Sunday, June 30, 2013

Race for Vader Rock: Wampus Country Under the Tree Challenge

This is my The Wampus Country Under the Tree Challenge  game. I was able to use a good number of the gifts pictured in this post. The rules used were Featherstone's WWII rules from his Wargames, which was under my tree this year. Both sides were Christmas gifts as well, and, although not very creative,  the hill in the middle table is a pile of the books and a DVD I got as gifts. Vader Rock, well, that should be obvious.

October 1944
The Nazi's have discovered the location of an alleged ancient occult power source - the Death's Head - located in a secluded location known only as Vader Rock. Two platoons of German infantry have been moving quietly towards Vader Rock with orders to locate and return with the Death's Head.

Fortunately, for the Allies, a spy was able to report this just prior to his being discovered and subsequent execution. Lt. Grimlock and Lt. Slag have been sent with a platoon each to recover the artifact if it exists, and barring that, stop the Germans if they get there first.

Lt. Grimlock has orders to move directly to Vader Rock and avoid a protracted engagement with the enemy.

Lt. Slag has been tasked with providing support for Grimlock's platoon. They are to engage the enemy and harass and eliminate the Germans above all else.

The race is on.

Lt. Slag arrives on the scene. Grimlock orders his men towards the objective.

The 2nd German Platoon arrives in a favorable position to reach Vader Rock.

German 2nd Platoon reaches Vader Rock first. When they exit, a shoot out ensues.

The bullets fly. Men engage in Hand to Hand. The German officer has the Death's Head!

The Germans try to flee, but they drop the Death's Head as they disappear into the forest In the foreground, Slag's platoon cuts down the German 1st platoon.
Lt. Grimlock poses with the Death's Head.
The rules are quite simple and I found them quite fun to play, 

I used Featherstone's suggested variable movement for the US, which found my platoons bogged down, unable to move, several turns in a row. I adjusted the German's variable move to use 1 - No Move, 2-4 - Normal, 5-6 Double Move, to give them a slight advantage.

Featherstone, judging by the scenario he presents in his book, used 10 figures for a company. That wouldn't work for me, given I only have 16 figures for each side, without resorting to non-Christmas purchases. I opted to use 6 figures total per unit, and 1 for the leader. I really didn't think 2 companies would be sent on a mission like this, so I decided the units were, in fact, platoons.

In my opinion, the game would have looked better if the figures had been mounted 2 to a base for each section, but that wouldn't have been true to Featherstone.

I used the ranges as given - 6" infantry move, 12-24" rifle range. Due to having fewer figures on the table per unit, I halved the casualties for all fire results. 

I enjoyed the morale mechanism. Slag's platoon failed morale in a fire fight early on, but recovered. The 2nd German Platoon failed, and the failed on subsequent turns as well, leading to their leaving the table.

The game took about 1.5 hours to play, which includes time for pictures and note taking.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Halfway Point Review - 2013 Gaming Goal Progress

Yes, yes, I know it's a hobby and goals and such kind of wig some people out when it comes to "down time" activities, but I like to have a plan, generally speaking, even if I end up abandoning it entirely.

Probably because I enjoy making lists, but that's neither here nor there.

Or maybe it is, because this itself is a list:

Save a Dead Tree Project

Making my way through all my unread printed game related material is going to take some work for sure. 


  • Dragon issues - Best of I and II, plus several other issues
  • The Purple Worm Graveyard
  • Peter the Great's Army: Infantry
  • Poltava: 1709
  • Currently reading Warfare in the Age of Marlborough

Read & Played:

  • Nuts! War Against Japan
  • Disposeable Heroes
  • Red Sun, Red Death (DH supplement)
  • Traveller (Starter Traveller book)

New wargaming setup 

  • The basic MDF boards are done, but I do want to paint the backs and grid them for Morschauser/Cordery-type grid games. 
  • 10 palm trees in progress, and my 5th 1/32 Seuss-ian pine tree just needs to be glued. 
  • Made 1 hill, although not my favorite. I'm experimenting with foam to see if I can't make an old school step hill, without the jagged edges of my first attempt.

Paint 2x per month, at least 60 minutes a session
I hit Jan - May, and then didn't paint at all in June (to my recollection). I foresee a return to the painting table in the near future.

Run an old-school dungeon crawl for my local RPG meetup group
I've been reading 1 pager dungeons to see if I can find something I want to run as a one-shot. I really wanted to run The Purple Worm Graveyard, but I think it's better saved for players who are familiar with old school play. Otherwise they probably won't make it past room 2.

Projects (they don't have to be completed, but progress made): 

The Wampus Country Under the Tree Challenge - I won't be able to use everything unless I turn the books into hills, but I have a silly WWII / Pulp-ish scenario in mind. Maybe I'll play this tonight.

A WWII PTO campaign -  I have two PTO campaign PDFs from Britton Publishers that are surpassing the Nuts! War Against Japan campaign generator in terms of likelihood of play. 

  • I've acquired some much needed heavy weapons for the marines to use once off the beach as well as some tanks, that admittedly, will see little service. The tanks and heavy weapons need to be primed and painted.

A three battle mini campaign for the GNW Russians and Swedes usingScenarios for Wargamers or Programmed Wargame Scenarios. This is simply not going to happen any time soon. I don't even have the Swedes cut from the sprue yet, let alone painted.

A VSF campaign that returns us to the island of Helvetica. 

I am thinking that it will start with  consist of the two sample scenarios presented in the Space 1889: Soldier's Companion, and utilize those rules to fight the battles, but feature Riesling and lizard-folk, not British and Martians. Very likely to happen this year sometime, but I can't say when. Probably should call this a "micro-mini campaign."

Celebrate the centenary of H.G. Wells's Little Wars. This is definitely happening. In part, my zine's first issue was part of this, but I would like to get the 1/32 figures out to the mosquito-infested backyard - maybe with a Nerf gun. I'll probably do it in July, to coincide with the anniversary of Kursk.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

So. Many. Miniatures...Reaper Bones Unboxing

Everyone's doing it, so I figured what the heck. Here's my Reaper Bones Kickstarter unboxing:

The box opened!

That little Death/Grave Digger guy:

With the invoice removed:


Extras are packed loose:

Inside the Vampire box:

I'm a little overwhelmed to say the least. 

Some of these will be given away, some sold, and the rest painted.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some Admin Type Updates

Had a few minutes to go in and update the Campaigns page (in the bar at the top of the blog). 

It now includes links to all 20 sessions of The Ever Expanding Dungeon campaign, as well as posts on some of the methods I use, for those coming here and looking for info about solo dungeon crawling, or for those who want to read the full story.

I also updated the 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer page (again, at the top of the blog) to include links to the following reviews of issue #1:

Thank you to all three sites for giving issue #1 some air time!

Speaking of the zine, if I told you I was sending you a copy and you didn't get it yet, please let me know. I'm pretty sure they should have all arrived by now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Ever Expanding Dungeon: Session 20

After several hours, Dleggit and Perceval awoke and the party prepared to re-enter the dungeon.

Intent on making their way to the area west of the kobold territory, they again descended down into the original entrance, with the hope of make some in-roads into the as of yet unexplored area.

[MYTHIC: Has anything moved into room 1 since we left? Very Unlikely. 24. yes. great.

d30 companion: 19,29 : the first roll is which column of the table to use, the second determines the encounter
2 warriors (F2: HD2, ac 2, 1d8)  ]

Two figures, one short and squat, the other tall and rail thin, wearing etched plate approached the party from the door opposite the steps.

Perceval and Dleggit hailed them cautiously. They looked "official."

[reaction:  7 neutral
They don't appear overtly hostile but nor are they friendly.]

The short one sternly spoke, "Let us pass and you may continue on your way."

No one in the party really wanted trouble but Sister Linkat is bound by her duty to protect the town, as is Perceval as a native son, to inquire as to their purpose and direction.

[reaction to this: 11 hostile]

The tall one deftly drew their sword, while the first grasped the hilt of his. Again the short one spoke, "Do not harry us. let us pass or the sting of our blades shall be the last thing you ever feel." This time there was even more of an edge to his voice.

Dleggit turned to Perceval, "Kind of melodramatic aren't they?"

[Is Sister Linkat insistent? 50/50 37 Yes
Is perceval? 50/50? 24 Yes
Does anyone else even care? Unlikely. 11 yes
Dleggit and Manchiever seem prepared to push the issue as well]

From the back of the group, Sister Linkat spoke up, "We mean you no harm, we're just curious as to who you are and how you came to be here. And where you are going. After all, perhaps we can help you." Her offers of assistance had panned out well in the past.

[MYTHIC: Do they parlay? Very unlikely. No]

"Be that as it may, let us pass!", shouted the short one in a booming voice.

[MYTHIC: Does this attract any wandering anything? 50/50. 80 no.]

Waldu, unable to restrain himself, shushed the warrior, "Quiet ya dang fool. Every creepy crawling thing in this whole damn place can hear ya. You tryin' to git us all kilt!"

[apparently, Waldu hangs out in the Old West when he's not delving with the party.]

The party, as much as the two warriors, was genuinely surprised by the outburst - Waldu had never spoken out like this.

[MYTHIC: is the warrior offended? near sure thing.55 yes. At this point, I should have rolled for a random event as I rolled doubles and as the Chaos factor is 5, in as much as it is anything in this adventure, the digit i.e. 5, is equal to the Chaos factor. ]

"Tell your servant to hold his tongue, or i shall cut it out literally!"

Sister Linkat, as his employer and defender of the village inhabitants, could not stand this aggression, "He is not our servant, but a free man in our employ and I ask you to refrain from threatening our employee."

[I decided at this point that i needed to move this along and rolled a story cube. A bridge over water. Ha!]

Something about her reply tickled the short one, and he burst out laughing, "Very well then", said in a quieter voice, "I beseech you to let us pass. We represent the [ Rolled twice on my "go to" Fantasy Name Generator, from Erik Jensen of Wampus Country] Forsaken Factory and are on our way to meet with the [rolled 2x again] Raven Duke on important diplomatic issues"

He emphasized the last point rather strongly.

[Does the party let them pass?
Perceval - 50/50 37 Yes
Linkat - 50/50, 53, no
Neither manchiver nor dleggitt have a horse in this race and they are true 50/50

Roll to test if Linkat over rules Perceval (bonus is +7 on the roll due to charisma difference) 68 + 7, no way.]

"And by what route are you going?" asked a persistent Sister Linkat.

[Roll reaction: 2]

Obviously trying to make their way past with as little delay as possible they explained their route will take them south along the river until it splits and then head west until they reach the [Once again roll on the Fantasy Name Table] Moon-Blessed Mesa.

[Is Linkat satisfied enough to let them pass ?
The rest of the party is getting antsy. I'll say yes.]

Satisfied, Sister Linkat gave the ok and the two warriors passed. Not without some grumbling

[Wandering monster: 2, no]

Perceval volunteered to test room 3 for sleep gas and cautiously entered

[I suddenly decided to play with the Chaos Factor from Mythic. Since last scene went the party's way, I set it to Chaos 4.
Mythic: Is the sleep gas still in the air? Very unlikely. 73. No.]

Perceval took a few breaths, and satisfied all was safe, waved the rest of the party into the room where they prepared to go up the steps.

At the junction leading to the kobold's territory, head west until they came to a door.

Listening at the door was fruitless and so they prepared to force their way in.

Perceval failed to force it open but the door gave way easily to Dleggit. The Dwarf a quiet "Ha!" in Perceval's direction in friendly competition.

[Room dimensions, 1x5, using my rolls that's 1/2 each round up so 1 x 3.

Room content - 35, monster

d30 companion:
27, 25]

As the party enters, the light from the torch carried by Waldu, sets 2 shriekers to wailing!

"Silence them!" yells dleggit

Dleggit and Perceval and Sister Linkat race in to smash them up. It does not go nearly as easily as they had hoped. [shriekers have THREE HD. Color me surprised.] After several rounds of painfully embarassing combat against stationary fungus, the shriekers stopped of their own accord, although the party hacked them up for good measure.

[During the combat twice the shriekers succeeded in summoning something that would arrive in the near future]

The party moved fully into the room - and by that I mean: Waldu and the mule took the center. Perceval and Manchiver examined the door in the north wall while Dleggit took the west. Sister Linkat stood guard to the east the door.

Listening again proved fruitless. The door to the north gave easily and was clearly not locked or stuck. Dleggit found the western door wasn't locked but did  not give very easily.

Suddenly Dleggit felt the door pushing back on him.

With a resounding crashed it flew open and smacked against the wall, its hinges groaning with the strain. A pack of giant rats rushed in, like water from behind a damn, a great furry brown tidal wave flooded the room.

[Monsters arrive: 16,22 giant rats = 13 giant rats

Which entrance?
North 1-2
East 3-4
West 5-6

6, West]

Roll of 2, party is surprised, the rats pour in unphased by the presence of the party or the mule

Is the mule spooked? Very likely, 28, yes.]

As the floor went from stone to a moving mass of squeaking fur, the mule began to fight against its reins and Waldu, who was holding them.

[Is Dleggit knocked down? Likely. no. Second group of monsters arriving]

As if the rats were not enough, to his consternation, Dleggit saw the unmistakable shambling silhouettes of a mass of 8 zombies rounding the corner!

I had to keep the session short so I would have time to write it up afterwards.

The cliff-hanger just seemed like a good place to stop. Just like with social games.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Totally Not Gaming Related: Go Skateboarding Day!

For those who haven't heard me mention it before, skateboarding is among the other activities I participate in.

After 20 years off-and-on, I'm still basically a beginner (probably too much "off" and not enough "on"), but I love it just the same as I did when I got my first board and read Thrasher religiously. These days, when I'm working from home, I grab my deck and head out to the driveway on my lunch break.

Working at home has its advantages.
I don't follow the skate scene, and haven't for years, unless I happen to catch the X-games on TV - it's just not something I choose to spend my time doing. So, I was out of the loop when it came to the fact that, today, June 21 is Go Skateboarding Day, let alone the 10th anniversary of it:

There's a skateboarder meetup going on today at some spot downtown, but I celebrated by doing what I always do, I bolted outside at the lunch time whistle.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Save a Dead Tree: War Against Japan

I've been playing small test situations with Two Hour Wargames's (THW) Nuts! 2.0 and the War Against Japan (WAJ) supplement. The former I have used often enough, but the latter has languished in my book case until recently. 

Last night, I had a chance to set up and try an assault landing.

It was to be the start of a campaign, but due to a restless toddler who refused to sleep, my time to play was greatly truncated and the game didn't get very far before having to be torn down for the night.

I rolled Palm trees/Scrub for the dominant terrain type. This was somewhat unfortunate as it meant line of sight would extend unimpeded across the table (although it does provide cover and concealment:

The layout

I had a reenforced platoon consisting of :

  • Platoon HQ
  • Squad 1
  • Squad 2
  • Squad 3
  • Squad 4 (on loan for this mission)
  • Flamethrower (on loan) whom I attached to my HQ squad.

Enemy Activity Level was 3, my support level was 4.

I decided to send Squad 4 onto the beach first, and then diced for which section. The entered in section 1.

4th Squad takes to the beach.
To their front, upper left in the picture, you can see some coins I use for what are essentially random/hidden force markers. All of them resolved to nothing.

1st squad hit the beach in section 3 and found themselves opposite 4 markers, which resolved into two groups of infantry (13 figures total). The second group had an LMG. Fantastic.

And then passed 2d6 on their In Sight test. Great.

The results were horrific. The squad was decimated. 80% casualties and 20% wounded.

The rest of my force landed with little incident, thankfully.

Unfortunately, I ended up calling the game after 2 turns (that's how little time i had). 

Here's my right and part of my center - which also took fire, but was only forced to duck back (drop prone in this case):

On my left and the remainder of center things were going a better - the rest of 2 ,and all of 3 and 4 had made it up to the tree line, although Squads 3 and 4 were bunching up, since 4 had to work its way around the inlet.

I really don't feel capable of calling victory or defeat at this point. 

With an Enemy Activity Level of 3, it's a good bet a number of the remaining enemy markers would resolve to nothing. So, i plan to set it up again on Wednesday night and give it a go.

Thoughts about WAJ:

  • There are a lot of special rules for handling the Japanese and all of them feel "right" to me, as do the modified reaction tables for all forces in the Pacific.
  • The beach assault clearly has potential to be devastating to your force - which, to my understanding, is how it should be.
  • The tactics tables for the Japanese, as well as having a specified target preference order, helps take Japanese control further out of the solo player's hands.
  • I do have some questions, which is typical when playing a Two Hour Wargames title - mostly pertaining to LOS and resolution of those force markers.

Nuts! 2.0 is most often my choice for small 1:1 skirmishes (up to platoon) WWII gaming. Although I may use other  rules now and then, and even make my own, I always find myself trying to incorporate the THW reaction mechanisms into them. So my decision to use Nuts/WAJ should be viewed in that light.

Disposable Heroes covers the same sized conflict but feels very different, as I noted previously. I enjoyed them, but I wasn't overly excited by them.

 Nuts! feels like there's a lot happening, control is often wrested from you when things go south, and shooting is far bloodier, where DH feels a bit less frenetic (more like chess), gives you greater ability to coordinate complex plans (again, chess), and  shooting tends to pin, not kill. 

Both games suffer from status marker-itis, although Nuts! far more. I developed a tracking sheet for use with THW's CR3:FV but it is useless in a game with as many figures as this.

Of the two systems, Disposable Heroes seems to be far easier to learn and, I suspect,  teach someone else. But, once you grok the reaction mechanisms, THW games tend to be, in my opinion, a bit more exciting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Zine Ordering Info - Shipping Worldwide!

For those interested, I've finally set up ordering for 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer here: 

Or, if you prefer :

For now, only print copies are available.

Believe it or not, this is in honor of the centenary of Little Wars.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beginnings of a Seuss-ian Forest

In addition to assembling copies of the new zine, I've been experimenting with craft foam scenery. 

Now, I have an admittedly strange aesthetic preference on the game table, compared to what is portrayed as the norm in the hobby publications, and I recently decided to embrace it - my table won't appeal to those who strive for realism. But, as I had to remind myself, it's for me not for others.

These trees began as something of a joke, a Dr. Seuss inspired design -leaning, bending, twisting unnaturally - and were built using an idea I liked once before but abandoned foolishly when a Hobby Lobby discount got me some model railroad type trees for cheap. 

The joke was on me; when i finished the first one, I was in love.

Pictured with cat for scale. Oh and a 1/32 Airfix German Infantry and a 1/35-ish Classic Toy Soldier Pz. IV
Like I said, they won't appeal to everyone.

I will use the same technique to make 1/72 sized trees, although I probably won't Seussify them. Getting the extreme curve in the tree farthest back turned me into a glue-covered mess. I shudder to imagine trying to do it with pieces 1/2 the size.

I am shooting for a dozen of these to start - more are likely as they are cheap and, with the exception of extreme curves, easy to make with just craft foam and glue. 

They're fairly sturdy too, and easily mended should the pieces separate. To make the extreme curve, I used a stable pushed into the piece from the opposite side and may make that a regular part of assembly.

Deciduous trees are next on the list, I have multiple ideas for those.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hot Off the Presses

I've announced it pretty much on every social media platform I use, but not here yet - my apologies if you've had to see my many other postings about this. Last night, the first 5 copies of 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer came together.

Here's the obligatory blurry cell phone pic:

I had planned to get them done at a copy shop, but that was a bust - the shop closest to my house turned out to be a woman with a photocopier selling Georgia state lottery tickets and cigars, among other things.

I ended up using my housemate's Laserjet copier/printer/scanner. The copier feature worked great, but I need to buy toner if I'm going to go this route since it's not my printer. I'll make 5 more tonight, so I have a nice even 10 to bring with me to the Atlanta Zine Fest tomorrow.

Once I'm ready to start mailing to people, I'll put up info on how to get a copy.

Making a zine has been on my list of "Things I Want to Do" for almost 20 years - it feels pretty awesome to have finally made it happen. Of course, now I'm hooked. I do plan to do put out a second issue, but I'm not sure when - probably in the fall sometime. Writing hasn't even begun yet. 

And, in the meantime, I've got some ideas for some non-gaming related one-shot zines.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Save a Dead Tree: Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroes

In January, I decided that one of the things I'd do this year is to take a look at those books on my shelves that I hadn't read or used in any significant way and do just that (and after my recent inventory of just how many books that is, I feel particularly driven to do this). Recently, I've been doing that with Iron Ivan's Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers (DHC7B) and the Red Sun, Red Death (RSRD) supplement.

I picked up DHC7B up at Historicon 2009, based on many positive reviews, but it has sat on my bookshelf ever since, used only occasionally for reference sake to answer questions about squad composition and weapons.

 I acquired the RSRD supplement in 2011(?) and it has seen even less use, if that's possible.  At least this book I explicitly purchased to serve as a reference.

If I'm honest, the reason for the lack of use initially was that I really didn't understand that, although it's 1:1, usually individually based,  and a skirmish type game, it isn't a game about individual figures. Which is what I was most interested in - at the time, anything more than a squad on the table seemed like a big commitment. 

I had one squad for any given nation, and that isn't really DHC7B's raison d'etre; it is a 1:1 game where the smallest maneuver element is the team, and the intended organizational unit fielded for a player is one platoon up to a company.

Fast forward to 2013 and I have ample numbers of figures to try the rules out. 

And try I did. 

What I liked:

  • Activation and actions by team does make it feel more like a trained unit and less like individual men running about.
  • Weapons are deadly if they hit.
  • the Guts check when receiving fire can pin the unit even if no figures are removed, aka suppression.
  • Multiple pins possible with increasingly worse effect.
  • Guts check for pin removal.
  • Easy to learn - after a few turns I pretty much had everything I needed to know memorized.
  • Grenades are abstract and easy to handle (I don't know why, but this is a stumbling block for me in a lot of rules) - they pin more often than they'll kill but that's the point I think.
  • Snap fire aka defensive fire, reaction fire, etc.
  • The rules encourage concentrating fire on any given unit, if possible, in order to score multiple pins.
  • Being caught in the open is a bad bad thing.
  • There are a lot of optional rules to pick and choose from.

What didn't I like:
  • Guts check for pin removal - if I understood it correctly, it uses the unmodified Guts value, which means it's really easy to remove a pin if your NCO/jr NCO is still with the team.
  • Actually hitting something in cover is extremely difficult. Thus, combined with easy pin removal, the  units stay on the table a long time even under fire. Hence why I believe the rules encourage concentration of fire. 
  • Modified Guts score takes into account the number of removed figures for a unit, which requires tracking in some way. Casualty figures would be useful for this.
  • Alternating IGO-UGO unit activation, and the unit to activate is player choice. This can likely be rectified by modifying activation to a card-based system, one card per unit, possibly with a Stop/ReShuffle card.
  • Aesthetically, I don't like d10s. Not a flaw in the game, just a personal preference.
  • A fire fight between two squads of USMC and 2 squads of Japanese, both sides in heavy cover, took nearly 2 hours. Even if you factor in the time spent looking things up here and there, that, to my mind, is a long time. Although that's fine if that's the kind of game I wanted, perhaps I'm too influenced by Two Hour Wargames, where the same fight would likely have lasted less than 10 minutes and involved a higher number of dead and wounded.
Despite the fact that there is a lot I like, and although some of the optional rules would address my dislikes - such as the use of any one "1" on a hit to take out the officer or special weapon - over all, I'm left feeling somewhat "meh" about the rules. I won't rule out giving them another chance, especially with optional rules and a card based activation sequence, but other rules, as it stands now, appeal to me more.

Nuts!, although not perfect, undoubtedly plays faster (although I'll try the same exact test scenario to be sure) and feels more chaotic during a fire fight. 

USE ME WWII, which gives much the same feel as DHC7B, might even be easier to learn, is far less money, and requires no theater specific supplement to get info for the Japanese - they're included in the rule book.