Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Scratch-built "Snake Rail" fence sections

A close-up of my scratch-built, Snake Rail Fencing used in one of my French & Indian War games
This year's slate of French & Indian War games I will be running using my Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules will feature native raids against European settlements. In the past, I've had a lot of big eye candy on the table -- Indian bark longhouses, stockade forts, cliff sections, and so on. I've kind of ignored the more common things to make settler farmsteads look good on the tabletop. One of those things I knew I needed was fences for fields of crops.
The "real deal" -- snake rail fencing in colonial America
I'd seen some posts and discussion of "snake rail" (often called split rail) fences. The advantage of them is there is no need for posts. The alternating, zig-zagging posts stack on top of each other and provide a quick way for a frontiersman to fence his fields without time-consuming digging of post holes. I looked at pictures of a number of them online and discovered there was some variety in how they were constructed. So, I had some leeway in representing them on the tabletop.

My first question was fence sections vs. based and flocked fields surrounded by fences? Considering how my 28mm terrain boxes are bursting out of my closet already, I chose sections as they'll have a smaller storage footprint. The next main question was what to do about the ends of each section? I'd seen commercially produced ones that have the three rails "hanging in air" at the end and did not like how that looked. I thought about "X-shaped" support braces at each end, which I'd seen in pictures. I ended up deciding to go with simply having the three rails sloping down to where they lay atop each other on the ground. I'd also seen this in photos, and it seemed the easiest and least eye jarring way to go.
In the center of the photo, towards the bottom, you can see two "ends" of my snake rail fence sections
The third question was how many zig-zags per section? I decided that I wanted each section to be a little less than a foot long (my terrain boxes are stackable, 13" square plastic containers). I cut up pieces of cardboard and played with what looked best. In the end, I simply went with an aesthetic choice. Since each end would feature the three rails simply laying atop each other -- and there would be (by definition) two ends to each section -- I went with four. That way, there would be three places in each section where the rails interlock and only two where they lay flat. It is easier to show with pictures than describe (see above).
The bass wood rods that I purchased at the hobby store to create my snake rail sections
I took a 28mm Conquest Indian figure to the local hobby store that has a good selection of bass and balsa wood. I stacked the various sizes up and compared them to the figure to decide which size to go with. I ended up choosing 3/16"x1/4" rectangular bass wood rods. They were each about two feet long, and I cut 8 of them into 3" sections. I did one prototype first, and then once I was happy with it, went back and assembly-lined the whole batch. That produces a LOT of little sticks.
However, the next step goes much faster than I would have thought. I took a sharp hobby knife and trimmed each end down to a blunt point. I considered trimming the entire length of each of the four edges, but decided not to do so. I know it would make them look more irregular, but the point of these is to give the effect of snake rail fencing -- not necessarily scale them down exactly.
You will need LOTS of these little 3-inch sections...12 per fence section, if you do it as I did!
Once all the sections were cut, it was decision time, again. Do I base each section on a full length rectangular base, or put smaller bases under each intersection. I decided to go with the second choice because I felt it would look better. The fence would blend in to the tabletop better that way. Also, I wanted to avoid any situation where the base of the fence section differed drastically from the tabletop. I purchased a couple bags of 3/4" wooden star shapes from the hobby store to rest the fence rails upon and act as mini-bases.
Trimming down the ends to points was not as time-consuming as I thought it would be...
I decided it would be easier to do at least some of the painting of the rails ahead of time. I took one of the pointed ends and punched holes in a scrap of insulation foam. This created a rack to hold the rails while they dried. I painted a base coat of dark brown, holding onto one end of each rail, then sticking that unpainted end into the foam rack. Once all of them were dry, I painted the other end, sticking the opposite -- now dry -- end into the hold to hold it.
The insulation foam rack I created to help me in my pre-painting of the fence sections
I followed this up with a medium brown dry brush (I like to use Howard Hues Camo Brown). Once again, I held onto one end, then placed that dry end in the rack. Later, I reversed them and dry brushed the other end, as well. The rails were now ready for gluing!
The wooden stars I used as bases for the fence sections
I set five of the wooden stars out onto a sheet of paper and placed sticks upon them, rearranging them until I was happy with the layout. I then traced around each star so I'd have a template for each section. I would use Aleene's Tacky Glue to glue the rails to the stars and the other rails. I started at one end, gluing the first rail to the first and second star base. The next rail sat on where the first one ended on the second star, and rested on the third star base. The third rail sat on the second one and fourth start, and so on. Once again, it is probably easier to show in pictures than describe in words. It is probably best to glue one layer of rails at a time and let them dry. Then, go the next four rails, and so on. If you try to do all at once, you end up with some shifting.
Base coat was a dark brown (I used a craft paint Dark Umbar)
Once they are all dried, I then do two separate dry brush colors. I go over them first with a khaki color (Howard Hues Colonial Khaki). I make sure to get the pointed ends really well with this color. And then, lightly, I finish it off with a gray dry brush (Howard Hues Rebel Gray). Most wood when set out for years turns gray. So, I would probably be more accurate simply skipping the browns altogether and going with gray. However, I like a little brown in my wood tones. So, I do a final gray dry brush to give it the effect of grayed wood.
Next comes the Camo Brown dry brush
Finally, I flocked each of the stars, and the fence sections were done! I did not bother putting a wash on them because of all the nooks and crannies that would need to be filled up. I was very pleased with the fence sections, and plan to do more of them soon!
Fence sections glue together atop the wooden stars as bases



And here is a section, dry brushed Khaki, Gray, and with the bases flocked. Note how the rails simply lay atop each other, interlocking in the middle spots.

Lead Painters League, rounds 7-11

It was a good finish to the Lead Painters League. I made the difficult decision after finishing up my Round 10 entry to forego the bonus points for a newly-painted entry for Round 11. The decision was part time constraint, part tactical. I knew with my upcoming schedule that I would be pushing it to finish an entry to the best of my ability. I also knew that -- after 10 rounds -- I would be facing an opponent whose painting was at least equal mine (and likely better!). I needed to wow the voters, and I had an idea how to do that.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's pick up where we left off!

Round 10: Safeguard the Aerie 15mm/25mm
Safeguard the Aerie, my Round 10 entry
This was a round I was worried about from the beginning of the league. It was a theme round and I had to really dig to find figures that fit it in my unpainted collection. The theme was fantasy monsters, and they were specific about no weapon-using, anthropomorphic creatures. Out went my idea for using some Splintered Light Miniatures figures! Also, it could not be real creatures -- so, out went the idea of painting dogs, wolves, deer, or other Woodland creatures I had! I dug through the drawers where I keep my unpainted lead and found a bag of 15mm hippogriffs, as well as two 25mm ones. I decided to do a mama and papa hippogriffs guarding an aerie full of younglings.

I decided to make them flashy, with realistic and interesting wing patterns. So, I Googled a bunch of paintings of hippogriffs and chose the ones I liked best. The castings are not the  most spectacular (especially the 25mm ones), so I knew this would be a tough round. I thought they figures turned out nice, and I posed them next to one of my cliff sections for some additional eye candy. However, my opponent's miniatures were not only better painted, they were an amazing, cool-looking castings. So, I lost fairly soundly, 364-107. I would enter the final round 5-5. Round 11 would decide if I came out of Lead Painters League 10 with an above or below .500 record.

Round 11: The Words of the Prophet
My attempt at a cinematic scene for Round 11 using previously-painted 28mm Indians from my collection
So, what was my idea to wow the voters in Round 11? Well, as you can see above, I would use quantity AND quality to do my best to win this round. I envisioned a scene with a shaman speaking to a crowd of Indian warriors around a campfire. I would use only my favorite and best-painted miniatures in the photograph. I pulled out my boxes and sorted through my 28mm Indians. I wanted only poses that looked natural around a campfire -- no aiming, slashing, running, etc. As I pulled out each figure, I sorted it into 3 categories: "Best of the best," "pretty good," and "not bad."

I ended up using only the first two categories once I began setting up the scene. I dug out my best trees and tried to make the scene look like a night-time one. It took several photographs to adjust where each figure was standing so it wasn't blocking the ones behind it. Even doing this for several shots, I still missed one or two weapons in other's faces. The picture came out great, though (I felt). My thinking, tactically, was that a win was worth 30 points while a newly-painted entry gave only a 10-point bonus. What use getting 10 to lose 30?

I was a bit worried when I saw my opponent's entry on Sunday morning. It featured an amazing Japanese kimono and very characterful miniatures. However, most of the people responding to the post praised my scene and felt it was very cinematic. I started off with a slight lead and widened it to a 296-186 victory by the end of the week.

This victory notched me 15th place out of 34 entrants. I was VERY pleased with my 6-5 record -- especially considering that with the Swiss System, you are matched against entrants with similar skill levels. All in all, Lead Painters League 10 was a success for me. I painted 10 rounds of new entries, and resorted to previously-painted (but newly-staged and photographed) miniatures only in the final round. In the end, I had reduced my unpainted lead pile by 58 new miniatures...yet another definition of success!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Indian Raid in Frontier Ohio at Drums at the Rapids 2016 Convention

Both of my frontier Indian raid scenarios were full -- including this shot of the Saturday morning session
I took my multiplayer Song of Drums and Tomahawks event up to Drums at the Rapids, a convention held at historic, Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, OH. I have been attending the convention for more than a decade, and it is an excellent local con put on by HMGS Great Lakes. The focus is historical miniatures, though there are always cool-looking fantasy and science-fiction games, too. I cooked up a new set of linked scenarios. This one would feature Indians vs. frontier settlers, as opposed to the more varied scenario groups I've run in the past.
An overview of the "Farmhouse Raid" scenario in the opening stages of Friday night's battle (you can see the women and children beginning to run away from the side that the Indians are entering from)
The first scenario begins with the people of a frontier farmstead community spotting a plume of smoke rising off in the distance. They know that it usually means a raid across the frontier by hostile tribes, so hurriedly debate whether to "fort up" in their cabins, or head to the local blockhouse. Before they can decide, a man runs up and says an Indian warparty is right behind him. The frontiersmen and six women and children deploy in the middle of a collection of four log buildings in the center of the board. The Indians can deploy anywhere on the table, as long as they don't deploy within 1 Long distance (close musket range) of a frontiersman or family member.
On both days, the Indian player decided to have his raiders enter through one of the cornfields
I really liked how this table looked, once it was all set up. This was also the table where I had made my scratch-built, snake rail fences. I used them to create three fields at corners of the boards. Inside the fields were the JTT corn rows (which I now know I need to make more of...!), along with the 3 Sisters native American crop pieces, and some random bits of vegetation to fill them up. In both the Friday night and Saturday morning sessions, the Indian player chose to enter using the cover of the fields.
Close up the menfolk of the farmstead community mustered to defend their families (and one brave goat, willing to take his place in the line alongside his owners...ha, ha)
The two runnings of this scenario had vastly different outcomes, though. Friday night, the frontiersman player chose to take advantage of the fact the Indian warparty came in on one board edge to shuttle the women and children off the opposite edge. If a family member ends the game with no Indians within a Long distance, it is victory points. The menfolk fought a delaying action against the Indian raiders, slowly giving ground and surrendering their homesteads to them. When some settlers began to flee from morale checks, they decided to withdraw to prevent further losses. The result was more homesteads up in flames, and Indians in possession of scalps and loot.
The fighting was at close range and brutal. Here Indians and settlers struggle for control of the center of the farmstead
Saturday morning saw a much more aggressive frontiersman player. She put the women and children inside the cabins and had the menfolk launch an assault on the Indian raiders. Losses piled up on each side, but the Indians broke first. Before long, the settlers were victorious and had chased the raiders off of their hard-won land.
A patrol of rangers investigates the plume of smoke in "They Died in the Smoke"
The middle scenario on the 9'x3' table layout was where that original plume of smoke was originating from. Here, the family spotted the Indians at the last moment and fled into their house, bolting the door. At each window, a musket poked through and fired when any Indians ventured out into the cleared area surrounding the cabin. Fire arrows were shot onto the roof of the cabin, and soon the home was ablaze. Smoke filled the cabin and poured out the windows. However, the family refused to come out and die under the tomahawks of the raiders. Suddenly, the one of the braves spotted a ranger patrol hurrying to the spot to determine the source of the fire.
Indian raiders wait in vain for a family of settlers to come out of their burning cabin
For this scenario, I constructed a special "burning cabin." I used one of the Darice Premium Wood Model log cabin sets that are available at Hobby Lobby for only $3.99. I modified this one by sawing through some of the dowels to have actual openings for windows. I used a corrugated pattern balsa wood sheet for the roof, which I also cut holes into to represent areas disintegrating in the flames. I placed two electric LED votive candles inside the cabin to light up the smoke with their flickering yellowish light. Acrylic "batting" (pillow stuffing) was cut and placed in the windows and protruding out from the roof. I am only moderately pleased with the results. Of course, I was hurrying to get it done in time for the convention, so I intend to go back and tweak it some.
The Indians begin the scenario deployed in the woods in an arc around the cabin
Once again, I had two vastly different outcomes in this scenario. The Indians begin deployed in a woods in an arc around the burning cabin. The rangers enter through the corner of the board where a pathway runs through the forest. I was particularly surprised by the Indian player's choice to deploy part of his force very close to the ranger entry point. Since about 1/3 of them would be scattered far away around the clearning, I felt this could go very bad for him as he faced the full force of the rangers. One of the things I like about Song of Drums and Tomahawks is that player decisions have a major impact and drive the game. How many times have we sat down for a miniatures game to find the only decision we could make was to move forward and roll dice? These rules definitely are NOT that, and the player is constantly called upon to make tactical decisions that impact the game in a major way.
A family hurries to the local blockouse, women and children aboard wagons, while the men scour the woods alongside, searching for ambushing Indian raiders in "Wagon Train Through Peril"
As it was, the aggressive Indian player was rewarded for his decisions when the ranger advance proved tentative and was halted by poor die rolls. The battle was very one-sided, and the rescuing rangers were quickly whittled down by Indian musket fire. The survivors bravely attempted to maneuver around to reach the cabin, but soon the last remaining ones were driven from the field. The previous night, the opposite was true for much of the battle. It was the Indian player who was hampered by his poor die rolls, and could not collect his forces together to oppose a much more aggressive ranger advance. In fact, the Indian force, though causing casualties among the Rangers, soon was fleeing backwards due to morale checks. However, here is where the tide shifted. The core of remaining Indians fought back aggressively. Soon, they had whittled the rangers down to where they were fleeing backwards in morale checks. It proved to be a nail-biter of a game, with the Indians very narrowly triumphing.
Waiting for the family, in the trees is a line of Indian raiders. When they see the wagon, they close in.
The third scenario was a variant on one I have run for several years. Having seen the plumes of smoke, a family is hurrying for safety towards a local blockhouse. In this version, there are a substantial number of men escorting the wagon. The blockhouse, on the other hand, is only weakly guarded and can send no rescuing force. The family must fight through any Indians they encounter on the way on their own. A couple special scenario mechanics enable the wagons to move on their own, as long as family members are there to drive them. Also, if any Indians enter the clearing surrounding the blockhouse, they can be shot at (one per turn) by the defenders. They will not waste powder on shots in the woods, as they don't know how long the siege will last.
The male family members trade shots with the ambushing Indians, trying desperately to drive them off so their family can reach the blockhouse
Both nights provided a tense, gripping game. The one on Saturday morning was particularly tense, though. It swung back and forth, with the settlers having the upper hand one moment, and the Indians the other. On Friday night, the wagons came close to making it through to the blockhouse, but did not. However, on Saturday morning, they actually made it all the way to the clearing before losses piled up enough to cause morale checks. One interesting feature of my side-by-side scenarios is that players can reinforce neighboring battles if they have driven the enemy from the field in their own. With the rangers being chased off relatively early in the Saturday morning game, a fresh force of Indians was able to appear on the edge of this field.
At the sight of one too many of their menfolk slain, the women and children abandon the wagons and flee on foot towards the safety of the blockhouse
The family proved stalwart, though. They had broken the morale of the ambushing Indians and driven most of them from their path. Three menfolk of the family bravely stood and barred the advance of a new warparty of seven Indians, who had been drawn by the sound of the gunfire. In particular, one man whom the Indians called "Yellow Hair" slew many warriors before finally succumbing to a musket ball. Equally heroic, the leader of the ambushing Indians ran forward and grabbed the reins of the lead horse. Two family members attacked him, but he slew one, which broke the morale of the family. Most of the women and children leaped off of the wagons and sprinted for the blockhouse. A few of the men also bolted for safety, while others remained to fight off the Indians.
Indians triumphant! One day saw an Indian victory, and the other a Settler one, but good games all around!
Just when you'd think the battle could show no more twists, the family members killed enough from the warparty to have them check morale, too. They proved eager for battle, though, and only one warrior fled the vicinity. Meanwhile, the women and children were streaming closer to the blockhouse. The Indians closed in, and only about half of them made it before they were caught. It was a relatively long game of Song of Drums and Tomahawks -- prolonged, of course, by the arrival of 7 fresh warriors from the neighboring battlefield. It was certainly one of the most gripping I'd watched (or played). Everyone who'd played in the games enjoyed them, though, so it was another successful pair of convention events. My next games will likely be at Historicon (I need to sign up for them ASAP). I will also be running games at the local Ohio History Center as part of their Ohio's March Through Time event.


Monday, May 9, 2016

Lead Painters League: round 7 through 9

What? A victory in an odd-numbered round?? And even more, an above .500 winning percentage for Lead Painters League 10???

Yes, a fortunate series of events (my apologies to Lemony Snickets) led to me ending Round 9 with a 5-4 record. I had back-to-back victories in rounds 8 and 9. Perhaps this is a sign of the Swiss Chess format settling into matchups with approximate skill level opponents. Perhaps I just got lucky. Either way, I'll take it!

Round 7: Hunters of the Forest
Flint & Feather 28mm Indians in my Round 7 entry, "Hunters of the Forest"
 I honestly thought I had a pretty good chance winning this round. I really like these Flint & Feather miniatures, sculpted by Bob Murch from Pulp Miniatures. The poses are dynamic. I especially like the guy on with the wolf headdress. That is just a cool figure all around. I thought the warpaint turned out well, and the photo was bright, colorful, and atmospheric. The best-laid plans, though, are always subject to contact with the "enemy."

In this case, my opponent had a wonderful entry. His yellows on his Chinese temple dogs were outstanding. I fully admit my weaknesses. My number one weakness as a painter is that my skills at shading and blending are very pedestrian. I am a block painter at heart. I do an occasional watered down acrylic paint wash, I regularly dry brush, and do a finishing black or brown wash to bring out the shadows. One day, maybe, I'll learn to use inks and do a better job of blending. However, for now, when I am matched up against someone whose entry shows off their superior skills in that aspect of miniature painting, I freely admit mine is worse. My hunters lost soundly, 369-94. To see my opponent's excellent entry, check out the matchup page.

Round 8: To the Blockhouse!
28mm Blue Moon "Ohio Valley Frontiersmen" in my Round 8 entry, "To the Blockhouse!"
 I have to admit, I was pleased how this entry came out. I was a bit worried in that miniatures were from Blue Moon (Old Glory), and their castings are not highly regarded in Europe -- where many of the members of the Lead Adventure Forum are from. However, the poses were unusual, and the Acheson Creations blockhouse a nice piece of terrain, and the stream of refugees heading towards it atmospheric. So, I felt fairly confident. I was a little surprised when I saw my opponent's entry and that mine was losing to it. I feel I am honest and admit it when I'm outclassed. I didn't feel this was the case with this pairing. As the round progressed, though, my frontiersmen rallied and took the lead. It was a near thing, though, and I probably kept checking the score in this race more than any other this competition.

I enjoyed painting the Blue Moon figures. It is interesting, as I came very close to choosing Blue Moon Indians over Conquest Miniatures way back when I was getting into this period. Blue Moon is very affordable. However, the fact that Conquest were reasonably priced, and the fact their poses were so darned nice, sold me on them. So, this was an interesting "What if?" batch to paint up. I failed to mention, though, that the center figure with the coonskin cap is actually Reaper Miniatures' Davey Crocket figure. The rest are all Blue Moon, and I have about six more to paint up from the Ohio Frontiersmen box. The castings are better quality than the standard-issue Old Glory bags of 48 (or whatever huge amount they sell them in, now). However, they are a step beneath the Conquest and other manufacturers I tend to paint up, nowadays. The guy at the far left of the line has a serious mar on his face where the two halves of the mold must have not lined up perfectly (which is why he is turned away from the camera).

In the end, these guys were good enough to win a close race, 258-212. To see my opponent, click on the matchup page.

Round 9: Gorilla Slavers
28mm Sergeant Major Miniatures Apes in my Round 9 entry "Gorilla Slavers"
 Okay. I will say it. I was tired of painting Indians. There! You happy? I also figured the voters were suffering from warpaint fatigue, so I dug through my figure box and found something that I would be excited to paint. The gorilla infantry are from Sergeant Major Miniatures' Science-Fiction (we can't call it "Planet of the Apes") line. I honestly don't know who makes the mounted gorilla general. It was given to me half-painted by a very generous HMGS Great Lakes member who knew I had a soft spot for the period. I reprimed it, and all the painting is my own, of course.

Honestly, this line of apes is not as finely-cast as Eureka's (we can't call it Planet of the Apes, either) figures. However, a couple years ago, I'd picked up these six figures because...well, Planet of the Apes figs don't grow on trees! They're relatively rare, and I have always been interested in doing some post-Apocalyptic gaming using them. I actually did use my Eureka 28mm apes in my friend Dave Zecchini's campaign he ran using Mutants and Death Ray Guns rules. It was a blast, and I look back on those games fondly.

So, I Googled a lot of images of gorilla infantry and found this purple color being fairly common in the movie still photographs. I did this as one of my acrylic washes, the primary color being the old Ral Partha excellent "Tongue Purple." I think the uniforms turned out great. The leather armor was a nice dry brush of dark brown and medium brown. And the gorilla faces turned out bettrer than I expected. I admit I am not that talented at taking black and giving it definition and shading with gray dry brushing. The mounted general is an awesome figure, but I almost messed it up with too many layers of color on top of a half-painted miniature. Honestly, that is why he is slightly in the background. I think a close-up reveals some mistakes. I love the dappled gray horse, though, and the uniform with its black, steel, and gun metal colors.

The voters must have agreed, as I won this one by a more comfortable margin of 337-115.  Shocker of shockers, I was above .500 at 5-4!!!

Prototype: Snake Rail fencing

My prototype for frontier "Snake Rail" fencing
I have been kicking around the idea of doing some "snake rail" (sometimes called split rail) fencing for French & Indian War games featuring raids on European settlements. I looked at a number of pictures online and also on the Lead Adventure Form. I kept waiting for inspiration to strike, though, for how to solve a few key construction and design issues.

Early on, I was certain I wanted to do these a separate fence sections -- not as a complete, connected field. My closets are already bursting with 28mm terrain (the board games were already exiled from the gaming closet in my office to the living room closet). So, I need something that will take up less space in my terrain boxes. The big problem is what to do with the end of each section. I didn't want them "hanging" in air..
The "real McCoy"...a handy feature of snake rail fencing is it does not require posts
I noticed in one picture that the end of a section had the rails just laying, stacked up, on the ground. I figured that might not look so bad, so decided to give it a whirl. I'd also decided to use small bases at the intersections of the rails -- not a complete rectangular base. The zig-zag pattern of snake rail fencing would mean lots of useless base space.

So, I assembled the material and constructed the above prototype. Feel free to email me with comments and suggestions. I am "purt-darned pleezed" with how it turned out. Unless somebody comes up with an amazing suggestion, I am going to go into full assembly mode this week.

Thanks for any comments, suggestions, and ideas...!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest: Turn 6

 My Erie tribe had a "bonus battle" this turn. After initially confirming they could attend on our arranged date at the pizzeria, three players had something come up. Two of them obligingly matched up against each other in the strategic phase, and were able to schedule a makeup game. The third I fought with my Erie on another date, as well, despite also fighting a battle on the regularly scheduled meeting at the pizzeria against a different opponent. I reasoned that since I did not fight a battle due to the odd number of players last turn, that no one would mind if I made that up with an extra one this turn. In fact, my players have been incredibly flexible during this playtest. If two players can't make it, the others leave their tribes alone so that they can match up against each other. It would be a disadvantage to fight fewer battles over the course of the campaign, although the rules will have mechanisms to make that fair.
Rival Shawnee and Susquehannock warparties close beneath the trees of the Eastern Woodlands of Ohio
The first and second place tribes continued to roll, both winning major victories this turn. The Neutrals were the tribe I fought on our Saturday morning at the pizzeria. The battle was going well, at first. I was using my warriors with the Marksmen trait and our matchlocks to good effect. The turning point came, though, in one of those cinematic moments that seem to occur so often in games of Song of Drums and Tomahawks. One of the Neutral warriors dashed forwards towards my warriors to collect a scalp. One of my matchlock men fired at him and knocked him down. Another of my warriors rushed forwards to dispatch him with a "Powerful Attack" (using two actions in one attack, which makes the opponent -1 to its die roll). Despite having a +4 to +1 advantage, Keith won the die roll and knocked my Erie brave down! It was still my turn, so I had another warrior rush forward. Once again, I had a +4 to +1 roll on opposed six-sided dice. Another loss. A third warrior ganged up on the heroic Neutral warrior and also could not finish him off. I had just lost three straight six-sided dice rolls with an advantage of +3 to my rolls! I don't even want to calculate the odds of that occurring. The heroic warrior popped up on Keith's next turn and finish off an attacker. Soon, all three of my attackers lay dead at the mighty warrior's feet.
Susquehannock hunters race to rescue one of their brothers who has been captured by the Shawnee
Just as you would expect, my warband was demoralized after this display of ferocity. We had gone from being ahead on enemy casualties to faltering fast. Keith ended up winning 15-3 in scenario victory points -- another major victory for his tribe, and yet another defeat for mine.
A raiding party from the Neutrals tribe is surprised and strung out by an unexpected ambush by Erie hunters
Other battles raging at the pizzeria included a bloody clash across a creek between the Seneca and Kickapoo. The Kickapoo continued their run of success, winning their last three engagements. They notched a major victory, 12-6. The Miami tribe finally recorded their first win of the campaign. They fought against the Honniasont "All Youth" force. Bruce, our newest player, has been trying out new tactics. This one saw one veteran chieftain leading a force of 16 Youths. The Miami were outnumbered, and despaired of being able to kill enough of their enemy to force a morale check (where Youths are at a disadvantage). It took more than two hours -- which is actually a long game for thees size battles -- but eventually the persistent Honniasont fell below 50% losses. Within a turn, all their troops had fled the field. The exhausted Miami howled in triumph, victorious 19-10.
Warriors from the Neutrals tribe fearlessly close with my Erie warparty
One of the rescheduled battles pitted the Susquehannock against the Shawnee. Joe, who has not lost a battle yet, has a completely different strategy than Keith -- whose Neutrals are in first place. Joe uses his upgrade points to make his warriors Marksman, and tries to gun down his opponents at range. Keith's Neutrals have settled in on the opposite strategy -- upgrading his warriors to Strong so that they are +1 in melee. Doubtless, the two will clash again before the end of the campaign. However, in this battle, Joe managed to win more of the melees against the Susquehannock. The battle was fairly even, with each player taking out one of the opponents on each of their bounds for several turns in a row. On one disastrous bound, though, Steve's Susquehannocks engaged in three melees -- all of them at an advantage. Two of his three braves fell to adverse die rolls, though. After that point, the Shawnee began to steadily grind their opponents down until they began to take morale checks and withdraw from the field.
This hero of the Neutral tribe would fight off all three of my Erie warriors who surrounded him -- even when he'd been knocked to the ground!
My "bonus battle" saw my Erie warriors ambushing the scout leading a Mohawk raid on one of our villages. Dave's troops were strung out and relatively vulnerable, according to the scenario deployment. I concentrated on the forward end of his column, but my activation rolls failed me and he was able to regroup without any losses. In fact, his warriors shot and killed two of my Youths who had unwisely advanced to the forefront of my force. The Mohawk strategy in the Beaver Wars campaign has been to use Hunt cards as opposed to War cards. In six turns, he has played only Hunt cards. The effect is that he leads the tribes in the number of Beaver pelts obtained over the course of the campaign. This translates directly into the number of figures you can upgrade from Bow to Matchlock. With this turn, Dave reached the point where all nine figures in his force (he took a Chieftain and all Warriors, no Youths) carry a Matchlock. This is a major advantage, and one he made good use of in our game. I was able to kill three of his Mohawk and force a tight battle, but once things began to collapse, my Warriors and Youths were falling left and right. The end result was yet another Major Defeat for the Erie.

Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Neutrals
1st
26 points
Shawnee
2nd
23 points
Mohawk
3rd
22.5 points
Kickapoo
4th
17.5 points
Seneca
5th
13 points
Miami
6th
11 points
Susqehannock
7th
10 points
Erie
8th
9 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points
Our top two stay in the same place, but the Mohawk make a jump into 3rd place

It is a source of amusement for my friends that I wrote the rules, but have a long history of struggling to win games with them. I point to the fact that my dice rolling is notoriously bad. Witness the three consecutive losses with a +4 to +1 advantage against Keith. In fact, my first attack against one of Dave's Mohawk that I had knocked down -- another +4 to +1 roll -- saw me come up short again! I joke that I'm not supposed to win my own campaign playtest, so having a tribe at the bottom of the standings doesn't bother me. Plus, you could always say I am just being a gracious game master, and letting my players win the laurels of victory. However, I know the truth is I DO try to win. It is just those little incidents in the game that inevitable turn the tide of battle against me.

Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
16 (5 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
15 (3 MajV, 3 MinV)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
9 (1 MajV, 3 MinV)
Erie (Mike Demana)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
5 (2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
4 (1 MajV, 1 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
1 (1 MinD)
 
Still, everyone continues to have fun with the Beaver Wars playtest. The scenarios continue to provide new and interesting challenges to the players. I scrupulously ask players for feedback on every scenario, and we are making tweaks to each as we agree are needed. I'm particularly happy that no major changes in the campaign rules have been required. This second "reboot" of the campaign rules seems to working like a charm. I will probably try to have a post-game session soon, though, and if no changes appear to be needed, begin putting the rules into the publication process.

Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
97
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
86
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
61
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
60
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
59
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
55
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
45
Erie (Mike Demana)
38
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
15

Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
41
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
33
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
32
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
29
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
25
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
22
Erie (Mike Demana)
22
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
20
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
19