Saturday, August 27, 2016

Big Lee's 2MM hit give away

Mr Lee's blog has just crossed 2 million page loads a staggering achievement that will surely displace Guttenberg and his pokey old printing press in the historical annals of communication achievements.

Check it out

Thursday, August 25, 2016

He's off....

 Yet another sentimental post - Yee-Gads I'm becoming a softie.

Sean left for college yesterday.  He'll be living off campus in an apartment for his senior year so he's taking our old SUV (with 205k miles on it and still running nicely)

A few shots of the car all packed up.
 Yes those are old 33 records in the bin - they've come back into style for the listening quality.  It really is true that everything old is new again sometime.
 The departing picture with a purposefully goofy smile (he doesn't like posing for pictures)

And there he goes.  For whatever reason this year's departure really hit me hard.  Perhaps it's because it's his last year of college or the fact the he didn't need (not likely want) my help in getting to school.

He left about 10:00am wed morning and I was a wreck for the rest of the day.  Oh well back to becoming a curmudgeon.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mothers and Children

 Yesterday was a rare day of contemplation here in the Lair as I pondered the special relationship that exists between mothers and children.  It came to my attention as I was watching a mother deer nursing her fawn in our front yard.

To be honest, my initial reaction was to rue the silly local laws that forbid the discharge of firearms in a residential area as they were munching on our shrubbery.  The a state park in the backyard that full of stuff to eat - why pick on my yard?

Once I had stop railing about the infringement of my 2nd amendment rights, I was able to think back on the special relationship that a mother shares with her child.

Queue fading harp music......

A few hours later I was confronted with another scene of a mother and child as my son has just returned from his summer internship in San Francisco and has decided to grace us with his presence for 2 whole days before returning to Carnegie-Mellon for his senior year.

Of course he's a bit larger than the fawn coming in at 6'4" and has the lithe and delicate frame of an offensive lineman.  But he does share one likely characteristic with the fawn - he's terrified of his mothers wrath (as am I).

Sigh, he heads back to school today for his last (hopefully) year of college.

Any of you want to hire a soon-to-be CMU grad with degree in stats and robotics?  He's really good at lifting heavy stuff.

I really can't afford to feed him any more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Test Dungeon Terrain Section

 Dungeon Terrain?  On a Historical Miniatures blog?  Blasphemy I say!

Well, no, it's not really blasphemy.  I just need a change of pace and am thinking about doing something a bit daft for next year's Historicon game that may mix historical and fantasy - shall we say "Muskets and Dragons" or even "Bolt-Grave"?  But more on that another time....

If one is going to do a fantasy game, one needs some dungeon terrain.   There a lot of commercially available terrain sets out there which are all patterned of the 2x2x2inch cube format used by Dwarven Forge.  DF makes great stuff but it's expensive and also "small".  I wanted to have a bit bigger feel, so I decided to mock up a sectional piece.

 After some deliberation, I'm going to try out building 6x6 inch sectional pieces and want to test the concept with a simple corridor section.  It's made out of 1 inch think extruded polystyrene insulation foam (EPS).  I cut 3 4x6" pieces to form the floor and walls.  I went with one inch for several reasons: (i) its strong so will resit wear and tear, (ii) it comes in easy to work with 2x2ft sections from home depot and (iii) having one inch to work with on the floor sections will allow some ability to add "depth" for canyons/crevices and maybe even some LED lighting.  For the test I mounted the EPS on matt board but will likely move to 1/8 inch hard board for the "real" sections.

 A shot with a 28mm figure for scale.  I like the look of the four inch wide corridor.  You can also see some experiments for detailing .  Before glueing I marked the stone "blocks" using a sharpie marker and ruler.  One inch squares for the floor and 1x2 inch blocks for the walls.  I tried several methods to make the indentations between the blocks and found using a 1/8 inch wide kabob skewer worked best when going with the grain of the EPS.  When going against the grain I used an exact knife and cut a very sallow "v" groove - a bit tedious but it worked.

The section was primed with black acrylic paint.

 Another fascinating shot of the black primed test section.  When working with EPS only use acrylic (water based) paints.  Non-acrylics just end up melting the EPS.

After waiting a few hours for the primer to dry the next step was to paint on a basic very and then highlight with white.
The completed test piece with some figures to show how it looks "in action" with some of my Saga Vikings vs a random GW Troll.  It did strike me that if you have a few saga armies, you've got more than enough dungeon explores for classic D&D.

I think the test section came out rather well but the walls are two high.  It would be difficult to get a measuring tape or fingers in there.  I think if I reduced the effective wall height from 3 inches to 2 the playability will increase sharply with out loosing to much of the dungeon feel.

My preliminary plan for the HCON game needs 6x4 feet of dungeon, which means a minimum of 96 tiles to build.  I think that may be a fun project for the winter.

What do you think?

In planning this little project, I did stumble over a lot of helpful you tube videos

Storm the Castle 3D Dungeon Terrain

The DMGInfo

While the game concept is a bit silly from a historical viewpoint, the terrain making will be a lot of fun and its' still you soldiers.  I just need a break from big, set-piece battles for a bit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


 Not really gaming related, but  perhaps gaming sustanence related - our tomatoes are coming in. We've got tons of them....

 Literally boxes and boxes of them.  This is the first week of the bumper crop which should last another 3-4 weeks.

What does one do with a plethora or tomatoes?

Make tomato sauces - gallons and gallons of the liquid red gold, which will then be frozen and brought out over the course of the year to make sauces, soups and warm the soul.

Back to more standard gaming related items in the next post (maybe)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Uninvited Pool Guest: A Wayward Timber Rattlesnake

I went out for an early swim on Saturday and discovered this fine fellow enjoying the pool.  I would later find out this youngster was a juvenile Timber Rattlesnake.  How did I come by this knowledge? Read on.

 After grabbing him out of the water (he was close to drowning and had been in the pool a long time) I put him out on top of a retaining wall to warm up and got a look at his markings.  The brown diamond shaped marking along the back are very unusual for snakes in our area.  This was no common water or queen snake.

Oh look how how cute - he's rearing up to attack me.  He even started wiggling his tail like he had a rattle.  I was to learn later that juvenile rattlesnakes haven't developed rattles at the end of their tails.

Right after this picture was taken he started striking at me.  It was really cute until....
He nicked me on the finger!!!  Within an hour my right hand had swollen up to the size of an orange and I couldn't move my index finger or thumb.

It's rather useful, when one is a stupid as I am, to be married to a surgeon and my lovely Dr wife took charge of my care along with simultaneously admonishing me for said stupidity.

It's now Tuesday and the swelling has gone down which is allowing me to type this post.  It actually was a nice few days being unable to use a keyboard.

What happened to Young Master Rattlesnake?  Well I let him go in the woods - rattlesnakes aren't that dangerous if you don't try to catch them (there's the whole stupid thing again) and are amazingly effective at keeping the rodent population down.  They are also on the endangered species list here in Maryland so its against the law to harm them.  Sadly, the rascals have no legal proscriptions against biting us.

As you might suspect, I spent a good bit of time single-handedly googling Timber Rattlesnakes on the web.  Fascinating creatures but nowhere did I see any indications of their love of swimming pools.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Guild Ball: Engineers - Just about done!

 I like to think of myself as a self assured adult - independent, thoughtful and frugal.  That self image is sadly untrue at a gaming convention where I can be lead astray and into a new game by the simple hint "all the other kids are doing it"

Such was the case at Historicon where I was "tricked" by great game play, wonderful mini's and a cool theme into trying Guild Ball a sports/combat themed fantasy game from SteamForged Games Ltd.

After a few demo games with the WWPD crew, I was hooked and on Saturday Steve walked me through the vendor hall saying you need this, that and one other thing.  At the end of our sojourn my wallet was a good bit lighter and I had the makings of a team from the "Engineers Guild".  The minis in the pictures are a bit shiny as I haven't varnished them yet - there's still a little bit of detail work I want to do on both the figures and the bases.  I went with a scrapyard theme for the basing.

The figures are wonderfully sculpted and perhaps the funnest I ever painted (sorry Michael and Alan Perry - I still love Perry historical the best)

 First up is "Colossus" he's big and got mechanical spider legs - what's not to love?

 Next up is the Mechanica, Velocity and the bomb thrower (literally) Ratchet.  The Engineers can field mechanics (robots) which have some unique game play aspects.  I went with the engineers as they reminded me of the robotics teams I coached when my son was in High School.
Finally there is Salvo, Ballista (the Team captain), and finally the mascot, Mainspring.

One of the more appealing aspects of the game is there are no points - each team consists of six players, one of which must be a mascot.  Simples.

After putting on a giant battle game at Historicon, I really like the concept of just a handful of figures to field a team - easy to get into and transport.  Each Guild has several other players - you can see one in the back of the pictures awaiting painting.

The pricing on minis is a little eye-watering but they are superb sculpts.  Offsetting the cost is the fact that all the rules and players cards are available for free via download.  You can buy nice printed versions (which I did, again due to travails of "peer-pressure" - that's my story and I'm sticking with it) but everything you need to play the game is available for free - including paper players.  It's a great  distribution model and since the company owns the IP for the game they can charge whatever they want for the minis.

I'm looking forward to my first game with these guys in a few weeks!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

San Francisco Trip

 Mary Beth and I flew out to San Francisco this weekend to visit our son, Sean, who is doing a summer internship there before coming back to finish up his senior year at Carnegie Mellon.

We spent one day at Lands End park and had a wonderful timing hiking and enjoying the sights. Sean has taken to wearing a knit cap as a fashion statement which my wife detests and she rips it off at any opportunity.

 Wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean - we initially only wanted to spend an hour of so at the park but ended up staying 8 - it's a fascinating place.

 Breakfast one morning at the hotel - my wife is reacting to my plans for year another time period and set of armies for Historicon.
I have managed to start to work on the guild ball team I picked up at H-Con

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Historicon 2016: Final Thoughts

First I'll leave you with the greatest gaming idea EVER - the Stay Puft Marshmallow Monster vs Gangsters.   This picture was taken from Ivar's fantastic mobster table and is hopefully a hint of a game he'll run next year!

I really enjoyed Historicon and plan to attend next year when it returns to Fredericksburg and run games again.  There are rumors that it may move north in 2018 so we'll need to see where it goes after that.  I'll still go but if it's a long drive I may scale back the size of the games I put on.

So in typical self-absorbed blogger fashion lets review what I thought went well and what could have gone better.

Good Stuff:
(1) Convention Staff:
The convention staff was very helpful and they came through with a great table for me to use throughout the con (thanks Bill R!).  The rentals tables that are used are bargain priced so are a little beat up - always remember to bring shims to level things out.

(2) Players:
Both Mike and I were very fortunate to have great sets of players and all nine of our 8 player games were fully filled (72 players in total).  We had about 25% no-shows (or late shows, more on that in the "could have gone better" category) but always had enough people wanting to get in.  Players make the game and the ones we had were fantastic.

(3) PELA Award:
For the third year in a row, Mike and I won a PELA award for our game - now the appropriate thing is to say "I'm not into to awards" but that would not be truthful.  I like getting them and trying to win one motivates me to make the gaming experience better each year and that is important to me.  I would like to see HMGS publish who wins the game of the con and other higher awards.  I think it would be helpful to see what other do better so I can improve my "game".  I do realize that judging games is highly subjective and there isn't a standard but I'm still new at this and have a lot to learn.

(4) Seeing Old Friends and making New Ones:
One of the best things about the cons is there is a fairly large number of like minded souls and there is  an opportunity to meet new gaming buddies.  It also gives me the opportunity to spend time with my WWPD friends and others which is always a huge plus.  Mike and I have also developed a number of people who are now regulars at our games and it's a real joy to host them at the table.

(5) Seeing Other Games:
I am constantly amazed at the creativity this hobby allows and really enjoy wandering around looking at all of the ways people choose to express themselves on the hobby table.  Doing so allows me to learn how to make my games better and improve my players gaming experience.

Could Have Gone Better / Ideas for Improvement

(1) Transporting:
This ones on me - I didn't organize any help from gaming buddies and ended up packing, transporting in and out of the con area all my stuff on my own.  It was pretty exhausting.  Luckily, nothing was damaged or lost but next year I need to plan better.  I think this is the 50 year olds equivalent of asking friends to help you move apartments when you were in your 20's!  I wonder is the response rate to my emails will plunge in the months leading up to Historicon 2017 after publishing this post?

(2) Registered Player Management:
As a GM you never know if your game is fully sold out or not and it can be difficult to make the call when to allow people who didn't register for the game in.  Given I always had 4-5 people who wanted in and were not registered, I made a decision to make the cutoff promptly at the start time.  Several people came a few minutes late and lost their spots, which I felt bad about but didn't know what else to do.  Waiting past the start time just reduces the amount of play time everyone has.  It would be great if HMGS could have a web app that allows GMs the ability to look up and see if their games are sold out or not.  For privacy issues I understand you can't release player names but surely theres a way to publish the register status and how many spots are open / filled.

(3) WiFi Access:
There was no WiFi access in the convention center and that's a pain in the *** for those of us with significant business and/or other commitments - sadly my portfolio companies don't take a break when I go gaming.  Providing WiFi access might actually be a revenue opportunity for HMGS as I'd be happy to pay $10-$15 for access over a few days.

(4) Game Master Social:
I think it would be a good idea for HMGS to organize a social for those of us who put on the larger and/or multiple games.  I'm still learning how to do this and having an opportunity to meet others who are more experienced at it would be very appealing.  We don't put on games for the price break on admission - we do it because it's fun and creating a little more camaraderie within our ranks might help promote more of the larger "show-piece games"

(5) Secured Storage:
I left my minis on the table top each night when the halls shut down and had no problems other than the constant worry they might wander off.  It would be great if HMGS could provide a locked room to store stuff overnight - again that's something I'd pay a few dollars more for the privilege to do so.

(6) 9 Games at 4+ hours each (including setup) over 3 days is too much:
Again, this one's on me, but running 9 games over three days didn't allow for any real down time or the ability to play in other games.  Next year I think I'll cut the game slots down to six (2 each day) and leave the evenings free.  By the last game Saturday night, which started at 9:00pm I was wiped out.

What about Next year?
Mike and I will spend the next few weeks thinking about what we'll put on next.  After seeing what Clarence and Barry put on and getting a copy of "Beneath the Lilly Banners" I'm thinking of a game of that type (which will require a new armies be painted up!).  I'm also leaning towards doing a Frostgrave like game which can be easily scaled up or down to meet player demand.  Because we're not all that bright we'll probably do both....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Historical Day 3

 Mike and I ran three games on Saturday - the first game was Grapeshot on the Chesapeake and it was another rousing game in which a number of friends played including John S, Mike P and Steven McL.

 Ramming Speed!
 The Brit Heavy Cav overrun the fort

 Victory to the British!

 The second game was another go of Madman's Steeplechase with friends Mike P Eric Land Matt F playing

 I got the players to give a nice round of Huzzah after the game!

 The third and final game Saturday was a final run of Grapeshot of the Chesapeake which started at 9pm

 We had three pairs of fathers and son playing the game which made it a lot of fun

My gaming table after getting everything packed up
Me Sunday afternoon after unpacking all my stuff upon arriving home.

It was a fantastic con and I really appreciate all the great players we had.  More importantly - thanks to Mike for partnering to put these games on and his amazing painting skills.

I'll do a final post on my thoughts about the convention but I'm definitely going back next year.