Saturday, August 11, 2018

Two-Story "City Block" Building

City Block MDF building by Sarissa Precision (28mm) with 20mm modern Africa figures
I decided that I need more buildings if I want to do a big skirmish set in a town. The great thing about 20mm as my chosen scale for modern Africa, is I can use buildings from all kinds of scales and they don't look too off -- 15mm, 20mm, 1/72 scale, and 28mm. I have scratch-built a number of my buildings, but it is very labor-intensive (and fiddly, working with foam core). So, I decided to try out one of the MDF buildings that the market is burgeoning with right now.
The unpainted, assembled City Block buildings from an image on Sarissa Precision's website
At Historicon 2018, I picked up three MDF buildings from Wargame Tools LLC. Terry Jones is a nice guy, and I bought my MDF container ship off of him a couple years back. As I was flipping through his inventory at Historicon, I noticed that he was carrying buildings from Sarissa Precision, as well as TTCombat (who made my freighter). I really liked one of the small, simple "city block" buildings and picked it up. I decided not to buy the extra story, which he sells, because I wasn't sure how this would turn out. This is mainly because I am not the biggest fan of MDF buildings, in general. I think they have a certain "flatness" -- or 2-dimensional look to them, sometimes. Plus, I've seen people through them on the table unpainted thinking they look accurate, but this definitely strikes me as wrong looking. I know that I can simply give the wood a texture if I like -- stucco or whatever -- but that would seem to work against the texture that is incised on them already. I also picked up two apartment buildings from TTCombat, but chose to build the Sarissa Precision one first.
The bare bones instructions -- note my two arrows I added pointing out "notches up" on the side pieces that I missed
I can honestly say that I have never had a building go together easier, and be better designed, than this kit. Although the instructions were very bare bones -- I missed one subtlety that more written text would have prevented. Luckily, it was not dry yet, and I could correct my mistake. It comes in three levels, including the ground level, the upper story, and the flat rooftop. I chose this building because miniatures could easily be deployed on top of the roof, and all the windows were "open" so figures could shoot through them. The biggest surprise was the simple but clever way the three levels went together. There were two rectangular tabs on the top of the ground floor and upper story, and these fit easily and snugly into the floor of the level above. I thought I was going to have make some modifications to make the roof and upper story come off easily, but I did not.
The building went together SO easily. I used rubber bands to add pressure and keep the walls square while drying
Once the three levels were glued together with Tacky glue, I left them overnight to dry. Then I sprayed them with Krylon acrylic black spray primer. Next, I had a decision to make. What color, and how to paint the walls? They were incised with laser cut lines to represent block stone -- like a limestone or travertine style office building. The reason I generally like resin buildings better is their cuts are deeper, and dry-brushing is easy. I decided to paint the base coat the stone a craft paint called "Raw Siena" -- a somewhat leathery brown that I hoped would stay in the crevices between the stones and on enough of the stone face once I dry-brushed its flat surface.
I REALLY like how the color turned out on this building -- I feel it has the golden glow of aged limestone
I let this dry overnight, too, and then dry brushed the stones Howard Hues Colonial Khaki. I shook my head as I completed each of the tree levels. I wasn't happy with the look. Like I said, not enough relief in the thin, laser incising. Oh, well, maybe when all put together, it would look nice. From that point, I began working on the details. I went with Iron Red (craft paint) for the wooden parts on the windows and main front door. I trimmed the edges with Dark Brown. The interior walls were painted a light gray. I decided not to wash the gray, as the black base coat showed through in an irregular enough fashion that it did not look to "cookie-cutter" sharp. After all the details were finished, I set it aside to dry.
Close up of the entrance of the building. I think it looks fine with 20mm figures -- even though it is 28mm scale
I had decided the previous night to try a brown wash on the Khaki dry-brushed walls, hoping it would settle in the crevices even more. In a bit of serendipity, it did an amazing job of "mellowing" the stone color to look like aged, golden limestone. The difference between it prior to washing and after were so striking that I was upset I hadn't taken a photograph the night before! After the walls dried, I painted the sidewalk out front (also thinly laser etched). I decided to use only two rows of stones for the sidewalk, and do the the rest as a kind of grass "tree lawn" in front of the building. I flocked it with my usual method and added in some tufts here and there to give it that 3-Dimensional look.
A look at the printed floor pattern I glued into place
I decided to dress up the floors of the two levels with a printed wood grain pattern. I simply Googled "Doll+House+printed+floors" and came up with a number of sites. I chose a pattern I found on Pinterest, of all places. Resizing it in Photoshop, I simply printed it off at the local copy place in color. I trimmed it to size and I think it adds a nice little touch to the building!
The top piece -- the roof section -- is flat topped, which I liked. I flocked the roof with mixed gray stone ballast
The final touch was to flock the flat rooftop. I have seen buildings that have a crushed stone look to the rooftop like this, and thought this would look better than just a basic paint. I like the way it gives texture to the building, too. I painted it black, then painted it again in white glue, pouring on Woodland Scenics Coarse Gray Blend Ballast.
A look at how the ground floor and the sidewalk in front of it -- this was the easiest MDF kit I've ever assembled!
All in all, I am VERY happy with how this MDF building came out. It makes me look forward to putting together the two TTCombat ones I purchased next!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mice and Squirrels Tell Their Tales

The board's center, with the cage containing the Satyr in the upper right, and Weasels and Pine Martens treasure hunting
I received two AARs from my players after our second Frostgrave game. For my write-up of the action, read Caged...Like Rats! I'd been waiting to see if any reports from the other five players showed up before publishing these, but it looks like that's all. First up is the Mouse's Tale, by Mike S. It is followed by the Squirrels report, by Joel.
The Mice adventurers, including the Warden T.B. at top, center

A Mouse Tells His Tale

Well, we headed into the jungle again. Hopefully this trip would show more profit than the last foray.  As we came upon a major clearing, we found a chest in a clump of bush. We sent the regular crewman back to the boat with it -- time enough to open it later. After doing this, we approached the clearing center. To our surprise, there was a Satyr in a wooden cage, guarded by jungle rats.
The Mice decided to ignore the "Weasel types" (Pine Martens and Weasels), who busily scooped up treasures
As we came closer we noticed some Weasel types in one direction and some larger rodents across from us. Well we had competition for the crewman. Our Heritor M.M., along with the archer R.M., decided to fill one of  the rats with arrows. Well, it seems more archery practice is called for! It took us several more shots than it should have. While they were about that I -- the Warden T.B. -- grabbed our infantryman Pynkie and headed out to flank the rats. I saw a weasel trying to scurry off with a chest and attempted a lightning strike, which failed to go off. As I continued the flanking move, we noticed the large rodents were having the luck. They were approaching the cage as we fiddled around.
Noticing the Satyr in the wooden cage, the Mice attacked the Rat guards, hoping to free him (central treasure)
I also noticed a wolverine-looking Warden headed for a clump of brush that had part of a chest showing. I sent Pynkie ahead as I tried a lightning strike. Well this one went off -- and did it ever! The wolverine's fur stood up, started smoking and he collapsed. I started moving forward to support Pynkie against a single crewman, when there was a loud cry in the distance. We decided it was time for discretion and headed back to the ship.

M.M. and the archer joined us as we returned, we caught up to the crewman Jerry, just as we got to the ship. Well, at least we didn't lose anyone like we lost Tom last time...!

A Mouse captive in a cage (one of the central treasures) guarded by Jungle Rats

Squirrels Tails

A howl off in the distance goes unanswered.  Those bushy tailed Bandits stepped into the clearing on our right and paused.  That was the signal Dukka, our leader, was looking for. He left the cover of the rocky knoll and paused ON the dead Jungle Rat in front on us.  This made the dead rats right rear paw twitch-twitch and started a chain reaction.  Red's tail went flick-flick-flick, Flopsy ground squirrel got nervous leg, I heard that thump-thump-thump from her hidden well behind us.
The Squirrel's allies for the game, the Bandits (Raccoons) advance towards the cage, discovering a treasure
Those Bandits looked at us.  We looked at the last two Jungle Rat guards. The caged mouse looked at the Bandits.  The Squirrels and Bandits cautiously advanced in unison.  The two Jungle Rats stood their ground.  Off in the distant a howl went up, a rally call that went unanswered again.  The eight of us got to the cage together, the Bandits paused, looked at the Jungle Rat guards.  The last two Jungle Rats looked at Dukka and bared their teeth. Dukka looked at the caged mouse, lightning strikes off in the distance. The caged mouse could not take it anymore and immediately fainted.  Before the Jungle Rats could move against us, a bushy tail bandits broke into the cage like the expert he was. The mouse slumped out of the cage into the bandit's paws as the Jungle Rats jumped on the adventurers.  The two guards were easily put down and before we left the cage we filled the cage with those two dead rats. The End
The tense scene as the Squirrels and Raccoons arrive at the cage and decide to cooperate against the Rat guards

Monday, August 6, 2018

"F" Troop - More Post-Apocalyptic Figures

The two different poses of "Chem Soldiers" from Sgt. Major Miniatiures shown above
I decided to keep working on some Post-Apocalyptic figures, so chose another batch form Sgt. Major Miniatures to paint up. These are labeled as "Chem Soldiers," and are every bit as cool as the Blood Brotherhood ones I painted up earlier. My idea for this gang was to be an army unit that somewhat stayed together after the fall of civilization. They were a long way from home, so decided to try to make their way back. Discipline has fallen by the wayside to some degree, and equipment needs to be scavenged. Some prefer to wear the "NBC suits" (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical), though the likelihood of everything being in perfect working order is slim.
Each figure was individualized to represent scavenging of equipment
For their uniforms, I decided to paint their helmets and greatcoats a faded Army green. I have a craft paint that is a very faded light green, and used this as a base coat. Then I watered down a darker olive drab, and applied it as a wash, experimenting to get the right shading effect. There were two main poses in the packs -- one pack of four had gas masks while the other had a cloth of some sort over their lower face. They were all holding some type of sub-machine gun, it appeared. The gas masks were painted the dark olive drab, with the eyes and filters in steel, with a lighter gun metal color in the eye lenses.
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The cloth covering the lower face was individualized to represent the unit having to scavenge for equipment to replace their's as it wears out. The same was true for the packs and pouches. I used a variety of colors to represent them not having a reissue source for army equipment.  Each helmet was also customized with some sort of graffiti. This is, of course, inspired by images of U.S. soldiers doing the same overseas in Vietnam and other conflicts. I figure that with the world undergoing an apocalypse, it would bring out a very morbid sense of humor.
I added graffiti to the soldier's helmets and greatcoats -- like I figured might happen as discipline breaks down
It was a lot of fun adding the various customizations to the poses. Each pack of four figures had slightly different poses, but were the same basic equipment. This individualization makes them a more interesting looking unit. Plus, it will make it easier to tell them apart in skirmish games!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Circle of Mist for Ghost Archipelago

A Badger Warden summons a Mist circle for protection from enemies in Ghost Archipelago
Midway through our first game of Ghost Archipelago several weeks ago, my player controlling the Badgers asked, did you make terrain for the Mist spell? I was surprised -- I thought I had gone through the spells each crew chose for their warden thoroughly. I had Mist on the "nobody picked" list, so hadn't bothered to do one yet. Well, after the game, it was pretty obvious that I would have to fix that situation!
Step 1: Create a 4" cardstock circle and cut out the inner part to form a ring (then divide it into 4 pieces)
Fortunately, about the same time, a bottle of pills I opened had a large rectangular piece of cotton fiber. I saved it, and it turned out to be perfect for two of the correct, 4" diameter circles the spell casts. I decided that all I really needed to model was the other perimeter of the spell. The players could imagine the interior also filled with mist -- plus it would make it a heck of a lot easier to game it out!
Step 2: Trace the arcs onto a suitable material for bases, then flock them (here's my "first stage" of flocking)
I began by tracing a 4" circle on a piece of cardstock. I then traced a smaller circle inside of it and cut out the 4" diameter ring. Next, I divided the circle in fourths, since that was my plan. The arcs of each piece, when connected, would create the 4" circle. I figured it would be easier to adjust four pices to the terrain on the tabletop than if it was one solid ring. I took one of the arcs and traced it onto a sheet of magnetic material eight times. Here was where I made a mistake. I should have chosen thicker material. My magnetic material was too thin and warped when flocked, curling up on the edges.
Step 3: Finishing the flocking
I then treated the magnetic material exactly like I do the bases for my miniatures. I painted each with a mixture of brown paint and white glue. I immediately dipped it into a tub of Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast. Once dry, I painted it with a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water, sprinkling on Woodland Scenics Earth Turf. Finally, when dry again, I applied full strength white glue, flocking it with Blended Grass from the same company.
Step 4: Pulling and stretching the cotton to the shape and length needed, then gluing it to each base with white glue
At this point, I took the cotton material (same as in cotton balls, except rectangular rather than spherical) and stretched it out to the thinnest I wanted it to be. It looked like it would be enough, so I made eight pieces of the same size. Then, I drew a thick line of white glue across the arc of the flocked material, pressing the cotton down onto the base and stretching it out to the look I wanted. It required propping it up against something so that it didn't fall over and lay flat. Once dry, I sprayed it with a quick burst of matte finish from each side. This tended to knock the cotton over, but I pulled it back up and it stayed erect. I did this twice for each piece. The spray coating gives it more consistency and strength so it isn't pulled apart. I'll instruct my players to pick it up by the base rather than the cotton mist wall, but it should be strong enough to last.

I liked how it turned out -- much better than a simple circle of white felt or something!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Caged...Like Rats! Second Fur-grave Game

A Splintered Light Miniatures Weasel explores for hidden treasures among jungle ruins in our Ghost Archipelago game
We played our second game of Fur-grave last night. A few of the regulars could not make it, so I fielded a crew to make it an even six players. I had chosen one of the scenarios from the rule book, Drichean Cages, to play. Of course, since I substituted Splintered Light Miniatures Rats for the Dricheans in my campaign, I renamed it, "Caged Like Rats!" I set up a fairly symmetrical 6'x4' board with two scratch-built, wooden cages each containing a prisoner, as central treasures. There were 11 ordinary treasures scattered about the table, too. This table did not feature any temples, but just random ruins overgrown by jungle.
Looking down the 6'x4' table - you can see the two cages in the center. Most jungle patches towards the center had treasures, as well. Captain Hugh and crew advance at the bottom left.
Since narrative AARs are becoming quite the rage with Frostgrave, I will do ahead and try my hand at it here, since I actually got to play this time...!

The hard-eyed, hulking Heritor motioned his crew forward, after inspecting the bodies of the slain adventurers. He thought he recognized some of the crew as belonging to a rag-tag band that had been successfully exploring the isles of the Ghost Archipelago for years. Yoti, his hunter, murmered, "Rats, sir -- this is definitely their work. I see their tracks everywhere." The Coyote was seldom wrong, and the Wolverine captain had grown to rely on his advice through the years. Captain Hugh was contemplating an idea. If he could find any captives, perhaps they could be Shanghaied into his crew and persuaded to show them where they'd hidden their treasures.
Three Ratmen guard one of the two cages containing a prisoner, which acted as the central treasures
Soon, the five adventurers entered a clearing in the jungle. Yoti pointed out a wooden cage just beyond a small patch of trees. Inside, was another crewman from the unfortunate band. Surrounding his cage were three large ratmen, heavily armored and carrying swords. His warden, Jack, another wolverine gestured to ask if he should call out to summon help. Jack had a way with the animals of the jungle, and his howls often brought creatures to assist the crew in their mission. Hugh nodded, and the wolverine warden's piercing howl rang through the clearing. Simultaneously, Yoti trotted forward, followed by the two Beavers, Bucky and Bentley. Hugh's chainmail jingled as he ran forward, as well.
Early success for my crew! Bucky finds a treasure amid jungle ruins, while Capt. Hugh and Yoti dispatch a Ratman
The five split into several groups, Jack leading Bentley off to the left around the patch of trees, while Yoti and Hugh went to the right. Bucky ducked into the trees, having spotted something hidden amidst the vegetation. It turned out to be a moss-encrusted oaken chest. The beaver scooped it up, and checking with his captain, began to carry the heavy chest back the way they'd come. Yoti snapped off a couple bow shots at the closest guard, the second shot wounded the rat who growled in pain. He scurried towards the Coyote hunter, slowing his approach at the sight of the menacing wolverine captain when he appeared around the grove of trees. Yoti fired again, wounding it further, then dashed in with is sword out. Captain Hugh followed in his wake, and with one mighty swing of his axe, dashed the rat lifeless to the ground.
Action raged around the board as players seek to scoop up as many treasures as possible! Counter-clockwise from right, Mike S (Mouslings), Brian (Weasels), Joel (Squirrels), Keith (Raccoons), Mike W (Pine Martens)
Yoti advanced on the next closest guard, feathering him with an arrow, too. Both then waded in on this guard, swinging their blades. Hugh felt a tingling run up his arm and recognized the blue glow surrounding his axe -- it was Warden Jack, casting Mystic Energy upon his weapon. His swipe staggered the rat guard, but he could see it was still alive and preparing to strike back. Hugh narrowed his eyes and summoned the Surge of energy which would let him act again, quickly, before the enemy could respond. His eyes twitched in pain, but the Surge worked and his axe struck again before the rat could reply. Another guard lay lifeless at their feet, and neither had suffered a wound.
Cute, but evil! The Mousling Crew were my main opponents on the table, felling my Warden
Meanwhile, Jack was hurrying along to catch up with Bentley, who had also spotted something that looked valuable in a clump of overgrown ruins. Bentley was surprised that no jungle creatures had appeared in answer to his call. Perhaps the rats infesting this area had slain all the animals? He did successfully cast a couple more spells -- empowering Bentley and Captain Hugh with Beast Strength. Just as Bentley reached the grove containing the ruins, he spotted several figures hurrying towards them from across the clearing. More rats? No, he could see they were Mouslings  from a rival crew -- probably also intent on absconding with the captives. Just then, the Jack's fur began to stand up on end and he could almost smell the electricity in the air. He ducked, but too late -- BZZZAPP! A massive bolt of lightning arced across the clearing from the Mousling Warden and knocked Jack to the ground. Bentley looked back at the still form of the warden, " Jack...? You okay?" No reply. The beaver growled in rage and charged into the mousling who'd entered the grove after the same treasure. They exchanged blows, but neither was hurt. 
Freed! The Raccoons and Squirrels team up to free the prisoner while keeping the Rat guards busy
 Meanwhile, Captain Hugh and Yoti stood before the stout wooden cage. The other rat guard had been felled by the Mousling crew. Both hammered on the wooden bars, but to no avail. The prisoner was a bedraggled-looking Satyr who looked at them fearfully. The wolverine and coyote hammered on the cage again, and still the wood held. Suddenly, Yoti tugged on his captain's arm and pointed. Across the clearing, a horde of rats was pouring from the jungle, headed towards the cages. "Sorry, mate!" Hugh growled to the Satyr. "Time to go! Bentley, Jack -- back to the boat!" As the captain turned around, he saw a wounded Bentley carrying his warden Jack in his arms as he followed. Yoti turned and fired a few arrows into the rat horde in the hopes of slowing them down. He snickered as he noticed the Mouslings also taking to their heels. He also caught sight of a couple more crews rapidly absconding -- they looked like Weasels and Pine Martens, but the hunter couldn't be sure. Up ahead, he could see Bucky still waddling along with the chest he'd found. "Well," the hunter thought, "at least they'd have something to show from this landing on this rat-infested island!"
From the other side of the table, the Raccoons cast Brambles to wall off the guards temporarily,
With six players, things moved relatively slow at times. We need get better as players in with taking our turn if the previous player is on the other side of the table and our move will not affect his. As it was, we had to cut the game off early -- just as my Heritor and Hunter arrived at the cage! Bad luck. A series of horrible die rolls kept us from opening it up -- more bad luck. In fact, my rolls were pretty bad in general. After a successful casting of Beast Call, I managed to never roll a 10+ the rest of the game (5+ turns?) to summon any random creatures. Luckily, Warden Jack would survive on the post-game die roll and was just knocked out. The Lightning Blast spell is TOUGH! It is a +6 shooting attack, to 1d20 roll? My Mousling opponent almost maxed out on damage, but did enough to take the warden out on one roll.

All in all, it was fun to play a game and not just GM. On the other side of the table, Keith's Raccoons managed to free the prisoner in their cage, with assistance from Joel's Squirrels. The Weasels ignored the cages and scooped up as many treasures as they could. The Pine Martens, also in the center but on my side of the table, also ignored the cages for the treasures. Captain Hugh's "Crushers" -- as I called my crew -- came up on the short end in the treasure hunting. They'll be back, though, and hopefully fortune will smile upon them on that day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

An Interlude with a Prelude

The Blood Brotherhood of the Wastes

When I came home from Historicon last week, I had a “problem” I hadn’t experienced in quite awhile. I wasn’t sure what to paint next! I pretty much had everything I needed for Ghost Archipelago (except for the four chimps I bought at the convention). I didn’t feel like continuing working on the Fox army for my fantasy miniatures battle rules (a completely separate project involving the Splintered Light Miniatures animals, but on multi-figure “unit” bases). Hmm...what to paint, what to paint...?

One of the three types of poses in Sgt. Major Miniatures Cultists line that I bought

At Historicon, my friend Jason had brought along his choice of post-Apocalyptic miniatures rules - Across the Dead Earth. I read them and liked them - more so than another set I had borrowed to read, This is Not a Test. I always imagine post-Apocalyptic as the Mad Max movies - not the weirdo, magical mutations of the old Gamma World role playing games. No psionic abilities, no lobster-clawed humanoids. Just desperate, punk rockers meet motorcycle gangs type action.

Back of the three Waste Cultist pose

Last year, I picked up a couple dozen or more 28mm Foundry figures for a buck each from a guy who bought out a store going out of business. They were a mix of street gangs, modern military types, and armed civilians. I sorted through his collection looking for figures that would work for a post-Apocalyptic world. They were to supplement the packs I had been slowly picking up from Sgt. Major Miniatures at the conventions. They have an amazing post-Apocalyptic line, though they seem to have stopped coming to shows. Their website says they’re closed and up for sale, so hopefully someone will buy them and revive the line.

Two of the Waste Cultists wearing gas masks

So, I decided to begin painting post-Apocalyptic figures. Yes, yes, I am still running Ghost Archipelago. This is - as the title I’d this blog entry says - a Prelude to future games (no pun intended). Before they closed, I had purchase two “gangs” - how Across the Dead Earth organizes a player’s forces. One of these were Chaos Cultists, which could also easily work for my Pulp games.

These hooded guys with sub machine guns could also easily be used in my Pulp games

There were three main varieties of poses. A pack of three sub machine gun-toting hooded and robed figures (think KKK-looking). The other pack had five robed and hooded guys with ninja-style face masks. Two wore gas masks instead and had full backpacks. The other three had the upper half of their face visible. All five carried a black powder looking weapon. These would be my first gang -perhaps the Blood Broetherhood of the Wastes?

I chose to give them iron red robes with tan trim. White would make them look way too KKK-ish, and might draw some objections from players (and in this current political climate, myself included). I painted the robes and hoods a craft paint color called Iron Red - which is just a slight bit brighter than a red-brown. I dry brushed them with Howard Hues Middle Eastern Flesh, which gives it a nice orangish cast. I really like how the robes turned out.

As for the accessories, I painted them with a leather, tan, or olive drab look to show they scavenged their equipment Andy were not uniformly equipped. I also made them multiracial with the majority Caucasian, along with a couple black and a couple intended to be Hispanic/Middle Eastern or Asian. It’s interesting that when doing painting the periods that I have, it is not something I have had to do much. My gladiators were multi-racial, too, but the other periods I’ve painted were not as diverse as I envision the near future.

Finally, I needed to fit their base flocking scheme to the imagined wasteland of the future. I went back to gluing large rocks onto their bases first. I washed the boulders brown to make them blend in more. Next, I added Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast. I used some greenish-brown tufts and a tiny dab of grass to give it some color. Finally, I sealed it out withmix of white glue and water.

I really like how they turned out, and look forward to doing another batch!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spur-of-the-moment Historicon 2018: The Games

The Evil Leader and his Mad Scientist keep a lookout on the top floor of their secret hideout inside a ruined chapel
I had not preregistered for any games before I left because this was such a spur of the moment trip. Jason was scheduled to arrive at 3:30 pm, and we had planned to hit up our favorite buffet, Dieners, for dinner that night. So, I was looking only for an evening game on Thursday, the first day of the convention. I went through the booklet and marked games that sounded interesting. I even prioritized them somewhat, since I didn't want to hold up the event registration line. However, every single game I was interested in was sold out on Thursday night. World War II was extremely popular this year -- I would estimate that 1/3 of the games were WW II. I rarely play this period for a couple reason. I am absolutely uninterested in tanks. You can talk to me about Stugs, Panzers, Shermans, Tigers -- whatever -- and my eyes immediately begin to glaze over. The other reason is I feel that if rules writers are an accurate simulation of the conflict, Germany would have conquered the world. Too many seem to be in love with the Nazis, which kind of rubs me the wrong way.
One of the "extras" belonging to my Evil opponent in Jason's 7TV game I played in on Friday night
Anyway, Jason was stuck in traffic, as an accident shut down the freeway, putting him three hours behind. He HAD registered for a game, so I just made sure I was ready to shuttle him quickly through the stowing his luggage at our hotel, registering for the convention, and finding his game. We accomplished all that in about a half hour, and he was able to make his 7pm game. I decided to walk across the street and have dinner and a beer at the Lancaster Brewing Company taproom across the street. By good fortune, who should sit down next to me at the bar but prolific rules writer from Too Fat Lardies, Richard Clarke? We had an absolute blast chatting away about rules, History, our two countries, and more. Three hours (and quite a few beers) whipped by and I was soon hurrying back over to the convention to meet Jason as his game ended.
My extras had military training and quickly began to whittle away at my opponent's troops
We went back to our room -- Jason had booked a double room at Tru by Hilton, a new modern hotel about a five minute walk away from the Lancaster Host Resort (just past the Classic Inn, for those who know that one). While we talked, I went through Friday's event listing prioritizing my event choices. Historicon would have trouble all weekend printing their event tickets for attendees to register for games. Both Friday and Saturday's events did not go out until those mornings -- instead of 4pm the day before, as usual. Hopefully, they get that worked out for next year. It really kind of handicaps those who want to run or play in a morning event if people don't have access to it the day before! Perhaps they kept event preregistration open too long, and it was too complex of a process to figure out how many tickets to print out for each based on open slots.
The missile silo in the early phases of the game, with my "Star" taking possession of it
Luckily, I got my first choice -- Jason's 7TV game with the good guys attacking an evil scientists' lair. He set it up with three separate scenarios running on the same table simultaneously -- much like I do with my French & Indian War games using my Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. I am pretty sure this is the first time that I have ever played in one of Jason's games -- and I've known him for more than 30 years! Usually, if he and I are at a convention and one of us is running a game it is ME doing so. I helped him carry everything over and set up a bit beforehand.
The Missile Silo opens up in preparation for warhead launch, as one of my extras takes cover by the heavy metal doors
Jason's game (and the rules) were a lot of fun. My opponent in my scenario was a great guy, and we had a blast chatting all throughout the game. Both of us were being very fair -- deferring to others on line of sight and other questions. It is always a good thing when you roll the dice at a convention and come up with a good opponent. We have all been in games where a sourpuss or poor sport ruins the experience. Not so this time, and my opponent even paid me the compliment afterwards of saying what made the game most fun was gaming with me. The rules were relatively easy to pick up, once you wrapped your head around the sequence and the combat process. On each of the 9 turns of the game, each player turns over a countdown card -- a random event, of sorts -- which generally allows it to do some extra things prior to their turn. Once the turn itself begins, players spend out "plot points" -- think command points more than victory points -- to move and combat with their figures.
Jason's table in the second game on Saturday morning with pairs of opponents playing on their portion of the table
In the early going, I had my opponent on the ropes. My military trained "extras" (as opposed to your Star and Co-Star) had picked off three of the enemy to no losses myself. It wasn't just that I was using good cover, my guys seemed to be just a tad better than his (though we had fewer), and I took advantage of a few poor die rolls of his. One of his countdown cards turned the tables, though, and I loss two of my extras in one turn. The game went back and forth until the final turn. For my opponent's fortune card, he turned up one that allowed one of his figures to sprint towards the missile silo to "claim" it (up to that point, my figures had been closer, and thus had it under control). This gave him the edge in victory points, as I had inflicted more losses on him. Great game! If you like a game with some random components -- the countdown cards -- that can mix things up a bit and disrupt carefully laid plans. .Jason was running it again the next morning (alas, on a different table...). So, we packed up, moved everything, and set it up again before calling it a night.
My faction's two freighters which were bringing arms to this fictional African nation undergoing an Islamist insurgency
On Saturday, I signed up for a gaming being run by the guys from Miniature Building Authority. It was set in modern Africa and would feature some of their excellent 28mm terrain that they sell at conventions and online. The scenario featured an insurgent attack on a port town. The government forces had recently been reinforced by a U.S. contingent. Just to add some confusion to the mix, a criminal faction was at the port trying to make a weapons delivery to the insurgents and some other locals. I played the criminals, trying my best to not get caught in between the shooting by the two insurgent forces and the government and U.S. contingents. We had half our forces in the port on two freighters, and a poorer armed half on the opposite side of the table. Their mission was to hijack two trucks and drive them to the port for pickup of the arms.
An insurgent IED takes out a police vehicle and most of the police station -- and some of their own forces!
This was definitely a game of "best laid plans going astray," as the violence opened with the insurgents setting off an IED which took down the police station (killing half the prisoners they wanted to rescue), as well as the truck they were sending on their own to the port to pick up their arms. No doubt, inside that overturned white van was our payment for the arms! Although the opening shots went to the insurgent side, it quickly became obvious that the U.S. player was on a roll. His shooting was accurate and overwhelming, as he took down Islamist group after group. His patrol vehicles aggressively scoured the town, shooting up anything that looked like an insurgent.
My sailors on the docks awaiting vehicles to load the arms onto and moving to take positions to secure the port area
My two hijacked trucks were in cross hairs, but he ended up deciding not to shoot. However, he or the government player shut down all five of the routes that I could cross the town towards the port on. As one route was closed off by heavy firefights, I redirected to another -- only to have that one become a shooting gallery, as well. I kept going for backup after backup until I had only one option, which was blocked by two insurgent technicals dueling it out with the U.S. forces. It was only after the insurgents in the pickup trucks were gunned down that I was able to burn rubber and zip across the main route along the beach, into the squatter town, and towards the port.
Insurgents pop up on rooftops to engage the U.S. and government forces
It was a curious thing -- my forces were maneuvering for position the entire game, but ended up never actually firing a shot. My missions would have been compromised by me opening up on any of the other players, except if they initiated combat. The other players seemed to sense this and never actually targeted my guys. There was one tense moment when I put my entire port force on "overwatch" and told the government security force player if any of his men inside the compound opened up on the insurgents (provoking return fire into the port, near our ships, cargo, and fuel) I would shoot all of them. The government player backed down and the port became a relative safe zone.
A U.S. mounted patrol dismounts to better engage enemy targets in buildings
It was a fun game, but the die rolling of the U.S. player made it horribly one-sided. He suppressed and destroyed each insurgent group as it popped up to fire. The U.S. and government forces took some losses, but they paled next to the massive losses the insurgents suffered. Just as my trucks were arriving near the port, we called the game on time. It was obvious who had won and who had lost. My missions were probably going to be about 75% successful, but I doubtless came in a distant third or second, at best. The rules were MBA's own "Open Conflict" rules, which seemed to me a bit inspired by Force on Force/Ambush Alley. They were easy to learn and did a good job of reflecting the deadliness of modern warfare, yet leaving things open to random chance.
Although heavily armed, my sailors never ended up firing a shot, as we sought to accomplish our objectives

I took pictures of some of the other games going on at Historicon, of course. One, in particular, was not only visually impressive, it was interesting to me. Jeff Allen ran a game of Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago for 10 players on both Friday and Saturday night. It was a show-stopped, spectacularly sited in the lobby in front of the main gaming (Distelfink) room. Many people stopped by and took pictures. One of Jeff's purposes was to promote the game, and he did a great job of that. Most people asked what it was and watched some of the action.
The star on a board full of eye candy was this isle with its carved lizard mouth entrance -- with glowing LED lights!
I tried to get into the game both nights and it was sold out. I talked to the GM both nights, and he said that he actually had a couple slots for walkups, too -- registering it for 8 but ending up having 10 player positions by the time he had it ready to go. What I especially liked was his game enticed a number of younger gamers, too. These are the type of events at our shows that can go a long way towards introducing the next generation to our hobby.
The GM could lift off the top of the Lizard Isle to reveal a cave with more glowing LED lights beneath
As a member of the Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago Facebook group, I knew something that most observers did not. Most of Jeff's amazing terrain was simply raw styrofoam a week beforehand. Jeff literally worked on the terrain up until the day he ran the game. He said he spent time on Thursday at the convention painting and flocking in a marathon effort to get it ready for the tabletop.
A look at the spectacular South Seas board for Jeff Allen's Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago game
As a GM who runs games that receive praise for how they look on the table, I found that simply amazing. I would never have the guts to trust myself to get this done in such a last-minute fashion! I am such a planner and so "anal-retentive" that I can't imagine loading up unfinished terrain into my car to go to a show. I would be pulling all-nighters beforehand, rather than do that! I do admit that I often -- as a show approaches -- think of some final tweak that I want to complete before the scheduled hosting of the event. More than once, I have loaded miniatures or terrain that were dullcoated less than 24 hours before. So, maybe this deadline pressure is something that all GMs are addicted to -- ha, ha!
Adventurers onto these islands would be intimidated by this altar with a skeleton of a chained prisoner
Jeff's Frostgrave game seemed to be the appropriate, signature event for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Historicon. About the time he was beginning to work on the major portion of his scenery a week before the show, I had finally decided to attend. It was a good trip, all in all, with plenty of spare time at the dealer area or wandering around checking out events. It was a bit light on games played, but considering I usually don't play ANY games when I run events at conventions, something is better than nothing! Thanks to Jason for sharing his room, Chris for allowing me to ride along, and all the GMs and Vendors who helped make my trip a success!!
The steep steps leading up to the pyramid on the temple isle on the Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago board