Thursday, May 17, 2018

HEADING TO HUZZAH! PORTLAND, MAINE

Had some extended hours in the evenings this week putting together a newly designed set of player aids (made of wood using pegs to track information)--note to self, don't have "good ideas" less than a week out from a convention game.  Nevertheless, the time management worked out, and my Huzzah! game is now packaged and ready to load--and pleasingly compact: one large tub and three small.   So, for now, it's rest up;  do  a bit of printing tomorrow (reference sheets and such), and then...
...roll on up the road to Maine.  

 Excelsior!

Monday, May 14, 2018

HUZZAH! CONVENTION GAME PREP

This is a quick post to share the madness that is my game preparation. This week is the lead up to the excellent Huzzah! gaming convention, where I'll be running my aforementioned Loot the Baggage Train scenario on Saturday morning.  For our friends across the pond, this is a participation game, as are all the games at US conventions. Normally, at this stage of the process, the game is ready to go and it's just a matter of final inventory and pack up. This year, however, I'm behind where I normally am in the process (for many reasons). Thus, I am on a tight schedule to wrap up the remaining prep between now and Saturday morning. Thankfully, I don't have to actually paint any figures, but there are other things to be done. Tonight, the time was devoted to adjusting the terrain for the six player convention game (the playtest only had three), as well as getting the figures sorted and ready.

The geometry of the terrain will be important given that there will be six players converging on the baggage train, so the relative distances, the placement of baggage guards, and the cache locations must be equitable. I spent a good amount of the evening working out these points.  The playtest didn't help with these since it was  only with three players and on a smaller table.  Once done, I was ready to take the next step, which is to mark and label the terrain outlines with masking tape (above)...
...this particular game has fairly complex terrain, so there is more up front work than normal in this step.  The picture above shows the table in the process of terrain removal....
...Once the game mat is marked, I then pull and bag the terrain.  I combine this with digital photos of the setup as well.  When I get to the convention, all I have to do is roll out the battle mat, pull out the bagged terrain, spot it in on the table in the marked location and configuration, and yank the tape: poof, all set up! I double check things with the digital photos or use them as a backup in case something comes undone.
I also broke down the figures and separated them into player-commands. This step really brought home that the convention is nigh!

My goal was to take care of the figures and terrain tonight, to include packing them up. I didn't get that far. I'll be packing the game up tomorrow and then shifting emphasis to getting the components of the game system ready--my friend AJ has a laser and we spent the day on Sunday producing some player tracking boards to support game play. These will replace the paper tracking sheets seen in the post on the playtest, and I believe they will really help to facilitate play (both for the players and for me running the game).  I'll need to stain, paint, and put labels on those this week. To get that done, I'll have to really manage my time well.  I'll have a separate post showing those later.

So there, dear readers, is a window into my over the top convention preparation.  I find that time spent in preparation like this more than pays for itself when setting up a game under convention conditions. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Excelsior!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

LOOT THE BAGGAGE TRAIN!: HUZZAH! CONVENTION PLAYTEST GAME


 One of George's dragoons shooting it out with two of AJ's Croats

A series of events have put me behind where I'd like to be in in relation to the upcoming Huzzah! convention--and the game that I am going to be running there!   I finally was able to put together a small playtest this last Friday. Given the limitations on time and prep, my aims were specific, looking to proof the rules, the tracking systems, and an overall reality check on the mechanics.  As a result of this playtest, I'll be doing some important revising of the scenario and rules before Huzzah!  Thanks to AJ and George for their suggestions!  I did not come away with many pictures or much of a narrative given that I had to take a hand in playing, taking notes, and running the playtest.  However, you will find an excellent synopsis of the action on AJ's Wargaming Blog.  In this report, I'll briefly outline the scenario,  share some points from my perspective as game master, and share some eye candy (of course!).   As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX....
"It's quiet. Too quiet. I don't like it..."
 
The game title is "Loot the Baggage Train!" (30 Years War):  This game represents that moment so characteristic of this age when the lure of looting the baggage train overcame any  interest in the battle. In this game, players will control a file of dragoons, croats, or "Polish cossacks" as they all converge on a semi-abandoned baggage train. Loot the train; loot the other players. It's every man for himself: the player who comes away with the most swag, wins. As you can see, it will be a very serious affair...
The scene is a baggage train area centered on a post-station, with stable and a few lodgings clustered around.  A few demoralized guards remain.  These can put up only a token resistance, and the players have the chance to buy them off and turn them on the other players (like I said, a very serious game).  The playtest setup (above) was rather minimalist, but it allowed me to test the geometry of the action as well as the travel times across the table.  The convention game will have more touches, showing roads and having more features to round out the look of the game. The level of the game is 1 figure = 1 man. Originally, each player was going to run 6 figures, but the playtest, with three players running 5 figures each, clearly showed that this would be too many: probably the most valuable lesson of the playtest!  As a result, the convention game, with six players, will probably have 3 or 4 figures per player (I'm still mulling that one over).
Sprinkled about the area are potential swag locations (some blanks), marked by my Universal Activation Markers  (the green disks, if you aren't familiar).  I had a separate sheet listing what was in each. Given that I was playing in this game, I placed these face down and blindly. This turned out to be a good mechanic: face down=undisturbed spot.  Face up =discovered.  I'll use this in the convention game. 
The tracking system for each figure (above left) worked well enough, but there will be improvements between now and the convention to streamline and make it work better. With any luck, and a big assist from my friend AJ,  I'll have a much less fiddly version of these made out of wood using pegs.   You may also notice the old school wooden Risk pieces (which I picked up on eBay) used as tracking markers (above left) and activation markers (above right).  I like the look and feel of them, and intend to use them in the future as well.
The set of tactical markers I produced worked well enough in the game, too. Above, one of my trusty dragoons kneels to cover his mate as he works his way down the street. 
In the playtest,each player ran 5 figures. Above, the Croats lined up before the playest, In the convention game, there will be two sets of Croats, along with three sets of dragoons, and one set of "Polish Cossacks." Each figure will have a mounted and dismounted version. In the playtest, each side also had a cache, represented by a pack horse, but these wound up being peripheral to play and more of a distraction, so they'll be dropped.
AJ suggested that the rules could be adjusted for Old West Shootouts. Looking at the above picture, I must say that the situation certainly is reminiscent of "Dodge City."   

Speaking of pictures, these low level games do tend to produce cinematic moments rather unlike other games, which is a large part of their allure...
My dragoon leader (above left) charges down the road to deliver a pistol shot from horseback (which missed) at AJ's Croat.  (Above right) Two of George's dismounted dragoons hold the stable yard against a mounted dragoon trying to crash his way in. 

Again, thanks to AJ and George for helping with the playtest, from which important points were gleaned--as usual.  Not only will the game be much more ready for the convention, but I will be much better able to run it given the valuable practice. 


Excelsior!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

A DIVERSION: AN TREATISE ON WARRE


In this post, dear readers, I meander into the atmospheric whatnots that I have inflicted on players at my games. Specifically, a version of a 17th Century "Treatise" that I would hand out at the start of my League of Augsburg games to put players in the correct frame of mind. I have several versions of these. The one in this posting is a fairly generic set of maxims for all miniatures games. Other versions are game specific, with advice on how to gain victory points sprinkled in among the maxims. Here are a few examples of  in-game advantages written as maxims (for taking artillery, seizing camps, and exhausting divisions): 

Ordnance is chief among the prizes of warre. Safeguard thine, therefore, as a miser doth a newfound copper, and seize the enemy's gonnes to vex him mightily.
 

Menace the enemy's followers and therebye wreake alarum among his soldiers for the safety of their goodes, courtesans, and sundry chattels.  

Eache grande division overthrown is like an weapon struck from Leviathan's hand, and advantage shall accrue in equal measure to the level of confusion wrought therein.



Truth be told, I found that players at conventions, given everything else they were trying to assimilate, did not invest much time in these (quite understandable).  They would often overlook the treatise entirely among the charts and OOBs that they were working with, and I would wind up having to bring it their attention.  Often, I would then find myself highlighting the maxims that "counted" in order to set the framework for the game: hardly what I was thinking when I came up them. I came to the ultimate realization that these were more for my amusement than the players, and were on the borderline of being more distraction than enhancement.  As a result, I now use them more sparingly, more so in club situations where players are familiar with game systems and not trying to take too much in.  
  

I offer the following general treatise on miniature gaming below as a amusement, if nothing else, for my blog readers.  I used one very much like it as a set of guidelines for my basement gaming group when I lived in Maryland.  It worked well enough in that role. Your mileage may vary, if not as a tool, then as a diversion.  As usual, you may Clix Pix for Big Pix:
There is also a  pdf version available  that might be easier to read.

Excelsior!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

PRUSSIAN NATIONAL CAVALRY: A NAPOLEONIC CONVERSION

In this post, dear readers, we meander into my Napoleonic collection--specifically, the Prussian army of the Befreiungskriege (1813-1814/15). Once again, I'll be telling the tale of another conversion (what a surprise, eh?). 

One of the issues with the Prussian army of this timeframe, superficially, is that the only options for light cavalry seem to be Landwehr (plentiful) and hussars (high-octane). There is no middle ground, garden variety light cavalry option...unless, of course, you recognize that there were four regiments of "National" Cavalry that were raised and equipped by the Prussian states (The Ost Prussian, Pomeranian, Silesian, and Elbe, National Cavalry Regiments). Although not hussars, they certainly weren't militia. I represent them as equivalent to any other Chasseur or light dragoon regiment of any of the major combatant at that timeframe.  The point is, this allows you to field a "normal" light cavalry contingent with your Prussians, something other than a hussar or a landwehr regiment, however you rate them.  Unfortunately, two of these units (Ost Prussian and Pomeranian) had distinctive uniforms that are not represented well among the figures available. The good news, though, is that you can repurpose Prussian dragoons to represent them.
My Starting Point: Calpe Prussian Dragoons Acquired Painted via Ebay

As I was building up my Prussians, there happened to be a good number of ready-painted Prussian dragoons popping up on Ebay. I scored on these, and had enough to outfit my Prussian cavalry division with dragoons, with enough left over figures to re-paint as two of the National Cavalry regiments that wore a version of the dragoon litewka: the Ost Prussian and Pomeranian......
 Before and After, Repainted as Ost Prussian National Cav (Left) and Pomeranian (Right)

So, I had a headstart with the horses and the headgear and faces.  The conversion consisted of repainting the saddle furniture and the uniforms, and touching up a few of the other bits to make the overall look of the unit consistent.
 OST PRUSSIANS
The Ost Prussian National Cavalry regiment had a dark blue litewka with hussar details: a very neat combination! This was my first crack at free-handing hussar details over a non hussar figure (a task that I would repeat later on with my 1848 Hungarian conversions).  This unit was actually armed with the lance, so I overlooked that bit (so far, nobody has stumped away from the table in protest). During the reorganization of the Prussian army in 1815, three squadrons of this unit were used to form the Guard Hussars and the fourth squadron went to be the fourth squadron of the Fourth Uhlan regiment. 

POMERANIANS
The Pomeranian National Cavalry Regiment had a green litewka with white polish cuffs and a very distinctive bright green girdle with red edging. To get the right effect for the girdle, I used an "old school" Testor's 1/4 oz green gloss enamel (later covered over with clear flat lacquer). In the 1815 reorganization, two squadrsons of the Pommeranian National Cavalry regiment went to form the Guard Dragoons and two squadrons went to the Fourth Uhlan Regiment.

SILESIAN AND ELBE (NOT PICTURED)
The Silesian and Elbe National Cavalry Regiments wore a standard hussar uniform, so a hussar figure could be repurposed for those, only in the appropriate color schemes.  I might add those later, but personally, I found that the modified litewkas of the Ost Prussian and Pomeranian regiments are much more novel and interesting.  That, plus when you put them on the table the French players, unless they are steeped deeply in Napoleonic Lore, don't know what to make of them--they kinda look like Landwehr, but they kinda look like dragoons, but they aren't either of them... 
...and they certainly help to debunk the idea of the Prussian Army as dull.

Excelsior!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

OF GARDEN GNOMES AND OBELISKS

In this brief post, dear reader, we meander into the realm of tabletop eye candy and scenic effects. Several years ago, I ran a skirmish-level Napoleonic game (using a heavily modified version the Brother Against Brother rules). This game, entitled "A Walk In The Park" was inspired by the fighting in the Grosser Garten at Dresden, 1813, and other similar clashes. In this case, it was the Prussians vs the French (who seemed to have clashed an awful lot in close terrain, but that's another topic). This caused me to create a Garten of the sort found in various and sundry Residenzes in Germany....

The Initial Version
...I came up with a pleasing geometric shape reminiscent of the era, and it worked for the playtests (I took this game and ran it at Huzzah! '16 as well as at a game night for my club). It stood up well enough in play...


...but something still seemed to be lacking...

...It Needed A Statue!...
...And An Obelisk!...

For the statue, I stumbled across this wonderfully evocative Eureka Seven Years War Russian General (which I can't for the life of me find on the interwebs any more!). He is  the very image in bronze of the proud Kurfurst of a local Residenz.  I used Humbrol antique bronze, a bit of wash, and few brushes of Testor's brass to shine him up--and "poof": statue.  For the base, I used a cube of craft wood sitting on two wargaming stands. Then I painted the rock-effect (which I am quite happy with--makes me wonder if I should start painting scenery as opposed to buying it ready: but that way lies madness, no more of that). The obelisk a bit from the Warhammer 40k terrain kit, "Stackable Obelisk."  
In these pictures above, taken as I was setting up my game at Huzzah '16, you can see the final form. I dropped the house at the crossroads and extended the table with the addition of the church and its Kleiner Garten, mit centerpiece Mound and Obelisk.  I also came up with some shrubs for the Kleiner Garten.  And of course, there is the Grosser Garten--mit Kurfurst.  The below picture is the setup during game night, which was prior to the Huzzah! Convention: no shrubs in the Kleiner Garten.

Now all can enjoy a nice walk in the park.
 Excelsior!

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