Tag Archives: wargame

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.

Taranto Progress… Planes almost done


Surprisingly, I’m making a fair amount of progress quickly.


23 Pico Armor Fairey Swordfish models are assembled, painted (rudimentary style) and 21 are even mounted on bases precariously on wires.  I will bump the final count up to 24 so I can have 8 teams of 3 in the final game.  21 flew the historical mission in two waves.  I will have the real pilots names on all the bases (and 3 fictional pilots).  I have 8 Fulmar aircraft, only 1 of which is shown above.  Records indicated Fulmars flew as combat escorts, I’m not sure how I will include them.  It might be fun to have a range of hypotheticals included on the Italian side, including possible support from the Regio Aeronautica.  I’ve ordered some period Italian planes to cause havoc in the future.  i need to touch up the paint jobs, add some detailing and decals, and they are finished.

I’ve got barrage balloons in various stages of completion, these proved to be easy, but I’ll need another order of them.  I have 10 AA tokens painted up, and I just got ten more on EBay.  I’m going with an zone style approach to anti-aircraft fire.  The Italian response was vigorous but inaccurate historically.  The ships all had various AA factors and it seems to be clear that they participated in defensive fire as well as gun emplacements.  I might nominate an AA gun range and give each ship a choice of which plane to target per turn, and that plane gets another AA roll against it.

The fleet is done– painted, based and labeled with names.

Next step is to figure out terrain.

Let’s talk about that Taranto Project


Taaaarrrraaaannnttoooo!

“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.

Game Camp 2015 Day 3 (Wednesday): “Ride that Fury Road”


Wednesday, I put on a repeat of the scenario I created for HISTORICON 2015, “Ride That Fury Road”, which is a post-apocalyptic romp down a highway in pursuit of a giant fuel truck that may or may not be the answer to everyone’s dreams. We added in the factions in this game– Scrappers, Capture Gang, Lawmen. plus a lot of independents. The game, which isn’t over yet (more later) featured MORE metal carnage than previously witnessed, zero team work and zero mercy. Almost every player has cycled through at least two cars by now and some have had as many as three. To discourage the kids from getting pouty when their car dies, I encouraged them to all run more then one car or keep a replacement car handy for when the first car dies.

The Truck breezes by the Trading Post

I didn’t get the cafeteria that I wanted but did get the Arts and Crafts room. We ran four tables down the length of the room. Not quite what I wanted, but it would have to do. It looked great!

The Chase Cars initially. This lineup changed fast as they did the Road Warrior classic and fought each other in brutal fashion.

The carnage piled up fast. This is not very forgiving game, and I told everyone that they would have to get over it quick if they lost their vehicle.. because everyone was going to lose one and many would lose many.

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Game Camp 2015

Early on, the Mystery Machine jumped into its new role as the “Evil Scooby Gang”. Reid released Scooby XXII (raised as a bomb dog) to run back and take out the Turtle, coming up fast behind it. BOOMM! the ensuing explosion fragged Turtle and damage the cars around it seriously.

Poor Scooby!!

But that wasn’t the bottom of the Evil Scooby’s depravity. They hit a new low!

Evil Fred actually trading Daphne for a rocket launcher. Wow.

At least he hit on one of the things traders want in the post-apocalypse. I wonder if Velma could have got more ammo for the Recoilless?

“But Fred! What? I’m to do WHAT???”
“See ya Daphne! You’re a sweetheart!”
“Freeeeeeeeeed!”

Game Camp 2015

“Yessir, that Daphne’s a swell gal.. what a great deal!”

Game Camp 2015

It’s a hard life in the Apocalypse. We played right up to 2:50 when I had to call it for time. Many kids requested we play this again tomorrow so I have left it set up in situ.

For an interesting slideshow of all the pictures from today, click on the picture below:

Click the picture to see more pictures on FLICKR

Anarchy supreme by the end of the day… CLICK HERE to see more pictures!!

It was a great day, a great game and all the kids loved it.

Car Conversions for Road Warrior/White Line Fever, part 1


This is the first of probably two posts on actual car conversions I have done to support the upcoming WHITE LINE FEVER game, which I will run at HISTORICON and the Summer camp I run.  Also read the “Preamble” post on this topic from a couple weeks ago.

I’ve had a lot of fun working on these vehicles– there’s something about gleaming neon colored Hot Wheels cars being converted into rusty, filthy, post-apocalyptic death machines that is deeply satisfying. I’ve got about 40+ cars mostly done. I am waiting a few more cars to arrive in the mail and then I’m holding off on converting more, unless I find a vehicle that is crying for conversion!  I will be concentrating on painting up a few pedestrian gangs next and some terrain after I finish with all of the vehicles. The next post will have more groups of cars and the two tanker trucks I am painting up now. I am grouping these by broad categories– from the mundane and easily recognizable to the oddball conversion to the rather fetishistic cars that Hot Wheels has produced in the last five years or so.

Group 1: Food and TV

The Food and TV collection

These are cars with high recognition factor from popular culture with minimal conversions required. I want the original design to be noticeable and not painted over– so I brushed on a matte varnish, added a few additions, and generally “filthed them all up” with a dry brush to make them all grimy and dirty, but still instantly recognizable. From bottom left, clockwise:

Notes: The Sushi Truck was the most complex conversion of this lot. I added a metal side door out of styrene, a fencing cage over the open service window,  and an armored rear door in the back. I generally “filthed it up” with painted mud and dry brush plus some rust on the “iron plate”. The Mystery Machine got an armored plate up top (this will be a weapons platform) plus I opaqued the windows and added a lot of dirt. The Love Bug was left pretty much as is, just made highly dirty, and finally the Weinermobile got a light machine gun, dirtied up all over, a new hatch plate on top, and cage armor around the bottom.

Group 2: Oddball car conversions

This is a group that used cars that were very futuristic and somewhat impractical looking, all from Hot Wheels.  Many of their diecast creations have been blatantly weird in recent years. Their common characteristic is being long and lean with gigantic tires and big engines. MOST of these were minimal conversions, painted a characteristic flat metal and then heavily rusted. Surprisingly, once I had made that minimal amount of painting, they really are quite evil and bad-ass looking.

The Oddball Conversion collection

Clockwise from Top Left:

  • HW 2009 Carbonator
  • HW 2009 Fast Fortress (Design series– purple and orange)
  • HW 2009 Tread Air from 2012 “Code Cars” collection
  • HW, not sure of this one, can’t make out the model name
  • HW, again, not sure of this one.
  • HW 2008 Duel Fueler
  • HW 2009 RD-10

Notes: Of this group, The Carbonator got the soda bottle faring removed, then a new cockpit and Stan Johansen gunshield added, also a grenade launcher.   The soda bottle looked silly, but the rocket with a chair up front looks wicked.  The Fast Fortress was just repainted and distressed.  I couldn’t figure out what to do with the Tread Air, so I just gave it a post-Apocalyptic makeover.  The unidentified car had new body pieces added because of the awkward “all window” front end, then painted them gun metal and rusted them up, plus added a machine gun.  The other vehicle to its left was painted gunmetal and rusted up, with a piece of fence added to the top– it’s a cool looking vehicle, very old fashioned, but not much I could do with it in terms of armor or weapons.  The Duel Fueler is very weird– huge flaring nodules on either side but not any decent mounting points for a weapon, so I just added a platform in the center and might just put a human survivor in there to leap on other vehicles.  The RD-10 is an old model– I just dirtied it up and added a small platform for a small turret from Stan Johansen miniatures and am painting it as a laser weapon.  

Group 3: The Technicals

A “Technical” is a pickup truck, with minor modifications,  with a large AT Missile or MG mounted on the back, giving an insurgent side a very cheap and expendable response to light armor.  They are common in Middle Eastern countries.  My approach was to add a standing crewman firing a weapon to the back of the vehicle, and adding Stan Johansen’s harpoon guns, for the entertainment factor.

The Technicals, Ford F-150 on left not finished yet.

There were pretty easy.  I added some grill work/fencing on the bed of the trucks to steady the harpoon weapon and to elevate the firing figure.  On the larger (red) technical I added a large armor plate upright bolted to the back of the truckbed.  The trucks are armored with a mixture of welded on plate pieces here and there (such as the driver’s door) and on the hood and roof.  Liberal use of the grill armor contributed to the protection of the driver. From Top, Clockwise

Notes: See the comments above.  Pretty simple conversions — I repainted the 2009 Ford F-150 to be a duller red color, then filthed it and rusted it up.  

Group 4: “The Man”

When you’re fighting against the forces of Apocalypse, you need to have some defenders of the status quo around.. the odd local police unit still functioning, or old National Guard units, or SWAT vehicle, or hard core survivalists.  This group encompasses that kind of vehicle.

The “Man” (Law and order) collection

Most of these came from a Matchbox military vehicles value pack, so they are somewhat similarly weathered and armored.   I wanted vehicles that are grimy, but well cared for, and still functional– though showing signs they will fall apart from lack of spare parts eventually. From Bottom Left, Clockwise:

This group was the first vehicles I converted– mostly by recoloring the too-bright paint jobs with a flat armory spray paint (Olive, Burnt Red, Muddy Brown, Khaki) and then adding bits of cage/fence armor here and there.   The Sentinel Limo is a very cool police car model designed by noted futurist Syd mead for Hot Wheels about a decade ago.  I wanted to retain the markings so I just matte varnished it and added lots of mud colored dry brush to show wear and tear.   The Hot Wheels HMMV didn’t come with a weapon and was just slightly smaller than the Matchbox version, and lacked its detail.  I added a hatch up top (rusted) and a TOW missile launcher so it would match the Matchbox version.  Olive drab undercoat to cover the horrid lime green paint job) and lots of weathering.  I painted the Jungle Crawler to look like a survivalist vehicle of some sort– all dark red undercoat plus improvised cage armor and lots of muck and grime– and a turret MG from Stan Johansen.  The Armored Response Vehicle– I wanted it to look like a specialist vehicle of some sort so I made it a desert khaki with an open MG turret up top, manned with a gunner.   The International MXT didn’t have many good gun mount points so I added a little grenade launcher up front in front of the hatch (from Stan Johansen).  Brown base with highlights and weathering.  The SWAT Truck is still a project to work on — the version I found was bright silver(!) and so I converted it to flat gunmetal/rust and I’m going to add some blue highlights.. to represent oxidized blue police paint that has worn off.  I also added a MG to the roof and a hatch cover up top.  The Hummer with a gun was easy enough, I just lightened the Olive tone and weathered it a lot, and gunmetalled the TOW Launcher. And that’s the first bunch.  I have a few more posts to go with this project– so stay tuned.  Paints came from a variety of sources.  The matchboxes and hot wheels were all very affordable, bought in five-packs mostly.  Added on armor was styrene plastic sheeting.  The grill work (fencing) armor was from a needlepoint plastic grill bought from an arts store.  ALL weapons added on came from Stan Johansen’s ROAD WARRIOR LINE, vehicle weapon packs.

Stay tuned for more automotive mayhem.

Digital Rules: TANK DUEL, a fun team game by Jim Wallman!


After reading LITTLE LAMBENT METEORS last month, I was intrigued enough by the designs of Jim Wallman.  Mr. Wallman is a talented guy, with a sense of whimsy that I really enjoy.  He designs games about most historic eras and scales and on a number of obscure topics (like street riots!).  I like what he does.  You might, as well.  Check out his website. Next on the agenda for an epub conversion is TANK DUEL by Jim Wallman.  This is a fascinating approach to a double blind miniatures game that I really would like to try at my Summer Gaming camp for kids.  Basically, you assign a team of four (or more, or less) players to a single tank model– the Commander, The Gunner, the Driver and the Loader.  Each role has something very specific to do.  Combine that with double-blind sighting mechanics and an emphasis on running the game at breakneck speed.. well, this could be batshit crazy when it gets on the table.  Count me in! Tank Duel is available on Jim’s website for free download as a PDF.  I converted it to epub for about a 50 per cent size reduction.  You can find it on the Digital Rules page in the standard place.  Just click on the cover below. There is also a one sheet reference that outlines what the roles in the game do.  I’ve made this available HERE. copyright-td

Little Lambent Meteors by Jim Wallman (Digital Library)


Hey! I haven’t converted a ruleset to epub lately. Here’s a great candidate right here:

Click on the Cover to go to the DIgital Rules page.

I stumbled upon this quirky little rule set by Jim Wallman recently. It is a simulation (or not, that’s really not the word for it), let’s call it a humorous study of exactly what’s referred to in the subtitle, rioting mobs of the 18th Century. Having played GANGS OF ROME in the not too distant past, I was immediately attracted to the concept of this game– I don’t see it playing in a scale much larger than 6mm myself, but it should be easy to paint!!

Disclaimer: the PDF version of these rules can be found in many places online– this is a simple epub conversion, for private use on your tablet computer, smart phone or e-reader.  There is no charge for this file, but don’t sell it, rename it or republish it.   If Mr. Wallman has an objection to this, I will remove the file immediately with my profuse apologies.

As always, click on the graphic above to go to the digital rules page, where you will find the link to the epub for this file. Thanks.

Cuba, a Splendid Little War: VPG’s other side of the story


The Spanish American war (1898) has experienced it’s fair share of myth-making. Remember the Maine. Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. The Battles of El Caney and Santiago Bay. America showing those dastardly Spaniards who was boss, eh? Stirring stuff. Except, well… yeah. It didn’t’ really have to be that way. In fact, the Americans might not have been involved at all. You see, the United States was only involved for three months (roughly) in an unequal struggle with a worn out and largely rudderless Spanish Military that STILL dealt an astonishing amount of casualties before being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the American onslaught. The Spaniards (by that, I mean, the occupying colonial power) had been fighting an on-again, off-again struggle with the Cuban Nationalists (by that, I mean the Spaniards who had settled down and created plantations on Cuba and wanted to rule themselves) for 30 years. The roots of the conflict were the Ten Years War (1868–1878), an independence movement by local planters that was stomped down by the Spanish Government, then the “Little War” (1879–1880), which was something of a continuation of the former struggle. Finally, The Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898), ultimately successful, had been fought for FOUR YEARS before the Americans poked their snoots into the conflict. One cannot hazard a guess how successful the latter might have been WITHOUT American military muscle around to devastate the Spanish position, but the main point of all this is the Cuban resistance to Spanish rule was not a new development, nor were the men who fought it necessarily poor fighters who needed American help to win. That is a major theme of the game CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR, by Victory Point Games. The game is a very simple card-driven game representing the asymmetric struggle between the Cuban forces and Spanish occupying forces during the third Cuban War of Independence.

Setup, CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR. First turn: all the action starts in the South.

The Cuban War of Independence is a historical conflict that really hasn’t been modeled much in game design– I would argue that it really wasn’t much touched upon in the only two wargames set in the era that I know of, REMEMBER THE MAINE! and GWAS: THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR. The former was an SPI/TSR era magazine game that mostly focused on the naval aspect of the war between the US and Spain that gave the land operations little thought. The latter was a pure naval game that focused on the fleet and small ship engagements between the Americans and Spanish Colonialists. So there was definitely room for a game that could tell the story of the Cuban versus Spanish struggle, which CUBA: A SPLENDID LITTLE WAR does in elegant style.

For starters, the designer, Javier Garcia de Gabiola, understood that the conflict between the native Cubans and their Spanish overlords was the focus of the game, and  the later conflict that included the Americans (and garnered all the historical attention) was, while interesting in its own right, not necessarily the preferred option for the Cubans.  Therefore, if a player can the Cuban side can manage a win WITHOUT the American intervention (and beefed up firepower), he or she has a win to boast about.  I know I have yet to manage it!

Speaking of Americans, here they come, start of Turn 5

I digress.  Let’s discuss the game itself.  You can think of A Splendid Little War as a sort of a gateway drug into more complex card driven games, if that makes it easier to categorize.  Counter density is very low.  There are 18 Spanish units, most of whom enter the board as a result of spending resource points or playing action cards.  There a maximum of 6 Cuban “Corps” in the game– don’t ask me the scale of either unit, it’s not really important in terms of mechanics.    The map is area movement– with six areas marked for resource levels, with two cities (Havana and Santiago) that become one of the victory focuses of the game.     There’s a large deck of Action Cards that represent historical events that directly effect the units of either or sometimes both sides– a leader can be killed, for instance, or the yellow fever can decimate (flip over) a unit in a map section or .  The cards are either regular actions (underlined) that are used once, then discarded, or actions that can be used again after being discarded and reshuffled back into the draw deck.  Cards with a red border around the title can be used as a reaction card to a card just played.  Cards with a blue title box show up when the U.S. enters the war (more on this later).

Speaking of cards, and I know we were.. here’s a really nasty one. Play yellow fever on a stack of troops in a single area, and they have to flip over one. Since Cuban troops max out at strength=1, this can be a bad news for the Cubanos, as you see here.

Perhaps you are used to the CDG design style popular with a lot of GMT games (and other publishers) that stipulates that a card can be used once for it’s event (and discarded) or used repeatedly for some operational or command point number on the card.  The cards in a Splendid Little War are not like that– they are simple event cards that manipulate the board situation.  The designer fills the same design space as “operational points” by giving each side a very long laundry list of specific actions that can be conducted in rounds until both sides pass.  These are:

  • Play an Event card
  • Burn Fields  (Cuban Only) Burning fields will eliminate resources in a map area for the turn, but more importantly, it will also decrease Spanish prestige, more on this later.
  • Recruit (Cuban only),  roll to get more troops.  It has proven very difficult to do!
  • Lobby The Americans to intervene (Cubans) or stay home (Spaniards)
  • Move from map area to map area, but beware, it adds a spotter marker on the moving unit.
  • Attack the opposing unit in the map area.
  • Ask for Reinforcements (Spanish only),
  • Repatriate Units (Spanish only)
  • Protect Fields (Spanish Only) — Prevent the Cubans from
  • Form Search & destroy Column (Spanish only) — this means perform an action to find the Cubans hiding out in the bush
  • Captain General Actions  Some actions require a general to perform.  A Captain General Action is ordering a unit to perform an action from the Spanish Governor General’s office in Havana– it’s possible to lead from the rear but it costs you two resources to do it.

Generally speaking the turns work out to be a mutual action phase where players alternate rounds (Cubans first), they perform action and action until both sides pass in a row.  The players than conduct an Administrative Step where there’s some card hand and resource management, remove markers, and they check the US and Spanish Stance.

Important information on these tracks… note the big yellow arrows

This latter feature is pretty important.  There are four tracks on the game board that gauge progress.  One is a turn track, the other is a resource track.  The other two are all-important.  The U.S. War Entry Track starts at zero.  Various historical events (played with cards) OR lobbying will move this closer to 10, where the counter flips to the WAR side– at that point the American Units come on the board (including naval ones) and act in concert with the Cubans.  The Spanish Public Support Track starts at ten.  If the public support for the regime hits 1 or 0, that’s the game for the Spaniards.  The Spanish player is constantly trying to nudge this up through various actions– including fighting and eliminating Cuban units, protecting crops, and historical event cards.

The game plays pretty fast (only 7 turns), and the actions are simple to grasp and easy to resolve.  I’ve played both sides and I confess to preferring the Cubans– it’s pretty challenging to try to pull of a win as the Cubans without American intervention.  I’ve yet to do it.  The Cubans have to concentrate on moving across the map and capturing at least one city, or preferably two.  The Spaniards start with relatively few units on board but can summon more reinforcements– at the coast of political support on Spanish Public Support Track.  Spanish units are usually stronger than Cuban ones but on par with American ones– however, they can’t make use of that strength easily– they have to find the Cubans before attacking.  Cubans can stay still in a map space and not be seen, but many of their actions will cause a spotting marker to be placed on them, which gives the searching Spaniard a bonus to find them.

Whoops! The Cuban moved from Oriente to Camaguey this turn, he’s spotted! The Spaniard can’t attack without a General present, but he CAN if he uses a “Captain General” action, basically having the CG Call the shots all the way from Havana. For 2 RPs.

There are a lot of small, simple elements to this game that add up to a fast-playing, simple game of insurgency and counter-insurgency. Oddly enough the one game I was thinking of when playing Splendid Little War was GMT’s Cuba Libre. Sure, the mechanics are very different, the setting a different time but in the same place– and fighting a very similar kind of war. I really like this design– it’s a challenge to play either side and I’d say it’s relatively balanced. It plays fast, has several elegant elements that play off against each other well and most importantly there’s more than one way to win. Hard core wargamers might find it a little simple for their tastes– I wouldn’t. Cuba: A Splendid Little War is more of a history game that involves war than a wargame, but I’m glad it was published– it’s a real pleasure to discover a game on a somewhat obscure historical subject with so much historical flavor. I strongly recommend Cuba: A Splendid Little War.

Commander: The Great War, reviewed


Commander The Great War
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd
Available on PC, Mac  and Ipad
Itunes Link SRP as of review: $19.99

I’ve been meaning to get to this review sooner rather than later, but this is no light historically-flavored game, like my previous two Slitherine reviews (Quadriga and Frontline: Road to Moscow).  Commander The Great War  (CTGW hereafter) is designed for serious wargamers who are in it for the long game– and willing to pay a serious price for the privilege.   Yes, that’s right, CTGW is not going to be a cheap purchase, it’s 20.00 as of this writing.  Is it worth the high end price tag? Right up front I’ll say yes, it is, with a few caveats that I will expand upon.

SCOPE: Commander the Great War is a grand strategy scaled game. Players assume the role of supreme leader of a nation or coalition of nations on either the Entente Cordiale or Triple Entente sides of the Great War (meaning World War One in this instance). In pursuit of this role, the player will be making strategic decisions for the individual nations on his or her side, including army movements and attacks, naval movements (and resulting battles) as well as research and development of new military technologies.

Game Start and setup– with some nice multimedia bits

If I were to draw an analogy to a boardgame, CTGW relates to Advanced Third Reich and/or World in Flames the most, in that the player has to operate on the same grand strategic scale in a major theater of war, and there’s a similar diplomatic and research element to those games. Yeah, I know, World War Two. I just don’t know of any that fill the same niche set in the First World War era– certainly not Guns of August. In terms of computer games, Matrix Games’ own Guns of August (PC version) is roughly similar in scope, but not mechanics. To End all Wars (also published by Slitherine) looks similar in scope but is mechanically very different (being developed by Aegeon), but I have no experience with it.

The setting for Commander the Great War is vast; playing out on a hex map of Europe from North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula up to the North Sea, East to the Ural mountains, West to the Atlantic and French coast. That is a lot of hexes and a lot of ground to cover, especially in the grand campaign games after 1916, when so many fronts are opened up. This can get a little confusing on the Ipad, as one furiously swipes across the map to see what the enemy units are doing during his opponent’s turn.

There are five preset Campaigns:

  • 1914 The Great War
  • 1915 Ypres – Artois
  • 1916 The Battle of Verdun
  • 1917 The Nivelle Offensive
  • 1918 The Kaiserschlacht

Echoing the course of the Great War, the Triple Entente (Germany, Austria, Turkey) are favored in the first two scenarios and somewhat in 1916. In game terms, 1917 and 1918 become a real challenge for the Triple Entente player as more and more military technologies are present at start of the game (tanks, better airplanes, better artillery, armored trains, better ships, and etc).

I’m playing Serbia in the 1914 campaign versus the AI. Serbia is a thankless role, but the whole shooting match starts here and it’s worth a shot as the Entente Cordiale player. I do have the advantage of interior lines, and a ponderous response from the Austrians, but numbers eventually tell.

No matter which you select, don’t expect to be done with any grand campaign quickly. The AI is slow to make decisions (More on this later) and progress is very incremental.

Here are my vacation snaps from the invasion of the Low Countries (also the 1914 scenario). No grand Schlieffen Plan here; it’s more like a bulge forming in the Allied line as the Germans pour in after limited local success. This pattern repeats throughout the game– It’s ALL about finding a spot to break through and exploit– it’s a real gamble, and broad front assaults are almost impossible

There doesn’t appear to be any instructions or help file anywhere, but most of the action happens in a few screens and are very easy to figure out.    Mechanically, moving land troops is just dragging them from hex to hex and clicking on highlighted squares when the moving unit is adjacent to  enemy units.   Terrain and Zones of Control factor into movement and combat in a very general way, in that you will move faster on a railroad and be held up by terrain features, or not be able to pass an enemy formation.

Example of moving Serbian movements into the abattoir.

The mechanics aren’t the interesting part of the game, not so much. It’s the decisions you make per turn that will change the game one way or the other for the player. Those decisions are made using a simple five tabbed menu:

How to fight a war, emphasis mine!

The management menus lead to production, research, diplomacy and management sub-menus.  This is the point where I remind you of your role– you may want to fight those tactical battles, they’re fun and very visually rewarding.   However, you’re in it for the long haul here, and you are making decisions about what you’ll be doing not just this year, but the next two years.  So you need to start making the hard decisions early.. do I spend a lot of money on researching better weapons and hope I’m just lucky and don’t need a lot of infantry replacements?  Or do I feed more men into the meat grinder I’m dealing with right now?

The Diplomacy screen is rather innocuous, I haven’t seen much come as a result of using it.  Players need to focus on Production and Research decisions exclusively– resources are what they are– very precious.  You have what you have and you must spend them wisely to be effective.

Serbia’s rather bleak production options in 1914.

What can Serbia research this early in the war? Well, I’d choose barbed wire…

When you play a side, depending on the campaign you’re playing, you are playing multiple fronts and multiple nations, with multiple national priorities. The Serbian/Austrian front at the start of the war is pretty much a doomed confrontation, so the Serbians need to do what they can do to stall the Triple Entente until the other powers can get engaged. So that “Cheap Infantry now versus expensive Tanks later” equation doesn’t really work there, but it will for, say, Germany or England. You also have to consider what the major front you are working on needs– not just now, but in three turns. For instance, Russia could use those cheap cavalry units. Sure, they are crap troops– but they are great for moving vast distances without railroads fairly quickly, and can cut off troops nicely. The Germans will be tempted to spend it on better airplanes and artillery to force a result on the Western Front. The English may be the best power on Water but that superiority doesn’t necessarily last forever– and what about buying transports and more infantry, you know, to help those Allies out somewhere?

And this is where you get feedback from your decisions, each turn. What will be next in the production queue, what is coming up in the research queue..

There are a lot of variables in CTGW, and a lot to experiment with– just don’t expect a quick payoff. As I’ve already mentioned, this is a long game, and you NEED to be in it for the long game. Don’t bother if you want a quickly resolving tactical battle game like Frontline. That’s not the focus of Commander Great War. Even success creates tough situations– combat is often very bloody for both sides– when you lose most of your attacking force in a victory, what then? What happens next year when the other side comes roaring back in a counterattack? I certainly hope you planned for reinforcements!

What does all this mean? You have to plan ahead in almost every turn. In this respect, the game really generates interesting, and often historically flavored results. The game really does feel like World War One– there’s no way a broad front strategy works– The Western Front ends up a pushing match, the Eastern Front has great scope for movement. The best results for the Western Front is to exploit a salient and push through in localized areas. That often is such a grinder that the Entente player really IS tempted to explore other fronts like Turkey.

The technological developments really enhance that feeling. Germany is tempted to use its finite surface fleet early– but things really change for them when U-boats come into play.

If I sound enthusiastic, I am– however there are a few drawbacks to this game– it’s slow, which is why I found it harder to review, than, say, the last 2 Slitherine games I’ve bought. I find that the AI is very capable, but is facing so many decisions that it does bog down somewhat after about four turns. Before the last update, the AI was consistently freezing right about turn 4. That seems to be fixed. It’s still not greased lightning but remember, this isn’t an arcade game. Each turn will require a lot of actions on the player’s part, expect that to be the case for the AI as well. The other element that I find a drawback to total enjoyment is the lack of transparency. I often was stumped about units appearing out of the “Fog of War fog” that is on the edges of the map.. sometimes I was asking myself how the heck that unit got THERE.. teleporting? I also would like to know what the AI player’s decisions were in the proceeding turn. I know it’s historically appropriate for the human side to NOT know this, but it would help understand the mechanics, which certainly aren’t explained.

Summary: Commander Great War is like a sipping whiskey; drink it too fast and you’ll choke. CTGW is far too complex of a brew to be swallowed whole on first sip. You’ll have to be patient, take it in gradually. This game will reward patience and foresight, but not an arcade player. Commander The Great War is a game of elegance and simplicity, and it will reward a player with a strategic mindset. Is it worth 20 bucks? That’s up to you. I think there’s a LOT of game in that 20 dollars, and a real wargaming fan will consider his money well spent. Replay value is excellent.

Sign of the Pagan, by VPG (a review)


Sign of the Pagan Victory Point Games

Sign of the Pagan
Victory Point Games
www.victorypointgames.com Designed by Richard Berg

Game Scales:

  • 1 counter=500 to 1000 men
  • 1 hex=200 yards
  • 1 turn=30 minutes +/-

Sign of the Pagan is not just an obscure and preachy Sword and Sandals movie from the 1950s, but also a hex and counter style wargame published by Victory Point Games as part of their Gold Banner Product line.  Sign of the Pagan was published in late 2013, and I’ve only played it about three times since I received it, so I’ll admit my understanding of the game is not what it will be, though overall pretty positive.

Sign of the Pagan is a game that focuses on The Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, which comes down to us as “The Battle of Chalons“, which featured two large forces, Hun and Roman (by contemporary standards) .  The forces on either side were neither entirely Hunnic nor very Roman, but were instead coalition forces of polyglot troops loosely allied on either side.  The Western Romans, by this point in history, really weren’t close to being recognizable as the force that had conquered Gaul under the early Caesars centuries before.   What was left was disciplined (for its day), mounted, and well armored, but not present in enough numbers to counter the Hunnic invasion.  The local commander, Flavius Aetius, led a coalition of very willful and militant local tribes consisting of Visigoths, Salian and Ripuarian Franks, Sarmatians, Armoricans, Liticians, Burgundians, Saxons, Librones and other Celtic or German tribes.  The invading Hun army, led by Attila, consisted primarily of Hunnic Empire cavalry but also sizable contingents from the Ostrogoths, Rugians, Scirii, Thuringians, Bastarnae, Alamanni, Gepids and Heruli tribes.  The outcome of the battle was decided rout of the Hun Coalition, as predicted by the Hunnic diviners the night before.   I won’t wax historical in this post as there are some good historical sources to read up on Chalons here and there around the internet, not the least of which being Wikipedia.

As a somewhat linear battle develops, as I play my first game of Sign of the Pagan.  The lines are never that coherent for very long!

We have a great setup here– two coalition forces with allies that have the potential to be treacherous (some of them, anyway).   The battle and troop mix favor shock factors such as heavy infantry and medium cavalry, all of which are in the mix.  So how well does Sign of the Pagan do as a game?

The rules are a potage of elements that the designer, Richard Berg, has served up before.  Activation is accomplished by Contingent Activation markers (CAMs) which have been around in one fashion or another since A Famous Victory.   All very understandable.  Players select CAMs, then roll for initiative winner and the winner places his CAM on the map.  The remaining CAMs are put back in an opaque cup.  Contingents are activated by drawing from a cup in random fashion thereafter.  Movement is pretty standard stuff, and facing counts.

Combat comes in two flavors, Missile and Shock.   Missile is nothing we haven’t seen before– units have to be in range, units have to be seen, the firing unit must have a missile factor, and there other factors possibly in play, such as movement and whether the unit is engaged.  Missile Combat is resolved on a Missile Fire CRT which is fairly bloodless- the worst result being a DISORDERED marker.  Shock Combat is handled somewhat differently, and is heavily modified by troop type,   Position advantage, Momentum, and current Morale.  The goal is to get the enemy disordered twice; that eliminates them.  I found that a preliminary arrow shower followed up by a rush of men with swords and axes is the best combination.


Also included in the game are eight OPPORTUNITY CARDS (above) for either side which are shuffled, and four are drawn for both sides.  The Opportunity Card is like a “one time interrupt” event that modifies the outcome of the current battle.  The rulebook states they can be played at any time– a general rule that is modified by the event description on the card.  Note that there are really only FOUR cards– the other four of the eight are “no events” just to add a little variability and randomness.  Even so, I suspect you could play a bluff with a No Event card if you have the right stuff theatrically.

In the three games I’ve played so far, the rulebook appears to lay things out in a fairly sensible manner and there was nothing about Sign of the Pagan‘s mechanics that was profoundly difficult to grasp, on the face of it.  And yet… there were many occasions where I was confused or just plain interpreted the text incorrectly.  Some of the steps and exceptions to combat are vaguely worded and I found myself re-reading parts of the book again and again in order to grasp the designer’s intent.  If that fellow is engaged with that fellow and another fellow comes up and attacks from here, the rules state this exception… 

Personally, I think the rulebook would have been greatly improved with an illustrated example of the first 3-4 turns of a game, just to see how movement, activation, command and combat actually work.  There are a smorgasbord of mechanical elements to this game that appear familiar but ultimately made me feel like I was eating ala carte.   This is not to say it isn’t an enjoyable game– once I got the hang of things, I really liked it.  This is an interesting period, very rarely a subject of a wargame design.   I liked the period, I liked the tactical situation very much.  I liked the treacherous Alans tribe– shades of the Kobayakawa clan in Berg’s earlier Shogun Triumphant!

On the material side the components really won me over.  The counters are published in that new big, chunky style favored by Victory Point games.. they are solid in the hand and don’t blow away when you sneeze.   The graphics for the counters are decent but not eye-catching, the map is elegance personified.  The printing is a little muddy in places (particularly the color charts) but very readable.

If Sign of the Pagan is illustrative of the VPG’s continuing efforts in promoting nice little one-shot battle games with great components, all at an affordable price, than I’m all for it.  I was already a fan of VPG but games like Sign of the Pagan will induce me to stay that way.

Charge Pikes! (2005) now in Digital Rules Library


Go to the DIGITAL RULES library (top of this page) to download

Back in 2005, Wesly Rogers offered us a set of English Civil War/Musket and Pike rules as a free download from his Angelfire page (now sadly gone). Through some diligent searching I found the original rules in PDF, though not the playsheets.  Charge Pikes! is a very decent set of Musket and Pike era rules, reasonably well written, although I did break up some of the excessively long sections into separate smaller sections for ease of conversion into EPUB format.  This was an easy conversion, as the PDF was printed from a Word Document, but there are a lot of tables I screen captured and added in.   I was GOING to color each section’s tables a different color, but that got tedious.  So we’ll live with it as is.  The cover looks like old WRG style books, I retained that out of a sense of nostalgia.

I have no idea how to get in touch with Wesly Rogers but  I presume as this was freely available on Freewargamerules at some point, he has no problem with converting a PDF to an EPUB.  He can contact me if there’s a problem.

As usual, this can be found on the DIGITAL RULES page (tab is up top).  This is NOT found in “Commercial, Out of Print” section.  It’s in the Non-Commercial Wargame Rules (Local Files) section.

Retro: The Great Amish Rake Fight Games, 2002-2003


Another in a series of visits down memory lane to the world of Retro gaming.

The subject of this post was a game that many have referenced in public over the years but few actually saw.  That’s because it was only played twice in public and once for practice at Bob Giglio’ s house.   Namely: the Great Amish Rake Fight.  This is a semi-legendary game (if I do say so, myself) that gets bandied about now and then with a “remember when” twinkle in everybody’s eye.  My name is associated with it, to be sure, as I was one of the two people who ran it and one of the small group of dedicated ninnies who built it and contributed to it– and I think I’m as good of a reference as any.

Your Humble Narrator, suited up as referee at the first running of the Great Amish Rake Fight Game (Cold Wars 2002).  The very real beard is visual proof of the lengths I used to go to for a sight gag.  I actually shaved it off at this con!

Please note: Bob Giglio, co-GM of ARF, has kindly provided some material, corrections and most importantly PHOTOGRAPHS of the 2002 event.  Photographs provided by Bob, and where direct quotes apply, they are cited.

The Great Amish Rake Fight game, or ARF, as it has been referenced from 2003 onward, has its origins in an email conversation held  between Del Stover, Bob Giglio, and other members of the HMGS Marketing Outreach program.  If I’m recalling things correctly, someone, I think it was Del, mentioned that there wasn’t any historical battle sites local to Lancaster PA’s HOST facility that he could properly leverage to get a historical crowd to come running to see.  Or something like that.  In my own wise-assed way, I interjected, saying words to the effect of “nonsense.. I have been making Amish Military units for the great Amish Rake Fight game, haven’t you heard of that?”  Big laughs all around.   I had pulled the name from an old USENET group from the dawn of the Internet that had (at the time) very little to do with gaming.

The thing is, I actually had been slowly building militarized Amish units (squad sized), for a game that I ran a lot of back in the day, THE RULES WITH NO NAME.  This is an excellent Western skirmish rules set that used to be free for the download, but has since become a commercial product, so I won’t provide a download link.  My idea (then) was to create an “Amish versus Outlaws” game, where some bad guys were riding into town with the intention of looting it blind, and the normally pacifistic Amish were driven to extremis to protect themselves.  My thoughts where give the Amish player some form of hero figure plus 1-4 scut troops of various abilities to follow him around and engage with the Outlaws.  The Hero figure could either be a young Amish fighter armed with a rake, or a churn, or a buggy whip, axe, shovel, anything handy.  Or he might be an Elder, whose job is to “Shame” the outlaw with an effect akin to stunning him.  I had some great buildings that would have worked in a Western setting, and I was working on some ideas for Amish secret weapons to counter the technological advantage the outlaws had (guns).  That was about where this game was when I mentioned it in the meeting.  Bob Giglio loved the idea.  I mentioned some of my ideas, he immediately ran with it and we started collaborating on the spot.  There was a lot of polite tittering from those we mentioned the concept to and repeated “yeah, rights”, which only firmed our resolve to make the game happen.    Over the next few months, Bob and I, joined by Neil Brennan and Chris Johnson, worked on the figures, the terrain and the rules.   I already had about 40 Amish painted up.  Bob added some special figures he had done (and painted much better than my meager efforts).    Terrain was simple, a ground cloth covering a 6 x 10 area with a road (representing Route 30) and some ERTL farm buildings and other structures to represent a portion of the Amish town.

28mm AMISH FIGURES (It’s easier than you think)

The Amish figures proved to be easier to pull off than I had imagined.  I started with a big bag of Old Glory’s 25mm Western range, namely the WAGON TRAIN SETTLERS.  There are some very useful conversion figures inside– men with small carbines and buggy whips and such.   I recall Joel Gregory had cast some useful farm implements (butter churns, shovels, etc., but ironically no rakes).  He graciously donated to the project and I replaced rifles for shovels, etc.  I also used the many female figures in the bag, as well.  One showed a severe woman stirring something in a bucket on the ground with a long pole.  I dubbed that figure “Vat Women”, and painted them up with a severed head in the bucket, as if she was rendering it down for something.  Honestly, I can’t recall what she did in game terms other than look cool.

WP 17: Old glory Wagon Train Settlers

Old Glory’s WG-17 bag of figures was (and is) a hell of a bargain; even after the price has gone up I believe I managed to convert the entire bag of 30 figures into either useful Amish Line troops, weapons crews or something very decorative and Amish looking.  Conversion notes– I bent the hat brims to something resembling flat.  Where the hat had a rounded crown I filed it flat.  I painted the hat straw colored with a narrow black ring around it.  Shirts were uniformly pale blue denim.  Pants black or blue.  Coats Black.  I removed all rifles and added farming implements.  I left the buggy whip in the buggy whip figure’s hands– that’s one implement an Amish man WOULD have..  Women’s dresses were grey, black or blue.  Very easy to pull off.   All figures were mounted on pennies.

To this, I added single Dixon Old West Range figures from the “Mexican peon” range and Stagecoach and Townsfolk ranges.  I bought a lot of WG76, WG77, and WG78, as all of these are using in-scale farming implements as part of the original sculpt.  Conversion was not as easy as the OG Settlers– I had to file and flatten the sombreros, file down the sandals a little to so the toes aren’t as pronounced and paint the formerly bare feet as boots.   I did add a few macabre touches, like drilling the off hand of one of the peons and adding a head modeled as if it were recently severed and being held by him.  A little hard core for Amish, but hey, the whole POINT of this game is parody, so why not.

Just a few candidates for conversion from Dixon miniatures Old West line:

WG 76

(remove rifle)
WG 79

WG 92

Bob Giglio contributed several figures from Westwind’s Gothic Horror Range, none of which I can find pictures of at this stage.  They were mostly the Bohemian Villagers or something like that.  They looked like Amish people.. kinda.. if you squint a little.  The Amish never went in for the lacy shirt look, but they did have agricultural tools.  Bob also provided some Boers from the Old Glory Boer range that definitely fit, though it was hard to find Boers without guns.   Great wagons.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. This picture depicts the Amish figs post-conversion. Most of these are converted Old Glory Settlers except these: the Amish male waving a machete is an ex-Mexican Peon, as is the Amish directly to the right of the Meek standing at the end of the bridge.  Partially obscured is a Westwind figure to the left. Yes, the Amish had standards, see below. CLICK PICTURE to enlarge

Amish Flags used as Unit Standards

Transport

Civilian automobiles were a mix of  diecast modern vehicles that were kinda, sorta in 1:64 scale (nominal for 25mm).   We had several State Police cars, using the Pennsylvania State Police logo.  We also had a police copter.   There were several cars parked as props in front of the large barn where the game starts off; in addition there were some construction equipment that I picked up from a toy set that seemed sized right.  The big surprise was the ubiquitous Amish buggies.    If you’re a scratch builder and have gamed in the 19th century, then you probably know of the pencil sharpener covered wagons.  There’s also one modeled along the lines of a Amish buggy.  I thought this was a dubious choice, but you know, once Bob had painted up a mess of these, they really looked great and roughly in scale, if somewhat smallish.

Voila, Cheap Amish Buggies, available in bulk at any sleazy souvenir stand in Amish Land

I made the ubiquitous little orange triangle signs for the back of each buggy and even tried to make “Scythes” to make them killer buggies, but the latter looked terrible, so we gave up on that idea.

 Terrain

Terrain was pretty easy.  I was collecting a lot of ERTL farmville sets back in those days, which are nominally scaled for 1:64.  I had two big barns, and we had diverse smaller buildings from craft store holiday sets and such that worked in that scale, as well as one scratchbuilt Amish Stripper palace that offered “Lapp Dances”.  Yeah, parody can be fairly broad at times.   Bob built us a good looking Route 30 for one end of the map, and Bob also built some streams, roads and hills to break up the terrain a little– and he did it effortlessly.  It was a real pleasure to collaborate with Bob in this way.  We’d discuss the problem of terrain and ZIP! he’d go to some part of his basement, find the right thing, or build it from scratch, no muss, no fuss.

Bob adds:
(with the exception of the barns) The terrain was all done by me, including the first ever Lapp’s with the sign that said “We have Lap Dances”, well before MBA had created one. 😉

See the map:

The Great Amish Rake Fight games, terrain

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection.  Here’s a shot of Amish in action near the Amish Market. Some of the local thugs are approaching on the lower right. You can see one of the painted pencil sharpener buggies and some of the Christmas Village buildings we used for structures. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Route 30 terrain, built by Bob. Plus some of the signs I made and the diecast cars.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. More fun on Route 30

From the Bob Giglio Collection. The Roadhouse, with a custom billboard. State motorcycle cops on the right.

Here’s some Road Signs I made up using a color printer, a laminating machiine and some wooden bits

Rules

Rules… What can I say?  Bob G. and I are two very different GMs.  Bob is a very procedure oriented GM, who likes the details, and likes to have this resolved before the game starts, preferably by playtesting.  He is not adverse to using a published set of rules.  I’m more of a “GM for effect” kind of GM, and have been known to make something up for the sheer dramatic hell of it on the spot.  Once or twice.  With that said, ARF was going to be a game where the mechanics really weren’t THAT important.  I knew that going in to the project.  Most of the fun was going to be had with the theme and the setting and the way we were riffing on a non-violent race of people being secretly capable of violence and possessing weapons of mass destruction.   I mean, with that premise, who cares how far someone moves and someone shoots, as long as they do it consistently?  I pushed for THE RULES WITH NO NAME early on, but didn’t really care if Bob was pushing for something else, so we went with THE BOOTLEGGERS, a gangster rule set Bob was very familiar with and had run huge games at HMGS events in the past with.  Being a game that could handle fire and movement and relatively modern weaponry, I was game.  We had to modify it a bunch for the Amish secret weapons.  Oh?  What were those?

The Amish Secret Weapons

 If there was something (besides the figures and terrain) that really “made” ARF .. ARF, it was the secret weapons.  These were a collection of Amish inspired weaponry that had a definitive impact on the game, but could be codified using the Bootleggers rules.  To be honest, I forget a lot of them, but the rule was they had to be goofy, there had to be a model representing the item, and it had to be modified “Amish stuff”.. e.g. Agricultural implements.  There’s not a lot of pictures of this event, but the ones I remember are:

The Pie Flinger: This was a device (taken from an Ertl farm toy) that was manned by the female Amish figures.  The presumption was that it fired a hot sticky pie into the onrushing hordes of progress, automatic style.

The Poopn’flinger:  I can’t remember what the backstory was on this thing, but it featured an outhouse-catapult kind of arrangement.  So it would “Fire” poop..

Bob adds:
The Poop-a-Flinga was the creation of Chris Johnson’s fertile(?) mind. It was an outhouse with a large Y-branch in front of it (for the slingshot base) with two long rubber bands stretching into the door of the outhouse, from which the “projectile” would be fired. I think it was on wheels or something, so it could pivot accordingly, to “acquire” a target. Very creative, to say the least — good show Chris!

Der Super Kow:  This was a cow (also manned by a female figure) that was fed a mash of beans and oats.  If an enemy gets within a certain distance, the crew bonks der Kow on the nose, and lights a fire near the tale.. KA BOOM!  Natural flame thrower.  Pretty much a one shot weapon.

The Harrower of Death: This was the weapon of the Mennonites in Black, an allied faction working with the Amish.   It was somewhat verboten in terms of Amish-tech, as it had a steam engine.  The model was another useful pencil sharpener model familiar to VSF/Steampunk miniatures enthusiasts:

This had a big harrower from ERTL’s “Farm Country” set attached fore and aft, the idea being it would drive into crowds and rip them apart. Yeah, pretty bloody for such a peaceable people.

Bob adds:

Also remember, one of the “abilities” we gave the Amish, with a nod to “Children of the Corn”, was that they could go into any cornfield and take a turn to “teleport” to any other cornfield on the board (with a chance of a mishap, naturally).

Last, and by far not the least:

The Amish Cow-ta-pault:  This was, simply put, a giant medieval catapult that fired a live, irate cow into oncoming vehicles.  The cowtapult stole the show, as we will see later on.

Force Composition:

The Amish were divided into roughly 6 groups of ten skirmishers each with a “special” .. either an Amish Self-Immolator (Amish Guy with  a giant fertilizer bomb) or a Meek (remember the “elder” figure that could freeze enemies with a “Shaming?”  That’s a Meek).   The individual female figures mostly were used as Weapon Crews on the secret weapons.   Oh, yeah.. we had a John Book character (From WITNESS).  He was like an Amish Super-fighter.

What about “the Bad Guys”?

Hey, it you have half a brain you’re probably figuring out we were pretty subjectively sympathetic to the Amish in this game design.  YET, we had to have an opposition of sorts– one that was consistent and logical and with 21st century technology, meaning small arms, police weapons, maybe a SWAT team here  and there.  As far as I can recall there was a hodgepodge of groups on the “Forces of Progress” side:

A Gang of Gamer types, from a nearby historical miniatures gaming convention going on that weekend (ARF shamelessly breached the Fourth Wall all game long).  Melee weapons at best.. I think all they did was drive up to the fight and get their butts kicked.

A Board of Development e.g., the BoD (with cunningly altered names) from said convention, who want to buy up Amish-land and build a giant, NEW convention center for holding gaming conventions in, right on that spot, so they are here to check up on their investment. I think some of them had saps and pistols.

Two gangs of Biker Thugs, 10 each, approaching from the direction of Route 30.  Armed with melee weapons and pistols.

Some Union Goons that are being paid off by the Board of Directors to persuade the local Amish to get out of the way of the construction equipment.  Melee weapons and some pistols.

A Grader and a Bulldozer to destroy Amish Buildings.. which is how the “Bad Guys” counted victory points

Local Pennsylvania Cops, armed with shotguns and pistols.  They arrive very late.

A SWAT Team for air dropping into the melee from the chopper (only it never happened, as I will narrate presently)

Scenario

So, we got to this point where we had all this keen stuff.. and couldn’t explain why people would be fighting with one another.  Hmmm….  I was going with the Secret Weapons being the driver.. that some tourists had taken pictures of the secret weapons project in a barn and an altercation had taken place, and mayhem ensued from there.  The thinly disguised HMGS BoD was thrown in by Bob and Neil, which I thought was funny, albeit perhaps a tad overdone for reasons that had more to do with HMGS politics at that time then good natured ribbing, but once we were playing most of that was forgotten.   Anyway, it turned out to be a good plot driver, since the BoD is now there to oversee the demolition and laying the foundations for their new convention center (some issues never go away, eh?) while the Amish just want to defend their age-old way of life.. classic cinematic moralizing, I loved it.    It made it pretty easy to target the bad guys and to define a “victory condition” of sorts– The Amish start with all buildings intact and so many VPs.. if the bad guys demolish a building, VPs go down, etc etc etc.  Such things didn’t matter much to me, then and now.  I was awarding victory based on a sense of style, myself.

PEL Listing 2002 Game

2002 Title: AMISH RAKE FIGHT (ARF) – The Battle of Lancaster!
Hosts: Brother Robert Giglio & Brother Walter O’Hara (NOVAG)
Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)
Scale/Period: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man) / Modern (i.e., 2001 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)Rules: “Hold Still, Brother, While I Must Smite Thee” (adapted Bootlegger rules by Steve Barber Models – Modified)
Time & Game Length: Sat. Noon, 4 hrs
8 Players
Special Requirements: Adults only; must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event! Intoxicating beverages will facilitate admission to game!!
Game Description:The local Brothers of the Staw Hats & Highwater Pants have had enough of taunts, slights, and insults, and are walking amok! Armed to the teeth with all sorts of farming implements, join them in their righteous fight against local youths, yahoos, and tourists. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that “War is Heck”. This will be a war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists (US style) – “Thee be careful amongst deem English!” [PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it!] Line up and grab your rakes, pards, it will be (I promise you) an event not to be missed.
Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.

PLAYING THE ACTUAL GAME, COLD WARS 2002 and 2003

Most of my recollections are of 2002.  I’m pretty sure in 2003, the bad guys won.  If memory serves we ran this Friday night.  We had a full crew, though could have made room for 1-2 more. I remember we were located in the Distelfink ballroom at the Lancaster Host, location of Cold Wars 2002.    We were right up front next to the front doors, and I showed up wearing an Amish Hat and beard, and a Hawaiian shirt.  Bob G. wasn’t into the costume thing and showed up in classic Hawaiian.  I bought a shoo-fly pie to award to the winner.    Bob explained the rules to players not familiar with the Bootleggers rules, and we started.  It went pretty smoothly.

Almost immediately I was tapped on the elbow.  It was Del Stover, at that point working in outreach and ‘marketing’ for HMGS East (as we were known in that bygone era).   Del was escorting a reporter from the local newspaper around, he said, and he was wondering if I would take OFF my Amish hat.  “To the devil with you!” I started to say, and then he said “I”m begging you.”  Well, dammit.  If you put it that way.. I’d been “Meeked”.  ARF Player John Camarano, however, had no such compunctions and happily put on the hat until the reporter left.   On a humorous note, the reporter was looking at the PEL and spied “The Amish Rake Fight” was set to run that night, while she was there.  “What’s that??” She asked.  “Oh, nothing, nothing…” squeaked Del, not wishing to create an incident that would create fear and loathing for HMGS in the local Amish community.   “Here, let me take you to this fine Napoleonics game…”  “NO.. I want to see the Amish Rake Fight, that sounds CUTE!” said the reporter.  So not only did they show up, they featured us in their article rather prominently, much to Del’s consternation (at the time.. he has since said he should not have worried so much).  Quote “Hell, *I* should have worn the damned hat!”  That was then, this is now.. it’s funny how people take things.  Almost everyone walking by laughed uproariously at this concept, but  I well remember the look of shock and horror from one historically-leaning GM that wasn’t a fan of “silly” games.. he must have been driven bonkers at the prospect of an Amish Skirmish game!  Seems funny now.

As mentioned already, the game scenario was fairly complex with many factions. Essentially, some tourists have stumbled on a dark secret of the Amish and were taking pictures. The Elders objected, a scuffle ensued, and to the amazement of the onlookers, the Amish grabbed farming implements and proceed to open up a can of whup-ass on the tourists. Only one got away to raise the hue and cry at the local biker bar– Zinks Route 30 Tavern. Big Paul and his surly crew thought they’d have a little fun and “get some payback” so his group of bikers lurched into motion under the guidance of John Camarano (our esteemed NOVAG presidente).

Meanwhile, a group of nefarious “corporate board members” were on 
their way with some “Union Enforcers” to “break up this mess.. 

YHN taking the lead as GM; this was before the notorious hat incident.  Bob G. is in the right rear corner of this photo.  To my right are the lead Amish Players, John Camarano and Cleo Hanlon


The little Amish Roadside market was a scene of carnage and  destruction… the board barrelled down the road in their trucks,  intent on pushing their weight around. A “meek”, a class of Amish ‘fighter’ that does not physically attack but has a ‘fleeting sense of shame’ effect that makes the opposing player drop his weapons and apologize (which we make the player do, publicly and loudly) stepped out into the road, but was callously ridden down by Ricky Retardo the driver.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Bob resolves a fine point of game mechanics with some Amish players

As in the playtest, this caused the  ultimate demise of the truck, which lost control after encountering an Amish Self-immolater (a sort of “suicide bomber” equipped with a fertilizer bomb) crashed into the market.

Courtesy of the Bob Giglio Collection. Route 30 minutes before the sacrifice of an Amish Self-Immolater. You can just make him out to the right of the grey wagon in the center, holding the barrel. A fuel truck was inbound, and the explosion would crater Route 30.  You can see a mixture of Amish and modern vehicles in this shot. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

While the occupants sat there, stunned, the Amish descended on them with scythes, rakes,  clubs and buggy whips. It wasn’t pretty.

The Amish Battlefield. The Big Barn, with the Amish rolling out secret weapons, and the terrified tourists in the front lot running. Click HERE for a larger view

Meanwhile, back up at the main barn, the battle had indeed been joined. Big Paul and his goons made a foot sortie across the bridge, and got stopped by a meek (BTW, John Camarano did a magnificient job of grovelling when he failed his morale check). The third, and smallest, Amish faction was in the process of doing a human “Frogger” game while running across Route 30. The last buggy got “clipped” by a speeding car but emerged only shaken. Unfortunately, one of the two Amish Self-immolaters got ridden down at that moment, by a fuel 
truck of all things. The ensuing blast caused a crater in Route 30,  stopping traffic in both directions. A group of ‘gamers’ from a local gaming convention, just back from eating at a local all-you-can-eat, were attracted to the noise and pursued the third group of Amish. 

Cleo Hanlon, NOVAG newsletter editor and later HMGS Newsletter editor, and best Amish player. She spectacularly took out a State police chopper with a cow flung from a cowtapault.

Cleo Hanlon (one of our newsletter editors from NOVAG– she had  bought a bonnet to play the game with, which I thought to be a superb touch) wheeled out the giant Cowtapault. She was defending the big barn area. Her first launch hit a tree. Her second smacked into the side of one of the approaching vehicles. Another bounced in the lane. Her LAST shot, though, hit the side of a Pennsylvania State Trooper police helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing.  Our howls of glee could be heard from one end of the Distlefink to 
the other.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Action Mid Game. This shows the entire battlefield with all buildings. The BoD have arrived upper left.  CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Brother Dave ran the last attack group, which contained the Harrower  of Death and the Mennonite in Black. He engaged the Union enforcers at the base of the hill in an unequal contest, but held his own. Coincidentally, he was also running John Book, who manfully rammed the oncoming pickup with a “borrowed” corvette, took some wounds, and  wisely beat feet out of the melee.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Dave Bullis (L), Amish Player, Brian and Kathy Higbee. (R) Not sure what side Brian played.

In the end, it was decided to give the victory to the Amish, who had successfully defended their lands and way of life (for a while). It  was no contest, we awarded the shoofly to Cleo. Best Yorkist player:  John Camarano, who displayed childlike glee with the windup monster truck the goons were running.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. Close to endgame, 2002. Here come the State Cops, run by Dewey. Just prior to the Cowtapault Coup.

From the Bob Giglio Collection. This was Endgame 2002. I’m on the left helping Sister Cleo set up her cowtapault, Bob helps the State Cop player on the right.

PEL Listing, 2003 Game

2003  Game Title: ARF2 (AMISH RAKE FIGHT) – The Wrath of Lapp!Game Hosts/GMs: Brother Robert Giglio, Brother Walter O’Hara, and Brother Cornelius Brennan (NOVAG)Sponsor/Prize: RLBPS (Bob Bowling) – Prizes TBA, but overall winner gets a Shoo-Fly-Pie (No substitutions!)Game Description:It’s back…by very popular demand…ARF! When the smoke finally cleared from last spring, the Lancaster Valley stood safe from greedy, unscrupulous developers. Now a new threat looms, as the Lancaster tourism craze hits a new low, and the truce the local Brothers of the Staw Hats and Highwater Pants signed with the Board of Development (BoD) isn’t worth the cow patty it was written on. So grab your rake and come on down for another reminder that ‘War is Heck,’ just “thee be careful amongst deem English!”[PC Advisory: It’s a game, stupid! A very politically incorrect game! Deal with it! Special Requirements: Adults only – must be willing to live with the idea that someone, somewhere, for some reason in our overly PC culture, may be offended by this event. Recommended – players with Amish clothing – to facilitate enjoyment of game!] Theme music: Weird Al Yankovic’s LIVING IN AN AMISH PARADISE.Scale: 25mm Skirmish (man-to-man)

Rules: “O Brother, Hold Still While I Must Smite Thee” (Home Rules modified from – Bootlegger Rules by Steve Barber Models)

Period: Modern (i.e., 2003 to everyone but, the Amish, it’s 1842 for them!)

Players: 8

Game Time & Length: Saturday Noon, 4 hrs

For Cold Wars 03, we wanted to create a sequel of sorts, where the Amish marched on the host and we had a giant altercation in the Host Lobby between gamers, golfers and Amish people.  It didn’t work out.  We could have made the terrain easily enough but there just aren’t that many golfing and gamer figures out there, and it would have been difficult to kit-bash this.  So we ran the basic game described again one more time, with different players.  In this game, the bad guys (spearheaded by Tim Mullen if memory serves) were VERY aggressive and managed to destroy three Amish Buildings, which made them the clear winners.   I never took any pictures of this game, either.

Bob recollects:

We also had players in costume for that one. If you recall, two guys dressed in overalls, straw hats, and barefoot, etc., came down the stairs and we just laughed, as they were two of our players. Also, and most importantly, the 2003 game saw an Amish family come by, look at the game (and have a long chat with Neil Brennan), and smiled very, Very wide (and wickedly), as they “got it”, and laughed at the “fun” aspect of it. That for me, was priceless!

I remember those guys!  They were brothers from the Central PA area and they really knew the Amish lifestyle.  I haven’t seen them in ten years.   They used to be convention regulars.

The never run 2004 game

Our concept for this was that the Amish were going to “take the war” to the Board of Development (at the Lancaster Host of course), so the next day they show up, and wail on first a pack of golfers, and then on the big gang of golfers, goons and gamers at the hotel.  I was a bit daunted by the idea of terrain for this, but in retrospect, I think we could have managed a hotel lobby and a big of golf course easily enough.  The figures for golfers and gamers would have been a challenge.

Bob recalls:

Since I did the bulk of the terrain for these, and since the idea was to have the Amish “assault the Lancaster Host” during the time one of the conventions was being run, I would have had to have a decent model of part of the Host in 28mm. Not to mention all the gamer figs, golf carts, etc.

Now, unknownest to you, I found the gamer figs at one of the GenCons/Origins I attended. They were all from the Knights of the Dinner Table range in miniature. This range was perfect, and had gamers in all body types, from pointy nosed to very wide bellies, and even in a wheelchair. Just what I needed and priceless! However, they were very expensive (about $3 USD or more per figure). I also found a golfcart that fit perfectly, but never went back for more (I think these were in the toy section of WalMart, Target or Toys R Us way back).

To this I can add the fact that I had also found pencil sharpener golf carts that were a bit large, but would have fit as background objects.   I still see the problem of golfers and gamer miniatures being a limiting factor.   Since we didn’t want to just reprise 02 and 03 for a third year in a row, the game ran out of steam until such time as we have a new story to tell.

Conclusion:

So that is my Great Amish Rake Fight narrative.  In retrospect, this was one of my best games, ever, even if it only ran a couple of times– why?  Because it kind of took the mindset that “history games have to be serious” and blew a big, noisy raspberry at it.  In fact, the folks at the Society of Daisy presented us with a medal for our efforts at adding a little levity into wargaming.  This was “The Daisy Medal”, which I am a proud recipient of.    I wish I had more photographs of this game, I really do.  I was quite pleased with it,  but as usual for those days was more busy running things then trying to create a giant ARF archive– so a lot of data has been lost.  The only web-gallery that had pictures went belly up years ago, and now all I can extract from the wayback machine are the three big pictures you see here.   If any gamer out there ever took pictures of these two games, please consider sharing them with me.  I’ll give you credit. As for other artifacts, I had the rule changes to Bootleggers riding in my email account for a long time but I can’t find it any more .   Shrug!  it’s the journey, not the destination.

Epilog:

Many years later, maybe 2009 or so, I was wandering the Exhibitor’s Hall at a HMGS convention, when I bumped into Howard Whitehouse.  We exchanged pleasantries and noticed that the the exhibitor vending a Seven Years War miniatures line right in front of us surely looked … Amish!  I made a pointed observation (to Howard) that it’s puzzling how a non-violent people would play with so-called “war toys”.  “Excuse me,” a voice drawled next to my elbow, “But I’ve never heard of metal figures hurting anybody!”  It turned out to be the Amish figure manufacturer… and he WAS Amish, not Mennonite, from a relaxed order that allowed for him to go out amongst us English.  Howard blithely mentioned ARF in passing and my association with it to the guy.  He blinked, swiveled and asked: “You’re Walt O’Hara, then?  You put on the Amish Rake Fight?” “Y-y-yes.. but let me point out, it was fairly sympathetic to the Amish, actually, and I…” He cut me off.  “We’ve heard of YOU.. we thought it was HILARIOUS!!!” he clapped my back and gave me his email address(!) to send pictures and a write up to.  That was a funny encounter.  The ONE GROUP I thought wouldn’t EVER find out about the Amish Rake Fight would be the Amish themselves.  But they have ears everywhere…. everywhere….

You be careful among them English!

.(2016 Update: Bob provided a bunch of supplemental material to this post, which can be viewed HERE.)

OSS Games Celebrating Launch of ARES Magazine First Issue


CONTEST TO GIVE AWAY VINTAGE MAGAZINE SIGNED BY BEST-SELLING SCI FI AUTHOR

OSS GAMES CELEBRATING LAUNCH OF ARES MAGAZINE FIRST ISSUE

Mission Viejo, California (April 17, 2014) – One Small Step Games announced a contest to give away a free copy of SPI’s vintage Ares Magazine signed by bestselling science-fiction author Timothy Zahn, who wrote a short story featured in the 1983 issue.

The contest coincides with the premiere of the first issue of OSS Games’ Ares Magazine, which shares the same name as the vintage 1980s publication but proclaims a new vision—one updated and streamlined for today’s reader and tabletop gamer. The first issue of the science fiction magazine with a standalone tabletop board game in each issue comes out next month.

“Many of those who have shown support for our venture have fond memories of the SPI magazine,” says OSS Games owner and Editor-in-Chief Michael Anderson. “This contest is a way of both honoring the past as well as celebrating our vision for the future.”

The contest features issue #13 of the vintage science fiction and gaming magazine that was published in the early 1980s by SPI, a popular game publisher at the time. Zahn’s short story, “Damocles Mission,” appears in that issue.

Damocles Mission Countersheet

The six-week contest runs through May 31, culminating in a drawing for the autographed copy on June 1. People can increase their chance of winning through options like posting about the contest on social media and referring others to the contest. Subscribers to Ares Magazine, which launched after its successful Kickstarter in January, get an additional chance to win.

While Anderson appreciates the nostalgia for the vintage magazine, he is looking forward to getting his own magazine into the hands of subscribers.  The first issue features nine original science fiction and fantasy stories, an interview with game designer and author Bruce Cordell, and an article on singularity written by best-selling science fiction author William H. Keith (who also writes under the pseudonyms Ian Douglas and H.J. Ryker).

The issue also includes Bill Banks’ War of the Worlds, a two-player game of conquest and survival that pits the military forces of Queen Victoria against Martian forces under the command of the evil Martian overlord. The game also includes a rule book, die-cut playing pieces, and a large map.

“All of that wrapped up and delivered to subscribers next month,” says Anderson.

Contest information, rules and the online entry form are on the website of Ares Magazine. To enter the contest, go to http://aresmagazine.com/?page_id=364. To subscribe to Ares, go to http://ossgamescart.com.

ABOUT OSS GAMES

One Small Step Games has been around since 1996 and has published dozens of games, including designs from Bill Banks, Dan Verssen, Joseph  Miranda, and Richard Berg. More information is available at www.ossgames.com.

CONTACT DETAILS

OSS Games website:  www.ossgames.com
Ares Magazine website: www.aresmagazine.com
Inquires/Press: rules@ossgames.com
OSS Games Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OSSGames
Ares Magazine Facebook: www.facebook.com/AresMagazine
Twitter: @AresMagazine www.twitter.com/AresMagazine

Video

SPI Commercial from the mid 1970s


For your viewing pleasure. You can see famous SPI designer Richard Berg and a few other notables, including SPI President Jim Dunnigan, in some of the scenes.

Gaming Kamikaze style


The announcement of PICKET DUTY from Legion Games on Consimworld found me bemused. First of all, a little description.. from the Legion website:

By the time of the invasion of Okinawa in April 1945, the US Navy devised a plan to help ward off the expected kamikaze attacks during the battle for the island. In order to provide an early warning system for impending kamikaze attacks, the US Navy established 16 radar picket stations around the island Picket Duty is a solitaire game where you – as the captain of a Fletcher Class destroyer – fend off kamikaze attacks while performing picket duty off Okinawa. The game covers the time period from late March 1945 to late June 1945. Your goal is simple – survive.

The game comes with a basic game, advanced game, six historical scenarios, two hypothetical scenarios, a mini-campaign and a full campaign. Optional rules are also included. Each game turn is divided into three phases, each depicting an eight hour period. Key crew members are depicted with certain functions, as well damage control teams. 27 types of Japanese planes are represented. Some planes have special attack capabilities.

Game features include: blah blah blah blah…

Reactions.. It’s a game about fighting off kamikaze attacks. And it looks well produced. I’ve not seen a lot of Legion’s stuff, but they seem like a professional outfit:

PICKET map. Solitaire, you place the attacking airplane counters around the ship randomly (I think), and conduct attacks on the picket ship depicted in the center. You play a role similar to the B-17 pilot in B-17 QUEEN OF THE SKIES, running hither and yon, shooting at attacking planes, keeping your boat afloat.

Counters. Still don’t know much about this from the mechanics, but I’m guessing it’s not unlike the B-17, B-29 game situation.. moving specialized crewmen from place to place to fight fires, do damage control, etc. I like the looks of that.

(Click to embiggen those)

As you can see in the captions.. I don’t know a heck of a lot about this game yet.  I’m sure they’ll do the normal thing and put the rules up on BGG and all that, so I’ll have a chance to read it.  What it LOOKS like from a glance is a situation similar to the games B-17 Queen of the Skies and B-29 Superfortress.   That kind of makes sense as I think Legion Games is related to the old Khyber Pass Games publisher, which is where I got my copy of B-29 from.    Long and short of it is I like the mechanic of the game focusing on one ship/plane as the center focus and all the action sort of streams around it, like in Luftschiff.  It’s a great gaming narrative.  Picket Duty appears to be about par for the course in terms of price at 65 bucks, so I won’t be getting it any time soon (sad trombone music).   Still, one can scan ebay and hope.

The greater question is: Why aren’t there MORE games on this little historical niche?  By that, I mean, the Kamikaze attacks in the last year of the Pacific War?  Are we a trifle gun shy because of the notion that we are simulating the death of a pilot as he purposely flies his explosive-laden death ride into the deck of a ship in service to the Emperor?  Probably not about the notion of death alone.  All wargames simulate death at some level or other.  A military conflict simulation doesn’t exactly have “conflict” without it.   Sure, we kind of grimace or blink when  a cardboard counter disappears from a gameboard, because we’ve been inconvenienced.  We might lose the game, you know.  But we don’t really think about the human lives that are being lost when that tank, or ship, or infantry silhouette, or squad symbol, gets removed as a result of rolling dice on a CRT.  There’s been a longstanding subtext and argument about the morality of wargaming going on since wargames were created, and I’m certainly not going to weigh in on that one.   It’s just that.. that.. kamikaze attacks are so personal.  It’s a human being purposefully trying to kill himself JUST AS HARD AS HE CAN, so he can KILL YOU.   I can see why this hasn’t been first choice for game designers, especially subsequent to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, all of which were suicidal in nature.

That doesn’t mean the topic has been entirely avoided heretofore.  FIRE AND MOVEMENT magazine’s only issue game ever, Number 31, was on the subject of Kamikazes. Designer: Dana Lombardy.

One of my housemates had this issue, but it was unpunched, so I never played it. I don’t remember much about it, but if memory serves me you cut out some ship cards and placed them in a convoy formation. Then the HORDE of kamikaze attacks would start at all angles of the compass, trying to plow into your little task force. You got to launch fighters too, and had destroyers and frigates with tons of AA to take out the attacking waves and protect the Carrier (I think). From some of the imagery on the game description on BGG, it appears that my memories of this one are pretty accurate. It would make a great miniatures game, but I’d have no idea where to begin getting ships and planes to scale. Axis and Allies miniatures, maybe, but even that isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Artwork: good by 80s standards, nothing to write home about.

Artwork: good by 80s standards, nothing to write home about.

One feature that that I liked was the notion of no map being necessary. Since the action is really about the plane and the ship (and you on the most featureless terrain imaginable, water), they just cut the ships into chart/cards and put them in formation, miniatures style. Very elegant for its day.

Not a bad effort, either one. I suspect we won’t be deluged by Kamikaze games as the next big thing, but these both look like interesting games to me and I wouldn’t be too holier than thou to pick one up. Though it’s going to be the one that isn’t 65 clams!