Sunday, October 30, 2011

Free Stuff from WargameVault et al!

Despite having to work today, usually a day off, it hasn't been a bad day.

For one, I managed to score a number of freebies over on and as part of their Halloween jack-o-lantern hunt (think Easter eggs, but with jack-o-lanterns). 

Throughout their sites, DriveThruRpg people have hidden jack-o-lantern icons that link either to a trick or a treat. All of the "treats" are horror-themed pdf downloads you'd normally have to pay for, while the "tricks" vary from weird videos on youtube to funny "very demotivational"-type images. Each site is different, so stop by them both!

My cat, Pumpkin. She is not a jack-o-lantern. Nor does she have any downloads for you.

Just on title alone, two that stand out are Fear and Faith by Ganesha Games and Werewolf: The Apocalypse Rev. Ed. These are quality products by respected gaming companies (and ones I've considered purchasing at various times). Right there, that's over $26 in free stuff. Even better, it's stuff I'll probably use.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where the links for those were hidden exactly. Just focus on the pages anyone visiting the site might look at - main page, new products, your account pages, etc - and you'll find most of everything.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Friday, October 28, 2011

November is Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month

Official logo of the Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month 11/11

Next month is Solo Tabletop Gaming Appreciation Month and me without a date for the prom!

When I first read about the idea back in April, the blueberry (my son) was not yet born and I had no possible way to gauge what life would be like once he arrived. So, other than an occasional thought here and there, I mostly resigned myself to waiting until next year to participate. 

But now that I've got enough of a handle on this whole parenting thing to know that I'll almost definitely be able to do something, I've made no effort, no plans, so what to do?

Given that I can't say for sure how much time I'll have available, I'm hesitant to truly "go big". So I turned to my extensive gaming related to-do list to see what modestly challenging tasks I could complete.

After whittling the list down, here are my front runners:

  • Paint those damn Prussians . Not just the 10 figure unit I primed two years ago, but the officers, standard bearers, and the second 10 figure unit.
  • Finish the last two 25mm cowboys (also primed two years ago) and base all 7, so that I can finally start in on the Wild West games I envisioned. I can do this along with any other choice I make.
  • Prime and paint the seven 25mm pistoleros for the Wild West games
  • Clean and prime and paint all 40+ USMC and 40+ Japanese so I can start in on my WWII Theater stuff  (this might be the hardest of all, as not only am I not a good painter, but I'm not fast either)
  • Complete enough paper buildings and wall sections to make a nicely cluttered European-style block for WWII gaming. My concern here is having enough printer ink - unfortunately, my inkjet printer uses a rather expensive 3-color cartridge.
  • Paint, cut and base my ~3mm Russian and French armies from plastic canvas
  • Create two block armies per David Crook at A Wargaming Odyssey to fight out Tabletop Teasers. My local Target has generic blocks for around $5-$6 for 48 blocks. I'd need address labels and that's about it.

And now it hits me, maybe I should just see how much I can get painted with a minimum goal of 10 figures done. I realize that number sounds really low, but I've only painted maybe 2 figures in the last 2 years. That would be a 500% increase in productivity! Now that would be going big! See, it's all in how you spin it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

D&D B/X Session 2

My girlfriend and I have started giving each other one night a week to pursue our non-baby related interests. Tonight, I had a few hours to pursue my hobbies. I had hoped to do a lot more than I ended up doing but I had to clean the game table off, which took far longer than I thought. It had become the man-cave's repository for all things that could possibly be put on it. After working on a paper mask that I found online, I decided the easiest thing to do would be to jump back into my dungeon crawl.

Alas, this last wandering monster encounter did not go according to plan. 

Heart pumping with adrenaline from killing a wandering crab spider in one blow, forcing open the door  into the next room was a snap. And then I looked at the pre-generated room content sheet: Trap: Poison Gas: Save vs. Poison or Die.  The astute among you may notice that Zoulford the torch-bearer is no longer pictured. He rolled a 1 to save (he needed a 14 or higher). Looks like I'll be seeking out his widow when I get back to town.

Not long after, the party encountered a second goblin patrol. It was a tough one. Although the first goblin went down easily, the second one stayed standing after suffering 4 points of damage and then dealt Orecchiette  SIX POINTS. He was down to 1 HP. At this time, Bewie, seeing his meal-ticket in danger, jumped into the fray. Two swords definitely worked better than one and the party succeeded in defeating the goblins - killing one more before the third, not in the picture above, surrendered.

Too beat-up to worry about taking a prisoner, it was decided to take his weapons and send him packing before high-tailing it out of there. 6 wandering monster checks later and no further encounters, they exited the keep.

There's the potential that goblin they let go will report to his chief what happened and this may adversely effect the party when they return (my idea is to increase the wandering monster probability, increase the number of goblins in particular, the frequency of checks or some combination).  Since I'm in this for the hack-and-slash fun, to the dungeon's denziens I say bring it! 

Hopefully, there's no more poison gas traps though. I can't afford to hire another torch bearer as it is and Bewie's liable to start demanding hazard pay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Celebrating Little Wars

It was bound to happen.

After stumbling on this article a few months ago on Wargaming Miscellany about the centenary of Little Wars in 2013, I had the idea to prepare and play my own Little Wars game using a very modest number of the Seven Years War figures available from Armies in Plastic (something like 50 figures per side).

Their figures are affordable, they have a buy 3 get 1 free and a buy 5 get 3 free deal, and shipping is a flat rate. While the SYW range is lacking artillery and cavalry,their American Revolution range, at least to my undiscerning eye, can plausibly fill that gap.

But then I read the article a few weeks ago on Swords & Dorkery about home casting , and something inside me began to tick. A time bomb if ever there was one. I am now seriously considering abandoning my initial idea and casting my own lead 40mm Seven Years War style armies instead.

When I was a much younger lad, I had a 2 sets of Prince August molds - barbarians and dwarves (it seemed to me that they'd fight it out in some northern hill country). I cast up 10s of each, but never painted any, let alone play any kind of game with them. Shortly after, I put away my miniatures for 20 years (at some point mom did away with the box they were in, along with my beloved and now long lost Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 25mm from Dark Horse, but I digress). I recall the casting being a fun activity in and of itself. I am older now, wiser some would say (well, I don't personally know any who would say that, but it's possible) but at the very least, I am far more likely to paint up what I cast (please disregard that unpainted lead pile in my closet).

It's hard to beat the cost of the plastic figures - especially with their buy 5 sets and get 3 sets free deal. On the other hand, the more figures I cast, the lower the cost each as I amortize the cost of the molds and metal across each figure. Or so I'm telling myself. I'm not making any purchases yet, but I'm strongly considering it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meandering Through Flavor Country

If only I had read the remainder of the chapter before I posted my ideas for the Foreign Legion characteristics. It turns out, according to Porch, the Legion was encouraged to make use of initiative and to take cover as needed when under direct fire, at the level of the individual soldier - something completely opposite what was expected in the standard army. Since it's mentioned the chapter covering the 1890s early 1900s, a period overlapping with my rough idea of when my VSF games take place, I think it's safe to assume that such actions could be allowed in my games.

But how to implement this individual level of initiative under fire? do I give the unit some sort of defensive bonus? Allow each soldier to draw for activation? That seems tedious at the very least. Treat as in cover regardless of where they are on the table as long as they are in line or open order? That seems like a huge advantage when facing an opponent armed with range weapons (the lizard men have a unit of bows and 5 units of melee weapons). Perhaps I can allow individual soldiers a saving throw if they aren't in obvious cover (that is, aside from what I've placed on the tabletop)?

Hmm. I kind of like that. I already use saving throws for characters and army leaders (characters even get a bonus on the roll, to give them a kind of pulp-y adventure novel existence) so it would fit into the game. And, in light of the abstractions involved in playing a game - it makes sense that there are things the individual soldier can see on the ground, that I can't see: a downed tree there, a large rock there, a depression in the ground, etc.

Crisis averted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Flavor Country: Achtung!

Continuing my characterization of the armies involved in my VSF battles, I did some quick searching through Wikipedia (it's never wrong, right?) for generalized traits of the Prussian army (in my VSF world, the Prussians are France's mortal foe, in some cases allying with the more blood thirsty lizard men tribes).

Although they are largely positive bonuses, this is not much of an issue, as I play solo and the Prussians will be controlled by myself with input from various "ai" mechanisms.

Prussian Army: Bonuses and Penalties

  • Auftragstaktic (Individual Officer Initiative) - gain 1 extra action per turn per unit , individual unattached Prussian commanders gain 1 extra action to allow them to command their troops according to battlefield conditions regardless of initial planning.
  • Well Drilled - The lock step character of the German armies is much caricatured. Who am I to dissent? Allow change formation and move in one action with no penalty
  • Poor Intelligence Gathering - If it’s an attack on an enemy position, Prussians underestimate the strength of opposition - increase enemy number. Also, -1 on movement in non-European battles to reflect an army better suited to Europe than North Africa (or lost worlds for that
  • Punctuality/Reliability - Roll for what turn reinforcements are expected to arrive, then roll and see if the do arrive on that turn. If they do, +1 morale bonus for all Prussian units on table. If not, arriving unit suffers -1 morale and -1 to hit to reflect poor leadership and organization and the likely removal of their commander upon return to HQ.

Hopefully, I'll get around to painting the two units of Prussians that I've had for 4 or 5 years and which I primed 2 years ago and put these ideas to the test in a game.

From Virginia to the Bismark

As often happens, real life took center stage this weekend and I was unable to get any hobby time other than a few games of Overland and Sink the Bismark! Neither would be considered much of an intellectual challenge but I could play them while sitting on the living room couch, brain dead from being up early to give my girlfriend a few well deserved baby-free hours of sleep, holding my sleeping two month old son in one arm and rolling dice/moving counters with the other.

Overland, according to the designer, is "a SMALL solitaire game of the 1864 Virginia campaign. Player controls the Union forces, with a simple reaction/retreat system controlling the Rebs." The rules are simple (just 4 pages, generously spaced and with examples of play). The campaign map is one page b&w with most of the rules you need to remember printed on it.

There isn't much to the game in terms strategy. Mostly it falls to the luck of the die roll, and, while there is an opportunity for player choice, it seems to have little effect on the outcome. So, essentially, it's just die rolling and pushing some counters around that could represent any army in any time period. The BoardGameGeek reviews are pretty poor, so perhaps it was the sleep deprivation and the dullness of my mental faculties as a result, but I found it surprisingly addictive in spite of its flaws.

The real value to me is the game board. I think the campaign mechanism could be put to use as a simple solo campaign system for use with miniatures. Rather than determine the outcome of engagements by a single roll, the battles would be fought on the table top instead. The enemy reaction mechanism is not complicated and makes a reasonable starting point for an operational level "ai", although further tweaking seems necessary.

Sink the Bismark! was decidedly more fun and I ended up playing it several times even after my brain was well rested (or as rested as it's been since my son was born).

According to the designer: "A simple solitaire dice based game where the player takes on the role of the Anti Air coordinator on board the battleship Bismarck, while under attack by the British Swordfish aircraft."

The game incorporates randomized enemy placement and randomized (but logical) enemy movement. For your part, you attempt to "lead" the target with your anti-aircraft gun by predicting (guessing) where the planes will move. As the game goes on, if you've shot poorly early on like I seem to do, the sky is filled with planes. Hitting one gets easier as a result, but more will get their torpedoes through and the inevitable sinking of the Bismark will begin in earnest. This is not a "what if?" scenario. You will sink, it's all about how long can you prevent it. I admit that even knowing this, I felt a good deal of stress as I tried to hold off the enemy attack.

Points are awarded for each plane and torpedo you hit. Since you can't save the Bismark, consequently, the game has an arcade style feel to it, where your ultimate goal is to get a high score and to beat your previous best.

For a simple print and play game it does a good job of creating tension. I 'll definitely be playing this on my lunch breaks. Worth the download and printing.

Both are available for free from BoardGameGeek.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Flavor Country: Making This Unit Not the Same as That Unit

When I started wargaming (in 2005), I wasn't interested in history as much as I wanted to play with toy soldiers. But, I have found that at least some historical knowledge and even fictional knowledge (e.g.. Beau Geste, Sharpe's Rifles, Saving Private Ryan, etc.) of the troops involved makes the whole enterprise that much more enjoyable, especially if it can somehow be translated to game play to make each side distinct in abilities. While I haven't read extensively with this focus, I do make some effort to learn a little here and there. The details I pick up help me capture the flavor of the period as I understand it, which aids in my immersion in the game.

Recently I took to cobbling together some home-brewed Victorian/Colonial adventure rules (I consistently place Victorian sci-fi in my top gaming interests ). They are fairly generic, inspired by and borrowing from G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T, Soldier's Companion and an untold host of free rules on-line. In the present incarnation, troops are simply classified as European or Native. My intention was that they would be differentiated by special abilities/characteristics.

For example, La Légion étrangère get a +2 on their willingness to charge and +1 on their morale rolls, while Lizard Men warriors armed with swords and clubs (my Legion is often sent by France to either Venus or some "lost world" island) get +1 on their movement and +1 on their melee attacks. Those armed with bows or throwing spears do not get the melee bonus.

All of that is to to lead up to the fact that, currently, I'm reading The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force by Douglas Porch. Not a third of the way through and already Porch has inspired several additional ideas for the Legion, although I'm not settled on if, how or when I'd implement them.

La Légion étrangère: Bonuses and Penalties
  • Drunk - apparently drunkenness was rampant in the French Foreign Legion. This seems more individual than unit oriented and I try to avoid individual modifiers for members of a unit save for officers, unless it's obvious from looking at the mini. It's just too easy to overlook when I'm caught up in the game . On the other hand, I could justify unit wide drunkenness on the grounds that they all spent the night tying one on in the nearest settlement.
  • Desertion - Desertion rates were perceived as high but seemed to vary based on the locale and whether there was a suitable place or enemy to desert to. I would implement this after setup before the first turn with a roll to see if and how many individuals desert, potentially leaving me with a weakened force.
  • Impetuous Charge - more than once, legionnaires charged an enemy in spite of orders not to. I would probably add a rule such as "if finishes movement within charge distance, roll a check to charge, and if pass, charge the enemy." This takes some control out of my hands, and as a solo gamer, that's a good thing. Plus it's in character for the Legion.
  • Veterans vs. new volunteers - either in addition to other bonuses/penalties or combined into a package. The latter are more likely to desert, to be incapable of keeping up the march pace, have lower morale as they have not yet been indoctrinated into the glories of the regiment, etc.
These aren't rules specific and I imagine they could easily be worked into whatever your preferred rule set is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

D&D B/X Session 1

This past Friday night (well, technically, very early Saturday morning), I had some time to devote to my hobbies having bartered for it in exchange for watching our son for several hours the previous Saturday night.

After working on some scenery and printing/assembling some paper flats, I started in on a dungeon crawl as part of a solo D&D campaign using the Moldvy era rules. I'm still working on the mechanisms for the crawl and I envision using different approaches from session to session or at the very least, dungeon level to dungeon level.
As suggested in an article on Solo Nexus, i created a purpose for entering the dungeon. I used some random tables I found on the web and came up with: A shadowy figure hires the pc to enter the dungeon and retrieve....a lost flag/standard. I fleshed it out a bit more, added an abandoned keep above the dungeon, made some notes in my journal and then started in.

This is the report of that first session:

Map: pre-gen using online tool
Room Encounters: pre-gen using online tool - I hide the descriptions and only look at the one appropriate to the room i'm entering.

The party consists of Orecchiette Rapini(my character, 1st level fighter), Bewie (a hireling, 0 level human) and Zoulford (hireling, 0 level human, torch bearer)

They entered the Keep in the early morning (I don't know why this is important but it seemed like it might be,so there you go). The first room was empty, but the breaking in of the door must have alerted a goblin patrol to their presence, and the first wandering monster encounter ensued.

The party successfully defeated the patrol, though that wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Orecchiette , for a fighter, trained in the art of combat, and with 18 strength no less, sure did swing and miss a lot . I was about to throw my dice out the window when things turned around, although not before both he and Bewie suffered injuries ( 3 points of damage each). One of the hirelings picked up a short sword from the encounter to replace his club (I forget which as I write this but it was dutifully noted on the npc's record sheet).

We explored two more rooms – the first was vast and empty, but the second was the first pre-gen encounter: 3 gnomes. A combination of the b/x reaction table and the Age of Fable Tables for Fables had them fighting to the death, no quarter given.

I was surprised to say the least - I mean come on, aggressive and overtly hostile gnomes? Did someone steal them and take them around the world taking embarrassing pictures of them in front of well-known landmarks?

I had actually thought to try to do a little role playing but none of the party speaks anything other than the common language and the gnomes only spoke gnomish. Apparently our hand gestures and the presence of backpacks and sacks must have caused the gnomes to assume we were after gold. Despite having none of it themselves, they were prepared to defend their non-existent stores to the death and they launched into their attack. Fortunately, this encounter went better for the party- all 3 gnomes dispatched with no damage received. After 20 turns of play and a very late hour (4am), I opted to stop for the night (not “in game” stop, just real life).

The party stands over the vanquished gnomes (or at least the counters that proxied for them - there are pictures which look suspiciously goblin like on the other side. In retrospect, i should have replaced them with some kind of casualty marker)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And it begins..

I just spent the entirety of my lunch break getting this blog set up (mostly wrestling with getting the picture in the header to work the way I wanted it to), so this will be a quick note.

About four months ago, aware of the impending birth of my son and the likelihood of reduced time spent with miniatures in the "man-cave", I started maintaining an off-line journal of my gaming related thoughts and activities as a way to stay involved in the hobby, even if the time to properly game/paint was greatly reduced. Recently, I realized that I was updating it most often after reading posts on the gaming related blogs I follow (I read far far too many).

Since I have learned a great deal from, and been inspired by many of, the blogs that I read, I feel it's time to participate in the community with a little more "give" to go with all of my "take" and move my ramblings on-line as well.