Last Friday Grab Bag of 2017

December 30, 2017

Well, it has been a good year in gaming.  I managed two conventions and several games with my son as well as the regular DnD game I attend a couple of times a month.  Painting has been sporadic with equal time being pent between 1/72 scale fantasy and 1/72 scale WW2 as well as a bit of card modeling.  There was even a bit of Portable Wargame being played in between it all.  In all it was a satisfying if not a bit slow year.

An observation for advertisers and gamers.  I have noticed over the years that bloggers, whether they are gamers or game designers, don’t seem to give enough details for the reader.  I will often see a battler report or even a review of a game or period I am interested in.  At the end of the report, I am left puzzled as to what was being played or, in the case of a designer or reviewer, how some of the game mechanics work.  A simple detail like what game you are playing can go a long way to clarifying how and why a battle went one way or another.  When reviewing a game, most people want to know WHY this game is the best game since sliced bread.  Tell us about the game mechnics.  Give us some vital derails like how combat works or something more than “It’s definitely not IGO-UGO.”  Most of these little nits can be answered in a few sentences.  It really isn’t too much to ask!

This year, TMP and I parted ways after 17 years of participation.   I’ve found a new community with The Wargames Website.  Much of the advertisement and content at large leans more toward home grown and indie style games.  I like this a lot.  Many of these games get back to the spirit of wargaming, back in the days when the games were simple and straight forward.   I think this is the last I will speak of TMP.  TWW is hear to stay.

Finally, for a Christmas present , my friend gave me his old 3D printer.  The Da Vinci Jr is not a high end printer and will not print figures all that well.  However, have found it will print buildings and vehicles reasonably well.  A bit of sanding and fill are definitely required.  The smaller scale of the vehicles mean you won’t really want to use filler primer as you might bury the fine detail of the model.  I’ve been using krylon plastic primer alternating sanding and priming to fill in the ridges.  So far, so good.  I’ll post the final models in a week or so.

So this is it ’til next year.  May everyone have a fabulous New Year celebration and may 2018 bring us many fun games and much progress on the old lead pile!

Happy New Year!


Friday Grab Bag 11 – It’s one louder

November 26, 2017

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  Mostly it’s been a very busy and somewhat ugly week.  But that is all passed now…thankfully.

I posted last time that you could randomly select the 36 scenarios in One Hour Wargames with 2D6s read as percentages.  While this is true, there are actually only 30 scenarios.  You can still randomly roll for the scenarios with a D30.  “What’s this?  You need a computer?”  No.  You roll a D10 and a D6.  If the D6 comes up a 1-2, then read the D10 as is.  If the D6 comes up 3-4, add 10 to the result of the D10.  If the D6 comes up 5-6, add 20 to the result of the D10.  The best part is that you don’t have to mark up your book.

Speaking of One Hour Wargames, this is really a great book for scenarios for those that just want to game.  You can use the 3X3 board and play slimmed down versions of just about any game you want.  On to Richmond or Fire and Fury both can be played with standardized units.  I plan on playing some Bloody Big Battles (Maybe that should be small?) with these scenarios. The army generators in the book will translate well for most eras.  For those armies with more unit variety than the book allows, you can randomly determine what type of unit it is.  For instance, is it light cavalry or heavy cavalry?

The shopping season is upon us.  My post is late for the Black Friday sales which have come and gone.  Lulu sent out a 30% off coupon for print books.  I passed on it as I am not really interested in much they have to offer right now.  However, in the past, they’ve sent out a 40% off deal for cyber-Monday.  Here’s hoping.

I have not been able to playtest my slimmed down version of On to Richmond.  I may get a game in this afternoon or evening if my son is up for it rather than fantasy.  He seems to have an aversion to history.  He does like battles but is not much for learning more.   He’s not even interested in medieval which much of the fantasy games out there are based off of.  Maybe in a few more years that will change.

Friday Grab Bag #10 What’s it all about again?

November 10, 2017

I’ve been playing a good bit of Battle for Wesnoth lately.  It is a computer game that plays both like a miniatures skirmish game on hexes and a strategy game where you have to capture towns to maintain your upkeep.  It has a series of scenario driven campaigns.  I’ve been playing for years but have never embraced the full strategies which sometimes can be the downfall to make even the easiest campaigns seem difficult at times.  When I first played, there was a scenario called “The Scepter of Fire” which is set in the bowels of a volcanic mountain.  You have to battle through several enemy leaders and their minions.  It seemed so difficult at the time that I actually hacked the game to put the scepter right in front of my general.  On turn 1, I grabbed it and left.  Yeah.  I totally mulliganed that one.  I have since played this campaign several times including that scenario – unhacked thank you very much!  Last night, especially, the scenario was a walk in the park.  I had done all the things a good player should do.  Stay away from the lava.  Soften up the enemy with one of your ace warriors and finish it with a low level guy to gain experience and level him up.  One thing that has really helped is that I’ve gone out of my way to protect the “loyal” troops.  Wesnoth has an upkeep system.  You must pay a cost in gold equal to the total number of levels of troops deployed on the board.  For example, if I’ve deployed 4 level 3 units, I will pay 12 gold per turn for those units.  Loyal troops have no upkeep.  I think I have six of them in my army right now.  All are either level 2 or level 3.  I can highly recommend this game.  It is free so you have nothing to lose, except maybe time as you play it.

Paul, of Paul’s Bods blog, has been doing a good pit of fantasy lately.  Much of it deals directly with the Lord of the Rings, especially in the area of Balrogs and Trolls.  Both come from Dark Alliance Miniatures.  He’s done a wonderful job painting them.  He admits and reaffirms my one lament about 1/72 scale plastics.  For specialized creatures such as these, you end up with way more than you actually need!  I suppose you could recreate battles of the Simarillion if you so choose.  There are all sorts of miniatures, mostly plastic 1/72 scale, that he has been painting for quite some time.  Well worth a visit every now and again just to see what he’s been up to.  The scratch built projects are especially nice!

I do still breeze through TMP every now and again to see if there is anything new and interesting posted.  I rarely post content anymore.  I’ve drilled down into some thread of interest and read through, only to find some poster has started grinding his ax about this problem or that.  That, and the content can be a little racey.  There was one in Science about “Sex Dolls” that I was not willing to click on.  I am pretty glad I don’t participate in TMP anymore.  I will say that Wargames Website is a fine place to be with some fine contributors but it doesn’t have the same amount of traffic that TMP does.  Who knows.  Maybe that will change.

Campaigns in One Hour Wargames are done with the toss of a 6 sided die.  The first battle comes from the first 6 scenarios, the next from the next 6 and so on.  This is fine but what if you wanted to choose from the entire body of 36 scenarios?  Or what if you don’t want a 6 game campaign.  Maybe you want more or less?  You can truly randomize the scenario selection by rolling 2 different colored 6-sided dice.  Count one color as “10s” and the other color as “1s”.  So if you rolled a 2 and a 5 you would read it as twenty-five.  Then simply label each scenario, starting with the first 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and so on until you get to the last, which would be 66.  Roll.  Find.  Play.  It’s that simple.

There hasn’t been a lot of time to get a proper wargame in lately.  Between my son playing soccer and the regular duties of parents with 2 children, the weekdays have been tough.  My daughter is running a race this weekend and my son has a soccer tournament both this weekend and next.  Then it is off to the Thanksgiving holiday and the in-laws.  I also have an article to finish for The Wargamer’s Notes magazine.  Hopefully, December will be more kind.  Who am I kidding.  It’s the holidays!




Friday Grab Bag #9 – A Busy Week

November 3, 2017

I have not had much time for painting as of late.  I do have about 75 plastic Orcs primed and ready to go.  I just haven’t had the energy or time to sit down and get it done.  I think I am going back to my original color schemes for the bulk of the orcs.  I used a dark flesh base for one set and a bubonic brown base for the other.  I plan on having 4 “regiments” with a mix of those and a smattering of gray and green skin.  It should give a nice diverse look.

Historians tend to characterize the later Renaissance as the beginning of the horse and musket period.  I think this is accurate for any of the wars after the English Civil War as they more or less follow linear tactics.  The English Civil War and Thirty Years War seemed to have tactics founded in ancient times.  For instance, often the infantry were deployed in a checkerboard pattern.  The rear ranks would step in when things went badly for the front rank.  Formations were largely static, as in no battlefield formation changes.  There is still an infantry and cavalry arm which some can shoot and others can melee.  Artillery is probably the biggest difference between the two periods.  Even then, it was not terribly effective at this time.

Speaking of the pike and shot era, I came across something the other day.  If you ever asked 3 people how the pike element interacted with the shot elements in a regiment, you likely would get 3 different answers.  While reading a issue #95 of MWAN magazine, I found it contained a simple set of rules for the TYW.  In the design notes, the author felt that the shot element’s frontage was rarely wider than that of the pike element in a typical regiment.  His train of thought was that there needed to be sufficient width to shield the shot in case they were forced back by enemy cavalry.  As the battlefield deployment was a checker board, the lead regiment would be forward creating a void for the shot to settle into so it would not only be protected from the front but also the flanks as well.  I still do believe that at least some of the shot would simply dive under their own pike wall and shelter on the ground until the threat was gone.  Likely a mix of the two.

My son and I did manage to get a replay in of our first LotR scenario.  Same setup but the monsters were reduced to just one monster per encounter.  The scenario was finished by the good guys (us) successfully.  No pictures as we just wanted to get it done with and move on.  We ended up also picking up 5 of the 6 treasures.  No Wraiths were rolled so the worst critter encountered was a warg and rider.  I still think the goblins should have the possibility of ore than 1 per encounter.  The scenario did play well and a couple of our characters were wounded but the urgency was rarely there in this game.  We ended up with a couple of spells, a magic 2 handed weapon and about 850 gold.  Now what to do with all that gold on a LotR adventure.  I reckon more mods are coming.

Friday Grab Bag #8 – More Odds and Ends

October 27, 2017

I went to the local Hobby Shop, determined to pay a lot for a can of GW primer.  I was resigned to pay upwards of $15 for it but was stunned to find that the cost had risen to $19 for a 10 oz can!  At some point you have to say, “Enough is enough!”  A friend suggested Krylon Brite Touch automotive primer.  It will work on many surfaces including metal and plastic.  The cost is about $3.50 and can be obtained from any auto parts store or even places like Walmart.  I got mine at Advance Auto Parts.  It comes in Black and Gray.  I don’t know if their is a white primer but I prime very few things in white these days anyway.  I used them on a bunch of 1/72 scale plastic Orcs.  Seems to have worked well.

I am not a natural writer.  It’s difficult for me to get things letter perfect as many gamers demand writers do.  I’ve been writing for the Wargamers Notes Quarterly.  It is a fine, free, electronic magazine.  I’ve been writing a series on Wargame Design.  The first two articles came out well though the first did have a few typos in it.  I’ve been using the time honored method of outlining everything as I was taught in school.  Then I would simply add detail to the outline.  Voilà!  An article!  It works like a charm for even someone like me.

After finishing up a recent cooperative game with my son in Frostgrave, I’ve noticed a couple of limitations of the game for this style of play.  Some of the spells are irrelevant when facing a programmed opponent.  The monster side does not have spell casters normally so any spells that limit a character’s casting ability becomes irrelevant.  When playing a themed game where the journey is more important that finding loot, money also becomes less important.  We designed a band of “Fellowship” characters so there was no need to actually purchase a warband.  The Wizard is a starting Wizard so there will be some expenditures along the way for spells and potions and such.  A good side affect of this sort of cooperative game is that one need not worry about one side becoming over-powered.

The fall weather is finally here on the East Coast USA.  That means dry weather and more figure prep.  I need to get a bunch prepped up to carry me through the winter.

Friday Grab Bag #7: The Smeagol Edition

October 20, 2017

After finally scoring some suitable models for Nazgul, I still am looking for a Smeagol figure.  I suppose a 15mm something would do.  My son thought a toad looking figure would work.  At that point he’d only seen the Rankin and Bass hobbit and Return of the King.  As well, a goblin figure would work nicely.  Whatever I decide on, the figure should be hobbit sized or perhaps slightly larger, should be relatively unarmed and should have minimal, raggedy clothing.

I need to make some more terrain bits.  Mostly card models of ruins will do, but maybe some dungeon models too.  I have EZ Dungeons and the Halls of the Mountain King from Fat Dragon.  Both work well for LotR but are also can be used for just about any fantasy or even pulp setting.

I’ve found a few old GW Fellowship of the Ring scenarios online.  These will be ideal for Frostgrave or any other low level skirmish game for that matter as they are solid “chase” scenarios.  One thing I am looking for is scenarios that follow the path from the book, The Hobbit.   I think that a Smaug scenario would probably not be terribly interesting.  In the halls, the scenario would play out with literally just 2 figures: a dragon and a hobbit.  Sounds kind of dull.  The spider encounter would probably be pretty fun. Maybe Bilbo has to kill a certain number of spiders before he can free his companions.  My son and I played out the Troll encounter.  A battle report was in a previous post.  I’m not sure what to do about the Elf encounter either.  It involves the Dwarves and Bilbo escaping the Wood Elf stronghold.  I suppose I can change it up a bit and make it a little more high adventure.

I think the end-game will be the Battle of Five Armies.  From the book if you please!  This would be a scenario where the enemy keeps coming until certain events happen and ultimately ends when the Eagles arrive.  I think Dragon Rampant will make an excellent set to play the battle out with.

I’m planning on doing a little show and tell session.  I only need to get some time to actually take some pictures.  I finished up all my ACW cavalry and also have a slew of Orcs that I just finished painting.  Hopefully this weekend.  Until then…

Friday Grab Bag #6: Musings on Games

October 13, 2017

I played my first game of Astounding Tales by Howard Whitehouse this weekend.  It is a simple set of rules for pulp adventuring.  Most of the game is open ended with some traditional mechanics to resolve combat, movement and so forth.  It is a game where, if you have a plausible idea, no matter how far fetched, the game master should devise a way to resolve its success or failure.  The game is on Wargame Vault and can be had for only $5.  I’ve not purchased yet because I have no clear plan to start yet another genre.

I don’t like cleaning up flash from soft plastic miniatures.  For those that don’t know, flash is the mold lines and “ears” that are sometimes covering the edges of the figure where the mold comes together.  Filing and sanding can’t be done as that shreds soft plastic.  A method I am keen to try is scraping down the flash and mold lines with a hot pin.  You simply put a sewing pin in a make shift handle like a wine cork.  You then can heat the pin for a few seconds in a tea light candle and then gently go over the seems of the figure.  It apparently works like a charm..

Complexity means very different things to different people.  Field of Glory was billed as an approachable game for beginners and experts alike.  I still own the rules and have never brought myself to playing them simply because they are too complex.  People tell me that Flames of War is a simple game.  If it is so simple then why in the world do you need 280+ pages to explain them?  I think many people look at the dice (usually D6) and think “It uses simple mechanics and D6s so it is a pretty simple game.”  Well, a collection of simple parts can make a very complex system.  A computer is a collection of parts that can count from 0 to 1.  A computer is very complex as there are many of these parts arranged in such a way that they can perform very complex tasks.  Anymore, when someone tells me about a simple game, I immediately ask how many pages there are of actual rules?  That usually speaks volumes.

Supplements and codices also baffle me.  If you have a book with the unit data already there, why do you need supplements?  It seems this is a way for companies to sell copy.  DBA, while somewhat expensive, has always been a single source book.  There is no need for any supplements.  The game has all the armies you need in the book.  Warhammer, Flames of War, Field of Glory all have army books.  True, you only need the supplement or two that cover the era you are most interested.  Most gamers end up buying them all anyway.  Once upon a time, part of the fun of our hobby was in the research.  We seem to have fallen to having someone do all the work for us and then we pay them for their hard work.  I suppose it is a quick and easy way to go but I think many miss out on an opportunity to learn something about history, not just war.