Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest: Turn 1

It has been more months than I'd hoped, but the Beaver Wars in Ohio are being re-fought once more. The Beaver Wars were a series of conflicts fought in the late 1600s and early 1700s between Native American tribes over hunting and trapping lands. The campaign seeks to recreate that struggle in the Ohio Valley, the area of my home state. At the close of the first phase of our playtest, I'd re-tooled the rules to make them simpler. I also changed or eliminated the mechanics I didn't like, and worked to head off tendencies I was seeing that I saw would create trouble. I listened to playtester feedback and incorporated some new ideas.
Gaming The Beaver Wars at a pizza shop in Central Ohio -- where some of the action historically took place!
The newer, simplifield Beaver Wars rules were sent out to my batch of playtesters (mostly new to get a wider variety feedback) to read over, and we started up an 8-player campaign the day after Christmas. This campaign would cover the earlier of the three phases of the Beaver Wars (the last one covered the middle phase). The tribes participating would be the Seneca and Mohawk from the Iroquois Confederacy, along with their traditional enemies the Erie and Susquehannock. The dubiously-named Neutral tribe would participate, along with Ohio native tribes the Miami, Shawnee, and Kickapoo.
My Erie tribesmen move up to attack the much better-led Mohawk hunters
Strategic orders went by the wayside. No longer would players have to choose between "Invade," "Raid," etc., in this campaign. Instead, players have a series of cards that they play which characterize their actions between two poles. One extreme is almost total mobilization for war, while the other extreme is almost total dispersal to hunt and trap. This effects not only how many beaver pelts they obtain (one of the campaign objectives), but also the order that players select their tribe's opponent for this turn. The cards chosen by the opponents determine which chart they will roll on to see which scenario they will play in their battle. The Beaver Wars in Ohio campaign rules will contain 18 scenarios, complete with maps, terrain layout, special scenario rules, deployment, and scenario victory conditions. For those that are less interested in refighting this fascinating conflict, the scenarios will also hopefully provide a lure for purchase the set.
Angry villagers from the Neutral tribe advance through the fields to stop the Shawnee horse thieves
 In my first turn, most of the tribes leaned towards the hunting and trapping end of the spectrum. The less aggressive stance means they obtain more beaver pelts as a result of the turn. This raises their level on a chart which determines how many figures on their battlefield roster may be armed with firearms as opposed to bow. All tribes receive pelts, but the difference between the tribe that chooses the most warlike stance and that the chooses the most hunting-focused actions is fairly significant. There are bonus to the player who chooses warpath, but I filed this observation away as possibly in need of tweaking.
Shawnee warriors and youths escape into the woods with their stolen horseflesh!
 The players produced four battles on turn one. That is another change from the first version of the campaign. Under these rules, every player who shows up fights a battle (unless there is an odd number, when the least aggressive becomes the odd-man-out). I didn't like how we would sometimes have 6 players show up, only to have two people fight battles and the other four relegated to watching, or playing something else. So, eight players meant eight battles.
A bloody running fight developed between rival Kickapoo and Miami hunting parties
 As insurance against players who had something come up and prevent them from attending, I am playing as the eight player, this time around. If I have an odd number, I will be the one who doesn't play -- not one of my players. This will probably disappoint the players if it happens, as I am renowned for my horrible dice rolling, making me an attractive target! Incidentally, we are meeting at a local pizza shop which has a side room available. We arrived the day after Christmas and moved the tables around to suit our needs. Not only do they have good food, making a tasty lunch a bonus, they have free soda refills.
Seneca raiders advance through Susquehannock cornfields intent on captives and scalps!
My scenario that my Erie tribe rolled up was "Trapper's End." I had captured a Mohawk trapper and was holding him as bait to lure in the Mohawk trapping party. That was about all that worked in my plan. My dice rolling was true to form, and every time I closed with the enemy, my activation rolls would go south. Meanwhile, the Mohawk player was cautious, kept his forces together, and overwhelmed my unsupported attacks on his firing line he'd set up. I kept at him, though, and had a couple successes, but soon my forces dropped below half and we were running from the battlefield. I ended up with a Major Defeat, the Mohawk with the turn's only Major Victory.
A Seneca youth knocks out a Susquehannock woman in the fields...has the young man found his bride?
Next to me, the Shawnee had sent a raiding party to steal horses from a Neutral village. Yes, there really was a tribe called the Neutrals in America (so-named for their not taking sides in the bitter fight between the Iroquois and Huron confederacies). Otherwise, they were every bit as aggressive as other Indian tribes. The Shawnee deploy in or near their enemy's corral, and quickly began shuttling horses towards the woods on the opposite corner of the board -- their objective being to exit there. Keith had a hard time marshaling his braves, who show up on board in small bits, but nevertheless advanced bravely into the village cornfields to contest this thievery. What followed was a close, hard-fought battle that actually ended up with both sides equal in Scenario Victory Points (SVPs). The tie-breaker that I came up with gave Joe and his Shawnee the Minor Victory, but both earned Prestige Points (PPs) for their battlefield valor and success.
Susquehannock women and children pound towards the gates and safety while their men boil out of the palisade entrance to defend them
Our third battle saw a Kickapoo hunting party being pursued by a much larger Miami one. The Kickapoo goal is to run the gauntlet of a blocking force of Miami before overwhelming numbers show up behind them. I saw the least of this game, but I heard it was the most bloody of the turn. Both eschewed shooting and waded into hand-to-hand combat. The Miami warleader had to balance bringing up reinforcements with leading his men to engage and cut off the retreat path of his enemy. Once the Kickapoo fell below half strength, they scattered and soon ran off-table, giving the Miami a Minor Victory. The Kickapoo caused enough casualties to ensure the Miami remembered the engagement, though.
The wargame rules we are using -- written by yours truly!
The final battle was one of my favorite scenarios I'd written for the campaign: "Bring Them in Safely." The Seneca were raiding a Susquehannock village and surprise them, meaning that some of the tribe's women and children were still in the fields outside their stockade. Their goal is for them to scurry back through the entrance before being taken captive by the Seneca raiders. The Susquehannock defenders arrive in three batches over the first three turns, meaning they have to balance caution with boldness to save their women. Some of the Susquehannock women proved they needed no help, as one cut down a Seneca youth who sprinted ahead of the rest of his Iroquois brethren. The Seneca soon had more than half of the women and children in their clutches, but they proved hard to hold onto, and wriggled free more than once. Arrows flew and matchlocks boomed between the opposing forces, and a warriors fell. In the end, the Seneca held only two captives. A fatal shot by one of their warriors armed with a matchlock felled the Susquehannock leader, though. This caused the defenders to retreat back inside their stockade. The Seneca were content to carry home four scalps and two captives, and withdrew, as well.

Everyone enjoyed their battles, and I took notes on suggestions they made to scenarios and the rules. I made a couple minor tweaks immediately, but the bulk of what the players suggested were simply clarifications or suggestions to their scenarios. It is my intention that we should playtest each scenario 2-3 times over the course of the campaign.  We are meeting again Jan. 23rd, so if you enjoyed this report, you can look forward to more tribal warfare beneath the forest canopy soon.

The rules we used are my own Song of Drums and Tomahawks, which are available on both Ganesha Games' website and Wargame Vault. Links are below, if you're interested in picking them up. I hope to finish the playtest by summer, and make the campaign rules available then. They will also contain extensive historical information about the tribes and course of the actual historical conflict.

Mike Demana

Links to buy Song of Drums and Tomahawks:

"Fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory..."

The massive board, piles of Fortune coins, and players off vying for artifacts stashed around the world
Our first post-Christmas, Sunday evening gaming sessions saw us trying out a mega board game that Mike S had received. It is Pulp-themed game called, "Fortune and Glory." The obvious reference is an Indiana Jones reply to Short Round in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is a big, expensive game with lots and lots of what our friend Zeke calles "fiddly-bits." We were testing out the Basic version, which saw about half of the bits not in use.

As players, each of us takes on the role of a Pulp explorer or personality. Mine was a French, tomb-raiding "scoundrel" named Jacques. Each explorer has a card with his abilities and a figure to be placed on the game board. The card lists your statistics in Fighting, Cunning, Agility, and Lore. These are what you will use to pass various tests, such as traps in tombs, fighting Nazi or other enemies, and figuring your way out of situations like being trapped in a plane with no pilot (or parachute). Your goal in the basic game is to attain 15 Fortune points (17 for Jacques, cause he's a greedy S.O.B.), which are represented by plastic, golden coins in two values. Plastic blue coins represent your "Glory," which you can spend to get equipment, allies (not Jacques, cause he doesn't share his fortune or glory -- because he's greedy), and even to get healed up.
Jacques' card, loaded down with Glory coins and the wounds he suffered to obtain the fabled Gauntlet artifact
On the board, which is a colorful world map divided into areas, are placed 4 artifacts. Our goal was to be the first to reach those artifacts and pass the tests to solve and obtain them. Some artifacts need only 3 tests, others required 5. Each test takes the form of a random Danger card. Often these give you a choice of using your agility to avoid it, cunning to find your way around it, or (like Jacques) wade in and punch and shoot your way through it. Each test you pass earns you "Glory" points. Failing a test, forces you to try to pass the Cliffhanger on the back. If you pass, your turn is over, and you can pick up where you left off next turn. If you fail, you take a certain number of wounds or are even returned to your starting location minus 1d6 fortune, glory, equipment, allies, etc.

Jacques began the game in Alexandria and crossed the Mediterranean on the first turn and arrived in Venice, to find the long-lost magical "Gauntlet of...(um, I forget)".  At the end of any turn where an artifact was obtained by a player, a new one is drawn and randomly placed on the board using the game's cards. It is a clever system, with the first card saying "The Eye of...", "The Heart of...", or other such titles. The second card gives the name, "Pharrah," etc., and the third the location. Jacques was able to punch his way through all five tests, and I snagged my first artifact. The other four players were doing the same, with various degrees of success or failure.

Fortune and Glory is not a quick game, and where the designers get a 90 minute playing time from is a mystery to us. It took us about 3 hours to get to the point where Jacques made a delivery in San Francisco and earned his 17th Fortune point. Of course, I was forced by the other players to make two re-rolls with cards they'd accumulated, but my luck persevered. It was a fun game, and now that we've played it once, I can see it going a bit faster. Also, we now realize the value of equipment, Allies, and other things you can acquire to help you out along the way.

The best thing about it (besides the fact somebody else spent the $90 to get it -- not me...ha, ha!), is that it accommodates a large number of players (8, I think). We rarely have only four players, which so many board games seemed designed around. I can definitely see us playing this again and braving dangers to obtain more Fortune and Glory.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Women and Children...Definitely not First!

25mm Old Glory Indian villagers - the one on the left is probably my favorite of the batch
 I think this batch of seven 25mm miniatures broke the record for sitting on my desk, half-painted. A complete lack of motivation kept them there, as weeks rolled by into months. It is not that the figures themselves were unattractive, uninspiring, or difficult to paint. The six Indian women and one child wore deerskin dresses or the occasional cloth blanket. They had not equipment to speak of and were relatively cleanly cast miniatures -- especially for Old Glory. It is just that the "painting bug" -- as I used to call it -- had fled into some hidden spot.

I rallied a week ago, though, and was able to polish them off this week. With the restart of the Beaver Wars campaign playtest looming, I would possibly need Indian civilians soon. So, it was good old deadline pressure that drove me, doubtless. Far more reliable than the bite of any shy painting bug, it seems needing to get something done for a project is what motivates me most consistently. I know that I used to treasure my hours of painting miniatures because of the therapeutic relaxation that it provided. Am I losing this? I hope not.
I used brighter colors on the cloth blankets and more faded, dull ones on the fringed, deerskin dresses
Anyway, I had been on the lookout for suitable Native American civilians for a couple years before my friend Mike happened across these. He was looking at Old Glory's 25mm catalog online when he noticed they made a package of Plains Indians villagers. Mike had noticed they looked very similar to depictions of villagers of Eastern Woodland Indians we'd seen. Now, if you're familiar with Old Glory, you know their figures come in large packages -- 30 figures, in this case. Mike decided he didn't need 30 and offered to split the bag with me. We'd divvied them up at Cincycon earlier this Spring. These seven were the first I had prepped and begun painting for the tabletop. My motivation had stalled when their skin and the basecoat on their deerskin dresses had been applied.

I'm not the biggest fan of Old Glory. Their greatest selling point is their very reasonable pricing. However, these poses weren't bad, for the most part. Some were actually very nice. So, they were fun to paint up once I got my mojo back. For their deerskin outfits, I used a variety of medium brown to light tan shades. I applied a lighter tone to each as a dry brush, and then added accents and pattern decorations in dull reds and faded blues. The cloth blankets were done in much brighter colors -- all with a patterned border or series of stripes. Once again, I referred to my copy of The Narrative Art of Robert Griffing: The Journey Continues. It is my indispensable tome for what Eastern Woodland Indians looked like. 
Several generations of Indian villagers depicted...the little girl looks remarkably self-possessed!
I really like how they turned out. I think the patterns and decorations on their dresses really make them pop and appear realistic. As strange as it may seem, I was actually inspired to paint up the rest of my allotment of the figures. When you think how long they sat unpainted on my desk, that's all the more remarkable. Need won out, though, and instead a batch of Footsore Miniatures Skraelings won out, and sit primed and next in line. My playtest group may be much larger for this second go-around of the Beaver Wars. So, I'm figuring I'll need more Indians who aren't armed with a musket, and instead hold bows or hand weapons, as theses do.

Still, the women and children may be next. A few of my scenarios for the campaign require civilians. So, I DO need them...right?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ramming our way through Galleys & Galleons

Our opponents, Tom, Joel, and Allen, bickered and laughed their way through the game that ended with a hard-fought victory for them
 It is always seemed to me that there were two types of ancient naval rules sets. One is overly simplistic and provides unrealistic results. The other is too detailed, and takes too much time to learn the nuances for a game we don't play all that often. So, when Galleys & Galleons came out earlier this year, I immediately lumped it in my mind in the former category. We had played many of the "Song of Blades" engine games, and I didn't see how its activation system would adapt.
Our side's fleet rows towards the enemy
Our group of six were pleasantly surprised by the feel that G&G gave us. We were playing an Ancient naval game (Greeks vs. Persians? There were no historical specifics in our scenario. Suffice to say, there would be three four types of weapons in our game: Ramming, catapults, "chaser guns" -- lighter catapults, and archery. Nothing really rang wrong, except maybe how archery could cause so much damage when ships got really close. G&G does not differentiate between physical damage to a ship and casualties to a ship's crew.
Two of my quadiremes use Colossus Island to lie in wait for a larger enemy quinquireme and trireme
Those familiar with the activation mechanic of "Song of" games will be interested to see how it is handled in this game. The smaller, faster and more nimble ships have the better quality, while the larger, slower galleys will find it a little harder to activate. Flagships give a +1 like leaders do in other iterations of Ganesha rules. All in all, we weren't overly bothered by the rolling to activate ships, and the possibility of "crapping out" and losing your turn -- which I managed to do several times over a crucial span.
The battle becomes a mess of rammed and entangled ships
One of the more clever mechanics is how damage is handled. Each ship can take damage to a certain level, then become crippled. Once crippled, there is a chance that they will sink or surrender if fighting a boarding action. There is even more elegance and depth to the damage a ship takes -- particular when it attempts to activate on subsequent turns. We all thought it was a clever effect.
We kept track of damage with dark red dice and pretzels (oars that have been sheared away)...the black dice indicate grappled ships...pink dice a crew that has been boarded and has surrendered
We will definitely give G&G another try. Some of the players expressed the opinion that we may have found a simple system that provides realistic results. Either way, it was a fun way to spend several hours, ramming our way through a new rules set.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rumble in post-Roman Britain

Steve, on the left, watches as the battlelines clash. Joel, Allen, and Keith -- our Saxon enemies -- let loose the dogs of war!
 Steve had a hankering to do a Dark Ages battle and get a chance to field all those 28mm Late Roman/Briton and Germanic troops he'd been collecting. He decided to use Might of Arms, despite the fact most of our recent games had been using Hail Caesar. He said he'd always liked the way the rules played, and wanted to see how they worked for a game he had in mind.
My command huddles in shield wall as we watch the Saxon hordes close from across the battlefield
The scenario was a Romano-British force plugging a valley to stop a force of Saxon raiders from returning home. Meanwhile, the Romano-British cavalry are attempting to circle around behind the Saxons and catch them in a hammer and anvil. The Saxons need to break through. Steve deployed the troops for us and they stretched completely across the 8' wide board. Hub-to-hub infantry would clash -- no maneuver! In addition, there was zero terrain. This was the proverbial billiard table. We were to envision steep hill on either flank blocking each side. I like to rib Steve about his scenarios like this, but I think this was more to test out how the rules worked for Dark Ages and less a final scenario for a convention.
Our army commander exhorts the troops in front of him as the first line of Saxons smash into our shieldwall
We had three Mikes in attendance, so decided to put all three of us on the same side. That way, we could claim Mike either won or lost the battle for us, and leave people wondering which. The Mikes would be the Romano-Brits, and I drew the left flank command of 4 infantry units -- one of nobles, there ordinary. Across from us was a wall of Saxon wedges and infantry units eager to close. Since time was on our side, I counseled my co-commanders to form shield wall and sit tight. Let them come to us. The longer we hold out, the better chance the cavalry would arrive and secure victory for us.
The initial clash had grim moments for Allen and Keith, as both were to lose their commanders fighting in the front rank
That seemed to set the tone -- at least on my flank. I stayed in shield wall as much as possible, excepting my one reserve unit, which danced this way and that in anticipation of filling the hole for whichever of my units would break first. I did not follow up victories, forcing the Saxons to wait a turn to charge back in to me. The rules meant our shield walls blunted their charges, so it did not matter who charged into combat.
Spears and swords thud on shields all up and down the battleline, and fatigue begins to pile up
I was faced off against Joel, while Allen was in the middle and Keith on the far flank. All three Saxon generals fought in the front rank -- urged on by Steve who said that was the way they would do it. Early on, both Allen and Keith's generals rolled the inevitable "1" on a d6 and died. Since generals count towards the five unit losses required before having to pass Army Morale checks, the Saxons were in trouble in a hurry. When they reached 5, we were still sitting at one lost unit (one of mine). As sole remaining commander, Joel proceeded to roll excellent Army Morale checks -- passing on three consecutive turns (one of which as a 5 or less on 2d6!). 
Many of the Saxons could fight in wedge formation, which was canceled out (for the most part) by our shield wall
Our losses continued to mount, and soon we needed to check, as well. I had lost my general, accounting for 40% of our required losses (no surprise...ha, ha!). However, Joel was down to needing a 3 or less because of the losses inflicted over and above the check point of five. Luckily for us, Joel failed his check and the Romano-Brits were victorious. The Saxons broke and ran back down the valley, where they would be met and ridden down by the thundering hooves of the cavalry.
The Saxons broke through our lines in one point (yes, sigh, it was mine), but our reserves immediately plugged the gap and soon drove them back, sealing the breach
I liked some of the mechanics of the game. It is less dice-intensive than Hail Caesar. The morale checks are important, but are rolled with 2d6 (one of my favorite dice combinations). One thing I noticed upon reflection is that with a single 1d6 combat roll to add to the tactical factors and combat modifiers, there isn't a lot of granularity of die rolls. The most you can outroll your opponent is by 5 pips. That may mean units who are at a disadvantage cannot win a battle mathematically. However, this is compensated by the morale check stage. Once units become "worn," they begin taking their 2d6 morale checks. Units with more damage test before lesser bloodied ones. Thus, the disadvantaged unit could pass its checks while the winning unit fails its checks. So, once you start to slide in a combat, it is not a mathematical certainty.

I would definitely be willing to play Might of Arms again. We thought of some other slight modifications to combat to try, as well. I really didn't see how maneuver worked, as we all simply marched forward. There was a little wheeling and turning among the reserves, but no real chance to see how the movement system worked. I told Steve I'd like to see a more open battlefield next time, with terrain and units having to do something besides march forward and roll dice for combat.

Either way, it was good to get Ancients out on the battlefield, again. Plus, Dark Ages Britain is one of my favorite time periods. So, anything set in that era is going to catch my interest!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Old School Naval Wargaming

Allen insisted, so we got down on my living room floor for some old school WW II Naval wargaming
It was a little time warp as we played General Quarters with Allen's 1/2400 scale WW II ships. The rules are a bit dated, but in their day were a "beer and pretzels" set. Now, some of the mechanics seem a bit cumbersome -- especially firing torpedoes. It gets harder each year to get down on the floor and move those ships...and even harder to get back up!

Allen cooked up a convoy raid scenario with a British force (Joel and Mike S) trying to jump a lightly-escorted merchant ship convoy (Steve), before the Italian surface elements can steam to the rescue (Tom and Mike D).

Both Steve and Mike S had deadly shooting in the first half of the game. Steve sunk two of Mike's destroyers with torpedoes. When Tom and I steamed into combat, Joel also entered. We traded shots back and forth, with the British getting the worst of it. Eventually, they decided to break off contact, as their cruisers were getting pounded. So, we decided to call it a victory for the Italian navy.

Hopefully, next time we get out the tiny ships, we'll be playing a different rules system...ha, ha!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

It's a Small World after all...

Sunday night board game at my place
This game probably wins the award for longevity in the "one I've been meaning to pick up..." category. I played it first a number of years ago, and liked it right away. Players control a series of fantasy races who invade and try to stake out as much territory as possible before playing themselves out, losing steam, and going into decline. Lots of player choices -- which race to choose from those available, where to arrive on the board, and how long to keep the race active before letting it go into decline so you can grab another one. Each game can be different because the races are randomly paired up with a special ability each game.

We were playing the Underground version, which Mike S owns. I began the game controlling the "Historian" Will O'Wisps. They get victory points each time another player race goes into decline. Since I took my turn last, I thought that would be a good way to pick up a few extra victory points. Next, I had the "Thieving" Mud-men, which others had shied away from because another race was in control of the muddy areas. As it turns out, their special ability -- to steal one victory point from any player with an active race adjacent to your tokens -- probably won me the game. I also briefly controlled a magic ring that did the exact same thing on one of my turns. I was adjacent to 3 of the other players, which meant they lost two points and I gained two points from each. That is a swing of four in my favor against three of the other four players (we had five total).

In the end, I was surprised I won the game. I never felt on any turn that I collected the most victory points. I guess I collected enough and avoided really low turns. The others accused me of "sand-bagging," by claiming I was losing. However, I could swear two or more players earned more victory points than me every turn. It was as great of a surprise to me that I won as it was to them!

Here's the boardgamegeek link for the game.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Corn Rows quick and simple

One of Rogers Rangers advances through a corn field I constructed for my Bloody Run scenario
 One of the centerpieces of my Battle of Bloody Run scenario is the farm where Pontiac springs his ambush on the British force. I already had farm buildings and some scratch-built field stone walls. I even had some pigs to put in a pen. However, I thought I'd need a good corn field to make the table look that much nicer. I'd seen a threat on the Lead Adventure Forum about how to use the O scale corn stalks by JTT Scenery Products.

A package of 28 corn stalks by JTT Scenery Products
Some posters on the thread were creating a one-piece field using the stalks. Others talked about basing them individually. I wanted to be flexible. Eventually, I want to do Native American style corn fields, which also incorporated beans and squash amidst the corn. I wanted to leave open the possibility of rigging something up like that. Plus, one giant field would be harder to store, while individually stalks sounded too fiddly. So, I hit upon the idea of basing 3 stalks up to a rectangular stand. They would be in rows so they could be used for settler's corn fields, but in small enough numbers per stand that maybe something could be rigged up to make it look Native American later.
I drilled holes in each 40mm x 20mm base and forced a stalk into each hole, covering it with two-part epoxy
I took some 20mm by 40mm Renaissance Ink magnetic bases I had left over from my DBA days. I drilled three holes in each with a pin vice. This was easily the most time consuming part of the process. I was lucky in that my smallest drill bit for the pin vice matched the size of the stalks. I then forced the stalks into the hole, covering each with a blob of two-part epoxy to affix them to the bases.
A raised row is created by drawing a line of white glue connecting the stalks and dipping it into a tub of ballast
Next, I grabbed each base and put a line of glue connecting the stalks. The base was then dipped into a tube of brown ballast to give the effect of a raised field row.
A batch of corn row bases sit drying, waiting to be dipped into Woodland Scenics turf
Once dry, I painted the whole base with white glue. It was then dipped into Woodland Scenics brown turf and the excess tapped off. Once dry again, I put some dabs of white glue on the raised row and sprinkled it with Woodland Scenics blended grass. This makes it appear more like the corn stalk is growing out of the ground. Finish it off with Dullcoate and a sealant of 50/50 white glue and water, and they're finished!
Another look at a quick and simple corn field costing a little more than $5!
The JTT corn stalks come 28 to a package, and are priced at $8.99 at Hobby Lobby. If you use the online 40% off coupon, that brings it down to $5.34 before tax. One package produced nine bases of three corn stalks each. Being on bases of three, I can rearrange them for whatever size and shape of cornfield I want to create. Definitely a quick and simple way to do a corn field!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Log cabin for $3.99???

"Dad-burn Injuns would come a'raidin' while the menfolk were away...!"
 Although I don't approve of their attempts to impose their morality on their employees, I confess I love Hobby Lobby. My latest stop there is an excellent example of the serendipity that can be found wandering its aisles. I stopped by on the way home to pick up a can of Dullcoate -- my one and only sealant that I use on my miniatures. Lo and behold, I see this:
Yes, this is indeed a roughly 28mm scale wooden log cabin for $3.99!
I was incredulous when I saw the price: $3.99. My first thought was, "This CAN'T possibly be in a scale I can use for 28mm figures." I read the building dimensions on the package and turned it over and examined at the wood that came with it. It sure looked like it would work for my figures. I had just finished painting an Acheson Creations (my favorite terrain maker) log cabin, raising my total of dwellings to 2 cabins and 1 shed for the period. My upcoming game at Advance the Colors could actually use another cabin. "Hmmm...." I thought.

What the heck? It was only $3.99! I picked it up, and went home and did a dry run of assembling it. I shook my head...it really didn't look half bad. I decided to dress it up a bit, though. I dashed up to Hobbyland Graceland and bought a piece of basswood I call "scalloped" or "clinker-style," with what appears to be overlapping boards. I figured that would look much nicer than the flat wood included. That piece of bass wood actually cost almost as much as the building...Hobbyland has never been cheap. Their selection of bass wood in various shapes, patterns, and styles is unbeatable, though.

I  began putting the building together using tacky glue. The notches cut in the wooden dowels make assembly easy. Once all pieces were together, I epoxied it down to a piece of black styrene I'd cut for the base. I cut a slice of the scalloped bass wood for the floor and slid it under the logs. I then began assembly of the roof. I used some bluetack to hold it together as I glued the two triangular pieces to one side of the roof. Once dry, I glued the other side of the roof on. I then cut a piece of cardboard, folded it into a "V"-shape, and glued it along the top to hide the seam between the two pieces of wood.

Next, I glued the door and windows to the outside of the building. I tricked out the door a bit by adding a frame made from wooden craft sticks. Note that there are no "cutouts" on the inside of the cabin for the windows or door. It looks like solid wall. Maybe I'll try adding those in if I do another one!
The inside of the cabin is bare, but it would be easy enough to saw the dowels to create cutouts for the windows and door
Finally, the wood chimney piece was dressed up, too. One side at a time was painted with white glue and pressed into a tub of coarse ballast. Once painted back and dry-brushed, this would give it a more stone-like appearance. Speaking of painting, it was time to paint the cabin. I spray painted it black first. Then I applied a 50/50 water and acrylic black paint to cover up all the areas the spray nozzle missed. Once dry, I added a wet brush layer of medium brown (Howard Hues Camo Brown) and then a Khaki. A black wash completed the painting of the wood insides, outsides, floor, and roof. The chimney received a black base coat, then medium gray and lighter gray dry brushes.

Flocking along the edges completes the cabin, and just that simply a new dwelling is added to my American frontier!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Battle of Bloody Run at Advance the Colors 2015

    I ran the Battle of Bloody Run once each on Friday and Saturday nights at ATC 2015
I had been running my Ohio Frontier Aflame for a year at various conventions, so I felt it was high time to shake some things up. I decided to use a historical engagement as my basis for my four battles side-by-side scenario. The Battle of Bloody Run from Pontiac's Rebellions was perfect for the format! It is a sprawling, disjointed battle that could easily be divided up into four (or more) separate engagements.

    The 12-foot long table for the Battle of Bloody Run, seen from the fort on the left and Baptiste Meloche's farm on right
The historical background is that Fort Detroit is under siege by Chief Pontiac's Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomie warriors. A convoy of boats carrying reinforcements, including by Major Robert Rogers of the famous Rogers Rangers, forces its way past the Indian blockade. Shortly thereafter, the British officer in command of the convoy, Captain Dalyell, convinces the post commander to attack Pontiac and break the siege. Pontiac watches the British column leave the fort and waits until it is strung out along the river road. As the van crosses the bridge to Baptiste Meloche's farm, Pontiac springs his ambush. Fighting rages up and down the line. Historically, the British were battered and retreated back to the fort -- thanks to the heroics of some of the British commanders, including Rogers.

    British regulars cross the bridge under fire from Pontiac's ambushing warriors
    When the redcoats take cover in a treeline, Pontiac sends his warriors forward to engage them in melee

I created four boards all inspired by the account I read of the battle in the excellent biography of Rogers, "War on the Run," by John F. Ross. One end of the table was anchored by Baptiste Meloche's farm, with two log buildings, a gorgeous Acheson Creations bridge, and woods. British regulars had to force their way across the bridge and drive off Pontiac and his ambushers. The bridge -- which doubles as a pier if you take off one end -- attracted a lot of comments, and led Bryan Borgman (who brought some of their product) to sell out of them at the event! Next in line was a curving line of river road bordered by woods. A detachment of Colonial Militia were escorting some wounded to a waiting bateau. They are attacked by a warband of Indians, their blood fired up for scalps and blood.

    Colonial militia escorting a group of wounded are attacked by Ojibwe and Ottawa warriors out for blood and scalps

The third board was inspired by an incident in the battle when Rogers and his rangers seize a log cabin and convert it into a strong point to hold off the swelling numbers of Indians. Since my Acheson Creations log cabins don't really have enough loopholes and windows to simulate this, I also threw in a wood shed and a stone walled cornfield for the rangers to use. The other end of the table was anchored by the outworks of Fort Detroit and a tiny part of Pontiac's original encampment. Here the rearguard was being ambushed by Indians within sight of the fort.

    Cheers and groans rang out along the table as dice rolls heralded successes and defeats
The two games filled up with eight players in both. On the first night, the British could do no wrong. They won an overwhelming victory using the scenario VPs I'd created. However, on the second night, it was much, much closer. The British won on two boards and the Indians on the other two. Counnting up the totals, it came to a difference of 10 points -- one scalp! One more British soldier killed and scalped and it would have been a victory for Pontiac. All the players seemed to have a great time.

    Indians close in on the log cabin that Robert Rogers and his rangers have occupied
 We sold 8 copies of Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules at the show. I was hoping we'd sell more -- especially since we had a dealer table at the show, as well. I think we've hit HMGS Great Lakes conventions fairly well this year, though, and many of the attendees had already purchased them. Time to get back to work on that Beaver Wars in Ohio campaign book...!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Can I call them the "Stink-eye" Tribe?

28mm Old Glory Indians (well, one is a Falcon fig -- can you guess which one?) from the "Stink-eye Tribe"
 I am sure that sometime during my decades of painting miniatures it took me longer to complete a batch of figures than these. However, I can't think of any recent examples. These 8 Old Glory 28mm bow-armed Indians have been partially painted and sitting on my desk (or conveniently hidden out of sight in a drawer) for months. Not years, but definitely quite a few months! Well, they're done, now. I want to call them the "Stink-eye Indians" because they have been sitting there, glaring at me, for so long, impatiently waiting to be done.

My friend Mike gave them to me when he purchased a horde of them at a flea market for a great deal. I needed more bow-armed Indians for my Beaver Wars campaign playtest, so I eagerly bumped them ahead of other projects in the queue. I wouldn't say I lost all motivation to paint shortly after I started on them, but I certainly had a lot of other things jump up and grab my attention. It didn't help that they were Old Glory figures, either. To me, Old Glory is the minimum of baseline of quality in historical miniatures. If you go much lower, it is not really worth investing your time in them. They aren't great figures, but they aren't horrible, either. They certainly do not hold a candle to my usual Conquest Miniatures. But when Mike handed me a batch of these for free (my favorite price, I admit), I chose to paint them over putting in a new order with Conquest.
More Old Glory "Stink-eyes" ready to participate in my Beaver Wars playtest!
 Since they weren't the world's most stunning miniatures, I decided to experiment a bit on them when it came to warpaint. I am normally fairly conservative when it comes to warpaint on my Indian miniatures. However, I tried out a couple whole torso warpaint schemes. Plus, I used a different technique for the red paint on the scalp. I actually liked how both experiments turned out. So, though these will never be my favorite figures in my collection, I was able to use my painting of them to improve my skills a bit.

Next up, is a batch of 7 28mm Indian women produced by (wait for it...) Old Glory. Once again, my O.G. pusher Mike purchased a batch of these online and asked if I wanted to split them with him. Since there is a decided shortage of 28mm Native American women, I agreed. After this, I think I want to take a break from Indians. Not sure what it is that I'll paint, but I can definitely use a change of pace. Hopefully, it won't take me as long to complete the Old Glory women as it did the men of the Stink-eye tribe!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dinosaurs as the "good guys"??

Although it was a laugh-a-minute for the players, it wasn't so much for the Nazis frantically trying to escape
 We were heading to Keith's "man cave" for our usual Sunday evening of gaming. He was hosting his 11-year-old nephew, Michael, for the week, and wanted to put on a game that he might enjoy. With Keith being only mildly over-the-top about dinosaurs, it was only a natural he put a game on involving dinos. Rather than one of his usual Dino Hunts, Keith had a twist in store for us this evening. WE would be playing the dinos. And we would be hunting humans...specifically, Nazis!
Nazis try to in vain to take refuge on a steep hill
Keith had seen a light-hearted set of rules called, "Eat Hitler" on Wargame Vault and downloaded them during their July sale. The scenario for the evening postulated that Hitler and his closest associates, with assorted guards, escape the fall of Berlin in a time machine. Russian artillery fire knocks the controls awry, though, and they ended up back in prehistory in a valley populated by hungry dinosaurs. Each of us would play a carnivorous dinosaur (or a number of smaller meat-eaters) with the herbivores and Nazis as non-players.
My dino snacked on two Nazis before they decided to flee the hill
I don't think the rules were designed for the 7 players we had participating, so we had to make some modifications early on. What's more, after playing it through, we had some more suggestions for changes if Keith were going to run this as a fun, convention game some day. We had a good time, of course. Just about everybody got to chomp some Nazis. My Allosaurus-sized dino (whose Japaneses name I forget) managed to eat one guard and Adolf Galland. No one ended up eating Adolf Hitler, who was saved from a pack of velociraptors by his loyal dog, Blondi. The seven players chased the Nazis around the board, generally ignoring each other and the herbivores. In the end, only Hitler, Blondi, and two others were left scrambling furiously to avoid the dinosaur rampage.
Steve's raptor pack used their cleverness to drive a pack of herbivores ahead of them to avoid Nazi firing
 Keith's nephew Michael played the T-Rex, and seemed to have a good time. I took lots of pictures of the mayhem, and decided to go ahead and post some here. Enjoy!
Michael's T-Rex showed up and crashed the raptors' dinner party

A spinosaurus got in on the feast and chased down the last remaining group of Nazis