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.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sectional Terrain Storage

 As I recover from my little health drama, the wife and I have been doing a little clean out of the stuff (ok, crap) we've accumulated over the years.  It's a depressingly large tally and has almost filled the full sized dumpster I rented.  It's highly likely without this self impose "intervention" we likely would have been featured on one of those awful "hoarders" shows on cable TV in the next few years.

Anyway, the clean out frees up space for more gaming storage and I decided to build a rack to store my 2x4 sectional terrain panels.

Like most of my gaming projects the "racks" are made out of scrap plywood.  The design is very simple - two vertical columns with 3/4 inch rails every three inches.
I used my table saw with a cross-cutting sled to cut the 1/8 dados (slots) in a plywood sheet that was 10 inches wide and 24 inches tall.  Once the dado's were cut, the table saw was used to rip the plywood into 4, 2.5 inch x 24 inch column.  Doing it this sequence ensures all the dados line up.

I then cut some 1/8 inch plywood in the 1.5 inch strips and placed them in the dados to form the rails fro the terrain to rest on.  In hindsight I should have gone with 1/4 inch plywood as these are a little flimsy but the panel are light so I should be ok.

You can see the remnants of my old model railroad layout on the shelf - all the trains and buildings were packed away just in case I return to that hobby.

Here's a shot of the installed unit with my 8, 2x4 panels nestled in their slots.  I'm very pleased with how it came out.  I've also got some 2x2 and 1x1 panels that will be stored in a similar way.

These panels are pretty beat up and need a restoration project.  The endeavor will occur in the next few weeks.

The panels are located in a little 8x8 ft room thats adjacent to my gaming table - the other side has an old workbench which I'll be using for terrain making and that will likely be topic of the next blog post.

One of the more embarrassing things that has happened during "operation declutter" is I've stumbled across a bunch of stuff I forgot I had!  Some examples include:

- A Dewalt sable saw that was barely used (I was just about to go out and replace my current one - bonus!)
- a box board of woodland scenics ground foam and clump foliage - pretty much a lifetime supply
- a Noch static grass applicator

Monday, May 28, 2018

Terrapin Sunday!

 If it's May on the Maryland Eastern Shore, then a few things are true: the weather is great, the crabs are plentiful and the Terrapins (a type of turtle) are laying their eggs.  On SundayI ran into some of the said reptiles deciding that my yard and driveway would make a suitable nursery - including the one in the first two pictures in my drive (right next to the garage door).
 Since these pictures were taken, I've marked off the area with stakes and and ropes to protect the eggs.  I know my duty!

I ran across a number of other turtles in the yard.  One other thing I've noticed this year is a big increase in the number of lizards (skinks to be particular) and a decrease in the number of snakes - there may be a link there.

Seeing all these reptiles has given me an idea to include in my upcoming Historicon games - see I managed to get back to the topic of gaming!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Historicon 2018 - My Games (Shameless Self Promotion)

Yes this is my annual plug for the games I running at Historicon.  Its all very self aggrandizing and such but there you go.  You can pre-register for games at the Historicon site

I've got six games on the Event List (PEL) which you can register for:

T:125:10 DAK & Dragons

T:145:14 SOCOM & Sorcery

F: 143:10 DAK & Dragons

F:146:15 SOCOM & Sorcery

S:144:10 DAK & Dragons

S:147:15 SOCOM & Sorcery

These are games will be improved versions of last year's games which were very well received.  At let I think they'll be improved - I guess we'll all find out in July.

I'll also be running pickup versions of the games each evening but prefer not to be tied down to a set schedule - that allows me a bit of a break and time for a longer dinner.

Below are the descriptions of the games that can be found in the PEL listing.  As you can see, I have adhered strictly to running very serious and historically accurate simulations.

T:125:10 DAK & Dragons 2.0Thursday, 10:00 AM, 3 hrs, Players: 8, Room: Distelfink, Table #: D26GM: Miles ReidySponsor: None, Prize: Beyond the Dreams of AvaricePeriod: World War II, Scale: 28mm, Rules: DAK & Dragons
Recent reports from the local Berbers indicate something ominous is happening deep in the Egyptian desert. It must be something big as both the Axis and Allied high commands are dispatching teams of crack troops to find out exactly what is going on. DAK and Dragons is THE definitive historical simulation of WW2 squad level tactics vs. the Dark Gods of Egypt. Perhaps you can answer the age-old question - can a Panzer III take on a Dragon? DAK and Dragons 2.0 is an improved version of last year's very popular game and uses simple homebrew rules. Children are welcome w/ Parent

F:146:15 SOCOM & Sorcery 2.0Friday, 3:00 PM, 3 hrs, Players: 8, Room: Distelfink, Table #: D26GM: Miles ReidySponsor: None, Prize: Beyond your dreams of avaricePeriod: Modern, Scale: 28mm, Rules: Homebrew
Recent aerial reconnaissance has discovered ominous Egyptian ruins near the head of the Nile River. It must be something big as multiple teams of crack troops are being dispatched to find out exactly what is going on. SOCOM and Sorcery is THE definitive historical simulation of modern squad level tactics vs. the Dark Gods of Egypt. Perhaps you can answer the age-old question - can a TOW missile take out a Dragon? SOCOM and Sorcery 2.0 is an improved version of last year's very popular game and uses simple homebrew rules. Children are welcome w/ Parent.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Jungle Terrain - Finished!

The 24 Jungle Terrain sections are now done.  Overall I'm very happy how these came out and this was a really fun project.
 I tried to break up the green monotony by adding some different colored flowers and other types of tufts.
 The sections are designed to allow figures to traverse them so couldn't be as dense as a "real" jungle but I think they convey a sense of dense foliage.

The bamboo worked out well and I may make some more bamboo sections for fun.

On to the next step for the Historicon game - movement trays

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Health Update #2

My recovery is progressing nicely and I've been cleared to do light exercise, which means 20 minutes a day on my Peloton bike.  That may not sound like much, but it's a welcome step for me.

Weight-wise, I'm down 31 pounds and have adjusted to the diet - it's actually not that bad.  I haven't eaten beef in over a month and don't really miss it.  My pace of weight loss has slowed as I can eat a bit more so it looks like I'll need to loose weight the old fashioned way of combining diet and exercise.  Still 30+ pounds is a nice jump start.

The only frustrating thing is my surgeries keep getting pushed off.  I'd rather get them over and done with but it seems that my lack of a medical degree and any board certifications have combined to render any of my opinions somewhat irrelevant in the matter.  I am amazed at the almost comical inefficiency of information transfer between medical professionals in the US healthcare industry and am seriously thinking of creating an investment fund to tackle that problem.  That will have to wait until the boss clears me to resume working again.

It has been fun to watch the rivalry between my Gastro specialist (Dr Raina) and my wife - Dr Raina is with Mercy hospital in Baltimore and they've just had a major renovation so have all the latest toys.  MB is with the University of Maryland and they a bit behind on the update curve and he loves teasing her about their latest new shiny toy.  It confirms my theory of human development - we actually stop developing at age 3, with the exception of our vocabularies which just allow us to express our playground teasing in more sophisticated ways.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What are the Planned Changes for this Year's Historicon Games

This's year's convention game will be a revised and (hopefully) improved version of last years "DAK & Dragons" and "SOCOM & Sorcery" games.  The games were A LOT of fun to put on but there are also a lot of improvements that can and need to be made to improve both playability and appearances.

Lets list out the changes in this post so I don't forget.

1) Make the center section a Jungle.  OK given the previous two posts, this shouldn't be a surprise.  The game rules I use really emphasize cover and having such a sparse center section where all the side collide was a bit stark for me.  I'll need to tweak the rules to ensure things don't completely bog down.

2) Add a 6th, 2x2ft catacomb section.  Last year I didn't have enough Egyptian themed dungeon section to build out the 6th section.  I used some Dwarven Forge cavern tiles which worked fine but looked a little out of place.  I've got enough now (thanks to Lunesdargent Workshops recent kickstarter).

3) Redo the oasis terrain plates.  These were done at the last minute (two days before the con) and really showed it.  I was kind of embarrassed to have them on my table.

4) Simplify the rules.  I used a homegrown set of rules for the game which were essentially a love child from a dalliance between Warlord's "Bolt Action "and The League of Augsburg's "Donnybrook" rulesets.  While most people grasped the concepts, a few really struggled with the rules, which means they are still too complex for a con game.  There will be a separate post that details the rules and how I may change them.

5) Movement Trays for the troops.  One thing that slowed both game play and setup was having all the troops move individually.  I purchased some skirmish infantry movement trays and will need to prepare them for play but they will speed up game play immensely.  The trays will not work in the catacombs but most players forces are pretty thinned out by the time they get there.

6) Better Objective Markers.  Last year objective markers were dime sized plastic discs in different colors:

- yellow for treasure
- red for monsters
- blue for objectives

They were functional but looked awful.  I've got the time to make some WAYYYY better markers and have down some tests during this year's painting challenge - as you can see in the following picture:

7) Improve the random encounter table.  The one I used became very cumbersome as the game went on and didn't scale as well as I hoped.  There were also, at times, too many monsters so the players factions rarely focused on fighting each other.

8) Better special objectives for each faction.  I really like secret objectives for players in a game that is umpired and didn't put a lot of effort into fleshing that out last year.  The suspense of not knowing if one of your allies is really on your side is a lot a fun in a game.

9) Kid-Player objectives.  I have a rule that any kid players always win - always.  But that can be done without throwing the game in their favor so I'll come up with some special objectives for them and let the game play out for the rest of the players.