Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Gaming pt 2

The holiday was fantastic!  Not only a great time of thanks, and fellowship - visiting friends, wonderful meals, relaxation and conversation - but also a great time for some gaming!

Of the original list from Part 1 of this article, three of the games (Pigpen, X-Wing, Age of War) were not played.  But the other three were, along with some other games that we played and tried out.

Trans-America was a lot of fun.  We played two times, one with four players, and one with six players.  Fun each and every time.  Originally a title from Winsome Games (as Iron Road), we have the printing from Rio Grande games (and Trans-Europa, along with the Vexation add-on).

There was a game of Valley of the Kings - all of the players were new to the game (including yours truly - my first time playing).  We picked up on it pretty well.  By the third or fourth time around the table, all four players had the hang of things, and had a grasp on the "entomb" focus of the game.  The end score, however, was a little spread out.  Top scorer had 45 points, two middle scorers had 26 and 27, and bottom scorer had 16.  Closer next time, I'm sure.

There was a seven player game of Elder Sign, where the intrepid adventurers ventured into the haunted museum One More Time to do battle with the minions of some outre, alien being.  Lots of dice rolling, tension, etc, and a win just in time.

There was a mad, mad round of Walk the Plank.  Further comment prohibited by the decency board.

A really good game (four player) of Lords of Waterdeep happened.  Great time.  We did not use the expansion, but probably could have, for more mayhem.

The game about the Justice League, defending the Watchtower, that is available only from Target - Justice League: Axis of Villains - was brought out.  It is a super hero themed Fortress Defense game, only this time four of the members of the Justice League (Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Flash) are working hard to keep a batch of DC Comics villains away.  Lots of fun, and I got to be Green Lantern, one of my favorites.  (why is there no Aquaman in the game?)

Finally, there was a game of Pandemic, to round out the board games.  As with Waterdeep and Elder Sign, none of the expansions available were used, but the base game (this time with four players) was quite good regardless. The roles we had were Dispatcher, Scientist, Medic and Researcher.  We played at the basic (Introductory) level, and we barely won.  The Player Deck was about to run out, even though we already suffered through the four Epidemics.

We also were treated to a short run through of Adventure Maximus - a (sort of) mix between a roleplaying game and a card driven strategy game (although in this case, it is fantasy adventure in a sort of Adventure Time type setting).  Very much fun.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Gaming pt 1

Looking forward to time with friends and family this weekend. Planning some games, of course.
1. Lords of Waterdeep
2. Valley of the Kings
3. Trans-America
4. Pigpen
5. Age of War
6. X-Wing

After Action reports on all the fun, in a few days...

Monday, November 10, 2014

The power of Theme for Boardgames

So, just recently, I attended another session of the Fredericksburg Game Guild - this time it was a Sunday night meetup at the local game store - Game Vault.

First, a few kind words about Game Vault.  A very nice store.  I met the owner (Cathy) as well as some of the guys who work behind the counter.  Knowledgeable about games and gaming, certainly willing to entertain different opinions and interests, and eager to help a customer.  The store is clean, has all that a game store needs (drinks, bathroom, plenty of game space, lots of in-stock product, nice environment, and handfuls of gamers in the store doing what that tribe does...).  I enjoyed my time there, and will likely be back.

Second, the game we played - Stone Age.  Great game, from Rio Grande games (originally Hans Im Gluck, but I have the first English edition, from RGG, from 2009).  Worker placement, dice for tension, lots of win strategies - what's not to like?  And a ton of caveman jokes.

But playing Stone Age got me thinking.  Along the lines of the theme idea we had during our last gameday at the house - where we combined three games, to come up with a melded theme.  The games were Age of War, TransAmerica, and Trains - melding the themes of Japan (Age of War and Trains) with Railroad Building (TransAmerica and Trains).

Theme is separate from mechanics, but theme is important also.  At least to us here at Gaming With Chuck HQ, its important.  So I started thinking about picking a theme (as in the case of Stone Age - primitive man, prehistory, caveman - you choose one), and then trying to come up with three games (of different types of mechanics) to go along with that theme.

Sticking with Prehistory, lets go with:
1. Stone Age (worker placement)
2. Settlers of the Stone Age (civilization building)
3. Fossil (set collection)

Equally, just pulling from titles that either are currently, or used to be, part of the GwC library - these could have also been counted in:
4. Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers (tile laying)
5. Bitin' Off Hedz (roll and move, racing)
6. Neolithibum (dexterity)
7. Triassic Terror (area control)
8. Sticks & Stones (wargame)
9. Trias (area control)
10. Og (wargame)
11. Dino Hunt (dice push your luck)
 - probably some others I am forgetting...

Depending on the group, I might include Carcassonne: Hunters and Gathers in for Fossil.  If I wanted to shorten the session, I might include Dino Hunt instead of Settlers of the Stone Age.  All of these have a similar (or at least within the same family) theme - but very different mechanisms.  Even the similar ones - such as both Sticks & Stones and Og being hex-and-counter wargames - they are very different from each other.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Boardgame Meetup - Fredericksburg Game Guild

I attended my first meetup with the Fredericksburg Game Guild last night, which met at the England Run Library, in Fredericksburg.  The Group gets together several times per week and per month, for different meetings in different venues - and the individuals I met last night seem like it is a very good group.
England Run Library - the meeting rooms are down the hallway you can see to the right.

The shortcoming of the weeknight meeting at the library, of course, is that it is time constrained.  They meet from 6-9, which isn't a bad length for a meeting, but about 1 hour too short, if you want to play two meaty games.  It is time, however, for a reasonable length game, and maybe a short filler or two.

Last night I played two different titles, one new to me, and one somewhat familiar.  The first was the new title - Room 25.  The folks in the game were really excited because the theme is evidently based on the very successful and very popular trilogy of Cube movies.  I don't know anything about them, sadly.  However, I get the gist of the game.

The people I played with were extremely friendly and fun to play with.  The guy who owned the game, and introduced it to us, was very pleasant and did a good job of introducing the rules.  The game, however, was one I probably won't play again.  As I mentioned in my notes on Board Game Geek, this was a perfect example of a game session where "I loved the group, and had a good time, but I wasn't really crazy about the game."
Components of the game Room 25 *
The components of the game were excellent, and the idea (using programmed movement to explore a maze that the players have to escape from, together) was pretty good.  I like how 1 or 2 of the group members might be working for the Prison Guards.  But overall, there just didn't feel like there was enough going on.  And it felt like the end game was decided a priori.  In both our sessions, there was little (or nothing) that one side or the other could do about changing the endgame situation, over the last 3 or 4 turns of the game.  And considering that once the endgame mechanism is triggered, there are 5 or fewer turns left, that is not so good in my opinion.  Maybe an expansion will come out that will change things, or a similar theme but different mechanics.  I hold out hope to become impressed enough to play again.

The second game that I got to play was... Glass Road.  This is a great game by Uwe Rosenberg.  Unlike many of his other titles, this is one that could be played in as short as an hour or so, by experienced players.  There is a lot going on with this game, with a very large decision space, and a lot of potential strategies that the player could take, in order to try to win.  It has great components, terrific theme, and excellent mechanics (with some innovations too).
Layout of game, showing player map of countryside, with terrain tiles and building tiles *

The theme is basically, the players are all competing manufacturing interests in Medieval Germany, building up the facilities and resource sources to enable them to be profitable manufacturers of glass and bricks (similar processes with similar resources required).  Game play is in turn, selecting roles, and then carrying out actions related to those roles.  Actions involved either collecting resources, modifying the consist of your local countryside (filling in ponds, digging sand pits, harvesting forests), and then building facilities that benefit you in some way.  Great game, as always, and a bit lighter than other Rosenberg titles.
Setting up to play - from Game night at Moxie (Columbus, GA)

The very clever resource clocks - also from Game night at Moxie (Columbus, GA)

I had a great time playing, with three other players all of whom were new to me, and will always happily play this one again in the future.

Overall, the meetup was a great success for me.  I met some really nice local gamers - some of whom are also Roleplayers and Wargamers - and I plan to attend some more in the future!  Hopefully next time I'll get to teach a game or two to some people.  Nothing is better about the gaming hobby, than sharing with other fans.

* = These images are from Board Game Geek

Monday, November 3, 2014

Boardgaming Evening

Gaming with Chuck HQ (now in historic Stafford Virginia - "George Washington played Settlers of Catan Here!") was recently a scene to a pleasant autumn Boardgaming evening.  All of the staff members (and two of the staff cats) were present, as well as a local visitor.  We originally had three things on the menu, bringing together a nice suite of themes and different styles games.  The original plan was to play Reiner Knizia's Age of War dice game from Fantasy Flight, also Franz-Benno Delonge's Trans America, and finally capping it with Hisashi Hayashi's great deck building game, Trains.

The thinking was this - these are three very different games, mechanically.  But the themes were the connective tissue.  Age of War is themed for Feudal Japan.  Trans America is themed for Rail Empire building.  And Trains is themed for Rail Empire building in Japan.  Voila - secret sauce is made!  The mechanics, however, are what made the mix very interesting.

Age of War is mechanically a dice game that preserves the same structure of the game Risk Express.  Now, this same mechanic found its way into Elder Sign, but in that game, the simple "assign dice to targets; complete all targets to capture a goal" mechanic is complicated with many, many different options (some goals require targets to be completed in order; many different benefits exist to help the player such as equipment and spells; extra targets can creep into a goal, in the form of monsters; there is a whole meta game around the basic mechanic; etc.).  But, since the admirable dice game, Risk Express was on the "to acquire" list for Gaming with Chuck HQ for quite some time, this new version out (with a feudal Japanese theme, no less) is very welcome.  And as a game it does not disappoint - it is a pretty easy game, simple to play, and fast turns, but there is enough strategy going on, and possible paths to winning, that there is some amount of decision making - a bit more than many dice games, a lot less than many more complicated games. Just enough to make you feel as if you are waging a campaign to capture the country.
Age of War - excellent components, in a small box. *

Trans America is mechanically a network building game.  It has a rail empire theme, but unlike many railroad themed games, there is no concept of cargo or passengers to pick up and carry.  The focus on railroading in Trans America is much more strategic than that of merely pushing cargoes around - it is of building a network of rails to connect cross-continental cities.  As a game, it is pretty simple to explain and play, but it still has some good decision making built into it - chiefly of timing.  As in - do you push and build your own network, or concentrate somewhere else and rely on your opponents to fill in the network infrastructure that you can also make use of , later?  A fun game, and if there were such a thing as Trans Japan, we might have tried that, to fit in with the theme.  There is a Japanese tie in for the game - in 2002, Trans America won the Japan Boardgame Prize for Best Foreign Game for Beginners.  Something interesting to look out for - a document of 20 different Trans America variants.  Mixed in with the Vexation variant (which typically ships with Trans Europa), there is lots there to complicate or change this simple little decision making game.

Excellent components from Trans America - Dinner table accessories, not included. *
Once we played Age of War and Trans America, however, we then broke for dinner (excellent Chinese food), and decided to watch Dr. Who.  We'll get to play Trains next time, I'm sure.  I wanted to bring up the mix, because I thought there were some interesting aspects to the three games we had originally planned for.  More game days are definitely needed.

Trains - next time, definitely. *
* = images from Board Game Geek.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Traveller Amber Zone - Sword Dance

There was a good looking Amber Zone contest over at Amber Zone.  Unfortunately, with my travels (real life) lately, I missed the submission date.

Here it is - set inside one of the two super powers on the balkanized world of Margesi in the Vilis subsector of the Spinward Marches.

Amber Zone - Sword Dance (1105, Margesi/Vilis)
Location: Western edge of the Chergen Mountains, in People's Republic of Gome (PRoG)

Patron: Commander Sinew, Imperial Naval Intelligence, contacting the travellers clandestinely, in the Kingdom of Evariidi, or perhaps the Margesi starport.

Mission: Travel to the western edge of the Chergen Mountains, contact some of the local clans of Chergen cossacks, who never fully assimilated into the People's Republic. One in particular, Katrinka the Knife, has agreed to serve as a guide. She knows the location of a Sword World Military cache buried underground, at the old Gram Star-Militia troop site - situated to provide a training cadre for the capitol city of Isenstadt, on the other side of the Mountains. When Gram controlled Margesi for the Sworld Worlders, Isenstadt was the world capitol, and home of the main starbase. The cache has unknown amounts of military supplies buried in protected containers, but of interest to the Imperial Naval Intelligence, are some memory tanks with technical details of a Sword World missile frigate being designed 20 years ago, and now coming into production.

Payoff: The Intelligence officer will offer some consideration in removing past offenses from the records of the travellers, and also agrees that they can keep half of all the military stores they uncover, with the other half going to Katrinka the Knife, and her band of Cossack warriors.

Complications: The location is deep inside a militarized Soviet style country that is still very loyal to the Sword World, even though 20 some years ago, the planet came back into Imperial protection. Also, the location is rural and hazardous (the cache is in a rocky highland valley). Dealing with the Cossacks is not going to be easy, and in fact, to prove themselves the players will have to spend a night successfully carousing with the band (Carouse or Liaison skill test to be successful), and one of the members of the group will have to try the sword dance (Art: Dance, modified by Dex). Three dice rolls are required, of successful harder difficulties (6+, 8+, 10+) representing faster and faster Cossack music. If the player passes all three, the Cossacks are completely loyal allies, lesser results will have the Cossacks being less tightly allied to the players.

Reaching the cache is tough enough (survival and mountaineering may be required), but occasional patrols of PRoG solders (flak, autorifle, hand grenades) may cause additional problems. The extremely rough terrain precludes the use of long-range radio, but after 2 or 3 days the loss of PRoG army patrols will be noticed.

The cache is underground, inside a small bunker complex. Katrinka knows the location of the entrance, but not how to get in. The complex is protected by a series of TL10 security measures. The stash includes the digital memory tanks for the Intelligence officer, as well as dozens of TL10 small arms; cloth armor; ammo; and most important, a dozen each of TL10 communicators and TL10 medikits.

The special challenge for the travellers, will be escaping with the goods. On the way out of the area, with whatever stash they can carry on horseback (or vehicles if they risk it), they (and Katrinka's band of cossacks) will be attacked by another band of Cossacks, intent on thieving the goods. They will be armed with a variety of small arms, but not grenades or armor. They make up for their lack of armor in excellent ambush skills and fieldcraft.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Theremin Thursdays - two Mashups, one musical, one wargaming

It has been a while since a Theremin Thursdays entry has been made here at Gaming with Chuck.  This entry is being made because of two different things coming together that I want to write about.  The first is a cool (actual Theremin) mashup music piece I came across, and the second is a gaming item that is as much a mashup as the first.

Mashup Number One - Musical
So the first (musical) mashup is this . . . a room full of lovely musicians, playing Beethoven's Ode to Joy, using Theremins inside Matryoshka Dolls.  It's just so wonderful . . . sort of like Astronaut Bowman looking into the Stargate and seeing all those stars. . .

So, evidently that group is a Matryomin (Matryoshka Theremin) ensemble.  I can't think of two things that are possible cooler to mashup than Matryoshka's and Theremins.  Except . . .

Mashup Number Two - Wargaming
The second mashup here is one of wargaming.  A friend of mine (Geo) and I had been talking about a couple of different 15mm wargaming projects.  These have come together in an unlikely way.

The first one was fictional forces in a modern African setting, with countries, coups, warlords, and international forces bashing over temporary objectives and unlikely ideological clashes - in short, the game "AK47 Republic" by Peter Pig.  We started assembling miniatures, coming up with backgrounds for our forces, and in general securing the ideas for a gaming setting and some battles to fight. 

The second one is wargaming with 15mm science fiction forces in the Traveller universe.  I had recently been running a table top Traveller RPG game (although only a few sessions before my schedule kicked into high gear), with details over at The Collace Rift.  Still in a Traveller mood, we started talking about wargaming - and began assembling forces, painting miniatures, talking about former battles, etc.

Then it happened - local conflicts on worlds within the Third Imperium (Traveller) resemble the brush wars described by AK47 Republic, but with the addition of some different levels of technology, and the attendant science fiction hardware.  But, what if we kept the battles MOSTLY to the tech levels of, say, 5,6,7,8 (corresponding to the military hardware of, respectively, WW1, WW2, 1960s, 1990s) - then we would be right on target for the wide variety of forces found in AK47 Republic.  But, if it was going to be in the Traveller Universe, then it needed a planet.

Enter, Margesi - a world on the edge of Imperial space, that was (until recently) contested, and controlled by the Sword World Confederation.  The world is balkanized, many a bunch of competing governments. After checking what the Traveller Wiki has to say, it appears that there are (conveniently enough) two super powers, the Kingdom of Evariidi and the People's Republic of Gome.  Having also posited that there would be any number of smaller nations, allied to one or more of those super powers, we have the third world setting of Earth, transposed to another world.  To make things even more interesting, we made the two super powers being aligned with the two interested Interstellar Governments - the Kingdom of Evariidi is the current ascendant power, and is backed by the Imperium (clandestinely), but the world's Starport (Margesi Down Station) is located within the Kingdom, and is operated by Imperial Starport Authority.  The other nation, the People's Republic of Gome (representing Brezhnev-era Soviet style rule), is backed (clandestinely) by the Sword World Confederation.

The world of Margesi, in the Vilis subsector of the Spinward Marches
The nations identified on the map are those identified by the last Imperial Interstellar Scout Service survey of the world, and most likely will include any number of smaller entities, and may have shifted or changed those listed.  The world map features hexes that are 160km across, to give you a sense of the size of the planet - somewhat smaller than earth.  Here is a list of nations.

A. Kingdom of Evariidi (major power)
B. Latavia
C. Boruckistan
D. Sinnibad
E. Siluria
F. Nordkapp
G. Geonia
H. Burland
J. Ionus Island
K. Mogumba Island
L. North Windango
M. South Windango
N. Droma
P. People's Republic of Gome (major power)
Q. Snowwald
R. Icetor
S. Sudland
T. Oakstaal
U. Pargonia
V. Zo'Osia
W. Umbongo Freistaat (free states)
X. Termania

Pictures of miniatures and military details to follow . . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lots of Boardgaming recently

There has been a lot of boardgaming in recent months for the staff of GwC.

This includes the local weekly boardgame night at Moxie games (the game store here in Columbus) every Wednesday.

And the weekly Saturday meetup somewhere around town with the Meeples of Columbus.

And, while school was in session, there was the monthly Boardgaming session in the Computer Science department of Columbus State University.

And there was the Atlanta Game-o-Rama - which the entire staff, minus cats, attended for all five days.

Coming up in July, there will be ConGregate, which the staff intends on invading for the purpose of helping out in the Con Suite, and also encourage the proper application of Boardgaming.

Through all this, there have been a number of new titles that have made their way into the GwC repertoire as regular games.

One of the most commonly played, lately, has been Lords of Waterdeep.  Great worker placement game.  Extremely well balanced, and lots of different ways to get what you need - which is victory points from fulfilling quests (achieved by collecting adventurers, by applying your workers to different worker collection schemes).
Waterdeep.  From

Lots of tablet play of Le Havre (on the iPad) had been taking place lately, and a tabletop showing is scheduled for an upcoming Wednesday night.  Speaking of the great Uwe Rosenberg, the staff of GwC recently played some extremely satisfying games of Agricola, including some teaching games (for new players) at Game-o-Rama.  Also, one of the newer Rosenberg titles, Glass Road, is scheduled to make an appearance soon.
I'll take the wood option.

At the most recent (June 7) Saturday meetup, two new games came out of hiding - Suburbia by Ted Alspach, and also Portobello Market, in the Playroom gateway games series.  Suburbia is a great strategy player's game, again with lots of ways to victory.  Portobello Market is a game of building (in this case, market stalls), not too deep, but sort of fun.
Stalls at Portobello Market in the 1950s, fifty years after our game ended.

A recent, coveted acquisition is that of the Mayfair edition of Cosmic Encounter (with the supplement, More Cosmic Encounter).  These two boxes recreate everything that Eon ever did with the original.  One problem?  The cards are somewhat worn.  So, against the usual practice and policy of the Games Archivists and Librarians Guild here at GwC, these cards have actually been put into sleeve protectors.
From BGG - perhaps the best version of the game?

This Wednesday's game night (June 11) is due to include a first time playing of Russian Railraods by Ohley and Orgler.  Definitely looking forward to that.
Real Russian Railroad.  Note the lack of strategy gamers.

Saturday is due to include some Boss Monster, played recently, and fun enough that it is worth promoting and teaching to others.  Also, the new word game, Concept.  Both of these are lots of fun, and worth spreading around.  Concept could easily become a gateway game to those who like party games and word games.
Just imagine how awesome a version of Boss Monster would be with Don Bluth art, a la Dragon's Lair

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Williamsburg Muster - accidental convention trip

So, recently, I had to tell folks that asked that I was not going to be able to attend Marscon and the Williamsburg Muster.  Both in Williamsburg, Virginia (one of my favorite places on Earth, even though Scribner's is closed since 1984, Rizzoli's is closed since 2001, and the Williamsburg Toymaker has recently closed - sniff), they would prove just too far, since we are living in Harris County Georgia currently, at Toad Hollow.

And then, and then, it happened.  A work trip, a family visit, all coincided.  So I would be in the area over the weekend of the Williamsburg Muster (Feb 7-9).  I decided to attend.  I took a flight to arrive on Friday, so I wouldn't have much luggage room for buying, and I did not bring any games or miniatures with me, but I was looking forward to a good time.

Lots of miniature games (a very solid collection of games, although I did not notice anything appreciably exciting or new...maybe I was not in the right place at the right time).  There was a board gaming room, ran very capably by Tidewater Area Gaming Society, although some of their peeps were also supporting Whose Turn is it Anyway? (the winter version of That Board Gaming Thing) in Raleigh NC.  There was a Flames of War tournament room (which also doubled as part of the Flea Market room on Sunday).  There was a room given over to Slot Car racing (??what??).  (ed. note: Slot car racing is a great hobby, and I used to love going to races with my dad and my uncle when I was a wee little sprog, but I don't know what it adds to a gaming convention)

Watched lots of miniatures games.  The rules that I WANTED to play, but didn't make/find time for:
  • War and Conquest
  • Pike and Shotte
  • Bolt Action
  • General Quarters 3
Watched and played a bunch of board games.  The games that I WANTED to play, but did not see, or did not engage in, were:
  • Trains
  • Russian Railroads
  • A Study in Emerald
  • Ora et Labora
  • Glass Road
  • Troyes
What I did get to do was spend some time with some fantastic friends, and play a few board games and card games, and watch a lot of miniature games.  I got to do a lot of "window" shopping for miniatures and miniature rules.  And I got to buy a couple of books.

First, I bought a copy of the main rulebook for War and Conquest.  This is a set of 28mm wargaming rules for Ancient and Medieval warfare, written by Rob Broom.  Rob was the director of the North America effort for Warhammer Historical games, so it has a certain feel to Warhammer Ancient Battles.

One of the cool things about War & Conquest (WAC) is that the army lists for it are available in a very polished professional way, but online as electronic documents for free.  This is being published and supported by Scarab Miniatures.  I wish them well, with WAB gone (well, out of commercial production), a set of rules that is still "in print" is a nice thing, even if WAB itself still is available non-commercially and played quite a bit.

One of the other acquisitions I made was a copy of Renaissance Warfare, edited by Bob Carruthers.  This is a nice collection of pieces about battles in the British Isles from 1513 through 1640.  It is extracted from a larger work, originally written by James Grant, and published in 1894, called British Battles on Land and Sea.

This work, for me, is chiefly interesting because of the focus on the battles between the end of the Wars of the Roses (ended 1487) and the beginning of the English Civil Wars (beginning approx 1642).  The battles covered in this title are:
  • Flodden, 1513
  • Haddenrig, 1542
  • Ancrum Moor, 1545
  • Isle of Wight, 1545
  • Pinkie, 1547
  • Siege of Leith, 1560
  • Zutphen, 1586
  • The Groyne, 1589
  • Flores and Cape Corrientes, 1591
  • Cadiz, 1596
  • Porto Rico, 1598
  • Bay of Cezimbra, 1602
  • Cagliari, 1617
  • Isle of Rhe, 1627
  • Newburn Ford, 1640
In addition there are treatments of Sir Francis Drake, Admiral Hawkins, and the Spanish Armada.  All of these are covered very sketchily, but as I did not have something concise on this period in my library, it serves as a nice introduction.  One complaint - it is in a series from Pen and Sword, called the "Military History from Primary Sources" series, and this is definitely not primary sources, although it is republishing a historical piece of military history writing (Grant's work from 1894).

Two other pieces I picked up are two titles from Histoire & Collections.  These are fantastic little military history monographs, accompanied by a packed house full of illustrations.  Perfect for the armchair historian, or the wargamer, who is looking for inspirational images, and a thumbnail sketch of a campaign, or a particular army.  In this case, I got two titles from their "Men and Battles" series, very similar to the Osprey Campaigns series.  The two I got are Alesia, 52 BC, by Frederic Bey, and Rocroi, 1643, by Stephane Thion.


The only other one I already own in the series is on Bull Run (purchased to help my Daughter with a school project on the battle... as I am not a huge fan of the American Civil War, for wargaming).  If you are not familiar with the Histoire & Collections publisher, they are from Paris, originally published in French, and their series' are now being translated into other languages (including English).  Very nicely done, and a nice complement to the many Osprey titles on popular topics, as a layman's introduction to military topics (again, great for Wargamers and Figure Painters... like those slaving away in the dungeons below Gaming with Chuck headquarters).

Not to let Osprey be outdone completely by their French rivals, I did purchase an excellent new volume from them.  I got Campaign Series number 260, Fort William Henry 1755-57 which was just published in November of 2013.  This is an excellent treatment of the famous French & Indian War fort, built in 1755, and subjected to two sieges.  The second one finally saw British Lt. Col. Monro surrender to the French/Native American force that was besieging the fort, and the elements of the 35th Regiment, the Massachusetts Regiment and the New Hampshire Regiment (along with some carpenters, sailors, and elements of the Royal Artillery) prepared to march out.

The ensuing "Massacre of Fort William Henry" occurred when the Native American troops in French command fell upon the column leaving the fort, and began to hack and kill the British and Colonial troops.  The battle is well recorded in the fantastic movie "The Last of the Mohicans", but as this title by Ian Castle points out, modern scholarship, and archaeology of the past 20 years, have brought to light some different details.  The scene, from the Daniel Day Lewis movie, however, is still a stirring piece of Hollywood militaria (regardless of what it gets wrong).

The movie is a really nice piece of what Hollywood can accomplish as an action/history movie, although much of that is based on the inspiration of the fantastic Cooper novel.  One of the best things of the movie, commented on several times in the past here at Gaming with Chuck, is the great soundtrack by Trevor Jones.

Several Violin soloists have done nice versions, to be found on youtube.  Here is one played by a talented young lady dressed as a Gypsy dancer at a renaisance faire (in the background of the video is another young lady dressed as the Genie from I Dream of Jeannie??).  Here, however, is one of my favorites by very talented Taylor Davis.

All this talk of the Lewis film is all well and good, but the original book by Cooper is not to be missed. By all means, read it.  The movie referred to here (while good) is based much more on the 1936 (Randolph Scott) version of the story, than the Cooper novel.

From a gaming perspective, doing French & Indian war miniatures has long been on my Miniatures Painting project list.  Perhaps soon. However, the boardgame Hold the Line from Worthington Publishing (formerly Worthington Games) has the French & Indian War supplement available.

While the Fort William Henry Massacre isn't one of the scenarios in that expansion, there are a number of great battles included.  Very good game, and satisfyingly reminiscent of the period (and they get the history right, much better than Hollywood).

Finally, the last treasure that I walked away from The Williamsburg Muster with was a copy of the fantastic treasure trove of information concerning the military activities of Prussia (and then Germany) in the period from 1860-1867.  The book, Armies of Bismarck's Wars: Prussia 1860-67, is by Bruce Bassett-Powell (2013 Casemate).  It is fantastic, with information on the German Bund, leading up to the Schleswig-Holstein war, the Second Schleswig War and the Seven Weeks war.  Information about the armies, politics, diplomacy, key personnel, and battles abounds, with lots of reproduced primary illustrations, and other information.  This is the first half of the book, the second is dedicated to describing the Prussian arms - organization, operational methods, and uniforms.  It is all finished with a large number of color uniform plates, and appendices on the OB information for Prussia, Denmark and so forth - for the 1864 and 1866 campaigns.  A great book, and  nice find.  Glad I was able to pick it up.

Here is an example of one of the uniform plates from the book.  As you can see, a lot of great information, again, a perfect source for an armchair historian (although this book has a lot of very good, apparently sound from an academic perspective, information), and for a wargamer and figure painter.

So, the final shot of this article is to say thanks to Larry Weindorf, now owner of "For the Historian" a military history (and military models) shop in Gettysburg Pennsylvania.  He is located at 42 York Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325.  He is a fantastic guy to deal with, and most of the books listed here were purchased from him.  He has supported the Williamsburg conventions (especially back when they were sponsored by ODMS, and I was partially responsible for running them) for years now, and is a dealer at other wargaming shows (notably the big HMGS shows in Fredericksburg and Lancaster).  Great guy, buy some books from him at

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Original Dungeons & Dragons reprint, brings back great memories

So, Wizards finally released the (announced over a year ago) Premium Edition of the Original Dungeons & Dragons set.

New reprint of Original D&D - recently arrived at Gaming with Chuck headquarters (picture from WOTC website)

This is the reprint, in the spirit of the other earlier edition reprints they have been doing, of the original white box version of Dungeons & Dragons, published once upon a time by TSR, thanks to the heroic writing and publishing efforts of the early greats of the industry - Gygax, Arneson, Blume, etc.

The original game came with three booklets:
Volume 1: Men & Magic
Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

Book one deals with building characters, and man-to-man combat, heavily dependent on Chainmail

Book two, with (you guessed it) Monsters and Treasures
Book three with campaign and adventure rules and guidelines

Following its release in 1973, there was a flurry of excitement and reprints as the popularity of the game took the fledgling wargaming company by storm, but by 1975, the Supplement train was going strong, and the original release was supported by:
Supplement I: Greyhawk
Supplement II: Blackmoor
Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

The new set was received at Gaming With Chuck headquarters during the recent Snowpocalypse, and that gave me some time off from teaching at the university to spend a few hours perusing these little gems of nostalgia.  All the rules, text, descriptions, charts, tables, examples, and interior art is just as it always was (or, at least, as I remember it).  The biggest changes came in - (1) extremely clear typesetting (although that wasn't too much of a problem with the TSR originals), and (2) new cover art for each book. Sigh.  I miss the cover art, but still, as a chance to get this reprint, it is okay that they changed it (I suppose).  Still, they didn't ask me. I would have voted for the original.

The whole thing comes in a really nice dark wood box (with the stylized ampersand from the modernized game logo), with a felt lined well in the middle for the books, and smaller wells on both sides, to hold a large set of polyhedral dice.  I say large, because it also accommodates 4 d6, in addition to the rest.  This is very nice, and I dare say much, much nicer than the dice that I got with the redeemable coupon in my 1979 boxed set of Dungeons and Dragons.
The dice I got from the hobby store in Huntington WV, with the coupon from my set of Basic D&D

Rereading it is exciting, and the descriptions of the monsters, spells, abilities, and adventure ideas are all grand.  But, I am struck by how spread out everything is.  Basic monster abilities (descriptions and hit dice) in one place.  Details about how many attacks (monsters can get multiple attacks?  Cool new rule...), and how much damage each does (not everything does the same damage? Cool new rule...), are all in different places.  The release of the canonical spells for Magic Users and Clerics are in different places.  The introduction of the Thief (a player can play a thief?  Cool new rule...) - all this and other stuff, spread out over the different books.

Gathering all this, as well as "official" stuff that came out in The Dragon, and else where, was the reason for releasing the hardcover AD&D books.  It wasn't supposed to change the game (although it did) as much as it was supposed to make it easier for DMs and players to find all the stuff that came out in dribs and drabs over 7 books, and in magazine articles, etc.

In between the release of the White Box set, and the full set of the first three Hardcover books (released, in order, as Monster Manual, Players Handbook, and Dungeon Master's Guide), there was the release of the first box set since the white box edition - the first Basic Dungeons and Dragons set.  This was edited by J. Eric Holmes, and was the set that I first purchased (and played, and played...).  It wasn't fantastic, or extremely thick, but it captured all the rules (mostly) needed to play initial adventures, from the three volume set of 1974, along with some of the additional materials (spells, monsters, rule changes) from the supplements.

I had the 5th printing, identifiable because it came with adventure B1 and a coupon for dice
The edition I bought came with cut out chits for polyhedral dice randomization, and a coupon redeemable for dice (see picture above) from TSR at a local hobby store.  My set came from a small book story in Huntington WV, in the winter of 1979-80, called Nick's News.  There was a hobby store in town, where I had been buying some wargames (I bought both GEV and also the Hinchliffe Guide to Wargaming there, on my first trip), and had gotten interested in medieval miniatures (including some fantasy figures, in the Heritage "Fantastiques" line).  Then I saw the white box set, with the subtitle "Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures". That was what I needed for my small, but growing, collection of medieval toy soldiers (including my first fantasy figures - a pack of beornings, that came with three Beorn-like figures and three bears).  But I also saw the first of the hard cover books, and a TSR rack of products - including some of the first packaged modules, the monster & treasure assortments, the geomorphs - all of it.
The book cover of the rule book in the Holmes box set. I still have a copy, and it is great reading.

It seemed to me that the 8x11 Holmes set would be a good bridge to the  hard cover books, and after all, it came with an adventure.  And - Oh! - what an adventure!  I got the fifth printing which came with B1 - In Search of the Unknown.  I STILL love that adventure.  And I can't think of anything better to teach a DM how to build their own dungeons.  It was a map, with room descriptions, and fill in the blank places for the newby DM to fill in monsters and treasures (complete with space for traps and containers), but the basic dungeon structure was done.  It was fantastic.  I was hooked - along with my two brothers, and anyone else we could get to play.
Best intro module ever made, in my humble opinion.

So, while WOTC has not reprinted the Holmes version of Basic D&D, they have done a good job of reprinting the White Box set, which is even more wonky, and more fun to read.  If they do a version of Basic D&D, honestly, I think I would rather have the Moldvay Version (Basic and Expert rulebooks), or the later B1-B5 version as it eventually ended up in the Rules Cyclopedia.  That was a fantastically complete ruleset, and loads of fun to play.  In the meantime, I think that the Labyrinth Lord game is a great modern replacement, and if you include the supplement Advanced Labyrinth Lord book, it is a pretty good replacement for both Basic D&D and also 1st Edition Advanced (this was the version we played over Labor Day Weekend at friends in 2013 - and my Daughter and Wife played in the same game, along with a pack of some of the best friends of the family who are all gamers).  Good times can still be had with this older version of the classic.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Sword and the Flame - Hosted by GwC at Siege of Augusta 2014

So, the one miniatures game at the convention this past weekend that I hosted was a big game of The Sword and the Flame.

It was set in the Sudan, with the forces of the Khalifa (successor to the Mahdi) on one side, and a combined Anglo-Egyptian relief force on the other side.  Here is the write up that was submitted to the fine folks running the convention:

Name: "Close Scrape in the Soodan"
Scale: 28mm
Rules: The Sword and the Flame 20th
Players: 8
Scenario: Khartoum has fallen, Gordon is Dead.  The Khalifa has taken over the vast, deadly army of the Mahdi's followers.  They are on a rampage, throughout parts of Egypt, seeking to eliminate any enemies of the Mahdist cause.  Famous Egyptologists Emerson and Peabody, having abandoned their dig site, returned to the small river village where they left their falucca, which was to carry them back out to the Nile, and to safety.  A company of Egyptian troops are within a short march of them, and a larger force of British troops are not much further away.  But, the forces of the Khalifa are drawing closer, closer, closer... The game settles around the possibility to rescue the team of scholars, with a combined Anglo-Egyptian force, and against them mobs and mobs of deadly Mahdist warriors.  Played in 28mm, using The Sword and the Flame.

In the end, we had 5 players (Saturday night, when the game was hosted, is REALLY BUSY at Siege of Augusta, there were a zillion great looking games, and almost all of them were full).

Two brave souls decided to run the forces of the Mahdists, and three played on the Anglo-Egyptian side.

The table was 5' wide, by 12' long.  The center of the table had a smallish tributary of the Nile, crossed by two fords. The fords were both connected to roads, that ran off in the four different directions, off the table.  The rest of the table top was covered by sporadic rock formations, and patches of rough going.

Along the tributary, there was a make shift defensive area, manned by the two Egyptologists (Amelia Peabody, and her husband Radcliffe Emerson), along with 10 hired guards.

On one of the roads, near to the defensive area, was the Egyptian column.  It consisted of a company - 2 platoons - of infantry, a squadron of the Egyptian Camel Corps, and a krupp gun.

Egyptian Captain (with standard bearer and bugler), eyeing the placement of the Egyptian Krupp Gun
On two of the other roads, starting further away, were two companies of British soldiers (each with two platoons of infantry, no guns, no cavalry).

Two platoons of British Infantry, from the Denbigh Fusiliers
Arrayed against them was the Mahdist horde consisting of:
5 units of Beja tribesmen (Fuzzy-wuzzies, fierce swordsmen, fanatics)
3 units of Ansar sword infantry (Dervishes)
2 units of Ansar riflemen (hidden in some rock formations on the tabletop)
3 units of Ansar mixed sword and spear infantry

4 units of Ansar Cavalry (armed with a mix of sword and spear)
2 unreliable ancient cannons
The horde of Mahdist warriors, approaching the fords of the tributary

The game would have really benefited from having the three additional players - one to play the guards and Egyptologists, and two more to play on the side of the Mahdists.  As it was, the two Mahdist players grouped up almost all their units on one end of the table, because that was where they set up.  I, as a referee, should have set the units out on the edge of the table rather than letting them choose... live and learn.  Here are some excellent photos, taken by Charles Cabell, of the Fort Mill Historical Gamers club.  All figures are 28mm, Old Glory, and painted by GwC host, Chuck Turnitsa.  The exception is the Egyptian Camel Corps, which are 25mm scale, and Ral Partha - painter unknown.

Ansar leader directs the advance of the horde

Beja Tribesmen (Fuzzy Wuzzy) begin to mass, and move towards the ford over the tributary.

Approaching the ford...

Egyptian Infantry, standing their ground

Dervishes, coming out of the rocky country, approach the Egyptians from behind

The Hamilton Rifles, taking casualties from Ansar rifles, firing captured Snyder rifles

The Egyptian Camel Corps, in line abreast, ready to charge the Dervish

The moment before the clash!

What the Dervish Commander saw...

The Fuzzy Wuzzy tribesmen prepare to charge the Denbigh Fusiliers

The Charge!! The Fuzzy Wuzzy warriors come at the line of British soldiers at an angle, to try and avoid the worst of the deadly rifle fire!

Sgt Jones, Denbigh Fusiliers, in hand to hand combat with the Fuzzy Wuzzy leader

Meanwhile, Amelia Peabody (in green, with her deadly umbrella) and Emerson (in the tan long coat) are escorted by Lt. Pemberly, away from their defensive fort, leaving the wagons and supplies behind.

The hired guards performed admirably, even heroically, under the command of the able Lt. Pemberly.  Even the goats were compliant.

The guards escort the two Scholars to safety, their way secured by the British and Egyptian soldiers.  A supply wagon, and a stream of goats left behind.