Our monthly game session rolled around and Andrew was suffering from some alien virus or other and couldn’t make it. We decided that instead of continuing the N1 module we would boardgame.
We’d started a game of Shadows of Brimstone another time and I was keen to get back to it. Selecting at random I was an Indian Scout, for all that it mattered.
Rather than break out the plastic figures, we thought to try out the flats that I’d just bought from Arcknight. Here they are on the board, and I think they come up very well.
What to say about Shadows? It has excellent production values. Everything about it is a delight to behold. It has a steep learning curve at the beginning, but once you know how it works, play is very fast. In fact once we had the measure of it, it became pretty obvious that it was a fairly simple procedural game. So much so that I wondered exactly what choices the character has. As far as I can tell the choices are entirely tactical: where to move your character on the board, and when to use items. Otherwise, allowing for the randomisers, the game could play itself.
Is this a criticism? Not really. And I understand and appreciate why many people really like this game. It has a lot going for it. And perhaps if you had a group of natural story tellers that were enlivening the dice rolling with description it could be quite immersive, but for me the curtain behind which the wizard sat was a little too obvious.
The question has to be would I play again? Yes, with some reservations. Moving from ‘room’ to ‘room’ gets old after the second rotation. Because pretty much exactly the same thing happens every time. Sure there may be different monsters, but the available reactions are the same: roll dice; find thing; discover monsters; roll dice to kill or be killed. If this was the tactical resolution mechanism for a narrative role playing game, or a game that made more of the time outside of the mines/dungeons, then it could have a very sound place. I could easily see this as the basis for a much bigger story telling setting, with everyone just going to the tiles and counters for the battles.
Alternatively, you could treat this specifically as a regular tournament style of game where well versed players go on either timed or scored jaunts and built up a ‘campaign’ in that way.
In both cases this is where a lot of ‘mainstream’ role playing games have gone with tiles and counters and so on. And from that perspective Shadows fulfils that function admirably.
- Complete Scarlet Pimpernel for Ganesha Games. Done. Waiting for Andrea at Ganesha to finish the typsettting and publish. Though he has been quiet on this one, so I’m picking it is not high on his priority list.
- Complete Forged in Blood, the big skirmish Renaissance set for Ganesha. Done. As above, though I have more confidence that this one has some priority.
- Run a play by email Diplomacy session. Dead. Early pull out before we even started, and only a couple of the rest of the players seemed interesting in corresponding. Maybe next year.
- Run a role playing game set on the equivalent of Skull Island, in a pulp setting. Kind of, except that the method has changed. In a recent Kickstarter effort a great application called Storium was built. This beauty allows asynchronous (because my friends are all over the place so getting together to play is hard) and is rules independent. It is a Story Telling framework, rather than a roleplaying vehicle. And that’s great. That’s the way I like to play. We are underway now and it seems to be flowing.
- Work on my near future hard science fiction setting. Looking good. I am chipping away at this having settled on the Savage Worlds engine as the core and having nailed down the sources and main feel of the piece.
- Play some serious boardgames. No. And instead, since we recently moved house, I took the opportunity to get rid of a major part of my collection. Now there are fewer that demand to be played, but I’d still like a play a few. Like Friedrich.
- Continue my Monster Alphabet, update the Flashing Steel blog concerning Scarlet Pimpernel and Forged in Blood progress. Monster Alphabet! Gotta do one of those this week. Blog updating in general has been hit and miss.
- New! Start and play the Generation Kill – Barbarossa wargame campaign. I did not have a lot of hope that this would get up this year, but I have managed to play a couple of games and I think there is a fair chance that I may get to run through the planned six episodes. I also consider it part of the Science Fiction game development as I can experiment with the rules in a combined arms setting. To recap: GenKill-Barbarossa takes the premise described in the original Generation Kill of a small group of professionals in an army on the advance. The difference is it is set in the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union by the Nazis, and the protagonists are Waffen SS. No disrespect to anyone here: it just seemed a good fit of professionals in a vehicle (Hanomag vs HummVee) tear-arsing deep into enemy territory.
In conclusion, I feel that the half year results are looking pretty good. These are more achievements than failures, and I have kept pretty close to the main direction of travel. Items 3 and 6 can drop off the list.
I have never really been a fan of of new Year’s resolutions. Anything you want to do you should just do. If you have to pick something that suddenly needs to be reformed while in a drunken haze at midnight once a year there is a very fair chance of doing that exact same thing in the immediate following weekend (such as stopping smoking, drinking or fornicating).
However, I have been thinking about what I want to achieve this year for my gaming and business activities. Without making them resolutions and keeping them just as a general to-do task list, they are:
- Complete Scarlet Pimpernel for Ganesha Games. This is written and in for review. As far as i can tell there is an art sourcing and page setting exercise to complete. For practical purposes my part is probably done. But I put it first as I want it to be finished and out of my mind – plus i am looking forward to hearing about the games that get played using it.
- Complete Forged in Blood, the big skirmish Renaissance set for Ganesha. This is now in an advanced draft stage with the first good draft finished. Lots of good feedback received and this, along with a few extra sections such as some sample completed armies are now my focus. this too has taken a long time to get to this point through no-one’s particular fault. But I am eager to see it through to the finish line.
- Run a play by email Diplomacy session. The players are all lined up. I have created some anonymous email addresses for them. Everything is ready to go as soon as everyone gets back to work and are lined up to start. This is a rather old fashioned effort – email, chat, two week turn around – but I am looking forward to running this for this new audience. The intensity that can be generated by this method, and the solidity of having a map physically updated with ink and coloured pencils and then scanned in, is something that cannot be recreated in an online auto-update tool – though there are many out there that are very good.
- Run a role playing game set on the equivalent of Skull Island, in a pulp setting, using Savage Worlds, most probably through a virtual tabletop. This has been a desire of mine for as long as I can remember, but I have had difficulty mustering the players to the task. A virtual tabletop will allow players from remote locations to take part.
- Work on my near future hard science fiction setting. The ultimate goal of this is to have enough for publication either through directly approaching a current publisher, or through a crowd sourcing mechanism if I decide to go alone. Much writing is required here, and I need to just chip away at it over this and next year to get a sufficient body of work together.
- Play some serious boardgames. There are several great titles on my shelf such as Friedrich that need to be given an airing before I die.
- And last but by no means least, I must continue my Monster Alphabet, update the Flashing Steel blog concerning Scarlet Pimpernel and Forged in Blood progress, and probably retire some sites/entries concerning such stillborn efforts as Jurassic Reich (shame – it had such promise).
Back home in Melbourne after a long trip to and from Adelaide. This is the first time, I calculated, that I have been anywhere by myself (that is, without wife and or kids) in the last 17 years. Strange stuff. How time flies. So it was with quite a bit of excitement that I boarded the plane all on my lonesome to see my good friends and play silly games – just like I used to when I was in my 20’s.
The weekend went well, I think. Certainly busy for me as I was detailed to run the Strange Seas game. After two solid days of being on stage, as it were, I was exhausted. Much as I come across as outgoing, it takes it out of me being the Ringmaster.
The convention was billed partially as a purely Historical event. But that always going to be compromised as the population density of Australia simply does not allow that degree of specialisation with any hope of getting more than a half dozen visitors through the doors. As it was there were only three out of 20 games that were not historical, mine being one.
The photo at top here shows the set up for Strange Seas. It was a 28mm B Grade movie pirate theme, the design of which was to attract the kiddies and get some lightweight fun happening. From what I can tell this was successful as the game was in continuous operation, everyone seemed to get into the swing of it very quickly. And finally, I was awarded the Best Table award by popular vote. Trophy to come! The table itself was designed and built by Alan with his usual attention to detail using the 1′ tiles provided by Back 2 Base-ix. It was raffled at the end of the show and I was delighted when it went to my new friend Gustave: an appropriate reward as he had spent an awful lot of time with me helping run the game.
The Strange Seas rules were designed by Greg and showed his typical flair for fast mechanics designed to keep the action rolling and allowing opportunities to tell stories with toy soldiers. Squads of 8 miniatures plus captain were placed around the board. Players took command of a scurvy band each and had to traverse the board to various objectives. The objectives and bands of antagonists were placed in such a way as to ensure the players would be forced into conflict somewhere.
Combat resolution was by simple bucket-o-dice with equally simple saving roll. Movement was abstracted to our standardised 6″ stick, with the squads clustering around their leader in a nebulous fashion. Randomisation was provided by the Aye-Pad 2.0, a chart that showed which of the other non-player squads you could command this turn in order to thwart your opponents. It was a cut-throat, knockout competition, and the winners of each round received a snazzy pirate ring.
Would I ever play Strange Seas again? Not if you paid me. But it ran well, had no design glitches, and seemed to provide a lot of people with a dose of harmless fun and entertainment. Job done.
Check out the comprehensive photos here.
One day, an employee at a tool-and-die company in Indiana spent $30 for a few pieces of used furniture and an old painting of some flowers and decided to strategically hang the picture to cover up a hole in the wall that had been bugging him.
Some years later he was playing a board game called Masterpiece in which players attempt to outbid one another for artwork at an auction. Much to his surprise, one of the cards in the game featured a painting of flowers that looked a lot like the one he had on his wall. He found that his painting was similar in style to the work of Martin Johnson Heade, an American still-life artist best known for landscapes and flower arrangements.
He asked the Kennedy Galleries in Manhattan, which handles many of Heade’s works, to take a look at his painting. They verified that the piece of artwork covering the hole in his wall was a previously unknown Heade painting, since named Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth. In 1999, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston purchased the painting for $1.2 million dollars.
A Yahoo group has been set up to talk about the games that will be coming out of Anubis Studios. This will give the players and testers the chance to voice their concerns in a single forum and get corrections and additions address.
The sword is double edged – when you become inspired by something. You see more things around you that relate to the topic. You find proof and evidence where ever you look that supports your new found fascination. When your interests run to games, and fiction, and story telling, this can be a positive pain in the dot.
Take, for instance, the appalling mood of enthusiasm that comes over me whenever I watch a movie these days. I instantly start to think about how to make model terrain that would suit, where I could get the toy soldiers to play the period, what kind of stories I could tell.
This included, recently, Zorro. Not the insipid modern version which is a thinly veiled vehicle for Catherine Zeta Jones to get her kit off (don’t get me wrong – that’s fine. I just wanted to see some boyish fun with swords, not the same endless puerile soft porn that must be in absolutely every movie these days). Not even the Disney version with John Robinson – oops, I mean Guy Willians before he joined NASA. Nor even my favourite version with Basil Rathbone and Tyrone Power. No, I mean even before these: the Republic pictures series. Specifically Zorro’s Fighting Legion, and the series Don del Oro. I picked up these DVDs at a ridiculous price. Ridiculous that they no one knows or wants them so they are valueless. Ridiculous because they are free to view on the web anyway: http://www.wasabitv.com.au/?s=zorrosfightingle
So much fun to be had in that world. Flashing swordplay, daring escapes. Great for games. Great for story inspiration.
Then I watched Mutant Chronicles, and I even caught myself wanting to play games in that world. But as the movie progressed it became painfully obvious to me that the difference between the Zorro of the 1930’s and Mutant Chronicles of the 2000’s was not special effects, it was maturity. Mutant Chronicles shows in a stark light exactly how juvenile our fantasy has become. It fails to hold even the most basic of internal logic – and arguments of it being ‘fantasy’ simply cannot excuse the childish oversights. In the year 2750, for example, we have lost the ability to make a gun that fires more than 20 feet and our best form of propulsion is steam. Steam, albiet, that is somehow powerful enough to levitate machines the size of buildings. This is art, surely? Well, yes, if it was animated. We would forgive this if it were a Myazaki animated movie. But live action and total drivel just don’t go together.
The answer to these technological stupidities is that it came from a game, of course. Role playing and miniatures, and in a game you have to limit ranges and effects so the action stays local – centred around the ‘role’ of the characters. That it had to be live action shows the conceit of the designers. If it were real people playing the parts and not animated characters it would some how enoble it…
Has this ever worked in reality? Remember the apalling Dungeons and Dragons movie?
Both of these movies demonstrate the result of falling prey to the terrible ego-centric desire to expose your childish ideas to cinematic treatment. You can forgive kid-stuff technology and the bizarre fantasy of a future church more powerful than Rome ever was when you are plastered and eating chips with your mates around a table. But thrown up in flickering moving images with actors who should have known better than to get involved with this stinker such as John Malkovitch and Ron Pearlman? I shudder.
What have we come to? A pretty poor state when it comes to movies, I guess. Still, think of the games…
I have created an excel spreadsheet that randomly generates armies for the Bohemian phase of the Thirty Years war consistent with the forces described in the White Mountain rules.
Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow me to publish .xls files here. If you want a copy, drop me an email at Bozzie99@gmail.com and I’ll send it to you.
The spreadsheet allows you to set the proportion of each type of regiment that could be present in a typical Catholic/Imperial or Protestant army. It then generates a 20 regiments a side, divided into left, centre and right zones plus a reserve. This is about the right number of units to populate a typical 13 x 10 hex board. It also tells you how many blocks are each regiment and, using the underlying calculations, then tells you the real manpower so you can get a feel for the actual battle scale. The spreadsheet gives force sizes typically between 10,000 and 20,000 men.
Simon and I recently tested this and other parts of the game. This write up will follow, along with cut images of the army generator output.
This is the first force supplement for PNZC, describing the Apes and their human opponents in a Planet of the Apes fantasy world.
Planet of the Apes was one of the early movies that has stuck in my mind, like perhaps many of my generation. I still enjoy it – the Charlton Heston version – even though it is slow by today’s standards. I tried to introduce my sons to it. They watched in polite silence but the lack of car chases and fast paced slaughter probably reduced the thrill factor for this modern audience.
The new version is OK too. But I probably only say that because I am a fanboy and I’d swallow anything of that name.
None the less, this supplement for Song of Blades and Heroes lists what I see to be a fair balance between the forces that could be involved. Apes, their human cattle, and the square-jawed astronauts that rail against them are the first articulated forces for my skirmish wargame campaign.
If this floats your boat then I hope you enjoy this supplement. More coming.
For a pdf download of the lastest version of the rules, click here: Song of Apes and Astronauts.pdf