Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rough Riders on the Table

I finished my little band of Rough Riders to take part in last Saturday's gaming session.  You can see the little band to the left.  The game's theme was a combination of a French Foreign Legion game on one 5' x 12' tabletop and then a very second 5' x 12' Jungle themed encounter.  The best way to describe the game was a combination of the movies "The Wind and the Lion" and the second mummy movie with Brendan Fraser et al.  As usual our host, Ernie, put on a great show and it was a grand and silly evening.

I'm pretty happy with the Rough Riders but made a big mistake basing these guys on penny's.  Penny's are not very stable bases for "large" 28mm figures and they don't hold pva glue very well.  I'll be rebasing these guys over the next few days.

Here are some random shots of the game.  The first game featured fierce fighting between the FFL and Arabs.  I was able to stay out of it by bribing my way through using a stash of monopoly money.  The second game was essentially a trek by the American column through the jungle being whittled down by various traps and surprises which included fire, the assorted dinosaur and lots of angry natives.  Lets just say that I learned that Triceratops really do not like trucks.  The US objective was to free a certain professor but we didn't know he had gone to the dark side and awakened a giant stone golem at the end of the table.  The climatic battle featured the stone golem vs the survivors of the Jungle trek and it was a very near run of things but the US prevailed.

While pulp gaming is a lot of fun I think our club will be returning to more historical fare for our next gaming sessions.  Hopefully that will mean either Flames of War or Napoleonics.

As for my current project, I've returned to the ACW in 6mm as I'm trying to write up a set of campaign rules that combine land and naval aspects of the war.  I'll be using Black Powder to fight the land battles and I'm still looking for a civil war naval ruleset.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rough Riders almost ready

Teddy and a band of Rough Riders are just about done.  I've finished the block painting and will be moving on to shading via "Army Painter" dip.  I will try to paint the dip on this time to better control the flow.

I probably should call these guys "Rough Walkers" because I don't have any mounted versions.

Gotta love the gatling gun.

Earlier today, I was walking around our place in St Michaels and noticed the first confirmed sight of Spring - flowers!  I am so ready for warm weather.

Colonial Skirmish Gaming

A few weeks ago my club played a French Foreign Legion skirmish game.  I think we used an adapted version of the warhammer historical skirmish ruleset.  This was the second skirmish game I've done (see my post for the Sharpe's Rifles skirmish game) and it was a lot of fun.  The game features lots of unit types and various heros, some of who can take on full units and had a distinct movie or "Hollywood" feel to the gameplay.  It was a lot of fun.

I think one of the reasons I liked the game so much was it reminded me of one of my favorite movies as a kid - "The Wind and the Lion".  Sadly, there were no Germans to fight but we're having another go next week and it's rumored that the Americans and Germans may be intervening into the growing Moroccan conflict.  As usual with any game hosted by Ernie, the terrain and figures were fantastic.  We played across five of so battlefields and the used hidden movement rules to move our forces about.  The main battlefield is pictured below:

Sorry for the hazy photo, but my I-Phone was acting up.  The mountains and the pass between them featured prominently in the games climactic battle as the French reinforcing column held the pass until the arabs units climbed up the mountains and reigned rocks down upon the french.  A very exciting and "Hollywood - Suitable" ending.

I have taken to liking skirmish gaming so much that at this year's Cold Wars, I picked up 20 or so 28mm Spanish American War Rough Rider figures which I have been painting in anticipation of our next game.  I also snapped up a gatling gun and crew as who can say no to a gatling gun model?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's the value of good customer service?

Don't worry, this isn't one of those rant-type post where I will rail against the injustice and indignities inflicted upon me by some company.  I do want to discuss how much of an impact that good customer service has on your desire to buy a product from a miniature vendor / producer.  I had the opportunity to go to the war-games show "Cold Wars" yesterday with some friends.  We spent the majority of our time in the vendor hall and it offered a fascinating range of customer service models to observe.  Some vendors were a pleasure to chat with and while others seemed to behave as if both being at the show and, even worse, interacting with a customer was an extreme inconvenience.  Now before you go making assumptions, I do have relatively good manners and had, in fact, taken a shower the morning of the show.

Rather than use a negative example, lets go with a good one.  I wandered by the booth of Thoroughbred Figures, which run by a gentlemen named Toby Barrett.  One of their products is a range of 1/600 scale ACW ironclads that look great and it's a period that my son is interested in.  Toby was very pleasant and took some time to walk me through the range.  Now, I need another game range like I need a hole-in-the-head but after talking with Toby and getting a better understanding of his products, I now have the start of a fleet of ironclads.  Had Toby not tried to engage me, I doubt I would have ever made the purchase.  I think our total interaction lasted about 10 - 15 minutes and he made a $100+ dollar sale, which has a high likelihood to drive additional transactions.

Other vendors, who don't need to be named, were either rude or could not be interrupted from their cell phone conversation about which gentlemen's club they were planning to attend that evening (true story) to answer questions or try to make a sale.  This isn't a moralistic rant, people can do what they want but I'm not sure your customers should be involved or inconvenienced by it.  That example may be extreme but I would say at least a third of the vendors were downright cranky during the show.  I do realize there is a deep recession on and some may be struggling economically, but letting that show through to customers doesn't seem to be that good of a strategy.  I was also a bit off-put by the choice some vendors made to plead to me there case on the injustice of the fee raise for the upcoming Historicon show.  Why discuss the topic with me? I don't set the rates and the more your denigrate the upcoming show the less likely I am to go to it.  Simply amazing.

So here's the rub - how much does good service drive your decision making.  From my viewpoint, it's a big factor and I'm willing to pay a bit of a premium for it it.  If vendor "A" is a selling a gaming item for $10.00 and has good service and vendor "B" has a poor service attitude but sells the same item for $9.50, I'll go with "A" ever time.  Why?

For me, the hobby is both totally discretionary and pursued as a stress reliever.  My own logic tends to translate good customer service into a better overall experience and the point of the hobby is the experience.  The improved experience comes from a better understanding of the product, better product support and just a more pleasant interaction.  Better experience equals lower stress.  I haven't tried to figure out the equilibrium point (WARNING: economic babble-speak), but likely think I'm willing to pay as much as a 10-20% premium to a company that offers great service on gaming products.

Of course this doesn't hold for other items, say groceries, where the experience factor isn't that important so my willingness to pay a premium is greatly diminished.

I really think the hobby can benefit a lot from more vendors that stress great service and use a customer lifetime relationship model rather than more, deeper discounters.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Where Pigeons Dare: After Action Report

Well my first turn as a game host has come and gone. Overall, I think it went very well as there were no tantrums and I think my guests had a good time.  I did learn a lot about running a game but more on that later.  The first picture is from the German end of the board.  The US starts at the other end and needs to get up to the church and transport an item back to it's side of the table.

The US were aided by a band of hastily thrown together Resistance fighters - so hasty that their stands don't have terrain!  Unfortunately these resistance fighters did tell the US Rangers about the secret cave passage (to the left) which leads to the church!  How was I to know that Brett speaks French?  The night phase of the game ended with the US rangers and Resistance holding the church  and destroying a German 105mm artillery battery in the balance.

The US attack commences - the US force consists of two full companies of tanks and mechanized infantry and made slow but steady progress across the board.  Sometimes the bocage terrain held them up more than the Germans.  The US tank Platoon at the bottom of the photo soon found out, after moving forward a bit more, that it was a bad idea to move next to German paratroops as the para's assaulted the tanks and essentially wiped them out.

Rather than wait to be rescued, the Rangers and Resistance decided to attack the infantry platoon guarding the road.  It was a valiant assault during which all of the attackers were eliminated but the trucks carrying the package (the objective) managed to escape just before the German reinforcements showed up.

Here is a picture of the end of the game - it show the Germans crowding the church area.  The Germans managed to disable the truck carrying the device but before they could get across the bridge a well timed artillery strike managed to disable two tanks on the bridge and block it.  We called the game at that point as there was no chance for the Germans to catch the Americans and the US artillery was making mince meat of the tightly packed troops.  All-in-all is was a very close run affair.

What I learned about Hosting a Game:
The was the first time I've hosted a game and while the evening was fun I could have done a few things better.  Here are four things I came away with:

(1) Know the Rules
The game runner really needs to know the rules of the game cold.  I'm still learning the ins and outs of FOW and could have known the rules a bit better.  I think artillery was a bit too deadly in our game and thats more from my not understanding all the finer points.

(2) All the players need to have something to do all the time
My scenario had a large German reinforcing unit that came on after the US moved the object.  This sounds great when writing up a scenario but is kind of boring if your given command of the German reinforcements and it's 15-20 turns before you show up.  A better approach would have been to divide both the on board and off board German units between the two players so everyone has something to do.

(3) You can't have enough...
One can not have enough dice and tape measures around.  I had two tape measurers and roughly 30 or so D6's which wasn't enough for four players to use.  I also need to build so trays to hang off the edge of the table to hold all the gaming tools.

(4) Offering Great Food Atones for Bad Game Running
I was fortunate that my wife elected to make a wonderful dinner for us, which consisted of fried chicken, ribs, mac-n-cheese and a salad (for color only).  She also baked a cake, which is her speciality.   Gamers are very forgiving to inconsistent game runners if they are well fed.  Had there not been food, I may not have survived the night.  Of course I will pay dearly today in the gym for what I ate last night....

Lastly, to the left is a close up of the completed GameCraft Miniatures Church.  It's a great kit and I highly recommend it.  I'm going to detail it later today.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Where Pigeons Dare: The Raid on the Abbey of Saint Odoriferous

Here are the house rules and setup for the scenario I'm running tonight.  To be honest, I haven't bothered to total up the points of the various forces so we'll just see how it plays out.  The scenario is designed for up to 5 players but can accommodate less if needed.

The US Forces Consist of three commands:

Task Force Laverne: 1 US Tank Company (7 M4 76mm, 10 M4 Shermans) 1 Armored Car Platoon

Task Force Maxine: 1 Armored Inf Platoon, 1 M10 Platoon, 1 Tank Platoon, 3 M7 Priests

Task Force Patty: US Rangers and French Resistance

Task Force Patty Enters the table in the German Rear at a location to be disclosed later

Task Forces Laverne and Maxine enter on the US table edge at the start of turn 7 (daybreak)

The US objective is to acquire the "package" which is hidden in the Abbey of St Odoriferous.  The "package" can only be moved by a large vehicle (tank, half track or truck).  If a half-truck or truck is used the package can be hidden from the German player.

The German Force Consists of 2 Commands:

On-Table: 1 parachute Inf Kampfgroup
2 FJG Platoons, 2 Panthers, 3 Stug G, 3 Puma's, 1 MG Section, 1 Regular Inf Platoon, 4 105mm Artillery, 2 Wespes

Off Table: 1 Panzer Reaction Force
2 Tiger I's, 5 Pzk Iv's, 1 Panther, 2 Stug G's, 1 Armored Inf Platoon

The Germans are to prevent the "package" from being captured by the Americans.  The Germans can only move the "package" in the event they recapture it and it must be moved back to the abbey.

The German off-table reinforcements can enter from either road exit on the German side of the table.  The reinforcements enter 5 turns after the US first moves the device.  

House Rules:
The game is divided into 2 phases, Night and Day.  The night phase is the first six turns of the game and the day phase follows it.  There are no turn limits

During the night phase all German units are inactive until a US or Resistance unit moves within 6 inches of it.  Upon activation, all units within 18 inches of the activated unit may move/shoot.  All German units on the table may move the second turn after activation.

It is rumored that the resistance knows the area very well and may disclose some "secret routes" if asked nicely and in unaccented French by the unsophisticated Americans.  Unfortunately, a two turn movement freeze will occur for all resistance units if any American forces remind them that the US has come to liberate them as the the French units will display pouty looks and sulk around.

What is the "Package"?

It's a plot device, silly

What it is in reality, well we don't really know.  All we do know is that the brass wants it and in a really bad way.  There's some chatter about ending the war early and other nonsense.

We do know 2 things.  The first is that the device is really heavy and any vehicle traveling with it moves at 2/3's speed.  The other thing we know it what it looks like.  Here's a picture: