Monday, August 31, 2020

My Dream Game - Early Stages and Advice Needed

I'm looking to recruit a few friends to play national leaders and strategic commanders of a continental scale game.  I'm getting into horse and musket for the first time ever, and it's long been a dream of mine to play an actual campaign with more depth than a narrative campaign.  I'm hoping that they'll enjoy the strategic level game, and that it will generate some organic and unusual tactical battles that I can play through solo on the tabletop.   

Figures by Irregular, painted by Nik Harwood

It will be a horse-and-musket era campaign in the Ruritanian/Elbonian style.  The strategic game would be run largely as a PBEM or online game among friends, so it can be pretty loose, but it needs enough structure for the players to be able to make informed choices.  Preferably something with a map that we can push counters and armies around on, and that opens up the possibilites of ra bit of strategic maneuvering.  The battles will be run using some fast play rules scaled for Corp level using 2mm figures.  Maybe throw in a few skirmishes if the strategic game allows for the chance to have some "Richard Sharpe" level fun missions, but that's for later.

The prospect of running such a campaign is a little daunting, particularly given that my horse and musket gaming is largely limited to participating in games hosted by men with a lot more experience in the era and a lot more brains than myself.  

Any of you fine fellows have a recommendation for reading, or for strategic level rules that wouldn't suck up all my game time with logistics and fiddly number crunching?

[Cross-posted from the Lead Adventure Forum]

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Tiny Turns

 These N-scale turn templates from Litko should work fine for my 6mm Gaslands game.

It is a little bit, but we can make it work.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Littlest Gaslands

Picked up a batch of the "Mad Ron" road warrior vehicles from Irregular Miniatures on a whim.  Just look at these tiny little knights of the road:

Still have to paint those motorcycles, and the big dang semi-trailer slash war-rig.  The good news is that terrain is already done.  I've got the little city all laid out and ready for some vehicular mayhem.  These are perfectly scaled to the terrain set-up that I've got for Riot!

The only issue that gives me pause is that the gauges I ordered are N-scale which maps to 18mm figures, and these little rugged adventurers are in 6mm scale.  Normally I'd be fine with this.  I use smaller scale figures all the time.  Most wargames use a very reduced ground-scale compared to the figure scale.  This should solve my biggest complaint with Gaslands - that even in sixth gear the cars only move about four carlengths per turn.  The speeds just don't feel right when you watch live plays, and don't get me started on the weapon ranges.

I'm also glad to make it harder to ram.  Tagging a vehicle that is actively dodging you at full speed isn't as easy as most rule-sets make it out to be.  This should reduce the numbers of collisions and make the game more about the racing and shooting and less about trying to notch that one big RAM attack.

But there are other considerations here, for sure.  I just don't know what they are, and won't until I get some lead on the table.

Stay tuned!  

In the meantime, enjoy some additional eye candy:

My cars are painted in considerably more day-glo colors than most of what you see on the YouTube reports.  Everyone favors a black matte coat, a bit of gray and metal and rust drybrushing, and then they call it done.  With vehicles this size, I don't have the luxury of a monochrome schema.    You need those colors to help identify the cars at a distance.

Also, it's just a lot more fun to play with colors.

Not sure you can see it, but that bike on the right is carrying three guys and a big-ol' cannon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

It's a Riot!

 Matt Hartley's Riot!  Revolting People from Watt Tyler to Watts is an interesting wargame.  It's a truly fourth-generational game in which mobs of outgunned citizens try to effect change against a far better armed, but outnumbered, army of the ruling class.

Enjoy some eye candy while I pontificate.  Alert readers will notice that I've put a grid over the tops of these buildings.  In Riot! the mobs can loot and burn structures, but each counter only affects one square inch at a time.  Mine are a little less regular than the rules stipulate, but they'll work just fine.

Definitely a beer-and-pretzels game, it uses a simple AI to maneuver the rioters about, and the player tries to limit the damage with his small number of security forces.  The first check on the player is an AP roll of 1d6, each pip of which allows one unit to move or attack.  That makes it harder to split your forces because it limits how many stands you'll be able to use from turn to turn.

Combat is a simple 2d6 roll off for each matched pair of bases, with a few modifiers for supporting units or flank attacks on the mob or for weapons hot.  It's quick and dirty, and the cops don't have nearly the advantage one might expect.

It turns out the better tactic for cops is to simply stand off and try to herd the mobs away from their targets.  You can exert some control over the AI - or at least influence outcomes - by staying close to a mob, but not directly engaging unless you really have to.

Which leads to a very fluid game, and from all I've seen on TV these days, pretty well mimics the ebb and flow of protests in the streets.

More to the point, the game is a lot of fun, and can provide some insights into a warfare of a very different sort.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Halfling Upgrade, Livestock, and More

 Just added some odds and ends to the 15mm fantasy toolbox.  These are all from Irregular Miniatures. Let us start with some wildlife and a hapless porter making 1gp a day hauling too much gear down into dank holes filled with monsters.

A bit of food and somebody to enjoy it.
And something for the pot.  Scenics or goals, a bit of livestock will be a nice addition to the table.
And here's a great comparison shot of my old halflings on the right.  Really just 6mm heroes.  The 15mm fat boys on the left are so much more obviously Proudfeet - I mean, what kind of halfling wears boots?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Civic Improvements

It's the little things.  A little bit of Saturday evening traffic, a little bit of grass, a few scattered bits of terrain, and suddenly you're looking at a real city.
The Irregular Miniatures 6mm vehicle pack is a perfect start to things, and includes the entire front line shown above.  I think it comes with a total of ten figures, but given that I ordered a full pack alongside a bunch of other figures, I honestly can't sort out what came with what pack.  The two News Vans might have come with the riot pack, or might have come with the vehicle pack.

Where ever you see green grass in this shot, I first glued down a fine beach sand, painted it brown and dry-brushed a light tan.  Originally I had thought to make a hill out of the park, the better to add a bit of height to the city, but more height would have precluded easy storage, so it stays a nice little funnel for protesters.  The bases that attack that statue have room to work, but they can get bottled up pretty quick in there, so they'll need another mob running interference.

A couple of those buildings are only one story tall.  Do you think it is worth painting those roofs a darker gray or brown to break up the monotonous gray of the board?

Here's a close-up of the totally not 7-11 and Licker's Liquors.  You can see how the grass and earth gets a little choppy around the edges in some cases.  You can also see a little green trash can at the corner of the building on the left, and a red newspaper box in front of the store on the right.  No game effect, but just that little touch of scatter to liven things up.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

City Construction

It's the little things.  With some doors and windows and signs painted onto the structures The City is really taking on a life of its own.

 A little ode to the bookshop that helped instill a love of gaming in ankle-biter me.
A smarter man than I would have pre-planned the traffic route through the parking lots and carved ramps up over the curbs.  But I'm not sure he would have had as much fun as me.
The whole place still looks a little gray even with some colorful paint on the walls.  Needs some greenery. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 15, 2020

City Planning

You can't take to the streets when you don't have any streets to which to take.  Before we can play the most cutting-edge and modern of wargames, Riot: From Watt Tyler to Watts we have to build a city worth peacefully burning to the ground.  Here's my quick and dirty and oh-so-effective way of whipping up a modular city perfect for modern, organically grown love-ins and the dastardly forces of peace and prosperity who oppose them.  Or vice-versa.

Masonite boards, cut to fit the transport box, painted black.  Layer up the curbs with matte board painted gray, then cut 1/2-inch thick lumber in a variety of sizes. A gray primer makes for a fine base coat.  Don't worry about the gray-on-gray.  It won't last long.

Note that I'll leave the tops gray - I've cut the z-axis of the board off at one story because the additional levels of the city won't factor into the game.  Not at the scale of conflict that we are modelling here.  This also allows for better access to the inner streets.  Maybe not suitable for mecha fights or big stompy monsters, but it works for what we're doing here.

Even just a quick painting of the walls of this city adds some variety to the proceedings.  You could almost play the game right now, but we're all about the visual appeal here, so we have a lot of work to do yet.  The buildings are dry fit for now - they need to have the walls fully painted and detailed, and some steps and curbs added, before the final fixation.

With a few blocks painted, and a bit of curbing in place, this city is already starting to feel safe enough to attack.  For my part, I eschew real-world politics and real world companies, preferring a more light-hearted touch.

 For example, in my city the big grocery chain is the Saferway.  Just like the original, only safer!  The building in the background was supposed to be a police station, but it didn't turn out as obvious as I'd hoped.  I need to figure out a few little details to add to really sell the idea.
 And Saint Drogo was the Patron saint of ugly people.  Seems fitting given the patchouli-scented losers who will be targetting this place with molotoc cocktails.
 You know, the sort of people who think nothing of spray-painting graffitti onto any flat surface that goes unwatched for ten minutes? 
This little convenience store still needs some gas pumps out front.  But I'm pretty pleased with the booze-shop across the way.  Licker's Liquors, serving Raccoon City the finest in alcoholic beverages since 1964.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Grognardia Respawns

 After eight years and with little fanfare, new content is up on the site.

It's just a review of some Swedish OSR product for now, but James is a smart thinker, and I look forward to his thoughts on tabletop RPGs.  Hopefully we'll get more fresh content without another eight year wait.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Getting Lost in the Wilds of D&D

I'm still hip-deep in a wargaming kick and off the D&D wagon.  But I thought the following might be of interest.  A friend writes: 
I searched the PHB and DMG for any mention of having a ranger or druid prevents parties from getting lost. It does say that if there is a guide who knows an area you won't get lost. Also, such an ability would negate the Cleric 6th level spell "Find the Path". The high level of "Find the Path" to me indicates that getting lost is indended to be a reall possibiity except for high level parties and even then only if a high level cleric devotes a spell slot to it. 
My take would be the DM getting to decide the extent of the player's knowledge of the area and when the possibility of getting lost kicks in. For example, in the previous games the ranger said during downtime he was exploring the area around the city. Now, the ranger is dead, then presumably the party has lost some of this knowledge. I think we'd still know the way to the lost city and Fluid to his jungle treehouse. But, other areas we presumably are ignorant.
My gut take on this is that any wilderness exploration is analogous to dungeon exploration. You are leaving behind the lands of Law and heading into the lands of Chaos - even if the hills and fens are dotted with huge ruined piles, the land has been reclaimed by the Gods of Entropy, and the normal rules by which Rangers and Druids operate no longer apply. A local guide will be familiar enough with the abnormal rules to guide you through the wilds. And your very presence can tame the wilderness and yoke it to the rule of Law. Over time, once reclaimed, a Ranger will never get lost in such lands. 

This, however, requires a permanent presence and that means it's Stronghold o'clock. If you want to wander more than a few days away from civilization, and you don't want to blunder into all sorts of misty cul-de-sacs filled with twenty-year sleeps and hags dweomered to appear as elegant sylphs, you're going to need to build a fort and keep her staffed with reliable Christian souls. Not because their arms will do much good, but because they can protect the decent priest praying the Daily Hours, who will be your chief ward against the creeping doom.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Wargaming Social Media

Forums represent the best that social media has to offer the miniature wargamer.

I've been slowly accreting some solid wargaming bros on the Twitter, but the ephemeral nature of microblogging means that the pictures and tales and rule discussions held there vanish in to the void.  What the site gains in immediacy, it loses in functionality.  It also takes a long time to find worthy individuals to follow and communicate with on the regular.

All those tips, like tears in the rain.

Compare that to forums, like my favorite, LAF, where all your conversations are stored and archived and fairly easy to return to even after a hiatus of several years.  What you can't find through the site itself, you can usually dig up using your search engine of choice.  And you can instantly tap into hundreds of solid fellas slinging paint and figs, and jump right into the conversation.

It's a whole different, and far more thoughtful, world on the forums, and that's where I think I'll stay.

Oh, and here on the blog of course.

In the meantime, if you have a twitter handle or a recommendation for the best guys to follow, lemme know, would you?  It's hard to wade through the hordes of drama queens and 40K ONLY goofs to find the quirky sort of wargamers that really churn my butter.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Riot: A Game Twenty Five Years in the Waiting

One of the projects that has been on my 'to-do' list for over twenty-five years is a good old-fashioned, downtown riot.  Something about the asymmetric nature of the conflict, the confined corridors of battle, and the fluid nature of the fight just screams for a proper wargame.

Maybe it's the Pac-Man fan in me.

Whatever the reason, something in the air inspired me to finally quit with the wishing and get with the making.  About forty bucks and a Saturday afternoon later saw the early stages of a nice waffle-iron downtown set-up that fits into a neat little package.  

Irregular Miniatures sells a set of figures for about forty-five bucks, and a set of rules for five bucks.  The rules are twenty-five years old, and are very tongue-in-cheek, with scenarios suitable for Olde English tax protests, Napoleonic riots, Central American crackdowns, and modern American urban insurgencies.  Called Riot: From Watt Tyler to Watts, I gotta admit to needing a quick lookup to understand the first reference.  From the Infogalactic Entry:
Walter "WatTyler was a leader of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt in England. He marched a group of protesters from Canterbury to the capital to oppose the institution of a poll tax. While the brief rebellion enjoyed early success, Tyler was killed by officers loyal to King Richard II during negotiations at Smithfield, London.
For the record, the other battle-packs available at Irregular Miniatures website are a lot cheaper, and they are built to provide just about everything you need to play one of the scenarios included in the Riot rules.  So if you want a cheaper entry, get the Poll Tax Rebels or the Revenge packs.  The Revenge one in particular contains a fun surprise, as does the scenario for which they serve.

Some advice for those whose interest I have piqued:  The rules call for square bases 25mm in size for everything, and roads of either 25mm, 50mm, or 75mm width.  The rules assume an invisible 25mm grid for the play area - invisible for the purposes of aesthetics - and call for movement only in the four cardinal directions.  No diagonals!

By building my city before cracking open the rules, I've already shanked my chances for playing RAW.  My roads are too wide, and it's not yet clear how that will affect game play.  It'll take some wiggling and house-ruling to figure out how to move mobs in a way that keeps within the spirit of the rules.  And in a way that diagonals won't wreck things, because...come on.  It's miniature wargaming, grids are for RPGs!  I might also forgo the square bases in favor of cheaper and more readily available washers.  I'm allowed to do that.

As usual, and as a wargamer with a limited capacity to remember things, I've thrown together a quick reference sheet (pic related).  You know, just in case anyone out there wants to give these somewhat obscure rules a shot.  It's not enough to play the game - you'll need point costs for forces, scenarios, and a lot of rules buried in the text before you can play - but if you've got 'em, you'll find this sheet very helpful during play.

Congratulations.  This post just about provides more information about this game than any other website out there.  You're almost an expert.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Wargaming Don

The Oldhammer guys are pikers.

Since staring the Joy of Wargaming channel, I've been doing a lot more gaming than ever.  It has all been solo wargaming, but not because of the 800-pound virus-gorilla in the room.  It's because I prefer my own company to that of the typical specimen of wargamer that hangs out at the local FLGS.  No slight against them, they just aren't my kind of people.

It's been nice to roll more dice, but something has been off with the experience.  It took going back to the very beginning to figure out what was jangling my danglings.

Instead of looking back to the 80s, I turned my attention back to the 60s.  I'm talking way back to the 60s.

To 1973 to be precise.

Donald Featherstone is the father of modern wargaming, by way of his authorship of numerous seminal texts that outlined and defined much of how we wargame today.  Full of theory and suggestions and guidance, much of what he wrote has filtered down to us through various iterations of wargame rules, and much has been lost along the way.  Working in an analog world, he found means to do things on the table that computers now do for us.  He also does it in a way that is very inspirational.  Here he reminds us of a truth so obvious we tend to forget it sometimes:

No expert on the man here, as it has been more than three decades since I pored over what few texts I could find in the local small town library, but I'm learning more all the time.  After a read-through of Donald Featherstone's Solo Wargaming, he laid out in clear black and white the deeper and more foundational difference between group and solo wargaming. 

Solo wargaming can be so much more than merely lining up to forces and slamming them together.  He has a lot of thoughts on how to craft wargaming challenges at which the solo wargamer can tilt for a more satisfying achievement.  Proto-AI, fog of war, random terrain and deployment, and a host of other arrows lie in wait for the serious wargamer to add to his own quiver.

It's an engaging read, and it has changed my approach to wargaming in some fundamental ways.  In upcoming videos and blog posts, I'll walk you through some of his more obscure recommendations.

Meanwhile, you can expand your wargaming horizons by reading it for yourself.  Go back to the start and see if you can chart a better wargaming path for yourself than what the corporate gaming interests have handed to you in a slick box.

Get a digital copy of Solo Wargaming here for just ten bucks.  It'll be the best ten bucks you spent on wargaming this year: