Tag Archives: Miniatures

Cold Wars 2017, a minor pilgrimage


the Mighty Susquehanna!

The Mighty Susquehanna!!! (we shout this every time)

Hurray!  Once again the sun dawns on a trip to an exotic faraway location where I can play toy soldiers all weekend long.  As happens this time in March, The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society held their annual SPRING convention, namely, Cold Wars, last weekend.  The “exotic faraway location” being, of course, Lancaster PA, a location about as faraway and exotic as day old Wonder bread, but hey, we like it, so there.

Note that Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I celebrated by my standard boycotting of feeling obligated to wear green.  As I’ve said many times, the Irish have given much to America.. so much beyond buffoonery, drunkenness and stuff like this.  I prefer to have a little dignity about a Saint’s Day.

Gar and I had our mutual acts together and the van packed the night before, so we aimed at being on the road at 7:30, with a predictable, actual start of 8:30.  Sigh, that’s entropy for  you.  Journey was uneventful, but longer than usual because THIS time, we stopped for breakfast.

mmmm.. coffee

New Oxford Family Diner.  They made a decent egg white omelette, and the coffee was passable.

Our arrival was 1230ish, even with petal to the metal (legally of course). I really had had ambitions to TRY to get into a Frostgrave event this weekend, it didn’t pan out. I did, however, get a chance to see some splendid Frostgrave scenery for the ongoing tournament in the tournament area.

Click to Enlarge Frostgrave Photos

I also had a notion of getting in an event during the day Friday but that didn’t pan out.. the siren song of the Exhibitor Hall and Flea Market delayed my steps. I was happy to bump into a flea market guy selling bulk 28mm individual figures from a few historical periods– Romans, Gauls, Germans and Vikings, etc. I picked up a bunch of 28mm Vikings (for Viking Looters and SAGA).  I’m not sure what manufacturer this was; I didn’t ask too many questions.  Also, on Friday, I picked up more Copplestone KISS KISS BANG BANG figures for a game I’m designing called SPY RUN.  Wait’ll ya see, wait’ll ya see.

So I wandered around for a bit, talked with friends, and say some great games being run.  Nothing that knocked my socks off, but that’s okay, a lot of people were having a good time.


Homemade ironclad miniatures– using air dried modeling clay!


Now, that’s OLD school.


Big ships, pirates.. yep, Brian Whitaker is around.

Later on we foolishly risked losing our parking spot to go out and get dinner, my son being no great fan of Hall Pig (we were at the ass end of beyond, anyway, and Sherpas ain’t cheap). I have to say, normally, I’m no great fan of chain restaurants in a neighborhood where there are tons upon tons of locally owned and operated family joints, but there was something about a Cracker Barrel, mashed potatoes, roast beef, and coffee, near a fireplace.  It was in such stark contrast to the outside I got positively drowsy.  So I was still in a good mood when I attempted to come BACK to the Host and park.  I’ll be the guy to bring this up; what idiot left the front right parking lot (diagonal from the Lampeter half snowed in for the entire weekend??? The convention lost about 20 parking spots, maybe more, due to there being gigantic drifts piled up from snow removal.  Don’t they use snow blowers in Lancaster?   It was a lousy job of snow removal, and it impacted us.

Might as well bring it up since people who didn’t show up will wonder.  How is the Host these days?   Well, kind of a mixed bag.  I didn’t stay there (more on that miserable experience later) so I can’t comment on the state of the rooms that got rennovated.  The physical plant appears to be operating, but there were still signs of wear all over the place that badly needed fixing and attention.  Basic stuff, like the railing to the handicapped entrance ramp only held up by one post stuck into crumbling concrete.  If someone ever puts their weight on it, they’re in for a nasty fall.  The hotel appeared to be operating normally otherwise– no overflowing toilets, the heating and a/c worked.. the wireless was just an gigantic joke.  I tried periscoping and/or Facebook Live from the show, and it just kept dropping connections.

Conventions at the Lancaster Host.. they are not for sissies.

Live Action Dripcam footage on Instagram


Caesar Vs. Pluck

Once back, I got a spot in Jeff Wasileski’s Caesar Vs. Pluck game.  This is an adaption of Howard Whitehouse’s older Science vs. Pluck for the Roman era.  Yours truly played the Imperial Heir Domitian, younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian.  Jeff’s games call for much playing of roles and skullduggery as a rule.  As I had played Domitian before in 2013, the last time Jeff ran a a game of CVP, I took the role of Domitian again.  This was a great scenario.  Barbarians (The Ruritani and Schwetti?) have taken over a local Imperial city on the coast, and have been despoiling it for a couple of weeks.  Domitian, spoiled brat that he is, yearns for some glory to get out of his older brother’s shadow.  Well, he got some glory in spades, as it were. Like last time, Domitian has been entrusted with military command, and a couple of decent veteran soldiers to make sure he doesn’t mess everything up.  The command is split into land and sea.  Domitian plans to land a naval force, offloading some Romans and wiping out pirate reinforcements, while a veteran legion drives the barbs to the sea.  That was the theory anyway.  Jeff loves games with factions and we played it to the hilt.

Romans on the attack

Pirates getting a lot more than they bargained for

Flaming naptha pirates come to grief.

Landing force seems overwhelmed

Meanwhile the field army was in trouble!

I played Domitian exactly like one SHOULD play Domitian– ambitious, angry, trying to prove himself (he’s very young in this time period). I have to say, the Romans killed like champions in this scenario. I dropped off the landing barges on the beach and went in for the Ram on the nearest Pirate galley with my Liburnian. We didn’t sink it but we did damage it, and then my gladiator cohort boarded it and turned the crew into chutney. Just like that. THEN, the gladiators rowed the ship over to the local hijacked grain ship, thinking they could liberate that too… mistake! The hatches to the hold burst open and 25 pirates swarmed out– the good kind. Against 9 gladiators. The gladiators held a line and marched right at them. Oddly, the pirates took some casualties, broke their morale, and they dove over the side. I mean, ALL of them. And the grain ship was ours. So we rowed back around to the where the galleys were still engaged in with Greek Fire shooting ships. We tried to sink one from a distance but lost patience and rammed the hell out of it, sinking it instantly. With that, the pirate naval forces were gone, decimated.

Gladiators solve problems.

We landed some boat crews and soldiers. They supported the land forces that were expanding a toehold on the beach. And, as soon as the Gladiators supported the flanks, the beach side barb forces were crumbling right and left and running for it. The land side forces initially did NOT do nearly as well, also playing their roles to the hilt and were non-cooperative. The Barb cavalry was pretty vicious, in fact. Eventually, things started to stabilize, and a line was formed.

Romans capture the signal tower on the hill

I feel like if we had played a few more turns, the naval force would have fought all the way to the land force. Everything around the naval force had taken to the hills. Rome clearly had a smashing victory by any measure, especially when a cave of pirate loot was discovered, destined for the coffers of the Roman treasury. THAT’s a victory. Now, I’m not sure I played Domitian exactly how I’d like to think was accurately. Domitian wasn’t exactly a killing machine in real life, but I played it as best I could– petty, backstabbing, and tyrannical. GREAT game, and Jeff and his son Nick won a PELA for it. Well deserved.

I took a ton of pictures of Caesar vs. Pluck.  If you want to see a screenshow, click on the Roman Eagle:

The Wasileskis basking in the glory of their well deserved award.

After we finished there we went to the hotel and finally checked in. Word of warning, do NOT bother with the tiny Red Roof motel on the Host side of Route 30. OMG.. it redefines the term “Spartan”, given that the Spartans enjoyed cold baths, hard sleeping surfaces, and occasionally dealing with angry Persians. This motel is 1 star at best; only because they won’t let you rate it lower. Sigh. It was cheap. Next time I’ll pay more and be able to sleep.

The next day..

Since the Red Roof dump we were staying in deigned not to serve any kind of breakfast, we did Panera, and then went back to the convention.  Even on Saturday, it was a hard slog finding a parking spot, but we managed way out at the end of the expansion lot they built where the Congressional used to be.   I suppose that’s good news (no parking should equal high attendance, usually, but I think you can blame a lot of no parking in this instance on inadequate snow removal).

There were still some great games on Saturday, though I thought the space wasn’t filled up by any means.


7TV Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha

Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha, a setting for 7TV

Once again, I did a run on the dealer’s room since I had a ticket for a 7TV game run by a gentleman named  Keith Frye at 2:00 PM. I’ve wanted to play 7TV for a long time now.  The system is kind of/sort of set up as a roleplaying game of a television show from mythical 60s or 70s spy shows.  So every game will have a kind of ridiculous retro style to it that I find very entertaining.  The mechanics aren’t very complicated… mostly rolling against skill checks, which is really just a way of validating “doing crazy stuff”.  And crazy stuff there was!!!  This was a great crew of players, many of whom I have played with in similarly silly games run by other GMs.  The plot wasn’t hugely complicated.. or was it?  The action took place on a giant petroleum platform called the Fafnir Alpha.  There were spies, corporate troubleshooters, regular shooters, strikers, spies, super criminals, and a giant alien blob creature.  One predictable side got in a predictable gunfight with another predictable side, and while they were hung up with that, I tried (as Archer, yes, that guy) to intercept some kind of briefcase and get off the platform.  Since it seemed clear that I wasn’t going to get to the helicopter in time to do that, I had Lana shoot the pilot dead, which lead to a series of unfortunate and somewhat hilarious results: 1) there was now no way off of the platform for, well, anyone; 2) the briefcase was still on the platform; and 3) the faceless super-villain made a heroic leap for the diving (uncontrolled) helicopter and managed to control it before it hit the drink!  What a great time!

I have a ton of photographs of this game, if you want to see them in a flickr slideshow, go here.

I’m blanking on what we did for dinner, but again, it wasn’t hall pig.  I know I made a quick run to the dealer’s room to get some pre-dreadnought 1:2400 ships from Viking Forge, then got back in time to play SAIL POWER at 8:00


Jolly Jack Tars.. or the Dutch equivalent

Sail Power aka, another excuse to spank Scott Landis

I played this game at FALL IN, and had a great time–  it was a combat-centric game set in the age of sail,in roughly 15mm scale.  The sailing and combat mechanics are a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, perfectly understandable.

This game was very different from the one I played at FALL-IN! Even though I was sailing a giant Indiaman, with tons more cannons than the single gunboat I was sailing in last game, I fired nary a shot. This was ostensibly because the scenario was more nuanced than “just shaddup and try to sink Scott Landis”. Scott was indeed present, but managed to escape justice and hot shot by scampering away and engaging in some chicanery with the Spaniards and local merchants. Next time, next time. I actually enjoyed THIS game more than the last one– my goal, as the Dutch player, was to bring a suitable bribe to the Spanish governor in the fort at the center of the table and have him commit to the ongoing war with the English on our side. The British want the same things, of course, but I got there first, with a large suitcase of bribes (3,000 gold and a chimpanzee). I played the diplomatic thing to the hilt, rendering honors going into a Spanish port, running in the guns when at the dock, etc. Sure, it’s fun to smash your opponents to flinders sometimes, but it’s also fun to bribe Spanish governors in SAIL POWER’s meta game, of sorts. Garrett and I (and Scott Landis) all had a great time.

Yes, I have tons of pictures of this game, too. You can see a slide show here.

It was cool to see Eric G.’s ROAD WARRIOR game on Saturday night, but I was involved in Sail Power and couldn’t play.  The 28mm stuff is very impressive but tends to make for a very crowded and slow race IMO.

Speaking of Garrett, and we weren’t, what was HE doing all this time? Killing big stompy mechs, that’s what. Garrett has become quite a fan of Battletech in the past two years, and he’s not bad at it.

Click on the picture to see his slideshow, and here’s Garrett’s review of Cold Wars 2017:

Cold wars 2017 was a blast, great fun the whole time. My father and I arrived on Friday, I partook in a game of battletech (a favorite of mine), kicked some butts, and took some names. Many fun moments were had that game, such as my mech falling, getting back up only to be knocked over by an enemy who fell over as well. The next day, I played battletech most of the day, the game was pretty eventful, with great plays by everyone involved. The GM(s) running battletech gave out a miniature for every kill you got in the game, in total I received 11 of them. Saturday ended with a game of Sailpower, a large boat game with a fantastic rule set. Sailpower was a great time, the people running it were fun and the game was great,t a nice mix of trading, fighting, exploring, and strategy. Finally on the last day, my dad and I checked out the dealer’s hall and the flea market, we found some cool things we could use for games. Cold wars 2017 was great I had a fun time there playing games and socializing.

Sunday was largely predictable.. nothing in the Flea, no last minute purchase in the dealer’s area, so we saddled up, got some breakfast and then we bolted for lands South.

Homeward Brave Soldiers, homeward! Farewell, Oh Mighty Susquehanna!

Observations and Whatnot: Cold Wars 2017 was a great time for me personally– I played in the kind of games that I love to play in, played enough games to keep me amused but not flat out exhausted, got enough rest and nutrition to not feel like dropping dead on the way home and just generally had a great time. That is not to say that I think CW17 was particularly well attended (I know it’s corny to say “it looked light” but it really did, and that was probably because of the recent snow). The new owners of the Host have (mostly) fixed the roof and I hear hot water was present without renting a rent-a-plant. I can’t vouch for the room redecorating, I stayed in a horrid motel down the road a bit (my one star Yelp review is HERE). I do think there are many features of the ‘rennovated’ hotel that don’t look like they have changed at all. Word is that Lancaster will host all three conventions in 2018, so here we all are back again!

In any event, this was one fun Cold Wars, despite the snow, despite the awful motel, despite a leaky roof.. I had a fantastic time and so did Garrett.

Small Wars: Vikings and Frostgrave


Since I’ve been somewhat hampered in my hobby pursuits by having my house almost destroyed, all my study packed up and the walls demolished, I haven’t had ready access to things that I traditionally spend the Winter on, like painting up miniatures for gaming projects.  I’ll live, of course, but I have a need to bump up my forces on a few nearer term projects, such as running a gaming camp this Summer.  Fortunately, my friend John Montrie, being retired, has been around to provide a brush for hire, and he’s helped bump up my forces when I’ve had to exchange money for time for the past few years.  And thank the Deity for that, too– I don’t think I could have gotten Big Danged Boats or Frostgrave off the ground without his timely assistance.  As he’s off to China for a few months I thought I’d pop up to Rockville and visit, eat some Mexican food and pick up some troops I had him working on.  Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with the results, or I wouldn’t be posting about it!  At Fall IN I had picked up another pack of Frostgrave Soldiers (the standard 28mm semi-medieval Soldiers, 22 figures, plastic, Northstar Games).  I also picked up some newer Frostgrave specialty figures– the Lich and Apprentice, The Crowmaster & Javileneer, and the Elementalist II & Apprentice.  All in pewter, 28mm, Northstar Games.

First off, the Goons.  These are the troops that make up the retainers and followers of the wizard figures in Frostgrave:

I gave John very little guidance.. if he has a fault at all, it’s that he tends to use the same four basic primary colors (red, green, blue, yellow) as uniform highlights. I don’t mind that so much, it allows me to cluster the henchmen in handy groups.  Still, I wanted something different so I asked John to focus on darker colors and purples.  He delivered!

Here are the new major characters in pewter:

Crowmaster and Javelineer

I understand what the Javelineer does.. he tosses Javelins.  What the Crow Master does I’ll have to read up on.  Maybe the Crow flies around like another set of eyes and spies on people.

Beast Crafter and Apprentice

This looks somewhat obvious- the Beast Crafter is some form of shapeshifter that can transform himself  into animal shape.

Elementalist II and Apprentice

This is the second form of the “Elementalist” Wizard from Northstar.  I think I might like the older figures better.. more dynamic.  Eh, what the heck, they’ll make good thieves.

Lich and Apprentice

I don’t know what a Lich is in Frostgrave terms.. I always thought it was the animated dead body of a powerful wizard– and usually appears as a skeleton in wizard regalia.  This looks more like Elric of Melnibone all tarted up or something.. no matter, it’s a cool figure.

That brings me up to 44 Soldiers from two packs, 22 cultists.  With the Dark Ages Vikings and Saxon figures I have painted up for SAGA and Battle Troll, I have something on the order of 120 figures I could use for “Goons” for Frostgrave warbands.  I’m still going to get the barbarian pack(s) and I’ll probably add some variety figures in there too (like a couple of all female warbands, a dwarf warband, a Chinese Warband, and an elven warband), but I have enough soldiers and wizard figures to comfortably run games of 10 players or more– maybe even a dozen.

Viking Looters

Another project I’d like to start running this summer is the venerable VIKING LOOTERS game.  This is a venerable convention game designed by the great Jim Birdseye years ago.  The scenario couldn’t be more simple – you are a Viking and need to get back to the boat first with the most loot (represented by pennies spraypainted gold). Your movement rate is based on the amount of loot you carry. All players start at the same distance from the boat. The fun comes in that each player is dealt several cards. Each card represents an event, usually bad for someone, usually the Viking himself.  The cards cause an opponent to drop pennies, fight battles, become pursued or otherwise delayed from returning to the boat. A turn consists of each player deciding whether or not to play a card on an opponent, or passing (not playing a card). Once all cards in a turn are played (face down on the table), the GM reveals them in an order that makes sense.

Yes, the “screw the opponent” factor is high.  I know I have plenty of fighting Vikings on board– about 44 of them.  However, I don’t yet have enough of regular people doing regular things– like the Saxon villagers, herdsmen, wenches, old women, and various random characters you meet in the game.  I’m still working on the villagers, but found a pack of Old Glory “Revenge” line Viking looters in smaller 28mm.  These are Vikings doing what  you associate with being vikings– raiding, drinking and taking stuff.

Most of these were crafted to have open palms for adding “stuff” to them.. like chickens, weapons, gold and jewelry, etc.

You can see there are some villagers in there– I also have some clergy. I am getting some sheepherders done and I still need some wenches and stock animals. Pretty much standard Dark ages figures.

I plan to run this game at camp.  As you already know, I have a great Viking Ship I built from a kit that I can use for a prop.  Scenery is pretty minimal.  I’ll add in a swamp that surrounds the ship except on the River side, with just one plank leading up to the boat and a big ship guard trying to rob you as you come on board– you can’t make it TOO easy!

Anyway, I love Frostgrave and always wanted to get Viking Looters off the ground, so that’s going to be my new project for the year.

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.

|
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!

Frostgrave Sunday!


We had a short window last Sunday to get in a game of Frostgrave at the Comics and Gaming Store in Fairfax, VA. We were contemplating doing a published scenario, but didn’t have the right figures for it. So we did a free form Frostgrave game, my ad hoc level 4 Chronomancer versus level 5 (not sure.. maybe a Witch)?

I wanted to make the playing field dense. In Frostgrave, it’s far too easy to nail someone from the far side of the table, if there are no intervening terrain pieces to modify the shot (usually arrows). Also, the backstory of Frostgrave is Felstad (which the city this is supposed to be) is described as a dense urban environment, with narrow streets and all sorts of nooks and crannies.

We alternated putting out treasures, as per the rules.  There were four pieces that were relatively close– A, B, C, and D (see above).  E was a “lure” set in the “Orb of Power” which was a spell amplifier of sorts.  I figured I could score A, B and C from my entry point, even with Archers in the far area of the square.  I added a lot of standing terrain bits to break up line of sight.  When I play Subir, I can be certain of a few things; He’ll focus on spells that teleport, telekinesis, leap, or jump away from competitor gangs– or he’ll take option 2 and select spells that block me, like Walls.  One thing that he’ll always do is put a couple of archers up on a second level, where he can enjoy line of sight and pepper away as an annoyance.   He was true to his patterns– this was a night of Leap, Telekinesis, Teleportation and Archers set up high.

Subir’s fantasy sniper team.

I split into two teams, one lead by the Chronomancer and one by his Assistant.  My Chronomancer and his team hit the tower to retrieve Treasure B (above), and easily nailed C, but D was going to be hard to get to unopposed and E almost impossible.  There was also a treasure in the fountain behind the tower (not shown) that I’ll circle around to.

This is the Orb of Power, which is a Games Workshop Numinous Occulum model, repurposed (I have one too).  If the wizard stands in the Orb, he can cast spells with big pluses– think of it as a magic battery pack.  It was closer to Subir’s starting point than mine (point E in the photo above), so I didn’t really think I would get a treasure there, nor could I make use of the Orb.

My two groups moved close to each other and supported each other. Subir was much more spread out. I think he had the better idea.  Being a level 3 guy, I had some good hirelings.. A Man at Arms, two Archers, two Thugs, One Infantryman, one Thief.  A good mix of muscle and smash and grab.

The apprentice easily converged on Treasure C while the Chronomancer took Treasure A in the tower.  There’s another one in the fountain in the background.

he wanted to show off.

Or course, Subir would try a little razzle dazzle.  He telekinesed the treasure from the Orb of Power dome, and then LEAPed this thug (position A) to the second floor balcony where treasure D was.  He got to the treasure first, before my Infantryman could stop him (position B), crowed a little, and LEAPed out.

My Chronomancer basically did what Wizards do in this game.. got under cover, got up high, and got behind an Archer who provided cover.  My accompanying Thug moved the treasure to the map’s edge, as did the extra thug near Treasure C.

We did run the game with a rule I like to use– whenever you pick up a treasure, you roll on the Random Monster table.  This didn’t create a lot of distractions.. well, mostly, until…

No, it’s not Cthulhu. I don’t have a worm figure, and that’s what Subir rolled. Bad luck for him!

As Subir and his gang cowered behind some rubble, I tried something silly. I had placed a WIZARD EYE on the flat side of the wall, near that balcony Treasure D was on. I had STEAL HEALTH which works “In Line of Sight” to a target. So by extending Line of Sight, My Chronomancer was able to steal health from the Worm itself, from across the board. I even had to sacrifice a couple of hit points, to make a spell roll work, and immediately got it back from the demon! Now that’s a hoot! My attempt to intercept treasure D on the way off the board, which caused me to lose my Man at Arms, sadly, pincushioned with arrows.

Well, sadly, an urgent call from home cut our game shorter than I would like, or I would have nailed the treasure in the fountain, too. As happens a lot with Frostgrave, the game tied up 3 treasures to 3 treasures. I don’t collect warbands like Subir does so I didn’t roll for the treasures. I did lose a guy to an Archer attack, but that’s life, warbands are kind of expendable.

A great time, I only wish we could have played longer.

Armada Wave IV arrived at my house.


Background: FFG’s Star Wars ARMADA might be my new easy Starship combat game.  I love X-Wing Miniatures quite a bit, and I don’t regret investing in it.  However, I feel that the many waves that have come out for that game have compromised the tactical feel somewhat.  The ship miniatures keep getting bigger and bigger, and the light single ship fighter feel started getting lost when they started jamming larger, multi-crewed ships in the same tactical system being used for fighters.  That’s not a severe criticism, you can buy the ships  you want and scale X-Wing the way you want it and have a great time with it.  With that said, X-Wing is still (at the heart of it all) a WWI fighter plane game for single cockpit fighters.   The bigger vehicles make it clumsy.  I think it’s appropriate to have a second game system that focuses on big, lumbering platforms– the big ships firing the big guns and launching fighter squadrons (which are tiny clusters of fighters of X-Wing sized fighters) at each other.  That’s the kind of space-fight I like to see, and I haven’t really seen an accessible game at that scale since the old days of Full Thrust or Silent Death.  Sure, I know, there are other options out there (5150 Star Navy comes to mind, I’ve heard good things..) but I haven’t played them, or a game like, in quite a few years.   FFG’s Star Wars Armada is rooted deep in the Star Wars verse, that is true; but it still has the “big fleet” feel, combined with dirt simple mechanics I can teach to kids, and that’s what I’m looking for right now.  The Star Wars element is nice, not for me necessarily, but it does provide sort of a common cultural experience everyone can enjoy.


Yeah, that’s the ticket… THAT’S a space battle!

With all that said, I’ve been getting into the game by jumping into the deep end over the last year.  I’m still learning the nuances.  We ran a much streamlined version of the game at camp this year and I think it’s a winner.  I currently own six Imperial Destroyers, the Imperial fighters that came with the standard game, The Rogues and Villains pack (which are single ships that don’t seem to fit the notion of fleet operations, but you have to jam the Millennium Falcon & Slave 1 in somewhere, I suppose) , Two Rebel fighter squadron packs (plus the ones that come with the base game), two Home One MC80 Star Cruisers, three MC30C Frigates, 2 ea of Nebulon B Frigate and CR90 Corellian Corvettes, two Assault Frigates and one Imperial Assault Carrier pack. I know, this isn’t a balanced collection. I way overbought, but I’ve been finding some great deals from people who are piecing out their games on Ebay.. getting 2 Star Destroyers for 20 bucks, for instance. Unfortunately they didn’t come with the paperwork I need to make it useful for a game, but I didn’t know that going into it.

So with that said, and it was a lot, I pre-ordered the Fourth Wave of Star Wars Armada.  Armada “waves” are smaller than X-Wing miniature “waves”, judging by experience.  So expect maybe two ships a wave.  Fourth Wave is two ships, the Imperial Interdictor and the Rebel Liberty.   I couldn’t get an idea of scale from the ads on Miniatures Market, so I assumed the Interdictor was a giant “Dreadnought” style ship like Vader’s command ship in Empire Strikes Back.  It’s not that at all– more like a variant of the standard Imperial destroyer.  The Liberty is a classic “big gun” Star Cruiser for the Rebel Alliance.

The Imperial Interdictor Expansion

As I said, I thought this was going to be just a giant Star Destroyer at first glance, but it’s actually a variant of the Star Destroyer, albeit a smaller, less armed and armored version.  The Interdictor has one or two special variants on board that turn it into a specialty ship– namely the gravity well projectors.  In essence, what makes the Interdictor not just another Star Destroyer (but weaker) is this card right here (or left here technically).  The Interdictor has an experimental system for messing with the gravity well that ships teleport into and out of in the Star Wars universe, and it has the ability to stop ships cold (speed zero) when deployed.  This is a pretty neat trick.  Now, I just got the package last night, so I can’t tell you how I’d play this thing, but my instincts say don’t overbuy this ship– one will do, protected by another star destroyer close by or a couple of fighter squadrons– this ship would be easier to take out than a standard Star Destroyer.  I could see this being a fun thing to pull on your victims (friends) in a big, multiplayer game.   In a two player game it might be a little obvious.  The Interdictor is a quirky specialty ship, and I’m glad I got one– but only one.

The MC80 Liberty Star Cruiser Expansion

The MC80 Liberty type Star Cruiser appears to be exactly what I was expecting– a giant honking capital ship for the Rebels, with lots and lots of hitting power, decent expansion cards and great defense. Accordingly, a high point cost as well. The Liberty ship class is designed for striking power (forward) instead of broadside, like the Home One. It is less armed and armored on the sides and will need to keep its face to the enemy, so to speak. Liberty comes with a ton of great upgrade cards as well, which will add to flexibility and features of this hull. Again, this showed up last night when I got home– so I haven’t even taken it out of the box yet. My instinct would be to use this to lead an assault into a line of destroyers with some MC30C frigates or Nebulon B frigates in tow to keep the return fire un-concentrated. Like the Interdictor, I’m glad I just have one of these.. the Victory is less specialized than the Interdictor but it’s so powerful in a forward rush that it’s kind of overwhelming. Of course the proof is in playing it.

Verdict

Wave IV has a couple of great ships in it, but not anything you would want mass quantities of either way. I’m still really digging Armada and have high hopes of continuing with it. I would like to see a decent update on how to play the game with multiple players, and new ship hulls that aren’t necessarily fighters or giant ships. If the next releases are all mid sized (about the size of an Imperial assault carrier in size) that would be fine with me.

Looking Forward

There’s a bunch of stuff that is either forthcoming, or I haven’t picked up for some reason.  The Rebel Transports look okay, but they will probably be the last thing I pick up– the scale is a little small to make them effective in a fleet game (but then again, I bought Rogues and Villains, so you never know).  I am interested in getting at least one Gladiator class destroyer.
The upcoming Wave 5 has some nice ships– I like the Phoenix Home and Imperial Light Cruiser.

Game Camp 2016 Finale: Frostgrave Friday



A conclave of all the Frostgrave Wizards I have right now.  Click to enlarge

The final Friday dawned for Game Camp 2016 this morning. My plan was to run Frostgrave in the early hours, and have an ice cream party. It did not work out that way. Even though I had a decent setup, it took far longer than I had in mind. This was even after I stayed up late building Frostgrave bands for my Wizard figures using the online tool, and saving the sheets out as PDFs.

The Terrain was a bit thin in places, but it looked good.

Thanks to my Cigar Box Battlemat and some nice pieces I’ve either built or picked up here and there on Ebay or Flea markets, I had enough to (loosely) fill out my table. I supplemented with some cheap Styrofoam grey hills.. nothing to look at but they do look the part and are suitably matching with the city.

The centerpiece was a Great Hall piece that I picked up at Historicon 2016 from Stonehouse Miniatures.  They were very nice about sending a display model (already painted) when my order was delayed.


You’re attacking ME? Oh yes, it’s ON!!

Sadly, it took so long to get people set up with magic spells, etc. that it really cut into playing time. The kids liked it, but the lesson I learned was set up the bands the night before, but ALSO give them a set of spells to work with along with that.. don’t waste time with any character creation stuff, even if I think personally that’s the funnest bit of Frostgrave as a game. The kids won’t be playing Frostgrave next week; I might, and I’ve played it it a lot. What I consider fun isn’t the same as how they see it– so I’ll just move the game directly into the looting and fighting next time I run it. Verdict: this will be my Tuesday game next year.

As is also customary we did our end of camp ice cream party, and the kids briskly destroyed 2.5 cartons of Neapolitan ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate sauce. As is also custom, I polled the gamers about what they liked and didn’t like. Results were:

  • Star Wars Armada: Like it, could be great, would play it again– learning it the rules slowed it down
  • Battletech: Didn’t like, found it too complicated and too slow. Fair points, we’ll work on it.
  • Big Danged Boats: Universally enjoyed and enthusiastically voted for a return enagement.
  • Frostgrave: Everyone liked, probably second favorite, wished we had more time to play.

I need to put a bigger effort into teaching painting correctly.  I wish I was good enough as a painter to feel smart enough to teach methods.  I’m not ham-fisted at it but I’m not anything more than workmanlike either.  I know my limitations.  It would be great to add to the program.  I ran out Tuesday evening and bought a few boxes of plastics for the kids to paint up but I kept the painting table more contained this year. Mostly this was to avoid wastage– in the past I’ve bought (or have had donations for) lots of miniatures that got assembled poorly and covered with gobs of paint and glue, then I end up tossing this gooey mess of glue, broken bits and paint-stained tarps out on Friday. I think this can be solved with a couple of days dedicated to teaching, with a shorter game in the afternoon.

I’m not sure what we’ll run next year, but BDB certainly still has legs, and I suspect Armada and Frostgrave will return too. The other days? Eh, we’ll work on something. I like presenting one new game (at least) every camp, so we’ll see what opportunities present themselves.

Thanks again to the FANTASTIC people at St. Stephens and St. Agnes School (lower campus) who bent over backwards to help me, thanks to the parents of the campers, and a big thank you to HMGS for sponsoring our camp!

and from me, too!

Gaming Camp Day 4: BDB and the Great Gnomish Civil War!!


So THURSDAY was an entire day full of Big Dang Boat goodness.  We knew going into it that BDB wasn’t exactly going to play lightning fast, but the game is so silly and rife for story telling the kids got into the journey, not necessarily “winning” anything.  I tried out a new initiative method that made a turn far more easy to wrap one’s head around than before, and we fine-tuned that.  The Campers really seem to have enjoyed themselves during this game.

Thursday also had two of our regular players out, so it played faster than the day before.  I played the Gnomes of Batenburg (running the Siege Machine) as Reid (our guest from the previous day who couldn’t come two days in a row).   I played The Bone Brigade defensively according to the player’s wishes.


Stefan plays the Ragnar Brothers here and he did a great job… landing on an island, assaulting the base there, wiping it out and looting the tower. It turns out the tower held the ORB OF COMMAND in the basement, but he didnt’ know what to do with it.. yet.


The Cult of F’Vah (driving the Foot of the Dead God) pulled up and (being allies with the Ragnars) volunteered one of their steersman-mages to research the Orb for the Ragnars. It took a while but he got the gist of what it was, how to use it and what it would do next.


The Garden Gnome “Hippies” took on the Industrial Gnomes of Batenburg. They were confused as to what to do, and being lead by a young man, decided to attack instead of negotiate. That works. Unfortunately it depleted both crews quite a bit. He did have Gnogres to fall back upon, however, and after consulting the Red Bag of Courage, boarded the Siege Machine with his blood-mad crew, ready to conquer or die trying


Visiting the Red Bag of Courage, to test whether one has the nerve to board an enemy ship during an action.. Will he draw “Blood Tested!” and get a +1? Or “Quaking in Fear” for a big minus? Or just get a “Flee” result? Who knows? It truly is in the hands of Dame Fortuna.


I tried to instill into Michael, the young man running the Little People Collective/Garden Gnome soldiers that his actions would start a civil War in the nations of Gnome-hood, but he wasn’t impressed.


Lastly, the Rat-men of Ingoldsby had a chance to be unlikely heroes yesterday! They moved the PRIMUS into ramming range and rigged a spar torpedo forward. Then they steamed full speed at the door with a charge attock a pole. Worked like a charm, blowing the left door off the hinges. Out jumped the Wizard’s Slithin bodyguard, ready to kill. Here’s the thing, when you purchase 30 slingers from the gnomes, you have the quality of quantity going for you. It was like firing buckshot. Eventually the enraged ratmen’s mercenaries fought their way into the base do the tower, climbing over a mountain of Slithin and Human dead. They moved into the hall of the tower expecting to find the Orb of Command, and found.. nothing. It had been in Piper’s Fort all along. Now one of the most fearsome battle weapons was in the hands of Ulf Ragnar of the Ragnar brothers, being backed up by the F’vaavian Cultists. What could possibly happen next?

So we ended it there and packed up BDB, and I gave out some shining moment coins for particularly great play. We handed the victory to the small coalition of Taylor, Stephen and Cedric, who didn’t mess around and acted like true allies. The Stahlheim and Sea Elves (run by Taylor) ran interference vs. the tower, The Ragnar Brothers raided the island that kept the Orb and slaughtered everyone (like one does) and the Cultists of F’Vaah deciphered the Orb’s Power and taught Ulf Ragnar how to use it. A great day of silly nautical fun!

Hail to the victors.. until the next time!

GC2016 Slideshow: HERE

 

Summer Gaming Camp, 2016 Day Two


Our second day started with people wanting to play GOOD COP, BAD COP, which is kind of deduction/bluffing game not too far removed from WEREWOLF but very different mechanics. The players are playing either rogue cops that are working for a criminal mastermind or good cops trying to deduce the bad guy. Instead of Werewolf’s eye-closing routine they use tokens and cards to indicate states of presumed innocence. It’s an interesting take on a similar theme.

The big event of the day was Battletech, Gar’s favorite game, and he ran that while I started prepping for Big Danged Boats, running Wednesday and Thursday. Garrett like Battletech and I suggested we add it to the programme this year and see if it works. We purchased a Catalyst Introductory set and got the figures painted. Terrain was somewhat abstracted, one of my old hex maps and some Heroscape terrain hexes to make hills. I thought it looked great.

Summary: Battletech is a game that Garrett likes a lot, but it’s a little too “Charty” for the kids in game camp. They thought it was a little complicated, though they were game to give it a go. They liked Armada more (so far). We broke for lunch and to play some dodgeball and Room 25. There also was a big interest in painting figures, so I did my best to facilitate and make everyone aware of their options.

So a day of Painting, Battletech, Dodgeball, Room 25 and Good Cop, Bad cop. Fun Times!

Summer Gaming Camp, 2016 Day One


Well, it’s that time of year again, when a mild mannered middle aged functionary takes a week off from his daily scheming to run a camp for kids at the St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, Alexandria, VA. I’ve been doing this for about a decade now, and I have to say I look forward to it almost as much as the kids, if not more. For starters, we had a real challenge being down on the lower campus, as we were in the very lower back of the school, making it difficult to load and unload boxes and such for our day’s work. The space itself, however, rocks. It’s a small gymnasium built for lower school Physical Instruction, so it’s not us reusing a teacher’s classroom, something I’ve always been sensitive about– I’m married to a teacher and I’m sure she wouldn’t care for a pack of hooligans messing with her stuff. :=)

So aside from the A/C problems (e.g. muggy and sticky) and the parking (non-existent) and the distance to hump gear (long) we were running Star Wars Armada for our first day. Now, I really do enjoy their X-Wing Miniatures game, and I really liked the big-ship version too. In fact, I probably liked it better– this is how I picture big spaceship battles.

We played a Heavy Imperial Fleet Patrol (4 Destroyers, fighter escort) bumping into reinforced Rebel Squadron with One MC80 Star Cruiser (Home one), One Mc30C Scout Frigate, one Assault Frigate Mk IIA, and two large fighter squadron escorts, mixed A Wing, B Wing, Y Wing and X Wing. I’m not sure how you (officially) run a multiplayer game in Armada, so I used the Turn Order flight stand tokens from X-wing, which I have plenty of.


Startup positions.. Empire


Startup positions.. Rebellion


And we’re off, Playing STAR WARS ARMADA (Fantasy Flight Games)


my tiny rebel fighter squadrons take on 3 Imperial Star destroyers. Sure, we got converted into Space Plasma, but sometimes it’s the journey, not the destination.


The Rebs did surprisingly well, considering


Home One (Admiral Akbar’s ship) and the Daisy (the Assault Frigate) flanked left and I caused a distraction by flying my fighter squadron up the center, into 3 Destroyers in line. Yeah, live fast, die young, leave atomized goo for a corpse.

The game moved slow in the beginning as we all sort of figured it out. I’m new to Armada, I’m CERTAIN I did a lot of things wrong and compromised on more. In my defense, I think the rules are rather shoddily written. I had a decent idea of how ships move, and shoot, and defend themselves, and what all the dice kinda sorta mean in what situations, but really, there were niggling little situations that cropped up all day that aren’t SPECIFICALLY called out in the rules, or were easy to exrapolate, so I house-ruled it right and left, as one does.


Stretch break selfies.. we played a dodge ball variant.. best idea ever.

In general, we really enjoyed this one– a first for this camp, though we have ran X-Wing Miniatures in the past. I’m glad FFG continues to support it, but man, like all FFG games, it’s a bit token heavy, the rules need some ‘splaining and there is just a mega ton of setup for what is a simple game, after all.

Astonishingly, the Rebellion, who always seems undergunned, put in a great show for itself.  I tagged along to help out, and shot down the middle with my fighters to take on Star Destroyers.  They got all distracted and turning every which way, which allowed the Home 1 and the Daisy to flank to the left and really punish them.  They lost their TIE fighters pretty early (like the Empire does) but there’s more where that came from, eh?  Our fighters were very aggresive, but so was the Empire.  By end of battle, the Rebellion large ships hadn’t taken that much damage but the fighters were almost all killed off.  Whereas two Imperial Star Destroyer had lost all shields in a single zone and was taking hull damage.   I gave it to the Rebels, at game end.. who knows what would have happened a few turns later, the Empire still had hitting power.

Fortunately, my son Garrett is assisting as counselor this year, and regaled the kids in the down time with a game of ROOM 25, which I really like for camp.. it’s fast, with lots of backstabbing (if you play it right) and a nice SF patina.

So, a good first day. Tomorrow, it’s Garrett’s turn. He will run Battletech, while I do some clean up on Big Danged boats and get it ready for Wednesday.

B-Tech is already set up, we will hit the ground running. I will also be bringing stuff for people to paint tomorrow.

A great day!

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight: HISTORICON 2016 AAR


HISTORICON 2016: Fredericksburg Convention Center, 13-17 July 2016

Before we begin: Well, I didn’t think I’d have to write a disclaimer since back in the days of a, erm, certain potentially litigious former board member, but it might be a good idea to state this up front. The author of this blog is Walt O’Hara. I am not on the board of HMGS and never have been. I have served HMGS as an unpaid volunteer for several years — from the mid 90s, in point of fact. During that time, I have done most jobs you can possibly do on staff, some indifferently well, some I wouldn’t touch again with a ten foot pole. I have known “the HMGS skinny” in the past, from time to time, maybe, but now is not that time. I generally have a high opinion of the board, they are working in an underappreciated position with high expectations for no pay– which is was true “back in the day” and is true now. I know both Pauls, Mike, Kevin, and Scott  by working on the same shows with them, several times (mostly– Mike and Paul D are locals and I see them now and again at Eagle and Empire). I don’t know John and Dave that well, but I have played in games they have run in the past (in Dave’s case, it was a Russian Civil War game, and it kicked butt. In John’s I think it was some Trench warfare thing with Belgians!). I do not, however, really ‘hang out’ with anyone on the BoD and I am not “in the know” by any sane definition of the term. I do take a very dim view of people who castigate a Board of Directors for being “corrupt”, “venal”, “lazy” or “criminal” simply because they chose to perform a thankless job most of us (including ME) won’t take the time or bother to do, though we all seem to have the time to complain about them.  I also take a dim view of people that condemn BOD members that make decisions that are marginally inconvenient for them, personally.  That’s just stupid, lazy logic. So with that said, I am going to warn you up front. I’m going to voice an opinion about HMGS business in this post. It’s just an opinion. Everyone has one and mine is as good or as bad as anybody’s.  So if reading opinions bores you, skip over the yellow part.  Fair warning.  There, we’re done with that. On to the fun stuff.

Convention Director Delaney addresses the troops and introducing “Will Call”

Gar and I drove down to Fredericksburg in a vehicle we affectionately call “Granny’s Sh*tbox”- an old Ford minivan she bought used back in the 90s.  It’s dull blue oxidized paint, but her previous “honest” mechanic conned her into buying a new engine and we feel honor bound to drive this revitalized crapwagon into the ground. On the plus side, it has that snazzy early era Air Conditioning, which is bonus for July in VA.  I was actually shivering.  It also has a unique automobile superpower– it’s got to be the most anonymous looking vehicle ever created.  I couldn’t remember where I parked it, constantly.

Everyone has to show for the staff meeting but that leaves the convention way overstaffed the first night, with volunteers stumbling over each other in an attempt to be helpful. I’ve worked events these last few years, but will do whatever. I like the event desk– you really are helping people do exactly what they came to the convention to do, that is play games. Seeing that we were underemployed, Brenda suggested we set up the events board that evening, and so we did.


The events desk– crazy and non stop until about 11 AM most days, then again when they put out the evening tickets.

Events is good gig, sure, it looks like all we do is hand out tickets, but we’re empowered to help people do a lot of things.. like move tables, run new events, cancel events, finding new tables, etc.  Essentially it’s the old “GM Help desk” concept folded into the events board.  I like the job because it’s really the last step to getting people into the reason they came to a convention: playing games.  Don’t ask me to comment on the registration system.  I haven’t used it yet, I can’t compare it to the last one (which I had used and  I didn’t hold in high regard).  If it has a high learning curve, I can’t comment on it.  If one person uses it slower than another, try not to complain too much.  Some people learn things faster than others.  Besides, it relies on wireless, and every venue we’re in these days has problems catching up to the 21st century in that regard.


You never know who’ll show up to these things.

Gar and I closed the events table for the night, and there not being a lot of games going on, eventually hit the sack.

Thursday was the first “public” day of the convention.  Many of the tickets for Thursday had gone out the night before and it was slim pickings that morning.  I felt pretty bad for not getting my act together in time to run an event for this convention.   For one thing, it would have sold out, easily.  For another, it feels like there just isn’t enough events being run for the space.. we could easily add 100 more to the schedule, though I wince a the noise problem that might cause.  It’s not like we didn’t start the con with a low number of events– we had 506 by my count, and that’s from the data that the events coordinator sent me for guidebook so it’s fairly accurate.  We only had about 7 cancellations and none for any shady reasons that I could detect, like getting a free GM badge.  Speaking of events, and as this is one of those topics that everyone weighs in on with their opinion, here are the ACTUAL NUMBERS OF EVENTS IN THE SCHEDULE BY CATEGORY.  As you can see here clearly, historical events outnumber non-historical events far and away, again.

(quick note on methodology, I used the database from events, sorted by category in Excel, did a COUNTA function on the categories, then totaled the resulting subtotals.  These are the categories HMGS uses in our program books and to schedule games, not mine.  I counted borderline subjects such as “Pulp” as non-historical, but Westerns and Pirates as historical, so you can juggle numbers if that doesn’t fit your particular prejudices) (edit: yeah, I  know.  I screwed up the count above and “Colonial” is in twice, but it only a matter of maybe 10 events total, if that.  I’ll fix)

A lot of people get a lot of mileage out of saying the Society is going to the dogs for running non-historical games at our conventions– that we are somehow “losing our brand” for doing so.  The actual numbers tell a very different story.

Wednesday night sightings:

Setup, not running

 Setup, not running

Thursday was incredibly busy.  This is the morning most of the weekend visitors arrive and the parking lot out front jammed up pretty fast.  Most people want registration over and done with as smoothly and painlessly as possible.  This year, to whittle down the lines, HMGS introduced “Will Call”.. essentially using your smart phone to bring up the website in line and printing badge labels directly- so you could enter with a credit card while standing at the back of the line and then cut over to Pre-Reg and find your badge made, just like a pre-reg person.  I’d like to get feedback on if it worked or how it worked, but that’s how it was described it would work.  If we go full bore on Will Call ticketing.. my only question is, why do we shut down per-registration so early, then?  This is essentially the same thing, but the day of the show, isn’t it?

Thursday Sightings

Hey, if working registration was EASY, anyone could do it!

Dinner was with Gar at BONCHON chicken Fredericksburg, and it is quite a meal.  Bonchon is a Korean style of cooking chicken with amazing results.  See below:

Portions are HUGE. We had to bring back leftovers.

Meanwhile, back at the convention, I was getting into my first official game of the convention:

Jutland – Day of the Dreadnaughts; GM: Brian Dewitt; World War I; When Dreadnaughts Ruled the Seas. The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet showdown fought in misty North Seas conditions on May 31, 1916. The battle opened with the six British Battlecruisers chasing five German Battlecruisers. The German Dreadnoughts are out numbered but the battle is very even with both sides claiming victory.

I took many pictures of this game which took some time to unfold.  Posting them to this post would be tedious, but you can go HERE to see the slideshow.

Brian DeWitt is a local boy from Northern VA, and I’ve played his naval games many times, including these rules, When Dreadnoughts Ruled the Seas.  They are reasonably comprehensive, not “Fear God and Dread Nought” (Clash of Arms) by any means, but they play fast for all of that.  Instead of measuring THIS armor thickness versus THAT gun caliber, the rules generalize a certain threshold of firepower into categories (about 14″ or higher if I’m remembering it right).  This makes figuring out the firing sequence fast and simple.  For the JUTLAND scenario we were under some constraints that really changed the rules substantially, making the game more about hidden movement and random initial placement.  Essentially both the Germans and the English have ships on the map at start, but they are all represented as tokens with arrows on them, indicating what direction it is moving.  Both sides have many dummy counters.  As the tokens move and come within spotting distance of each other, the ships appear on the water, sometimes (as happened to us) extremely close to the Grand Fleet!    I was an honorary Briton for this game and led two squadrons led by the Iron Duke and the Benbow.

Things didn’t go swimmingly for the British from the first moment. There were six flying squadrons coming in from the Northwest (including mine) that only fired an odd angry shot at the end of the game. British gunfire was just okay, we piled on the drubbing but it wasn’t good enough to sink much of the German capital ships, though we did nail some destroyers and lighter cruisers. In return, the Germans plastered the Germans into next week. Every roll, it seemed, got a critical hit somewhere on the deck near the ammo bunkers of an English ship, and then Bang, Zing! another dead modern ship killed by an aging German tub. Life seemed stacked against the Grand fleet that day.

I took a lot of pano pictures as well, they are also in the SLIDESHOW. Click on the picture below to see the dispositions when Brian called the game. It’s a large (wide) picture and you’ll have to scroll to see all the enemy..

Click to see larger button, enemy distribution.  It will blow up to original size (and it’s a large picture).

Thursday ended with a resounding defeat for the Royal Navy, which I blame on our inability to get our line in decent shape fast enough to pound the Germans, and also terrible dice rolling.  The Germans must have rolled the “Deck Critical Hit” result 4 times.  Maybe 5.  The game ended.. even though we lost, I greatly enjoyed the chaotic nature of the Jutland game, especially the hidden/semi-hidden setup, which made for some real surprises.

Did I mention I got the historical Admiral Jellicoe killed?  Yeah, he was on the Iron Duke… sigh.

Ruefully, I had the first beer offered, which as “My Imaginary Girlfriend IPA”.. and it was tastier than the ashes of defeat.

Thursday was a busy day and night for gaming.  There was a lot of action in the side rooms, which hosted discrete gaming groups that submitted blocks of gaming events– there were games from NOVAG, HAWKS, a group of individuals that play Battletech (which my son is somewhat addicted to), a group of people who play Colonial era games, and some local gaming groups I couldn’t identify.  I like the side rooms, you can hear better and they really put on a show.

I found a HUGE Roman gaming on in one of the side rooms during Jutland:


I’m really enjoying the Panning option in digital photography. I wouldn’t recommend it for every setup of course, but it’s a handy method of capturing those really huge setups like this one. (Click on picture above to see Pano).


Garrett’s current fixation, Battletech.

So Thursday ended with Garrett and I in defeat, him in Battletech, me at Jutland. So it goes. Friday, a new day dawns and this is where we have our greatest influx of walkins, by my estimation. We reported to our shift early and were in a steady state of demand until 1 PMish. Not to polish my own apple any, but I found that the Guidebook app I built for Historicon is incredibly handy for solving problems at the events desk.

“I don’t know where this event is”
“okay, tell me something about it”
“It had Rommel in the title” (Walt brings up SEARCH, types in Rommel…)
“Starts when?”
“3 PM”
“FOUND IT! that’s table EA09. Starts in 20 minutes.”
“Great! Um, where’s that?” (Walt brings up room layout maps, finds EA, points out table)
“THERE.. right through those doors, about 30 feet up on the left.”
“Wow, great! Thanks! How did you do that, are you in league with Satan?”
“No Worries, mate.. I use… GUIDEBOOK!

Okay, maybe a little embellished but you get the point. It was faster than taking the guy there and faster than looking it up in paper books.

After my Friday shift, I went directly into:
Reds vs Whites: Retreat to the Crimea!; GM: Jared Fishman; Inter-War; FOB2 Modified. Deniken’s 1919 push on Moscow has failed. With Baron von Wrangel in charge now, the White forces are in full blown retreat towards the Crimea. In this battle, a desperate White rearguard, entrenched along a rail line, attempts to hold off combat ready Red troops who are beginning to shine on the battlefield. 15mm, lots of variety (tachankas, armored cars, White officer battalions), using modified Field of Battle 2 Rules. Can the Whites hold back the Red tide? Experience with FOB is helpful!

This was a great game. I have zero experience with Piquet, which I am assuming this “FoB system” is built upon. However, once I got the hang of it, it was pretty great. The card system isn’t just a “Sword and the Flame” like means of activation, it has a larger role– creating and managing the chaos factor on a battlefield. I really enjoyed the cerebral aspect of planning how to advance my forces using the card system. Mr. Fishman, the GM, was both patient and enthusiastic, and knew his period well.


My left flank command, mostly cavalry, veteran to crack troops, two armored cars and two tachankas. I lost the use of both fairly early.

I took a lot of risks in that game.. you never know what your opponent might draw, and most assuredly it won’t be good for you. Since I was cavalry I knew I had to react aggressively for the left flank to accomplish anything. I lost my tachankas early and my A/Cs were “silenced”.. I never drew the card combination to get them from being in a buttoned down state again. Still had men with horses, though, and I drove up the left side, supporting an infantry attack to my right. The cavalry were the glory boys that day, routing the enemy’s entire right flank thoroughly, and taking out most of his artillery. The game ended when it did, and it was kind of a draw.. we had done some damage to the enemy’s line that he had to react to, but he wasn’t dislodged in the center and our right flank didn’t accomplish much of anything. So it goes. We might have accomplished more in a few more turns, sweeping right and driving in from the enemy right flank, trying to roll him up his line, but we ran out of time. Great game!

There were a lot of rumors flying around the convention about the convention moving.. Many, many people came up to me for an opinion or comment on the issue, and I admitted I knew nothing about it.  Read the disclaimer above.   I don’t travel with the hip crowd.  I was told that tonight’s membership meeting would be important, so after going and discovering the tasty treat that was COOKOUT FREDERICKSBURG (I could write a whole post on how great that place is), we sat in the meeting.  Not that there were many seats, it was well attended.  Scott Landis presented the convention relocation reports, and he did a good job with the analysis.  The familiar scattershot diagram was presented.  Cost of tables, and Room rates were discussed.  The conclusion was that Historicon operates close to the margin.  Okay, we got that.  Then we went over some of the other options and his (Scott’s) Stoplight chart for ranking them.  Some options were brought up in the Pocanos and New Jersey.  I didn’t care for either one of them, but the undercurrent of the conversation was that they seemed to want to move Historicon for the reasons that “it was too much like the other conventions, nothing stands out any more” “it costs too much to run H’con in Fredericksburg”.

Okay, back to the opinion part, and it’s JUST MY OPINION, not that of the BOD, HMGS or any other body.  I think the hue and cry to move Historicon (of all conventions you could move) is ridiculous.  Sure there are many issues with the Fredericksburg site, there will always be issues with sites– this place is Nirvana compared to the Host.  Is there something wrong with the idea that we could have a geographic spacing of conventions in a North, Middle and South arrangement?  Who CARES about the concept of “Flagship” conventions, anyway.. if that’s your issue, make Fall-IN! the Flagship, it’s doing relatively well these days.  I personally believe this move is a response to people who find Fredericksburg inconvenient for them personally, because they got used to driving 45 minutes from PA or NJ to get to the cons when ALL of them were in one state.  As was emphasized time and time again, when you move a convention, attendance drops off.  So why move H’con? Doesn’t that sound stupid to anyone?  Buehler? Buehler?    Yes, I admit that the margins are tighter on the Fredericksburg location, but isn’t the proper response to that to GROW THE CONVENTION IN PLACE, instead of retreating all the time?  Everywhere I looked at the convention, there were signs we had a lot of people.  I couldn’t get a parking spot to save my life on Saturday.  The games were great, people had a good time– but almost all games were full up.  We’ve had conventions that were tight on the budget before– Fall IN! at Gettysburg comes to mind, immediately.  Yet, we kept them in place in the hopes they would grow, as Fall IN! DID grow.  I find the analysis competent (good job, Scott, I’m serious), but I disagree that the conclusion is “We must move a convention now”.  I found the room rates discussion of the Jersey location alarming.. it appears we’re getting into another Baltimore situation,with very very expensive hotels, and middle aged or older attendees with fixed incomes who chose not to bother to show up.  I know I’d have to put a lot of thought into a convention that cost me a thousand bucks in hotel before I stepped one foot into the dealer area.  Only, unlike Baltimore, I couldn’t manage a day trip visit to New Jersey.  I’m not that unique– I think tons of potential Southern guests that attend can manage the same kind of math.  Frankly we’re looking at the wrong problem here.. aren’t Fall-IN! and Cold Wars the big risks here?  It truly remains to be seen whether or not the Host can be rebuilt to code or not.  So I have to ask, isn’t that where the Relocation committee should be focusing right now?  We have two very fragile eggs in that basket, and all it could take is one more burst pipe to break them.  I’ve spoken with the FI convention manager, who is up next, and he remains confident that the new owners will spend the necessary monies to get the place fixed up.  I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but one thing’s for certain, the Host will go up in price as well.   Betting future convention success on the well being of the Lancaster Host hotel is starting to sound like a fool’s bet… and I used to be a big proponent of the place back in the MOVE HISTORICON NOW era.  Remember that?  It took a lot of fail for me to get here. Moving Historicon also seems like a bad move.  We’re ensuring a large attendance drop (according to Scott Landis, about 200 attendees, more or less).  To cut the throat of convention that might not be doing spectacularly, but at least is doing steady state (and perhaps improving) just seems .. stupid to me.  In one stroke of the pen we will lose ground we’ve made with attendees from farther South.  I was speaking with two rather pleasant gentlemen from Tennessee volunteering with me (walk in volunteers btw), and I asked them if they would go to the convention if it moved up to New Jersey or Northern PA.  “Nope, can’t afford it”, was the honest answer.  Rather than try to serve the center mass of the attendance diagram so a smaller PA-NJ-VA-MD set of people can got to three conventions in PA, why not forge ahead with the locating one in the North (NJ/NY), one in the Middle (PA) and one in the South (VA)?  We’ll at least pick up outlyers from other regions that way as well as a lot of (but not ALL of) our core attendees.  We have to understand that not all dealers will be happy with that idea and some stalwarts will not be at every convention– which is pretty much where we are at today.

Well, that’s my .02, worth what you paid for it.  I rarely speak about HMGS policies on this blog any more, because it’s not worth the effort– I’d rather spend my time commenting on the positive.  This will be an exception.  To sum up: 1) Moving Historicon bad (losing 200 attendees immediately and attendees from South and Southwest of VA), 2) Moving Cold Wars and/or Fall IN! farther North good (don’t put our eggs in one basket).  3) Geographic Attendee spread farther North and South good4) Astronomical room night rates bad.                               Rant OFF.

So our good friend Ed Watts was also experiencing his birthday at the convention and both Gar and I were invited to the tiny con-within-a-con that was his birthday party.  There was cake and candles and soda and Sword in the Flame and Western Skirmish gaming.

This was such a good time.. old friends (I despair to say how old) coming together for nosh and good times.  I was sort of the British commander for Ed’s Sword and the Flame game, which appeared a little hopeless at first but things were changing up by the time we had to end (early).  For more pictures, go HERE for the slideshow.

Saturday dragged a bit in the morning at events but was brisk at reception.  The parking lot was jammed to the gills.  We were on until 5 oclock but really didn’t have to work too hard after 1PM.  We broke down events at the end and just laid out the tickets.  Saturday night was fantastic.. I got a ticket for Steve Braun’s Tekumel game:

On the Seas of Tekumel; GM: Steve Braun; Fantasy; Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when  the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel. This is one of the five gamaes on the HAWKS Tekumel track.

I didn’t realize the HAWKS even had a “Tekumel track” but that certainly is intriguing.  For those of you not in the know, Tekumel is a reference to an ancient, dense roleplaying & combat system called “Empire of the Petal Throne”, set in a fantastic setting 60, 000 years in the future when mankind has colonized other worlds, in particular the setting for this game, Tekumel, a somewhat tropical planet that is host to not only human colonists but several intelligent and bellicose alien species vying for control.  Steve Braun’s game imagined that the races of Tekumel would carry their conflicts onto the ocean with them, and he spent a lot of time building up boats and weird watercraft fitted to the alien races.  I got to play the Hluss, which are kind of insect like, kind of reptilian. Best of all, my faction had an organic submersible of sorts.  This led to all kinds of hilarity when we surfaced underneath the frog-like Hlutgru’s spiffy new war canoe!


Now that’s non-stop hilarity. The Hlutgru player had another opinion, of course.

I loved the game, loved the rules.. and if they are going to be running this at Barrage I need to make a point to come to that event. I love naval games and remember having a lot of fun with this material when I was all of 17 years old. It’s heartening to see that the Petal Throne is staying alive through the volunteer efforts of lots of dedicated people. For more pictures of this event, see the slide show HERE.

I was in no more events for the weekend, I reckon I had my fill. Let’s see, lots of historicals (see the analysis up top). I only played in one “fantasy” game and I could hardly resist. There were no standout extravaganza games anywhere at this convention that I could see, but plenty of excellent work by dedicated gamemasters. I loved the games I played in. Shopping wise I didn’t get a ton of stuff but I did put down some serious support for vendors (first) and flea market (second). Got some frostgrave stuff for camp, got a new maori war canoe, go some bulk pewter for Iron Wind Metal (mostly treasure chest tokens). I did not start a new period “just because”. We discovered two new eating places down there (BonChon and Cookout), and slept well at the Homewood Suites, which is becoming my favorite of the three adjoining spots. I saw a lot of old friends, got to jaw with them endlessly and even went to a party. I’d say this convention was a bucket of win for me and my son.

Observations: There were plenty of games, numerically, but it was a seller’s market.. competition for tickets was fierce.  Lines at registration were long, but seemed to move– I didn’t hear about any WIFI disasters.  The parking lots were full all the time.  The Vendor Hall was light, but we are just going to have to accept that that is the new reality now.  The Call Ahead ticketing idea seems like it’s way overdue, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Guidebook, yet again, has proven its value.  Many people approached me to tell me how valuable the “paperless approach” is to them.

So that is that.  As the sun sets slowly in the West, we will leave our attendees, clustering around one last round of beers, re-fighting old wars..

See you all at Fall-IN!

For every picture from the weekend, and a lot of them weren’t posted, go HERE to see the slideshow…

Frostgrave Wizards & Warbands added to my collection


My friend John Montrie just came back from a trip to China. He took some of my  figures to paint with him on the trip. As if things weren’t busy enough in China! Anyway, he’s back, I picked them up today, and they look just lovely.

And a bad of Frostgrave generic medieval soldiers, of which this is just a sample.

FUTURE: At this point, I have purchased almost every wizard in the current pantheon from Northstar Figures. I don’t have their Illusionist but I have some Reaper Bones figures that will make excellent replacements (see previous posts). I don’t have their Witch figure because I want to go with a more traditional Witch figure and not the African/Voudron style figure Northstar is using. Not pictured is my Necromancer and Apprentice (FGV105) and Summoner and Apprentice (FGV108). I’m okay for Wizard types for a while, but I will be getting the aforementioned witch and that’s about it– some of the Reaper figs I have been painting lately could make excellent Illusionists. From the semi-official Northstar line, I will probably still pick up specialty hirelings and another box of Frostgrave Soldiers. I have enough skellies, but might want to invest in the Gnolls once they are retailing.

I’m Using 28mm Reaper Bones figures in Frostgrave


Given that individual pewter figures are getting pretty dear, I thought I’d give Reaper Bones figures a try recently, and although my first results at painting were not to my liking, I did end up developing a method where I arrived at results that I could use.

BONES, if you don’t know, is a line of plastic figures created from REAPER miniature molds.  I have no quibbles with Reaper’s sculpting, it’s almost always top-notch.  However, I don’t much care for the plastic they use– it’s the rubbery kind, not too dissimilar to the plastic used in “Clickie” Collectible figures games.  It wasn’t holding paint very well.  I had heard you could paint them right out the box.  That is incorrect.  Spray priming with Testor’s primer was a bad idea– the figure was tacky/sticky for days afterward.  Don’t do this.   I went back to basics and just soaked the figures overnight in soapy water, and rinsed them off, blotting them and rubbing off and mold release residue.  Then I painted each figure with a thinned coat of some neutral primer color, like base gray.  After drying overnight i mounted them on craft sticks and started painting.  The results were very positive.  There are so many great fantasy personalities in the Bones catalogue that I can add a ton of wizards and fighting men into the mix for a lot cheaper than pewter figures, and they match the Northstar metal ones in scale.

Here are some of the figures I’ve done so far.  Click to enlarge.  I have a man at arms figure (good for specialty infantry types), an Illusionist, a Sigilist (looking very Gandalfian), an Elementalist shooting a fire spell, a very commanding looking Enchanter from the Pathfinder range, a Demonic looking Summoner, and a big Death-dealing looking barbarian.


(Everything)


(L-R Enchanter, Summoner, Barbarian)


(L-R Man at Arms, Illusionist, Sigilist, Elementalist)

That’s about what I have done now.  My painting method seems to be repeatable so I’m going to go with that method for a few more lines.  I also have a small horde of skeletons painted, a couple of demons and other creatures, and now I am getting some mercenaries primed up.

Review: Frostgrave Cultists, by Northstar Miniatures


FROSTGRAVE CULTISTS Warband box
Plastic soldiers, 28mm scale, sold as sprues that are assembled into a variety of poses
URL: http://www.northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=7731
Created for the game FROSTGRAVE (Osprey Publishing) but can be used for a variety of skirmish games in the 28mm scale. Not really a good addition to historical army, the fantasy theme is very pronounced.

I picked up a box of Frostgrave “Cultist” figures at the recent Cold Wars convention. This is a big box of assemble it yourself plastic figures– and I mean big, you can make 20 figures with this box. The intent of the plastic soldiers is to quickly give a Frostgrave player suitably Winter-themed troops to rapidly bulk up warbands. I’ll stress up front they aren’t required to play the game– you can play Frostgrave with anything that seems to fit the scale and setting. I got them because they looked pretty good (I love pointy headed cultist heads), they are in scale, and there’s a lot of them.

The Box Cover. Click to enlarge.

Details: There are 4 sprues with 5 body variations on them (I think). Essentially a mixture of cloth, leather armor, maybe some studded leather. There are many head variants in this box, most of them with pointy hats, helmets or hoods. Only two bare headed head variants per sprue, I used those sparingly. There is also a few weapon variants sculpted to represent skull heads and skeletal arms. Decent variations for possible weapons– a two handed knobbed club, a bow, a crossbow (two handed), several variations of hand weapons, mostly a Kopesh, a small sword, various daggers, a couple of target style shields, a spear etc. There are some hand-only variations and nice extra bits (like quivers, pouches, sheathed knives etc) to add to the figures to increase variation. Sculpting is excellent here– very detailed and weird looking cultists with a variety that really sells it. The best part of this set is just how well the two-handed weapon sculpts fit on every body type provided, every time, with minimal glue. The plastic type is hard gray styrene, you will need a Testor’s style glue to construct them. Every body provided comes with a matching styrene circular base.

And here’s my first batch of cultists. I actually did make 20, one of them broke and was drying after a repair job. Click to enlarge

I only have them primed up at the moment but they will take a coat of paint nicely. I’m very pleased with my first “war band” purchase from North Star. I would give this a 4 out of 5, for a few minor nits about weapons choices (I would have liked to have a longsword carried by a human arm, and larger shields so we could indicate Men at Arms types, but that really IS minor).

If you purchase these, and North Star’s other warbands, they should mix very well with the regular soldier types and the follow-on skeletons. Don’t throw away the sprues whatever you do. I had to fix some broken weapons pretty quickly– be sure to use a storage system with some padding as the swords can be a little fragile. Scale wise they mix perfectly with 28mm pewter from the same company, but would also work with Warhammer Fantasy (although they might be a tad chunky in comparison), Reaper miniatures, even older pre-painted monsters from the D&D Miniature and Pathfinder miniatures lines, although the latter may lack detail in comparison.

I’m glad I bought these cultists, they will be very handy going forward with Frostgrave games.

Guidebook for Cold Wars 2016 is released


app for that

In a real crash program of data entry, I have managed to put together a Guidebook guide for Cold Wars 2016.  Thanks to Paul Trani, Theresa Presizosi, Scott Holder, and Scott Landis for their assorted (timely) inputs.

Guidebook has changed a bit over the years we have been using it for HMGS conventions.  I’m going to go over the basic screens now and show some of the new(ish) features.

A couple caveats up front.

First of all, we don’t have TRACKS any more.  That’s a pay feature and HMGS is too cheap to buy it.. so no more color coded dots and collections of categories of events.  I liked the color coding but even I am not sure if it’s worth the extra $$ Guidebook is asking to activate tracks, and I’m fairly bullish about Guidebook.  Secondly, I got a lot of the data for this guidebook pretty late (VERY late), so I didn’t have time to add little banners for “Event” “Tournament” “Hobby U” etc.. you’ll just have to figure it out yourselves this time, sorry.

Screenshots were taken on an Ipad Air, the smart phone menu will look different.

And now, the grand tour– if you don’t want to bother, scroll to the bottom of this post and all the download links will be there.

CW16 Guidebook Main Screen

This is the main screen (above).  The layout is a little nicer than before, and they have streamlined a lot of the “basic convention information” into a single screen.  The menu items are on the left in this shot because of the tablet I’m using (an Ipad Air).

Going from the top of the menu, down, here is Exhibitors– aka Vendors.  In the main listing I

CW16 guidebook individual exhibitor listing

This is an individual exhibitor (see above).  In this case Eureka.  The listing will mention location (table number on the vendor hall map, posted in maps), as well as some description and a website.  If the vendor has any sales or promotions for the show, this is the place to put it.  Note the “Add to T0-Do” link on the bottom. This places the listing on your to-do list (menu item) so it can be a note to yourself to visit this vendor in the exhibitors hall.

Next thing down is the speaker’s list (below) and an individual speaker (below that).

CW16 guidebook speaker's list

and detailed speaker listing.. There’s that handsome devil.

CW16 guidebook individual speaker

This is basically what GB used to refer to as “an extra custom list” and it used to cost big money, so I’m glad it’s free.  We can break out speakers into their own category this way.   Note that you can add a SEMINAR to your “to-do” list, as well.

Going down the list “Contacts” is just a small list for listing people on the convention staff. I haven’t populated it beyond Frank P, I might get to it before the show but I doubt it.

Inbox (next item down) is back from previous years.  This is simply a way for me (or convention management) to send an email to all Guidebook users at once.  I haven’t sent out a test message yet so there’s nothing to look at, I didn’t bother with a screen shot.

Photos:

Photo album is kind of new, and blessedly FREE.  Here’s how it works.. you take a picture(s) or two of a game you are in, or of something interesting.  You can upload it in Guidebook so that it appears in the universal show album.  Not sure what the capacity of this thing is as I haven’t tested it.  Here’s me uploading a picture in three easy steps:

one

selecting a picture or taking a new one

two

writing a caption

three

image in guidebook image catalogue

Images can be a really fun way of sharing not just YOUR game but all the games you played with your mates out to everyone going to the convention.

Schedule:

This looks pretty much like it has looked and works more or less the same way as in past guidebooks. Here’s a few screenshots breaking it down to a couple of individual events.

schedule page for a day

individual schedule item, Hobby U
A Hobby University event– note that Hobby U, Games and Tournaments will all look pretty much the same in the current schedule. I use a T- in front of Tournament event titles and the mortar board to represent Hobby U events.

individual schedule item, Game
A regular game event in the schedule.

MAPS are about the same as always with one nice feature. See the little blue arrows bottom right? That’s a zoom out arrow. Watch what it does:

before:

Map, not zoomed out

after:

 

Map, blue button removes menu for easier viewing

TO DO LIST basically is a reminder list you build by clicking on “Add to my to-do list” for various vendors, speakers etc.   You can also add items to it as “Add item”. I didn’t bother with a screenshot. No, WAIT, it turns out I did:

to do list

MY SCHEDULE is the schedule that YOU build by checking off schedule items in SCHEDULE. You can also set reminders to your self for Guidebook to nag you before an event occurs. This works as it has before, no major changes.

ATTENDEES works as it has before, this is NOT A REGISTRATION SYSTEM. It’s a checking in system, to tell OTHER GUIDEBOOK USERS “Hey, I’m here at the convention”.

GENERAL INFORMATION is all that stuff on the main page.. Google Maps, convention prices, schedule, directions etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS are back for this guidebook, in the form of Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter:
Twitter connection screen

I’ve plugged in these hashtags: #ColdWars16, #HMGS, #CW2016, and this account: @HMGS_Inc, since Cold Wars doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account.

Facebook:
Facebook Connection screen

This connects to the HMGS page on Facebook, like last year.

With all that said, here is where you go to get your GUIDEBOOK
https://guidebook.com/g/CW2016/

Here is the link to view it online. The screen layout is very similar to my Ipad Screenshots
https://guidebook.com/guide/53323/

Crom, by Crom! (Discovery series #1)


I’ve mentioned the Matakishi’s Tea House website on this blog in the past (2009).  Paul Ward’s site is full of rich and fun game-centric content, and it’s a pleasant diversion to while away some hours there, seeing what Paul’s latest project is.  What I haven’t really explored (much) was the fact that Matakishi is also a web store for some of the systems, terrain bits and miniatures that have been developed for games over the years.

One of these is CROMAvailable as a PDF, which I just purchased recently.  CROM has been out since 2014 as a commercial PDF, but I just got the hankering to give it a look.

If you grew up in my era, you recognize “Hyboria”, the fantasy epoch created by Robert Ervine Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian and other characters.  Hyboria is a setting for a lot of stories by Howard and he put a a lot of work into creating a consistent history and landscape to play in.  I grew up reading of Lankhmar, Melnibone and Hyborea just as much as I read of Middle Earth, and it always seemed to me that RPGs of that earlier era were kind of tame due to their adherence to a Tolkien-inspired artificial mythology.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Tolkien, but it just comes off as an incredibly clean cut world when compared to Leiber, Moorcock and especially Howard.   Howard’s Hyborea was savage, sophisticated, full of petty little city-states and kingdoms, sorcerers and warriors, barbarians and beautiful babes, mystical temples, forgotten ruins, powerful artifacts of bygone ages, deadly beasts, serpent cults, dread sinful cities with rights that are not recorded, etc.etc. etc.  It’s a wonderful milieu to play around in (see for yourself).  There have been role-playing games and miniature wargames set in this universe over the years, now and then.  I liked Royal Armies of The Hyborean Age back in the day, and
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea looks like a nice heaping helping of Hyborean good times, as well.  The thing is, I don’t regularly roleplay any more (though I’m getting the jones to do so again).  I would like to play an army level game, such as Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age is good for.  However, I don’t have large quantities of fantasy miniatures any more.  I really like to run smaller skirmish level games by preference, with low figure counts and smaller table requirements.  This is where CROM comes in handy.

Crom is billed as a skirmish game set in the Hyborian Age*.  It can be played multiplayer, two player, even solo.  The emphasis is on small conflicts set in the game setting, with lower figure counts.  Table space is really only about a meter square, so playing session act out scenes in a connecting narrative (or standalone).    The initiative is card driven by a deck of action cards.  Conflict is resolved in a  unique dice pool resolution mechanic.

The basic game mechanic in CROM is the dice pool. Each player will have a number of dice for each character or group of minions which they allocate between three action pools depending on what they want the character or minions to do during their go.
The action pools that dice can be allocated to are: Movement, Combat, Special. Dice may be rolled and totalled or they may be ‘burned’. A burned dice is counted as a six but removed permanently form a character’s pool.

A character’s dice pool represents their hit points, more or less, specifically their strength and endurance. As a character loses dice either from exertion (burning them) or combat (being hit in combat removes dice) they are able to attempt fewer actions as they weaken and tire.  Eventually, if they lose all their dice, they become unconscious, exhausted or even dead depending on circumstances. In any event they are out of the game.

example of action cards for a Character and Minions.

As in GASLIGHT, players play a combination of heroic level “main” characters who have 12 dice to use in the three categories, regular characters, who are formidable foes and allies with 10 dice to place in categories and minions, who are variable depending upon scenario.  Minions are like “central casting thugs”.   The Heroic level characters are, essentially, YOU.. they have more dice to commit to more actions (and keep them alive longer) then other characters or minions.

Initiative order is determined by card draw.  The action cards you see in the illustration above, plus others.  Each character or group of minions should have a card prepared for them and these will make up the game deck.  Any reinforcements or summoned creatures that arrive after the start of the game should have their cards added to the deck for the turn after they appear. Cards are shuffled and placed face down in a stack. The top card is turned face up and that character takes their turn. Once they’re done the next card is turned and so on until the deck is exhausted when the turn ends.

Characters will then allocate their dice to their dice pools and the cards are shuffled ready for the next turn.  If a player really, really needs to have his character act first,  they can allocate dice from their special dice pool to initiative.  Before the top card in the initiative deck is turned face up any characters that have allocated dice to initiative roll them and compare totals.  Only characters can do this, minions may not spend dice on initiative.
Characters will act in order starting with whoever got the highest total and working down, ties must be re-rolled.

Combat is interesting.  Remember those dice pools I just told you about?    They are allocated to a character’s combat pool  to either attack or defend with. To attack an opponent the character announces how many dice they will use from those available and the opponent announces how many to use in defense. The dice are then rolled and totals compared with the higher total succeeding.  A successful attack roll inflicts two hits plus one extra hit for every six rolled A successful defense roll inflicts one hit plus one extra hit for every six rolled. If you don’t beat you opponent either in attack or defence the sixes you rolled, if any, are not counted for hits. Only the winner of the roll inflicts damage.
Combat rolls that tie are decided in favor of the attacker.

Magic would be a natural for a setting like Hyboria, but it clearly isn’t the focus of the game.  There are two types of magic in Crom: Summoning (big evil slimy things) and Controlling (the same big evil slimy things).  A wizard has to dedicate a number greater than the summoned creature’s strength total to make it appear.  This often drains the sorcerer down to almost nothing, which leaves him in a bad way to control anything, which also requires dice.  The Sorcerer handles this problem with his natural recuperative power of getting a dice back periodically, so he can actually summon a creature over a long time period and have some left to control, or use minion junior sorcerers for the summoning and control the critter afterward.  There are also smaller magic applications that are handled as “special actions”- magical attacks and spells like Fire Attack, Defend, Heal, etc.

Summary: I admit, I haven’t had any opportunity to give CROM a try yet (call this a first look rather than an honest review)– I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I don’t have a lot of 28mm fantasy figures left over from the old D&D days.  I am inclined to get some, as I think this could be a lot of fun– Crom has a small footprint, not a huge buy in, and the author clearly is supporting it with a lot of creative effort on his website.  I was a little stuck on where to get miniatures with a specific Hyperborean aesthetic — miniatures that looked like Frazetta covers were a lot more common when I was 17.  Fortunately, the author covers that on this sources page.   The Conan Hub is worth a visit.  Paul posts scenarios, card templates, and all kinds of supporting material for the game.  I think CROM is worth a look and definitely tickles my nostalgic itch for the kind of game I played when I was much younger.

CROM can be picked up at the publishers site, or at DriveThruRPG.

 

* Don’t pin me down on the consistency of spelling the word “Hyborea”.. I’ve seen Hyborean and Hyborian, depending on who is quoting it.