Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 In Review

Yikes, like a lemming to the sea, I have this undeniable yearning to write one of those tacky year in review entries.  My only defense is that, well, all the other "kids" are doing it too.

In all seriousness, 2010 was a good year for me on both the family front (most important) and the hobby front.

From a hobby perspective, I entered 2010 with the following goals (i) game more, (ii) host some games, (iii) add one new army/period, (iv) flesh out my Napoleonic French force, and (v) use the Black Powder ruleset with 6mm ACW.

I was able to accomplish four out the five goals with an epic fail on (iii) add ONE new army/period.  I just couldn't keep to one and seem to have gone on a bit of a naval bender during 2010 adding fairly large fleets for WWI, ACW Ironclads and 1/2400 Napoleonic naval - a total of 67 painted and based ship models.

There were two hobby related events that really standout for me during 2010.  The first is helping, in a small way, my friend Ernie launch his new business "Architects of War".  Ernie and his wife Barb have done an amazing job getting their business off-the-ground in 2010 - the business started operations in late January, opened selling to the public at Historicon and is ending the year with a large product line of over 50 unique terrain items, a new line of 28mm ACW skirmish figures, and being the sole US distributor for Perry Plastics, Gripping Beast and others.  Not a bad showing for a two person operation.  If you haven't checked out their stuff please do so - you will not be disappointed.  I take no credit for Ernie and Barb's success, my role was essentially to lift heavy things and try not to damage the inventory.

The second big event for me was attending my first convention (Historicon) for three days rather than a quick day trip and run through the vendor area.  I had a blast and look forward to returning to future Historicon's.  I do blame my little aquatic diversion this year on a Russo Japanese War naval battle I participated in at Historicon put on by Brian DeWitt and the NOVAG gaming club.  I played in the game on Friday and by Saturday I had a load of GHQ 1/2400 WWI naval miniatures in my "loot" bag - go figure.  I do hope GHQ gave Brian a sales commission.  The highlight of the convention was the big Napoleonic game put on by Ernie, the Perry twins and John Stallard - what a game that was!

On the modeling front, outside of the Naval output, I manage to build up a small 28mm Imperial Roman army and finish up my 6mm ACW collection by completing 4 additional divisions (2 confederate and 2 Union) bring my total collection to approximately 3,000 painted figures in 3 Union and 3 Confederate divisions. The numbers seem so much bigger when using 6mm.  I have found that Black powder plays extremely well in 6mm (just convert the gauge from inches to centimeters) and it allows for very large battles to be fought easily.

2010 also saw some terrain output, especially for 6mm ACW and 15mm FOW.  I find I like making terrain as much as painting figures.

My goals for 2011 are simple
- continue to stress gaming over collecting and host at least 6 games at the house, including running a 6mm ACW campaign game
- revamp my game room to allow for more storage and complete the "man-cave" conversion
- build some modular terrain boards
- finish up the 28mm Imperial Romans and get them on the table
- attend Historicon in July (pending executive spouse approval)
- participate in a tournament style gaming event (likely FOW) to see how I like it
- try focusing on finishing armies rather than adding new ones.

I have high hopes for all of these goals save the last one - ooohhh look there's something shiny over there....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Uncharted Seas Battle Report

The naval-themed holiday break here at the Lair continued today as my son and I got in a quick game of Uncharted Seas.  It's been ages since we've played and we were very rusty on the rules.  Our game was a meeting engagement between and Orc and Iron Dwarf fleets, each of which consisted of a batlteship, 3 cruisers and 6 frigates.

 There was some rudimentary scenery in this game which did have a big impact on play.  The second picture is about halfway throught the game and my son Orc cruisers are lined up for a run at my battleship.  The dice were not kind to Sean this evening and his cruisers took a pounding from the battleship and Frigates

 This picture is from the end of the last turn.  The Orc fleet only had it's Battleship and 2 frigates afloat to face the dwarf fleet which had only lost 2 frigates - although one cruiser was had one damage point left.  All in all it was a fun and quick game.
Here's a photo of the Orc admiral, who was very gracious in defeat.  I do think he is plotting for a re-match in a day or two, so I need to gloat now as I doubt he'll let me off so easy next time.

Uncharted Seas is one of those odd games that is both simple and fun but yet still never seems to get played that much.  I'm trying to hold back on jumping into Spartan's new Dystopian Wars game system but it looks awfully tempting.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trafalgar Test Battle - The Conclusion

 Here is the second part of the Trafalgar test game Battle report - turns 12 to 22.  The French fleet continues to press it's position advantage and pours heavy raking fire into the HMS Victory.  The British begin to land some more blows as the line of third rates (second group from the bottom) begin to fire on the the French 1st rate (Austerlitz) and their second rate, the Commerce de Paris.

 By turn 14 both the HMS Victory and Phoebe have been reduced to dis-masted wrecks and they have fallen out of the line.  The Austerlitz has taken a pounding but is still game for the fight.

 The French heavies manage to cross over the Britsh third raters and and succed in dismasting the HMS Conqueror and the beat up the Orion, setting both on fire.  So far, the British have lost three ships to none for the French but that's about to change.

The British fleet pulls a crafty move and shifts it's entire focus on the the line of 5 French 3rd rates (at the very top of the picture).  The French heavies (a First Rates and 2 second raters pass along the British but damage has slowed them and once they turn to re-engage they can not catch up.  The line of French Frigates (lower left) is fast enough to catch up and harass the English fleet as they pound the French third raters.  At this point my camera battery died so no more pictures.  Lets just say the British fleet got some revenge as they sank 2 French 3rd raters and heavily damaged two others at the cost of one of theirs and another frigate.

Overall, the battle went to the French with the following tally:

British Losses
Sunk: Conqueror (3rd Rate), Orion (3rd Rate), Agamemnon (3rd Rate, small) and the Frigates Phoebe and Macedonian.
Taken as a prize by the French: HMS Victory (oh the shame)

French Losses
Sunk: Bucentaure (2nd Rate), Orion and Lion (3rd Raters)

As for the Trafalgar ruleset, I liked them but need to get a better grasp of the finer points of fleet movement.  The game was really won for the French in the first six moves before contact.  The importance of maneuver makes sense from a historical perspective, but all the advantages seem to go the way of the French early on.  Once the basics of the rules are understood the game plays very fast and is suitable for larger fleet actions

The use of an iPad for damage tracking was a big success but the spreadsheet tool i was using needs a good bit of refinement.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Trafalgar with an iPad

 I decided to get out my 1/2400 Napoleonic fleets and have a go at a game with a twist - I'm using an iPad to track damage of the British fleet and just pen and paper for the French.  The first picture shows all the game supplies one needs to play a game of Trafalgar.  I'll ramble on about the tracking software later on.
 The next picture shows the fleets in there starting positions, with the British in the lower left and the French at the other end of the table.  Both fleets consist of 12 ships eachs - 1 First Rate, 2 Second Rates, 5 3rd Rates, 1 Small 3rd Rate (64 guns) and 3 frigates.  The miniatures are from Figurehead.

 A close up of the British fleet.  The flag ship (HMS Victory) is leading the center column.  My apologies for the rather bland seascape - it's just a blue piece of canvas that hasn't been trimmed for the table top.  While not the best, it does work for a test game.
 First Contact!  As the fleets where closing the wind shifted in the favor of the French which allowed them to close fast and set up long range raking shots from the Austerlitz (1st Rate) and Commerce de Paris (2nd Rate) on the HMS Victory.  Fate was not kind to the Brits as 3 critical hits were rolled and not saved.  The Vicrory's rudder was jammed and she can't change course until she rolls a "6" (on a D6) to repair the damage.
 The Fleets continue to close but the hapless Victory only plows ahead into even more deadly raking fire from the French Heavies.  But all is not lost for our plucky British - their frigate line (top right) is giving the French 74's  something to think about.  A critical hit from the frigate Phoebe has set the Orion (a third rate) on fire.  Apparently, uncontrolled fires on wooden ship stuffed with gunpowder are a bad thing.  The Phoebe did pay a price as she lost her foremast in the exchange and will be significantly slower.  How does the battle turn out?  Well you must wait for a second post....
 The real goal of the game was to play around with using an iPad as a game tool.  The picture to the left shows an individual ship's damage sheet (in this case the Victory).  Each ship has a similar page.
The neat thing about tracking electronically is that individual ship data can feed into a summary listing so a player can get a good understanding of his fleet status at a glance.  The formating is crude as it's just a prototype but I think there is real promise here with the technology.  I'm just using a spreadsheet now but it works.

As far as practicality, using a electronic tracking form is likely more trouble than it's worth if there are only a handful of ship per side (say 2 or 3 each).  It becomes incredibly useful when playing large fleet actions where one can become confused easily.  I've also tested a version that sends it data to a third party (game umpire).  One of the side benefit of using this approach is that players can send out fleet lists before a battle and allow players to get a good understanding of the forces - that saves time on game day which leads to more game time vs set up time.

I'll be doing some more prototyping over the Christmas holiday and hopefully will refine the tool so it can be used for multiple game formats.  I'll be trying Uncharted Seas next.

I would be very interested in anyones thoughts on how to improve the concept of electronic tracking or other ideas for how to use an iPad with gaming.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyful Festivus and/or insert politically correct holiday salutation here!  Here in the Geek's Lair we are busy with holiday preparations.  You know, the preparations where my wife commands me to do "this" and then "encourages me to do "that".  We try to make a big deal of this season with lots of baking and weight gaining (perhaps those are somehow related?).  Despite a lagging economy, 2010 has turned out to be a pretty good year and we're looking to send it off in a grand way by spending time together.  Perhaps a little "over-sentimental" but that's the way it is.

Both I and my family wish all of you and yours a wonderful holiday season.  Hopefully, Santa will be good to you and remember to bring me the special dice I asked for - you know the ones that only roll sixes!

To steal a quote from Clement Moore, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Robotics: Maryland State Championship Winners!

Not much on the miniature wargaming front as it was crunch time for the my son's Boy Scout troop's robotics team (I'm the coach) as it prepared for the Dec 11th Maryland State Championships.  A very surprising thing happened - they won!

Here's a team picture with their plaque, trophy and individual medals.  Our team is wearing grey "Craftsman Tools" shirts.  My son is the second from the left in the back - curly hair, big muscles and a very large smile.  I'm the dorky looking guy in a green sweat shirt and ball cap in the right rear.

The next picture was taken at the end of the final match and it was a fitting tribute to the day as all four robots performed spectacularly!  The score of the match was 52 to 50 in our favor so it was very close.  You can see that all four 'bots are balancing on the swing bridges, which earns each team extra points.  That's pretty impressive as each bot weighs anywhere from 10 - 50+ pounds.  We specifically designed our 'bot to be very strong, a bit slow (therefore, easier to control) and very heavy.  The mass differential was very important to us as there is a good bit of "contact" on the field.  During one of the qualifying rounds our bot was repeatedly rammed on each side by the two opposing bots, much to their dismay, as one flipped over and the second lost it's moveable arm.  Our 'bot just kept going it's slow and steady pace.

There were 34 teams competing at the tournament, one came from as far away as Italy, so the competition was very fierce.  Our team placed fourth overall in the qualifying period but managed to win the single elimination championship tournament.  This was our third year competing as a team and a marked improvement over our previous performances.

The last picture is a closer view of our robot during one of the matches - it was in the process of balancing itself on the bridge during the autonomous part of the competition.  Each match has 2 parts - an autonomous portion where the robot operates on it's own and a tele-op mode where the robot is driven via remote control by the team.

I'm very proud of the Scouts.