Tag Archives: naval

S-177 On the Seas of Tekumel, AAR

This is a general After Action Report (AAR) of a game from the recent HISTORICON 2015 show last weekend called On the Seas of Tekumel.

On the Seas of Tekumel. GM: Steve Braun. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: 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.

Background: The Tekumel universe was created by Professor MAR Barker, back in the 1970s and possibly as early as the 1940s  (I’m not a Barker scholar, though I know a few).  VERY broadly speaking, Tekumel is a planet that has been colonized by many alien races — the humans who become the “Tsolyani” and the other alien races who have also shown up: Hlǘss, Ssú, Hokún, Mihálli, Nyaggá, Urunén, Vléshga.  Many of these are distinctly non-human in flavor, sporting six legs or radically different physiology, and certainly different philosophies.  At some point in the distant past of high science, a “Bad Thing” happened and Tekumel, its moons and other surrounding planets were transported to a pocket dimension.  As a result, there is no more contact with any of the alien’s home planets, and no more advanced technology, although many artifacts are here and there on the landscape.  Professor Barker took this setting and with the help of Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, created one of the world’s first roleplaying games, THE EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE, back in the 70s.  I owned a copy, which was much thumbed through but rarely played.  D&D was always easier to grasp (although far less elegant) and my gaming buds liked their RPGs like they like their coffee, dark, bitter and easy to grasp.  Empire of the Petal throne has enjoyed a long lasting niche popularity over the years and has gone on to be republished and expanded upon by the fanbase.   There have been five novels, by Barker (I believe), I only have read two of them and found them very interesting, if a little dry.

The Seas of Tekumel is a a brainchild of Steve Braun, whom I believe is a teacher in Maryland, and without a doubt a fan of Barker’s work. He adapted material present in the Petal Throne series (there’s a lot more to it now, contributed by subsequent generations) to a simple, fast playing game mechanic about naval warfare on the ship to ship level. To paraphrase one of his comments– if you are a diehard naval gamer that stresses over armor thickness and gun calibers, this is likely not the system for you. Units of movement are single small ships for the various racial types on Tekumel, all of them roughly 15mm in scale and of galley or large war canoe vintage. The simple sailing rules of movement preclude full speed straight on movement into the wind (which makes sense). Players play a single ship and its crew, which all have a secret goal to attend to.

The playing area was a standard 5 x 8 smaller playing surface– aquatic with small volcanic islands represented on them.. most with alien vegetation and some with structures. Dotted here and there were “opportunities” to loot sites for artifacts from the past.

I was assigned the H’luss, the native species of Tekumel, which are a sort of large six limbed insectoid race. They are depicted as being xenophobic in the extreme and rather hateful of the alien usurpers (which is how they view all the other races). Of all the races on the board, I was the one with a submersible, which looked like this:

The H’Luss Submersible, which I captained.

I had had this faction the last time I played and it was a lot of fun to play them. Unliek everyone else on the board I didn’t move normally== I plotted movement on a piece of paper and showed it to the GM to give him an idea of where my submersible was. Last year, I played it to the hilt and it made for some hilarious moments:

Picture from Historicon 2016 game

We had a much denser playing field than last year, it would seem.  I misread my goal entirely and as it had something in their about this being OUR water (being natives) I thought I had to look for a well!  Nope, he meant “Go steal alien tech and kill them all”.. so I wasted some time on non-existant subtlety, I admit it.

I made up for it by trying to reprise the old “surface and swamp the ship” trick which worked last year.  A large Tsolyani Frigate was parked on the same island as the Hlutgu, who were my victims last year.  I tried to surface under the (now empty) ship and drag it away, leaving the Tsolyani stranded.  It partially worked!

The Xenophic H’luss take the human frigate for a Missouri boat ride

Unfortunately a Tsolyani frigate is substantially heavier than the Hlut Go canoe and I ended up submerging quickly or it would destroy the boat. Mission accomplished, though, they humans were dispatched without a shot fired.

Out on the rest of the seas of Tekumel, the ships were fighting a hard scrum.  I surrendered any idea of taking the Humans frigate for myself, and indicated to the (giant lizardmen, forgot their name) that they could have it, even if they get more points from it. The smaller group of pirates with canoes were all swamped or died fighting. The various other ships got into a traffic jam in the center. The (big lizards) and (giant artificially made people) then got into it right above me, so I swam under them and came up behind them. I had to get some tech.  See that red McGuffin on the back of his boat?  That was part of a multi-piece “something” that it turned out I had to go look for.  Might as well start at the beginning.

I surfaced next to their stern and brought MY ancient artifact on deck to fire at them.  The results were.. unusual.   The weapon of the ancients fired, then blew up, making the back of the enemy craft (and his replacement captain) into plasma.  Oddly it didn’t do much to my boat, beyond killing one of the lower ranked H’luss crew.

And that was about that for the game.  It felt short but it was about 4 hours.  I didn’t get the chunk of artifact, but I did prevent my enemies from claiming it.  I had wasted a little too much time trying to achieve a wrong goal early on to acquire it it.  Victory was determined mathematically, based on things accomplished.  I narrowly beat out the guy who took the empty human frigate as prize, because the GM was being nice about me attaining my goals.  So the stunning victory of the H’lussi on the high seas underscores our basic philosophy: GET THE HELL OFF OF OUR PLANET, ALIEN SWINE

If memory serves, I think the HAWKS (Hartford Weekly Kriegspielers) had an entire “Tekumel track” at last Historicon, and this was just one of those games.  I may be hallucinating.  I know I played in this game, and had a great time with it– the rules were simple, the setting was exotic and the game told a story.  Well deserved bravo zulus to Steve Braun for putting on this game, I really enjoyed it.

Here is a slideshow of every picture I took for the Tekumel game



28mm Greek Galleys? Deal me in!

I’ve always been partial to galley warfare games, but usually at a drastically different (smaller) scale than what I usually play in.  What has come down to us about the naval warfare of the Ancient World is at best somewhat fragmentary.  There are some excellent books on the subject, including The Battle of Salamis by Barry Straus and Naval Warfare under Oars by by William Rodgers.  The thing is, we have a generalized idea of how these ships fought, and what they looked like from pictures and pottery shards.  We know these big battles like Actium and Salamis were fought in history.. but it’s hard to conceive in the minds eye of literally HUNDREDS of galley ships smashing into each other in a single engagement.  That’s why I’ve always played with galleys (when I have) in smaller scale like 1:1200 with an odd detour into 15mm sometimes.   The battles are just too huge to grasp what a single ship fighting another single ship action would be like.  The “Galley Period” for want of a better name for this period of naval science, lasted a long time and witnessed much innovation.  The swift, streamlined galleys of Salamis (481 BC)  bore only a superficial resemblance to the giant behemoths that fought in later periods.. slow moving ten banked monsters were at both sides at Actium (31 BC), for instance.  Yet both are “galley engagements”.   Much like how a 19th century 74 Gun Ship of the Line was a complex  instrument to navigate and fight, involving many concurrent, complex tasks, so must have the operations of a Greek Galley in 481 BC have been equally complex, with many concurrent actions transpiring to bring a ship to battle.  The Steersmen had to guide the ship into a path to ram.  The Rowers have to act in unison to increase the ship’s speed to make the ram a success.  The Overseer has to keep the pace and relay the Officer’s intentions to the rowers.  The Officer has pick his targets and deploy Marines and Archers.  The Archers are firing away at the enemy ship as they close.  The Marines are queuing up to  leap across the gap between ships and engage in brutal hand to hand combat.  All of this will only happen if the weather conditions are absolutely perfect; even a moderate swell could dampen martial ardor on galleys, which swamped easily.

So, as you can guess, there’s a lot going on in each of those tiny ship models we so casually assign number factors to, or damage points and ‘crew factors’.  Traditionally, we tend to ignore this level of action in favor of a more grand tactical view of ancient combat. … but.. .what if?  What if we had a scale where we could actually SEE some of this beehive of activity?  Would that make a great game, or a tedious one?  I suspect it depends on how much of the action you generalize.  In any event, the mechanics of any theoretical ship-to-ship galley warfare game would be a whole lot easier to envision in a larger scale, and as of today, that’s possible.  I noticed shared post on the Naval Warfare group on Facebook:

(image copyrights: Ironheart Artisans)

As you can see, this is a laser-cut nautical galley model in 28mm, not unlike my recent Maori war canoe purchase, only an order of magnitude more complex. The designer is Alex Landing, whom I exchanged a few pleasantries with on FB. His company is IRONHEART ARTISANS and as of today (9/30/16) the galley isn’t on their website but soon shall be. I was quoted a retail of 62 dollars each. Now that may seem a trifle steep but I don’t think so.. this is a complex model with a ton of parts. It will require careful assembly. The benefit is that the finished model will certainly A) look fantastic and B) provide enough room to model a ship to ship engagement in 28mm. I could easily envision a game design that models aspects of galley warfare that we rarely add to games, such as rower fatique, deck to deck battles, turning and navigating, oar sheering, and other fun period naval problems. I’m kind of excited about the idea of such a game, and now I might be able to make it happen. The figures wouldn’t be too hard to get– 28mm Greek peltasts and slingers for the Marines, plus Archers. The down side is that it will require a huge amount of playing area for relatively few players– can you imagine a six player game in this scale?

A new Initiative System for Big Danged Boats

Init Card idea for BDB

Sample Initiative (draft).  Available on GoDeckYourself.com (see below)

Big Danged Boats, or BDB, is a game of my own devising for larger scale, 15mm ship to ship combats in a fantasy setting. I’m shamelessly an admirer of its general goofiness and desire not to be taken seriously– and frankly, that tends to lead to the downside of my “what the heck, everything AND the kitchen sink” design approach. I love BDB as it is but there are so many components and so many differences in basic mechanics of ships that games become difficult to set up and difficult to execute. One of the existing elements I’m not crazy about is the initiative system, which is simply rolling a dice and counting up to 10. Simple, I guess, but it has no action/counteraction dynamic, like real initiative does.  Even worse, people sit around waiting for things to happen, and that’s not fun.

Therefore, I’m proposing a system of interactive Initiative bidding for BDB, inspired by a card game I vaguely remember. I’m not sure if we’re going to go with this or not but I’m certainly going to test it. Turns are structured around initiative actions– At start of game, each player is handed a deck of Initiative Bid cards, numbered 1-10. Every turn, he/she bids an initiative action or actions. They can then Move (Full), Shoot, Ram, Board, Cast Spells and maybe a few other things I haven’t thought of yet.  This is obviously a number 1-10. The lower number moves first. Higher numbers (when in missile range) subtract the lower numbers from their card. The difference is “reactions”. These are a number of specified actions the reacting ship can do in response to the initiative ship.  The turn continues until every ship captain has used every initiative bid card in their hand, and discarded them into their own discard pile.

Reactions include: Fire a volley, move a stick, cast a spell, abandon ship. I might add more. Note that RAMMING isn’t on this list.

In a multiple ship duel, engagement with ships with lower initiative numbers ACTING before an enemy REACTS.  If the ship is out of extreme missile range of any other ship (unlikely), it can move a single stick per action, or cast a spell (and possibly other actions).  If the ship is within missile range, but not ramming range, it may move a single stick per action, fire or cast spells.  If the ship can RAM within one movement stick (and wants to ram), it moves to ram.  If the opposing ship has at least one action left (from subtracting that ship’s lower initiative from it’s higher initiative), it may attempt a half move to avoid ram.  If it has more than one action left, it may move and shoot, or move and cast, etc.

A ship may also bank any unused actions in overwatch mode until the end of the round, at which point they must be expended.  The ship will remain stationery until something — the end of the turn, or a combat from another ship, causes them to expend their banked actions immediately.  Track these with colored beads or markers.

Note that the ship captain can’t reuse an initiative card until he/she has cycled through the entire initiative deck, 1-10.  Initiative cards are discarded to a discard pile after use and then then after the last card is used they may be picked up again.  (Design note, I may cap initiative cards at a lower number, like 7 or 8, 10 seems pretty high).

sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and all of them are mutual enemies, the default engagement is to the ship that is closest to the ship with the lower initiative.

sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and some of them are aligned, the lower initiative ship moves, the CLOSER ship reacts (enemy or ally), and then the NEXT CLOSEST ship reacts, etc.


Combat Example using new initiative rules.

Examples (refer to above diagram):

  1. A, B, and C are all mutually hostile and have just drawn initiative cards.  B to C is medium gun range.  A to B is long gun range.  A to C is out of range.  Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6.  B moves first, and not caring which ship he antagonizes he decides to target C.  He has four actions.  He moves three sticks for 3, fires for one and he is done.  Ship C’s 6, minus B’s 4, is 2.  Ship C chooses to move for one stick and fire back in reaction.  Ship A would go last with three actions (7-4, and it is farther away than C).  He chooses to move two sticks closer to B and fire his main guns for 3 actions.
  2. A & B are allied versus C who is an enemy faction, and have just darw initiative cards.    B to C is medium gun range.  A to B is long gun range.  A to C is out of range.  Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6.  Lowest initiative ship B goes first.  B has four actions.  He moves three sticks and ends in a RAM condition on C.  C attempts to react away from the Ram but fails the save.  It has one more action and uses it to shoot a the incoming ramming ship.  A. Reacts (since it is in range of B) and moves closer to the ship to ship brawl, firing at C long range in support.
  3. All ships are mutually hostile.  B has moved with a 4 and shot at A with a ranging shot, and missed.  C has reacted to B but not moved. He moves next as a 6.  He chooses to expend all of his actions moving into a RAM situation on B.  Ram is resolved.  A moves next as he is a 7.  He has three actions (B’s 4 out of his 7 makes 3) and he uses them to move, fire at B, and save the last as an overwatch reaction.

In all cases, the captains can’t use cards 4, 6, or 7 (as applies to each) again until they have cycled through their entire deck of 1-10.

I made a quick initiative deck on GoDeckYourself.com, feel free to download (it isn’t final). Experiment with your own naval ships. Let me know what you think.

Let’s talk about that Taranto Project


“Taranto, and the night of November 11–12, 1940, should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon.” — Admiral Andrew Cunningham, British Commander at Taranto

So what’s this all about?

During the first year of World War II, the Italians were a not insubstantial threat to Allied war aims in the Mediterranean Sea.  From their position at the tip of the Italian “boot”, the Italian Regia Marina possessed a geographical superiority over the English and French: from land bases, they could reach out and affect just about all of the Western Mediterranean ocean– including having the ability to strike nearby Malta and interdict naval convoys to the North African theater, and resupply Axis forces there.  Without building expensive aircraft carriers, which suited the Italians right down to the ground.  The ships of Regia Marina were a significant strategic threat that the Royal Navy had anticipated as early as 1936, when the seeds for an air raid plan had first been drawn up.   After war had begun in earnest, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham dusted off the old 1936 plan and created OPERATION JUDGEMENT, a plan for an air raid on Taranto Harbor, located at the “instep” of the boot of Italy.   The goals of the air raid would be to damage or destroy as much of the Italian fleet as possible, by bombing and torpedo attacks.

Compared to later operations, the RN did not have a lot to work with.  The principle British Naval attack plane was the Fairy Swordfish, this was a biplane that was by general consensus considered antiquated before the first shot was fired.   The swordfish was slow, it had a low ceiling, it was covered with fabric(!).  However, it was extremely stable and had an excellent ability to loiter over targets.  Swordfish pilots were genuinely affectionate about their aircraft, dubbing them the “Stringbag” for reasons unknown. [editorial note: “Stringbag” comes from the fabric construction and multiple guidewires to keep the wings intact, see the note in comments below. ]

Here’s a little footage of the Stringbag in the air with a torpedo load.  (Video no longer embedded– the owner doesn’t want to share it.  Go here instead)

Accordingly Admiral Cunningham had 21 Fairy Swordfish modified drastically for the long haul to Taranto from the Southwest.  [editorial note: apparently not that drastic, the extra fuel tank conversion (removing the observer seat) wasn’t unheard of, see note in comment below]  The middle seat was converted to a giant extended fuel tank.  The attack was divided into three waves, with bombs and flares being dropped to distract the Italian fleet response while the torpedo planes made their runs.  The resulting attack went astonishingly well for the British.  The Italian fleet was devastated– losing half its operational fleet in an evening:

  • Conte di Cavour had a large hole in the hull, and permission to ground her was withheld until it was too late, so her keel touched the bottom at a deeper depth than intended. 27 of the ship’s crew were killed and over 100 more wounded. In the end, only her superstructure and main armament remained above water. She was subsequently raised and was still undergoing repairs when Italy switched sides in the war, so she never returned to service
  • Caio Duilio had only a slightly smaller hole  and was saved by running her aground.
  • Littorio had considerable flooding caused by three torpedo hits. Despite underwater protection (the ‘Pugliese’ system, standard in all Italian battleships), the damage was extensive, although actual damage to the ship’s structures was relatively limited (the machinery was intact). Casualties were 32 crewmen killed and many wounded. She was holed in three places. She too was saved by running her aground. Despite this, in the morning, the ship’s bows were totally submerged.

Map of the ship dispositions in Taranto harbor that evening. With the barrage balloons up and AA emplacements situated, this was not a cakewalk for the Fleet Air Arm pilots.

Overnight, the balance of power in the Mediterranean had changed drastically.  The operational Italian fleet vessels were immediately transferred North to Naples.   This put them out of easy striking range of Malta.  Although they would play a role in the Med during the ensuing 3 years (until the fall of Mussolini), they would never be the strategic threat they were in 1940 again.

So, why am I interested in this battle?  You mean, beyond the high drama of a desperate gamble on the part of the Royal Navy?  Lots of reasons.  Taranto is the first coordinated attack by a fleet air arm on a major fleet to occur in history.  It served as the blueprint for the Pearl Harbor raid a year later.  Most of all, it just seems such an improbable victory.. only 21 slow, obsolete airplanes against the entire Italian fleet.   A while back, when I first picked up Victory at Sea and wanted to run a few naval games, I picked up enough ships to do Denmark Strait and the Pursuit of the Bismarck (1941).  That led me to the Fairy Swordfish and eventually, to pondering a Taranto miniature wargame.

I bought the Axis and Allies War at Sea models for the Sink the Bismarck game when they were still easily found and affordable on a secondary market, although the game itself is out of print. For the Bismarck game, that worked pretty well, even if the scale, at 1/1800 (roughly), is a little larger than I had in mind. No problems with the miniatures– they come pre-painted and look (roughly) what they are supposed to look like. So, what the heck, I started collecting an Italian fleet from War at Sea models. It turned out to be easy, but painstaking when you are trolling secondary markets– there aren’t as many available as there were a few years ago.

The Littorio and Vio Venetto, left rear. the Caio Diolo, center, some destroyers in the foreground, and various cruisers on the right.

Where to get the ships?  Well, I’ve been a fan of reusing Axis and Allies War at Sea ship models already– when

Italian Cruisers and one pre-Dreadnought era ship, possibly the Andrea Doria.

I’ll probably give them another coating of wash, and touch up the factory job here and there, but pretty much these weren’t hard to collect and maintain. Obviously Hasbro didn’t produce EVERY ship in the Italian Fleet for their collectible miniatures game; to fill out the fleet I made several double buys where one ship of a CLASS of ships had a miniature made for it; that actually is a much easier problem to overcome with the smaller cruiser and destroyer classes where multiples of a single ship model work just fine. Even so, there were a few ships that were either priced right out of the secondary market or were never produced by Hasbro. In this instance, 3D printing came to the rescue. Shapeways.com has quietly been providing gap filler models for various games for the last few years; naturally, they came to the rescue for four ships I couldn’t locate at all. Accordingly,I bought three cruisers and a pre-dreadnought from Shapeways to round out my fleet.

It’s an easy paint job. Base primer grey, a gray wash and then a darker ink wash, then the snazzy striped red and white deck stripes to indicate it was an Italians ship from the air.

The material for the 3D printer is a little grainy compared to the injected rubbery plastic the original series from WaS uses, but from the magical 3 foot mark, it looks great to me. The price is nice, as well.

So, I have the Italian fleet, more or less.. and I’m not worried about the big scale size. They are nice and chunky, the way I like it, and it’s not like they are going to maneuver around in this scenario and go off the table– most of these ships are just Anti Aircraft platforms in this projected game.  I was projecting maybe there being an Italian player who might want to game that side, maybe make a victory condition escaping the harbor under power or something, but I can’t see it.. it wouldn’t be a lot of fun for any Italian player. So the ships will pretty much be stationary objects in this scenario.

Airplane models. I needed 21 Swordfish, I bought 26 from Pico Armor. Plus some Fairy Fulmars.

If I wanted to be true to scale, the aircraft would be pinhead sized. Aside from the fact that there probably aren’t any plane models in that scale, they would just lack any visual impact. So I compromised and went with PicoArmor, who have a great WW2 aviation section. PicoArmor look great and are reasonably sharp in detail (although that’s from a distance). Good choice, even if construction of the plane models is hellishly irritating. Nothing fits together perfectly; I have to cut off flash, rough the edges of the join between upper and lower wing before glueing. THEN I have to hold the model while the glue sets, often gluing my thumbs to the model! At least I have decals. I won’t have to paint the rondels.

As for rules, I was leaning towards Victory at Sea at the start of this project, because I had used it before and it’s relatively “light” and fun to play. However, I’m not as satisfied with the aerial torpedo element of VaS. It’s far too simplistic for what I had in mind and really doesn’t provide some of the elements of the narrative that need to be there, such as the poor state of alert of the Italians, the poor training, the element of surprise. I have come to the conclusion that this isn’t going to be a game where the players play the Italian fleet at all; that would be almost cruel. Yet I want the Italians to have a fighting chance even as targets. So I’m monkeying around with various levels of alertness, and skill and whatnot. I may take a look at General Quarters 3 for the rules, as I like the level of granularity, although I may have to crunch some numbers on the ground scale.

So that’s where I am more or less. There’s other stuff, such as the map terrain.. building the harbor of Taranto, setting up the Anti-Aircraft on the Italian side (which was fierce.. the British lost two aircraft). I’ll probably write a follow up posting on those items when I get to them.

Thanks to Wg Cdr Luddite below for some comments clarifying the Swordfish.

New Faction in Big Danged Boats: The Orcish Revolutionary Council (ORC)

Orcish Ship

The SCIMITAR OF THE PEOPLE, the first warship of the Orcish Revolutionary Council or O.R.C.

The Orc and Goblin races of the Middle Sea were largely content to be as they had been for centuries, warring incessantly and acting as the paid or unpaid mercenaries of this or that evil goon dotting the landscape. Until, one day, an Orcan Warboss with a rare sense of curiosity and even rarer ability to read the common language found some ancient scrolls. Initially he couldn’t make head or tail of the material but gradually, he understood their message of equality, economic collectivization and centralizing of political power in the People’s Soviet. This Orc Warboss became the first Kommisar of the Orcish Revolutionary Council. Primarily a land power, The orcs of O.R.C. have recently taken to the seas in captured vessels. Orcs are fierce fighters, relentless in attack, and more than willing to launch a boarding party onto another vessel. Their fearsome secret weapon, the Orcan Kommisar, stays belows decks until the time arrives to spring into action– which he can do from half a stick’s distance. Once on an enemy boat, the Kommisar is treated like 6 Orcs in the attack, but only 1 in defense. Altogether savage and unrelenting, the Orcs of O.R.C. will prove to be a contender on the Middle Sea.

BDB Ship Charts 2.0


BDB Ship “Red Ragnarok”

If you have even a passing interest in BDB (running this Thursday night at HISTORICON 2013), have a look at your options for ships below.  These are the craft that will be creating mayhem on the Middle Sea.


BDB Cover

BDB Cover

HISTORICON 2013 and BDB: Finishing up for the big show, one more faction for sure

Let’s see… Big Danged Boats is about finished. I’ve got happy to glad tweaks to the rules, I need to work on some game aids and markers, and I need to do some finishing touches on the models. For once, I’m not in a hell-bent rush. It’s a nice feeling.

So the final roster of ships and factions for HISTORICON will be:

The Ragnar Brothers: Red Ragnarok and Freya (2 ships)
The Gnomish Siege Machine
The Sylvan Terror (Wood Elves)
WindRider (High Elves)
The Primus, the Armored Cheese of the Rat People (Floating Cheese)
The Foot of the Dead God & Assorted Cultists and Mercenaries
Plunger, Van Ripper and SeaHame (3 Ships, the Fleet of the Sea Dwarves) plus floating launch for flying dwarves.
The Bucket o’ Lymph (Zombie Pirate Ship)
The Seng (2 Ships: Flagship Junk and Red Castle War Barge)
The Deadnought and the Black Galley (Bone Brigade, 2 galleys)
The Holy Frenzy (1 Ship, Brothers of Saint Brendan)
The Hoplite (Spartan Athletic club and CoSplay society)

That’s 17 ships in 15mm scale. I’m too nervous to make it any larger than this.

I have parts and plans to build three more factions, but it won’t get done for HISTORICON:

The Slitherin (Lizard Warriors riding a giant Sea Turtle)
The Iron League (two steam powered casemates, one with a retractable claw)
The Blarney Stone (A ship with a giant punching leprechaun as the weapon)

Here’s some pictures of the Zombie Pirates of Stinkwater, nearing completeion:

The Bucket o' Lymph, the Zombie Pirate Ship

The Bucket o’ Lymph, the Zombie Pirate Ship

Zombie Pirates cluster around the guns.  This is a big ship, perfect for boarding.

Zombie Pirates cluster around the guns. This is a big ship, perfect for boarding.

The Bucket is one of the largest ships I'll have on the table.  About the size of the Seng's Junk

The Bucket is one of the largest ships I’ll have on the table. About the size of the Seng’s Junk

As a faction, the Zombie Pirates of Stench Water have a little faction power called “The Power of Stench” which is played as an interrupt to movement. Which card is played, any ship downwind of the Pirates (by the weather gauge) within a certain distance loses an activation from gasping and choking.

I will be making the rules available for playtesters for a peer review, stay tuned for that if you are interested.

To Do List:

I’ve made one yard arm to yard arm Boarding Resolver. I don’t think I’ll need two, but maybe.
I need to make at least one more steam template
Paint up my game tokens
Finish draft 2.2 and make some charts by condensing it all down to two pages
Smoke stack for the Primus
Base and Paint the Base of ALL the figures – including the reinforcements
Finish the Flying Dwarves, and their launch
Make Submerged tokens for the Plunger
Clarify flying models, sticky fire, reinforcments and submerged attack in the rulebook
Make ship sheets
Expecting poker chips for fatigue and magic, they haven’t arrived yet.

Longer range– another paddlewheel for the Iron Kingdom boats, and a platform for the Slitherin’s sea turtle so the Lizard men can have something to fight from.

My cards were a disappointment. The print job from Arts Cow bled over the edges so I had them redone. They should be back in time for H’con.

So far, so good!

BDB 1.0: Two New Ships, Primus the Armored Cheese and The Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan

Two new factions to introduce today.

The Rat Covens of Ingoldsby are excellent scavengers, but terrible engineers and innovators. Long has the hive looked to the sea lustfully, wishing to extend its power to the waters near the coasts around their rat covens. Yet they have no shipbuilders, no gunsmiths, and very poor carpenters. What’s worse is that the Rat Covens’ tradition of callous disregard for contracts or agreements when it doesn’t suit them has led to them developing a bad reputation amongst the communities of naval shipbuilders. A naval career didn’t look promising.. that is until the recent peregrinations of Thunderpumper, a nearby rock giant. Having taken a wedge of cheese for his lunch, he was disgusted to discover the entire wheel had “gone off”. With a curse, he tossed it into the ocean, where it floated ashore, almost directly in front of the Rat Coven entrance. Sharples the King Rat took this as a divine omen, and he commanded the Rat Crew to dig tunnels through the cheese, bolt on some discarded ironclad armor salvaged from a shipwreck, and fit the cheese with three cannon and a fighting platform. Powered by a very balky steam engine that the Rat Crew has only a shaky notion of how to maintain, the ensuing partially armored cheese, dubbed PRIMUS by the King Sharples, is a slow and ungainly cruiser, but with a remarkable ability to spin in place, and unintentional side benefits from its unique materials. Stale cheese, as it turned out, can absorb cannon fire from multiple directions before losing flotation. The balls sink in about a foot and stop. The real risk to the Primus is if cannon fire can puncture the rat tunnels in the interior, which would rapidly fill up and cause the ship to overbalance. Without a doubt, the Primus is one of the most interesting “ships” to sail the Inner Sea.

The Great Armored Cheese PRIMUS, with crew on deck.

The Great Armored Cheese PRIMUS, with crew on deck.

The Primus Gun Deck, with a small fighting platform built from Scavenged armor pieces

The Primus Gun Deck, with a small fighting platform built from Scavenged armor pieces

The Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan are acknowledged mariners and shipwrights, and are known for building a sturdy, squared off carrack style ship that is a steady sailor and very stable in a storm. The Holy Brothers consider themselves Evangelists doing the Greater God’s work by arbitrating disputes and smiting heathens. Their ship, the Holy Frenzy, is well suited for doing the Lord’s Work and for cracking the occasional reprobate skull. With two cannon and a prayer platform for praying for gentler weather, the Holy Frenzy is a ship to be reckoned with.

The Holy Frenzy from above, showing the fighting deck.

The Holy Frenzy from above, showing the fighting deck.

The Holy Frenzy, closeup on the prayer platform, where the senior fathers pray the weather down a notch

The Holy Frenzy, closeup on the prayer platform, where the senior fathers pray the weather down a notch

That’s all I have now, Soon I will have the Ragnar brothers and the Bone legions in a follow on post.

New Cards for Big Danged Boats

As you might know from reading this blog occasionally, I’m working a silly project with 15mm Scaled boats. There’s actually a game design in there, and it is equally.. shall I say, less than serious. A critical element in game play are special action cards that get drawn before the game starts. They are special “extras” that give the player a temporary or permanent advantage during the course of play. Here are about 25 or so, hosted as a slide show on FLICKR. Since WordPress.com has limitations about FLICKR slideshows, I’ll have to post this as a link. Click the Squid God card to see more.

Summon the Squid God. Click Card to See Slide Show of other Game Cards Hosted on FLICKR

Slideshow from FLICKR (Direct Link)

To see more about BDB, click HERE.


Big Danged Boats, Ship In Progress: The Gnomeish Siege Machine

Big Danged Boats Progress Report

I make boats out of a combination of purpose-built resin models in 15mm scale (which there is a nice selection of, primarily through Old Glory Shipyards), or yard sale/thrift shop toy finds or other bits of castoff junk and ephemera. There’s not a lot of science to a big danged boat design. It has to be somewhat amusing and it has to be just a little different in theme and purpose from all the other ships so far. So we have the Deadnought, the Dwarven Stealth Ship Fleet, the Brothers of Lacademon, and the Iron Cheese. There’s one ship that’s been vexing me. I wanted a ship for gnomes. Not the garden variety kind, but the kind that I associate with fantasy fiction. Tinkerers.. but not very good tinkerers. They had to be capable of making something that works, but only just barely, and is huge and visual and so improbable from a physics and general mechanics perspective that if it existed in real life it probably couldn’t function. While we were waiting in line at a restaurant a while back, my eye lit on a souvenir toy rack for little kids. These were clear candy dispensers with a unique top to it. And prominent among them was a largish dayglo green boxing mitt on an extendible frame, that made a silly boyoinyoinyoing sound when you pushed a button. I had to have that. This would be the weapon of the Gnomies! It did present problems. Scale, for one thing. my gnome figures are tiny by 15mm standards. How would they look compared to a giant boxing mitt? How do you explain this thing? How do you make it work with 15mm scaled naval craft from Old Glory or elsewhere. The answer is you really can’t. You have to build something from scratch.

And so I did. The Siege Machine of the Gnomes, the Doom Barge!

Gnomeish Siege Machine

Gnomeish Siege Machine

This unlikely craft was made mostly from craft bits and a bit of a children’s toy. The tower was a wooden flower pot (I presume) turned upside down and then covered in styrene card to make it look like rusty riveted armor (when I’m done). The main weapon, the Hammer of Bulg, was originally just going to be the extended arm and glove, but I like that boiyoingyoing sound so much, I had to work on a way to camouflage the audio box in order to retain the effect. I cut a snug hole into the side of the flower pot and the back of the base of the glove device off, so it would fit inside the siege tower. The glove is functional and does extend out, sound effect and all. The color scheme will be black for the glove and rusty gunmetal for the framework. The tower will have a few more oddments added.. a ladder, some hatches, and possibly a gangway for boarding. The base of the boat is a craft picture frame, very cheap. My intention is to build a low metal shield all around the perimeter of the barge to deflect incoming missiles– you can see the forward shield is already up in the photo. Lastly, I am adding a Greek fire launcher up top of the machine on a rotating platform. This was done entirely from craft bits and will be rather limited in range but devastating in effect.

For the crew, I’m using Splintered Light’s 15mm Gnomes, which are a tad more warlike then Peter Pig’s. I can’t get away from the silly pointed hat look, but on the other hand, they are instantly recognizable as gnomes (vice dwarves). So that’s a good visual detail.

Splintered Light Gnomes

Tactically, the Siege Machine is designed to be slow and prone to breakdowns– Steam power is fairly problematic for a technological race like the Dwarves in this universe, and for gifted amateurs like the Gnomes, it’s a miracle it runs at all. The giant Hammer of Bulg will do severe damage when it hits, but a Gnomeish ship captain will have to work hard to create opportunities. The favored Gnome tactic is to trap an opponent against a shole or island and pin him there, and then pummel him to matchsticks. Gnomes will be encounterd in two castes- Blue (Engineers) and Green (Warrirors). If the Siege machine is close enough to board, the Green Gnomes will attempt a swarm atttack. Finally, the Greek Fire launcher has a short range and limited ammunition.

Overall paint job will be rusty metal for the tower, Hammer of Bulg and the Greek fire launchers, wood for the barge. I’ll let you know when the paint job is done.\

Old Stuff Day: Singlehanded Admiral Repost

Apparently Bleaseworld has declared “Old Stuff Day” to be March 2nd. Old Stuff Day is a day for bloggers to bring out their old posts of note and republish them for the blogosphere at large. Had I but known! I’ve been blogging for almost a decade, I have plenty to trundle out.

One especially GOOD Old Stuff Day post was from the Singlehanded Admiral, a blog on Naval Gaming I follow. He and some of his mates decided to break out a game of Fletcher Pratt‘s naval rules at some point in the past. If you know anything at all about Fletcher Pratt’s naval game, it doesn’t play well in a confined space, to put it mildly. Pratt’s wargames were played in gymnasiums with 1:1200 scale ships. Lacking a gymnasium, these chaps decided to play the game outside, in a field, in the dead of Winter.

Quote from the post itself:
I had two USN battleships (USS Colorado and Arizona, based on neither ship being at Pearl Harbour on the 7th) while Curt fielded the Kongo and Ise for the IJN, with Sylvain acting as GM. After about 35 minutes of game time (about an hour and a bit of real time) we traded some hits with my eyesight proving superior to Curt’s. He decided to cut and run, which was quite alright with me. I did my running sprinting across King’s Road park chasing down ship logs and turning circles blown away by the gale force winds.

One of the pictures illustrating the blogpost. Visibility must have been a bear in that dead grass.

I’ll let the post finish it up, see the link below– I just got a big kick out of this “blast from the past” and the dedication of these fellows towards good old Fletcher. Well done, lads!

Original Post: Old Stuff Day.

The Battle of the Steam Plume

A little easier to make out, as a Youtube video


3D Models of WW2 Ships

bullet rocket

Astonishing Art Work

If you haven’t visited yet, check out “3DHistory“, the 3D art work page of Thomas Schmid in Germany. Thomas specializes in amazingly intricate 3D renderings of his favorite subject– naval vessels of World War Two. The Hood, the Yamato, the Graf Spee, the Prinz Eugen, and of course, the pride of the German Surface Fleet, the Bismark, are all represented in loving detail.

Each picture is indeed a work of art and worth checking out. I may even purchase one of his prints, they are so good.

Enemy in Sight Reprint from Lost Battalion Games

Cover Original Version (Avalon Hill)

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash

.. and all that.

I picked up the new version of Enemy in Sight (Lost Battalion) at HISTORICON. I’m happy that LBG decided to reprint the game– AH’s crappy old cardstock does NOT stand the test of time, nor do their ‘gamette” boxes, usually. I rather liked the old artwork, though.

I can’t fathom why Lost Battalion went with the radar wave pattern around the ship art on the cards, which is slightly off-putting. It makes me jones for the older cards. I suppose playing with the older ship cards is still possible, they didn’t change the deck much at all. Truly this is a minor quibble, as it doesn’t affect gameplay in the slightest.

I played it with Drey, Anne and Gar last week. EIS is still a great family game, and plays fast enough if you ignore a few confuising rules. Hell, I still am probably doing LINE BREAKER cards wrong, after all these years.

Functionally (design-wise) the game has changed very little if at all. There are no new rules that I could see and very few new cards. The folks at the LBG booth told me which ones were added and hanged if I could remember. They weren’t anything that broke the game as far as I could see.

It’s too bad LBG did not deign to even take a look at the wonderful job Tom Cundiff did in extending the game. Talk about a labor of love!!


In any event it plays as well as it ever did, and makes a great family wargame (still). I played it three times last week and am very glad it got reprinted.