Thursday, July 31, 2014

By Fire and Sword: Swedes part I

I backed the original "By Fire and Sword" Kickstarter and received armies for both the Swedes and Poles.  I've played a number of demo games at some HMGS cons and really like the game system - it has a very unique command system that works well and the units types available for the different armies is very impressive.  The game is set during the late 1600's and focuses on the conflicts in Eastern Europe involving the Poles and all there enemies and allies.  It's a fascinating time period that I knew little about but have enjoyed researching.  Oh yeah, the Poles get to field Winged Hussars! 'nuff said.

The one minor drawback for me is the game is 15mm in scale, which it really needs to be given the heavily calvary focused armies of the day.  I spend most of my time painting 28mm so going back to 15mm's is always a bit of a challenge.  First onto the table will be my Swedes and I'm painting up the Skirmish box set which comes with a Dragoon force (mounted and dismounted) on the left, some Reiters (medium cavalry) in the upper right, a command stand (center right) and a light gun and crew.  I've got several other boxes of Swedish infantry and some more cav to add to the army once these boys are done.

Given the success of the game the company that makes it has another kickstarter "The Deluge" in the offing, which of course like a moth to the flame, I jumped in on.  Come on, one of the new armies is Transylvania - who can say no that that?

The US Distributor for the game is Sergeant Major Miniatures - If you like 30 years war period, I suggest you check this game system out.

With a new project on the workbench at least it's returning to its more natural, cluttered state.  A disorganized workbench seems to be the proper environment for a miniature hobbyist.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cleaned up Model Workbench

After about a year of continuous work, I finally got around to cleaning up my modeling work bench.  Most of the time the chaos doesn't bother me.  However, over time as the mess builds and begins to reach critical mass I tend to avoid painting, which is never ideal.

A few hours of clean up and organization and we're good to go.  Lets see if I can go another 12 months before cleaning up!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bucentaure: A 1:1 Scale Sailboat Project

 Big nautical doings here in the Lair of the Uber Geek.  My new Sailboat, the "Bucentaure" has been delivered and went on her maiden voyage across the Chesapeake Bay this past Weekend.  She's a Alerion Express 28 and is built to be both a racer and day cruiser.  As sailboats go, she's a beautiful boat and has proven to be a lot of fun to sail.
 Bloody Point Lighthouse, which marks the halfway point in the trip across the Bay.  I'll be spending most of my free time in August getting to know how she sails in preparation for our first race in September.  I'm always looking for experienced crew if your in the Chesapeake Bay area.

 A look out into the Miles River (no it's not named after me) from her harbor slip - it's a very good spot as it allows for a very fast docking and undocking.  The boat features a very nice and large cockpit and the boom is just above head height which means one only has to duck slightly when jibing and tacking as the boom comes across.  It's still a solid piece of metal so one does have to duck if one wants to stay conscious during the cruise.

 A look up the mast on a very light wind day.  The boat's equipped with a self trimming jib boom and has a very efficient line layout.
Another shot out on the river from Saturday.  Why the name "Bucentaure"?  Well it's a long story but since it involves naval gaming and history here goes.  To date my most favorite model that I've built is a 1/1200 scale version of the French flagship at Trafalgar - you guessed it the Bucentaure from Langton miniatures.  In her day the Bucentaure was thought to be the most beautiful ship afloat but, like most french ships of that time, was cursed with, shall we say, less than skilled admirals.  Given I'll be her skipper, I thought the comparison fitting.

The boat does have a removable table for the cockpit so I am anticipating a few games of "Sails of Glory" on the water - any takers?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Historicon 2014: Final Post & Review

 Running my games and a few unexpected business calls took up most of Thursday and Friday for me at the Con.  Saturday I played in the Bolt Action tournament (going 2 and 1, which is good for me).    One of the big events at Historicon was the debut of All Quiet on the Martian Front (AQMF).  The first picture shows my painted stuff which I let Ernie borrow to use at his display table in the Vendor Hall.  They are now very seasoned mini's as dozens of games were played with them.

 Why did I need to lend my minis' to Ernie?  Because all of his stuff was committed for the 5, 20 person demo games of AQMF that his crew ran at the con.  The theme of the game was the "Battle of Memphis" with the humans trying to keep the Martians from entering the city.  They did have one of the massive Land Ironclads to help defend it!  The games were a hoot to watch and a testament to the ruleset as players were able to effectively run the game after the first turn or two.  It was also great to see the wide age range of players from deadly dice throwing nine year olds contesting the battlefield with 60+ year old codgers - a grand time was had by all.

 One of the amazing things about this game is that Ernie personally built and painted all the minis and terrain used in under a month!  The walls of Memphis existed as only sheets of foam board just a few days before the con - amazing stuff.

The crew from Alien Dungeon/Architec of War did a superb job of running the game - hat's off to Ed and the rest of the team for a superb gaming experience!
 Obligatory shot of the Wargames Illustrated demo game themed on the Irish rebellion in 1798.  Being if Irish descent I kept wanting to give the Irish side a few Martian Tripods or some  regiments from my Union ACW Irish Brigade but the GM would have none of that...

 A great looking naval game of which I didn't get the name.  Unfortunately, I spent most of my time gawking and not taking pictures so I don't have a lot to show of other peoples games.  Never-the-less, there were a lot of great games and I've learned even more about staging games from watching people like Bob Giglio, who has got convention GM'ng down to a science.  Bob ran a fantastic Philippines revolt game next to one of mine and I learned a lot just watching him do his thing.

 Almost all of Saturday was devoted to Stephan's (Captn' TO) Bolt Action tournament.  But before talking about the tournament, I think I need to touch upon a more somber note - the ravages of "Pre-Tournament Gamer Stress" or PTGS as it may be referred to in in medical journals.  PTGS is the scourge of our hobby and even one of the Bolt Action world's "Gaming Titans" Dave D of the LRDG podcast fame can succumb to it's debilitating effects.  Examine the photographic evidence of how this mountain of a Australian man has been reduced to a quivering mass of jello, or worse - fallen to "Pom" status.  Perhaps even more shocking is the resistance that PTGS seems to have from the intensive alcohol treatment therapy that was administered to Dave the night before and through to 4:00am of the day of the tournament.  I find it very alarming that modern mixology science has yet to find a cure for PTGS.

Now with my public service announcement out of the way, the BA tournament was a blast - we have a great group of players in the Mid-Atlantic region and everyone of my games was a great experience.  I played Japanese again but added a tankette (Type 92) to my force and replaced the sniper with an infantry flame-thrower team.  It's a fun list to play.  My first game was against a Chindit / Gurkha list (think anti-japanese).  I was able to squeak out a win thanks to my bamboo spears taking out one Gurkha squad and opening up the right flank for my infantry to take the game objective.

My second game was against a Russian list that featured on Vehicle Flame Thrower and two infantry flame throwers plus a Katyusha Rocket launcher truck.  This was a great game and went down to the wire but, yet again, my Bamboo Spears managed to take out two Russian vet squads armed with flame throwers to tilt the game in my favor.  My third game was against Dave (pictured above) who had recovered, somewhat, from his PTGS and had a list of two Cromwells, two staghounds and 5 small infantry squads and a can of whoop ass (yes, a can of whoop was included on his army list, or at least should have been).  He was a great person to play with and lets just say he crushed me.  I went 2 and 1 for the tournament and had a great time.

Saturday evening involved the WWPD podcast, which always a good time and board games.  I learned how to play the card game "Love Letter" which is a blast and not as silly as the name sounds. OK, it may be that silly but it's really a good game.  Ummm, "How 'bout those Bears....."

Lastly, lets talk loot.  I went into the con not really looking to buy anything (I didn't need anything).  More-over, outside of FOW, I'm pretty much a 28mm scale gamer and modeler.

I did a great job keeping my discipline through Sunday morning having only picked up two 15mm sailing ships (a Brig and Xebec) from Thoroughbred Models "Sea Eagle" line.  Unfortunately, I decided to make a "quick" run through the vendor hall Sunday morning and all discipline went out the window and I emerged with the makings of an Ottoman Army for "By Fire and Sword", a finished fortified farm for the same game system.  A good bit of Sash and Saber 28mm ACW mini's and a FOW blister I won at the WWPD podcast - Just about everything I bought/won at the con was in 15mm so my next project is likely to be in that scale.  It's a toss up between building an army for By Fire and Sword or the Xebec with it's wonderful Lateen rigged sails.  Ahhh decisions, decisions....

As for the con - Overall I had a great time and definitely planned to go back next year.  The staff at HMGS made several improvements to the venue including adding carpeting to the main gaming area which reduced foot stress and helped measurably with the noise levels.  Another big improvement were the chairs.  The con seemed a little less crowded than previous events in Fredericksburg but I understand that attendance counts with HMGS is more art than science so I'll not wade into that debate.  The food in the convention center was still awful and high priced but there's little HMGS can do with the vendor who has the contract for the FCC (it's kind of a packaged deal).  With a Wegmans (top tier grocery store with a deli) next door it's really your own fault if you eat the convention food.

I'm looking forward to the next con (Fall In)!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Historicon 2014: Fridays' Game, One Day during the Seven Days

 On Friday, Mike and I ran our second ACW game at Historicon.  The game used the same terrain setup from the previous night but was a more traditional "big battle" style game rather than a skirmish.  I decided to use the newish Longstreet rules for the game and was extremely please with how they worked (more on that later).  While our battle was fictitious in nature it was themed the be part of the Seven Days Battles.  The first few shots show the initial set up for both sides.  The game had four players per side, with one being designated as the Commander-in-Chief (he could play interrupt cards).  Each side 18 regiments of infantry, 2 cavalry and 5 artillery batteries of 2-3 guns each.  Oh yes - there was also an ironclad for each side but these were more for show (they were GM controlled)

 The Confederate right flank featured a dug in position manned by Confederate marines.  There were three objectives in the game - best two out of three to win.  One of the objectives was held by either side and third was neutral.  The Confederate held objective was the pumpkin patch in the lower left center of the picture.  The Union held a pig sty in the diagonally opposite corner and the tree stand at the top of the center hill wasn't held by either side.

 Down the Confederate line.  All of the infantry for both sides was on the board.  The calvary regiments would enter on turn three anywhere along a sides table edge based on written down order from the respective CIC's prior to the start of the game.
 The Union line starting from the opposite side of there table features a very strongly fortified artillery battery and some regiments moving up to secure a stone fence line.

 Going down the Union line

 Longtreet is a card driven game that does a very elegant job of simulating command friction with cards.  I was a little worried it would be too complex to throw at players in a convention setting but everyone seemed to pick up the basics after 2 or three turns.  I'm sure we (and when I say "we" I mean "I") did a few things wrong, but the players seems to enjoy the game and it was a grand time.
 The Confederate general staff discussing their battle plans.  "Lets charge the hill" is a pretty good summarization!
 The Union side deep in strategic contemplation.  You can see the Union held objective - the pig sty in the lower left of the picture.

 The game commences - both central brigades make a general advance onto the hill with the Union being a bit quicker and seizing the tree top objective with a three gun artillery battery.
 The non- river flank saw extensive skirmishing at the start of the game before a general Union assault.

 The Union infantry catches up to the artillery and a defensive line is established....
 The Confederates continue to advance but their CiC has a devilish gleam in his eye.  Hmm I wonder what interrupt card he is about to play?

 Contact!  The Confederates are significantly advantaged as they playe the card ""They couldn't hit an..." which requires one of the opposing brigade commander to discard a D6 of his six command cards - the Union player rolled a 5 which left him with little ability to respond during the confederate turn.  The result was that the Union artillery battery was overrun and the Confederates gradually pushed the Union back off the objective.

With the land game going so well, Mike and decided not to add in the complexity of the ironclads and left them more as color than true game influencers.  We put them on in case one side ended up running way with the game to even out things (they have really big guns) but never needed to use them.  I firmly believe the primary role of a GM at a con game is to ensure everyone has a good time and I'm not above "re-balancing" a game if needed.  This game needed no rebalancing given the great players we had.

 The Union attacks and breaks the extreme Confederate non-river side flank.  The river side flank on the opposite end of the table actually saw very little action as both players where of a very defensive mind set.

 There was a lot of see-saw fighting for the hill with the confederates initial advantage evaporating in the mode portion of the game and then they regained some momentum and finally held the hill objective.
 Finally some movement on the river bank! but the Union advance was checked by a surprising confederate calvary charge into their flanks!
 Action in the center - many regiments where very worn by then.  Longstreet features casualty removal so regiments get smaller as the game goes on.  Each regiment was made up of 6 stands, with the exception of the LA Tigers who had 9.
 A shot of the battlefield at the end of the game.  Total losses for the Union 39 stands of Infantry and calvary vs 42 for the Confederates.  However, the Confederates firmly held 2 of the 3 game objectives and were granted a well earned "Minor Victory"


A miniature gamer version of Mathew Brady surveys the battlefield.  A lot of people came by during the game and took pictures of the setup - Mike and I received a lot of very nice complements about the game which is always very gratifying.  At the end of the day, con games are essentially more elaborate versions of "show and tell" from our elementary school days.  There are times I wonder is we ever really grow up?  I kinda hope that answer is no!

 Overall, both Mike and I were very pleased with how the game worked out.  As with our game from last night, we were very lucky to have a great group of players (a few of whom played with us on Friday also).  All of the players were more interested in having fun than "winning" so the game was easy to manage.  The interrupt card play of Longstreet can lead to some initial player frustration when they are the recipient of their first interrupt card but that frustration quickly dissipates when they get to, umm, "return the favor".

I was extremely pleased with how the Longstreet rules worked in a convention setting.  We essentially used the Longstreet "lite" version which simplifies the game but it was both easy to teach and the players were able to play the game without guidance after the third turn.  To be honest, my favorite ACW rules are still Regimental Fire and Fury but Longstreet is a very close number two and a great option for beer and pretzel gaming or cons.  It will likely be my goto rules for ACW at cons going forward.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Historicon 2014: Thursday's Sink the Tennessee! Game

 This will be the first of several posts discussing Historicon 2014.  As usual, I had a blast and really enjoyed putting on several games with Mike.  Our first game was Thursday night and was a re-run of last year's game "Sink the Tennessee" using Architects of Wars "Uncivil Wars" ruleset.  The first picture shows the table at the start of the game.  The cards in the picture are the unit activation cards - put them in a deck and when pulled the named unit gets to do something.

The game was played on a 16 foot table and had four players per side.  The scenario was a Union raid to destroy the CSS Tennessee.  The Union had two repeater armed calvary forces that were intended to delay the massive confederate reinforcements which would enter the game at the bottom of the table (time was nat a Union ally).  They also had a land based infantry force and a seaborne Marine / Engineer force to take both the town and CSS TN.  Of course, the seaborne force arrived via an Ironclad.  The Confederates had the CSS TN's crewman and Marines, some town militia, a calvary patrol and a never ending amount of infantry regiments.  Unfortunately for the confederates the crew of the TN was in town on shore leave so they needed to get back to the ship before it could escape.

 A few turns into the game with the Union forces entering the town before the confederates could react (it was night so visibility was 12 inches).
 Contact!  The Yankees went for the CSS crewman first and this would prove decisive late on in the game.  The Confederates marines did manage to get on board without many casualties and prepared to "repel boarders".
The Town militia may not have been the best quality troops but they were brave lads and went down to the last man.  The gentlemen playing them was a hoot and did a very good impression of Slim Pickens from Blazing saddles (a hooping and a hollering!)  It was a lot of fun.  At the other end of the table the Union cav did a great job holding off the confederate infantry (and decimating the LA Tigers in the process)
 The decisive movement - The confederate marine manage to throw back the Union marines after their engineers blasted open the top hatch to the TN.  Unfortunately for the confederates, they just didn't have enough troops to hold back the Union infantry - their crewman shipmates  couldn't get on board to support them.  The Union carried the ship and won the game.  We all had a great time playing the game and I was very fortunate to have 8 players who were all in the frame of mind to have a good time.

One surprising aspect of the evening was our game won an award at the con - a "PELA" which I think is given out for the best game in a particular time slot.  I think the real reason we won was the quality of the players I had - they were a lot of fun and would have made playing checkers using unpainted 40k figs seem exciting!

I really enjoy putting games on at a con, but it is a lot of work.  Mike and I have started planning for next year but all we've settled is that it will be something other than ACW - more details to follow.  Our big debate will be do we do one or two games.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All Packed Up for Historicon 2014

 All of the miniatures I need for Historicon are packed up and ready for me to hit the road tomorrow - in these boxes are over 1,200 28mm ACW miniatures for the two games I am putting on, my Japanese Bolt Action army for the Saturday tournament (still need to finalize my list) and a bunch of All Quiet on the Martian Front stuff for Ernie to use at his demo games.

 A "custom made" transport case for my 28mm scale ironclads.  I'm sure seeing this will make the guy at battle foam very nervous...

 I also manage to repaint my terrain boards - turning the glow in the dark artificial blue that was into...

A slow flowing dark brown of the James River - rich with piedmont runoff and other biologicals from large army encampments along the river's banks upstream.  I think the boards look a lot better.  I'm glad I only put on games at Historicon 'cause it's a lot of crap to transport.

Monday, July 14, 2014

First Tomatoes of the Year!

 Yes, I know there are much more important things to blog about, like frantic Historicon preparations but there are other activities.  My wife's garden has recovered from a rocky start and has yielded it's first of, hopefully many tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes to be specific.

 We've planted 16 tomatoes plants in two beds of 5 different species (including my favorite Roma's).  The planting has been staggered to hopefully keep us in tomatoes at least throughout the first frost in October.

 My monster tomato stalk - it's 7 feet tall and still growing.  I repainted the deer fencing this year and think it came out rather well.

 Some okra

 Eggplant - one has to have eggplant in any garden

Beets - I'm not a fan of beets but my wife (MB) likes them and I work for her.  Not pictured are the usual Zucchini, Cucumber and Pepper plants.  I had a good bit of lettuce but it went to seed so was pulled out.  It's just about time to plant brussels sprouts so I think they will be the next to go in.

My apologies for the breach in protocol by posting a non-gaming item but getting the garden in top shape was one of the tasks I was assigned to earn my Historicon pass so it's kind of related to miniature gaming.  I also use the tomatoes and peppers to make salsa for gamers during game nights so that fact makes gardening a critical aspect of the gaming life.