Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Let slip the Flames of War


Once again, my human failings rise to the fore. I know I said I would not expand my 15mm collection, but, well, I have.

Hear me out  though.

It occurred to me recently that I need to get out more than I do - I've been here 3+ years and know very few people in the area, considering. 

I thought it'd be nice to meet some new folks and play some games while I'm at it. I do this with RPGs to some extent, but there are only infrequent one-shots of interest to me (I can't commit to a campaign). However, there are miniatures games with weekly meetups, just drop in.

So, after surveying the local gaming scene, I came to the conclusion that of the miniature games that are out there and getting frequent play, only one really captures my interest, Flames of War. 

(Malifaux does too, but it's not terribly popular here at the moment, although it was in the past. Perhaps the soon to be released 2nd edition rules will bring players back.)

I know, I know. 

A lot of people seem to have an axe to grind with Battlefront. I don't - although I don't like the recent change to "Battlefront-only minis for official Battlefront tournaments," it's not hard to understand why they would do it.

But you don't have to use Battlefront minis. Unlike, say, 40K or Warmachine, you can get 15mm WWII minis from many sources, and you can still play the game. It's only if you want to play in a Battlefront sponsored event that it matters.

New books don't make old ones obsolete as far as army lists go - at least as I understand it.

Thus, I do not at all see Battlefront in the same light that I see GW. 

So it was that with much research and contemplation, I decided to invest in the Open Fire! starter box, picked up on ebay at a decent price.

The box contains a boat load of stuff - including a pile of 15mm plastic minis and, most importantly, a mini version of the rulebook (I didn't want to sink the money into the big hardcover upfront) and the other kit included in the box looks like I can use it generically. 

Not to mention that the British tanks included can form the basis of a late war Polish tank company, provided I like the game enough to invest additional money into it.

Worst case, I don't like it, and I have 2 15mm forces to use with the other WWII sets I play.

The box is due to arrive on Thursday, just before the start of Dragon Con weekend. I will probably through the rule book in my bag to read during any "down time" I have.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Great Northern War Phase 2: Swedish Infantry

On Friday, a copy of Terry Wise's Introduction to Battle Gaming arrived. It took about 30 seconds of skimming through and glancing at the pictures to become inspired, especially by his focus on 20mm plastics.

So, with that bit of momentum to carry me into Saturday evening and today, I started getting my Zvezda Swedes ready for painting.

The figures are very clean and despite my hack job freeing them from their sprues, they needed little other than a clean up of the bases, from my perspective. 

Others may want to go around looking for mold lines and such. I have done that, but usually at great peril to the figures - not to mention it's time consuming, mind numbing and completely deflates any bubble of enthusiasm I may have for the entire painting task.

This time, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

And here they arrayed for priming:

 This represents two boxes of figures, 43 per box. 

Notice the paltry number of pikes - odd, considering Zvezda is a Russian company, and they should know better. Of course, their Russian set suffered the same disproportion. 

They also inexplicably give you nine of the marching pose per box. Most everything else is in 6s, which works great for my 12 figure units. Nine, not so much.

Combining the pikes with the marching pose, however, does give me two 12 figure units, with 25% pikes per unit. That works for me, although the remainder of the unit will be pike free for the time being.

Unlike the Russians, who still need their officers and standards painted, I'll be priming these by hand and painting them in small batches and including the officers early on. I intend to mix cavalry and artillery for both sides in between the completion of every 2 units, with the intent of being able to field very small engagements, with 1/2 size units (6 figures) using some variation of Bob Cordery's various grid-based rules, or using as 1:1 for various skirmish rules for 18th century.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Less than 1 Week Until DragonCon!

DragonCon is, as the subject says, less than 1 week away. It's "the largest multi-media, pop-culture convention focusing on science-fiction & fantasy, gaming, literature, art, music, and film in the universe!"

Hyperbole or not, it's a sight to see.

The first time I went was in 2010. I had no idea what to expect - so many people. And so so so many in costumes (or in some cases, not much at all. After dark the convention becomes, depending on your family, somewhat family unfriendly ).

It was OK.  

Like I said, I didn't know what to expect and consequently found myself blown about by the whims of the people I was with. Had I really known what I could do there, I'd have done it differently. I would have been better prepared.

I did manage to get to 3 or 4 panels - including one on your rights when the police come knocking at  your door and one on Chinese zombies or something  (seriously, something for everyone here), and saw a few musical acts (Voltaire and The Crux Shadows, two acts I'd seen before, the latter many times, when I lived in Philly).

This year, my 2nd time going, and I know way more about it thanks to that first visit.  I intend to do what I want to do - which is attend gaming and writing panels and playing games, as many as I can squeeze in.

For a convention that's not gaming specific, there's a decent offering of games and systems: Here's the gaming program.

So far I'm officially signed up for:

  • An old school D&D session
  • A Dungeon Crawl Classics session 
  • Games on Demand session

I'm contemplating signing up for something else, but we'll see. My parents are coming to town to take care of Young Lord Shadowmoss, but I don't like the idea of saddling them with bath time and putting him to bed more than 1 night.

One game I really wanted to play is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, but one session conflicts with the OD&D game and the other is Monday morning, which puts me at the mercy of Young Lord Shadowmoss's mother getting up before noon after hitting the Sunday night parties, since my parents leave early Monday. I have owned this game since it came out and I have never done more than roll up characters.

I plan to get in on a demo of Malifaux on Saturday or Sunday morning. I like the looks of the minis, you only need a handful and it's a game I could play with others if the urge were to strike me.

Event wise, I'm looking forward to the docent tour of the machine guns in the Armory, a campaign management session, another on world-building and a puppets on a budget session (I love me some puppets).

I don't cosplay (I won't say never. Although I've adamantly said   just that in the past. This morning I seriously contemplated putting together a Return of the Jedi Biker Scout suit for next year), so it makes prepping for the convention considerably simpler - and as I live not far from a MARTA station, I'll take the train each day, rather than driving and dealing with traffic and the parking madness near the convention hotels.

In the vendor hall, there are a few things I want to pick up, but this is first among them: 

That's a moustache monocle for those keeping score, available from Geek Chic.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

WWII PTO : Defend Against a Raid

Watching Ken Burns's The War has been giving me the itch to play more wargames and I had some time Friday night, so I grabbed my old cloth, threw it over the table and then randomly generated the terrain using the rules from War Against Japan.

For the actual game I used Disposable Heroes & Coffin for Seven Brothers, but I've been thinking part of the problem with any platoon sized game at 1:1 is moving the figures can take up precious game time. 

The obvious answer was multi-figure bases. So I used some cheap DIY movement "trays" (craft foam glued to cereal box) with 2 figures to a base. 

Voila, 1/2 as much to move!

For my force, I decided to use the Early War Marines (as detailed in Red Sun, Red Death) - treating the game as taking place in '42.

The scenario I rolled was Defend Against a Raid and was generated using Platoon Forward. The Japanese were on the attack and my Marines were dug in and defending an observation post. Only 1 squad would be on the board with a 2nd squad available as reinforcements.

The Japanese were to capture a prisoner. Odd, I though, given the "no quarter given" nature of the Pacific, but, OK. 

Tactical decisions for the Japanese were handled by Platoon Forward's "All Knowing Odds Table" which is like a simpler version of Mythic GME using just 1d10 and no Chaos factor.

Since I use a card activation instead of the rules-as-written initiative for DHC7B, as suggested by Platoon Forward I added an event card (when drawn, roll a d6, 6=event, then roll on appropriate tables in Platoon Forward).

The setup:
My squad set up on the hill, per the scenario description. 

My BAR team is top most, sarge and the rifle team is in the foreground. 

The Japanese started out represented by four Type A blinds (infantry) and 1 Type B (support weapons). They would not be revealed until they shot,  even if they moved  into the open.

The Game:

There wasn't much (any) movement on my part, save for being forced to Fall Back and then advancing to the original position. 

During turn 1, four A blinds were revealed, two were nothing, one was an LMG team, and one was this:

an entire squad plus their platoon commander.

In Turn 2, the B blind turned out to be an HMG team and the Japanese began their attempted assault on my position.

[here the pictures stop. They were breaking my flow and I was really getting into the game]

The LMG and HMG did a number on my squad but we still managed to force the Japanese to fall back.

Multiple times I contemplated getting my squad off the table and conceding the game to the Japanese, especially since my reinforcements seemed to be AWOL.

But the dice gods decided to grant me some favor and, suddenly, I was cutting down the Japanese, nearly entirely eliminating that once imposing full squad. 

So each turn, I'd tell myself, "just one more and then we'll fall back if the reinforcements don't show."  I wanted my men to put up a good fight, but I didn't want to see them massacred. Even if this wasn't a campaign game, I didn't want to lead them total destruction.

But I got greedy. I wanted to win, not just escape.

Their HMG and LMG managed to eliminate Sarge and the rifle team and then, to my surprise, the LMG team decided to advance, with the HMG providing covering fire and pins.

Activation went their way for several turns in a row and the Japanese charged into close combat, at which point it was clear that the dice gods had decided to abandon me.

Outnumbered 4 to 3 (the bar team suffered a wound back in Turn 1), I thought I had a chance still. Especially when, after the Japanese finished their portion of the round of melee, I only suffered 1 loss. My attacks missed their mark entirely though, and on the Japanese 2nd attempt, they scored 3 wounds. 

I counted this as taking 3 prisoners. It took 9 turns, but they achieved their objective and won the game and I spent the rest of the evening replaying the game in my head.

I should have gotten those boys out of there. I should have learned the rules for artillery fire and taken advantage of the fact that the odds were high that i'd have arty support. 

But I was lazy, and then I got caught up in the thrill of combat, and those boys paid for it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wherein I Ramble About Recharging

Pumpkin being Pumpkin.
In between bouts of work (2 jobs) and child care, I've been trying to recharge my creative battery.

I recently read a zine called "How to Be Creative More Often: even if you have a job, responsibilities, & need more than three hours of sleep each night." (Kind of  wordy, but you can't deny that it is descriptive). One suggestion the writer gives is to have "feeding periods" where you try to fill yourself up with inspiration: movies, art, books, etc. I'm not sure what, or if any, scientific data backs up this suggestion, but it sounded right to me.

So that's what I've mostly been doing. 

I recently finished reading The Castle of Iron by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt and loved it. One book is not enough to judge either author, but I enjoyed it far more than Jack Vance's The Gray Prince, which I had read prior.  Magic and science co-exist in parallel universes, logic and literary verses are the keys, and oh yeah, they have somatic components to the spells.

Currently reading The Eternal Savage by Edgar Rice Burroughs (originally titled "The Eternal Lover"). I should have gathered from the original title more of the plot of this book than I got from the newer title. 

Burroughs is my guilty pleasure. I don't think he's the greatest writer, but for whatever reason I enjoy reading his books. The premise of this one seems exceptionally dubious the more the plot unfolds. Still, I'll keep reading it as I'm curious as to how he'll attempt to explain it all.

I've been re-watching Ken Burns's WWII documentary, The War, on my Kindle - it's free to Amazon Prime subscribers - during my workouts and here and there. I've seen it in its entirety once prior, when it aired originally and find it riveting, tragic and inspiring.

For my much ballyhooed feudal Japan social campaign, i added a tons of free movies  to my queue, including When the Last Sword is Drawn,which was fantastic. The campaign is likely to have a high level of fantasy, but the drama here was so gripping - a samurai caught between clan, family and duty. What more could you want?

Demons and magic, of course.

I imagine the game will probably be more like Moyeo Ken (anime). Watched one episode so far and thought it was pretty terrible, but I admit there were some cool ideas. 

Some plastic did make it to the table the other day for a DHC7B game - my umpteenth play through of the first scenario in the Nuts!2.0 rulebook. The dice were hot and it played fast, with mt US half squad taking out the Germans rather handily.

Finally, this battery charging thing has paid off in that ive got an idea for a 9Qs adventure for The Ever Expanding Dungeon, as well as some  ideas that will end up here or in the next issue of 6 Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer.

And looking ahead, at the end of the month, it's Dragon*Con. It's no GenCon but it wil have to do. I'm signed up to play OD&D and DCC and  I'm pretty excited about it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Russian Tank Escort with Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers

Citizen, behold a squad of our mighty soldiers escorting a fine example of Soviet modern engineering and made by your own Proletariat hands.

Small dice indicate possible enemy forces to be drawn from a card deck. Mythic would determine whether or not an enemy force revealed itself on any given turn.

See how your brave comrades advance fearlessly despite the threat of the nefarious Barbarians of Fascism!

Even under fire from the German machine guns, the brave children of Mother Russia hold firm and deliver a devastating volley.

Like rot in the grain stores, the Nazi-snake takes much effort to flush out! But the effort was made with the greatest sacrifice of our Defenders of the Motherland!

Anti-tank fire erupts to the North, machine gun fire to the South East

The Germans have no anti-tank weapons left, and are unable to close with the well armored Soviet workhorse.

Rules used: Disposable Heroes/Coffin for Seven Brothers (with card draw activation)
Russia - 1 T-34, 1 Rifle Squad (2 sections, one of Sergeant + 5 Privates, and 1 LMG section with Corporal, gunner and Private with Rifle).
German - A deck of 10 cards was set up, 3 of which were blank. The remainder varied from LMG team, panzerfaust team, up to a rifle section.
Scenario objective:  Russians (me) - Escort the tank off the opposite corner. Germans - stop them.

Although the Russian T-34 made it off the table, they lost 9 men to the German 6. So, a victory but another Pyrrhic one at that.

This was primarily to test the feasibility of using a single squad with DHC7B. I found it worked much better than I thought. The idea came about as I considered experimenting with G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. for WWII.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I'm sure some of you at least are familiar with the meme, "First World Problems." That's what this is: I can't decide on a system to use for a Mythic/Feudal Japan RPG. 

As mentioned previously, it will be a social game, not one of my many solo ventures.

And, as such, I'm trying to narrow down my list to just a few choices to present to the players. It will help too, when they let me know what kind of game they want to have (historical, mythic, anime, just a skin with standard fantasy tropes, etc.)

For setting/campaign fluff I have acquired and plan on using one or more of:
  • GURPS Japan - lends itself to GURPS but also easily converts to d20 and Savage Worlds.
  • Bushido - not sure if there is any simple conversion but system is complete.
  • Sengoku - looks like it could convert to d20, which means GURPS and Savage Worlds too.
  • Land of the Samurai - RuneQuest but again, looks easy to convert stats.
  • Legends of the Samurai - d20 but stats are easily converted. Comes complete with classes, magic, skills, etc.
But for the actual game mechanics, I have an embarrassment of riches.

Contenders, in no particular order:
  • Bushido (not as complicated as I feared, but not one I could easily teach someone without a lot of learning on my part)
  • GURPS Lite - stripped down GURPS, perfectly usable.
  • Microlite20 (stripped down d20)
  • Microlite20 OSS (stripped down d20 w/o skills)
  • Yamato M20 (stripped down d20, some legwork done for classes and spells for setting)
  • Basic Roleplaying Quickstart Rules 
  • Serious Risus - I'm not a huge fan of counting successes, but then I do it for Two Hour Wargames, so maybe I should just be quiet.
  • Savage Worlds - I've never played this, but I have read the quick start rules, and just ordered the Deluxe Explorer's Edition. If anything, it will give me a system I can use with lot of prepared settings for whatever mood/genre strikes, and it's supposedly a pretty good tactical miniatures game too.
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Ruins & Ronin (Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, w/classes appropriate to medieval Japan)
(Why no USR? Because I'm using that for my current social game and because none of the settings books mentioned above would convert as easily as most of the other systems and I'm trying to make this easy on myself.)

Ruins & Ronin is really just a re-skinning of S & W Whitebox, and so I figure I can do the same thing with LL (in fact, several such attempts are available over on DrivethruRpg.) For the most part, it seems to me relatively easy to convert d20 stats to LL.

My concern about going that route is that the mechanics are so familiar that I wonder if I won't end up making it feel like a bog standard fantasy in gusoku. On the other hand, the mechanics are so familiar to me that they won't get in my way.

Microlite20 OSS would be a close second - even though I've never played the rules before, it's an "old school" flavored stripped down d20 without the pesky skills. And my players definitely have a preference for ascending AC. This could potentially make converstion that much easier (not that converting descending to ascending AC is difficult.

All the rest have skills or something similar, and there lies my hangup.

My experience with skills is primarily 1 game of Pathfinder and sessions of Call of Cthulhu, and in both games, I observed players looking to their sheets to tell them what they could do, rather than narrating it and letting the GM decide if they needed to do a skill check of some sort.

Strangely, I see many defenses of Basic Roleplaying noting that it gets out of the way and makes the narrative the most important thing. I'm not sure how that's the case, but I'm willing to concede that it may well be true.

Suggestions appreciated!