Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Historicon: Other Peoples Games

The games at this year's Historicon seemed to have stepped up several notches in quality from previous cons.  There were a lot of beautifully staged games and game masters who really put a lot of effort in their games.  I'll devote the majority of pictures in this post to what was clearly the best game of the con Dave S's and his lovely wife Kalissa's "Battle of Oulestee" game from the American Civil War .  Oulestee was the only major engagement fought in Florida so the table required some very unique vegetation, which Dave really delivered on.  I should know -  I grew up on the US Gulf Coast and the table reminded me of home.

 This game very deservedly won "Best of Show" and in addition to being beautiful was very playable.

 I plan to steal, oops I mean "liberate", a lot of the terrain techniques used by the Dave and Kalissa for future gaming projects - mimicry is a form of flattery!

 Wow, simply Wow is the best way I can describe this game.

After careful consideration, I have bestowed the title of "Teddy Bear Fur King" onto David as he makes the best use of that material I've ever seen.  David, I trust you'll use this new title and all the powers it conveys for good and not evil....

I'm pretty sure he wanders around his house resplendent in a teddy bear fur robe - and now he can wear a crown with it!

 I loved the Spanish moss on the trees in the swamp areas and think David did a superb job simulating the the plant.  When I was a kid our house (OK trailer) backed up to the bayou and we had Spanish moss all over the oaks.  Dave nailed it!
 In addition to the terrain there were over 1,500 newly painted 28mm Union and Confederate troops on the table - all of which David painted in 12 months.  The figures are from Sash and Saber and I need to think about adding some to my ACW collection - there are very nice.
By the way, I did learn from Kalissa that if you're ever in a game whichDave is hosting the surest way to curry the GM's favor and likely several re-rolls is to say nice things about the French.  Trust me it works.  Feel free not to credit this insight to me....

 Outside the main gaming area there was a giant ancients game that pitted Romans against celts.  What was really cool was the scenario changed daily from an assault on a Roman fortress on Day 1, a Column ambush on Day 2 (think Tuetenburg Wald) and then a meeting engagement on day three.  Very innovative use of the table.
 Perhaps my second favorite game of the show was this Siege of St Elmo - the terrain was breathtaking and the minis superbly painted.

 The GM used an innovative way to simulate the huge number of Ottomans besieging the fort - figures taken off the table for Ottoman losses would re-appear at the back edge as reinforcements - think shark teeth.
 A ginat model of Minis Tirith!
 ACW in 15mm
 A harpoon naval game with teeny tiny ships!

 A game of "Et Sans Resultant" with the rules author in the natty white hat.  I had a chance to goto dinner with the author and his wife and enjoyed meeting them and learning how they got into the crazy business of miniature wargaming.

I am very intrigued by the rules (I have a copy along with 3 of the scenario books).  I highly recommend both the rules and the scenario books to anyone who's interested in the period.  Each Scenario book includes literally hundreds of uniform plates that are incredible useful in painting up your forces.  You'll hear more about these rules in future posts.

 A big Fire and Fury Brigade level game that will be featured in Rich's upcoming scenario book.  Still the best rules for the Civil War out there.
 I loved these giant ship models!

 I did miss getting picture of Bob Giglio's game but it was wonderful and will be featured in an upcoming Wargames Illustrated issue.  I suspect Dave Taylor took better pictures than my I-phone and clumsy fingers could ever hope to!

There were a lot of other innovative and well staged games that I just forgot to take pictures of.  I'm really excited about the future of the con after seeing this level of participation and know I need to up my game for 2019!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Back From Historicon 2018

 This year's Historicon was a blast - probably one of the best I've ever been to.  The first few photos show the table layout for this years games.  The table was 6ft by 20ft.  I had asked for 6x24 but made this work.

Over the next few days, I'm planning to do a series of posts about each day of the con and then the mandatory self important "con reflections" (spoiler - it will be very glowing to the organizers)

Prepare yourselves for a barrage of con related ramblings - you have been warned.
 A shot from the "catacomb" side of the table.  Gamewise, the catacombs are located under the jungle section where there are entrances that correspond to the stairway sections on the catacombs.
A shot of the jungle section, which was new for this year.  I think it came out really well and I think people really enjoyed playing on it.

I ran the game a total of 8 times over the three day con which was both really fun and exhausting.  Very grateful to both Mike M and John D who both pitched in to help me run a game.

 This year's games were a lot more intense and all went down to the last die roll.  There was a lot more frenetic combat in the catacombs which really was very exciting.

Three factors contributed the improved game play.

1) I had uniformly great players including a good number who played last year and several who played the game multiple times this year.  It's the players who determine the gaming experience and I was blessed with an outstanding group of people.

2) I tweaked the rules to make the monsters a bit less imposing so the player groups could get to the catacombs quicker and start bumping into each other.  There was a lot more allied vs axis combat in this years games.

3) The movement trays - these things dramatically increased play speed without making the players feel rushed.  Despite reducing the play time from 4 to 3 hours each game got in 20-25% more turns than the previous year.  I was very surprised how effective such a simple solution could be.

Surprisingly, I was given another PELA award, which was awarded for the first game I ran so the connection got off to a great start.  I thought the quality of the games this year was really off-the-charts, so the competition was fierce.

Here a shot of my latest award nestled with the rest on the award shelf.  It's located just to the right of my most prized award - the "Honorary Posties Rejects" commemoration.  Hallowed ground indeed.  Now to find a way to parley these accolades into lucrative endorsement contracts with sports shoes companies....

Ugh - the ugly underbelly of putting on a convention game - unpacking.  I managed to get the car unloaded and everything down to the basement but suspect they'll stay in those boxes a good bit of time before everything is put away.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

All Packed Up for Historicon 2018

 I'm all packed up to make the short drive (90 miles) to HCON in Lancaster.  This will be the first trip with my Tesla and I'm happy to say she had PLENTY of room for packing.  I've got room for a bit more in the back and haven't even used the front passenger seat or front trunk.

 There are close to 600 28mm scale minis, terrain and gaming aids all packed up for this years games.  Really looking forward to running them.

 I know, a Tesla Model X is a little on the ostentatious side but I really like her.  Like most middle aged men we do grab on to something silly - my middle age crisis involves toy soldiers and tech and, therefore, gets the approval of my wife.

I have found after 31 years of marriage that wife approval = survival in this cold, cruel world.

I hope to see you at Historicon.

By the way, the griping about the Host has already begun on the usual forums.  I'll try to give the new ownership the benefit of the doubt but will have a more informed opinion over the next 24 hours.

Go Croatia!

That last point was for Ray....

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Will These Historicon Prep Posts Ever Stop?

Well yes they will - in 7 days.

What's up in todays update on the prep-slog to Historicon? Game Markers!  Whoo-Hooo!  It really doesn't get more exciting than this does it. I'll pause a few moments now if some of you with weaker constitutions have been overcome by the vapors.....

Ok lets get started!

Anyway last years game used a whole bunch of plastic colored disks as game markers.  They were functional but made the table top look like it had technicolor measles.  This year I'll be using some special made markers to enhance the look and feel of the gaming experience.

First up are 25 treasure markers, which will be scattered about the map.  As players reach these markers they roll to see what they get which can either be 1-3 gold bars or a roll and the ancient artifact table!  Amassing gold is a secondary objective in the game and will be used to determine the winner if the humans fail the main objective of capturing "Professor Akbar".

From bottom to the top

The first three rows are markers for the ancient artifacts.  The human forces are very feeble in melee combat which is a big drawback in the tight confines of the catacombs - They can equip themselves with three different items
- armor (the shield) for better defense,
-a sword (for better attacking) and, of course,
- the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (for general mayhem)

I didn't get a chance to make artifact markers for last year's game so this is a fairly big addition to the game and I'm still tweaking the rules.

The next 30 markers are used for random monster encounter locations and since this is an Egyptian themed game what better image than Boris Karloff's classic Mummy?

Lastly, there are 6 catacomb entrance makers.  There are 8 different ways the players can enter the catacombs.  2 are really obvious so I needed 6 markers for the less obvious ones.

Just a handful of things to finish up before finalizing the packing list and getting ready to pack up.  My reservation at the Host has been confirmed and we should be ready to go.

I do want to thank the convention staff who adjusted the table assignments to allow me to have table D26 the entire con.  Putting on a convention with hundreds of volunteer GM's must be very complicated and trying to meet special requests like mine just adds to the burden so I'm very grateful they could accommodate me.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Not Another Boring Historicon Prep Post....

Yes it is - sorry.  Perhaps one way to look at this is with less than two weeks to the event  there really can't be that many more of these mind numbing missives.

Todays update is the the catacombs are finished and all laid out.  There are 6 2ft x 2ft sections which make total playing area of 6 by 4 feet.  The big change from last year is the addition of a 6th Egyptian dungeon themed section - which is located in the lower left of the picture.

Last year I just didn't have enough dungeon tiles and had a cavern section (see the second picture).  It was fine for playing on but just didn't fit the theme.

The caverns kind of stand out a bit.  The movement trays are also done and that project ended up being a lot more complicated that planed.  I decided to texture the bases with sand and carefully applied pas to the tops a lightly covered in fine playground sand.  Once done I left them out to dry.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take into account both gravity and capillary action and as these trays dried overnight both glue and sand kept steadily into the sabots.  The result looked great but none of the figure bases could fit into the sabots.

The solution was as simple as it was tedious - I took a wine cork and wrapped it with 80 grit sand paper and cleaned out each sabot - uggggh.  I may have used some less than admirable language during this task which I will, of course, spare your delicate sensibilities from within this post.  One does ignore the laws of physics at ones own peril.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Another pretty boring HCON game update - the movement trays are now painted.  The color is Vallejo's "Iraqi Sand" which is my go-to desert color.  Rather than use the expensive stuff, I had my local hardware store mix up a batch of house paint that matches.

The last step is to add some texture and then these bad boys are done.

Our garden has an interesting interloper - A single black-eyed susan has sprung up admits our tomato plants.  I think it's kind of cool looking.  We did manage to harvest our first crop - and handful of smallish tomatoes and a hot pepper.

Back to HCON prep!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Skirmish Trays

Ok, maybe not the most exciting topic to be covered in a miniature gaming blog but its the current task at hand.

Skirmish trays for units with 8, 5 and 3 figures.  There are also a handful of four figure trays because, well, there just should be.  It will be interesting to see how these really work in a skirmish type game like DAK & Dragons.  The trays will definitely speed up play but will they detract from the visual appeal as players tried to position there figures for maximum cover etc.

I need to paint these Iraqi Sand - I had a half gallon mixed up to match the vallejo color at my local hardware store.  Once that's dry, I'll add some texture in the form of fine sand but need to careful not to get any in the sabots or the figure bases will not fit.

I did take a look at the reservation system for Historicon and was very pleasantly surprised to see 3 of my 6 scheduled games are already full up - all 3 DAK & Dragons games are full.  There still some room in the SOCOM and Sorcery games, which are essentially the same game but using modern figures rather than WW2.

Having the indoor terrain workbench is great, by the way.

There is one glitch with Historicon.  I always get a table reserved for the entire con because I bring some much stuff/crap to put on a game.  In return, I commit to running game 8-9 times so the table is fully used.  This year there was a bit of a mix up and the my table D26 was allocated to another game to be run each evening.  I don't schedule an evening game to ensure I've got openings to run a version for the vendors who often don't get to play a lot of games.  If we can't make a change it means taking down the game each night which is a proposition I'm not excited about at all.  I've pinged the volunteers at Historicon to see if we can find a solution and am waiting to hear back.

Please note the comments above are not meant as a criticism of the convention staff - they are doing their best trying to manage a large / complicated event with zero compensation.  I mention it more to point out some of the things one needs to prepare for when putting on a game.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Gardening in 2018

 My wife and I like to garden (Ok she likes to garden and I work for her).  This year we went a little overboard on tomatoes and have planted 8 different kinds and have a total of 38 plants "in-the'way"

We're starting to get some tomatoes forming - first up are some Roma's which are my favorite as they are primarily used to make tomato sauce - gallons of that red gold!

 More Roma's

 Some "Big Boy" hybrids
 We may even get some preaches this year!
It al depends on how my war with the raccoons goes.  They are a worthy and crafty opponent and tend to eat all the peaches and figs before their ripe.  Bastards.

Because my wife loves peaches, she has authorized the use of deadly force in the defense of our homestead.  Her rules of engagement do ban the use of a shotgun as they have been deemed "too loud and messy".  That reduces my arsenal to some cage traps.  At least we can learn the answer to the age old questions of which do raccoons like more - peanut butter or peaches?

Another of my animal kingdom foes - Deer.  This one is standing right next to the garden - I'm pretty sure I could here that doe mocking me.  I really do need to get my wife to reassess he position on lead poisoning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Historicon Prep Update - The Clocks-a-Ticking

Yikes!  There is a month to go until Historicon and I've still got a good bit to get ready.  Last May I wrote up of list of objectives for the new games and have since promptly ignored it.  Well mostly ignored it.  Here's where I stand

1) Jungle Terrain - that's 8o% done - all the Jungle sections are complete.  The remaining works centers around "junglfying" my desert ruins in a way thats removable.  This may be as simple as dropping some flock on them and then vacuuming it up at the end of the convention.  ConcernFactor - LOW

2) Add a 6th catacomb section.  Again this is 80% complete as I've finished staining the new Egyptian themed dungeon sections and now just have to stick them down on the MDF sheet.  This will get done over the next few days.  ConcernFactor - LOW

3) Redo Oasis Terrain Plates - 0% complete.  The existing ones are serviceable so this task will be reprioritized to the end.  Of course that's how I ended up with sub-par oasis terrain last year.  ConcernFactor - MEDIUM

4) Simplify the Rules - I've made a few editing runs through the rules to simplify them.  The biggest  change involves getting rid of the different dice and standardizing on a D10.  The rules originally had a set score for success (6+) and combined both terrain/armor modifiers with different dice types for troop quality - veterans rolled a D10, regulars a D8 and mobs a D6 - that sounds great in theory but doesn't work in a con game with 8 players - it was just too easy to get confused and D8's look an awful lot like d10's with a casual glance.  I've adjust the modifiers and now everything is on a D10 basis.  Leaders and Boss Monsters used a D12 which I'll likely keep.

I also used 8.5 x 11inch force cards that had the number of troops prayed by squad and used sliders to track limited ammunition (AT rounds, grendaed and Satchel charges).  They cluttered up the playing area and were often ignored.  I'd like to go with specific bases they are on the troop trays which once used are removed by the player.  We'll see how that develops.

My goal is to get the one page summary printable at a readable font (say font 14 or larger).  ConcernFactor - MEDIUM

5) Troop Movement Trays - Like a moron, I cut the runtime of the game down to 3 hours (it can go to 4) based on the time and motion study I did examining how much time players needed to move individual figures (yes, I am THAT geeky).  I've got all the troop trays purchased but need to assemble and scenic them while making sure the figure bases still fit in the sabots.  There's a lot to do and it will be a bit tedious.  Plus I need different sized trays for the two different games as DAK & Dragons uses 8 figure squads and SOCOM & Sorcery uses 5.  This change will get prioritized to number one as it needs to get done.  ConcernFactor - HIGH

6) Better Objective Markers - Last year used cheap plastic disks that really looked awful.  Like the troop movement trays this needs to get done and will get moved up the priority list.  The one good thing is that these will be useful in all sorts of games post the convention.  ConcernFactor - HIGH

7) Improve Random Encounter Tables - DONE!

8) Improve Special Objectives - Still needs to get done, but this is just a few hours of concentrated thinking.  Those of you who are located down wind of the Maryland Eastern Shore will know when I attempt this feat as I often emit the scent of bacon cooking when trying to think.  Since I find that distracting, I try not to think that often.  ConcernFactor - LOW

9) Establish Kid Player Objectives - DONE! - Well I think it's done, I need to review with my household expert on everything (my son) and get his thoughts.  He's more direct with me when cranky so I'll need to time asking his opinion to right after I've barraged him with a whole bunch of inane technical help questions like "can you make the TV work", "what's my password to X" and my all time favorite "why is the internet so slow today" (that usually has something to do with him).

The rest of June promises to be a busy month!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Scenery Workbench and Workspace

 The other half of the newly "reclaimed" 8x8 ft storeroom will be used as a scenery workbench.  The actual workbench is 5 ft by 3 feet which will provide plenty of room for just about any scenery project - from basing to 2x4 ft terrain panels.

This is the first time I've managed to get all my scenery stuff in one place so hopefully that will increase productivity - or at least reduce time wasted looking for stuff!

I slapped together some extra shelving for my scenic materials - I'll be testing different types of arrangements to see what works best.

The workbench is 18 years old and was my first woodworking project - it's help up nicely and weighs a ton.

 My collection of tufts in a nice storage box.  I'll build some other cabinets to store terrain over the next few days.

My first project in the new space - staining some Egyptian themed dungeon tiles from Lunesdargent Workshop.  These will be used in my upcoming Historicon games "Dak & Dragons" / "SOCOM & Sorcery".  Last year I only had enough tiles to make five of the six 2x2 ft dungeon sections - I used some Dwarven Forge cavern tiles for the sixth.  It just didn't look right - that's not a knock on the DF stuff, it just didn't fit the theme.  With these new tiles I can build out the sixth section and have a much more uniform flow for the terrain.

By the way - I highly recommend the Lunesdargent stuff - it looks great, is durable, and the Egyptian theme makes them very different form the standard grey dungeon terrain.