Wednesday, April 29, 2020
I re-ran the same battle as last time (Tashinchiao from the Russo-Japanese War) but used Greg's Alter of Freedom rules, which move the scale up from Battalions to Regiments. That cut the number of unit bases in half and reduced the table top from 6x4 to 4x4 in size.
I made some changes to Alter of Freedom to include indirect artillery fire and machine guns but tried to keep the tinkering to a minimum. I may have failed but I did try...
To me this is the biggest issue with staging a miniature game with lots of bases - it's just inefficient as one person me has to move all the pieces, roll the dice. It's also frustrating for players as they try to communicate where to position units for maximum effect and I often misunderstood their instructions and needed to constantly tinker with placement. There were some comical moments with exasperate players constantly telling me to move unit "over-there" or "where I'm pointing" only for me to remind them I cant see them.
The Japanese (Greg and Josh) elected to attack the center- left flank of the Russians where they saw a gap in the defensive setup.
While Zoom is a good platform, we still experienced some issues with players have a hard time keeping the map camera they wanted pined (visible on the main screen). This could have been my fault as the host, Im just not sure. Given my general level of technical ineptitude, it probably was but there will always be issues with people using different types of bandwidth and devices.
So what have learned after putting on 2 "virtual games" and playing in two others.
1) Game Type Matters
Games with lots of bases and free form movement are very difficult to stage. It's exhausting for the GM and frustrating for the players as they just don't have the same control over unit placement. Games that have movement grids (squares or hexes) will be a lot easier to put on as unit placement options are limited. I'm hoping we can try "Rommel" or something like "Too the Strongest" in a future game to see if the gridded movement speeds things up.
Naval games where a player commands one or two ships also should work well - again you need rules that have gridded movement like "Fire as She Bears" (octagons) or "Hammering Iron" - ACW ironclads (hexes).
The next game I try to put on will likely be a Napoleonic naval game using Fire as She Bears.
2) Games with lots of Bases / and lots of different unit types/capabilities are hard to stage.
Camera resolution and your players bandwidth can limit the visibility of units and often results in players mistaking unit x of superior infantry for unit y of conscripts. I tried to manage this by color coding unit labels and keeping all the units of a formation the same quality but there still were points of confusion.
3) Multiple Cameras are a must and you need at least one "mobile" camera to zoom in on key spots. I had two cameras up and running - a mid-level logitech webcam and my I-phone on a tripod. The I-phone provided far superior image quality and about halfway through the game I started placing it on the table to zoom in and that worked well. One I-phone tip I learned is the camera on the back of the phone is superior to the one on the front.
4) Is it worth the trouble - Hell Yes. Despite all of the technical and gameplay issues being able to spend time with my gaming club is more than worth the effort to stage a game. Trying to keep some semblance of out Monday night traditions is important and something I'll continue to be working towards.
Monday, April 27, 2020
Here's a close up of the first one. I think it came out "OK". I've set several goals for this project:
- These need to be usable for scales ranging from 6mm to 28mm
- I can only use materials on hand (that's not as limiting as it sounds
- it's easy to store so vertical feature (like trees) need to be removable and I'll need to make different sized trees for the different scales
I grew up in the bayous of southern Alabama, so have some pretty direct experience with swampy terrain. Thats a plus and a minus as I'll also have a certain level of bias.
Please ignore the 6mm Russian troops - I'm running another Russo-Japanese war game over Zoom tonight. The are useful as a scale reference. The bases of 40mm squares.
I know, I know, the paper tracks are crap - I need to get something better. My apologies for those of you who are offended by these lame tracks
The bases are 1/8 inch (3mm) thick black PVC sheet. PVC has become my terrain material of choice. It's cheap, durable, easy to cut and DOES NOT WARP.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
The design idea for the entrenchments comes from the 6mm-terrain tips website, which is run by a fellow club member, Greg. The Bard wire concept came from another club member, Ed, who used it to scenic some 6mm WW1 bases he painted up. I rarely have unique ideas of my own and am happy to steal from others.
Sometimes projects don't work the first few times you try - especially with terrain projects. Don't get mad - it's a learning opportunity and figure out a different way.
It turned to an old friend in this terrain making time of need....
To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Oh Tile Grout, is there nothing you cant do?" Bonus points if you can mention the item Homer is speaking of in the original line below in the comments. No googling 'cause that's cheating
Please be careful with this stuff as it is highly toxic if ingested. Also, as a precaution against our idiot President making future pronouncements, Blacken-It has no effect on COVID-19 either when appleid externally or ingested. Like other household disinfectant, such as bleach or Lysol, one should not ingest these items. Of course, if you need to be convinced not to listen to the Orange Moron, then well I'm not sure you can read so these warnings may go over your head.
My apologies for the slight rant, but as the spouse of a medical professional who is treating patients during this time, I have developed nothing but contempt and disdain for the current idiot in the Whitehouse and his duped supporters.
Let's get back to miniatures, shall we?
Hopefully, you'll see these markers used on all sorts of games in the near future.
Stay safe and healthy
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Historically,, aside from the counter attack the game played out to the same outcome - the Japanese attacks on July 24th were rebuffed with heavy losses. The Russians were later dislodged via a night attack on the early morning hours of the 25th.
I'm going to separate my comments into 3 sections 1) technology, 2) gameplay and 3) things to improve
We used the video conferencing service ZOOM as the platform and, overall it worked very well. There are other platforms available that may be better but I've learned how to use ZOOM over the past few weeks so went with what I was comfortable with. Video of the game table was provided by two cameras set up at each far end of the table. One camera was linked to my laptop which I used to dial into the Zoom service on my account which allowed me to control the meeting. The second camera was just my i-Phone which I mounted on a tripod and dialed in as a general user for the call (not using my zoom account). The cameras didn't have the best resolution but worked "good enough". Several times I had to take one of the cameras in hand and zoom into a spot so a player could give me some specific movement instructions. The zoom service worked great for player communication and chit chat. I set up different message streams in Facebook messenger for each side to communicate amongst themselves or to send me order changes. That worked "OK" (see the areas for improvement below). I tried color coding the unit labels to make them easier to pick out. That didn't work as the labels were too small to see
Gameplay: The rules we used were Great War Spearhead II, which have a fairly rigid order structure and order of shooting (closest first) and those aspects made them suitable for remote gaming as there isn't a lot of nuanced movement or figure placing and formations need to act as a cohesive group. GWS2 is a ruleset that favors defense (the author indicates attackers should have 3:1 local force superiority). It's been the club experience that defenders almost always win and that's how last night played out. I hindsight, the attacking Japanese probably should have used some form of pre attack bombardment rather than just jumping off in the first turn. I also used the suggested stats for the Russo-Japanese war from GWS2 but in hindsight may have made the Russians a bit too strong/flexible. There will need to be some tweaking but hopefully not so much nerfing as it makes the Russians no fun to play. I'm not ready to give up on GWS2 but need to really think about some revisions before running it again. If any reader has some thoughts about a grand tactical set of WW1 rules, I'm all ears.
Things to Improve
1) Better Cameras - the visual aspect of gaming is probably the most important one people enjoy and seeing it over the internet degrades that experience. Internet video cameras are fairly cheap so investing in a couple better ones is well worth the effort.
2) Syncing pregaming prep materials with the camera angles used to broadcast. In my pregame prep materials, I took pictures for each side from different angles than the ones broadcasting cameras displayed. That proved very confusing to some players. In a "real" game it'san easy to fix as one can walk around the table to reorient oneself but in a remote game thats not possible. Making sure there are some pictures that match the broadcast camera angles in the prep materials will greatly improve player comprehension,
3) Overhead camera - finding a way to have a came directly overhead would be very useful and might eliminate the need for multiple camera angles. To be honest, I think a single camera isn't the best as I do like trying to simulate the players view from the side of the table they are on. Player perspective is an important aspect in tabletop gaming
4) Unit Labeling - my labels would have worked great for an in person game but were just too small to be useful on a video stream. The unit bases were 40 x 40mm with the labels being roughly 5x40mm along the rear. Next game I'll make the labels 20x40mm and the colors more vibrant.
5) Player GM "Secret" Communication: Our club does most of its internal communications on Facebook and the its messenger app for projects and gaming planning It works fine for what we need and has the benefit that the interface is easy to use and its free (well, free except for the cost of our privacy....). Using different platforms (Zoom and messenger) during a remote gaming session proved to be hard on the poor GM and I often ignored the messenger channel as I was running around moving units and rolling dice. I'm sure there is a better way to do this and need to think about it.
While there was a lot that can be improved on, I was still very pleased with how the gaming session went and am looking forward to staging another game in a few weeks. I am also very grateful to all the players and video participants who agreed to be my test subjects.
It felt great to get a little of our Monday night club meetings back.
Monday, April 13, 2020
This will be the first outing on the table for my 6mm Russo-Japanese armies. The battle was a prelude to Liaoyang and was smallish in size with roughly 65K men per side. The Japanese 2nd Army, which consisted of 4 divisions plus some support units attacked through the hills with the objective of seizing the rail junction located at battles namesake town. Opposing them are two Siberian Infantry corps. Historically, the Russians gave a good account of themselves during this battle and withdrew in good order.
Units are individual battalions.
I'll be using the WW1 ruleset "Great War Spearhead II" - why? I've played them a few times during Josh's epic Gallipoli games and like them. The employ an order concept for formations such as "Attack point X", "Move to Y", Defend Z". Once an order is set the details of how a unit moves or who it can target are pretty specific. Both of those concepts should lend themselves to remote play where players can give orders but cant really manipulate the bases in a precise manner.
All of the unit formations are color coded to make them easier for players to see. Video resolution will be an issue but that's also a form of fog of war - at least that's my current story.
To be honest, I am a little nervous about pulling this off. On the other hand, I really miss the Monday night game sessions at the club and just don't want to give into the negative side effects of enforced isolation without trying different options. Don't get me wrong - I fully support the concept of social distancing and know that we all are savings lives by complying. That said, if I can figure out a way to make them a little less dreary then that's a good thing too.
Lastly, I have checked the odds in 'Vegas and the overwhelming favorite for the outcome of tonight's game is:
(here in the US, Mississippi almost always ranks 50th in any measure of a positive aspect, so the other states that also rank lower are very appreciative that Mississippi always prevents them from being last.)
Saturday, April 11, 2020
Finishing those hills will be today's project. There's a little damage to repair as I apparently stepped on them while stumbling around the workshop. I have never been accused of a surplus of grace.
About half of the Jungle terrain on the top two shelfs and the cabinet top will be making their way to Canada as they's Curts from the Analogue Hobbies blog. Once I get off my ass and package them up, the freed-up space will be used to store 15 and 6mm buildings/terrain.
Only one of the drawers on the right side of the cabinet is currently in use as a barracks for minis. It's the bottom one which has the bulk of the 15mm Arab Conquest Army cavalry I painted up for this years painting challenge. The other seven drawers are empty for the moment but will likely get filled very quickly as my Russo-Japanese War project is moving along nicely. I may have even received a shipment from War Times Journal of 3D resin printed models for every ship involved in the conflict. Every ship.......
Friday, April 10, 2020
What? You are unfamiliar with the now standard residential housing feature of a terrain workshop? Well then sit back and I'll tell you the tale.......
My lovely, yet fierce wife approves of me using this space as she can close the doors and not be reminded of the mess. At least I hope it's the mess and not me.
By the way, that workbench was my very first woodworking project and was built when we first bought the house way back in 1997! It has served in many different hobby campaigns over the years.
The schedule for the next few days are a few board calls and a lot of cleaning up / re-organization of this space.
I wonder how many "missing" figures I'll find as I clear away the debris on the floor of the shop?
Thursday, April 9, 2020
The second picture shows the hardware mounting jig - I align it to the left side of the front drawer face and it shows where I need to drill the two holes for the file cabinet drawer pulls. Drill two holes at those spots and screw in the drawer pulls. Perfect alinement every time.
You can also see that small back panel has been added across the bottom. I don't need a full panel as the cabinet will be pushed up against a wall in my hobby area but I did want to add something to increase the stability of the cabinet.
All that's left to do is cut two shelf panels which need to be 35.5 inches wide and 18 deep and this project is done.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The first photo so the framing of the cabinet carcass. I was doing the design pretty much on the fly.
The next step will be the worst part of any project involving wood - sanding. Once that's down I'll cit the shelf panels and install this bad boy in the basement.
Stay safe & healthy everyone.
Monday, April 6, 2020
I did round off the corners of the seat as sharp right angles and peoples seating apparatus often don't mix well. In fact, they never mix well.
With the prototype done, I'll set to the task of building 5 for the club. It took about eight hours to build but a lot of that time was me measuring and re-measuring and then correcting measurement mistakes. In "production mode" it should take about 1.5 hours to build each stool.
This project was a lot of fun and hopefully will lead to some nice new stools to use at the club. Here's hoping that the day we can all return to the club is not too far off into the future.
Stay safe and healthy everyone.