Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Great Migration

One way or another, this blog is not long for the world.
The great and powerful Goog is a capricious and fickle technical wizard.
To cut him off at the knees, I've been dual-posting content both here and over at my personal blog.
I'll leave this blog up as it is to help prevent link-rot.  There's a lot of good stuff here, and there's no reason for me to wipe it out.  If it disappears without notice, you'll know it wasn't me.

Many of you might not follow.  That's understandable.  
No hard feelings, my firend.
Good gaming.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Black Ops: Trouble With the Guards

One thing about "Black Ops" that still gives me pause is the concept of 'raising the alarm'.  In one sense the game has dual-states; either the defenders are unaware of intruders or they are not.  Unless individuals become aware, and then the question arises of what it takes to raise the alert for everyone.  My understanding is that the first guy to be alerted can wake the leader, who then moves about unaware of threats unless he passes an observation check.
That leaves a lot of activations in play where the attackers can set up a nice little ambush.  Three-quarters of the defenders are stuck in their house or off-board.  It tilts things really heavily in favor of the the attackers, and it is only when you have an objective buried deep inside a building or the attackers have the poor luck to find their objective on the last marker on the board that things balance out.
Which they might in the long run, but on the short run it can make for some seriously short games.
But then, I guess that requires a lot of luck on the part of the attackers, and is perfectly in keeping with the source material.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

GADD About Miniature Wargames

Hi, everyone.  My name is Jon, and I suffer from Gamer ADD.

Well, not so much 'suffer from', as 'revel in'.
How can you not, when we have the pleasure of being born in the right time and at the right place to enjoy this late-stage golden-age of the hobby?  And yet I find myself looking back to Tradition, and taking up the challenge of Napoleonics.  These French light infantry need some grass on the field and maybe a flag but are otherwise ready to play ball.  A small unit of seven gives them a lot of flexibility and just enough punch to keep the Redcoats hopping.
As reported before, I'm getting deep into Osprey's "Chosen Men" and finding it a fun little throwback. It's been called a Warhammer knock-off, and I can't speak to that except to say that the game is just a lot of fun.  It allows for a lot of customization for that sweet off-table fun of army building, uses a tidy alternating activation system, and doesn't suffer when you ignore fairly sizable chunks of the command rules.  Seriously, some of the order stuff takes a long time to wrap your head around, and the game remains just as fun even without those rules.

One minor nit-pick - the lists assume you're building troops in increments of either five or ten, and swapping out fighters for standard bearers, buglers, and trumpeteers.  Eh.  I pro-rate the costs and use units of whatever size I have on hand.  If that means a unit of seven figures on one side and nine on the other, so be it.  As long as the points generally work out, it's all good.

Let's close with a bit more art.  These foot dragoons will never see the back of a horse - Chosen Men operates at too small and furious a scale to allow for the business of dismounting, horse wrangling, and whatnot.  But they will show up as hardy skirmish types ready to seize ground and hold until relieved.  Like the paratroopers of the day, they dive deep into the enemy territory and embed themselves like an Alabama tick, and the look so much better while doing so.  Normally fielded in units of five, as with the rest of the units in this game, I allow for larger troops to get the most out of my collection.


Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Littlest Big Igloo

Back in the day, at the height of the Cold War, cloak and dagger battles were deadly earnest affairs, with only the rare example of a Get Smart to lighten the mood.  Today is no different, with the added frisson of a clandestine asymmetric war waged by entrenched forces against a beleaguered and largely leaderless resistance.  Into such weighty matters and ray of humor must shine, and here we have my tongue-in-cheek campaign wherein the forces of CONTROL and KAOS are played by Hapless Control Freaks and a Well Meaning but Poorly Led Herd of Cats.  You can decide which is which for yourself.

Here, we have the Black Hats infiltrating a small, rural airport on the hunt for Very Important Financial records that take the form of rare Pokemon cards.  Black Ops involves more status tokens on the board than I really like, but they speed play and I'm less inclined to obsess over "visual appeal is everything" than in my younger years.
The leader of the Black Hats, Very Special Agent Ray Getard, takes aim at an airport guard from the corner of a field office.  The resin terrain came from GameCraft Miniatures and they offer a set of three different models for $16.00.  Not a bad price for the kind of terrain you can drop into a variety of settings.  They work for everything from 1950s Africa through modern, post-apocalypse, and well into the future.
And here's a group shot of our plucky resistance.  The guy in the cowboy hat is charismatic leader Ron Wildcard, and for the first time in a short stealth-campaign, he has managed to get his hands on not just an RPG, but a guy who knows how to use it without blowing off his own head.
The campaign has really helped maintain my interest in this ruleset, which I've discussed at length elsewhere.  Just good stuff, man.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Pirate Looks at Wasted Years

On its surface, Osprey's "Fighting Sail" is a simple bucket-o-dice pool game, with a breezy little wind-gauge mechanic.  I'm finding that the simplifications necessary to allow for fleet actions turn the chore of managing the wind into a real pleasure.  This game plays so fast and easy that I struggle to put it down.  For years I played spaceship battles that amount to the same sort of game minus the wind-gauge and now I'm wondering...why?
The ships from Tumbling Dice - I opted for 1:2400 scale for reasons of cost and portability - have the heft necessary to give this game its tactile satisfaction, and paint up with all the same techniques as human sized figures.  They have been a delight to add to the collection and take up very little room on the shelf.  Dressing the table for battle couldn't be any easier.  You just drop the cloth and you're done.  Sure, you can add shoals and fog banks and other such fun, but you don't have to.

Speaking's a look at the terrain that I've put together to add just a little more dimension to the game.  Shown here with a 15mm Napoleonic figure for scale.  This island is nothing more than the core of a 10-mm thick piece of foam-core shaved to suit my taste, mounted on a 5-mm thick baseboard, and covered with a layer of glue and sand.  The houses are just balsa wood cut into the right shape, and then a layer of flock and shrubs/trees scattered about.

Once painted, they look incredible, and now the ships have something more substantial than smaller ships to hide behind.  All six islands in the collection took a single two-hour session to make and maybe twenty minutes total to paint.  It's really just that easy, and if you're gaming in 1:2400, you have a lot of options for pre-cast terrain from PicoArmor and Tumbling Dice.  You can find docks, piers, coastal forts, lighthouses, pretty much anything you need to make your table your own.

For about a hundred bucks I've assembled not just two fleets - each with five or six ships of the line and twice that number of frigates - but also a small pirate fleet and an in-shore squadron of fireships and bomb rafts. If nothing else, these make a great entry into a side of the miniature wargaming hobby that I put off for far too long.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Clever Scenario Design

Wargaming videos make a fine soundtrack for painting sessions, and every once in a while you stumble across a bit of genius you can't wait to steal.  This wonderful battle report from House of Hengist Comics Wargaming Channel struck me as a novel sort of game, and one of those rare scenarios that I've never played.  It's a WWII fight, a little slice of Market Garden fought using Flames of War, but at it's core is a very different sort of scenario than the usual 'line 'em up and crash into each other'.  As ever, we can take the ball from Hengist and run with in a direction more suited to our own style and purpose.

The basic idea is a race for an objective as shown here.  Two forces running parallel to each other, both seeking to claim an objective at the far end of the table.  The center line of the table is broken by terrain that blocks movement and line of sight, with only one or two breaks to allow for that all-important tactical decision tree.  Here, we've got a Napoleonic skirmish that pits two equal sized forces, both entering the table from the west.

On this much simplified level, the major decision point arises from the question of whether to waste time and resources seizing the bridge and perhaps cutting the enemy's forces in half, or fully commit everything to grabbing the fields to the east.  The enclosed fields are rough terrain, and not well-suited for cavalry maneuvers, adding the complication that the units on each side that can get there first are not the best for holding onto that ground.

To complicate matters, and this might have been a wrinkle too many, I held one (random) unit in reserve on both sides of the fight.  That uncertainty adds additional weight to the choice of whether to drive across the bridge, given the increased probability of cutting the enemy's forces or at least delaying any reinforcements long enough to allow your other forces to dig-in for the delayed counter-attack.

No spoilers. To find out how the fight went, you'll have to check out the channel later this month when the play-through video of this "Chosen Men" scenario goes live.  For now, you'll have to settle for some pretty shots of the fancy lads in their fighting gear.

Yeah, I used a post-it note to mark the British Major. Some day I'll have a reliable printer or get around to painting up a suitable flag on my own. Some day.

Okay, slight spoiler for those who know "Chosen Men" - that cannon rolled snake eyes while trying to thin the redcoat herd to the north.  This is too nice of a picture not to memorialize here.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Gaslands - A Few Thoughts On City Streets

 My Gaslands set up is a little unusual in that all my fights take place on the streets of Midville, USA.

This leads to two big differences between the games shown on The Joy of Wargaming and most other videos - two differences that largely balance each other out.  For one thing, driving on city-streets means that your car has a lot more opportunity to push its luck and re-roll skid dice.  Not always, but often enough that my games feature a lot more driving between Wipe Out checks than most other games.

Notice, however, that the existence of parking lots, sidewalks, and grassy areas means that enough areas remain "rough going" that players have to consider their routes a few moves head lest they lost that advantage of the free Luck Push.  Sometimes it makes sense to eat the roll to get a better line of attack, and that leads to significantly more interesting tactical choices than a dirt lot with a few obstacles.

On the other hand, this is balanced out by the necessarily narrow city streets.  The tight confines and limited drivable space makes all the Luck Pushing not just a luxury but a necessity.  If you want to get the right line at the right time, you're going to need both Spin and Slide results at the right time, and you're going to need to keep a tight lid on the number of hazard tokens on your car to keep those options available.

It's not exactly a different game, but it's a whole different way of playing the game.  And it's one rich with possibilites that I high recommend to any aficionado of the sweet science of vehicular mayhem.

Drivers and pedestrians alike!