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!

Friday, September 3, 2021

On FIghting Sail

 What a fun little game from Osprey's blue book series.

Fighting Sail is a fleet action game that lets you chug a half-dozen or so ships of the line around the table, merrily blasting away at each other.  It strikes a very good balance between historical feel and playability, with ship facing, wind direction, and terrain all used in a way that complicates tactics without overly complicating the game. 

So far I've got two fleets of six to eight ships of the line in hand, with only the smaller craft painted up.  Pretty soon I'll be able to throw triple-deckers at each other, though.  And that'll be a very good day.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

More Napoleonic Eye Candy

As promised, a quick comparison of Eureka and Irregular.  As you can see, the former are a full head taller than the latter.  The really mean it when they talk about 18mm vs. 15mm, don't they?  C'est la vie, they pass the arm's length test.
These three objective markers come from Eureka.  A well, cross, and...the rifle stack was a kit-bash of extra musketoons that probably should have been glued to the French cavalry.
Since I'm eyeing Chosen Men we'll probably be playing a lot of fights between foraging parties.  That means we'll need some forage.  In addition to a couple of heavily laden donkeys, we'll need a couple carts, and these come from Irregular.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Bit By Napoleon

 It finally happened.

Reading through some old Featherstone books, I've been bit by the Napoleonics bug.  Maybe it's age and the fear of not getting to the things I always meant to get to, but whatever the reason, I'm eyeing horse, foot, and guns.  More than eyeing, I've been slapping paint!

The gun on the right is new, and matches up well with my other cannon.  I bought a crew in older uniforms painted in gray to allow them to be used for either side.  Meanwhile, four French cannoniers stand by to serve.  All eight are from Irregular Miniatures, but I think the guns are from Eureka.

Okay, these Frenchie bois are really suited up more for fighting in the French Revolutionary wars, but whatever.  My Brits are suited up for the American War of Independence.  Squint.

This unit of line infantry are also from Irregular and they paint up really well.   I'll throw together a comparison shot of Irregular with Eureka figs next time.

Meanwhile, I've even got some horse boys, seven in all, to go with them.  With all of this done, I now have enough forces to start playing around with Osprey's "Chosen Men".
Eureka just send me more metal figs so that I can expand my current 300 points of Red vs. Blue and add in some variety.  Then maybe we can think about running a Featherstone map based campaign just like they used to do.

Friday, August 20, 2021

It Begins

Remember when I said the following?

[W]hen a critical mass of people adopt [the lost art of Gygaxian campaign play] for their own table, you can expect a deluge of smart-boy posts from the Usual Crowds staking a claim to have "always known" about the glories of real-time and always-on gaming.

It begins:

This is another aspect of old school play that I think is forgotten nowadays: the play of multiple characters. In my House of Worms campaign, this is not unusual. Most of the players have several characters whom they can play at any given time, depending on what is happening in the session.

It's nice to see a recognition of the value of Gygaxian play.  Really looking forward to Jimmy Mal discovering the value of 1:1 timekeeping and having always used it but just never got around to mentioning it until lately.  Grognardia is also on the cusp of discovering the joys of faction play all on his own from reading the Big Three D&D books and just about ready to tell you all about his breakthrough realizations that he had all on his own. 

Not even being ironic or sarcastic here*.

The guys who have been pushing the D&D envelop and making Real D&D sing for the last year or so have been pushing back against some pretty stiff resistance.  To see others adopt and claim the OG (Original Gygax) for their own is gratifying.  While I can't speak for the rest of that crowd, I can speak for myself when I say that I'm not pushing this new/old style of play for my own gratification.  I genuinely want to make play better at your table, and if it takes time for these ideas to percolate through the culture deep enough for the smart boys to pick up the signal and run with it - great!

Heck, J-Mal probably doesn't even understand where this new shift in the conversation came from.  It's know...this thing that's out there or whatever.  You can't explain it, it's just one of those "nothing can stop an idea whose time has come" things.  It's just what people who shall remain nameless because everybody is talking about it are talking about.  And hey, if it's an idea that needs somebody to jump in front of the parade dedicated to it, rest assured there are plenty of people trying to sell you products who are more than happy to jump in front of the band.

Meanwhile - you and me? - we know where these discussions come fromWe know who to watch to see what people will be talking about next month, and why.  We know why people are talking about last month's news.  As usual, we're one step ahead of the crowd and already turning our attention to deeper mysteries. 

*Okay, maybe a little.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Random Shots

 As we ease into the weekend, let's take a look at a couple of preview shots of battles coming up on The Joy of Wargaming.  First up a look at Osprey's "Black Ops" which features a surveillance fight gone wrong when competing espionage agencies arrive to gather blackmail from the same luddite professor's backwoods cabin.

And here's what a game of Patrick Todoroff's "Nightwatch" looks like when dwarves encounter undead in a high, rocky desert.

Both of these are parts of on-going campaigns featured on the channel.  They are great examples of the rich experience this hobby has to offer when you embrace long-term play with steady advancements and long-term injuries.

fun this weekend, guys.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Epic D&D Made Easy Through Faction Play

Jeffro spitting fire on the latest episode of Geek Gab:

There's a key moment where Jeffro points out that Modern D&D cannot handle a moment like that in The Two Towers where the Fellowship of the Ring breaks up.  Taking a broader view, I would contend that a truly Epic D&D campaign requires Chantisonian faction play.

For those of you out of the loop, Chanisonian faction play takes its name from a combination of Chanticleer, a notoriously hilarious Twitter firebrand, and Dave Arnseon, the man who married the Braunstein proto-RPG with Chainmail to create a style of D&D that seldom sees the table today.

The premise is simple:  Each player earns or is given a character with a clear goal and the resources to achieve that goal.  The goals for each player can be mutually-supportive or mutually-contradictory, but generally speaking no player has enough to "win the game" outright.  This forces players to work with and against each other to achieve their character's goals.  This is a style of play that embraces henchmen and hirelings, and encourages players to think not as a lone wolf, but as a member of a more heroic managerial class.

In practice it looks like this:  A city on the border of civlization, run by a corrupt Duke.  Player A is a climbed to the rank of Captain and earned a warchest before quitting the service of the corrupt Duke.  He wants to carve out a castle and small barony from the wilderness outside a border city.  Player B is a cunning thief who has backstabbed his way into leadership of the city's thieves guild.  He wants to take over the whole city government.  Player C is a druid who wants to check the growth of the city and preserve a sacred grove out in the woods perilously close to Player A's intended castle.  Player D is a cleric who has been appointed to the city to re-invigorate the flagging faith of the citizens.  

Throw them into a blender and see what happens. Does the merc make a deal with the druid to protect the grove with promises of pushing back against the city?  Does the cleric enlist the mercenary's aid, trading moral authority and combat buffs in exchange for muscle to push back against the thieves guild?  Do they all agree to work together to overthrow the Duke?

The easy example from literature is Game of Thrones, but I'm already bored so let's look at a good fantasy epic instead. Most people think of Lord of the Rings is a pure good vs. evil tale, but if you look close you'll see that it is a factional story.  Sure, Sauron and Saruman are loosely allied and we all know Sauron will betray Saruman at the first opportunity, but those are still two factions.  On the side of the good guys you've got dwarves, elves, Rohirrim, and Gondorians.  Heck, even the trees represent a separate faction.  Yeah, they all want to beat back the Dark Lord, but they don't always agree on how or where.  There's a lot of negotiation that goes on in those novels.

The Fellowship acts as a wild card.  They run a few delves, and manage to take a few pieces off the gameboard (the balrog) or move pieces onto it (the army of the dead) to counteract other potential factions.  The army of the dead arise from a delve, and in the books do little more than negate the power of the Corsairs of Umbar.  Even the super-ghosts of Peter Jackson fail to insta-win the campaign.

If that's the kind of play you're looking to get out of D&D, then you've got to turn away from static parties and pre-written scripts and embrace the chaos of faction play.  In a lot of ways, it'll make your job as the DM a lot simpler.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

New Era, Who Dis?

 Sometimes it do be like dis:

Yeah, I made the mistake of re-watching Master and Commander. Naturally, that means I need to get into a new era and scale of wargaming. Happens all the time.

I'm going with 1:2400 scale figures and that means  as a complete noob, I went with two starter packs, the American and the Barbary pirates and privateers pack. The tumbling Dice website does list which packets are included, but I thought you might want to see what they look like lined up on the table.
ASA17 - Napoleonic Sinking Frigates

Sharp eyed readers will notice that the pirate and American packs that I've ordered are limited to the smaller 5th rate and below ships.  I'm okay with this, as it represents a bit of a toe-dip, and if the era plays as fun as hoped, there is plenty of room to expand the collection to include a matched pair of the heavy bruiser ship packs with 1st rates and escorts, and maybe an inshore squadron for that sweet bomb raft addition.
ASN MSP3 - Privateers and Barbary Corsairs

ASN MSP4 - American 1814

These were a nightmare to put together and involved a considerable amount of superglue, stripped skin, and sweaty brows.  And I'm really looking forward to ordering more of them.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Finished Figs

 Just a couple quick shots of some quick paint jobs today.  My 15mm fantasy adventures needed some Bowman at home in the woods.  These DemonWorld figures have amazing detail for the scale. Best of all, you can order them individually.

And what the heck the XCOM fan in me has wanted snake man like this for a long time. No real plans for these figures, but they are fun to paint and make a useful addition to any sci-fi collection.  One squad of Critical Mass Astagar figures makes a good faction or good unit to add to any kind of xenos Empire faction.

Friday, July 30, 2021

In Case You Missed It

 I made the punchline to my current "Nightwatch" campaign clear with this satirical cover to a supplement that will never be written.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Nightwatch: The Airom Reconquista

Oh, those lovable, roly-poly weirdo beardo dwarves.  Always delving too deep.  That's what the ladies say about them, anyway.  Over on The Channel we kicked off a second campaign of Patrick Todoroff's "Nightwatch" with an easy mission to cleanse the desert of the plague of nasties that have been, er plaguing it.

Our four heroes have sworn a vow to retake the homeland or die trying, and even pledged the first 60 sp worth of loot to finance the economic rebuilding of the old place once they clear out the squatters.  The names of our heroes (Jonal, Gav, Arthru, and Bob) were swiped from the commentors, and all fit the theme of slow and steady.  They are heavily armored, but a bit plodding as they trudge their way to glory. 

Yeah, we use dollar store plastics for monsters in our games.  We are old-school, and tend to sneer at those who think spending money is the same thing as playing the game. There are more people out there with that mentality than you think.

Two bucks for fifteen miniatures that work great in scale isn't just frugal, it's smart.  Bright and cheery, these reptiles are still fearsome and menacing once you put them into the proper context.

In "Nightwatch" your AI-driven enemies spawn every turn from one of four randomly chosen points.  In my first campaign, I struggled to remember which point was which, so for this go-round, I made it easy.  I whipped up some quick stone circles with ruined tiles that have the spawn number right there on the board.  When you're running solo, every little reminder like this frees up processing power for the rules of the game, and I think the little tiles look smashing on the table, too.


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Who Cares What Non-Wargamers Think About Wargaming?

Karwansaray Publishing recently dropped a link to a low effort "scientific study" that used data collected by said publisher to reveal some surprising things about wargamers.  Did you know competitive people prefer competition games, and cooperative people prefer collaborative games?  You might have thought this, but thanks to the magic of science and with the gracious permission of our technocratice overlords we now have permission to say so - we now have that all important SOURCE to which  we can link.

So dumb.

Anyway, aside from the "no shit sherlock" portion of the "study", we also have the real impetus for conducting this research:

Read between the lines here and you'll find something a little more pernicious than the usual, "this needs more study, so make sure you hit that FUND button!" conclusion.  There is a strong push underway for the entire hobby to shift its focus from wargamers to non-wargamers, and down that path leads only madness.


As usual, the people pushing this new narrative fall into two camps: those who see our robust, healthy, long-lived, fun, and exciting hobby as ripe for conquest, and those who are already in the hobby who stink of a desperate need for approval from outsiders.  So desperate are they for approval from people who want to radically and fundamentally change the hobby that they would burn the village to the ground to prove their worth to these outsiders.

As usual, this strategy - welcoming people who don't wargame to help define what it means to wargame - is being sold as a way to save the hobby.  From what?  Dunno.  We live in a golden age where we are spoiled for choice.  Rules, figures, paints, communities, you name it, we've got more than we can handle already.  It is a fun and exciting time to be a part of this hobby, and it's no wonder more and more people want to be a part of it.  The problem enters in when people who don't participate want to define what it means to participate.

Painting is a part of this hobby, sure.  Collecting is a part of this hobby, sure.  History is a part of this hobby, sure.  Math is a part of this hobby, sure.  Writing is a part of this hobby, sure.  But all of those aspects are buttresses that support the main cathedral of...wait for it...PLAYING THE DAMN GAMES.

You laugh, but people are already asking non-players what the hobby community should do to change the hobby to suit their non-playing desires.  The answer of course is that the hobby should keep on doing what it has always done, and those who don't like it can change themselves or go pound sand.

Because you are a psychopath.

The hobby is fine.  We don't need any johnny-come-latelies and hangers-on to tell us what we should do to cater to their whims.  These locusts will just move on once they've eaten all the seed corn anyway.

Just a warning that too few will heed.  I expect that wargaming will go the way of fantasy books, vidya, comics, TTRPGs, and a host of other hobbies.  The forces arrayed against her are too wealthy, too motivated, and too experienced to be turned back for long.

And you know what?  It's okay.  We built this hobby from nothing once, and we can do it again.  Hell, within the tabletop RPG community the BROSR is actively rebuilding D&D for the second time even as we speak.  (The first was the OSR, which failed to regress hard enough.  This time around we're reclaiming the Gygaxian method of complex games that never turn off.)  All we need to do is protect our tables and our conversations and our local (internet or meat-space) implementation.  We can build our own little redoubts, free from the brain-virus that has infected so much of our culture.  And when Big Mini crumbles, which will take some time but is inevitable, we'll still be here, plugging away in delightful obscurity and thumbing our noses at our would-be conquerors.

Gatekeep your hobbies.  Gatekeep your tables.