthearted; a recounting of the members of the Pickwick Club visiting relatives for Christmas in the country during the Victorian time period. If you haven’t read the Posthumous History of the Pickwick Club (aka The Pickwick Papers), give it a try. The Christmas chapter is a classic. My brother and I used to joke about “Joe, the Fat Boy” who was always found in a corner attacking a mince pie and falling asleep. The Pickwickians attend a great Christmas party and dance a lot, eat prodigiously, and kiss under the missletoe. It’s a fun story. The Laughton recording is outstanding, and he had the perfect voice for it:

Listen to the Audio here:

If that doesn’t work, try this. The Audio isn’t as good, but it is clear.

Side B was performed by Ronald Colman, possessor of that ultimate refined English gentleman voice, playing Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. There are few works in English literature so completely associated with the holiday than a Christmas Carol, and I don’t feel as if I have to recount the plot of old Ebenezer’s redemption and moral rescue– almost everyone knows it, or should. This particular
recording was full of all the sharp audio stings associates with old time radio plays: sudden guitar strings, organ music and all. It was downright creepy when I was 7 or 8 years old, though gradually I was less scared by it. We played it constantly during the Christmas season until, I think, my mom threw it away, as it was hopelessly scratchy by then.

Listen to the Audio here:

(if that doesn’t work, try this, though the audio isn’t as good)

There’s not much more to this memory. I remember playing this record on a succession of record players owned by my mom and dad. My older brother, in particular, enjoyed this record maybe even more than me. The crackling and hissing of this ancient vinyl album was in its own way very comforting, as was the tinny, otherworldly audio of programs recorded for the radio back in the 40s. It’s odd to think about that record, as I often do at Christmas, being as old as it was. The original recordings by Laughton and Colman date back to the early 40s, when my parents were either in middle school or high school. The Decca Long Play record that I recall (the cover you see above) was pressed in 1950, and later on in 1970, but my parents must have found their version in an old record shop or thrift shop somewhere. It was ancient even for them. Of course, in a technological age I’ve found cleaned up audio copies on the Internet Archive (easily), and I can listen to this any time I want to. But there’s an essential element missing, and it’s more than the lack of a hiss and crackle as the ancient needle made the ancient vinyl yield up the golden tones of Ronald Colman once again, barely. I think it’s all about life experience.. nostalgia, as I’ve been reflecting on lately, is kind of a prison. It’s a way of telling us we missed out on something or something has passed us by. I don’t feel that way listening to these old recordings, now. More like a bemusement grown out of experience, and more of an intellectual, vice emotional detachment when I absorb the life lessons of Mr. Dickens one more time. There’s something universal about Dickens’ Christmas message– about keeping kindness and generosity of spirit in our hearts more than just one day a year. A message that transcends faith, politics and petty squabbles. Would that the world grew up listening to that message more often.

Chariot Race by Matt Leacock


Okay, so technically speaking this isn’t a Kickstarter Incoming, it’s a Kickstarter Already Here.  Eagle/Gryphon games’ Chariot Race arrived about a week ago, and I’ve assembled it, stared at it on my desk for a week, and finally pulled it out and started playing it tonight. Bottom line up front, the results were pleasing, the game is simple and the mechanics are easy. If the designer, Matt Leacock, rings a bell, that’s understandable. Matt’s other big credit was a little game called PANDEMIC and another game called FORBIDDEN ISLAND. Both of these have sold in respectable numbers (for board games) and have appeared on the shelves of non-traditional retailers such as Target and Barnes & Noble stores in the U.S.


Negotiating the last turn.

Chariot Racing was a Kickstarter project (I backed it!). In terms of mechanics, the game bears a much bigger resemblance to an earlier game of Matt’s called ROLL THRU THE AGES. Both games have big, chunky wooden dice that have icons on them that trigger events that impact the game.  “Roll” was more Yahtzee-like, in that you were tallying goods and innovations on a peg board and scoring sheet to make your civilization grow.  Chariot Race uses similar dice, but the dice represent actions that affect your racing team for that turn only.


Ramming!

The rules are pretty simple, even simpler than Roll Thru the Ages, actually. Every racer keeps track of 3 characteristics in a game: Fate, Damage and Speed. This is done on a card with little pointers on it, like the old Mansions of Madness game (first edition). Speed starts at 4 in the basic game and the chariot sets initial speed higher or lower at start. Fate starts at 3 and go up to 10. Damage starts at 12 for an intact chariot and goes down to 0, at which point you die.


Attacking (Pointing for emphasis– blue attacks red!)

Every turn, the player can turn in 3 points of fate to clean up 3 points of damage for starters, then adjust current speed (not above the damage level) then Rolls dice and moves accordingly. There are five dice with assorted sides– a burst of speed of 2 that damages your chariot for 1, a plus or minus 1 speed for this turn marker, an attack by javelin or caltrop side, an “add one lady luck” to your luck score, and of course, lane changes. If you don’t roll the result, you can’t change a lane. You can, however, reroll by investing two lady luck points per every dice you reroll (which is similar to Roll through the Ages as well). You can see a picture of the dice sides on the Player’s Aid blog post for Chariot Race.  Then you MOVE.. moving in and out (lane changes) incur the same penalties as movement (one box per point of current speed).


This game probably plays best with four, we played this game with two plus an “AI” opponent. We took turns running the purple chariot, which started out as a runaway easy victor, but then he got up to speed ten, negotiated a turn wrong, lost tons of damage points, went over a caltrop (he had no lane changes– the faster you go, the fewer are your options), then his chariot disintegrated in the next turn where he almost lapped us.

So I will probably give the advanced rules a shot, which add some variability to the basic game, which is, well, pretty basic. You roll, you resolve what your speed will be after adjustments, you execute your turn. It’s definitely not Circus Maximus. Nor is it even Ave Caesar.  Chariot Racing is very random and one could point out the decisions needed to affect the outcome are few in number.  However, It is fun, not very complex, and it has a lot of things going for it– it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  You can tell that from the name of the game, which conveys “this is a game about chariot racing. That’s all it’s about, honestly”. The standard elements I love in a chariot game– corner strain, ramming, flipping, etc. are all there in very simplistic form plus you can also drop caltrops and throw javelins.. heck, that should be in EVERY chariot game. I know they are in the one I designed, which you can get an epub of here. So where am I at with Chariot Racing? I’ll play it for a while. I might even buy tiny 10mm chariot miniatures and paint them in team colors, to make it look like a chariot race (I do NOT care for the standup counters for the chariots). There’s something about it that seems so basic, such a Yahtzee like roll and move type game, that I really wonder about Chariot Race’s staying power. This is not in the same league as Pandemic, Forbidden Island or even Roll Through the Ages.. it won’t stay with me and be the stuff of stories.. Or it might be. I’m a natural pessimist, what do I know?


Garrett pulls out a victory after getting ahead of my chariot which was slowing down rapidly from all the damage it took. He, also, was at 2 damage points left when he rounded the last lap, but he had come from behind and not engaged anyone, so he had more points to burn than I did.

In summary, Gar gave me a few audio comments that wraps this one up. If I discover anything more noteworthy about Chariot Racing I will amend accordingly– give it a listen.

Links out to BGG Post for Chariot Racing, and components picture from The Player’s Aid interview with Matt Leacock.

 

Right about now, 75 years ago…


(This was written when it was still dark out, around 6 AM EST, hence “right about now”)

The West Virginia and Tennessee battleships are ablaze after the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941The USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee ablaze in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 DEC 41

Right about now, 75 years ago, the first flights of “Operation Z” were cresting the hills over the North edge of the harbor at Pearl Harbor and lining up for their assigned targets on Battleship Row.*  In a bid to remove the strategic threat of any Allied response to seizing natural resources in the Southwest Pacific, the Imperial Fleet of the Empire of Japan was now launching a devastating near-simultaneous attack on the overseas territories of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In hindsight, this seems like an insanely foolhardy strategic objective, but in 1941, almost every mind in the Imperial War Cabinet was supremely confident of Japanese success.  Why not?  They had marched boldly into China, set up a puppet government, and had been busy looting for several years.  This operation could hardly be that much trouble.

The strike aircraft from the Japanese force came from 6 carriers, and numbered somewhere between 375 to 414 aircraft, mostly the Aichi 3A2 “Val” bomber, Nakajima “Kate” Type 97, and Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero, which would soon become infamous.  The pilots had been practicing this attack for months; each sub-component of the massive attack wave had their own targets they were assigned to. The attack generally went in two waves; a massive first assault on the ships in harbor and a follow up wave that pounded airfields, shore facilities, oil storage and repair facilities. The attack, in the eyes of the Japanese, was an astounding success– 4 battleships sunk, 4 damaged, multiple smaller ships either sunk or damaged. The big exception was discovering the primary targets of the raid– the three operational carriers in the Pacific Fleet, weren’t present. Still, after the 2nd wave returned, the Japanese Fleet sailed back West again, confident that the hammer blow would keep the American forces crippled for a long, long time. Perhaps, if it had been 30 years earlier, they might have been right.

The Americans were in shock after the attack, to be sure, but they were also enraged. Decades later I was a little snot nosed college kid waiting tables in Rossyln, VA at the Key Bridge Marriott. A group of Pearl Harbor survivors were in DC for some ceremony commemorating the attack. Being nosy and just as big of a history buff then as I am now, I plastered them with questions. “What was it like?” Years later, I could still see it in their eyes- the rage and futility, the sense of helplessness, as these men remembered. “I remember seeing a sailor in a small utility boat in the harbor, screaming incoherently in rage, firing a pistol at the aircraft, like he was daring them to attack him personally. That was what it felt like, kid“. I’ve never forgotten that visual.

Ironically, the Japanese unwittingly performed a great strategic service for America, though nobody saw it at the time. By sinking aged, but still formidable surface battleships, Japan was propelling American naval planning into the modern age. In the short space of something like 119 minutes, the Japanese fleet conclusively proved the future did not rely on the status symbols of the battleship era. The Great Pacific War that had long been predicted was now on– and it would not be won by fleets of surface dreadnoughts from the World War One era. The future belonged to those carriers that had not been present that day– and the many other carriers that would join them as the United States switched to full wartime production operations.

For now, though.. 75 years ago, the infamy was very real. In a lot shorter time than it has taken to type this, America was experiencing real casualties on American soil, and as the fleet blinked its eyes, reddened by smoke and carnage and helpless rage, they were being transformed. It would be a very different America from this day forward, striding forth onto the world stage to fight (soon enough) three Axis powers. It all started today, right about now.. 75 years ago.

 

* Technically speaking, it would be about 4 hours in the future, not “right about now” due to time zones, but who’s counting?

Rock, Paper, Wizard! another hand-gesture spell game!


I’m liking Wizkids’ newfound dedication to producing small format, small concept games which play fast, have easy mechanics and lots of replay value (see the recent experience with BLANK WHITE DICE). So along with BWD I picked up another recent publication, ROCK, PAPER, WIZARD! (RPW) also from Wizkids, and decided to set it up and play a three “handed” game solo, just to see how it works– bottom line up front.. surprisingly well!

Flavor text sets up the basic scenario:

In Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard, the dragon has been slain, leaving behind a treasure over which to fight, and the players are wizards who are fighting to claim the most gold from the dragon’s pile.The players have a shared “spellbook” of cards depicting various well-known D&D spells, and each card shows a unique hand gesture that the player must make to cast, while pointing at another player as the target of the spell. All players choose their spells simultaneously, and the spells can move the wizards closer or farther away from the treasure or affect the game state in other ways as well. It’s a game of second-guessing, satisfying successes, and agonizing reversals as each spell cast potentially affects the outcomes of the following ones!

The first player to grab 25 gold pieces from the hoard wins.

Setup is easy. You have 3-6 Wizard characters that start on the center spine of a tiny folded map. The cave exit is on the left and the horde of dead dragon loot is on the right. Wizards start with 3 GP and throw spells at each other to move the other wizards or steal GP.


Basic Setup.

Every turn, the wizards choose an enemy wizard, target them for a spell (in their heads) and then they all chant “Rock, Paper, WIZARDS!” out loud and reveal the spell HAND GESTURE (printed on the card) .  The spells are resolved in a clockwise fashion starting from the wizard who was chosen to go first (as the potion bottle token attests to).

Caveat: since I was just playing around with RPW, I did not achieve the designer’s intent.   The game will (and should) play much better versus other humans, and isn’t a great solitaire design.  I had to come up with random methods of having the wizards attack each other, instead of the fist pumping “Rock Paper WIZARD” which would be much cooler but kind of stupid by yourself.  I achieved random attacks by tossing the wizard tokens in the air and figuring out who was pointing at whom when they landed:


Yellow lady Wiz attacks Blue Gentleman Wiz, he attacks Purple Lady Wiz

Choosing spells was easy enough, of the three in the “Spell Book”, only one was really offensive, CHAIN LIGHTNING.  Still I wanted to try some options so I only selected Chain Lightning for two targets and a Counterspell for the last one (see the setup photo above for the spells on the table).


Chain lightning! (Gold Lady Wiz)


Chain Lightning AGAIN (Purple Lady Wiz)


and Counter-spell (Blue Gentleman Wiz)

Resolving the Spells:

As near as I can tell, the following things happened.

Gold Went first, firing a CHAIN LIGHTNING at Blue, which spills over to Purple.

So Blue moves back 3, Purple 2:


Blue moves back 3, Purple 2 (since she was targeted by Blue)


Then Purple hits Blue with Chain Lightning as well. This knocks back Blue but also Purple.


Since Blue was Targeting Gold, but not with the same spell (instead, CounterSpell) it’s as if Gold’s spell didn’t happen, so everyone moves back a little.

End of turn stuff:

The left most spell card is discarded, and the Wizards are given financial rewards– 5 to the Wizard closest to the horde (Gold) and 3 to the next in line (Purple).  The new card is CHARM PERSON.

And the next turn moves on from there… I think  you get the picture of how this game plays.

That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell.  You play until someone hits 25 gold.  Based on what I’m seeing, that will happen fairly rapidly– I had no problem getting about five turns done on my first game, with no problem figuring the game out and no problem getting a game done.  What are my thoughts?  Well, I want to play it with at least four people.. Four seems optimal, maybe Six is too much.  Three is stretching the boundaries of the design a little and Two is one too few.  I like the “rock, scissors, paper” mechanic redone for spell casting and I think the way they implement spell cards is like a man commanding a dog who suddenly has the power to work a television remote– “Spot ON!”  RPW is pretty silly at the heart of it and probably will be played several times before running through the variations of spells and spell variations and counter-variations.   The game can (and should) be easily expanded with new spell cards, and I hope Wizkids thinks of this.

Rock, Paper, Wizard isn’t exactly a deep thinking game, but there ARE strategies, and decisions to be made– quickly, and with the right crowd this could be all kinds of silly fun.  As I also have some recent experience with a spell casting game that utilizes hand gestures (See multiple posts on THE MAGI), I was curious about this game.  I’d like to have some advanced rules for RPW, like summoning creatures and actually attacking in a way that causes harm to the opposing wizard, instead of displacing him/her.   I could easily replicate this game using miniature figures– I have several painted up in 54mm (as well as summoned creatures) for the Magi game and RPW might be fun as a low complexity introduction to the Magi, which isn’t exactly complex, either.

Bottom line, RPW is fast, cheap, easy to teach, easy to learn.  I can’t wait to play this with some real opponents.

Blank White Dice & the Required Solution


So, yeah, I enjoy a game with a nomic element to it.   What’s a nomic element, you ask?  Look, we’ve been at this before– it’s a game where changing the rules are an active part of the rules themselves.  The word “nomic” comes from the game design by Peter Suber, which was first mentioned in Douglas Hofstader’s book, Metamagical Themas.  Suber, a philosopher, envisioned a game where you could vote every round to change the rules of the game.  The game he created based on those principles involves a lot of making of motions and voting to make changes.  Voting and making motions may not sound like it’s edge of the seat entertainment for you.  It surely isn’t for me either.  I’ve observed a game of Nomic being played, and it was like watching paint dry.  On the other hand, I did like the way the game was subtly evolving as it was being played– that part was excellent.  Now, other games borrow “Nomic elements” for game play.  The most famous being Fluxx and Cosmic Encounter but there are others, like Dvorak.  The medium is usually a card game because the simplicity of a card lends itself to ease of understanding when a rule changes.  There’s an even simpler approach, involving dice and markers…

I’ve just discovered another great game with nomic elements, BLANK WHITE DICE, by Whizkids (BWD hereafter).  BWD is implemented with simple mechanics and simple components. Each player gets two dice, two color tokens, and a marker. A set of five cards that are always played are set out, and another set of five cards (decided either randomly or called for in one of the game scenarios) are placed to their right. This creates “the tableau”. The cards have large icons on them. The icons are symbols you can choose to “Tag” (write on) your dice with. Each card does a different thing, game wise.. either adding points, removing points, erasing dice, or retagging them. There is also a big “common” dice that a person can claim during the course of the game by playing a certain icon from a card (“Window”).  This gives the player an advantage of an extra dice.


A starting tableau.

Game starts with the players “tagging” four times. That means, writing a symbol on the cards in the tableau.. on any dice they like, but only four times. Then they roll. If it comes up blank (likely in the first turn), they spend the turn tagging a blank side. They keep rolling and gradually the Icons on the cards (transcribed into the dice by the expedient of wet erase marker) will quickly come into play. Mostly this is felt by either gaining points, losing points or changing one or more faces of any dice on the table.

The game rules are not particularly well-written; they use different words to mean the same thing and often make a very simple point seem overly complex. However, after about one game anyone can get the hang of it, and games run very quickly indeed– rarely more than 20 minutes. Blank White Dice is an excellent filler game at a very nice price (20 bucks MRP or thereabouts), and could make an excellent stocking stuffer this Christmas.

And now, the Solution (pardon the pun)

I watched Tom Vasel’s review of BWD, which was short and somewhat critical, some of it for very good reasons. I do agree that the rulebook could use another pass. I also agree that the technology of wet erase (and dry erase) markers with somewhat porous dice sides makes for dice that can get very grimy very quickly. However, just by chance I stumbled around to a perfect solution. Giggle.

My son and I were playing BWD down in the man cave and the first “erase” result came up. I got up to put some water in a red solo cup. Just by chance, I added a little Mr. Clean cleaner in the cup too.

Notice what happens!


Typical grimy dice after three games.

Dab a paper towel in the Mr. Clean and water solution, apply gently:

And voila!


Just dab it once and wipe off the excess with a dry paper towel.


It’s totally clean, now.


The dice on the left, next to the red marker, has never been marked. The ones on the right have been used for 7 games.

Tom decries the wet marker as being “horrible” and “problematic”. They sure were (problematic, I wouldn’t say “horrible”, per se) before I discovered the Mr. Clean method.  However, we found a quick dab and a blotting up cleaned it like new in seconds.

So, what are my thoughts? I love the nomic flavor, and I love the semi-deck building feeling of the game (dice building?). It’s a great idea for a fast game that plays back to back several times quickly. Tom thought it was more like an activity than a game, and he might have a point. I enjoyed it after several plays, and will definitely keep it. However, it’s not a real brain bender or “deep” game. Still, it was simple, fun and every game had unexpected changes. I’ll have it on the table again.

The Spectacular Debut, Short Life and Magnificent Death of the Fat Box


My father, James, has always been the handiest of fellows.  Growing up, we only got a color television when he decided to build one himself, from an old Heathkit product.  Sure, the colors were tinged green and cyan much of the time and you had to fine tune it with this panel of circular dials in a rack you slid out of the television, and then you had to do that visually, but what the heck, it was color.  My Dad had a knack for that kind of thing– his basement was a mad scientist refuge of shortwave radios, satellite trackers, antenna parts and shop tools.  Before he was an early adopter in everything you can conceive of in the electronic realm, his big passion in life was (and is) small wooden boats.  Being a product of the Naval Academy, he was thoroughly enmeshed in naval history and culture, but his big thing was always the small coaster vessel or harbor sailing boat– preferably wooden and hand crafted.  He made a mahogany and teak double-seat kayak by himself.  It was solid work and a thing of beauty.  I remember helping him varnish it (inexpertly) as a youngster.  His next small boat project was to build a small harbor sailing boat from a famous design, the Pelican.


(that’s not it; I don’t have any actual pictures of our Pelican. Ours was blue)

This was a fun little craft with room for our family of six on board.  It may look kind of squat in this picture, but with the wind hitting her just a few points right of dead center she could really scud along at an amazing clip.   I remember we sailed her all along the harbor of Monterey Bay when my dad was at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Of course, even the best sailboat design will require a small outboard motor from time to time.  Dad found the one he wanted, too.. in Great Britain.

This is a British Seagull Two Stroke marine outboard engine.  The Seagull wasn’t loud and flashy, but it was small, dependable, and could cheerfully propel a hull of up to about 26 feet in length, so it had a lot of power in its tiny frame.  The Seagull was designed for small boats (mostly wooden) so naturally my dad knew a lot about the Seagulls and no other outboard motor would do for him.  He made arrangements  to have a Seagull outboard motor shipped all the way from Wolverhampton, England to Monterey, California.  This is where our story picks up.

The Seagull arrived after about three months of anxious waiting on my dad’s part.  The engine was everything Dad could ask for, and would ultimately render years of good service.  What caught my eye was the shipping container.  This wasn’t reinforced cardboard, no sir.  The Seagull shipped in a sturdy wooden box, already cut to be converted into a storage container (there were rope holes already drilled in the side for future carrying loops).  A good Internet picture of this container remains elusive but these should give  you some idea:

The crate was longish, about 4 feet and some inches long, and wide, maybe 2 feet 6 or slightly under. I was entranced with this thing. British Seagull Co Limited had built a sturdy container to be sure, but what to do with it now? We didn’t have a garage to store it in in Naval housing. Dad planned on hanging the Seagull on a wall in the shed, so when I asked to have the container he just shrugged and said why not. Immediate plans started forming in my head.  We were too old to play “forts” with it, it wasn’t going to work as a tree house, so there was only one thing for it– downhill racer.  In that era (California, 1970s), soapbox derby racing was still a thing.  Soapbox racers hardly looked like the boxes they were named for.   They were streamlined, space-age looking and went down a hill like poop through a goose.  We reasoned, hey, this is an actual BOX, we can put wheels on it, and get into soapbox racing! Yay!

Dad wasn’t one of these over-protective parents.  His views about child safety were at best, laissez-faire but not remotely Darwinian, exactly… Experience being a good teacher, burnt hand teaches best, etc. etc..  So he helped us with construction in a bemused, Dad-like fashion.  I think the idea of the DIY reuse/rebuild racing cart appealed to him.  Wheels weren’t an issue.  We salvaged some very utilitarian axles and wheels off of some cart or something.  They were tiny, the axle was  slightly wider than the wheel base of the Seagull box, so it seemed perfect.  Did we measure it? Nah!  That’s for wimps!  We eyeballed it!  Then we installed our new axles roughly straight-ish by using a series of nails as “U clamps” by bending them over the axles.  This was a design decision that would come back to haunt us, as we’ll investigate presently.

Steering?  Well, as you can see from the pictures above, the box came equipped with handle holes if the owner wanted to store the motor in the shipping case.  Dad drilled a hole through the front support and attached a wheel that could pivot on a bolt in there (using a countersink drill bit to give the nut some  breathing room).  We then added a wheel axle attached to a piece of 2 x 4 wood he cut to match the axle and attached it to the box and rotating nut.  Two eyelets were attached to the front of the rotating piece of 2 x 4 and cut pieces of clothes line were attached.  Then the bitter ends were run up to the two holes drilled by the company for carrying handles and pulled in to box.  By pulling really hard on one rope or the other, we could steer this mammoth object while in motion, and pull them both out to tow it back up a hill.  Smart, huh?  Wellll.. hm.. as it turned out, the steering system was more theoretical than practical, and that’s something you should probably nail down early in any wheeled vehicle design.  We’ll circle around to this later.

So the day arrived for to take our monster off of the blocks and out for a sail (as it were).  We wanted to give it a cool name like Comet or Pirate or Cheetah..  Dad solved it in laconic fashion by saying “Call it the Fat Box, because that’s what it is”.  We liked that– it had a certain panache all its own.   So we pushed Fat Box out of the driveway and started to pull it up the nearest hill.  Fat Box seemed enormous to us (though it really wasn’t, based upon the pictures I’m seeing).  There was room for two kid-sized people max– my neighbor Scotty (about a year younger than me) was along for the ride.  The nearest hill was La Mesa drive.  La Mesa drops off from the hill where the elementary school is and descends for a long straightaway down into military housing.  The Fat Box was heavy, and we had another guy along to ride with and help with the pulling.  His name was Ricky Graves and he was a heavy kid, red faced and sweating, but exactly who we needed– because he was pretty strong, too.  At the top of the hill I remember I was in the box with the neighbor kid (Scotty) and Ricky was holding on to it like an anchor.

I should point out we didn’t overlook safety gear– we were wearing my Uncle Jerry’s M1 Marine Corps helmet.. I was wearing the liner and Scotty wearing the brain bucket.

Nothing but the best for us!

So the Fat Box was on the lip of the hill. Scotty and I were nestled in the box itself, with myself in the back, feet braced against the center brace, and with the two steering cords all the way back at my end. Eyeing the steep grade, Ricky asked the only sensible question uttered that day. “You sure you want to do this?” You know, sometimes science isn’t about “Why?”, it’s about “Why the hell NOT??”, and we were feeling reckless. So Ricky shrugged and let go, and immediately we received our first lesson in momentum and potential energy. For such a crudely built and ungainly vehicle, the Fat Box LEAPED into top speed almost immediately. I mentioned this hill was steep, right? Looking back, all I could see was Ricky Grave’s astonished look as his face dwindled away rapidly.

DOWN we zoomed.. fast, fast and going faster, and our first design flaw became apparent. Nobody had even thought for a second about a smart way to slow this thing down. No brakes! Since we were at that moment bumping and bouncing down a steep hill right out into a busy intersection, heading into a suburban neighborhood with steady traffic, suddenly I had what Go enthusiasts call “atari“, or that moment of perfect clarity. We had best work on that “Slowing Down” part of downhill racing, and fast. Fortunately, my ten year old self wasn’t all about romantic notions.. I had come prepared. I fished out a length of wood, and tried to push it down on the back wheel to get it to slow down by friction. I suppose that might have worked in the Old West on a buckboard wagon or something, but in reality, here on La Mesa hill at top speed, the lumber flew out of my hand when I attempted the “stick in the wheel” method. As we tensed up, we couldn’t help but notice the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon dead perpendicular to us at the bottom of the hill, rapidly approaching. I put everything my frame could put into heaving on the left hand steering rope, and we discovered the limitations on the steering system. The way the lines were rigged, the more you pulled on them, the more resistance there was from the angle of the rope rubbing against the holes and the forward bottom leading edge of the Fat Box. Suddenly, we were discovering the vast gulf between what looks like it will work in the shop and what actually works in the field. What was going to be a frantic 45 degree skid into a roughly sideways to the direction of travel configuration ended up being about 5 degrees left of center. VERY fortunately the Pontiac moved out of the way just in time as we swooped by the first intersection and shot into the neighborhood beyond, still going downhill, still not showing the least signs of stopping.

As we rolled down La Mesa drive, we actually passed an early model Volkswagen Bug with a young Navy mom inside it frantically waving at us to slow down. The grade was greatly diminished now but still downhill, so we thought our chances were fair to middling we might survive if we could get off the street and ditch into a lot a little further down. There was a small lot full of gravel and leaves that we sometimes played kickball in just a another block down on the left. Scotty had been crouched in a little ball, his helmeted head peering over the edge of the Fat Box, eyes wide, the entire trip so far.  He looked like a demented version of that old Kilroy was Here graffiti.  I yelled at him to grab the steering on the left and yank, hard.. I got up and bracing myself on the center strut, leaned out to the left a little. Gradually the Fat Box overcame inertia and heeled over a bit– and we shot straight at the little abandoned lot with the gravel. At this point, several things happened at once. The rear axle, which had been held on with bent nails, was never really on “straight and true” because, of course, we eyeballed it, remember? This was causing the back wheels to roll a little bit left of true and wobble a lot.  When we tried to get the craft to yaw gracefully to the right, the tortured axle gave a mighty SNAP of disapproval and was now two pieces.  The back of the box settled into a violent skid on the wood strut that had been carrying the axle and suddenly forward momentum was being dissipated as kinetic energy and splinters.  Scotty was never a steady hand at the tiller, and gave up active steering for cowering and covering his head.  For ONCE the wheels turned in a direction we were trying to make them turn but this time violently overcompensated, so now we were approaching the curb to the little gravel lot in parallel, rapidly decelerating.  The Fat Box slammed into the curb, and proceeded to flip, free of the  bounds of earthly gravity for one, critical, beautiful second– and the constraints placed upon it by the heaviest object on board, that is, your humble narrator.  You see, I, too, was now enjoying a nanosecond of aerial ballet as I ejected out of the top (where I had been leaning to get the Fat Box to turn into the lot). I  proceeded to glide like an ungainly chicken fired out of a cannon.. and land face first in gravel and dirt, sliding about 6 feet (I think.. it’s all a little blurry).  I laid their groaning for a bit (with some spectacularly vivid contusions and scrapes, but otherwise undamaged).  Eventually getting up, I found that the Fat Box was now as thoroughly destroyed  as a thing can be– the combination of flipping, Scotty rolling around inside it, and the stresses of landing had done for the poor thing.  The front was missing, the side was caved in, the British sturdiness we had admired a cruel lie.  Fortunately Scotty was less hurt than I was and laughing like an idiot.  I was momentarily saddened to see our grand design go down in flames like this, but for one glorious moment, we were about as cool as kids can be.  That has made it all worth it.

Ogre Miniatures Set 1 Kickstarter


Color me on board!  At long last, Steve Jackson Games is backing a project that brings back the long out of print OGRE MINIATURES LINE (out of print, incredibly expensive in after market) back as plastic miniatures.  The miniatures are designed based on the originals, match the originals in scale and look, and have been cleaned up and retooled for plastic molding process.  The only models currently in kickstarter are the basic OGRE set– it appears that you will be able to recreate the original OGRE scenario (with an Ogre III and an Ogre V to use).  The models are cast in a solid color, blue for the little guys and red for the OGRES.

As you can see they are doing a great job with the sculpts. The molds apparently have been purchased and the deal with China has been made.

You can even buy a reverse set in the primary plastic colors, courtesy of another funding resource


Original


Reverse colored

I’m pretty excited about this one– and I backed it! I may add on a reverse set, as well. The mere fact that SJG is calling this SET ONE means they will likely expand the rest of the OGRE universe.. exciting times!

DETAILS HERE: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/847271320/ogre-miniatures-set-1

 

So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended.  I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…

Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections.   Thanks

For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:

So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well.  I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew.   After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend.  It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.

Road Trip!

The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so.   So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.   I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there.  Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).

(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”)  I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason.  Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.

Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html

I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!

(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted)  might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)

After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result.  it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours.  Maybe more.  I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it.  I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself.  If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!

Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018?  My take is: not really.  The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16.  “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions.  The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in.  Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return?  Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY?  Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center.  Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially?  Who would have that kind of influence?  Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation?  Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest.  That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it?  Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity?  I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring.  The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest.  Just saying.

This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.

So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.

We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table.  I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend.  He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline.  It’s very spiff.

Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth.  This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain.  I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.

Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market.  It was a learning experience.  I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results.  Small stuff sells.  Miniatures sell.  Boardgames? They don’t sell.  I ended up taking two boxes  home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus.  I’ll do it again.  One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.

So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience?  It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff.  I guess it beats Ebay.  We’ll have to work on presentation next year.  Perhaps, silly hats?  All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40.  That last hour dragged.

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I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…

We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many.  There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one.  Sigh.  Such are the demands of commerce.

Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant.  Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak.  I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.


No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!

Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II.  So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys!  Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG.  They deserve the iron man trophy!  Great setup.. what a fantastic game!  (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).

I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend.  Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events.  The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis.   He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island!  WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered.  The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed.  The models are exquisite.  IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful.  You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.

I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…

We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games.  Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook.  Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play.  Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction.   There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors.  The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks.  Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked.  There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked.  On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper.  I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least).  I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank.  There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show.  As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!

(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ.  No Surprise there.  It’s a done deal, we knew that already.  Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid.  Knock me over with a feather!).

Do I think this is a good plan?  Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen?  Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not.  Nope.  Abandoning the South is a very bad idea.  Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them.  I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit.  Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse,  I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did.  When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding?  Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”.  Okay.  Well, he might have a point.  A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars?   No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit).  When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”.  I wonder where that could be?  I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking.   Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large?  If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose.  Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.

Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.


“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=


Farewell! Farewell!

The Creepy Anthropomorphic Drug ads for women trend


Has anyone been following the latest trend for women’s health product advertisements? It’s downright creepy. Admittedly my sample size is small but these ads play quite a bit on television in the US (East Coast). First of all, there’s “Mybetriq”, which is a drug that allegedly helps women control overactive bladder conditions. In these commercials, we are subjected to a cute little animated bladder creature. It’s not mean or anything, but very insistent, torturing a woman by interrupting her garden parties, her bowling games, and other relationships and activities.


No bowling for YOU!


Pssst.. we need to go.. NOW!


It’s not MY fault.. I don’t wanna be a MEAN lil’ bladder…

The creep factor is fairly high here.. she acknowledges the bladder beast as a being.. with rudimentary intelligence and needs, giving in to its demands with a suffering sigh. Even weirder, when she decides to “take charge” of her condition and consult a doctor (presumably a urologist), when he’s lecturing her, the bladder beast is in the room, sitting next to her, nodding along with the conversation. Like the bladder beast is included in the conversation. Ohhhh, creepy. Later, they are seen walking together, hand in hand, on the beach, looking at a beautiful sunset together. The implication is.. what? Happy Romance? Resignation? A new form of detente between bladder and human being? We don’t get the epilogue for this commercial.

My next sample is even weirder and more disturbing. This is a commercial for “Viberzi”, which is apparently a medication for women with frequently upset tummies. In THIS commercial, we don’t see an animation– instead the ailment is played by an actress in a nude colored body suit with intestines screen printed on the front. THIS ailment is a real bully. She cancels her victim’s plans FOR her, texting her regrets because she’s staying home with problem diarrhea. This Problem Diarrhea monster follows her around, doing things similar to the Bladder Beast from the Mybetriq commercial, ruining her plans, canceling things in advance, generally making her life miserable. Apparently she is doomed to living a lonely life. That is, until she, too, gets the courage to talk to HER doctor (presumably a gastroenterology expert).

Once again, the ailment monster is PRESENT, NODDING ALONG, during the medical consult.


In closing, ma’am, I have to ask, who’s your hot diarrhea friend? Is she single?


Going out? Nah, we’ll scotch that plan.. who’s in charge here? I am. Say it after me…

Once AGAIN, very similar ending here.. they walk on the beach, all happy now, but not holding hands (that might be too creepy). Later, as the victim is sparking with a young beau in a diner, Problem Diarrhea appears to approve of the man, as if giving her Problem Diarrhea blessing. Happy Ending, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.

Aside from the very similar structure for both drug commercials, it’s the “intelligent ailment” thing that I find the creepiest. I can only speak for me, I NEVER have a conversation with my bladder or bowels. I know the ad companies here are probably shooting for something cute and socializing, but honestly, I don’t care for talking, thinking, anthropomorphic diseases. That’s a little too weird for my liking. But hey, I’m not a gal, who knows?

Right now, I’m giving these kind of commercials the creepy Burger King award.

Aside

I’ve been on an H.L. Mencken kick lately.  Somehow, the Sardonic Sage of Baltimore sums up my enthusiasm for the mob rule that is the current election process in America.

 

There’s no point, no winners..

Event Counts by Category, Fall-IN! 2016


As often happens once a HMGS convention concludes, self-styled experts will claim a certain genre is overtaking historical game entries, it’s a general sign of decline of HMGS and et cetera, blah, blah.  Those of us who have been attending for years have seen the same old argument restated every year,  sometimes posting outrage at the large number of “alt games” at a convention while many attendees are still en route home.  Well, about that… As I have done for 12 previous conventions, I have created a Guidebook App module for Fall-IN! 2016.  In order to make that happen, I have to take data from many sources– tournaments, Hobby U, seminars, etc.  The most important source is what I build the schedule with, the Events sent to me from the Events Coordinator.  So I get to see the raw data from the registration database every convention.

Once all of that is put in spreadsheet form, it’s remarkably easy to sort the data by period, use the COUNTA function, and get totals by period.  There’s nothing particularly slick about my methodology, but I have confidence in it because almost everyone uses the categories established by HMGS as part of the event registration process, although this can be overwritten, and then a judgement call is needed.

So here’s the count, with a couple of caveats– I’m making a judgement about what is historical and what ain’t, and I agree, you might interpret this differently from me.  I am counting fun skirmish game categories like Westerns, Chariot Races, Gladiator fights and Pirate fighting as “historical”, since they take place in a defined historical period.  This year, I also include 2 “Other” games as historical, since they are roughly Napoleonic Age of Sail games, and I also include 3 games that label themselves as “Victorian Alternative Naval” as historical, since they use historical ships in “What If” scenarios.  I rolled up a couple of other periods and put “Pulp” in the “Non Historical” period (since I consider “pulp” mostly a kind of borderline fantasy period springing out of VSF).  I’m only counting non-tournament events.  Most importantly, this data is a snapshot as of last weekend.

So there you are.  Again.  Historical Games ROUTED Non-Historical Games, without question.  In very broad terms, non-historical alt style games are barely 17% of total.

What periods walked away with it? The classic 3, of course: World War 2 (75), Napoleonic (29) and American Civil War (23). That old devil Science Fiction (which I rolled up four flavors of Post-Apocalyptic games into, Zombies mostly) returned a 24, and Fantasy 18.  Surprising?  Hardly.  Many of those 75 WW2 games are rulesets that are commercial successes and very recognizable.. like Bolt Action.  There just seem to be far fewer F&SF household names at HMGS conventions– those players go to other conventions, it would seem.

So there you have it! Another convention, another year without the sky falling in.  HMGS shows are still firmly historical, by a wide margin.