Saturday, October 26, 2013

Enlightened Imaginations - Army Building

Having cleared my schedule and my painting table (updates coming soon of recently finished projects, which include Russian Civil War Tschankas, 19th century imaginations naval forces, and some shore fortifications), I am now returning to a project started three years ago, prior to finishing my PhD and starting life as a professor.

I have begun the process of assembling and painting the Armies of the Principality of Bombastia, and the Duchy of Poppenheim.  These are to be based (loosely) on the armies of Peter the Great, and Charles XII. I am using the Wargames Factory "War of the Spanish Succession" figures for the infantry, which is the first part of the project.

I have, from a purchase made under the original ownership of Wargames Factory, but delivered after the company changed hands, a dozen boxes of infantry, each capable of modeling 36 figures.  As I am planning on building 24 figure units, that will give me 8 full size units, and 2 half size units for each side.

The two warring powers represent (in my fictional Imagi-Nations history) separate states, based on older medieval fiefdoms, that would eventually be absorbed into the more modern state of Furstenberg.  Because of the historical ties, and due to a restriction imposed on the Furstenberg states by the church, during the 17th century wars of religion that wracked Balkania (see the War of St. Helga's Baptismal, in the general history of Furstenberg, the armies of any of the Furstenberg powers were not permitted to employ grenadiers in field battles.  Because of this, there are no units in either army that bear the classification of Grenadier.

However, Poppenheim could employed converged regiments of elite infantry (pulling companies from line battalions), and Bombastia would frequently converge the elite flank companies of the regular infantry battalions, as well as having formed standing regiments of elite infantry.  It is important to know that although these units may have appeared in the Furstenberg "Grand Tally of Arms" (the best surviving record of battalions and regiments under arms, during the 17ths and 18th century in the seven provinces of Furstenberg) as alternatively "Heavy Infantry" and "Guard Infantry" they were routinely referred to as Grenadiers by the officers - many of which had trained in the arms service of other nations..

Here are the first photos of the first battalion under construction, a Poppenheim unit.

That picture shows four stands, each 60mm x 40mm and with six figures. The command stand features three musketeers and a drummer, standard bearer and an officer.
 A different angle, showing the figures face on.

An image showing a ruler for reference, and a fine Balkanian tobacco pipe, used to assist in the painting process.

Assembling the 21 musketeers took about 40 minutes.  And I wasn't rushed (ref: Balkanian smoking pipe).  The three officers took a little longer, maybe 20-30 minutes for all three.  In all, less time than it would have taken to clean metal figures.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Star Wars X-Wing - simple campaign rules

I have played this a few times now, and really like it.  The models are great, and the game system is a nice modification of the Wings of War (Wings of Glory) system.

Picture of an X-Wing game in progress, from Boardgame Geek

One of the things, especially given the great stories about the conflicts between different units of Imperial and Rebel units in the Expanded Universe (books, comics, games, etc), is the idea of an ongoing campaign within a sector of space.

I have been thinking of how to do this, especially given a map, and some unit logistics, and access to different units (ships, fighters, etc), but it is still in the works.

However, for some simple "pilot focused" games, where a player is rewarded for good performance with the same pilot, I offer up these rules.  This is based on the situation where either a Club or Game Store is the location for regular, weekly (or whenever), play.  With players able to play games with other players in the campaign.

We're all in it together.

 1. Once a player chooses a unit (ship, fighter, etc - including all upgrades), that player will play that unit until they either (1) are *killed* in a game, or (2) gain enough experience points to purchase a new confuration.

2. Once a new player enters the campaign, they are allowed to purchase a fighter, with a pilot and upgrades, for a set amount of points (suggested - start with 15 or 20 pts for Imperial players, and maybe 25 points for Rebel players). See alternative below, for all players being in the same squadron.

3. For each game that a player "survives" they receive 1 new point ("increase points").

4. For each point of damage (regular or critical) that they inflict on an enemy ship, they receive 1 new point.

5. For each enemy ship that they inflict the killing shot (this could be shared, by ships firing simultaneously), they receive 1 additional new increase point.

6. Anytime a player wants to use their points (added to their starting value) they may replace their unit with a different unit.

Trophy in the Ready Room.
Option 1: "Part of the Rebel Alliance" All players are (either) Rebel or Imperial.  In any game, some of the players (or bystanders) will have to play units of the other side.  If campaign players are playing the "bad guys" then after the game is over (regardless of how they do), they will receive points "on account".  These points will be awarded to their total, after the next game that they play, as a regular player (piloting their regular ship).  The amount of points that they receive varies based on how well that they do.  If the "bad guy" pilot survives the encounter and their side wins, then they receive 1 point for every ship (or fighter) on the "good guy" side.  If the bad guys lose, then they receive half (round down) of this amount.

Option 2: "The Force is Strong in this One" When a player finally dies, they get to come into the game with a new pilot at the starting level.  If that pilot survives their first battle, then they immediately receive Half of the increase points that their prior pilot had.  This represents the training that a pilot could have received from their (now dead) mentor.

Note that a campaign referee should "ok" any games, in terms of scenario, balance of forces, etc.  In the case of players being on both sides (Imperial and Rebel) this is less important, but in the case where all the players are on one side, it will quickly get out of hand, if a Referee is not part of the solution.

This system would work much better if there are multiple games each week (or each club get-together), with smaller faster encounters making for a better campaign.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wargaming project update

So, things at Gaming with Chuck HQ have settled into the typical Autumn pattern - school, work, trips, looking ahead to holidays, etc.

The weather is nice enough that I can use my painting area (which is in the garage) again, without suffering from the summer heat.

We have had some very nice (and successful) game nights at our house lately, mostly board and card games.

I have been working on a couple of wargaming projects, and have some progress to report.

1. I have completed the painting on the vessels (for both navies) for my 1870s imagi-nations naval project.  I now have fleets for both the Margravate of Furstenberg, and the Confederated Cantons of Rumpwhistle.  Games coming soon.

2. I have built some shore facilities to use with the new navies - some towns, and some fortification/gun batteries.  Yet to be painted.  Nice to have, but not needed for games.

3. I have constructed the first 6 figures (plastic, multipart) for my 1700 imagi-nations project (Poppenheim vs. Bombastia).  These went together very easily, and I think I will stick wth the plastics.  I already have a bunch purchased (Wargames Factory - owned when the company was under the original leadership, but this left me with 332 infantry figures, enough for both armies). The 6 figures took seconds to put together.  The basic figure in the Wargames Factory box sets go together really easily - 2/3 of the figures only need a head attached.  The other figures are a little bit more complex (heads, and arms).  Looking forward to doing some whole (24 figure) units

4. The 1870 infantry (repurposed ACW figures, now used for Furstenberg and Rumpwhistle) has been MOSTLY rebased and ready to go.  There is still a box of infantry left to work up, and some more cavalry, and guns.  This is pretty much ready to go for a small battle, which I hope to get played this autumn.  Still thinking about rules.

5. Really thinking about dark ages stuff (vikings, danes, scotts, etc).  Have lots of lead, just deciding if I want to do this before or after the 1700 stuff.

Pictures and ship details on the navies; posed pictures, maybe a game, for the 1870 stuff.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Western Music and Western Gaming

[NOTE: This is the 400th post at Gaming with Chuck.  Huzzah!]

The mythological old west of the United States is a fantastic place, to tell stories, to set songs, and even to base gaming themes on.  First a couple of pieces of classic Western music.

In the fantastic song Ghost Riders in the Sky a story is told about a herd of demonic cattle (red eyes, steel hooves, flaming brands) being chased forever by cursed cowboys.  It is reminiscent of tales like the Flying Dutchman, or the Wild Hunt.  The song was first recorded by none other than the fantastic singer, Burl Ives in February of 1949.  It was then recorded by Vaughn Monroe in March of 1949.  Monroe's version is fantastic, partially because of his incredible basso voice, but also the music is very well done.  In contrast, many other versions that feature (mostly) a single instrument - like Burl Ives', or Johnny Cash's versions - are pretty nice to hear as well.  There is a nice Youtube recording of the Burl Ives version.

This song has been recorded so many times, by so many great artists, it is hard to know which to include.  However, in the (mostly terrible) movie Ghost Rider (based on the much better comic book character), Nicholas Cage gets a modern remake of the skull-and-hellfire cowboy.  The song got a remake as well, with a version by Spiderbait.  Dare I say it - the brief bit with Sam Elliott as the traditional horse riding version of Ghost Rider is 187x more classy than Nick Cage's motorcycle riding version.  But then again, Sam Elliott is a real cowboy.

Famous cowboy singer Marty Robbins did a version as well.  But, if I'm going to include a western song by Marty Robbins, it HAS to be El Paso.  Nothing more to say on that one.  I think verses of it even were reprinted inside the rulebook "Hey You in the Jail" (great range war miniatures game by Peter Pig).

American Cowboy (the website of the cowboy lifestyle) has a great list of the top 100 western songs.  Lots of great songs there.  But if I think of some of my favorite western movies, and some of the songs from them, I have to include the rendition of "My Rifle, my Pony, and Me" by Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, from the fantastic John Wayne piece, "Rio Bravo" (1959).

Okay, moving from what is a HUGE topic of music, to an equally large topic of gaming, I would like to start with a relatively recent (2002) offering - the card game Bang!.  This has been a great hit for Emiliano Sciarra, spinning of a bunch of expansions and variations.  There is even, now, a dice game.

The game is about gun fighting in a classic Hollywood, or Spaghetti Western, style town.  There are different roles for the players - Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw and Renegade - and classic actions (shooting, hiding, etc).  Here is the text from Board Game Geek, which is mostly from the original game's box back...
"The Outlaws hunt the Sheriff. The Sheriff hunts the Outlaws. The Renegade plots secretly, ready to take one side or the other. Bullets fly. Who among the gunmen is a Deputy, ready to sacrifice himself for the Sheriff? And who is a merciless Outlaw, willing to kill him? If you want to find out, just draw (your cards)!" (From back of box)

This card game recreates an old-fashioned spaghetti western shoot-out, with each player randomly receiving a Character card to determine special abilities, and a secret Role card to determine their goal.

Four different Roles are available, each with a unique victory condition:
  • Sheriff - Kill all Outlaws and the Renegade
  • Deputy - Protect the Sheriff and kill any Outlaws
  • Outlaw - Kill the Sheriff
  • Renegade - Be the last person standing
A player's Role is kept secret, except for the Sheriff. Character cards are placed face-up on table, and also track strength (hand limit) in addition to special ability.
There are 22 different types of cards in the draw deck. Most common are the BANG! cards, which let you shoot at another player, assuming the target is within "range" of your current gun. The target player can play a "MISSED!" card to dodge the shot. Other cards can provide temporary boosts while in play (for example, different guns to improve your firing range) and special one-time effects to help you or hinder your opponents (such as Beer to restore health, or Barrels to hide behind during a shootout). A horse is useful for keeping your distance from unruly neighbors, while the Winchester can hit a target at range 5.
The Gatling is a deadly exception where range doesn't matter - it can only be used once, but targets all other players at the table!
Information on the cards is displayed using language-independent symbols, and 7 summary/reference cards are included.
A great game.  Another western themed card game that has loads of period flavor is the fantastic Mystery Rummy spinoff Wyatt Earp, based on the original series design by Mike Fitzgerald.  The game also has Richard Borg listed as a designer, so perhaps he added the unique elements to this title. The game has the players in the role of Sheriff's attempting to bring in dangerous (and famous) criminals of the old west.  It involves collecting and playing sets of cards.  Lots of fun, and a ton of theme.

Another card game, that is quite popular, but not one of my favorites, is Munchkin.  There is (yes, of course there is) an Old West themed version, called The Good, the Bad, and the Munchkin! It, itself, even has expansions.

 On the boardgame front, there is a lot to choose from, including the classic man-to-man shooting boardgame from Avalon Hill, Gunslinger (1982). It is a great hex based man-to-man cowboy combat game, with a number of cool scenarios you can play out of the book, and is easy enough to create any situation you want, from novels, movies, or your own imagination.

A nice modern re-doing of the man-to-man cowboy game (and there have been a number over the years) is the 2007 release of "Cowboys: Way of the Gun" from Worthington Games.  Other than different mechanics, one of the big differences is the reliance on square grid vs. hex grid for the map structure and movement, etc.

Another nice theme for board games is Western Expansion.  Two that I can immediately think of, other than the many, many different railroad games set in the old west, are Oregon, and Settlers of America: Trails to Rails.  There are many, many titles in this category as well, but those two come to mind immediately.

Oregon is all about building up buildings, mines, and other features to help construct a territory in the west. It is a lot of fun, pretty well balanced (typical Euro in that regard), and great art/theme. It is a settling game, and appropriately, it is based on Area Control and placing Tiles.  Great game, however.

Settlers of America: Trails to Rails is a Settlers of Catan based game, with a fixed map of the United States during the Manifest Destiny period, and it is a great economic game about western expansion. And it features typically high quality components and quality control from Mayfair Games.

There are also a lot of western themed RPGs that I could mention (Boot Hill, Deadlands, Western Hero), as well as some western themed Miniatures Rules (The Rules With No Name, Hey You in the Jail, Pony Wars).  After all of this, however, I am again faced with the thought that the Old West (in myth, if not in reality) is a fantastic theme for music, games, and movies.  And I didn't even mention too much about the movies...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Game Day at our house, last weekend

So, we had a number of folks come over our house last weekend, and play some games.  There were some new people we had met in Columbus - Jason and Kylie, as well as Bob and his college aged daughter Amber, and our daughter Heidi brought her high school friend, Sailor Ann, over to play.  It was a great mix, and we had a great time.

Games played included big games of both 6 Nimmt (also called Category 5) and Bohnanza (using the supplemental cards, which I believe now come in the base game).  Both of those games were a big hit!  The Cows of 6 Nimmt were easily matched for excitement and funny comments by the Beans of Bohnanza.  As usual, with our German version of Bohnanza, without German speakers in the game, we made up our usual funny names for the bean (poopy bean, angry bean, etc).

German version (that we own) of 6 Nimmt - "6 Takes It"

Some of the many, exciting, cows - or Hornochsen, in 6 Nimmt!

The Rio Grande (U.S.) version of Bohnanza - we actually own the Amigo German version

The eleven types of Beans in the basic game, and first expansion, plus the Third Bean Field card

These games had everyone in a great mood, and it was made even better by dinner - Anita served up some delicious home made chili and corn bread muffins, and we then followed up with Cake that was made by Amber.  She decorated the cake with the cover art from Ticket to Ride.  The TtR cover art was on the top of the cake, and the scoring track was around the side of the cake.  It was a quite good confetti cake.

We then split up into two groups - one group played Ticket to Ride, and the other played Ticket to Ride Europe.  In addition to the basic game, there were some extra pieces used in the North America version - they used the wooden replacement train pieces that we own, as well as the Halloween Fright Train pieces from Days of Wonder.

Finally, after the Ticket to Ride fest, the evening rounded out by the remaining five gamers (myself, Jason, Kylie, Amber, and Bob) playing a game of Power Grid.  We used the standard US board since not too many of us had played before, and it was a really good time. 

All-in-all a great social event, and a great boardgaming get together.  We'll do it again in about a month.

SIEGE - Video Gaming conference in Atlanta

I am currently attending SIEGE 2013, the videogaming conference in Atlanta.  This is a nice little conference, aimed at providing good information for members of both the video gaming community, as well as academics (students, college programs, technical schools, etc).  I am here with a colleague (a member of the computer science faculty from Columbus State University, like my self), and with a half dozen students.

We are having a great time, but I wanted to comment on the number of boardgaming activities.

First, there is, in the exposition hall, a person who has set up a booth with a large (250+) collection of board games as a library for people to play during the conference.

Second, there have been some programming tracks that deal specifically with boardgaming and non-digital game design.  I attended one on design, which was pretty good, but the conversation of the panel was dominated by a bloviating primate one opinionated commentator who really didn't have much to add to the conversation, except redundant comments about the (in my opinion) poor designs from his game company and his own experiences.  However, on the whole, perhaps it is because I don't like the games his company publishes.  Okay, there is goodness for everyone, and I don't have to poo poo because it is not my particular brand.

Third - I participated in an Academic Roundtable, which was for professors who teach gaming and game related topics (I teach classes in simulation, gaming, as well as supporting computer science topics).  The conversation turned to the use of non-digital game design in the class room to teach a number of different principals, as well as the use of serious gaming as an education tool.

Fourth - I played some boardgames with my students last night, and will do so again tonight.  Last night we played 6 Nimmt!  and had a great time (by the third play, there was cursing and yelping going on - a good sign in 6 Nimmt).  Following up on that, we played Settlers of Catan.  The nice fellow who brought the boardgame library to the conference let us use his 10th anniversary version of the game, which I have to admit is visually amazing!

Great reviews of old Amber Zone articles

The blog Deep in the Stacks has had some really good reviews of old Amber Zone articles.  Amber Zones were articles (first in the Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society, then elsewhere) that detailed the outline of an adventure.  They would describe the situation, the patron, the payoff, and the basic activities that the players would have to go through.  As well as, often, a series  of possible complications or outcomes. In short, it is an outline for a game scenario. for the GM to use to run a self contained adventure.

What the author of Deep in the Stacks (one of my favorite blogs - combines gaming with orthodox Christian philosophy and other stuff, like a love of books) has added to his reviews is some additional information that might be relevant to the GM of today who is going to pick up the adventure and run it.  Like in the article reviewing the adventure "Ticket to Swords" by Robert Camino.  The blog author has crafted a very nice map of the setting for the adventure (which features the players serving as officers of a mercenary unit that gets hired to train some locals to defend against a rebel uprising). 

I can recommend two things - first, follow Deep in the Stacks, and second, never give up on the goodness of those old adventures.