Tag Archives: Ironclads

Fall-IN! 2014, another gripping AAR

I actually got some gaming done at this convention, but there’s no need to break them out into separate posts.  I’ve included links to the requisite screen shows– see the yellow backgrounds.

As reported in the earlier travelogue, I drove up to Fall-IN! 2014 in sunny Lancaster, PA on Thursday. It was raining off and on but I made excellent time. People were already congregating when I arrived, around 3PM. For some odd reason, I walked into a low hanging duct cover in the Men’s room and clocked myself good.  The pain was sharp and intense– if I were a cartoon, I’d have had tweety birds circling my head.   Not a grand manner to start a convention with.  My room was palatial, by Host standards.  No complaints there, but the halls were in poor shape–

“Come and play with us, Danny”… Despite my first suspicions, I was not transported to the set of the Shining (1980). It just gave off the vibe. Multiple leaks were in the hallway. You can’t see it but the ceiling tile is about to collapse about midway down and already has collapsed behind me and the left.

Much as I enjoy the Host’s location and admitting I have had a grand time in this venue for many years, I’m beginning to think the writing is on the wall for this venerable building.  there were multiple leaks all throughout the building and the water went out on Sunday.   It made me think of a Cold War era Eastern European motel, not central Pennsylvania.

The convention was manned pretty well, all things considered.  Dan Murawski was at his wit’s end getting staff at the last second, and thought it did not bode well– as if it were being purposely sabotaged.  Dan’s got a big heart and works his butt off for these things– but unless I see better proof than what I heard, I think it was just a confluence of events that caught him flatfooted.  It happens sometimes– that’s how I started volunteering back in the mid-90s.. I didn’t even realize you COULD volunteer until JT Thomas was caught flat-footed in a similar fashion and put the call out for volunteers.   So, the bright side of things is we got some new faces and maybe they’ll work for other conventions, too.

Thursday I didn’t do much– had dinner with JT, Bob and Cleo and then played some boardgames with friends.  As you can see, scheduled miniatures games weren’t exactly covering the ground Thursday night, although there were plenty of pickup miniatures games.  Friday it turned out I wasn’t really needed in the AM, so took Bob, Cleo and Stephen Gibson to the Knight and Day Diner in Lititz, PA (about 8 miles from the Host, easy to get to).  Prices were great, the food was great, the service was friendly and the company affable.

Steve Gibson– he’s so affable.

Friday miniature games were kicking into gear by the time we got back.  The Distelfink was humming and games were setup and playing.  For all of that, the room was still somewhat sparse for games and there were the usual open tables.  I don’t see anything dire in this, it’s just a matter of scheduling.

Dystopian Wars, but I’m not sure what the event was.

I did do a serious shopping jaunt at this point; I didn’t have a game until 1700 and was footloose and fancy-free. As was indicated in my road trip post on the way up, I had set my sights on some very specific items that I was looking for. I achieved most of my goals. I picked up D&D ATTACK WING (starter set) from Whizkids, plus the Green Dragon and the Arbelest team. Why? Well, I think this is a natural from my Summer game camp– they love X-Wing and this game is different enough that I can run both in one week or all of them simultaneously if I have the kids for it. It’s huge and colorful. I also picked up IN MAGNIFICENT STYLE (continuing my love for VPG games), which is a very miniatures-like game of the final moments of Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg. More on that one later. I also got “Steampunk Soldiers” from Dennis. Gorgeous color plates.

After that, my first game of the con:

Friday’s game was Up the Yazoo, a game of American Civil War riverine combat using the Hammerin Iron 2 rules from Peter Pig.   I have reviewed these rules here (favorably), and have a high opinion of this system– it’s evocative of the period without getting deep into statistics and ballistics, and lots of fun.  Greg Wagman did a fantastic job running this game and ended up playing the confederate side with a combination of enthusiasm and dry humor.  The Union boys did a fine job (if I do say so), achieving their objective of blowing up three piers and sinking three Reb Ships.   I lost one ship from my flotilla, as did the other Union player.  We still had two intact Ironclads (Cairo and


I really had a good time with the Hammerin’ Iron 2 game.

I went a little long with that game, so hustled to the Prime Rib dinner at the Host Restaurant, once again, with Bob, Cleo and JT.  That was a very pleasant dining experience which goes to show you the old place is capable of putting in a good effort.  It was too late to really bug someone to get into a game Friday night but I did meet up with some of my droogs and we played a boardgame called AMONG THE STARS, which is sort of a “build a big space station” game that involves deck drafting, hand-swapping and bidding.  I really enjoyed it and thought the card art was fantastic– very thematic.

If I were the early riser type, I suppose I could get up, take a cold shower, do 200 scrunchies, and jog ten miles before jumping into an 0800 game start so I could squeak one in before my afternoon obligations.  I suppose I could, but I’m not that kind of gamer.   Instead, I laid around in indolent sloth and went down to the Flea Market for a sniff around.  I had read the rules for In Magnificent Style the night before and now had it in my head to build a version with 15mm painted ACW miniatures– something I knew I could find in the flea market.  Sure enough, I did, and they were relatively affordable.

Rebel setup

A couple of turns in, Trimble’s Brigade getting shelled twice.

Mission accomplished, I thought.  It looks much better with actual miniatures.  I had to re-base the flea market minis at the convention, which I did after a short bath to loosen the glue.  I probably spent more than I ought for a simple visual effect, but I don’t care.

I worked the events desk from 1 to 4 on Saturday.  This was pretty easy duty and consisted of handing out tickets, solving problems and breaking down the events board.  It was slow, but we actually did have an issue to resolve– one GM who had signed up to run 5 games fairly late and turned out to be a no-show.

Saturday was probably the busiest day for games.

SAGA– Vikings versus Welsh

Bolt Action

I love SAGA. There was a ton of it in the tournaments area.

The big Crime/Pulp game in the lobby started early Saturday evening.  This was the showcase game of Fall-IN! 2014.. with scenery so intricate and detailed I’m certain it won some kind of award.  I don’t think we gave any awards out for Fall-IN!, at least I didn’t see the awards committee at work, anyway.  Too bad!

Some of the interior detail

Here’s a few pictures of the 1920s Gangster/Pulp game in the lobby.  They don’t do it justice.  That was a “mob” scene, Saturday!

S-124, Sky Galleons of Mars part 2


At five, I had a Sky Galleons of Mars game in the Vistas.  I’d been looking forward to playing this game for many years, but never have had the time until this year.. I’m usually volunteering for something.   The confluence of events worked out so that I could play the second part of two thematically linked games.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this one.  I’ve played Sky Galleons before, and don’t have a beef with the system.  I’ve clearly jonesed to play this 25mm version that Dave Kasper runs for some time (see a previous post from 2010).

There might have been a bad group dynamic going for this game, possibly– I got the vibe that it was tilted somewhat towards the Martian faction, but we did pretty well considering every ship in the game had us out-manned.   We engaged the High Martians (aka “The Spider Monkeys”) from a distance and did serious damage to their ships, without suffering a lot of fire in return.  However, their big tactic of swarming and boarding was something we had a hard time defending against.   The game ended early when 4 players (2 Martian, 2 English) bailed, basically saying “Here you go, take our ships“.  I felt bad for Mr. Kasper, because that kind of thing will totally throw off a game– he didn’t look happy.  I was awarded the best British player award, but given the circumstances (being the ONLY British player left) it sort of felt like a Lancaster Tug job.  Still, I was grateful to receive it, and my opponent from the Spider Monkey Clan received the best Martian player.  I hope to play this again with some more committed players– the visuals were magnificent, the ships were just incredibly well done.

Having gobbled my “Hall Pig” down (actually Hall Brisket, but who’s counting) to make the Sky Galleons event on time, I felt slightly nauseous so went in search of a glass of milk, which made things better.    I might point out that with the exception of the kind of greasy breakfast I had had in the Vistas that morning, dinner was the most unhealthy thing I ate all weekend– all things considered I did rather well with food– didn’t overeat, didn’t indulge in overly fatty and sugary crap.  It can be done!

After finishing the rebasing of the 15mm Rebs, I headed down to my last event of the evening:

S-211: Road Warrior Invitational

Sad, isn’t it, what the younger generation has forgotten? All the older players were face-palming… Click to see the slide show.

The Road Warrior game was hilarious, simple and quick-playing.  Lots of people showed up.  Eric Goodlander ran this homage to the 1982 movie ROAD WARRIOR.  The rules were pretty simple, based on the old G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. rule set.  At least, mostly.  The scenario was a classic– good guys are escorting a potential gas tanker through the wastelands, and bad guys attack in a wave of eccentric vehicles.  When a player dies, he re-enters the table on the opposite side he started from.  If the tanker can exit the map, the Good Guys win.  If the tanker is halted, the Good Guys lose the game.  The vehicles are all pretty much converted Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.

I drove the Mystery Machine van with Alan behind the wheel and Shaggy working the shotgun.  We did pretty well– our van skidded off the road and almost overturned, but we maintained a steady fire at the Good Guy escorts.. and we took out Randy Meyers, much to our amusement.  I was playing with Neil Brennan on the Bad guys side and watched in amazement as he went through 3 vehicles back to back to back.   The game ended rather dramatically when a GOOD guy small tanker tried crashed into the big rig carrying the tanker of gas and it skidded to a halt, with major damage.  A Bad Guy coming on to the board fired a rocket at the cab, and that was all she wrote.  BOOOM!  That game was a hell of a lot of fun, almost too quick, though.  If Mr. Goodlater runs it again, I’ll play it again.

After the Road Warrior was summarily executed and the game ended early, I did something I rarely do these days: Stayed up and BS’d with Neil Brennan and Del Stover, in the Lancaster Host bar, where most business decisions are decided upon:

That was a fun session– we were rambling on reminiscing about games in the past and people who have departed.

Sunday dawned with the usual Sunday frantic packing the car activity, visiting the flea market, and dealer hall– with a twist.  I tried to take a shower, no water came out.  No water in the sinks, toilets etc.  Kind of a revolting development with a convention full of gamers.  At least it happened on Sunday!!!

In the dealer’s hall, I picked up BYWATER’S WAR from Clash at Arms.  I also made a command decision and put off buying a starter set for Alien Dungeon’s Mars game in favor of buying some stuff from Stan Johansen’s ROAD WARRIOR line.  What can I say?  That game inspired me.

After that, it was only a matter of bugging out, stopping at Jenny’s for a moody coffee and omlette, and departing…

Another great Fall-IN!  I have to thank Dan Murawski, and all his staff (especially the last minute volunteers) for putting on a great show.  The attendance was very light, I thought, but we’ll see.  That’s too bad– attendance has been growing under Dan’s leadership– I hope the trend continues.

Final thoughts:


The Union Forever! The Battle of Mobile Bay

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


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

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

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

Union Forces closer up

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

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

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

Sometimes the “stupid strategy” is stunningly successful

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


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

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

Short Review: War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James McPherson

War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 by James M. McPherson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a unrepentant, biased American Civil War naval enthusiast, so when I saw War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 at my local library, it was a selection that didn’t require much thought, especially with the added spur of the author being James McPherson, author of one of my favorite overall Civil War histories, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. In War on the Waters, McPherson narrows his focus somewhat to do justice to an underappreciated pillar of the great Union victory. Both Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses Grant (who worked hand in hand with Western Admiral David Porter, so he knew what he was about) lauded the Union Navy in the highest terms, giving them credit for contributing to the ultimate outcome of victory. Indeed, the Union Navy in particular, was a good value. Of the 3 billion dollars spent by the Union on the American Civil War, the entire naval budget for all years of the war came to less than 18%. For that amount, the Navy maintained an active (if only gradually effective) blockade, and either contributed to or was the sole participant in the capture of several Confederate cities and fortifications, including three Confederate state capitals. McPherson does not allow his history to become partisan, though he does, perhaps, linger on the accomplishments of the Union Navy overall– which I suspect is a result of poor or non-existent record keeping on the part of the Confederate Navy more than anything else. Credit is given to the strategic focus of the Confederate Navy– they could not match the Union Navy hull for hull, so they had to innovate to force the blockade and keep their ports open. Blockade running and shallow draft casemate gunboats were the main focus of Confederate naval ingenuity, which matched the South’s greatly diminished industrial base. McPherson recounts the events, great and small, with a masterful pen. Along with the facts and figures is an engrossing account of the political side of the Union Navy– one reads of the intrigues and back-biting, the political infighting inside the service and outside. I was left with a greater appreciation of the true naval hero, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells– riding heard on a squabbling pack of Admirals and Commodores, forcing a giant leap in naval innovation from wooden sailing frigates to ironplated steam powered cruisers, and all the while closing off and constricting the Confederacy’s strategic options. It was a monumental task. McPherson’s book is hardly in depth but it is a good broad brush history of the naval action on both sides during the American Civil War, and I enjoyed reading it.

View all my reviews

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.

Storm Eagle Software: a company that would have made George Orwell proud

IF this is the new paradigm for software distribution, it leaves a lot to be desired.  (written in 2012, not posted until now)

Note from the year 2013: I wrote this a year ago, and sort of let it lay in the draft hopper out of apathy.  It’s still all true, but I would add a small epilogue: I did finally get the software installed after two weeks of effort and lots of repeated system admin tasks…. and it sucked!  The game interface is moronic, you have very little control over individual ships beyond steering them and hoping for the best, and it’s a bit of a yawner.  Not really worth giving an in-depth review too.  Kind of anti-climatic after all that work, no?  I have to stress that Storm Eagle, cited here, did not create the software I’m trying to install in this transaction, so I can’t fault them directly for that, that’s all on Totem Software’s head. In the end, I wasted my money, and went through a lot of stress, to boot.  I’m posting this a year later, really because it amuses me more than it angers me.  The so-called customer service rep’s replies become blander and less officious as the exchange continues, and in the end I wondered if he could type that drivel with a straight face.

There are days when I feel like a relic, and the last four days have certainly made me feel that way. I have always had an interest in games with a military history element to them; that much might be obvious from casual reading of this blog. So when I was idly responding to an advert banner ad about Dreadnoughts at the Storm Eagle Software site, I noticed this boffo new-ish product:

Totem Games Victorian Admirals

They are having a sail on Totem Games’ VICTORIAN ADMIRALS collection for roughly 30 bucks. This is just ducky for a guy like me who’s nuts for the pre-dreadnought Age of Steam naval conflict era– I have reservations about the Totem Games interface– it’s a little clunky and not exactly inspirational, but the art is lovely and the history is obscure.

So I did a mental version of “Yipppeee!” and ordered it.

Full disclosure: I just ordered it. This is TOTALLY my fault for jumping and not looking.  Don’t even bother lecturing me or shaking your head.  I didn’t think about reading the damned fine print. I did zero research. I saw something about digital delivery, but so what? I’ve ordered games from Matrix Games with a digital delivery option, I just got a download code, downloaded the thing and that was it. I’ve even ordered from GOG.com in the past, and though it was slow, I downloaded their version of digital delivery. So what could possibly go wrong?

There was a link on the Storm Eagle website that informed me that they were selling the software as an affiliate for SES.  Yeah, yeah, so…

Without reading much more than that, I paid by paypal, and was then told I had to download the STORMPOWERED application which is the way they were going to send me VICTORIAN ADMIRALS.  I should have had alarm bells going off at that stage, but I complied, downloaded their “STORMPOWERED” client application, which is somehow beneficial to the software delivery process.   Digital Delivery, as my hipster younger friends tell me, is the way of the future for computer programs.  That’s progress.

FOUR DAYS LATER, after frequent attempts to download the product I PAID FOR, with NO CHANCE OF A REFUND, I realized that A) I was foolish and should have read the fine print, and B) this ain’t no way to run a railroad.  Because we’re in the age of “Digital Distribution”, Storm Eagle Software has essentially adopted policies that preclude the customer getting a refund if he or she is dissatisfied, with no redress whatsoever.  There are no reasonable alternatives offered if the client doesn’t work– I can’t get a CD download (hell, I’d even pay extra for it now).  I can’t access the software from a secure FTP site, like I can with Matrix Games.  Throughout the process of dealing with Storm Eagle Software’s so-called customer service agents, I have been told that this is essentially my fault.  I have followed their instructions.  I’ve tried to download this at home and at work.  The STORMPOWERED client, essentially, is defective.  It will apparently work if I add exceptions to my anti-virus software and log in as an administrator to install and run it.  I have done so, and it still doesn’t work.   So, apparently, I’m also supposed to do all these extra system administrator tasks to download a file.   I rapidly got fed up with the defective software, requested a refund, and was told that no refunds are granted.  I asked for a CD delivery, and was told they don’t supply software that way.  I asked for a FTP download and was told they wouldn’t make an exception for me.  During the four days of increasingly fruitless “customer service” emails from  the while, every message ended with a cheerful variant of “We’re committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure you get your product”.   Except, of course, CD Delivery, FTP delivery, or any other reasonable option to satisfy a very disgruntled customer.

Do you think I’m over stating this?  Maybe, being a bit of a drama queen?  Read on by clicking below.

But wait, there’s more!


Follow up to Hammerin’ Iron 2 Review I didn’t know any 1:1200 scaled manufacturers when I typed up the recent Hammerin’ Iron 2 review.  Now I do. NAVWAR Miniatures has a very nice 1:1200 ACW era ironclads line.  They are … Continue reading

Cosmic Encounter: A Thorough Drubbing


Me playing as the Purple HATERS...

We had a chance to play one of my favorite games in the omniverse, Cosmic Encounter, at Steve’s house for his annual OMG it’s the weekend before GENCON frenetic Paint n’ Pack fest on Sunday. I brought my own painting projects, which I managed to complete:

Ironclads 1/600 Scale, mostly Thoroughbred Figures except for the Spartan Games models:

  • Detail work on the RalGard Heavy Cruiser
  • Water giant for Uncharted Seas
From Instant Upload
From Instant Upload
From Instant Upload

After we finished up painting and Steve’s frenetic last minute prep for selling a bunch of stuff at GENCON, we took a look at the giant FEZ BOX Steve and family made for NOVAG’s games at GENCON. Painted NOVAG fez green, with tassel included.

The Fez Box

The Fez Box!!

After that we pulled out Cosmic Encounters, playing the basic game plus a few encounter cards from the first expansion– no flares, lucre, moons or other silliness– just Encounters, Artifacts, Kickers and Morphs.

We selected aliens randomly, just like the good old days.  Here’s the spread:

Steve Gibson: The Chosen (yellow) Can Draw Extra Challenge Cards from the Deck & use them
Chris Gibson: The Vulch (green) Harvests Artifacts.
Jeff Molman: The Mutant (red) Can draw cards up to 8 if he is under.
Me: The Hate (Purple) Can force people to discard a card TYPE of his choice, and if the other players don’t have that card type, they lose three ships.

I had been in games with the Mutant and The Vulch before– they are reasonably balanced.  The Chosen was new to me and I found him a bit overwhelming. I used the Hate power judiciously as it didn’t win many friends– I still think it was no match for the Chosen.  But that’s life.

The Chosen

The Chosen: Yes, we ARE holier than thou.

The game started out in a series of defeats for THE HATE.  Purple was chosen two times in a row in the destiny pile and solicited Allies from the Vulch and the Mutant as depicted HERE. and THE CHOSEN’s  power to draw the first three cards from the encounter deck proved very difficult to counter in any meaningful way.  And nobody wants to ally against someone who could pick the top three cards of the draw deck, decide to add one of all of them to the final outcome  and there you go– you’ve been outnumbered.  In most cases, the power worked in the Chosen’s favor, and Steve played it aggressively.  He was only Cosmic Zapped once, and decisively.   Jeff played the Mutant as well as he could but the Mutant role is not as aggressive in this mix as the Chosen or Vulch proved to be.  THE VULCH was particularly effective, picking up artifacts every round.  Soon he had a hand to be feared, as most of us knew what was in it.

The Hate

Hatin' is for Haters

As the Cone passed to THE HATE, I drew THE VULCH in the Destiny Deck.     THE HATE drew in THE MUTANT to his attack, but the Vulch pulled a 30 attack card, and that was all she wrote.  Thus ended the great Hate offensive for the first time around the circle– and the Cosmic Cone passed to the Vulch.  The Vulch had a strong attack with all those artifact cards and understood the need to attack aggressively, but he vacillated in his turn, making a sweet arrangement with the Chosen as depicted HERE, and then moved on to attack the Mutant in half-hearted fashion, as depicted HERE.  The

Vulch.. doin' his vulchin thing... stripping the battlefield of artifacts.

Vulch’s assault stalled in the face of stiff resistance from the Mutant (with help from allies Hate and Chosen, who were happy to get a bunch of ships back from the Warp.  As his challenge failed,  so did the Cosmic Cone move on to the Mutant, not by nature a very aggressive player or perhaps he is just unlucky?  Who knows?      The Mutant proved he could prevail over the Chosen steamroller, and as he had stood by the Hate in the earlier round, Hate would stand with him now.

Numbers were finally playing in the favor of the anti-Chosen coalition– the higher cards had been played and the Chosen’s defenses were thin in his galaxy.   It was a gamble that payed off, Hey, you muties!  Get out of my cabbages!and the Hate jumped in with both feet.  Finally, no longer a Galactic loser!!!  The Cone passed on to the Chosen, who managed to encounter a stiff resistance from non other than the Hate (last Destiny card drawn). And then it was Hate’s turn once more.. one more time to try to turn the tide of fortunes around.  I had been keeping a weather eye on the Chosen all game long, as he seized an early lead and held on to it all game long.  However, I should have been paying closer attention to the Score wheel.  I had not noticed that the Vulch was now up to four victories after our last alliance, and when I invited him the last turn, naturally I didn’t count it.  Here I am rueing the day… and handing the victory to the Vulch!!  Oh well, losing track of who is the lead in a game of CE is also part of the game as a whole.   Even a solid loss in Cosmic Encounter is a fun time, and I think I can say a good time was had by all without fear of contradiction.  A fun day!


A book review of Paul Silverstone’s WARSHIPS OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR NAVIES.f Continue reading

Flags for Ironclads

As you might have picked up on, I’ve taken the jump with 1:600 scale Ironclad models.  I’m reasonably satisfied with the workmanlike paint jobs I gave them, but I’m working on some finishing detail like masts, some rigging and a flagstaff.  Flags proved to be pretty easy actually..  I simply found a vexology site, copied and resized the graphic, flipped it over and pasted several on a sheet.


Flags for Ironclads

I admit they are probably a tiny bit overlarge for this scale, but I wanted the flags to be instantly recognizable.

The masts are made from floral wire, and I drilled the holes with a pin vise. If you are interested in doing this for your fleet, here’s some flag files:

Have fun!

Taking the Plunge on 1:600 Ironclads

My recent experiences with BEER AND PRETZELS IRONCLADS (by Buck Surdu) at HISTORICON 2012 made me hanker to paint up a few ironclads of my own.  I’ve wanted to do this before, but usual roadblocks of affordability and my inept painting skills applied. The best ironclad producer out there, bar none, is my friend Toby Barrett at Thoroughbred Miniatures. Toby’s ships look like little pewter jewels and have tons of detailing. They come at a price, though. My next favorite (and a very close second in detail and quality) is Bay Area Yards out in California. This appears to be a one or two man band, making a wide variety of super-detailed craft at a very decent price. I recently discovered a distant third in terms of quality, but at a very attractive price– the 1:600 scale resin cast Ironclads produced by Peter Pig  aka “Range 7” or Hammerin’ Iron. I bought several of them while I was at HISTORICON, and it did not make a serious dent in the wallet. I also had a few Thoroughbred and Bay Area ironclads laying around, so I decided, what the heck, let’s take the plunge this weekend.

Selma and Forest Rose

CSS SELMA (foreground) and USS FOREST ROSE, a tinclad (background)

Ironclads are attractive as a historical period for miniatures for many reasons. They are not wildly difficult to assemble and paint. The unit density is pretty small, usually one to one. Ironclads rarely fought ironclads in the Civil War so you can pretty much make up whatever scenario suits you, as long as it involves a river or a coastline, and a handful of ships from either side.  Thus, my initial investment wasn’t as huge as I thought it might be.

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Ships built so far:

Ship Type Manufacturer
USS New Ironsides Broadside Ironclad Peter Pig
USS Onandaga Double Turret Monitor Peter Pig
USS Cairo Casemate River  Ironclad Peter Pig
USS Choctaw Casemate River Ironclad (large) Peter Pig
CSS Tuscaloosa Casemate Ironclad Peter Pig
USS Passaic Turret Monitor Thoroughbred
CSS Albemarle Casemate Ironclad Peter Pig
CSS Neuse Casemate Ironclad Thoroughbred
Armed Tug 1 (either side) Unarmored Steam Boat Bay Area Yards
Armed Tug 2 (either side) Unarmored Steam Boat Bay Area Yards
USS Forest Rose Armored Paddlewheel Steamer Bay Area Yards
CSS Selma Armed Paddlewheel Ram Peter Pig
CSS General Sumpter Armed Paddlewheel Steamer Peter Pig
CSS Planter Paddlewheel Gunboat Peter Pig
Torpedo Boats (either side) Unarmored Launch w/. Torpedo Peter Pig

I plan on getting more of them.  The war was won on the rivers with the humble converted civilian riverboat, not purpose built Casemate or Monitor, and I want more representation of converted civilian stock in my fleet– tinclads, cottonclads, and wooden boats.  I’d also like to get a small fleet of Ellet rams, too.

There are a plethora of miniatures rules for this period. I am partial to HAMMERIN’ IRON (Peter Pig) and BEER AND PRETZELS IRONCLADS (Jodie Press/LMW). If I want to be more detailed, I’ll use Hammerin’ Iron, if I want to run a game at a convention, I’ll go with BAPI.  I’ll post more pictures once I get the masts, flagstaffs, and yes, even some rigging on these models.

15mm Ironclad Models

All models and conversions the work of David Raybin.   Event was run at the recent NASHCON, I believe.  This is a scale that I have purchase models in, and I love naval gaming this big.  It just takes tons of table space and usually is relegated to conventions only.

GAME DAY: Ironclads, Iron Men

Ironclads Elimination Game, NOVAG Game Day, 9/24/2005

I got to the NOVAG Game Day late because of some soccer obligations I had with Garrett. I was given a day pass by my swimbo which I took full advantage of. Most of the NOVAG election stuff had been accomplished by the time I got there, but I time to get into the afternoon segment. Fortunately, my friends Rich Low and Andy Turlington were there, and they were game for some boisterous Ironclads action.

Ironclads, if you are ignorant of that excellent and venerable game, is a game of combat of American Civil War naval craft. The game itself was designed back in the YAQUINTO days, and has since been reprinted once (with heretical side-view counters) by EXCALIBRE games.

The game as published was a boardgame, with top down chits representing ships. Miniatures players realized quickly that Ironclads could be played with Miniature ships, if you had a hex map it was easy, but you can easily extrapolate hexes to inches if you didn’t.

I love this particular historical subject area, personally, and I have played IRONCLADS before and am usually up for a game!

Andy has a giant hex map he had made for him, and Rich has a bunch of exquisitely painted 1/600th scale ironclads he bought off of THOROUGHBRED MINIATURES run by Toby Barrett. Toby’s ships are real beauties to behold, with loads of detail.

We resolved to have a free form battle, just playing until you sank or were captured, and jumping back in when your valiant ship went to Davey Jones’ locker.
I started with the CANONICUS (I think) steaming ahed from one side of the table and Andy took the CSS STONEWALL JACKSON arriving from the other. Two other players jumped in after we got started.

Note, the only ship names I’m even roughly sure of are the STONEWALL and the MANASSASS. Single turret monitors pretty much all look the same to me. So names here are rough guesses from a faulty memory.

The CANONICUS steams towards here destiny at speed 4. The STONEWALL can do a speed 7 and that can be kind of intimidating… but what the heck; he’s wood, I’m iron. We’ll see who sinks first! You can JUST make out the STONEWALL at the edge of this picture.

The CANONICUS tries a few ranging shots on the STONEWALL, just to refamiliarize myself with IRONCLADS which I haven’t played since the 80s. She does surprisingly well, giving the STONEWALL some flotation point hits and knocking out a couple of crew. Note that in this position, I could shot at STONEWALL but she couldn’t fire back… I wasn’t in her gun arc.

Later, I try to maneuver around the STONEWALL for a better shot. Bad idea when he can catch up to me in three hexes extra movement. STONEWALL fires his main pivot gun on me but his gunners must be out of practice.

On to the table steamed the PASSAIC (I think). Not quite as good as the CANONICUS but if he didn’t close with the STONEWALL, he’d be okay.

At this point, the MANASSAS (CSS) also shows up, but she was not doomed to stay in the fight very long. She steamed in my general direction, taking some ranging shots from the rapidly advancing PASSAIC. I manage to get outside the STONEWALL’s cone of fire again, and let fire very close in, at a 3x impact strength point blank shot.

The MANNASSAS takes more punishing fire from the PASSAIC (and me) and I get a couple of hits from her as well, killing some crew and denting armor. Unfortunately for the MANNASSAS, both her and the STONEWALL were committed to a wide turning motion to bring their guns to bear, and the inevitable happened.

The inadvertent ram was devastating to MANASSAS’ depleted crew, and the remaining three sailors jumped for it, leaving her a drifting hulk. HER replacement was the CSS TEXAS (I think).

The TEXAS was a game bird, and chugged out to meet the CANONICUS and the PASSAIC. My ship had been taking some pretty hard pounding from the STONEWALL; so another set of guns trained on me wasn’t exactly a welcome diversion.

CANONICUS was in the thick of things, and eventually the damage and casualties caught up with her. She managed to get in a uncontrollable fire situation, and her crew bails on her. Sniff, she was a noble ship, and a fighter!!!

MY replacement monitor was (*I believe*) the MANHATTAN. Note on the pictures here: the camera did a weird job of numbering these. In some of them the MANHATTAN appears out of numerical sequence before I recall the CANONICUS going down (bear with me here– the narrative is reasonably accurate for my memory, and only a few pictures are out of sequence).

Here, the MANHATTAN charges the TEXAS. Getting behind her, and destroying her rear firing guns. At that point, it was pound, pound, pound, pound, until the TEXAS had a magazine fire on board. She also has the crew bail on her.

At this point, the PASSAIC (still hanging in there), the MANHATTAN, the rapidly disintegrating STONEWALL and the TEXAS are doing a complicated circular dance, trying to get the range and angle on her. TEXAS is about to be finished off. STONEWALL takes one too many crew hits; the MANHATTAN turns her into a “ghost ship” by killing off her entire compliment (Andy Turlington assures me this is the only way the STONEWALL has ever been killed off in his experience running her).

In at the death. The PASSAIC takes some close in shots on the STONEWALL, sheltered by the angle. Alas, the PASSAIC would also succumb to damage and crew death, and she heals over and goes down as well. The PASSAIC put in a good effort, considering she was lightly armored and undergunned compared to the CANONICUS and the MANHATTAN.

So it was the MANHATTAN versus the newest CSS casemate: the ARKANSAS. That Confederate Captain was a game chicken, having lost the MANNASSAS, the !

Having learned from my experience with the CANONICUS, it wouldnt’ do to cruise up close to ARKANSAS’ ship smashers. MANHATTAN had taken some damage doing in the TEXAS and STONEWALL, but was still very much intact. I resolved to swim around the ARKANSAS at a distance, moving as far as possible away and taking ranging shots. A monitor can take advantage of angles far better than any old casemate.

Unfortunately, the Rebs were getting pretty good at guessing my moves! After several turns of circling and firing, the inevitable guess gone wrong, went wrong:

This wasn’t what I had in mind… but such is life in the world of iron plate and red hot shot.

MANHATTAN didn’t have much of a chance, according to the charts. She did have a ram, and she was going full tilt (speed 7) when she struck. Miracle of miracles, I hit ARKANSAS in exactly the right spot to create a critical hit (magazine fire/explosion)! The ARK went up, nearly taking MANHATTAN with it (dice rolls added for emphasis).

It being late in the day at this point, we resolved to call it a battle and shook hands all around, courteously thanking Rich and Andy for throwing the game. I had a hell of a time. The thing about the Ironclad era is that very few of the historic battles featured a ton of ironclads on either side, so much of what we do with ACW naval is fantasy “what if” engagements, and that suits me just fine.

Thanks fellers, let’s do it again sometime.