Monday, February 24, 2020

Mean Streets Mission Testing

Sons of Thor in a photo NOT from the game - actually one Jenny staged for the rulebook when it is published
Lately, we have had the good fortune of having 7-8 players showing up for Sunday night gaming. I decided to take advantage of the numbers and try out an idea that I have for running my gang warfare game, Mean Streets, at conventions. Rather than have one board for six players, I thought about splitting the board into two roughly 3'x3' sections, divided by a bridge over a river, freeway, or something similar. I put out the call and lo and behold had 8 players -- not counting me!
We filled up an 8'x4' table with a giant playtest of my "Mean Streets" gang warfare rules on Sunday night
It took me all day Sunday to set up the scenario, assigning gangs and their respective missions to each of the boards. Each gang would have one Primary Mission and two Secondary Missions to amass victory points. I set up the missions so that the gangs end up bumping into each other to guarantee some fighting. Although I learned long ago that gamers have minds of their own and will do everything possible to ignore the way you're herding them. That proved to be the case on one of the two boards, but certainly not on the other, which was a dustup from start to finish.
The Bexley Blockwatch on patrol - one member taking the opportunity to "tag" a vehicle in the parking lot
With eight players gathered around the table, and getting questions from the players, I didn't get much chance to take pictures. I did get a chance to playtest out some of the newer missions that I'd written. Only one of them will require some tweaking, I think. The others worked out fairly good, although more than one player had his mission abruptly eclipsed when their members were jumped by another gang. In particular, the Grandview Gurkhas (Brian) had the mission to "Show the Colors." This meant sauntering down the main street slowly looking for a fight and showing off their "badassness," as Brian put it. However, they were cornered by the Hilltop Highlanders (Mike W) and engaged in a brutal knockdown, drag-them-out fight that lasted the whole game.
The Hilltop Highlanders emerge from an alley onto the main street - players place their dice indicating actions they rolled next to the figure
This actually meant that the Highlanders, who were supposed to protect Wallace's Brewpub, ended up being too busy fighting to prevent either the Berwick Wangs (Bruce) or the Sons of Thor (Joel) from fulfilling their secondary mission of "Beer Run!" In fact, the Wangs had the mission of essentially getting off the board on the opposite corner from where they entered in, "We Gotta Get Outta Here!" Meanwhile, they were supposed to tag everything in sight with their gang logo and look to leave a few bruises on rival gangs. Bruce ignored the last part of the mission, and his gang members never threw a punch (though they probably ran out of spray paint with as much tagging as they did!). The Sons of Thor were the mystery to me, as they were essentially supposed to roam the table looking for a fight -- they would receive double points for knocking out rival gang members. Joel loves to be contrary (like many a gamer!) and threw all of one punch all night long!

The Linden Daos cruise through the street market, looking for a fight
On the other half of the table, Mike S and his "O-Ren-Ishi School for Girls" jumped Tom's Eastmoor Kings from behind, knocking out their leader in a savage flurry of blades and blows. Tom's boys bolted for the other side of the board and were able to put some distance between themselves and the vicious Japanese schoolgirls! Keith's Linden Daos renewed their bad blood with Allen's Bexley Blockwatch, ignoring their primary mission to knock out all but the Blockwatch's Leader over the course of the game. Keith's leader broke new records for the number of wound markers on him, racking up nine or so, at one point. He was eventually knocked out when the Kings decided to wade into the fray, as well.

Another staged photo Jenny took for the rulebook: The Linden Daos - martial artists that pack a heavy punch!
All in all, it was a good playtest of my newest missions I'd written for the rules. It also allowed me to hone the point costs of various skills that gang members can purchase. I went with smaller forces, too, to test what is a minimum point size for a gang. The rules played fast, as I hoped, with the one game being over within 2 hours, the other following within another half hour. I am thinking that my two games at Cincycon will be the final walk-through of the rules, and that I will begin laying them out for publishing after that weekend.  Stay tuned for more gang warfare on Columbus "Mean Streets!"

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sidewalks for my 28mm Cityscape

The Shell station and a factory atop their newly-created concrete sidewalk slabs - I was very happy with the look!
I've been really busy the last couple weeks creating sidewalks for my 28mm urban terrain. Although I like the look of the black wool felt I am using as asphalt for the streets, I was unhappy with how the equivalent gray felt looked as sidewalks. It was too flat and two-dimensional looking. I went through a few ideas in my head before I settled on creating them out of MDF board flocked with gray ballast.
Another view of my sidewalks using Fine Blended Gray Ballast from Woodland Scenics
I had a lot of assistance from Jenny on this project. Not only did she cut my MDF board with her power tools, she also helped me put felt on the bottom of all my buildings and the sidewalk pieces. I figured this might be needed to keep the buildings from sliding on the flocked surface. The basic idea was to cut a piece of MDF for each building I've made. The dimensions would be 3" larger in both directions than the building itself, giving about 1.5" of sidewalk all the way around.
The Eastmoor Kings gather on the concrete sidewalk corner and in the black wool felt streets
I would then flock the MDF piece with Woodland Scenics Fine Blended Gray Ballast. Sidewalk concrete can be anything from gray to tan, I've found. I liked the look of the blended gray, and I especially liked how it gave it a much more three dimensional look. I began by painting white glue onto the edges of a piece, then pressing it into a 13" square, plastic container filled with the ballast. I found doing the edges first prevented a ridge from forming up on the edges. I then painted white glue on to the top surface of the MDF board. Once covered, I shook the ballast onto the piece, being sure to thoroughly cover its surface.
Their foes, the Hilltop Highlanders, gather on the sidewalk in front of the Shell station
After about a half hour, I tilted the board over the plastic container and dumped off the excess ballast. I then set it out on a flat surface to dry completely. Once dry, I sprayed it with Krylon Matte Clear to seal it in. After that, I gave it about an hour to dry, then I elevated it off of the flat surface. I squirted on a 50/50 mixture of white glue and water. Using a wide brush, I spread it out so it covered the entire surface, including the edges. I made every effort not to over-soak the MDF board, knowing that warping was bound to occur.
After the 50/50 mixture caused some warping, this arrangement would flatten the concrete slab back down nicely
After about an hour, I took it off the elevated surface and laid it out flat on a surface, letting it dry for about four hours. Warping had occurred (as I expected). However, I took four large craft paint bottles and placed them in the center of the board, setting a heavy weight atop them. This forced the center of the board back down. I usually let this sit overnight. When I woke up in the morning, the concrete slab was flat. I sprayed it with Matte Krylon again, and then finally glued gray felt to the bottom surface of the slab so that it could stack on top of others without acting as sandpaper and rubbing it too much.

Only once did I set the plastic bottles atop the flocked MDF board too soon, leaving an impression. I fixed this by simply reflocking those impressions lightly. It covered up the round, flattened dents well. I'm really happy with how these concrete slabs worked out, and will be making more of these as I create more buildings.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Day Trip to Dayton & the Dragons Guildhall for Saga

Pictish mounted hearthguard sit in reserve, ready for their moment to charge forward and seal victory for their lord
Two of our regular attendees to our Saga Game Days have been trying to get a once-a-month meeting started up in Dayton, too. Adrian and have set their monthly game day on the third Sunday of the month at a store in Beavercreek called the Dragons Guildhall. Since our "next generation" -- my friend Mike's son Jason and his cousins Daniel and Thomas -- actually live in Dayton, it sounds like this group should grow rapidly, too. Upon hearing Mike was going to go to Dayton this Sunday, as well, we decided to make the hour and a half drive over.
The Picts, at bottom, deployed levy archers in the right-hand woods, with warrior spear in the center and left. Across from them, the Jomsvikings deploy with warriors in the front line and hearthguard and warlord in the rear
There were two new players who showed up, Keith and Sally, and were interested in trying out the game. Adrian and Jim took them under their wing and ran a Viking vs. Viking game for them, coaching them through the rules. That left the other six of us to pair off and get in a game, as well. Since I hadn't played Mike in forever, we decided to match up in a Clash of the Warlords game. I had brought my Picts (Scots in the Age of Vikings battle board), and Mike was playing Jomsviking. Daniel wanted a rematch with his Norse Gaels against Jason's Last Romans, which left Thomas and Jenny to do another game of Crusaders vs. Jomsvikings, respectively.
On the left, two Pictish spear blocks confidently await the advance of the Jomsviking warriors
I set up a woods on either flank, while Mike place a hill off to the left side of the table. We rolled up deployment method "B", which means none of our units can be within a Medium distance of another friendly unit when set up. I placed my Levy bow in the right hand woods, flanked by my largest unit of long spearmen warriors. Behind them, was Nechtan Mac Fergus, my warlord. In response, Mike deployed his entire army. His four units of warriors were spaced across the front of this battlelines, while the two hearthguard and warlord were behind in reserve. I deployed one of my other warrior long spearmen units in the left flank woods, another one in center reserve on the baseline, and on the far left reserve, my small unit of four mounted hearthguard.
Jomsvikings prepare to open the battle with charges, unaware most attacks will be hurled back by the Pict spearmen
We took our first turn to begin consolidating, using the "Maneuver" to bring the reserve units up towards the front. I began pushing forward on both the left and right with my spearmen, as well. Mike advanced all across his front except for the unit of shield maiden warriors opposite my Levy, who lurked out of range. On my next turn, I advanced my bowmen to the edge of the woods, but did not shoot them, figuring I could wait till next turn. The large spear unit on the right edge closer to the bowmen to protect them.
Nechtan Mac Fergus orders a spear block forward to protect his levy in the woods
Mike immediately proved his Jomsvikings were going to be aggressive. He not only charged with a warrior unit in the center, he also advanced twice to charge his shield maidens against my levy. Not only was this my first time playing against a Jomsviking warband, it was his first game against the Scots. He'd heard about our great defensive abilities, but had not experienced them, yet. In the warrior on warrior matchup, my spearmen lost only one man but devastated his unit, killing six of the eight figures. Mike had poor luck in the woods, too, as he killed only four bowmen at the cost of three warriors, though. First blood definitely went to the Picts, as the combination of the "Long Spears" and "Counter-Attack" abilities on our battleboard meant we took few hits while inflicting grievous losses on the Jomsvikings.
Hulking huscarles hurl themselves on the center spear block, who will lose half its number and be driven backwards
I followed up, edging my spear closer to his shield maidens, but declining to do a second move because of the fatigue it would take. Mike took advantage of that to ignore the larger spear unit and chase down the levy for another attack. He scored enough hits to reduce it to five figures (no longer generating a Saga die), but suffered more losses leaving the maidens vulnerable to my much larger warrior unit. On the far left, Mike brought another warrior unit within spitting distance of my warrior unit in the woods on the left. I took the bait on my next turn and charged them, killing five of eight, while losing only one figure. In the other woods, the spearmen charged in and killed the last of the shield maidens.
Hoofbeats herald the arrival of the Pictish riders who will trample the huscarles who threatened to break the center
At this stage, Mike's four units of warriors had been devastated. One was completely destroyed, while the other three were down to three or fewer figures. He brought up his second line of two hearthguard, however my spear units were still near full strength. We used "Reach" in an attempt to soften them up, destroying the remainder of one warrior unit and causing only a single casualty on one of the hearthguard.
The vicious bloodbath on the other battlefield between Jenny's Jomsvikings and Thomas' Crusaders
All along, I had been declining to give him the "Wrath" tokens that Jomsvikings can get when a player decides to cancel the Saga abilities he is attempting to play. I simply let him play what he wanted, preferring the danger of the his chosen action over the unknown danger of what he'd do with the Wrath tokens later! On my end, I often sacrifice dice to move my own units to make sure that I have the appropriate defensive/offensive abilities on my board ready to be used. In fact, I try to limit the engagement tactically to no more than two melees per turn. One of those will normally use the Long Spears and Counter-Attack combination, while the other will be mostly defensive with "Hold at Bay" and closing ranks when charged.
Although they did not secure outright victory, Jenny's Jomsvikings fared better today than Mike's
Like a good Viking, Mike was undeterred and hurled on of his hearthguard units at my center long spear unit, whittling it down to four figures and shoving it backwards. Now was the time for the warriors to get some assistance. Once again, I used Reach to soften up the enemy and then charged my small unit of mounted hearthguard into the depleted enemy hearthguard. They were destroyed at the cost of one of my mounted troopers. Mike was quickly running out of offensive units. When his next hearthguard unit was beaten, he had little left except for his warlord. After one of my warrior units destroyed one of his remnant units (you receive bonus victory points for completely destroying enemy units), he conceded the game. We counted up the points, and Nechtan Mac Fergus' Picts had triumphed over the Jomsviking invaders 26-10.
My Pictish warriors have won the day with their doughty melee abilities -- they look good and fight well in Saga!
In the other three games, Jason's Last Romans had pin-cushioned the Norse-Gaels to death with their missile fire. Daniel had suffered a similar fate earlier that week when the two had played a game. The rematch went no better for him, and the Last Romans triumphed 22-5. On the other battlefield, Thomas and Jenny were having another knock-down, drag-them-out fight between Crusaders and Jomsvikings. Two weeks earlier, they had fought to a bloody draw. History repeated itself, and this match ended in a draw, as well, with Thomas scoring 23 points and Jenny 21.
Pictish noble troopers ride in to save the day with a devastating charge
The new players had a blast, they said, and really enjoyed Saga. Sally had defeated her significant other, Keith, earning bragging rights in the household. Once again, Adrian and Jim proved they were the most generous hosts ever, buying five $20 gift cards for the players. I snagged one of them for beating Mike, while Jason, Keith, Sally, and Jenny won the others. I immediately used it to purchase more Pegasus hobbies terrain -- this time a modern bridge for my 28mm urban city.
What I bought with my gift certificate (courtesy of the immense generosity of Adrian and Jim!)
As the six of us retired to Cassano's for celebratory pizza, Adrian and Jim were setting up a game for themselves. Adrian's Saracens would face Jim's Eastern Princes, though we left before the battle got underway. So, with 10 players in attendance, the second Dragon Guildhall Saga Game Day was a success! If you're interested in attending, mark the third Sunday down in your calendar and join Adrian and Jim and the rest of the crew at noon. It was a fun day, and I'm glad Jenny and I decided to drive over for it. Thanks to all the players, and especially Adrian and Jim for their generosity!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

St. Jennifers - a Catholic Church for my City

St. Jennifers Church, along with its garden, being staked out by the Hilltop Highlanders -- one of my 28mm gangs
Last month, I attended the Dragon Guildhall's Saga Game Day in Beavercreek, Ohio (Dayton area). The hosts (thanks, Adrian and Jim!) were very generous and gave Jenny and I each a store gift card for making the trip. I decided to buy a Pegasus Hobbies building kit (Gothic City Building Small Set 2) for a church for my 28mm city I'm building. I'm really happy with how it turned out, though I did modify it a bit from "out of the box."
The Pegasus Hobbies boxed set that I constructed St. Jennifers from
The first thing I noticed is that there were few to no instructions on how to put it together. When I opened up the box, there were a bewildering array of hard, gray plastic pieces. Just looking at did not tell me how to construct it. There was one small sheet with three diagrams for specific portions, but no general, overall directions. So, I did what every 21st century gamer does when confronted by something they don't know how to do -- I Googled it! I found a couple videos on YouTube which were useful. One thing I would not have figured out how to do without the videos was to attach the doors to the entrances. Once attached, it is VERY cool how they built it so you can swing them open and closed even after painted.
This is a TALL building, as you can see from the 28mm figures, but detaches in an upper and lower section
The video was fairly thorough, though when it said there are plenty of extra pieces it was dead wrong. You are given j-u-s-t enough pieces for all the various details, like gargoyles and such. One decision I made was to NOT use the flying buttresses. Those are simply too medieval for a 20th century building in downtown America. There are plenty of old, Gothic, neo-Gothic, Romanesque -- whatever -- church is the U.S., but I've yet to see one that has flying buttresses (a term which makes my 7th graders giggle every year when I teach them about Gothic cathedrals!).
My scratch-built roof with its lovely shade of tiles -- the Pegasus kit does NOT come with a roof
Another thing I discovered that the Pegasus set doesn't have is a roof. Really. It is open to the sky. Yes, you can configure it in different ways, so that you could argue that you'd have to include multiple roofs, but that reason falls short a bit for me. I would say that, besides no instructions, that was the biggest shortcoming of the set. Luckily, I am fairly adept at scratch-building. So, using textured styrene, bass wood, and craft sticks, I was able to make a fairly nice looking roof for St. Jennifers -- as I decided to call the church. I have been naming my city buildings lately in honor of my gaming friends, so the church was obviously named after Jenny.
I really like the color and the details on this building -- and apparently, so do the Hilltop Highlanders!
The first step was putting it all together. It snaps together fairly well, but some joins aren't as good as the others. So, I decided to epoxy all the pieces in place permanently. The video suggested disassembling it and reassembling it every time, which was clearly an indication that the video blogger has succumbed to madness. I assemble each of the two levels, and immediately noticed the top story does NOT "easily snap" onto the bottom, as claimed. So, what to do? I decided to saw off the square "tongues" of the tongue and notch construction. Instead, I would put rare earth magnets on the top of each pillar of the bottom level. Where the top level would rest on the pillars, I cut flexible steel bases I'd ordered by mistake from Litko (thinking I was ordering magnetic bottoms for my figure bases). These were glued to the bottom of the pillars on the second level and the magnet and steel join is strong enough that the top level won't slide or move if bumped, but not so strong that you have to pry them apart.
A side view showing all the cool gargoyles and eagles that you can attach onto slots in the pillars
Next, I attached all the trim, which included gargolyes, eagles, knights, and flat blank pieces. There are numerous rectangular holes or slots on the exterior of each pillar. Since I wasn't using the flying buttresses (they also attach to the slots), it meant I actually didn't have enough trim pieces to cover all the holes. I improvised and used some tiny crosses that I'd bought at craft stores to cover the holes on the front and back. My first thought was to put the flat pieces on the bottom level and the gargoyles on the upper level. However, each level looks very much alike and I lost track of what I was doing. So, their are gargoyles and eagles on both the upper and lower levels. I really like the way Pegasus designed this aspect of the model. I just wished they'd given extras of each type, so you could go with all gargoyles, or all eagles, or all flat pieces, etc.
A gang member going in for confession? The doors are richly decorated and swing open and closed after painting
For the church's color, I decided not to go with a gray stone look like the box shows. There is an old church in downtown Columbus (Trinity Epsicopal, I believe) which is done in a beautiful tan-colored stone. I wanted that look for my church, so I knew I would have to paint the interior and walls -- I couldn't use the gray color the plastic was cast in as a base coat. I began by spray painting the interior and exterior of the walls with a medium brown acrylic spray paint I had. Once dry, I brushed on medium brown craft paint that I use for most of my bases. Next, I dry brushed it with a "Fawn" craft paint color. I am actually out of my Howard Hues Khaki that I normally use, and probably won't get a restock till next month.
The stained glass rose windows are simply Google Images printed in color at the local print shop & trimmed to size
But what to use as a wash? I think that a wash over dry brushing softens the look, and kind of "blends" it. I haven't had the best luck simply mixing paint up and watering it down. Normally, I premix Vallejo matte clear with some brown (or black) for a final wash of my figures. It would take ll of my pre-mixed bottle and more if I chose that method, though. So, I decided to purchase and try one of Vallejo's pre-mixed washes, choosing a Dark Brown one. It worked great, I thought. It softens the hard brush strokes of dry brushing, and seeps into the crevices and low spots nicely. Good find! I'm glad I decided to take the plunge and try out their premixed washes, finally!
A look at the magnets I placed on the pillars of the lower level
Next, I built the roof. For the base of the roof I cut two pieces of bass wood to be the main sloping roof sections. However, due to the way the upper level is constructed, simply running them along the triangular eaves and resting them on the stone didn't work -- the angle was slightly off. I had to cut and attach another piece of bass wood to the bottom so it reached the roof and rested on it. Kind of two-tiered roof. To make sure my triangular angle matched the model exactly I attached the two pieces together with duct tape "hinge." That way, they simply fit onto the stone slope perfectly. I set this on the roof, and then cut two pieces of textured styrene for the actual roof surface, epoxying them to the upper sections of the bass wood roof. There was about an 1/8th inch gap between the styrene and lower tier of the roof, which I filled with craft sticks or other pieces of bass wood. I capped it off, literally, with a triangular piece of styrene from the local model train shop. An unexpected bonus was it fit onto the upper story so tightly I would not even need to glue it. I pulled it off again, and spray painted the upper section black. The roof tiles were dry brushed dark red, then Howard Hues Middle East flesh. I loved the color of the roof and am very happy with not only how it looks, but I especially like how well I was able to make it fit!
A look at the interior and textured styrene floor -- note the lamp you can glue onto slots in the interior
Next, I used another piece of textured styrene I'd picked up long ago for the interior floor of the church. I spray painted it black with Krylon arcylic mate, then dry brushed it medium gray and light gray. I epoxied it to the bottom level of the church. Next, I cut a thicker styrene base for the model to sit on and epoxied it to that, too. I flocked the stryene with blended gray fine ballast to appear like concrete, and I was done! Well, of course, I did a coat or two of clear matte arcylic spray for protection, but St. Jennifers was complete. It is a very tall building, but fortunately fits in the snap-together boxes I carry my terrain around in. I'm very happy with how St. Jennifers turned out, and think it will make an excellent addition to my 28mm cityscape!
I built the little church garden using Hirst Arts plaster blocks, Halloween decorations, a spare 28mm girl figure, and plastic fencing from the local train shop

Monday, February 10, 2020

Picts Avenge Insults and Repel Invasion at Saga Game Day

Nechtan Mac Fergus leads his Picts against Roman invaders beyond Hadrian's Wall in our February Saga Day

Thirteen is my lucky number, and that was the number of players we had at February's Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East, here in Columbus, Ohio. I was able to get in two games with my newest warband, the Picts (using the Scots board from Age of Vikings). Lately, I'd been getting in only one game, as either mine ran long or I was letting others play and taking on the role of odd man out for one round. This week, Andy decided to take the bye in our first round, because he wanted to get in a game of Age of Magic, and there were only two other players for that (Steve and Jeff).
Bob and Jim, right, face off in the second round while Jeff, in hat, wages war with Steve
My first opponent was another newer player, Todd, who had only played once previously. He was using Andy's Anglo-Danish warband. I'd used Anglo-Danes a number of times, as those who read my blog have seen with the saga of Sigurd Skullsplitter. I gave Todd advice on how to use his battle board, though he seemed fairly confident. We rolled and I was the "first player" (essentially the Attacker), so I rationalized this was Nechtan Mac Fergus' punitive raid into Northumbria to avenge last month's bloody battle against Joe's Anglo-Danes. We set quite a bit of terrain on the board, and then I rolled to have us fighting diagonally across it. This meant that Todd had large woods on either flank, which would slow down his hearthguard's movement towards the front of the battle.
My Picts close in quickly against Todd's Anglo-Danes to minimize their galling missile fire
I deployed with my three larger units of warriors in the center (10-figure, 12, and 10). My levy bow guarded the spearmen's flank in a rocky area to the left. On the right, my small unit of mounted hearthguard watched the woods for the approach of the Anglo-Danes. Nechtan Mac Fergus followed behind the warriors, encouraging them on. Todd deployed his levy slingers in the woods opposite our left, with a unit of warriors guarding the gap between it and another woods. His two small units of hearthguard were advancing through the thick woods towards our left. Another unit of warriors threatened to encircle our right, so my hearthguard moved up to keep an eye on them.
Todd's Warlord urges two small units of Anglo-Danish hearthguard through the woods to face my Picts
The warriors are the strength of this list, with numerous battle board abilities that give them bonus defensive dice. They also have one or two offensive ones that can really pack a punch. Since Todd was rolling better and the missile fire was going his way, I sped up my advance with my left and center long spearmen. One unit of spear drove the Anglo-Dane levy out of the woods, while another drove back his center unit of warriors. Neither victory was overwhelming for my Picts, so I decided to soften them up even more with the "Reach" ability. This lets my non-missile armed troops make a "javelin" attack on the enemy. I rationalize this as darting forward and using the long spear's reach to cause casualties, then backing off. I also targeted the closest of his small hearthguard units advancing through the woods and managed one casualty there.
Bob's warlord urges his Welsh forward against Jim's Byzantines, who had been on a victory streak in recent months
The next phase proved more decisive as my spearmen eliminated the weakened unit of Anglo-Dane hearthguard and the center unit of warriors. When his second unit of hearthguard emerged from the woods, they were destroyed, too. At this point, with all my units still intact, I was willing to back off and take my victory on points. The Anglo-Dane warlord was still at large, and any too-aggressive pursuit in the center could run afoul of him. Todd urged me to charge his unit of warriors which was standing off my small hearthguard cavalry. He said if I charged them, we could call the game after the fight. So, I loaded up on battleboard abilities and obliged him, which was another Pictish melee victory. We counted up the points, and my Picts had won 16-9.
Jason, at right, examines his Roman battleboard for clues to defeat my Picts, while Mike, left, and Joe face off
One of my favorite gamers of the "next generation" -- the kids of my gamer friends -- is Jason Stelzer. He always has a wry sense of humor and enjoys having fun in games. We had yet to play in Saga, so I told him we should match up in the second round. He was using Romans from the Age of Invasions (Aetius & Arthur) booklet, this week. He's also played Vikings and Anglo-Danes quite a bit. I was the Defender in this game, and adjusted his center hill towards my side of the board, but otherwise, it was a battle that would feature an open center and woods and rocky areas on the flanks.
Opening stages of the Roman-Pict clash, with my spearmen calmly awaiting the invaders' charge
I deployed my three warrior spearmen units on the center hill, backed up by the mounted hearthguard and Nechtan Mac Fergus. My levy archers raced through the woods on my right to get into shooting range of the enemy. Across from us, the first line of the Roman center was composed of missile troops -- levy javelinmen and warrior bows. They were backed up by cataphract hearthguard cavalry, his Warlord, and a large unit of warriors. Another 12-man warrior unit extended to his left, aimed at rousting my archers out of their woods.
Nechtan Mac Fergus exhorts his troops after repulsing two Roman charges
After doing little last game, my archers made up for it against the Romans, scoring hits every time they shot. The "Diversionary Volley" battleboard ability is a nice one, granting two extra attack dice and preventing the target from utilizing bonus defensive dice. As his warriors took hits, advancing towards my archers, I moved one of my spear units into the edge of the woods to intercept them. Meanwhile, Jason decided to open up the fighting with a surprising charge by his levy javelinmen against my largest unit of spear. He insisted it had been successful in previous games, though I don't think he knew the capabilities of a fully-loaded Scots battle board. It was a slaughter, and only two levy survived to flee back towards their lines, while my Picts celebrated, virtually unscathed.
Byzantine cataphracts from Jim's army ride to meet their foe
Another neat battleboard ability for my Picts is "No Respite", which allows me to roll three available Saga dice and place them on my board. Essentially, after using up most of my abilities on my turn, it allows me to restock my battleboard for my opponent's turn. So, when his warriors crashed into my spearmen that were blocking his advance towards my archers, they faced the same deadly Saga abilities. My favorite offensive combination is "Long Spears" which allows me to take up to half of my attack dice and convert them into defensive dice. Then, playing "Counter-Attack," each defensive dice earns me a bonus of two more attack dice. Another Pictish melee victory and another shattered Roman unit reeling backwards!
A unit of Jenny's Jomsviking warriors charge towards their foes, blood-lust up
Next, it was time to soften them up some more, so I advanced my battleline to within javelin range and used "Reach" to cause even more casualties. My hearthguard cavalry got into the fray, too, charging down and destroying a remnant unit, inflicting fatigue on all their compatriots within 4" that witnessed their destruction. A key to my success was setting up the battle so we fought only one melee per turn. That allowed me to pile in overwhelming abilities to dominate this one contest. The Picts also have the ability to go defensive, and take few to no casualties when charged. By closing ranks, and then using "Long Spears" to ensure I have more bonus defensive dice than attack dice, I can also play "Beyond the Wall." This makes my saves an additional +1 on top of the bonus for closing ranks. Saving from melee hits with handfuls of defense dice that are successful on 3-6 is an excellent way to protect your troops from casualties!
Jenny's warlord battles four Norman riders, confident of victory
We counted up the points and it was a pretty overwhelming victory for Nechtan Mac Fergus -- 29-7. So far, my Picts were 3-0 in their three games. So, I'm feeling much happier about painting them up than I was in the opening stages of their initial battle against Joe last month (when droves of them were dying to Anglo-Danish axes). I understand, though, that this is Saga. There are armies out there that have battle board abilities that can counteract mine. However, it is fun playing them the way they are supposed to be: scrappy, tough fighters, who can survive lots of punishment and deal out death on the counterattack. And it is also fun figuring out how to maximize the use of your army's strengths while minimizing those of the enemy. I am really glad our Saga group is catching on. Each matchup and game is a tactical puzzle: How to piece together your strengths and the enemy's weaknesses to give yourself the best chance for victory.
Jim's Byzantine battleline draws aim across the battlefield at their foes
There were six battles in our first round of games (one Age of Magic, the rest historical). Adrian had to bow out in the second round to drive back to Dayton, so we had only five games then. Here are the results of the historical battles. Not all players bothered to count up the points, as some simply conceded that they were beaten at the end.
Mike's Jomsvikings prepare to hurl themselves upon Joe's Anglo-Danish warriors
Round One
  • Bob B (Welsh) defeated Mike S (Jomsvikings), 28-15
  • Mike D (Picts/Scots) defeated Todd (Anglo-Dane), 16-7
  • Jim R (Byzantine) defeated Joe M (Anglo-Dane),  no score
  • Dave E (Normans) defeated Jason S (Roman), no score
  • Adrian J (Irish) defeated Jenny T (Jomsvikings), 30-10
Anglo-Danes advance, carrying long Danish axes known to wreak havoc upon their foes
Round Two
  • Mike S (Jomsvikings) defeated Joe M (Anglo-Danes), 31-25
  • Bob B (Welsh) fought Jim R (Byzantine) to a draw, 26.5-26
  • Mike D (Picts-Scots) defeated Jason S (Roman), 29-7
  • Dave E (Normans) defeated Jenny T (Jomsvikings), 31-25

Here were the records for the day for the historical Saga players:
Dave E, Normans, 2-0
Mike D, Picts (Scots), 2-0
Bob B, Welsh, 1-0-1
Jim R, Byzantine, 1-0-1
Adrian, Irish, 1-0
Mike S, Jomsvikings, 1-1
Todd, Anglo-Dane, 0-1
Jason S, Romans, 0-2
Jenny T,  Jomsvikings, 0-2
Joe M, Anglo-Dane, 0-2

Here were out two Age of Magic games:
Jeff (Other Worlds) defeated Steve (Wild), no score
Steve (Wild) defeated Andy (Undead)

Players interested in showing up for our Saga Game Days should sign up for the Saga Ohio group on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Brewpub for my 28mm Modern City

The newest addition to my miniature city -- Wallace's Pub, a microbrewery named after on of my home-brewing friends
 I started naming and putting signs on the 28mm MDF buildings that I've been making for my modern city games. So, when I decided to make the next Sarissa Precision building a brewpub, it was only natural that I name it after my friend, Mike W. He is our usual host for our Sunday evening gaming. This is not only because of his spacious downstairs and excellent lighting, but also because he always has two home brews on tap!
The first floor interior - note the travel posters, pub sign, and posters advertising their Scottish Export Ale
The first thing you notice immediately about the building is all of the signs and posters that I've printed off and glued onto its surface. I've realized there is no way my hand is steady enough to hand-paint signs and logos. And why do it, really? Printed things off in color and gluing them onto it is so easy -- not just to make but to customize. The brewpub's sign, for example, is a combination of several images and some tweaking in Photoshop. One part is the Clan Wallace crest, surrounded by a red and black checkered border, along with the pub name.
The brewpub is a narrow, 2-story, brick building from Sarissa Precision in which the roof and upper level separate
The travel posters on the walls were simply found doing Google Image searches, and then resizing them in Photoshop. I print the images off at the local Office Max on their color laser printers. The posters for the individual beers I found online, and then Photoshopped and modified them with the Wallace name. It took a couple hours of work one evening to do it, and was a lot of fun.
The posters in the upper level (Highland Ambush is my favorite) -- the floor is also printed off and glued down
As always, putting together the Sarissa Precision MDF buildings was easy. They truly do go together well with a minimum of parts. I did my usual prime with Krylon Acrylic matte black, followed up (oh, about 3 months later, it seems!) with a 50/50 mix of black paint and water. This base accepts paint well, but the black means you have to do two coats on the walls to fully cover. The interior walls of the building I painted with a warm yellow gold color -- incidentally, similar to the walls of my house! I thought it would look really good with the brick red color of the outer walls.
The Eastmoor Kings check to make sure the coast is clear before breaking in the back door (note door window transom)
The rectangular, brick-like pattern was incised on the outer walls. Although the dimensions of the blocks were a bit large for true bricks, I wanted the pub to be brick, so painted it that way, anyway. I started with a red-brown base coat. Letting the base coat dry overnight, I next dry-brushed Howard Hues Middle Eastern Flesh in the interior of each block. One drawback of MDF over resin buildings is that no real 3-dimensional details can be incised on them. So, this is my standard attempt to give the illusion of 3-D with Sarissa buildings. It tends to turn out well, and this one did, as well.
I had fun putting the images in Photoshop and changing the brewery names to "Wallace"
The highlights were painted a medium blue, including the doors and window trim. I painted the upstairs moldings above and beneath the windows in dark brown. I wasn't sure what color to do. I felt mirroring the medium blue of the other trim would be too much. Dark brown seemed to be a good, muted color to go with reddish brown brick. For the roof, I've taken to painting them gray, and then brushing on white glue followed by coarse, blended gray ballast from Woodland Scenics. I like the effect it gives -- a bit of 3-D in a mostly two-dimensional facade.
A good look at the dry-brushed brick effect to complement the incised lines (perhaps I should have washed them?)
One of the touches I tried this time was the transom window above the door. Rather than leaving it empty, like I usually do with MDF windows, I printed out a colorful, stained glass pattern and glued it into place over the rectangular opening. I like how it looks. Of course, I cheated a bit and did both in regular writing, rather than have a reverse on the opposite like you would see in a glass window!