Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Sci-Fi Table: Before

As we leave 2015 behind, let's look ahead to the coming year.  The blog's focus heading into the New Year is going to be stuffing as much scatter terrain into the sci-fi box as possible.  Right now the sci-fi table has the necessary big structure to it, but is woefully lacking in the minor bits and bobs to provide that all important cover in modern+ games. See for yourself.  This is the table set-up as it currently stands.

Not bad, a bit pulpy, and not the sort of thing to complain about, but here at the Abox household we've never been ones to rest on our to-scale laurels.  This year we're going to fill in a lot of gaps with benches, planters, sculptures, more vehicles, and whatever else will fit in the box.  Once we do, we can move those farm fields off the table and into the fantasy genre where they fit so much better.

Did I mention we'll be starting a fantasy table, too?  Unlike last year's total focus on a Big Box of fantasy mass battles, this year we are diversifying to start up a fantasy collection.  This will be a total package Big Box, with all the fittings.

Oh, and more playing of the games.  We'll squeeze that in, too.  At some point we'll take a shot of the updated sci-fi table so you can see the difference in aesthetics and playability that a lot of little touches can make.

It's going to be a busy year, so update your blog-rolls and RSS's and bookmarks.  Should be a lot of fun, too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Podcast We've Been Waiting For

If you're one of those poor bastards that grinds through a long commute on a daily basis, then you can't get enough decent podcasts.  There are a hot steaming pile of them for tabletop RPGs, a few of them are even worth a listen, but very very few for tabletop wargaming.  Those that exist for wargaming are mostly dedicated to the big production house games like 40k and...I don't know, Infiniti?  I'm a 15mm guy who loves himself the boutique publishers, so you'll have to find the big boys on your own google-time.

But if you are also a boutique style 15mm wargamer languishing in the wilds of a fairly obscure corner of this fairly obscure hobby, then there is finally a podcast just for you, for me, and the rest of our tiny little clique - In the Garage.  It's run by the guys at Clear Horizon Miniatures, but the first podcast takes a nice spin around the genre with positive mentions of Osprey rules, GZG, and a fair few others.

After one episode, I can't tell you the names of the two hosts off the top of my head, but they are fun guys who take things just as seriously as they deserve.  Wait a second, that's not entirely true; Mister Harold, who you may know around the net from the Lead-Adventure Forums is one of the hosts.  If you know him from around the net, then you know he is both knowledgeable, friendly, and enthusiastic.

You should give it a listen.  For my part, I'm looking forward to hearing more episodes in the future.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Wargaming Triangle

Presenting Warren's General Theory of Wargaming Management!

This should be pretty self-explanatory.  For project management, restaurants, and life in general you generally have to balance between good, fast, and cheap.  McDonald's burgers are cheap and fast, but they ain't good.  The local high-end restaurant makes a good and fast burger, but it ain't cheap.  The best burgers on this island (Hello, Teddy's!) are cheap and good, but you're going to have to wait in line.

For wargaming that constant balance seems to be time, money, and space.  In high school, I had all the time in the world, but no money and no space.  When I started this blog, I had all the time and money needed, but no space - hence the "In A Box" theme making a virtue out of necessity.  Now that I have a crazy long commute there aren't enough hours in the day.

But that's okay.  There's no pressure, so I can build up a nice lead reserve for when the times get lean and the commute gets shorter.  When the kids go to college I'll have more time and space, and if I've invested in unpainted figures right won't need to spend quite so much money.

Which makes this all a 'round about way of justifying a large lead pile.  It's not frivolous impulse purchases or an addiction - it's an investment.  In the future!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

From the Archive - One Gnarly Figure

Here he is, the Haunter in the Dark, the Black Pharoah himself, Nyarlathotep.  This old RAFM figure is somewhere around 15 years old, from way back when I still used those giant 25-mm figures.

Most folks paint that whole big tentacle as a bloody tongue, but I think it's creepier to have it just be one long tentacle that extends from the body.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

In this time of strife and conflict, it does a soul good to stop for a moment and reflect on God's blessings, and the supreme gift of His only begotten son: "And behold an Angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the Angel said to them: Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men of good will."

If his love can bring together the men shown in the photos above (which include Germans, Brits, Yanks, and Italians, too!), then surely it can do so for the rest of the world too.  Celebrate this day knowing that His kingdom will come.

On the more avaricious side of the holiday, here's hoping the floor creaks with the weight of all the lead and rulebooks sure to find their way under your Christmas Tree.

As for me, my presents are due to arrive in the mail any day now.  Saint USPS will be bringing me the start of a 15mm fantasy collection, and at some point in 2016 Osprey's En Garde! ruleset will showup.  In the meanwhile, I've got more than enough toys to keep me occupied.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Octopod Reinforcements

Quick and dirty update.  A few months ago, I added just a couple of's octopods to the swelling ranks of my sci-fi forces to use as civilian types.  They looked a little lonely, so I ordered up a pack of the riflemen (blasterpods?) to give me a fourteen man fighting force.  That's a pretty good number for a smallish Black Ops game.

Only two poses, but these are cannon fodder, so no worries on that score.  Here are the older figures:

In Black Ops terms that looks like a leader, tech, heavy, cook?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Barbarian Prince, A Second Playthrough

Vassal is one of those tabletop simulators that is all the rage these days, and during the course of tinkering with it one thing led to another and the next thing I knew Cal Arath Junior had been usurped from his father's throne.  This time around he wound up being dumped by his loyal servant high in the mountains above the Tragoth River.

Junior had a much easier time getting across the river, and was smart enough to stop after a week in the foothills north of the Mountains of Zohr where he spent a week hunting, resting, and recovering from near starvation. 

One day he met a dwarf, but the surly miner cared nothing for the troubles of a lost barbarian prince and never paused in his journey.  Good riddance to bad rubbish so far as Cal was concerned.

Feeling much revived, he journeyed down to the Temple of Zohr where he fell in with a bad crowd.  His first night at the Temple, the convinced him to aid them in an attempt to steal a large sum of money from the poor box. 

Being the quick and clever sort, Cal Junior pulled down a cool 200gp, of which he kept 180.  (Ten percent to the thieves guild is only proper.)  He then hot-footed it south where the next day he wandered into a swarm of goblins patrolling the region around their keep.  Allies of the Temple, tipped off by the angry priests?  Unlikely, as Cal Junior fled back to the Temple, where no one was any the wiser.  After securing more provisions, he decided to head north.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Towards a Unified Theory of Wargaming Complexity

Put on your thinking man's cap, because today we're talking math.

Earlier this week, Delta Vector (you know Delta, he runs the excellent Delta Vector blog) posted the latest installment of his in-depth analysis of wargame design, this one on the perfect number of units.   The entire series is well worth your time, as he devotes each post to a detailed look at different ways of managing wargames with copious examples from around the genre.  In this installment he comes to the conclusion that the right number of units is between 5 and 12.  

This particular post hit home, because on the exact same day that Delta posted his analysis, your humble blogger posted a summary of One Hour Wargames in which he came to almost the exact same conclusion.  Ain't that a kick in the serendipity pants.

From the Archive - Lizard Bastard

This bastard love child of Godzilla and Grimace goes by the exotic name of Brah'knee.  He is yet another giant monster rampage figure.  Bought for a song from the lone dealer who worked the one gaming convention that I organized while still in grad school right around the turn of the century.

He's metal.  He's twice the size of a standard 28-mm figure.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

JJ Abrams un-raped my childhood.

Spoiler free alert: What follows are the thoughts of a middle-aged man reflecting life, film, and family more than they are thoughts on the new installment of the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a movie.  It's a very good movie.  JJ Abrams successfully delivered a sprawling universe, one that gives you the sense there are hundreds of stories woven throughout it, and you are watching just one of them.  Those other stories weave in and out of the one you are watching, which provides a real sense of scale and the unknown.  It's been a long time since a movie left me feeling that literally anything could be lurking around the next corner, like anything could happen next, and this one delivers both in spades.

And yet...

Over the years my love for the franchise dimmed even as my appreciation of sci-fi deepened.  Which led to an odd feeling while watching Star Wars wherein I found myself more enthralled with the idea of an epic space-opera adventure.  Even more excited by that than by the experience of revisiting the characters and stories that played a central role in my childhood immersion in pop culture.

There was a time in my life when my spirit hungered for drama and excitement.  The younger version of me spent countless dollars chasing the ups and downs provided by the modern entertainment industry. He was as loud and obnoxious a sports fan as any other college guy.  He eagerly anticipated the next big blockbuster. He spent thousands of hours bent over innumerable tables thrilled by the results of ten thousand literal rolls of the dice.

And then he had a family.

The shadows on screen and echoes in the hall still pull on the same emotional strings, but their power has weakened as the ups and downs inherent in family life have taken center stage.  Listening to the silence of a room that should have been filled with the cries of your new born daughter.  Watching your son take a bone-jarring hit even as his stick fires off a last minute, game winning goal.  That brief moment after your daughter plugs her guitar into her amp, but before she shreds out that first technical riff - hoping against hope the audience hears it the way you hear it.  Opening the envelop containing the results of your wife's medical tests - because she can't bear to do it herself.  The thrill of starting a second career - the one you have dreamed of for decades.  Not even JJ Abrams' camera tricks and daddy-issue drama can compete with the roller coaster feeling of those everyday moments of personal drama.

All too soon my kids will move on, and I will be left rattling around an empty house, rediscovering my wife and previous passions.  When that happens no doubt my beloved Sooners, and their regular late November discussion in the playoff discussion, will once again dominate my fall Saturdays. Meaningful everyday drama will re-enter my life by way of a table littered with dice and rulebooks and paper and wargame figures.  Someday blockbusters will resonate in my chest they way they did for most everyone in the audience that watched Star Wars with me last night.

None of this is said to take anything away from Star Wars 7.  It was amazing. It touched my three sizes too small heart, and allowed me to forget my grown-up cynicism for a few hours.  I will always be grateful to JJ Abrams for his ability to revitalize the greatest space opera franchise in cinema history, and thereby guarantee another decade of excuses to make memories with something truly worth getting excited about - my family.

In the end, Star Wars 7 could have been any one of a dozen movies, it could have been as poorly realized as the prequels, or as irritating as the remastered original trilogy, and that would have been fine. It wouldn't have dimmed my enjoyment of the evening one jot. At the end of the day, the experience of the movie meant more to me than the movie itself.  Heading out late on opening night with my teenage son, sharing his excitement, talking too fast about our thoughts and theories while speeding down a dark highway way past our bedtime?  The fun of watching a new adventure with Han, Leia, and Luke, plays second fiddle to making new adventures with the members of my own personal Rebellion.

All that said, JJ Abrams plays one hell of a mean second fiddle.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day #7: Short and Sweet

Started a second job, so things are busier than usual.  To free up some room in the schedule, I might have announce a few layoffs in the Children Department on the home front.
D&D Micro-Settings (The Dragon's Flagon): When I think of "settings" for D&D-type games, I think of two different sorts of products. One is the sort in which an entire campaign may take place, detailing in broad strokes a fairly large geographic area. Many settings of this type have been published, and you probably know at least a few of them by name if not more intimately: Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Known World (a.k.a. Mystara,) among many, many others. With this type of setting, you generally get a map, a description of the various regions, the nations and cultures, major NPCs and factions, history and legends, and probably some adventure hooks and a few new character classes or sub-classes. It's the second kind that I want to talk about today.
Black Ops (A Life in Miniature): We had an opportunity to try the new Osprey rule set "Black Ops" last Thursday at the Club. A high ranking diplomat had been kidnapped by local rebels some where in Central Asia. The rebels were a mix of poor quality militia, mercenaries and an FSB team on site to interrogate the prisoner. A special forces team supported by regular troops were despatched to rescue him.
Into the Dungeon (Wee Blokes):  The party step into the Dungeon. This is the start of the Never-ending Dungeon. For this first level they have a map in their possession, so can temper their main rescue mission with exploration with the hope of bolstering their experience and equipment for future levels.

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Hour Wargames: Further Thoughts

With multiple games of Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames under the belt, it's time to take a more solid look at the ruleset and see how it stacks up.

Spoiler alert: Pretty darn good!

What makes for a good tabletop game?  Enough units to have meaningful choices.  Enough variety to make each fight unique.  Enough balance that each game has the potential to come down to the wire with victory often decided in the final turn.  The medieval version of OHW passes all three tests.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

From the Archive - Ogre Cyclops

Here's another blast from my college day past.  Just some bargain bin big old dude.  He is ostensibly a 28-mm scale figure, but he is a giant of a figure, standing close to 10-feet tall.  In scale, of course.  

Captain Hook One Eye here has also seen use stomping around a miniature city fighting next week's old time figure.  In fact, most of these archive figures have been bouncing around a box waiting for a decent monster rampage set of rules.  And a big old 6mm city.  That's somewhere on my list of somedays.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shrodinger's To Hit Roll

Continuing on from yesterday's discussion on suppressing fire in Black Ops, but the same sort of thing happens in a number of wargames where the condition of a model is left ambiguous until that model next activates.

So there you are, staring at the table where your opponent has just laid down a barrage of suppression fire on the fire team that represents the tip of your spear.  Four hits total, which results in your squad...well, being suppressed.

In Black Ops you have a couple of choices.  You can take the fire, which means those suppression markers become actual hits - roll to wound.  You can pull back into the nearest cover directly away from the shooter, which means those markers just disappear.  Or you can do nothing until that fire team's next activation.  If they do nothing, the markers disappear.  That last choice effectively results in that fire team losing a turn.

Here's where it gets interesting.  The fire team doesn't have to choose which one they do until their next activation.  Given that this is a card driven activation system, that could be a while.  The rest of your platoon could be off running about, shooting up the place, tossing grenades, and generally having a grand old time as the tip of your spear sits there, hovering in that not-quite-hit-not-quite-run-off state.

At least until their card comes up and they have to make a decision.  Then everything snaps back into focus as we open the box and find out whether the cat is dead, suppressed or run off.  It's like a mini cliffhanger built right into the middle of the game.

Well written, Guy.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Shooting Around Corners in Black Ops

When somebody uses suppression fire at my table,
they always announce it like this.
Osprey's Black Ops uses a card driven activation system.  It's a randomized IGOUGO system broken up by held actions, orders, and suppression fire.  As can be imagined, suppressing fire is more likely to have an effect, but less likely to cause casualties.  Each hit forces the target to choose one of three bad options: do nothing for the next activation, duck back into cover, or take the hit and make a wound roll.

Where it gets interesting, is that suppression fire can be targeted at a visible model...or at a point on the ground.  The suppression markers sit there like a big fat landmine daring the opponent to move anywhere within three inches of the area being suppressed.  It's a great way to force your opponent to make sub-optimal choices.  If you need that squad to get across the street, you're going to have to risk the hits.

The photo on the right shows just such a situation.  The three green beads represent three suppression 'hits' laid down by the hazmat suit's opponent.  Since the hazmat guys cannot be seen, they cannot be targeted, but the opposing heavy can still force them to keep their heads down.  If they move out from behind the corner, they will be exposed to that gunfire.

Where it gets interesting is when just one of those hazmat models is visible to the shooter.  In Black Ops hits are spread around the squad in equal numbers, meaning that the shooter is actually targeting all three models, even though only one can be seen.  That sounds crazy until you think about it for a bit.

This tabletop pretend gunfight is a simulation of a crazy simultaneous charlie foxtrot.  Although our little dudes move specific distances in discrete little hops and jumps one after another, that's just a crude representation of the swirling and fluid chaos of battle.  So what really happens in a case like that is the squad dashing up to the corner, taking a couple steps out into the road, and then being forced to duck back into cover.  Maybe they make it in time, maybe they take a few hits.  Either way, the place they end their movement isn't always indicative of a snapshot in time, but like the location of an electron around an atomic nucleus, their exact position at any given moment is...somewhere in or around a general point centered on this model.

Quantum wargaming, people.

You think that's something? Wait for tomorrow's post on Shrodinger's To Hit Roll.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day #6

It's hump day, so I've got to include a picture of a camel...get it?  A sopwith camel?  Eh? EH?
Ahhh, who am I kidding, I was just looking for an excuse to post the cover of this great game. In high school, my game crew bought a cheap second hand copy of this and played the heck out of it for years.  Well worth a look if you ever cross paths with it.
Traveling Set (BattReps): Due to the popular request, I am presenting here my traveling wargaming set. If you are like me, and you spend better part of the week in hotels on business trips, out of home, you would like to take your hobby with you. Here is the way I am doing that.
Lost Mines of Phandelver (Dungeon of Signs): Forgotten Realms was the worst thing to happen to D&D, honestly, it's just a terrible setting that reeks of bathos and takes itself far to serious. It plunders everything cliched and overused from Tolkien but abandons all the strangeness and mythological references. It fills the land with huge civilized bastions of good like Waterdeep and exhaustively defines their systems of governance, but allows these nations to be plagued by trifling enemies like goblin tribes. Forgotten Realms embraces a pedantic faux-medievalism, but then uses a contemporary positivist understanding to explain magic that allows for cutesy magical technology to gloss over the inconvenient aspects of the pre-modern. Most offensively, most objectionably, Forgotten Realms is a dense, full world, so steeped in cliched lore and laid out so extensively in dull gazetteers that there is no room for a GM's creativity without excising some of the setting's existing lore and map.
Mixing Mass Combat with RPG D&D (ChicagoWiz's Games): I went back and forth through a number of mass combat systems - Chainmail, Battle System, the OD&D Swords & Spells supplement, HOTT/DBA... none of these really seemed to scratch all the itches I had. They all had their good sides, but the biggest downfall was how to realistically include the players into a combat situation where they weren't going to stride through the fields like Super Heroes (until they hit 8th to 10th level...) but they could make a meaningful contribution and have some chance of survival. Then enter David Collins of Delta's D&D Hotspot blog. In September of 2011, he released a small set of mass combat rules called "Book of War."
Star Wars, Gendered Sci-Fi, Slave Leia and Reiterating Why I’m Not Stoked for Star Wars (Cirsova): Now here’s a cultural Ouroboros. JJ Abrams is saying “Star Wars was always a boys thing,” because today’s culture is so obsessed with the notion that until the recent diversity push of today, entertainment was hopelessly gendered and probably really racist. Abrams is just saying what he’s being told, and what he’s saying is he’s trying to right the ancient wrongs of sci-fi past. Of course now he’s being dogpiled for suggesting that Star Wars was a ‘boys thing’. Look you guys, don’t you see, he’s just trying to make it less problematic for you! He’s got a boring looking lady in drab clothes to be the hero who will be teamed up with a non-threatening man who will not make aggressive passes or snark at her!
40K Bad Guys in 15mm (KJdidt on TheMiniaturesPage): Pic Heavy! 15mm Chaos – Iron Warriors, Cultists and Daemons (with a Reaver Titan to boot). Necrons, too.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Necromancer War, Chapter 3

When last we left the on-going saga of the Necromancer King's attempt to add the Targar Empire to his domain, Lady Hotfor M'Motherson successfully routed a flanking force of the Necromancer King.  Seeing an opportunity to deliver a smashing blow to the dark lord's forces, she quickly rounded up all the forces within a day's march, and set out to sever the Necromancer forces' supply lines.  Scrambling to plug the gap in his lines, the Necromancer King ordered a small screening force to slow down the Lady's forces...
The d30 for this battle resulted in a 25 - Infiltration.  Only one defending unit starts the game on a hill deep in the Targar side of the board.  Five other units wait just off board, with two entering on Turn 3 and the other 3 on Turn 6.  The Targar's four units all enter on the north in Turn 1, and have to get two units off the board in the south by the end of Turn 15.

Lady M'Motherson quickly ordered her men-at-arms to stall the levy left guarding the hill, while her three units of knights charged...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

From the Archive - Hard and Blurry

Note much to say about this mind-1990s figure except that he has mainly seen use in a giant monster rampage style game.  Not even sure what manufacturer makes this guy.  RAFM?  He stands easily twice as tall as most 25mm-ish figures, so it's acutally a giant cyclops skeleton.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tiny Little Ruins

The Fantasy Big Box for One Hour Wargames needed a little something extra, and with the long Thanksgiving weekend, there was plenty of time to goof off at the hobby bench.  (It's really more of a counter.)  So I slapped together a quick terrain piece to spruce up the battlefield.  The plan was for a circle of magic standing stones, but the junk box held enough bric-a-brac to bash together a small ruin on a low hill.

Rules-wise this will either be filler for empty space on the field, or it will be impassable to all troops types.  The rules we use don't actually allow for "impassable to all" other than ponds, but given the straight line movement and sweeping speed of mounted knights, having one or two no-go zones will require a little extra planning and thought.

Here is a shot of the unpainted piece.  The base consists of a small oblong piece of wood picked up at the local craft shop for half a buck.  The ground surface is spackle built up to suit with a couple pebbles, and a divot for an abandoned well.  Watch your step!  The square building is the bottom to a plastic fortification piece from the boardgame Shogun/Samurai Swords, and the rest is just thin balsa cut into bricks or very narrow gauge wooden dowels broken and glued into place.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day #5: Eye Candy Edition

It really is a great time to be a wargamer, especially in 15mm.  I'd argue that we aren't so much in a Golden Age as a Platinum Age.  The shopping list in my head includes the names of at least ten manufacturers producing as wide a variety of figures and terrain and vehicles as you could hope for, and most those are of a quality that easily surpasses the 15mm figures of just 20 years ago.  You can easily find them, order them, and get them within a few weeks - again, a feature un-hoped for in my younger days.  Not only that, but you can meet, online if not in person, the guys sculpting and producing these great products and rules on a moment's notice.

So far as I'm concerned, the entire sweep of history and development of the internet has been dedicated to creating this wonderfully environment to be a wargamer.  Thanks, social media, for doing the heavy lifting.  We'll take it from here.

This edition of the humpadump is heavy on the eye-candy, so you may want to wait to go a-clicking until you've got a nice big screen to chew on these links.
Dungeons of Doom: Making a Tavern bar! (The Grinning Skull): So, while not fitting the whole dungeon theme entirely, we kick off this belated Grim’s Dungeons of Doom article with a set piece that is ever present in stock fantasy games, The Tavern bar. This’ll be first in a series detailing how to turn your modular dungeon scenics into more than just an underground lair, and lets you turn the system into a viable way to simulate entire buildings and interiors.
Battle Report: The Temple of Fate - The Final Death of the Undead Lord (The Dark Prophet Chronicles): The day had come to face the Banelord Valak Thul in direct battle. After the Templars fought their way through his undead forces they finally met him on the small river island where the necromancer changed into the form of a giant undead Terrorgheist.
Can you squeeze 15mm models into 6mm rules? (Dropship Horizon): Laserstorm rules are designed for massive battles using 6mm models. The minimum suggested game size is around nine units a side. A unit being three standard vehicles or field guns, 4 light vehicles, 6 infantry stands or one super heavy vehicle or behemoth. This is the sort of size of game I have played so far. Units are arranged into three battle groups of roughly equal size. Weapon ranges seem fine used unmodified in 15mm. The rules suggest infantry stands of 4-6 models but my figure collection would not stretch to that. I chose stands of 3 models so that my standard units of 20 models could form an infantry unit. It also takes up less real estate on table. Purists may argue that three figures do not make a fire team but it looks OK to me.
2nd Big Battle of Fantasy Empires, aka 15mm Kings of War (Mikeopolis): Yeah, we got the bug now, a small Bretonnian vs Lizardman battle on Saturday (Troy's Lizards whopped up on my Bretonnians) and then another Big Brutal Battle 6000 vs 6000 Orcs vs Dwarf/Elf alliance on Sunday. Notes to take home: Bretonnians, catapults suck and Kinights are awesome, More Knights! Orcs, catapults suck and Giants rules! More Giants! The big battle ended up in a bloody draw.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Ops, Trial Run

In northern corner, the crew of the G.S.S. Myconis, four hard charging Special Forces.
Crew of the SS Myconis, from left to right, a specialist,
heavy, trooper, and ace.
In the southern corner, a dozen conscripts working for Hazmat Security, Inc.
An ace, a heavy, and ten troopers.
Since this was just a trial run, we opted for an asymmetric, stand-up fight between a small special force of four, and a dozen conscripts.  Nothing fancy, just two 50 point forces, line 'em up, and shoot.  The battle wound up being a Special Forces defense of the lone two-story building on the table.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

From the Archive - Big Red

You know what goes great with leftover Turkey?  Old miniatures!

Every collection of wargame miniatures needs at least one dragon. This one marks the first time that I was able to get the shading on the color red done right.  For some reason it took a big canvas and a little trial and error - and trying to thin red with yellow paint.  All my miniatures before this one used a little white paint to highlight the color red, and so every red piece of fabric wound up looking pink.

The back end of the base for this guy broke off at some point.  He is mounted for use with Hordes of the Things, but the rest of his army is long gone.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Actual Play - Barbarian Prince - Episode 1

If you haven't seen it yet, Castalia House Publishing has a new blog feature called Wargame Wednesdays, for all of us hex-and-counter-philes.  The series has inspired me to push some cardboard around.  All of my kids love themselves some Awful Green Things, and we spent a summer tooling about with the print-and-play games over at the Dwarfstar archive.  We played enough Outpost Gamma to decide it was just too danged tough for the marines, and a game or two of Goblins! before losing interest.

Last weekend, I finally had a chance to sit down and play through the classic hex and counter wargame, Barbarian Prince.  It really is less of a wargame than it is a jumped-up choose-your-own adventure slash analog version of turn based computer RPGs.  But it has lots of hexes and at least one counter, along with a turn tracker, resource meters, and a couple of other wargame signifiers, so I for one am comfortable putting in the wargame family, even if it is one of its distant cousins.

Not only did I get a chance to play, I got a chance to film, edit, and prep a short video to share with you lot.  I've taken the liberty of editing out the dull bits like flipping through rulebooks and tedious die-rolling for combat, so the video moves faster than you might expect.  Barbarian Prince is a solo wargame, so have some leftovers and enjoy watching me play with myself for thirteen minutes*. If there's any interest, I'll probably do another one over the Thanksgiving break.


Links mentioned in the video:
*Probably a bad joke to make - I'm going to start getting a lot of weird spam comments now, aren't I?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day - Issue #4

Happy Thanksgiving!  Eat too much, laugh too loud, and sleep a little extra, but save Black Friday for some gaming.  Meanwhile, have some more fireside reading for the long weekend.

One Hour Wargames, Scenario 6 (Steve's Random Musings): I then sat down to think of a scenario, but had a bit of a brainwave and decided to have a look-see at what the next scenario was in One Hour Wargames, to see if it could be modified or used.. the scenario is based on Salamanca - flank attack on a moving column - perfect, so the decision was made...
Fall-In Eye Candy (The Man Cave): To be honest the Lad and I were so busy rushing about playing games, shopping and socialising that we only had limited wanderings around the various rooms to check out the great games, and there were indeed many. Still, I eneded up with some pretty pictures so I though I would share them (while I wait for SWMBO to go out so I can arrange my disturbingly big pile of loot for pics).
The People of Yesterday Held Different Beliefs Than We Do Today! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? (Dyvers): Lately I've been spending a lot of time reading through the exploration of Gary Gygax's Appendix N and wondering what is wrong with these people. Their criticisms are often not about the works they're reading but instead about the people who wrote them - people who often reflected the times they lived in by holding outdated views about morality, sexuality, race relations, social justice, and the like. As a result their objections all tend to sound the same: "Author X was writing in 1910 and held views that were common during their lifetime but are completely wrong by today's standards. What the fuck is wrong with them?" I mean who would ever imagine that someone writing more than a hundred years ago might have moral and societal values that are vastly different from the ones we have today. It doesn't end there, though...
Make sure you check back again tomorrow - I've got something really different to show you.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Black Ops, Around the Horn

Welcome to another clickbait article.  This one has a lot less weird tricks and local single moms and a lot more Black Ops.  With the rules out for less than a month, there aren't a whole lot of actual play posts around the web just yet - I haven't written any up yet myself - so here's your old pal Warren's handy finger pointing to a couple:

  • Black Ops rules review and playtest (SP Project): Whilst I attended the recent Fiasco show (great to meet up with a few people but the show wasn’t great- not a good look when a third of your demo/ participation tables are no shows…) I picked up a few bits including the new Black Ops rules from Osprey. As a basic skirmish game the rules work well enough, not better or worse than other comparable sets really though I would have preferred a bit more friction in the activation system. Here the rules really came into their own with wandering guards and noise token which had to be minimised by the raiding player to avoid raising the alarm- though I’d like to see the noise list extended.
  • Black Ops Trial Game (Stefano V): Yesterday night we played our first Black Ops game. We found it quite interesting and we will play it again. The scenario chosen was a stealth mission, assassination over the Terminal map. The target started from the landed helicopter and and to travel across the table to exit on opposite corner.
  • Need to know basis: Black Ops reviewed (Pijlie's Wargames Blog): The best thing that can happen to a wargaming fanboy is to get hold of a new ruleset prior to publication. This happened to me with Black Ops, the coming new release by Osprey Publishing. Unfortunately it took me several weeks to find the time to play it, as I eventually did at Crisis in Antwerp. So I completely blew my scoop! Despite of that, the game is definitely worth a review.

And here are a couple of resources for the game:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

From the Archive - The Splice

Another Saturday night, and it looks like the archives are getting to be a regular feature around here.

These little critters are examples of the Space Lice you can get from Irregular Miniatures for something like a buck and half each.  Like most of Irregular's miniatures, they look awful in bare metal, but take paint like champs.  Matakishi has a more cartoonish take on these guys over at his Tea House.  I just have the one squad, but for the life of me I can't remember why.

Friday, November 20, 2015

15mm Sci-Fi Traffic Report

Scatter terrain.  You'd be hard pressed to ever have enough of it on your urban table.  Mine was sorely lacking in viable vehicles.  Matchbox cars are passable, but they just don't tie together with the rest of the terrain.  There are a couple in this old shot, and you can see what I mean.

It's hard to put your finger on, but the paint is a little too glossy, the scale a little too large, and the style just slightly off.  Some of the construction vehicles work great with a full repaint, but for my money there's no beating vehicles specifically manufactured for gaming.

Like these:
Flit cars and trucks from

Now I know what you're thinking, "Ohmergerd, Warren, those flight stands are just like, totes the coolest.  Like, how did you do that?"

First off, stop thinking like a 15 year old ditz.  Second off, I made them from these:

The clear hooks come in a variety of different styles.  These happened to be the perfect for all of my vehicles.  They may be a bit large for the cycles, but we'll find out later.  All you have to do is clip off the hook, leaving roughly 5mm of plastic in place:

Sand it down to create a broad, level surface for the vehicle:

And add a drop of superglue to the top.  If you want a little more stability, you can pin the vehicle in place or glue a washer to he underside of the vehicle and put that peg inside the washer.  You'll want to dull coat your vehicles before you glue them to the stand - spray varnish will make the flight stand cloud up.

This isn't a particularly cheap way to build flight stands - they cost about $1.50 each, which is comparable to the price you spend at most wargame specific retailers.  You will also have a hard time making all your vehicles hover at the same height above the tabletop.  You can see mine are all over the place.  On the other hand, it is still cheap and dead easy to prepare.  So if you ever find yourself needing some flight stands on short notice, this makes for a good looking and readily available alternative.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day - Issue #3

Welcome to the weekly walk through the wargaming wilds of the world wide web, in which Warren waxes upon whatever weighty and witty works he wagers are worth your while. Would any wretch not want a window into Warren's warm woolgathering - a wisp of what wriggles its way into the weedy wastelands his wisdom?  What wights of whimsy wander along the way?  This winter, when wailing winds whistle in from the west, let your worry wane, and wave 'way your wait, my wolfish wunderkind,  Warn whosoever would withdraw worship that they will win their wish.  While Warren's work with the written word may be weak, it is wrought here this Wednesday in waking wonder for all to witness.

Also, something about a wren wiping a wet wallet?  I don't know.  Here's some links:
Polish Hussars (Badass of the Week): Invariably, whenever most people talk about the military prowess of the Polish cavalry, some joker busts out with some intelligent, well-constructed argument that vaguely resembles something along the order of "YA RITE HOW BOUT CHARGIN NAZI TANKS W HORSIES FTW LOLOLOL OMG I”M HILARIOUS SOMEBODY LOVE ME PLS". Well not only are the wild claims of that infamous engagement dubious at best, but it's time that the Polish cavalry – and particularly the Winged Hussars – get appropriately recognized as one of the most eye-skeweringly hardcore associations of asskickers ever assembled. These daring, brave, unabashedly-feathered badasses crushed throats up and down Europe for two centuries, annihilating battle-tested armies three times their size with nothing more than a huge-ass lance, an awesome set of ultra-cool wings, and a gym bag full of iron-plated armor ballsacks.
Normandy Mini-Campaign, Part One (Geordie's Big Battles): The scenario was a Normandy 1944 infantry probe towards Caen, called Operation Martlet. Before you could say "Jack Robinson Jam" I was in amongst it in the "patrol phase" with markers pushing forwards over what I considered very "open" aka dangerous) ground. I opted to go "Tommy" so my newly painted figures could shoot at me. The alternative was to play SS which left a tangled knot in the consciousness of my stomach. Silly really, but as I had played British before so I should be better able to pick things up from where I left off.
Fall In 2015 (O My Rurtania): I attended the HMGS Fall In convention in Lancaster, PA, last week. Had a good time as usual. Attendance on Friday afternoon seemed very sparse but did pick up considerably by Friday evening and things seemed pretty active on Saturday afternoon. Friday night, I played in Temple of the Snake Priestess, run by Howard Whitehouse, using his Chainmail Bikini rules. The game involved four teams of adventurers entering a ruined Maya-ish city with the goal of getting their astrologer to the top of one of several temples to obtain some sort of Important Sign from the Heavens.
Fluffy Boa Puzzle Mat (Here's No Great Matter): I popped into the hundred yen store yesterday to pick up some tape for work, and as I hadn't been there for a while I had a quick scour of the usual sections to see if there was anything that could be put to honest wargaming use. Lo and behold, there was a sight for terrain mat hunting eyes: 30cm square interlocking foam mats, topped with a greenish teddy bear fur type material. I grabbed four to take home and check out (I could always use them as an actual mat, I said to myself...).
Let's round things off with a post about boxes:
Tournament Transport Box, Part 3 (Lair of the Uber Geek): Sunday morning I was determined to finish up the construction of the tournament boxes. On a whim. I decided to use the remaining plywood from the 4x4 piece of plywood to make a dice tower. This is one of those projects that has zero planning so we'll see what happens. The dice "motivators" are glued in place. I'm sure their is a more technical name for these in the the world of dice tower science but I haven't bothered to look it up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Black Ops Counter-Intuitiveness

Apparently I'm not the only one having a hard time wrapping his head around a couple of quirks of the Black Ops system.  Over on the Lead Adventure Forums asked a question that had bothered me on my first reading as well.

In Black Ops your model stats are target numbers, and all modifiers are written as modifiers to the target number, not to the die roll.  So instead of needing a 4+ to hit your target and subtracting one from the roll if the target is in cover, you add one to the target number.  These are just two different ways of saying the same thing, and long term gamers should have no trouble converting on the fly.  For you D&D types out there it directly translates to the ascending vs. descending AC situation.  It's really not a big deal...

There were two moments in my first read-through that gave me pause.  In both cases, I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that a Tough roll was easier (4+) to make than a Normal roll (5+).  In both cases, the problem stems from confusion about the face that the word "Tough" modifies the model, not the roll.

When it comes to observation rolls, it is the defender that rolls the die.  When the model makes himself Tough to notice (i.e. by using smoke, poor lighting, or cover) the target number goes down. I read that thinking, "Wait, the Tough observation (4+) is easier than the Normal observation (5+)?"  To which the response was, "Yes, the model has made it harder to be observed, so he needs to roll against a lower number."

The same thing applies when it comes to wound saves, the defender rolls the die.  In this case, the term that appears in the modifiers table is also Tough, but again that word modifies the model itself and not the roll.  A model that is Tough will have an easier time surviving a wound (4+) than a model who is not (5+).

It is really easy when you think about it that way.  You just have to shift your perspective a little bit to get your head around it.

Full thread linked here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Black Ops: A Capsule Review

Is that what you call it when you write up a review of a game where you've only read the rules?  You'll get a proper review after we've had a chance to take these bad boys for a test-drive.

These rules are great.  in just about every sense they hit the sweet spot between extremes.  Guy has somehow managed to put together a rule set that straddles a number of lines in ways that feel familiar, but fresh and new.  Not only that, but he has put together a modern day skirmish that manages to give you all the options you need without bogging the game down in minutiae.

The basics of the game consist of a card driven initiative system and a model stat line that describes each figure or fire team's abilities.

Your figures break down into four different types of figures: heroes, specialists like hackers and heavy weapons types, standard mooks, and civilians.  Any old deck of cards can serve as your intiative deck with the four figure types each assigned a face card, and jokers thrown in to add that piquant flavor of unpredictability.  Your leaders can use their card to issue orders to specialists and mooks, and figures can forgo their activation to go on overwatch.  Overwatch works as an interrupt, just like most other wargames, but facing is all important for who figures can interrupt.

The stat line consists of the four standard stats for moving, fighting, morale, and toughness, with weapons and special equipment bolted on.  A typical shooty combat consists of a roll to hit and a roll to save with cover and concealment factored into the saving roll.  A typical melee consists of a dice off with both figures rolling against their melee skill.  If your dude makes his roll and the other guy doesn't, then you win.  If you both fail, nothing happens.  If you both succeed, whoever has the better melee weapon hits.  If you can get your little man to charge a model in the back, he doesn't get to defend.

That last bit can play a crucial role in stealth missions, the real raison d'etre for this ruleset.  While the standard game feels like a stripped down skirmish game, and it can certainly be played that way, it is clear that a number of critical design choices were made to enhance the play of stealth incursion missions.  The melee system in particular is designed to allow for taking out sentries in a single, silent attack, but only if you can get the drop on him.

The stealth rules incorporate blind markers, semi-random sentry movement, and a sort of event driven countdown timer.  As the infiltrators move around, take out guards, and approach their goal, they will inevitably make noise.  Each event results in a noise counter that attracts nearby guards and has the potential to alert the defender's heroes and specialists.  Too many noise counters, or one poorly aimed sniper shot on a guard, and the alert will be sounded, triggering the activation of the hero and the arrival of reinforcements.

Taken alone, nothing in this ruleset is particularly innovative, but the way that Guy Bowers has integrated everything is pretty well seamless.  Everything fits together in a way that is easy to understand, builds on each other, and fits together like one single unified system.  All too often the infiltration missions feel like a bolted on separate game that is played before the knock-down drag-out battle.  In Black Ops the stealth mission feels like an integral part of the battle.  That is no small accomplishment.

The game also includes six scenarios, a brief paragraph on using near-future tech, and the obligatory rules for force construction.  A stand up fight will consist of 12-20 models per side, with infiltration missions having 3-5 covert ops up against 10-12 mooks and 3-5 heroes and specialists.  You will need plenty of terrain to get the most out of these rules, though.  As with any modern wargame, wide open spaces will make for a short and bloody fight, and a shorter and even bloodier black op.

Other positives include clear, concise rules written for us old timers that have been through the ringer before.  A first time wargamer could probably suss out how these games are played using this ruleset, but he would have to make a few leaps that experiences gamers know intuitively.  While not terribly complicated, there are better introductory games out there for first timers.  As a non-first timer, I was glad not to have to wade through yet another wargaming primer.

On a related issue the book is easy on the eyes both in the artistic sense and the legibility sense.  The artwork, both painted works like the cover and examples of miniatures in play, is attractive, inspirational, and present in just the right quantities.  The text and tables are clear print on backgrounds uncluttered by noisy graphics.  A definite bonus for us grognards with failing eyesight.  Combine that with the terse conversational writing style, and this book is just plain easy to pick up, read, and understand. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

From the Archive - Lost in the Maze of Nostalgia

Pop quiz, hotshot.  From the Archive is an ongoing series:
    A. where I show off some of my oldest and most beloved figures.
    B. of filler posts.
    C. Both A and B.
    D. screw you. Warren, I didn't come here for finals week, make with the goods already.

For those of you that answered D, fine.  Here.  Sheesh.

This was one of three minotaurs that came with the Warhammer Quest box set.  The rest of the box set got split out and combined with figures from HeroQuest and BattleMasters to make up a half dozen Hordes of the Things armies.  Those armies got sold off at Historicon to raise money for boring family drama stuff.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Necromancer War, Chapter 2

When last we left the good people of the Targan Empire, their border towns and forts had been over-run by a sudden invasion of the dark forces of the nearby kingdom of the Necromancer King.  The Patriarch of the Empire, High King Sisterbanger, quickly dispatched a small delaying force to buy enough time to scrape together an army that could repel the repellent invading host.  For their part, the Necromancer King's forces pushed deeper into the Targar Empire along a broad front, encountering only scattered resistance.  The two forces would meet along the road, screened from each other by the early dawn light and a small fortified farmstead straddling the dirt track.

Bucolic farm before the bloodening.
In game terms, we rolled a d30 to randomly determine the scenario and starting forces.  The scenario would be a sort of king-of-the-hill - whoever holds the farm after Turn 15 wins.  We each started the game with three knights, the Targar supplemented by two bows and a man-at-arms unit, the Necromancer King by two men-at-arms and a levy.  Both forces are unaware of each other and must move up the road until one hits the farm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hump Day Dump Day, Issue #2

Gabions, everyone.  Gabions.
It's Wednesday, that time of the week when Warren steals content from other blogs gives credit to just a few of the many creative geniuses laboring around the internet to provide you with free inspiration and entertainment - it's a random sampler of inspirtainment!

War Monkey has a great little terrain project for your modern/near future table.  Gabions are those wire baskets filled with rock that military forces have used for cover for over a hundred and fifty years.  They make for some cheap and easy scatter terrain:
Hesco/Gabion Barriers (Silo 1313): I only made a couple for now just to see how the would look and to share what I have learned. I think they are going to be great and work really well for my gaming needs! My plan is to use them in my Zombie games and post apocalyptic games mostly for the military units. This project cost me less then 4 Dollars! And I'll have more then enough barriers then I can think of.
Roger G-S reminds us all that killing a Gelatinous Cube is only the first step in dealing with a massive nearly invisible lump of paralytic goo:
The Bigger, Badder Galatinous Cube (Rolls, Rules, and Roles):  Remember, this is a space filled with solid jelly equal to four hill giants in a huddle. Really, it's more a surging obstacle than a monster you can trade blows with. And the trouble doesn't stop when you kill it: the cube should spread proportionately,creating a 6 foot high mound of jelly spread over 20 feet of corridor. Jelly that for a while will retain its paralytic qualities. As you clear it, more slumps to the floor.
As you are no-doubt aware, your 'umble host is a firm believer in the design philosophy of "Every Game Starts With the Box".  By way of Trojan Point's recommendation for modular Frostgrave terrain), here's a great look at one way to build modular dungeon terrain that packs up nice and tidy for storage and transport:
Paradise Ruins: Modular And Portable Table (One of the many Infiniti Forums):  They wanted a table easily portable (because they had to travel from Barcelona to Madrid), that was modular and playable. So they thought about a variant of Tetris, in pieces on 40x40cm (16x16inches more or less) boards, where they could rotate the pieces, and that the pieces fit inside each other.
And another thread from the Lead Adventure Forums featuring multiple mini-games that fit into a box including a 28mm skirmish game and a rice soldier Napoleoincs game that fits into an actual matchbox.  Scroll down for crazy fun inspiration for your next game in a box:
Transportable Minigames (A DonVoss thread at the Lead Adventure Forums): As a part of my job I travel a lot. mostly one or two day, so I olny carry hand luggage...  Hotel nights could be boring (I am not a tv watcher). So I thought it might be a good idea to get some solo wargaming under way... I grabbed a box (16x10x5 cm) and tried to fill it with some miniatures and scenery. Plastic 28s because of wight. And I had to build some small trees, because my my big one would not fit in."
Some interesting thoughts on evil in gaming from Courtney Campbell.  It's another theme-and-variation on the usual song and dance about orc babies in RPGs.  Given the clear evidence for people and ideas that are objectively evil in the real world, I'm always fascinated by people who struggle with the existence of evil in pretend worlds:
On Mordor, Where the Jock Orcs Lie (Hack & Slash), But for the most part, you're sneaking about listening to orcs. What do orcs do? They drink (grog which you can poison to make them fight each other), they brag, they piss, and they pick on "pinkskins". So if you're not interacting with the orcs, they act just like stereotypical jocks picking on nerds. The question is, what does evil look like when it isn't being evil?
The whole point is to have faceless mooks you can murder without consequence. But is that of value? Philosophically, what is the problem with accepting that the people you are killing are, you know, actually people?
Teaser time: Check back here on Friday.  I've got the next chapter of the Necromancer War all written up and ready for you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sci-Fi Characters - Hold the Sausage

Seems like every week miniature wargame manufacturers are adding more and more female character types to their catalogs, and 15mm figures are no exception.  Today we feature a small pack of shorties from Bombshell Miniatures.  They've got a full catalog of big figures with full figures, but just the one pack of MicroBabes.

The one on the left looked like the sister to one Captain Zap Brannigan of the Doop, so she got the full velour uniform treatment.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

From the Archive - Space Rangers

Last week was nice - showing off a couple of really old figures from the attic box.  Here's another figure from way back in the early days of painting.

The chunky plastic flying the colors of my alma mater is a Space Ranger.  Back in the day you could get a box of 30 of these guys for less than 25 bucks from...ICE?  These days you can buy a squad of five from em-4 for something like $4.

They look really blocky, and you really only get two poses, gun to the breast, and pistol packing squad leader.  But they paint up great, are very distinct, and how many miniatures get less expensive over time?  Mine was painted some time around 1995 along with the rest of the box.  They only saw use a couple of times at a day care where my then girlfriend worked.   The rest of the box is long gone from the collection.  They were either sold off or handed down to a neighbor kid to try and grow the hobby.  This one survived as a small keepsake of my college gaming days.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sci Fi Bystanding Guys

Quick shot of some bystanders for 15mm sci-fi games.  First up, four dudes in space suits of one sort or another.  I think they are all from

From left to right:  ?, HOF57A, HOF86C, and HOF86C

Can't find that guy on the left anywhere on's website, so now I'm thinking he might be a Khurasan figure held over from a previous pack?  That doesn't sound right.

This is some sort of wandering alien holy man.  This sculpt looked alien enough that a simple flesh color would suffice - no need for exotic colors like green or orange or lavender. 

After finishing up the painting, priming, dullcoating, and finally photographing this figure, my son pointed out that when you see it on the looks like a giant erect phallus.  Good call, Warren.  Good call.