Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month: Update (yes, another one!)

With just two days left in November, I am of happy to note that I have 30 figures painted with 2 more nearly done. 

Here's a look at a custom mini I did just for kicks   - he's roughly 1/72 scale, made of Sculpey and a paper-clip. I fully expect him to show up in a game fighting zombies or nazis or nazi zombies.

"Run Prussians, run! For I, Master Shake,  am here from the future to squash you!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month: Proof!

The blueberry slept through the night last night, for the first time! You'd think I'd have managed to get some painting done, but no. Instead, I snapped this with my cell just so I'd have some kind of proof I am making progress on my goal for Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month:

Pictured: A 750% increase in painting output compared to the last two years.
I've got 14 more Prussians started and they could be done by tomorrow night.

I hope to finish a pistolero or two tonight after the blueberry goes to bed this evening.

With less than 10 days left, I am already pretty happy with my accomplishment so far.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month: Painting Progress

Professor Panglos and Mademoiselle Cunégonde captured by lizardfolk! Prussians believed to have orchestrated the attack!

We've got company here this weekend, so I'm just stealing a few minutes to update on my progress:

Completed (sans basing):

  • 3 25mm cowboys (would have been 2 but I ruined one and had to repaint it)
  • 1 25mm pistolero - maybe one of my favorite paint jobs to date
  • 10 15mm Minifigs Franco-Prussian war Prussian infantry

Nearly done:

  • 1 15mm Brigade Games G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. figure

Primed and waiting for some attention:

  • 1 25mm custom mini made from Sculpey
  • 6 25mm pistoleros
  • 2 15mm Brigade Games G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. minis

Glued to the painting stick awaiting priming:

  • 14 15mm Minifigs Franco-Prussian war Prussian infantry.

This is the most painting I've done in forever. With 11 days left in Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month, I hope I can at least complete the pistoleros and the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. minis and finish basing everything that's ready for it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Undeclared In-Game Activity or "Well of course my character did that, I just didn't say it"

My gf and I have been reading Game Night by Johnny Nexus aloud each night as part of the blueberry's bedtime routine. One theme which runs throughout is what do we need to roleplay and what actions do we assume based on the idea that the character exists in the game world and is acting even in those moments not explicitly being played out on the tabletop..

In the book, the GM often uses this to punish a player by leaning to the "you never said you were doing that even though I'm not making everyone declare such things" side while the players use undeclared activity  to attempt to acquire magic items, money and other advantages which they justify by essentially declaring it common sense that their character would do whatever it is, regardless of explicitly declaring it to be so.

Clearly, the "right" approach is probably somewhere in between.

I've been thinking a lot about this because in my own solo dungeon crawl, as I began preparing for the next session (whenever that may happen upon me), I realized that Orecchiette and Bewie had left Zoulford's body behind after he was killed by a gas trap.

This bothered me the more I thought about it (when I realized this had indeed happened). Why didn't he? And why didn't Bewie say something? The reality is that in the heat of the gaming moment I forgot and also that my hirelings are nothing more than one-dimensional pack mules that occasionally engage in combat. I'll address that second idea eventually (probably not today), as I find it disquieting. But with respect to my character, does my forgetfulness automatically mean my character forgets? Or would his nature drive him to drag Zoulford out regardless of what I would declare so that after the fact, I could simply declare it to be so?

As a neutral character (in b/x there are only 3 alignments: Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic), there is no in game requirement that he do so or consequences to face if he does not.  But what kind of hero does he make if he doesn't? Is he blind to his own humanity? Or maybe just the suffering of others? Is he a jerk?  Self-centered?

Certainly, as gamers, we allow for a good deal of assumption in our play. When we successfully defend against an attack, we may give some description of how we did so, but it isn't imperative - although one approach may make better reading afterwards, the result is all that is important. In fact, we can add the details afterwards while writing up a blog entry even. For the in game moment, we assume we blocked it somehow, probably with our shield.

I admit there are systems that do force such details, but I would be surprised if they did not assume other actions happen, whether explicitly declared or not.

The crux of the matter as I see it, is how much does the assumption impact the game as you want to play it.

Like the Allfather in Game Night, I was tempted to essentially reset reality and allow that they had carried the body out. After all, me-as-player could argue, why wouldn't they? But then I decided this is not the same as say, assuming that the character is urinating as needed or breathing or blinking. It would, I feel, reward sloppy gaming on my part if I allowed myself this retroactive rewrite of history.

I also believe it's more interesting from a character development standpoint to leave the situation as it is. Perhaps he is a bit of a jerk - more Zapp Brannigan-ish than I might care to admit. Orecchiette is human and like all humans he's flawed - hero or not. He will have to live with his decision to press onward however he feels about it.

For me, as the DM, whether it's completely in step with Orecchiette's personality or not, I think it shows something of a lack of concern for one's employees, and I'm docking him one charisma point as a result.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

STGAM: Painting Update

As proof that I continue to make progress on my Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month project, I offer this rather shoddy picture taken with my cell (which explains the lack of flash) just moments ago here at my desk at work:
A motley cast of characters awaiting priming.

Monday, November 14, 2011

STGAM: Return of the Dead part 2 (11/11/11 Solo Wargaming Appreciation Day game)

A dreadfully boring patrol, Corporal Hardcastle was about to open up his pack of custard tarts when Pvt. Peacock spotted the zombie Krauts.

With the action finally heating up, the Tommys find themselves facing a steady stream of undead.

Bloody hell! As one wave is dispatched, another arrives to take its place.

The best kind of officers, Hardcastle and Lance Corporal Deacon join the battle with fists and cold steel! Look at how they turn their backs to the submachine gun armed Axis officer.

The Zombie-Beauftragten* shoots as accurately as a blind man in a  London fog. After wounding both Hardcastle and Deacon with shots in the back, Corporal Hardcastle spins and opens fire. The zombie controller dead, the zombies halt in their tracks and the Brits carry the day.

Some thoughts on the game:
  • Using dice to determine location and the number of zombies greatly impacted the game. Where as with cards, you cycle through the encounter deck, thus guaranteeing you will have each of them once per pass through the deck, with dice there's always a 30% chance of having a "no encounter" result. And I had more of those than I would have liked. 
As a result, at one point, the Brits cleared the table of every zombie! Not exactly nail biting that way.

  • Removing zombie saving throws sped things up as hoped hoped, but I'm not sure whether or not the tension was sacrificed as a result. It's hard to tell in light of the previous issue.
  • On the other hand, my "order of operations" greatly simplified zombie turns. In the last game i'd examine each, try to determine best action, etc. With my simple list it was a matter of a quick glance and then applying the orders.
  • Two submachine guns went a long way towards ensuring my squad's survival this time out.
  • I should have added a rule for the Axis officer to bail if he is unable to knock out any opponent after he takes damage the first time or if he's reduced to 1/2 or less hp, he'll retire from field. As it was, he dealt some damage, but within range of my entire squad, and with a lack of zombies to distract me, it was a simple matter to take him out.

* provided by Google's translator

Friday, November 11, 2011

STGAM: Return of the Dead

Today, in addition to being Veteran's Day, is Solo Wargaming Appreciation day. 

I honestly don't recall hearing about it until yesterday afternoon but since I already game solo, and I'm participating in Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month, I decided to make use of my lunch hour for a game. However, with little time to plan, I opted to revisit the game I played earlier this month. I used the same ruleset and scenario, but made the following changes:

Rule Changes
  • Instead of 3'x3' board, use a 2'x2' (my desk at work is only so big)
  • 6 board edge entry points for zombies instead of 10  randomly placed encounter markers
  • The axis officer controlling the zombies will enter the board using same method, but be placed behind or within nearest heavy cover
  • Instead of 4 American G.I.s I would field 4 British infantry (WWII) - this time with two submachine guns instead of 1. As per last game, it's one hero(4 hp), one sidekick (3 hp) and two "other good guys"(2 hp each). The nationality is superficial, the weapons assortment is not.
  • Distinguish between heavy woods (-2 cards to hit) and light woods (-1 card to hit)
  • Allow an aimed shot (for head shots to kill zombies) for -1 activation point AND -1 card to hit. 
  • Only allow aimed shots to be used after 10 zombies are killed - this allows any hit, number or face card, to count as a head shot (this is to attempt to model the fact that the soldiers don't know that head shots kill zombies when they first encounter them)
  • Zombies get no saves against hits - either knock downs or kills (face cards)
The last two were intended to speed up the game a bit.

 I also created an "order of operations" if you will, for the zombies in order to get more of the zombies on the table involved in the action in a more logical, less random way:

Zombie Order of Operations
  • All in melee, standing, will attack
  • All in melee, knocked down, will stand and attack if possible
  • All within 1 move, standing, will move and attack if possible
  • All within 1 move, knocked down, will stand if possible
  • All remaining knocked down, will stand if possible
  • All remaining, standing, will move if possible

The Axis officer would move according to the scenario description with the following modifications:

Axis Officer: Suggestions to Keep Me Honest
  • Advance is done through heavy cover first. Will use light cover only if heavy not feasible
  • Will not end move in open ground
  • Will not advance further than nearest light cover to heroes and will attack from there

Finally, there were two unplanned changes:
  1. I used a die roll to determine encounter locations
  2. I used a die roll to determine encounter type
These should have been card draws, but I forgot the second deck. These two changes may have more effect than I would have liked.

I'll try to post a report later today if I can but if not then by early next week. I also hope to get some painting in soon to make some more progress on my goal for Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month and I'll report on that as well.

Corporal Hardcastle leading his squad of Tommys into the maw of death!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If a tree falls in a forest...

Last night, in those few spare minutes between the blueberry falling asleep and my own retiring to bed, I slapped together some examples of the Oversoul trees. One, assembled as intended, the other, an example of making a more 3d type of tree from two identical flats.

I snapped some comparison shots featuring a 15mm, 22mm and 25mm figure (not on his base yet).

Here's the first:
"Hey fellas, I think there's an even nicer Christmas tree over this way!"

and the second:

Each man, with firm resolve, takes their post to defend their tree.

I chose deciduous for the second because the Oversoul forest includes two identical trees which allowed me to experiment with cutting one in half from the bottom up, and one from the top down, each time, stopping in the middle.

Honestly, the effect of the latter isn't overwhelmingly better than the former, in my eyes. The only real benefit I can see it having is that, for a picture taken at the table-top level, you'll always have a tree image. Whereas, the first would not - unless I rotate the trees.

That's not exactly a problem from my point of view.

And from the top down, I find the X shape of the latter to be somewhat jarring, compared to the way the first almost disappears. At a normal viewing angle, I find the first far more pleasing aesthetically.

Both of these were printed at 79% and I think that shows. I'll probably go with 100% or larger even, and maybe extend the trunk length a bit. And I still want to try green card stock and either printing the outline of an evergreen on it, or free handing them with thick marker. 

In any case, I've definitely eliminated the cake topper option with this test.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To tree or not to tree

I've been thinking a lot about trees lately.

Don't you wish your life was this exciting?

After looking at my AAR photos from my Nov. 1 zombie game, I'm reminded of my dissatisfaction with my lack of appropriate foliage for non-tropical locales. As DIY as they are and happy with my trees as I am when gaming a battle on the surface of Venus in 1889 or on a recently discovered island off of Africa's coast in 1885, they have the wrong look for the forests of France in 1944.

Now, believe me, I'm not looking for "realism" in my miniature battles - I use pieces of felt to dictate the area covered by woods and use step-type hills. I use paper flats when I play fantasy games (rpg or Chronicles of Blood). And how many identical figures do I have in a given unit? Unless they're either clones or brothers, it's far from realistic. 

And, yet, all of this works for me (at least at some level. I really have trouble with not seeing a figure=1 man). But the wrong type of trees? Unacceptable.

Let's chalk this up to a character quirk.

In any case, and before I start to sound more than a little nutty,  I've decided I want to do pine/evergreen and I'm considering the following options:

The front runner? Paper trees. Yes, paper trees. Oh how I do love irony! 

That and there's something about paper flats and models that appeals to me. Yet another character quirk.

While there are a couple of commercial products over at Wargamevault, I really like the style (and price:free!) of Oversoul's Forest (the link is about 2/3s down the page).My primary concern is the ink consumption for my deskjet. Since I have no intention of covering the table in a one-to-one  replica of the Ardennes forest, this may not be as big an issue as it seemed to me at first brush.

I've also got some ideas to work around this issue using green card stock, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to do a feasibility test. Never mind where to get a decent weight green card stock. 

In the meantime, assuming I have a chance to game any time soon, I think I may dig out those weird looking semi-flat plastic trees that came with the cheap bag of dinosaurs I got for Christmas a few years ago.

Monday, November 7, 2011

STGAM Painting update

In order to meet my goal for Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation month (which I'm abbreviating as STGAM in my subject lines), I decided to spend my few hours of hobby time this weekend painting.

The pistol packin' "Garibaldi"Jones about to be run down by some 5 year old kids dressed in Prussian attire.
My output was by no means exceptional but it was still progress none-the-less and I will easily quintuple (?)  my output of the last two years:

Painting completed:
  • 1 25mm cowboy - the above pictured "Garibaldi" Jones (his name comes from his red shirt. I crack myself up) (awaiting basing)
Started, not finished:
  • 98% of 1 G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. size unit (10 figures) of advancing Prussian infantry in 15mm (I believe these are Minifigs from their Franco-Prussian line). All these guys need is their red cuffs and some minor touching up (and basing of course)
In the queue, primed and ready to be painted:
  • 2 25mm cowboys (not pictured)
The following need to be cleaned and primed:
  • 7 25mm pistoleros
  • a second unit of 15mm Prussians + officers and standard bearers
  • 2 15mm units of French Zouaves
  • 2 units of 15mm French Chasseur d'Afrique
  • 15mm G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. character figures from Brigade Games
  • There's more, but I think this is enough to start with

Friday, November 4, 2011


Last night the blueberry took an hour long nap after dinner (usually he naps while we're eating) during which my girlfriend played the new Sims Pet expansion and I got in some unexpected hobby time.

OK, I don't have any photos to prove it and besides they'd be pretty boring since I didn't finish anything, but paint was applied to minis! *cheers* 

Disclaimer: I should also add that no one will be impressed when I finally do post photos of the completed figures. Thankfully, I play solo so it's not like my opponent is going to rib me because they look like they were painted by a blind baboon having a seizure while bouncing on a trampoline.

Anyway, most of it was just touching up spots I missed during priming, but I did get started on one of the two remaining 25mm gunslingers I have had sitting around forever in a primed state. 

Unfortunately, I also decided to experiment with using Citadel's Devlan Mud wash on another of the cowboys that I had given a very simple block painting. I've used the cowboys as palettes for experimenting with techniques so trying this out wasn't out of the ordinary. The result, however, was that the mini looked like he'd been rolling around in a mud puddle or a coal mine even. Most definitely not what I was going for. 

I suspect the problem would not have occurred had I been more patient and let the first coat of wash dry before I decided that it was too light. I should be able to salvage it to my low standards with some liberal use of dry brushing.

I plan to complete the cowboy I started, fix the one I ruined, and complete a third sometime in the next few days. After that, I'll move on to the Prussians. Damn those Prussians!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Día de los Muertos, WWII style

Yesterday was the start of Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation month. It was also the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). So what better way to kick off the month than with a solo game with zombies?

Turn 4: I was still very confident this would go my way
For the rules, I used Stephen Gilbert's Solo Semi-Skirmish & Role Playing Wargames System and the scenario Terror Beneath Their Feet from Rattrap Productions. Per the scenario, my objective was to either kill the Axis officer controlling the zombies (not on table until 10 zombies are killed) or destroy the controller itself, all the while dodging, shooting and bludgeoning zombies as they pop up all around us.

Foolishly, I ignored the most basic rule of the horror genre: Don't Split Up! and I made it worse by leaving cover to do so - all for the sake of offing some knocked down zombies. The result of which was that two of my squad with the lowest hit points were out on open ground. I'd say the zombies smelled brains, but they couldn't have - who would run from cover in front of a bunch of zombies?
The zombies close in on Pvts. Hawk and Standing.

Sarge and Pvt. Kneeler fight their way over to the hapless duo.

 Things are under control again. I breathe a sigh of relief. Prematurely.
A few turns later, all hell broke loose.  Both Hawk and Standing were done for (I didn't get any pictures of their grisly demises). Kneeler and Sarge managed to keep off the zombies long enough to get the Axis officer on the board - who decided to join in the fray by spraying his submachine gun from cover.

Between the officer's accurate shooting and the arrival of more zombies (I had every zombie mini I own on the table), Pvt. Kneeler was inevitably  done in. 

It was all up to Sarge.

As a final act of desperation, he ran for cover while he unloaded his Tommy gun at the Axis officer. If he could just bring down the officer, the zombie threat would be neutralized and he'd be safe. If not, all hope would be lost.

As an aside, in Gilbert's rules, card draws are used to determine hits. The submachine gun gets 6 cards. 

I held my breath and drew:



Although he fights on, driven by a desire to live and to crush the Nazi war machine, the zombie horde soon overwhelms him and it's just a matter of time.

It was a fun game although it dragged a bit. This is more than likely due to my modifications of the rules to handle zombies and the requirement that only a head shot can kill them.

I definitely like the rules as written but since the most you can have is 10 pts of actions per turn (which at best means 10 figures move on open ground), most of the zombies, who numbered 30 on the board by the end of the game,  often appeared to be standing around doing nothing (perhaps they were moving imperceptibly?) .

Melee is not quickly resolved given that saves are allowed on each hit.  This is great in a small skirmish Pulp or VSF game with a handful of characters/figures per side, which I believe is exactly what the rules are designed for. But with unlimited hordes of the undead, who require a head shot (which I ruled was K, Q or J) it really slowed things down- resulting in knockdowns (hits on zombies that don't kill them) and a general slogging match between sides. 

Overall, though I liked the effect it had, particularly at the end of the game where it really felt like a desperate fight against a zombie swarm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunday Night's Cemetery Tour

On Sunday night, we headed to Oakland Cemetery for their Halloween tour. I had no idea the cemetery contained so many graves of US Civil War (or the War of  Northern Aggression if you prefer) soldiers. Primarily a Confederate burial site, there are, none the less, 16 Union soldiers buried here- and, according to our guide, no one knows why those 16 are there. Also, amongst the soldiers' graves, there is one woman buried beside her husband, and again, no one knows why or how she got there (you know, other than that she died)..

The Blueberry was not in a great mood so I missed most of the presentations by the Oakland "residents" but I did manage to view the Confederate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

Confederate Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The picture, taken with my cell phone which has no flash, absolutely does not do justice to the memorial. It has to be seen in person. It has a weight to it that demands solemnity and reflection, even in spite of the levity of a Halloween tour.

I found it beautiful and touching, if not for the dead that it honors, then just for the image itself - the mortally wounded lion gathering the flag into his arms in a last attempt to defend it, or, perhaps, seeking comfort in it.