Tag Archives: skirmish

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

 

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.

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.

Frostgrave at Comics and Gaming, Fairfax, 4/23


My friend Subir has been working hard on setting up a small but somewhat regular group to play miniature games somewhere near the loci of Fairfax City. We decided on Comics and Gaming in Fairfax City. This is a nice place, catering mostly to the M:TG crowd from appearances. They have a good selection of on the shelf gaming stuff supporting card gaming, board gaming, and mostly the big two or three of miniatures gaming. More importantly they have an annex room with a lot of standard 3 x 6″ tables.

SLADE THE NECROMANCER’s warband Click to embiggen.

Necromancer SLADE and Apprentice TIMMY late in the battle. Yes, Slade was laying low when he got down to TWO hit points. Click to embiggen.

After diving headlong into Frostgrave at the recent COLD WARS convention, I decided to bump up my Frostgrave holdings– I have (most of) the standard wizard types plus apprentices, in the process of being painted (along with a warband of generic soldiers). For Saturday I did a quick black primer of my Cultist figures and used my Necromancer figure, “Slade”, along with his apprentice, “Timmy”, then added a little flesh color here and there so they weren’t TOO embarrassing. Hey, I have my standards.

Frostgrave Cultists box, after assembly, pre-primed.

My Frostgrave warband, minimal paint slapped on (that day). Since they are a Necromancer’s warband, the black colors seem appropriate.

We are trying out campaign options for this game, which is new to me, since I’ve only run single skirmish games at conventions. This element of the game turned out to be a lot of fun. For starters we had to figure out where the Wizard hangs out (Page 137 of the Rulebook PDF). I chose a Crypt, since it seemed to work well with a Necromancer. Turns out I didn’t “get” what the benefits of a starting location were.. being from the Crypt, I can raise Zombies with a +2 effectiveness! However, since I can only have 1 at a time, what would the point of that be, it would only make a pretty simple spell just a little bit easier.

Slade (left) two thugs and an archer move out, with the boys giving the old man some cover.

Slade and crew (right foreground) work on one treasure token (purple) and Timmy moves under the overhang to mess with other players caught in the open. BONE DARTS away!

My main wizard, Slade, was under an overhanging building on the second floor, when someone got a bead on him and nailed him pretty good with an arrow from the second floor. Fortunately, not fatally.. but it did make him very cautious the rest of the game. Timmy made up for it by flinging the BONE DART spell right and left (it was my cheapest spell available). I nearly clobbered the Wizard on one of the opposing teams (dropped him down to 2 HPs), so he was as cautious as I was afterward– maybe more shy, since he exited off the board.

My opponent to the right played it cautious with his Wizards, keeping them under cover. and using spells that could move things and people (like Leap and Push) to get to the treasure quickly.

On my left, I was donnybrooking with Subir’s Thaumaturgic warband. He had a lot of levitating style spells, so his style was ALSO to hide his “Varsity” squad of Wizards and try to levitate the treasure off the table.

Well, the thing to do when everyone’s acting so danged cautious is act INcautious. SO I rushed the guy on the right and shot some arrows at his Apprentice Mage to threaten him.

Here’s my thug rushing the two archers covering the Apprentice to my right. I ended up killing them both.. eventually

Like any good skirmish game, Frostgrave is about finding and using cover and the terrain, and trying to take the best shot you have this turn. Here I am shooting at the Apprentice to my right.. it sure made him nervous.

The first game ended with us pretty much evenly splitting three pieces of treasure each by mutual consent. The tactical situation was at the point where there wasn’t much we could do to stop that outcome, so it seemed sensible to make good on what we had in hand. This was my first “campaign game” so my level 0 dude went up to 2 with all that treasure and experience rolling afterward.

The second game, it was kind of anti-climatic. The wizard I was up against threw down some wall spells which made excellent cover for me, but basically segmented the game into “this is my half, this is your half”.. so it was more of a treasure grab than a fight per se.

Yep, that’s a wall spell. On the gripping hand, he can’t shoot ME through it, either. Note my wizard climbing high up where he can shoot off spells from cover, and the thug going for the last red treasure on the roof. Nifty…

So, yeah, we were done about 9:00 with two games in. This experience confirms that I think Frostgrave is a hell of a lot of fun. We basically had a pick up game here with unpainted dudes, scratch built hodgepodge terrain, and I had a blast. Frostgrave makes for a very entertaining evening– it’s fast, easy to play and easy to teach. I was playing with a couple of guys who had some experience (one about as much as I have, one with a lot more). I don’t regret investing in this system and I look forward to expanding my holdings.

Things I noticed:

1) ash.pikselin.net, the Frostgrave warband maker, is SO DANGED HELPFUL. It keeps an editable warband roster on your ipad, saves it online to your account, and enforces the math of buying a warband. The only thing it doesn’t do (yet) is add the little plusses and minuses of campaigning.
2) I love my new fantasy urban terrain cloth for Frostgrave. It’s perfect (see the pictures).
3) I’m pretty pleased with my Necromancer, Slade, but his spells were bogus. I need to think it through a little better next time. I made some stupid choices.. my opponents loaded up with Push, Teleport, Heal and Leap, very useful for this kind of game, and everything I had was either too hard to pull off or not of much use for getting treasure.
4) I’m also really pleased with the NorthStar figures I bought, but they could easily work with other 28mm fantasy figures too.

So, yeah, that was a thing. I’m liking Frostgrave a lot these days. I’m definitely up for playing more of it with a regular crowd of players.

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.

 

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


Quick announcement:

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

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

The Temperance Union vs. the Drinkin’est Town in the West: A Wild West Miniatures Scenario


Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1900

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1900 (Photo credit: State Library of South Australia)

I bumped into a friend of mine, Brian Whitaker, in the Vendor Hall at the recent Fall-IN! ’12.  I asked him for a copy of Viking Looters, which I now have Vikings for, and he reminded me about a very old Wild West game I ran back in the late 90s, when I was running Wild West games quite a bit.  Brian is famous for running “Women only” games, and remembered a game I had run way back in the day as a natural candidate.  This was the Temperance Union game, which was not your usual Wild West Shoot’em Up.  It was a goal-oriented game with essentially two sides, Temperance Crusaders and Drunks.  I was inspired by an old game we ran called “Prussia Needs Women” which we ran using GASLIGHT rules, which were all the rage back then.  The basic game involves scoring points by capturing drunks or destroying liquor.  I didn’t have anything written up that had survived 13 years and several computers, but I did have a decent recollection of this game, which I thought I’d pass on to you now if you’re interested.

The Ladies Temperance Union versus the Drinken’est Town in the West Scenario

If you already do Wild West, you have the buildings and terrain already.  This scenario is really aimed at someone who already likes Wild West Skirmish games.  If you have a few old ERTL Cow Town sets or some MBA adobe buildings, that should work for a town.  This is a town based scenario and the town should at least feature 2 saloons and a brothel or 3 saloons, a church, a sheriff’s office and the standard livery stables, stores, etc.

You’ll need some civilian figures, a town Sheriff, a few deputies and a big gang of drunks and a big gang of Temperance union ladies.   Suggestions for figure lines
For the Temperance League game are at the end of this post.  For mechanics, I basically took the core mechanics of turn sequence, timing, movement, firing, reaction etc from whatever I was using at the time, which was probably THE RULES WITH NO NAME, but it also should work with GASLIGHT which I was also monkeying around with back then.

League Women: First of all, find a whole ton of Western Females (See below).  You probably have them in your collection already.  They must be of the right sort– not saloon floozies but the proper respectable sort.   See if you can convert of some of them to carry axes.  Every female human player should run at least one if not two of these.  You can also add some dowdy and respectable male characters, like a reverend, or clerk.  A small marching band would also add a lot of color.

Barman with Whiskey

Drunks: In turn, look for a good set of drunks.  This may be harder than you think.  Most Western figures are firing pistols or rifles.. this game isn’t about gunfire (primarily). There’s still a few here and there (like guys dancing, drinking etc.from saloon sets that you can find here and there or even convert.  See the list at the end.

Lastly, make a bunch of whiskey barrels from little craft bits, and put them all over the town in strategic locations.  Of course there’s going to be a bunch at the saloon, but remember this is the Drinkin’est town in the West and everyone, including the pastor, has a stash.

Craft Barrels come in many sizes. Stain them Brown Wood colored and Ink in XXX on the side.

The Temperance Union is a giant gang of characters– you could make all the (female) players play them and play the drunks as the referee, or have a few (male players) run the drunks.   Considerations: if you have humans (preferably men) playing the opposition, they are prone to the chaos factor that makes the game more exciting.  As the referee, you kind of know the “right” way to play and will make decisions that way– it gets a little “stagey”.

OBJECTIVE: The League marches through town, seizing caches of that demon whiskey and destroying it on sight.  You can have them burn it (with impressive fireballs) or take an axe to it.  For each barrel destroyed the player got a reward token (I used pennies).  For each drunk captured (see rules exceptions below) to be dragged home by the ear, two pennies.

Rules exceptions  (above and beyond the rules you are using for game mechanics)

The Temperance Union Players

The women aren’t armed, except a few with axes for the barrels.  Instead, they use the power of SCOLDING versus a specific target 3″ away.  For each turn spent Scolding, the drunk will try to get away.  If he fails his Nerve test, he shuffles about looking uncomfortable and hangdog.  If he passes, he’ll move ten inches away from her and she will have to chase him.  Once “captured” the character will follow the League woman around docilely, his will broken and he just wants to go home and sleep it off.

I used a 3D6 method for starters, and modified it for other factors– level of drunkeness, whether the drunk was married to the Scolding woman, etc.  Looking for 5s and 6s to score a win.

The drunker the drunk (see below), the greater the bonus for Scolding.  Drunks might actually be married to some of the League characters (you have to set this up in advance, as GM) in which case they will seek to avoid being captured and run a greater distance of 15″ when they see their wives coming.  Wives get an additional scold dice when scolding husbands.  When five or more League women are in a group they can start a LOUD HYMN SINGING to anyone within 10 inch range (you might wish to get some of your female players to loudly sing “What a friend we have in Jesus” out loud at this point).  This gives an additional bonus for subsequent SCOLDING attempts– the men are willing to do anything if they just stop that caterwauling.   Women in the West didn’t usually get involved in gunfights (usually!).  So the Temperance Union will not do so either.  They are respectable women, after all.  Their last and best characteristic is WOMANLY VIRTUE.  Nobody who is playing their role correctly is going to shoot them.  The Code of the West states you can’t shoot a woman.  So even the drunkest drunk isn’t going to do that.. be he might grapple with them or Cuss them out but no gunfire.  Of course, younger (teenaged) Drunk players have a problem with that, being naturally bloodthirsty.  You’ll have to ride herd on that.

Drunks

Drunks can CUSS right back when they get scolded.  CUSSING doesn’t capture anyone but it repels women who must check nerve or back up out of SCOLD range.  In addition, drunks can get involved in a tussle with women actively involved in destroying alcohol stores.  This is GRAPPLING, resolved by the rules you’re using for melee and such.  Grappling is not hitting, it’s physically stopping a woman from taking an axe to a keg.  Code of the West and all that.

The drunks are always at the disadvantage in this game, I’ve found– and that’s the way it should be.  So I toss in a Sheriff and some deputies to balance things.  They will act in the interest of the business owner (e.g. saloon) and attempt to arrest the women.  If a woman character hits a deputy or sheriff, they can use physical force (of a non-deadly nature) to detain them and drag them off to jail.

VICTORY:

Add up the number of barrels at start and the number of drunks (x 2).  This number is the victory threshold
Each Temperance Union woman counts up pennies at the end of the game.  If the number of pennies captured is less than a quarter of the Victory Threshold, crusade was a failure, and the ladies will have to regroup and try again another day.  If the total is between a quarter and a half of the threshold, it was only a minor victory in the ceaseless battle against Demon Whiskey, and they will have to try again another day.   If they score more than half of the Victory Threshold, it was a Victory in the battle against Whiskey!!!  Of course, reading the results in reverse for the Drunks..

There were a few other things, but I’m not remembering them all that well.  That’s the core idea of this scenario, in any event.

Figure Sources (2012)

Wargames Foundry Miniatures

Temperance League:
Range Victoriana, VC002 pack: The Working Class (with minor mods), VC004 Ladies (no mods), VC006 Gentlemen Escorting Ladies,

Range Old West, OW11/3 Townspeople (School Marm) (Layabout makes a good drunk, Shopkeeper a good saloon owner)

Drunks:
Range Old West, OW115, Just Passing Through (all) OW118, Farmers and Cowhands, OW 114, Victorian Gents, OW112 Out on the Town

Brigade Miniatures

Temperance League:
Doesn’t have a lot of Western Civilian women, but Western Characters (5) could make excellent Temperance League MEN.

Dixon Miniatures

Range: Old West Line

Temperance League, single figs
WG10 Woman Walking, WG27 Lady standing looking stern, WG92 Mad Preacher (bible and shotgun), WG 37-40 (Pioneer women) all work very well converting rifles to axes for the barrels. Ditto for WGP 5  WG24 Young Lady with parasol, WG26 lady stepping up (with conversion)

Drunks
WG12 Gamble/Sutler, standing smoking cigar, WG93 Barman with whiskey bottle, WG95 Town gent waving hat, WG96 Town Chav, WGV 2 (violin player and man dancing jig) WGV 3 poker set, WGV 6 piano player and singer,

Old Glory Miniatures

WP-17 Wagon Train settlers has many women figures in it.  just the right sort.  The men can be decent Drunks, too.
WP-31 Country Doc with buggy
WBS-74 Civilians (Civil War Range) has tons of women and men that would be useful.

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Taking the Plunge on 1:600 Ironclads


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

Selma and Forest Rose

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

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

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Ships built so far:

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

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

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

54mm Man to Man Napoleonic Skirmish Project


I’ve wanted to create an individual man-to-man Napoleonic game for a while now.  I recall writing a preliminary set of rules called “Rifleman and Voltigeur” in one of my many little project books several years ago.  Looking back on it, I don’t much care for the combat resolution of that early system, but I like the activation and “segmented turn” approach– everyone is moving in the same ten second blobs of time, just some figures are trying to accomplish more sophisticated tasks than others.   So my approach was to create a segment and weapon track for every figure on the table and give each player a little card with task costs– 3 segments to move, 1 segment to duck and cover, 2 segments to prime musket, 1 segment to load ball, 2 segments to ram, 1 segment to present, 1 segment to fire– that sort of thing.

I’m using 54mm figures because they are my favorite for man to man games.  Easy to see, easy to paint, easy to resolve problems with.

Mixed Napoleonic Skirmish Figures

Mixed French Volitgeurs (HaT figures) and British Riflemen (Italieri) with the basic paint jobs done.  More detail to be added later– eyes, rifle details, badges, etc.

If anyone has any ideas about how to properly seal this kind of plastic figure, please contact me.

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