Monday, 8 July 2013

I'm doing Science, and I'm Still Alive.

I'm afraid this is a bit of a non-post, just to reassure everybody that in the words of a favourite Discworld character... "I ATEN'T DEAD"

For one reason or another I've been doing next to no wargaming activity whatsoever in the last month.  There have been no great dramas, no major life changes, just haven't been rolling dice or putting brush to miniature and therefore not had much to discuss here.  I certainly haven't given up the hobby or anything I'm just.. not doing it at the moment.

I didn't get to Phalanx this year, for the first time in many years :-(

I did recently discover that the Asylum Steampunk convention that I'll be attending in September is planning to run a Gaming stream, with demo games and possibly panels.  I've dropped the organiser a line asking about becoming involved, but haven't yet had a response.

And I guess I ought to start organising this year's Big Birthday Bash game.  At least with all the figures, vehicles and terrain I have ready to go there won't be much in the way of preparation required.

Aaaaaand.... that's about all I have to say about that.  See, I told you it was a bit of a non-post!

 EDIT - now I think of it.. I still haven't received the steam tanks from Ironclad Miniatures that I bought and paid for at Sheffield Triples! Right - off to write a snotty email! 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Three, it's the magic number.

So Sheffield Triples was a fun and productive day out.  I'd gone with three main objectives, of which I managed to complete two.

First stop was Irregular Miniatures, where I procured two 54mm figures, one a 7 Years War officer, the other a Greek hoplite, for use as Victorian-era statuary.  The officer looks quite splendid atop the column I have, while I think the hoplite deserves a slightly lower plinth.

The second, secret objective was to call at Empress Miniatures and procure the Mutton Chop "Sidney 'Dirty Laugh' Cohen & Sidekick"
 Regular readers may remember that I run a  house rule that GASLIGHT characters for whom a custom figure has been explicitly painted or converted, do NOT die permanently on failing their last Save roll.  I did this mainly to preserve my mini alter-ego that I'd painstakingly converted, but left this retroactively open.  At the Battle of Aldershot, Mi Hermano Morituri Jonesy had lost his favourite GASLIGHT Main Character, Sir Roger d'Ars, modelled after Sid James. The above pack made a nice thank-you gift for driving us to the show, and hopefully we may see Sir Roger return to our games.

The third objective, visit the Black Pyramid stand and wobble my lower lip at the lack of Home Service Helmets, was thwarted by the big empty space where their stand ought to be.  Clearly I shouldn't have warned them I was coming.

Other things to see at the show - a fairly spectacular remote-controlled tank battle arena, with an adjacent trade stand selling the very reasonably priced tanks like hotcakes.  £60 for what looked like about 1/12 scale tanks, up to double that if you wanted a metal shell instead of plastic.  There were also a few old-school demonstration games, tying into the Little Wars anniversary. An 18th century game recreating the Battle of Plattsville using Don Featherstone's rules caught my eye, and we had a very pleasant chat with one of the fellows running it, discussing the merits of simple rules, toy soldier aesthetics and home cast figures. Jonesy obviously preached to him the merits of gaming with Lego, but meh, you can't take him anywhere!

I did call by Ironclad Miniatures stand, and lo and behold they didn't have the steam tanks I wanted with them but offered to post them on 'later in the week'.  Long term readers might recall a similar promise back in 2011, which turned into a month's wait with pretty poor communication from Ironclad.  Let's see if things have improved a little since then.

One other thing that struck me was how ubiquitous Zvezda kits are becoming.  They seem aimed at gamers, since unlike many other plastic kit manufacturers, they produce simple models in wargame scales (e.g. 1/100 for 15mm).  Every other stand seemed to have a dump basket full of the 15mm vehicle kits at £2.75-2.99 and either 4 for £10 or 5 for £12.75 offers.  They have me once again seriously considering 1938: A Very British Civil War in 15mm using the Portable Wargame rules.

I'm told that the show was quite busy Saturday, but on Sunday when we went, while there was a good crowd, it wasn't painfully packed out.  For the first time in a long while, I didn't have to fight my way through crowds to get to the Bring & Buy table, which made for a refreshing change.  Sadly there weren't any bargains there to tickle my fancy.

Anyway, 'twas a good day out indeed.

Today Jonesy and I played our first game of In Her Majesty's Name.  But that, as they say, is another story....

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I'm on my way I'm making it...

It has been decided.  I am being dragged, kicking and screaming, to Sheffield Triples this weekend (probably Sunday).

It's been a while since I've been to any wargaming shows other than Phalanx.   Though I'm not exactly swimming in disposable income right now, I have fallen back on the reserves of the Coin Jar to finance the outing (My rationale is that coins that have languished in a jar for twelve months or more can be counted as "lost and found" falling outside the household accounting system and thus are freed up to be squandered on extra-budgetary treats!)  A lengthy counting-and-bagging session yielded a quite decent budget for the weekend expedition.

I don't want, need, or intend to buy much at the show (famous last words).   While tinkering in the Man Cave the other day I came across some large scenic columns I'd picked up at last year's Phalanx for a steal from the Bring And Buy.  I'm thinking one of them might make a fine pseudo-Nelson's Column with a suitable 54mm figure mounted at the top (to go with the Ainsty lions I bought last year).  Sadly 54mm Lord Nelson figures are thin on the ground, so unless I'm willing to pay Collector's prices (which I'm certainly not!) I'm thinking a generic, 18th century officer figure from Irregular will make a suitable proxy.

I'll also be calling at the Empress Miniatures stand, but I'm afraid what I'm looking for must remain a secret for now.  Loose lips sink ships, and all that.

The Triples web page lists traders but doesn't list demo and participation games, but I'm hoping that the world of 1938 A Very British Civil War will have a presence there so I can say hello.  Regular readers will know that while I don't game the period per se, I do feel a great affinity with it as a spiritual sibling of VSF (and I'm still pondering the viability of doing it in 15mm)

Finally there is one somewhat onerous duty I must perform, and I mention it here to give those concerned fair warning.  I will be going to the Black Pyramid Gaming stand to say hello and to ask what they have in the pipeline for their Tea Wars line.  After listening politely, studying any samples and making any appreciative noises required, I will ask my usual question regarding their possible production of heads with British Home Service Helmets.  When they... inevitably... reply in the negative, citing some technical difficulty or test sculpts with wrongly shaped heads, I will then be a sad panda.  There may even be some lower lip wobbling involved.

Black Pyramid - consider yourselves duly warned.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

In the name of...

I've had a chance to sit down and read "In Her Majesty's Name", the new steampunk skirmish wargame published by Osprey.

It's firmly in the "warband of a dozen or so individual figures" definition of skirmish, rather than the "very small battle with a hundred or so" school that games like GASLIGHT belong to.

Mechanically it's fairly straightforward - roll D10, add modifiers, beat target number.  Figures are statted for Pluck (i.e. morale), Shooting Value, Fighting Value and Speed (which is a rare bonus value, most figures are at Speed 0)

Remember my complaint about Empire Of The Dead, how it restricted you to a narrow set of army lists limited by the boxed sets that Westwind wanted to sell you?  Not only does IHMN give you a broader selection of army lists with pre-generated characters, but you get the points values and formulae to assemble a completely original force from scratch.

The campaign missions in the game are split up into two aspects - Scenarios, which give objectives and deployment instructions, and Landscapes, which are basically suggested terrain types.  Pairing different Scenarios with different Landscapes gives a wide variety of possible games, such as King Of The Hill in the Dockyard, or Catch The Pigeon across the rooftops.  If nothing else the Landscapes descriptions provides some good ideas for terrain-building projects.

I was a little disappointed to see no activation mechanic - players alternate moving figures one at a time until all figures are moved, then repeat the process for firing and melee.

One thing that did irritate me a little - the target number to cause a hit by ranged and melee combat is based on the figure's armour, with most figures in the army lists being equipped  with various breastplates and brigandines.  Sorry chaps, but that really doesn't sit too well with the psuedo-19th century thing for me.  Although steampunk armour isn't unknown, it's far from the norm in the way that it would be in a dark ages or medieval setting.  Basing the core combat resolution around such an exception - not a great move.

All in all though not a bad set of rules, very reasonably priced and fairly open ended.  I hope we get to give them a try soonish.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Those three small words/were way too late.

With sincere apologies to the participants, especially Other Chris who came all the way from Leeds for the game.

I was doing some housekeeping of the files on my Android tablet when it occurred to me that I never did get around to doing the battle report for the Big Birthday Bash 2012.  I'm not sure what it was at that time... the stress off real world events, a touch of ennui perhaps?  For some reason I just never got around to pulling the pictures off the tablet and posting them here.  Whatever it was, it's long past time to put that right.

I can't really give a full and proper battle report, given the time since we played memories of the game have started to get a little fuzzy.  It was, however, GASLIGHT business as usual, with our usual houserules (as published previously on this blog).

The view of the battlefield from behind the German lines.  This was another battle in the "Invasion England" narrative thread used to tie all our GASLIGHT games together.  It was a fairly standard meeting engagement between British and German forces, with a little surprise up the GM's sleeve.  Buildings are a mixture of resin rural buildings, converted HO model railway buildings, and of course the splendid Amera church in the centre of the table as the parish church of St Lucy On the Knees (an in-joke name that I certainly WON'T be explaining on this family-friendly blog)

The view from the British side.  I don't think there were any major new vehicles or figures used in this game, at least by the main combatants.  As usual everyone got a freshly rolled Main Character each, and the two sides got to divvy up the forces I assigned them however they saw fit.

I seem to recall that traffic jams were the order of the day, with the British starting out in a lovely column that rather went to pot when vehicles at the front failed their Sustain rolls.

Both sides had plenty of cover in the early part of the game, with the Germans having to navigate the built up area of the village (which probably had a comical, punny name, now lost to eternity)  The converted HO buildings seemed to pass muster as well, not looking too out-of-place alongside 28mm figures.

If this picture is to be believed, it looks like the Germans made it to the strategically important railway crossing first....

...while the British forted up in the churchyard. 

First blood?  Certainly the first in the pictoral record.  We used the destroyed markers made with tea-lights, which still looked fairly effective in the well lit room.

It was at this point that our friend Crazy Eddy arrived, late for the game.  But the cunning game organizer doesn't merely cope with such inconveniences, he actively seeks to exploit them for the enhancement of the game.  SO cue the arrival of....

The Evil League of Evil, having hijacked the 10:20 to Bumford, with orders from Dr Vesuvius to secure some priceless antique from the church.  The Brass Coffin and ThunderHammer Tank were loaded onto flatbeds and would take a turn to dismount, but the squads of Minions in the carriages were able to immediately fire into the German rear, much to the Huns' consternation.

And lo! It shall come to pass, that whenever gentlemen gather to play GASLIGHT, and both sides haveth steam tanks, always shall there be one bugger who seeketh to ram into the other bugger.

I really like how the Amera Church came out.  It makes a pretty impressive centrepiece on the table (though not as much as the Ministry Building) for a fraction of the price of resin (or even laser-cut MDF)

Meanwhile, the train disgorged its greatest threat... IRON MEN!

This was the first time out using the new Engineer figures for the Iron Men, actually Ironclad Naval Bording Party figures with swords and pistols.  I had originally planned to replace their swords with huge, outsized wrenches, but in the end my modelling abilities let me down and I painted them up straight.  The Iron Men wreaked their usual havok, but not before the Germans had a chance to whittle down the Minions who were also dismounting.

One of our house rules is to give vehicles that have failed Sustain a +1 bonus to Start for every failed Start roll, and we used these markers made from tiddleywinks and watch parts to show the "bits that fell orf" during each failed attempt.  The British made most use of these, as I remember.

The leader of Eddy's Minions fell in single combat with one of the German Main Characters, who proceded to wade into the Iron Men's engineers.  Without direction, those mechanical man-monsters were rendered inert.

Our morale house-rules in action, with half the British unit falling back and the other half running.  This I remember working as desired in the game - it meant that a failed morale check was a nuisance without scattering the unit beyond the point where players felt it was recoverable.

And on the vehicle side, although the Prussian Armoured Pullman (Scheltrum) survived being rammed by the small tankette with only negligible damage, the resulting failed morale check saw it u-turn and retire at flank speed....

...although the tankette's victory celebration was somewhat short lived.

The overall result of the game?  If my memory serves me right it was pretty much a tie.  The British held the churchyard, but were facing the heavy firepower of German Landships & Walkers that meant they might not be able to hold it for long.  I think I need to work on better victory conditions for the scenarios I put on, since a lot of games seem to grind to a halt with neither side having the clear advantage.

I believe that everyone had a decent enough time, including the aforementioned Other Chris who'd finally managed to come all the way from Leeds to join us for a game, and a couple of chaps from MAWS who were playing with us for the first time (Adam and James, IIRC... You still read this blog Adam?)

I've had a specific request from someone to put on another game this August to co-incide with someone else's birthday, so that's probably going to happen.  I'm hoping we might get a smaller game or two in at home before then though.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

All the small things...

The glimmerings of inspiration are returning.  I've just spent a rather enjoyable afternoon pottering in the Man-Cave digging out lots of bits & pieces and getting superglue all over my fingers (and occasionally some on the models I'm trying to assemble)

I've trimmed and assembled the three Vezdekhod tankettes I bought last year from Tobsen, an absurdly quirky little vehicle made all the more ridiculous by the fact that it really existed (albeit only a pre-production prototype that didn't entirely work.  They'll make a nice kick start for the Russian VSF army that's languishing primed and ready to go on the shelves of the man-cave.  I also dug out the four GI Joe mole tank toys that I picked up from the bargain shelf last year and started work on converting them in earnest.  They won't require much work - some filling of holes and cracks and a paint job should have them ready to join the Evil Genius faction.  Finally I dug out the two Games Workshop Leman Russ tanks awaiting conversion into heavy British landships.  One will need to be as close as possible to the existing two vehicles I've converted, but the fourth will be going into Imperial German service as a Beutepanzer, following its capture at the Battle of Aldershot back in March of last year.  I'm taking the opportunity of tweaking the conversion a little, with Maxim-style machine guns instead of the Gatling style I usually prefer.  I believe that the real-world Imperial German army did much the same in WWI, re-arming captured Mk IV tanks with their own weapons.

I guess this renewed enthusiasm for VSF comes from the flurry of new products released for this "period" in the last month.  Sarissa have finally put the new Gaslamp Alley buildings on their website, and they are absolutely luverly.  As soon as I have the disposable income to afford them, they shall be mine, huzzah!

There's also a Kickstarter just been launched for a very interesting VSF (technically Edwardian SF) game called All Quiet on the Martian Front. This game posits the return of HG Wells's Martians in 1910, and has a rather nice selection of tripods and Weird War One tanks to play with.  Sadly for me, the game is in 15mm, two years after I made the decision to switch to 28mm for VSF (and promptly gave away all my 15mm VSF bits) and I'm dashed if I'm going to u-turn now. (Not to mention my current struggles with 15mm in other periods)

One new product that I have managed to budget for is the new "In Her Majesty's Name" ruleset from Osprey.  As a refreshing change from the expensive hardbacks that seem to dominate the hobby these days, IHMN is a very reasonable £11.95 for a print copy or £9.95 for a PDF.  I haven't properly digested the rules yet, but at first glance it looks like a well produced book and I've generally been impressed by Craig Cartmell's other rulesets so I have high hopes.

One thing that did catch my eye was a subsection of the "pre-game" section of the rules.  I'm going to risk courting the wrath of the copyright police and quote it wholesale here, citing fair use for review purposes and... well... frankly if I hadn't been inclined to by the rules before, seeing this section would have clinched the deal for me.

Each player should shake hands with each other player at the beginning and end of each game. A firm grip while wishing your opponents the best of luck is considered most acceptable. This may seem strange but it establishes that this is a game for Gentlemen and Ladies, not scoundrels and yahoos.
This is only a game, and although having a certain level of passion is all well and good, intemperate language or behaviour is not the mark of a Gentleman or Lady. Such phrases as ‘Hear, hear!’, ‘Bravo Sir!’, ‘Play up, play up, play the game!’, ‘Tally ho!’ and ‘You are a dastardly fellow!’ are perhaps the limit we aspire to achieve.  If one cannot do this then perhaps less port should be consumed before the game?
Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men. If there is a rule in this book that you and your comrades in arms do not like, or does not fit the scenario you are currently playing, then change it to suit. However, do not do so unless everyone who is playing agrees to the change.
If you encounter a situation in the game in which the rules don’t seem to work and common sense seems to be in short supply, roll 1d10 and give an even chance to each possible outcome. After the game, discuss the situation further and come a mutually acceptable ruling.
This game is an evening’s entertainment, not planning for the invasion of a foreign power. You should carry out your actions with a certain boldness so as not to delay the actions of your companions.

Now is that, or is that not, simply the most splendid thing you have ever seen in a set of wargames rules?

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Boys are Back in Town

This weekend, for those of you unlucky enough to live in "forn parts", was a Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK (i.e. today was a national holiday, making it a long weekend)  As a result, many folks' thoughts turn to leisure activities.  For example, my friend Bruce, a regular attendee of the "Old Farts" gaming night, whose good lady happened to be away on a Girls Day Out on Sunday inspiring him to invite a bunch of us over for a Boys Day In.

When we'd arrived and the question was asked "what shall we do today?"... I leapt straight in with the inevitable answer "WE SHALL PLAY WITH TOY SOLDIERS."

Now Bruce is a veteran wargames dabbler, with an impressive man-cave of bits and bobs collected over the years.  He's particularly interested in matters naughtical, mainly in the Napoleonic and World Wars eras, and being of the Scottish persuasion is also interested in matters pertaining to folks with names like "Robert The" and "Bonny Prince".  But his dabbling nature means he doesn't tend to have a regularly played game and/or armies ready to go, the way regular player of, say Flames of War or one of the Warhammers might.  Putting together an instant pick-up game was a matter of poking through boxes till we found some interesting figures, then poking through another set of boxes till we found some rules to go with them.

(In case it sounds like I'm being disparaging, I was exactly the same way until I got my 28mm GASLIGHT armies sorted a year or so back)

Anyway the first game we settled on paired a box of what looked like Redoubt's 3 Musketeer figures with Ganesha Games "Flashing Steel", based on their Song of Blades & Heroes system.  Between us we cobbled together a scenario that saw Rochefort & the Cardinal's Guard searching a small French village for the Queen, who was returning from an assignation with Buckingham, while the Musketeers sought to escort her to safety.  Surprisingly, the rules didn't provide any sample characters, so we basically read through all of the games Special Rules and collaboratively assigned them to the various named characters, based on our favourite movie versions. (I have to confess I shamelessly mix my movie versions, favouring Ollie Reed's Athos from the 1970s and Ray Stevenson's Porthos from the most recent remake)

What was notable about the game was how bloodless it was for the first hour and a half, despite being full of action.  The rules used the usual 1d6 + combat rating + modifiers opposed roll system used by most Ganesha rules, with the winner normally needing double the loser's total to put them out of the fight.  Although we had lots of pushback results, nobody ever quite managed a straight double result.

The stalemate was broken when Rochefort and Athos both arrived at the village church at the same time, facing off down the aisle.  The ensuing duel lasted three or four game turns, seeing both parties knocked down and the advantage passing back and forth.  In the end, Athos managed to land a hit while Rochefort was knocked down, which turned it into a killing blow.  In fact almost all the casualties in the game came from this rule.

Once damn had broken casualties came thick and fast.  Athos came to the rescue of his brothers-in-arms, saving a fallen Aramis by skewering a guardsman>  But in the hard fought melee Aramis fell again a few rounds later and was slain, with Athos succumbing a few rounds later.  D'Artagnon found himself facing off against three guardsmen by himself, and under the weight of numbers was knocked down and killed, with the valiant Porthos following suit a couple of turns later.

With hindsight we possibly made the Cardinal's Guard better than the should have been in such a cinematic game, a situation made worse by the fact that half of their figures were armed with a main-gauche off-hand dagger, letting them roll a second defensive dice in every combat.  But it was a great fun game and something  we must try again soon.

For the second game of the day, after briefly looking over Bruce's collection of Redcoats and Clansmen, bought in bits and bobs over the years and all on different basing schemes, we settled on a Napoleonic naval game.  Now despite being an age-of-sail nut and having quite a collection of 1/1200 ships, Bruce doesn't actually have a set of rules he plays, even semi-regularly.  Time for another dive through the boxes of the man-cave until we found a likely candidate in Strange Tydes by Wessex Games.  Now although this was written for a "Napoleonic Fantasy" world in the vein of Flintloque, I'd heard good things about it as a general-purpose fast-play age-of-sail game.

The game uses a 5 phase movement system that would be familiar to players of Car Wars or Star Fleet Battles, and the familiar 1d6+combat rating opposed roll, with the amount by which the firer exceeds the target's roll translating into points of damage.  For some reason, both sides struggled to inflict damage on the other throughout the game, although within the first two turns the lead ship in my division took two critical damage results telling me that first the captain had been killed, and then the ship's parrot, after which the ship struck its colours and surrendered.  I can only assume that the first officer really didn't care for his Captain but man he really loved that bird!

Despite everything we all had a blast and several of us went away with plans to hack the game to solve various issues for a future replay.  All in all it was a cracking day's gaming.

Today, Mi Hermano de Fiesta Jonesey came round for the Bank Holiday, and we decided to take advantage of the sunny weather by having a painting.crafting session outside.  He worked on basing some 15mm SF figures and painting & rebasing some GZG spaceships, while I looked at my own 15mm modern/street violence figures, long shelved since the very earliest days of this blog.

Here's the funny thing.  I used to be a great proponent of 15mm gaming, even with rules and periods where 28mm dominated.  They offer so many advantages - cost, storage, playing room - 15mm makes a lot of sense, and some of the sculpts we're seeing today in the smaller scale put some older 28mm figs to shame.  And yet, looking down at the pile of unpainted 15mm figures in front of me, I just couldn't get excited about them.  I kept thinking "Why should I spend time working on these?  I don't know if my paint method is going to work on them?  I know it'll work on the 28s, why don't I do those instead?  God these things are so tiny!"

In the end I resolved to force myself to work on one set of figures - a group of Rebel Miniatures US-style police officers, as a testbed for my usual "daub and dip" technique, to see whether I'd be happy with the result.  I found I was really struggling to work on them, and only managed to get them primed and started, but will persevere.  While waiting for the primer to dry, I grabbed all the remaining primed TAG 28mm US Marines from the man-cave painting table and started painting their guns.  I figure they were such a simple paint job last year (guns, skin and a couple of picked out details) they should make for a quick win to start this year's painting season.

It might seem counter-productive to be working on both 15mm and 28mm figures for the same period and style of game.  It probably is.  But with all the 28mm terrain bought for VSF/Steampunk gaming that can be repurposed, I can easily put on an impressive table, whereas in 15mm I'll be starting from scratch again.  Whether the advantages offered by the smaller scale will make that worthwhile remains to be seen.

Monday, 15 April 2013

This place, is coming like a ghost town.

I hate you, Sarissa Precision... I hate you with the fire of a thousand burning suns.

Why?  Because just when I decide it's time to be extra careful with my money, you unveil THIS!!!

This is Sarissa's new "Gaslamp Alley" range of buildings, designed specifically for Victoriana / Steampunk games.  Like their other ranges, it's modular so you can vary the number of floors, mix different window styles etc.  It will also include an industrial pump house and a selection of gantries and walkways (like their sci-fi range)

For more eye-candy, look here and scroll down past the new Japanese range.  Sarissa say they'll have the first samples at Salute this weekend, but I expect they'll sell out fast.

Needless to say... I do want. :-)

Sarissa Precision's existing buildings were used extensively in the demos and photos for Empire Of The Dead, Westwind's steampunk horror game.  While I resisted the temptation when the rules first came out, I was snared by their recent Kickstarter campaign for a supplement called "Requiem",  I pledged at a level that got me a PDF copy of the rulebook, one of the boxed miniature sets, a selection of 18 figures from the new ranges plus all the stretch goal figures (of which there were about a dozen)

Reading through the rules PDF last night, it seems to be your standard warband skirmish game in the vein of Mordheim, (in fact the basic mechanics reminded me a great deal of the old GW Warhammer mechanics, streamlined and adapted from D6s to D10s) or Song Of Blades & Heroes.  Like most glossy games these days the rules are tied tightly to the game world and figure range.  In EOTD you can choose from just four different faction types - Holy Order, Gentleman's Club, Vampires or Werewolves, and specific figures from Westwind are given statblocks and points costs, but there's no obvious formula for calculating points values. This makes it harder to step outside the box and use the rules in a non EOTD setting.  Not impossible, just harder.

The Kickstarter edition of the PDF includes statblocks and points costs for the new sets of figures, including the new Police faction, but you're still limited to using the figures Westwind list, or reskinned proxies.  Personally I much prefer games to offer a broader framework, allowing players to indulge their creativity to the fullest.  GASLIGHT is a perfect example of this, though many criticise it for being too open-ended.  I'll certainly be giving EOTD a go at some point, and if it plays as well as it looks, we might have a go at reverse engineering the points system.

Back on the subject of laser-cut MDF buildings, with the Man Cave now once again fully operational, I was rooting through some Piles Of Stuff (TM) looking for something to work on when I found a box of unassembled Warbases buildings that I'd bought early last year.  Four packs of terraced houses, two tenement blocks and perhaps most importantly, cut-out window inserts for the latter + a spare set for the currently half-finished tenement that's been sat on the shelf for the last two years.  As I recall these weren't too difficult to assemble, and will make a good project to get back into the swing of things.

Who knows, maybe they'll be enough to satisfy the craving for laser-cut MDF, so that I won't need to embezzle the grocery shopping budget to buy the Gaslamp Alley buildings.

No, I don't think it will either.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Drip drip drop, little April showers...

Good grief!  Where did that month go?

I'm pleased to report that I have FINALLY gotten the 6x5 table setup in the back room, and this last Sunday actually managed to play an ACTUAL WARGAME.  You know, with dice.  And toy soldiers.  And little model trees and houses on a green cloth.

Mi Hermano Semanal Jonesy came around and after some faffing around considering trying a new set of rules, we eventually settled on a simple game of Flying Lead using my VSF/Steampunk figures.  Jonesy took a selection from the Pulp Heroes list, while I mixed up the Criminals and Mafia lists for my Evil League Of Evil.

I can't give you a blow by blow account of the battle, but I can tell you that a Mafia Hitman at 150 points out of a force of 400 is well worth it.  My "Miss Moran" (one of the GASLIGHT Victoria Hawkes models with a tricked out rifle) started by killing the do-gooders' leader with a max range sniping shot, causing his faithful oriental sidekick to flee the battlefield.  After a couple of rounds where she struggled to get a clear shot, she found her mark twice more, prompting the demoralised do-gooders to rout.  She scored all of my kills, as the rest of my force were all armed with pistols and outranged by the opposition who had a couple of rifles.

The other games we were looking at playing were Blasters and Bulkheads and Chaos on Chronos, both similar warband-type skirmish games.  But while there might be nothing wrong with them for playing in their own specific settings, for a generic pick-up game with different figures, Flying Lead was far easier to get up and running with.  The army lists cover WWII, Modern military, Criminal, Pulp and a couple of near-SF options, enough variety to make it easy to pick something suitable for any sort of firearms skirmish.  I had to fudge a couple of things in the lists, like replacing machine pistols with heavy calibre pistols, but was otherwise able to play straight from the book.  If I was planning this game in advance, I could use the Squad Builder from the Ganesha Games web page to work out exact points values, the same for any Vehicles or even custom built Weapons I might need.

On contemplation, while there's nothing particularly wrong with the GoalSystem rules as used in Blasters & Bulkheads, Chaos in X etc, I think I still vastly prefer the Ganesha Games system based on Song of Blades & Heroes and used in Flying Lead.  As long as you're willing to accept that the activation mechanic means you can't guarantee every figure/unit will act every turn, it feels like a much more interesting/uncertain game.

Anyway, now I have the table setup (semi-)permanently, I'm hoping to get a lot more gaming done in the coming months.


What do you mean, "you've heard that one before"?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

I can see clearly now..

After an hour or so of insomnia-driven cleaning & clearing, I once again see the floor of the Man-Cave.

It is a fetching shade of salmon.

That is all I have to report.

What?  Look, some days are just slow news days.  You want me to make up some filler-story about a skateboarding duck?  Deal with it, OK?

*sigh* Oh OK maybe there is a little more to talk about.  Last year saw the birth of a new gamer-friendly channel on YouTube called Geek & Sundry.  One of the runaway hits on there was a series called Tabletop, hosted by Wil Wheaton (former child actor, annoying Star Trek brat and re-invented 21st century geek icon).  Each week Wheaton and  his guests (usually actors or writers from TV shows that he and/or co-creator Felicia Day had appeared in, or other YouTube video "stars") sit down and play a game on camera.  Usually these were fairly lightweight board or card games (Ticket To Ride, Castle Panic, Chez Geek), on two occasions they branched out and did roleplaying games (the indie darling "FIASCO" and the "Dragon Age RPG" based on the hit computer games) but never really did anything recognisable as a war game (although "Small World" a fantasy world conquest game was probably the closest)

Now I'm not really a massive fan of casual board games, but as lightweight social events they're OK as an excuse to roll dice with friends.  Watching Tabletop has introduced me to a couple of games that I've really enjoyed playing (espcially "Pandemic", in which the players co-operate to try to save the world from virulent diseases), and game industry analysts have observed what's been called the "Tabletop Effect", in which sales of games featured in the show experience a significant spike in sales shortly afterwards.

So to celebrate the show's success (and as a marketing gimmick to generate hype, of course) co-creator Felicia Day has announced March 30th to be "Tabletop Day", in which gamers are encouraged to make an event of sitting down to play games, streaming them to the internet.  I'm going to try to arrange something for that day - possibly dusting off my copy of "War! In the Age of Imperialism" a massive 19th century "Axis & Allies" type game which I got a few years ago but have never gotten around to playing.

More on that when we firm up the plans.  In the meantime I'm planning on getting a couple of wargames tables setup in the back room, getting some figures and terrain on them and getting a god-damned wargame played, by hook or by crook.  Nothing fancy, just get figures on the table and the dice rolling.  At the end of the day that's all it takes to break a wargaming drought.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Walk like an Egyptian

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I generally try not to talk too much about "real life" non-wargaming stuff on this blog, or about other sorts of games.  But today I'm going to make (yet another) exception.

This last Sunday I was invited to a belated Christmas dinner with my dear friends Rick & Ruth and their three boys.  You may remember last year I visited them to help their eldest son get started figure painting and wargaming. (Sadly since that time he has "discovered girls" and lost interest in this and pretty much everything else, as boys his age tend to do.)  Not only was it a full Xmas dinner, but they went all out with decorations and seasonal music.  After the food we settled down for an afternoon of serious playing with the two youngest (the eldest slinking off to hang out with his mates)  There may have been a little bit of Scalextric played, but I think that was more for the benefit of Rick and myself than the young 'uns (we wuz too poor to afford Scalextric when I were a lad.) and of course a selection of "early learning centre" type games suitable for the boys.

One of these games really stood out for me as being rather splendid fun, with a bit more potential for subtle play than a 3 and a 6 yr old could muster.  "Tutan Loot 'em" is a pattern matching card game with an Egyptian theme.  Each player gets a hidden hand of four cards, and four cards are placed face up in a pool in the centre.  In their turn, a player has to try to match a card in their hand with one in the pool, both cards being placed face up in that player's treasure pile.  Alternatively, if they can match the top card on another player's treasure pile, they can loot it, adding the whole pile to their own.  If they can't do either of these things, they have to play a card from their hand into the pool.

This very simple game has a lot of potential for subtlety.  If you have a pair in your hand, playing one of them into the pool lays a trap for the next player who matches it, since you can then loot their treasure.  Keeping a key card as late in the game as possible means you can snatch the treasure and victory away from another player right at the end of the game.  It's not Bridge, but it's a good fun filler game if you've got 10 mins to fill.

I was so impressed with the game than when I got home I ordered a copy for myself (£7.50 from and took it along to the Old Farts gaming night last night.  After the main game was finished (Chaos on Chronos, more of which later) I tempted the Old Farts into giving Tutan Loot 'em a go, and after a couple of highly back-stabbing games of back-and-forth looting, it got the Seal of Approval.  So there you go... a game made for 3-6 year old kids that entertained a table with an average age of about 48-50.  (Mental age...?  I cannot comment!)

The evening's main game, as I said, was a test run of Chaos on Chronos, a warband skirmish game nominally written for pulp sci-fi (though the scenario we played was more in the "use a bunch of random figures" genre).  I'm not honestly a massive fan of this style of game, since they always seem to devolve into random slugfests, but the Chaos on Chronos rules, part of the Goalsystem series, worked well enough.  The basic rules mechanic is: roll number of attack dice, count successes, roll number of defence dice, each success subtracts one successful attack, excess is applied as damage.  Some special abilities or equipment allow players to reroll failed dice.  Simple enough, with only the occasional buckets o' dice moment (I managed to pitch one massive attack with my leader hitting 12 dice with 2 rerolls, which was sadly bounced by some stupendously lucky defensive rolls).  I think I still prefer Ganesha Games'  "Song of..." series of rules for this sort of game, including "Flying Lead" for modern & SF skirmishes, but there's not much between the two systems overall.

Now, after putting the task off for far too long... to the Man Cave! (cue '60s Batman music)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

We gotta get right back to where we started from

Thanks to everyone for your messages of support.  The last month or so has been a deeply painful time, made bearable only by the fantastic support I've gotten from friends, many of whom have been mentioned on this blog in the past.  Crazy Eddy, Marvin the ARVN, the irrepressible Ms Kay Dee (the crafting goddess who makes sure I don't look rubbish at Steampunk do's), Rick (who isn't even a wargamer, yet regularly pesters me for blog updates here) and of course mi hermano fantastico Jonesy.  All of them together have kept me from going under completely.  And add to that the kind words I found in the comments to the last post... well I consider myself a very lucky man to be surround by such fine people, both near and far.  Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

So this week I've only just started to come out of the funk I've been in, feeling the first inklings of enthusiasm for doing things... when last night I found myself struck by genuine inspiration and enthusiasm for wargaming projects I might like to try.

Which sounds great....

...except said bombshell of enthusiasm exploded at about 2am in the morning.  After that I spent the rest of the small hours reading various wargaming blogs, scanning forums and generally riding a mounting wave of inspiration that made any hope of sleep impossible.  In the end I got up at 5am for breakfast after no sleep, hoping to ride out the day and try to reset the body clock tonight.  You might note the timestamp of this post and deduce exactly how successful that idea was... (I actually fell asleep eating lunch, throwing the body clock completely out of wack)

Anyway, this burst of enthusiasm was triggered by reading up on Bob Cordery's recent work (and by recent I mean last six months - yeah I've been out of the wargaming loop for that long!) on the Portable Wargame.  Now I'd tried the PW using 19thC 15mm on Heroscape terrain and found it gave a great game.  But since then the game has been developed to include a "Modern" variant.

Now here is one point where the honourable Brother Cordery and I have a difference of opinion.... modern to me means Cold War & later... guided missiles and jet fighters and helicopters, oh my. Bob's "Modern" game on the other hand seems definitely pitched at the first half of the 20th century, from the World Wars up to Korea and maybe a little later in 3rd world theaters?

(Of course technically, historians count the Modern Era as anything from the time of Queen Elizabeth onwards, but I suspect that's a little too broad for any single wargame ruleset to handle.)

So it looked like PW:M would not really work with my hodge-podge collection of ultramodern micro-armour without some serious tweaking.  That's when the idea hit me.  One of the periods that I'd been skirting around in the last couple of years has been the "1938 Very British Civil War".  For the uninitiated, it's a popular alternate history based on Edward refusing to abdicate over the Wallis Simpson affair, with Mosely's blackshirts coming to power and triggering a chaotic multi-faction civil war with some parallels to the Spanish Civil War, but fought with a classically British stiff upper lip.

I'd been entranced by the VBCW setting and bought all the published material for it, but ultimately decided against getting invested in it, since the gameplay is pretty much identical to what we get in our Victorian Science Fiction games - small unit skirmishes backed up by mechanized fighting vehicles of varying utility and reliability, with cavalry generally riding around looking splendid but ineffectually getting shot to pieces.  So I couldn't justify spending money to effectively duplicate the same game experience with different uniforms.

But last night it occurred to me..... 1938 - a Very Portable Civil War.  The match seems perfect.  PW:M covers all the necessary troop types and has a level of abstraction that means you wouldn't be too bogged down in minor differences between one Heath Robinsonesque vehicle and another.  The slightly formalised gridded battlefield works well for a conflict where fighting stops when the clock strikes four (afternoon tea, old boy!)

Tucked away somewhere I've got a fair quantity of 15mm WWI figures, some painted but most unpainted.  Mix in some VSF\colonials that I won't now be using for GASLIGHT,  all I'd need then would be a few appropriate vehicles - PW:M is vague about the unit scale, but I get the impression it's somewhere around the 1 element = 1 platoon or possibly company level.  Canonically vehicles should be relatively thin on the ground, restricted mainly to softskin vehicles for transport and a few armoured cars with the occasional poorly armed tank in support.

In theory, this game would make a great little project to get me back into the hobby and could be put together relatively easily with a very minimal outlay

In reality, this is one of those wonderful ideas that is probably going to go nowhere.  Money at the moment is very tight and there would be a bit of work needed to build the armies, painting and basing etc, instead of actually sitting down to play with some of the figures and terrain I've got "ready to go".  But I think, if we're honest, most of us have at some stage had that Great Idea that we spend hours and hours enthusing about and maybe even get as far as buying the figures and priming before...... nothing.  It's as much a part of our hobby as arcane dice rituals and painting eyebows on our figures - i.e. completely irrelevant to the game itself.

Well what will I be doing then?

I've started attending what I've previously unkindly dubbed the "Old Fart's Gaming Night" at Jonesy's. (I'm pleased to report that I am in fact the youngest semi-regular attendee)  Although the focus is usually on "lighter" board or card games (Ticket To Ride, Small World, Pandemic) next week we will be playing Chaos on Chronos, a pulp SF skirmish wargame.  And as I start to put my house in order (literally) getting the Man Cave back to a usable state will be a priority.  Once I can get into the room, and get stuff off the shelves easily, it'll be a lot easier to get a game going or assess the viability of a possible project.

Who knows.  A Very Portable Civil War might happen yet.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Requiem in pacet

On January 3rd 2012, at about 10:30am, my father died peacefully at home.

Shortly after my last post here, his condition noticeably deteriorated, which put any thoughts of wargaming, however small scale, right out the window.  We managed to get a referral to the Macmillan Cancer Support team who were able to mobilise all the nursing support that we needed so desperately, and suddenly we were getting more nurses visiting in a day than we'd seen in the previous year.

As Christmas approached it became clear that we were no longer treating Dad to get better, but to make his final days as comfortable as possible.  He became too weak to walk any distance safely, but too confused to remember that fact, needing 24hr care and attention (on the plus side, as a result my Christmas day was 96 hours long)

He ate a little Christmas dinner, then a little Boxing day dinner.  The days ticked around and the cough that had weakened him so much and we'd thought was beaten, started to return.  On New Year's Eve a GP, against the judgement and wishes of myself and the nurses caring for him, decided Dad needed to go into hospital to investigate the cough.  Once at the hospital, the doctors quickly ruled that there was nothing for them to treat and agreed to a Rapid Discharge to get Dad home as quickly as possible.

He came home on New Years Day, unconscious on a stretcher.  We sat through the night, "watching" his favourite TV program on DVD together (an old show called "Out of Town", all about country life).  A couple of times he opened his eyes and showed signs of awareness, but was unable to speak.

When the district nurses arrived, I stepped out of the room to let them change the medications in his syringe driver.  As they worked on him, one moment he was breathing, the next he wasn't.  It was as peaceful as anyone could hope for.

Now... I try not to put too much non-wargaming detail in this blog.  I know other bloggers who put in a lot of tangential stuff about their life that only marginally affects gaming (usually by disrupting it!)  I could have just put "My Dad's died, the funeral's tomorrow, I'll not be wargaming or blogging till things have calmed down a bit."  But I wanted to make one, very non-wargaming point.

Dad was, in the end, put on "the Pathway", which received quite a bit of bad press here in the UK a couple of months ago.  Now many people feel strongly against this, and any sort of "management" of someone's death.  Some feel it treads dangerously close to euthanasia, while others cynically use the issue to score political points by invoking "death board" strawmen.

Bollocks to all that.

Last year my mother died with no planned end-of-life care.  She died alone in hospital because we had no support to take care of her at home.  Having seen both a managed and an unmanaged end-of-life, I know which one I want when my time comes.


As for wargaming, expect to see a resurgence in the coming spring.  The next month or so is going to see the world turned upside down, as having been focussed 100% on caring for Dad I need to get back out into the real world, get a job and get a real life once again.  But with a whole house to myself now, there'll be room once again for a wargames table to go up somewhere, and that lead and resin mountain in the man cave will provide a much needed distraction.

Thanks to everyone for your support over the last year.  Stay subscribed - I'll be back before you know it with some slightly lighter-hearted wargaming nonsense.