Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pulp High Adventure in Sumatra

The table with ruined temples, Skull Cave, a Pygmy Cannibal village (with cookpot) and more!
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would bring out the 28mm Pulp miniatures for Sunday night gaming. Cannibals, Skull Cave, ruined temples, and animal abominations that walk upright like men would haunt the table. More importantly, it would give me a chance to playtest my rules for convention Pulp games. Although I enjoy playing Pulp Alley (see Dakota Smith's Oriental Adventures), I am not sold on its use for a large, multiplayer convention game. I want something that is easy to learn, fast-moving, and gives me a chance to run a game for up to 8 players.
Von Jaeger's German archeological team, with German sailor muscle, moves to investigate a temple
Enter "War-Drums," a variant of Song of Drums and Tomahawks I'd written and ran at last year's March Through Time at the Ohio History Center. I tweaked the rules a bit to take it out of the American Frontier and into the "High Adventure" genre. I cooked up a scenario that would have my players control European adventuring teams with a squad of sailors or soldiers as backup. They were investigating strange occurrences on the island of Sumatra. Here was the U.S. player's briefing (all players received similar ones):
Their arch-rivals, Dakota Smith and his American archeologists, close in on the same temple
“…Hair-raising reports have been coming out of the Sumatran jungle for the last year or so. It seems cannibals have been raiding settlements and carrying off screaming captives for their fiendish feats. But even worse things have been spoken of, in whispers. Animals of the forests have begun to walk upright and forge weapons. They, too, have stalked settlements, stealing away with captives to devour (or worse).
    These dark forces seem to emanate from the area of the fabled lost city of Yothai. Untold riches are rumored to be buried there, along with arcane objects of immense power. Has someone uncovered one of these and is behind all this? You suspect the Nazis, whose lust for objects of power seems unquenchable. You have assembled a small force of men you can trust, and the government has given you a detachment of U.S. sailors to safeguard you. Your mission is to investigate Yothai, find what is behind all of this devilry, and see if you can put a stop it…”

The French party had to cross a series of bridges across a swamp to arrive
I set up a huge board with a hill in the center, surmounted by Skull Cave. At the midpoint of each board edge was a ruined temple. The cannibal village was on one side of the board, and the players started out spaced out around the board edge. When they came within a certain distance of one of the temples, it would spring enemies to appear (the player in question rolling 1d6 each turn to see how many). My Pygmy Cannibals, along with my Splintered Light Frogs and rats were the enemies.
When the French were partway across, a band of Frog-men rose up out of the swamp and attacked
I think the activation and combat system worked well enough. The scenario design was likely flawed, though. With each player having to run not only their own troops but a force of enemies attacking their neighbor it took way too long between player turns. Mike S's troops did not really get a chance to do much as they rolled very low for their enemy numbers. Meanwhile, Allen and Joel had their hands full with the Frogs and Pygmy Cannibals. Keith and Mike W also faced off with the cannibals, but between them were able to keep losses to a minimum.
Pygmy Cannibals swarmed out of the jungle and attacked the British archeologists, as well as the U.S and Germans
The game was not the most rousing success, but I learned some things for future scenarios. I think it would work best with an A/B movement systems with players in two informal alliances. That would pretty much cut out the long waits between turns and make it more fun, I think. Also, large numbers of non-player enemies will slow it down, too. The players suggested fewer, but bigger and tougher (tigers? crocs?) fauna.
Mike S's force of Diggers, unscathed by the intermittent attacks of Ratmen, investigate a temple
Still, it was fun to see it all out on the table again.

Mice Army - Splintered Light Miniatures

Brian Jacques' Redwall novels are the inspiration for much of the Splintered Light Miniatures line, especially my mice army!
I finished the last four stands of my army of Splintered Light Miniatures Mice. I know that SLM is billing itself as 20mm figures, nowadays. However, these mice are tiny! Which, I guess, is to be expected. The figures average about 11mm in height from the bottoms of their feet to the tops of their heads. So, after all the 28mm figures I've been painting recently, this was an adjustment.

Still, the figures are great, and are very cleanly cast. There tends to be little to no flash at all that needs to be trimmed off. And not so many nooks and crannies that are difficult to fit your brush into, like in some lines. Nor is there an over-abundance of equipment festooned to the figures. They tend to paint up quickly -- especially one you have whatever base coast and drybrush method you're using to depict their fur.

So, here it is, the third of my SLM armies based up for my own fantasy miniatures rules. Enjoy!

Mice Heavy Infantry
I thought it would be cool to give each heavy infantry unit of the army its own banner with slogan. The slogans would all be related to cheese. I am normally not given to whimsy in my miniatures gaming, but this was one I couldn't resist. Each heavy infantry base has 5 figures (light troops have 4). I painted them in the colors of Medieval Heraldry as my theme for how they look.
The "Meunster" and "Camembert" regiments
The "Edam" and "Cheddar" regiments
The "Gouda" and "Brie" regiments
Mice Light Infantry Slingers
Splintered Light Miniatures make mice with slings, so these were a natural for this army's skirmishing infantry. I put four figures to a stand with light troops to show their more dispersed formation. I also did not bother with banners for them -- figuring that only the heavy units would really use them. This photo, and the one above of the Gouda and Brie regiments, were entries I submitted in the Lead Painters League.
Mice slingers lurking at the edge of terrain
Mice War Elephants
Elephants and mice together? It just fit too easily into this slightly whimsical army to resist. I sorted through my 15mm Ancients figures and found a couple of Indian elephants that I would not be painting anytime soon (if ever!). I scratch-built a howdah using craft sticks and bamboo skewers. I armored it with some 28mm Dark Ages shields, and crewed it with a couple mice spear, and voila! The heavy fist of this mouse army was done.
Mice riding on elephants was just too perfect for me to resist...
Mice Heroes and Shaman
One of the many things I like about Splintered Light Miniatures are its "heroic" figures. For every line, there seems to be a number of leader or hero type poses that really give it spice. In some armies, the figures are so cool looking it is hard to pick which you want to be the heroes or leaders! These were the two I chose for this army, along with a wizard-looking type to be a Mouse Shaman.
A mouse shaman and two heroes

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Japanese Bettys "Sweating" It Out After Bomb Run

Our formation of "sweaty" Betty bombers, and Allen's escorting Zeros
Check Your 6! is one of those games that we play only about once a year. So, invariably, we spend the first half hour trying to re-learn the rules. Mike S had cooked up a scenario featuring a flight of Japanese Betty bombers escorted by 6 Zeros. A U.S. force of 5 Wildcats and 2 P-39 Airacobras were attacking them after the Bettys had completed their bomb run.
My two Zeros take a left turn to sweep around and come in behind the Wildcats -- or so we thought!
I ended up controlling two Zeros flown by Veteran pilots. As we were filling out our sheets, I noticed our "robustness" -- how much damage we can take under the CY6! system -- was appropriately enough, a "0." That is a really fragile plane. So, I decided to take my two Zeros on a sweep to come in behind the Keith's Wildcats after they had made their run. I underestimated how quickly they could close with the bomber formation and ended up out of the fight for a good length of time.
Our enemy -- three of the five Wildcats and two P-39 Airacobras in the distance
In fact, I had no idea that they would simply dog-pile into the middle of the bomber formation and essentially be invulnerable under the CY6 system (and Mike S' really bad die rolls!). So, as I was hurriedly trying to close with the scrum in the middle, Bettys kept falling from the skies. I think that our defensive fire from bombers accounted for one damaged Wildcat in the entire game. Maybe that's accurate -- I don't know. Keith was clever and dove under their formation where they had fewer guns to bear, and Brett hung on the edges and shot in, but Steve just flew straight into the middle of the formation, guns blazing.
Yes, you must be bald to play in this game...ha, ha! Keith, Brett, and Mike S analyze the scrum (guess whose two fighters those are way out of the fight...?)
Slowly, my fellow Japanese Zero pilots (Joel and Allen) closed with the U.S. fighters. One by one, we began to damage or drop their fighters, too. I made a diving turn and got into fight (right onto the Wildcats' tails, as I'd planned) two turns before the end of the game. I managed to shoot down one damaged Wildcat. I never took any fire, but felt somewhat like I'd bungled my job as bomber escort. Oh well, dead men tell no tales!
The Wildcats boldly jump right into the formation of Betty bombers, ignoring the Zeros lurking on the edges
I do think that perhaps slightly larger hexes are needed. The bomber formation was simply a mass of airplanes and looked kind of silly, I thought. Of course, if it was fighter-on-fighter action, it likely wouldn't have looked as out of scale.
Okay, this looks a little silly, in my argument for larger hexes with this scale planes
I learned some lessons about how to do bomber escort, which I will doubtless forget in the ensuing year before we play again...ha, ha!
One Betty bomber remains, but will soon be shot down. Zeros close in...too late!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Squirrel Army - Splintered Light Miniatures

My Splintered Light Miniatures Squirrel Army
I got a visit from a squirrel outside my office window, today. He had a complaint. He was wondering why I had not post pictures of my Splintered Light Miniatures Squirrel Army, yet, but HAD post them of my Raccoons. His flicking of his tail conveyed his agitation as he pointed out that the Squirrel army had been painted before the Raccoon one. So, to avoid being swarmed by angry squirrels next time I go outside, here it is.

Squirrel Archers

Here are pictures of my stands of Squirrel archers. Note that all units are based up for my own fantasy miniatures battles rules  (still in the writing stage -- hopefully playtesting soon). All units are on hexagonal bases.

Squirrel Spear & Sword 

Squirrel Highlanders

I have to admit that these are my favorite figures in the army! I mean really...squirrel highlanders? What a cool concept. The sculpting has so much personality. If they gave you enough variety of the highland squirrels in the bags, I'd have done the entire army this way!

Squirrel Ally

It seems only appropriate that Squirrels would ally with Ents. I mean they do spend most of their lives in trees, right? So, the two would have common ground when it came to fighting enemies. Here are two Black Raven Foundry Ents, with a Squirrel "tree herder" marshaling them.

Squirrel Heroes

Each army under my rules will have a number of generals, heroes, wizards, etc. These are based individually, and on smaller bases. Here are this Squirrel heroes!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Board Games at My Place

 With two of our regulars out, and a few others not replying to the email, it looked to be a small crowd for our regular Sunday evening gaming session. There are a lot of 4-player board games, but it is a rare thing when we have only four. So, I asked Allen to bring along Amazonas, which we had not played in a number of years.

Players take on the role of researchers in the Amazon, collecting specimens of five different types of flora and fauna. The board depicts a number of villages connected by jungle pathways and waterways. Each player has a secret objective to visit four of the villages and build a research hut there. Failure to do this results in negative victory points. Otherwise, players start receiving victory points when they collect three of any one of the five specimen types. Players receive additional victory bonuses for being the first to collect one of each of the five types, the first player getting 5 points, second 4 points, and so on.
The board, showing the jungle and water pathways between villages
I ended up winning the first game, barely building into my final, far-flung village on the last turn. I had at least 3 specimens in 4 categories -- foregoing the bonus for collecting all 5. It went quick enough, we set it up and played again. This time Joel won. It is a good game -- what other players do affects you, and the random order of special event cards also has a big effect.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Splintered Light Miniatures Raccoon Army

With my Wars of Insurgency and Beaver Wars published, my time has finally been freed up some to work on my next rules project: a fantasy miniatures rules set for use with the woodland animals of Splintered Light Miniatures. I am finishing up my third army specifically based for this system. Once my fourth one is complete, I will begin playtesting. Or perhaps I will put other figures I have on sabot bases and start earlier.

The hexagonal basing system is a key component of the rules. Each unit is on a roughly 45mm (1.75") base. This will be a key feature of the movement rules designed to eliminate arguing over the milimetrics and angle-measuring of some rules sets. It will also fit in with the First Command Wargames philosophy of easy-to-teach and simple rules. I will save for later posts detailed discussion of the rules mechanics.

Instead, I wanted to feature pics of one of my painted armies. This one is my Raccoon army. A couple of the photos were entries into the Lead Painters League back in 2013. Others are front and back detail shots of stands. Most armies will be composed of around 10 bases of units with three individually-based leaders.

Also painted up are my Squirrel army, and the almost-completed one is my Mice army. Sitting on the painting desk, waiting patiently for its chance to strike, is my Fox army.

These are pre-painted plastic figures that are repainted and based up for the army
Spear-armed Raccoon troops

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

pardon the advertising

So, I'm having trouble getting this banner signature uploaded to Photobucket. I'm uploading it here so that I can link it on my Lead Adventure Forum posts. Photobucket has gone insane and is trying to charge hundreds of dollars to host pictures which you link to on forum posts. I predict they will go out of business soon -- unless they change their mind.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wars of Insurgency (and other games) at Advance the Colors

One of my favorite shots of my "That's My USAid! - Congo Chaos" game from Advance the Colors
If there is any convention that I consider "home," it is Advance the Colors. I am on the Board for HMGS Great Lakes, which as been running the show in Central Ohio for almost three decades. Our home for the last decade or so has been a museum -- the Heritage Center of Clark County. There's something satisfying about holding a historical miniatures convention amidst displays honoring our state's contributions to history!
The players look over the situation for their faction and plot how to end up in control of the crates of food and medicine
I ran my "That's My USAid! - Congo Chaos" game three times over the course of the show. All three times were full, and everytime I had attendees tell me they were sad they tried to get in it, but couldn't. I take it as a compliment when my games run full. It means that people find the scenario interesting, the setup drew them in, or people simply enjoy my games. Who knows? Maybe it is all three (he says, head swelling...ha, ha)!
The situation at the start of the scenario: UN in control of the freighter and aid,  facing off against the Belgian-trained Congolese paratroopers
I make minor tweaks each time I run it, and this one involved setting the freighter up even a bit further away from the entry point of the Boma Bandits -- a force that comes onto the table in four, motorized Congo river canoes. The Leopoldville Leopards, essentially the local militia force where the battle takes place, also had their setup moved closer to the center part of the town. The two militia factions tend to win slightly more than their share of runnings of the games, but I have had all five of the player positions win at least once. However, this will likely be the last time I run it for the convention season. I hope to dream up a new scenario for next year's conventions.
Where the shooting typically started -- the UN sandbagged position guarding the pier (and offloaded aid)
I sold quite a few copies of the rules, my own Wars of Insurgency - which came out little over a month ago. I love how players learn the rules very quickly, and by Turn 2 all that I am called upon to do is to record the Initiative Order and make rulings on lines of sight or cover bonuses. The players seem to have a great time with it and they leave the table after the game's over thinking about what period or conflict they can use them for (another great sign!).
The local area militia, the Leopoldville Leopards, advance through the scratch-built shantytown towards the center
Surprisingly, I was even able to pick up some unpainted 20mm figures to paint up for future scenarios. Buck-a-fig, run by Brian Beal out of Heart of America HMGS, brought along a box of various 20mm Modern figures with me expressly in mind. Thanks, Brian! Several of the packs are of "Western-style" police or SWAT figures. My mind is already spinning with ideas for conflicts or scenarios to use them for! That's another thing I like about Wars of Insurgency. Although I may own mostly 20th century Africa figures, the rules will fit for any infantry firefight that keeps armor and support weapons (like air or artillery) to a bare minimum. They were designed for guerrilla wars, which have had a tendency to spring up on most continents in the last century, it seems...
Some of the Boma Bandits - militia rivermen arriving in motorized canoes - disembark along the sea wall and eye the local Leopoldville Leopards warily
The table looked good, I felt. I added in my MDF Water Tower from Impudent Mortals. Not sure why I hadn't put it out on the table before, but it added a nice touch. I will be looking for more 20mm scale modern buildings to give me more variety on the tabletop. Or perhaps I will scratch-build some more. Scratch-building's advantage is that it allows me to ensure all the roofs (or floors in multilevel buildings) come off to place figures inside. Its disadvantage, of course, is that it takes more time!
More Bandits disembark onto the pier after the UN have been driven from it by gunfire from multiple factions
Part of my duties as a board member for Great Lakes at Advance the Colors is being Dealer Coordinator, and also promoting the convention on Facebook. I was gratified to see that my pushing the convention on social media seemed to increase both the number of games that our GMs submitted, and also brought a solid rise in attendance. It was also cool to walk around and see all of the games I'd been promoting on Facebook in person. I was so busy Friday, though, that I missed many of those.
How to do it without getting shot up? Another group of players ponder the Congo's tactical puzzle
The Rules: Wars of Insurgency, available from First Command Wargames
Below are some of my favorite pictures of other games from Advance the Colors. Thanks to all of the GMs who ran games, and the attendees who showed up to play in them!
Kevin McCarthy's "Harlem Heights" game from the American Revolution using Sons of Liberty rules
Jim Wonacott's "Somewhere in Africa Around 2000 or so..." using Black Ops rules
Derek Johns and one of his players in his Boer War game, Battle of Elandslaagte
Imperial Disfavor, a Victorian Science Fiction game using First Command's For Queen and Planet rules
The New World is so Lovely in the Fall, Mike Stelzer's Song of Drums and Tomahawks French & Indian War game
The stunning terrain of Adrian John's "The Battle of Point Pleasant"
Greg Crane's World of Tanks-style Death Match cycled in more than two dozen players on Friday
Jim Morrison's games are immensely popular, and his Survival in Zombie America was no exception!