Sunday, September 23, 2018

Civil Strife in Arden

 My elder son Norman came up for a visit including some gaming last weekend.  It was the monthly HAWKs Ghost Archipelago day, so we had that game in the morning, but we also set up a 40mm Renaissance game in the evening.

Ross and I are planning to take 40mm Renaissance to Huzzah again next year, so we found time for a "Skype" game a couple of weeks ago (actually Google Hangouts these days) and considered the state of the rules.  After discussion, Ross decided that he liked the rules we had used at Huzzah in 2017 well enough, so that's the version I dusted off for the this game.

I was also considering the question of whether I could run a game at Barrage for four players.  A few posts back, I showed a picture of my full inventory of figures.  With about 50 stands of troops, each player would get a dozen or so, and this game convinced me that wouldn't be enough to keep things interesting.  Norman and I ran this one in under two hours with nearly everything I own (less some artillery) on the table, and it was still pretty fast.

Here is the table set up:



And from another angle:



 We put this on the Alpha Gaming Table (4x6 feet), and it worked fairly well.  We are setting up to move, so the house is full of boxes of stuff being packed, unpacked, sorted, thinned, etc.  That left the gaming table surrounded by some rather tight clearances, and we bumped it a few times.  Being light for transport also translates into being subject to bumps, but we didn't hit it hard enough to bring down the trees, so that was acceptable so far.

I improvised the scenario; as we have used before with the rather generic forces available, we are in the fictional land of Arden, where the usurper Duke Frederick is attempting to seize power from his brother, the rightful Duke Senior.

I'm playing around with battle records...

 As can be seen from the diagram, Frederick's forces entered along a road in two groups, a cavalry group leading followed by an infantry group, with the objective of taking the town.  (The town buildings, by the way, are some Fat Dragon Ravenfell fold-flat structures.)  Duke Senior's forces were an advance guard holding the area with shot, swordsmen, and a cannon, with cavalry and infantry reinforcements expected.

Usurper's horse advances up the road
  
Usurper's gendarmes and foot


The usurper's forces soon ran into the defenders, and their light horse was unable to make much progress. 

The Duke's cannon was firing with good effect down the road, and Frederick order his light lancers to take it.  Unfortunately for them, the cannoneers had time to load a charge of scattershot, and broke their charge. (Melee roll went against the horse.)

Duke's cannon holds against the horse
By this time, Duke Senior's horse had arrived on the scene, and a cavalry fight raged up and down the road between the enclosure at the edge of town and the fields to the north.  

The Duke's foot arrived from the north shortly after that, and crossbowmen  lined the river bank to shoot with good effect into the masses of the usurper's advancing pikes.  

Recalling his objective, though, Frederick sent his swordsmen and some extra shot around to his left in a bid to take the town.  

The Duke's gendarmes attempt to drive off the usurper's forces
They were met by Duke Senior and his gendarmes.  Upon seeing the situation, the Duke decided that running down the foot and leaving Frederick with his lancers to their rear was not a good plan, and charged the usurper in a bid to clear the cavalry with the intent of turning on the foot afterward.

Unfortunately for the Duke, the cavalry fight did not go well.  Frederick had the advantage, and the Duke attempted to save the situation by joining the fray personally.  He was unhorsed, and, with their leader down, the remaining horse fled the field.  

With that, there was nothing but a handful of shot in the enclosure which could dispute possession of the town with the usurper's foot, a task for which they had little enthusiasm.  They too withdrew, and night fell over the battlefield...

We got in about ten turns and the battle ran up and down the length of the table, so it felt pleasantly active for a game.  I noted, however, that I would need more pikes (a lot more pikes) before I could reasonable stage a multiplayer game out of my own resources.  This project originated as two Armati "introductory scale" armies, and I ended up with a relative surplus of cavalry stands when they were rebased onto the 60mm square bases.  Some painted figures have fallen into my hands from gifts and flea markets, but they have all been swords and shot, so my collection still has the look of a couple of advance guards.  

I'm still hoping to get some additional pikes painted up this fall and winter.












Monday, September 3, 2018

Holiday Musings

Sometimes it seems like everything in life is set on "fast forward".  I've been in that mode for months, always hoping that there would be a day when I was decompressed enough to stop and think about things for a while.  Today, it seems, is finally that day...

I unloaded the notebook in which I keep the current log of my miniatures games from my briefcase in  late March, so I spent some time this morning combing through photos, notes, and posts on the Reaper Forums to reconstruct the games I've been in lately.  I was a little surprised to find that I have managed to be in 24 miniatures games so far this year, despite the frantic pace of things.  I won't get anywhere near the usual annual goal of 52, but it looks like I shouldn't have any trouble meeting my minimum goal of 26, given that a Ghost Archipelago game is scheduled in two weeks, and the HAWKs will be running our Barrage mini-convention at the end of the month.

William was in for a visit (from grad school at the University of Michigan) two weeks ago in conjunction with a friend's wedding, and I took a day off from work to spend some time with him.  Because we are moving relatively soon, he was digging through his stock of possessions remaining here, including his 1/72 plastic Hordes of the Things armies.  Between that and the couple of stands I had recently finished off during a business trip, we decided to unpack some scenery and play a couple of games.  I was using my Airfix Robin Hood-based medievals, and William was using a mixed bag of El Cid figures and Arabian Nights.

William deploys some troops

Outflanked by the flying carpet
We split the two games one and one, with the flying carpet resulting in the destruction of my new nights in one game, and being ignominiously blown out of the sky by a spell in the other.  It was good to get the figures on the table, but we did discover that we were a bit rusty on rules mechanics, especially when it came to what to do with blocks of spears two elements deep.

Some test figures from Hero Forge
After Gencon, I started playing around with the custom figure design systems at Hero Forge.  I picked up a free sample figure last year, which looked pretty good, so I wanted to try something.  I have been reading an urban fantasy series called Bordertown recently, and decided that I would work on some fantasy-flavored moderns.  Here are the two samples I ordered, as received, a modern bard (with a violin) and a suit-wearing spell caster with an umbrella. (Actually an umbrella sword, but concealed...) I have no idea what I am going to use for rules, so I have been resisting the temptation to order any more until I actually have a game of some sort organized.  I'll post a picture when I have them painted.


Revell Saxon horseman as a Cold Islander hero for Hordes of the Things
I also recently finished up a single 1/72 scale figure as a hero stand for my Portable Fantasy Campaign Cold Islander army.  1/72 plastic is, of course, very practical for a variety of reasons, but I'm not always inspired to paint it.  I don't like to disrespect the Muse, though, and since that's what she led me to last week, I just said "works for me" and carried on.

It would be easy to argue that I have too many projects going on at the moment, but I don't really want to address that right now, so I am trying to just paint and play some games rather than spend too much time on "should" and "ought to".


Alpha Gaming Table

In pursuit of that, I have also recently invested in an Alpha Game Table, a 4x6 foot single piece unit which folds up into a 48" by 18" by 9" package.  I don't know how durable it is going to provide to be, but I will post a full review once I've lived with it for a while.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Gencon 2018 After Action Report (Long)

Gencon 2018 has come and gone, and all that’s left is to complete the paperwork.

As usual, planning for this started back in January, when badges were purchased to allow us a shot at the room lottery.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up with a downtown hotel room in a connected hotel, so my brother and I decided that it would not be a good year to host any miniatures games.  

My sign-up time draw for events in May wasn’t particularly good either, so I wasn’t able to get in to any of the “rare” games I had wish-listed.  Nevertheless, I had high hopes for a good convention, knowing that I could always fill any downtime by checking out the exhibitors, playing games demos, or doing some roleplaying with Games on Demand.  

Our crew was diminished this year, since 2nd son William was tied up with grad school events and wasn’t going to be able to make the trip.  That left my brother, Irene, elder son Norman, and myself.  Irene and I scheduled a flight in on Tuesday evening, so that we would be able to take in the unofficial Wednesday activities, and Norman joined us on Wednesday evening.

As the event approached, Norman and I looked into volunteering as gamemasters with Games on Demand, but when push came to shove, I didn’t, due to a lot of activity going on in my non-gaming life.  I hope to do better next year, but it was probably a good thing to have this as a “rest” year. (Gencon is never very restful, but I wasn’t running anything, so it was sort of a rest.)

This was our fifth consecutive Gencon. I probably wrote up the story before, of how my brother and I had attended once before, in 1980, and how a group of guys playing a pick-up fantasy miniatures game in the hallway seemed to be having more fun than almost anyone else we ran across.  So I wanted to make sure that I had fantasy miniatures in case we needed a pick-up game of our own.  I have been working on the “Portable Fantasy Game/Campaign” for just such eventualities.  I added a magnetic dungeon floor section to one of the box lids this year, and therefore loaded my overflow box with magnetized dungon walls, so that we could game whatever might come up.

Portable Fantasy Game 2.5 Liter Expansion Box

The Tuesday of the flight finally arrived.  Everything was packed, and the lists were checked twice.  Apparently I actually left enough time to do that properly, because I didn’t  have to buy replacements for anything left behind.  The Portable Fantasy set fit neatly into the overhead container:


My brother picked us up at the airport after an uneventful flight, and we overnighted in Bloomington, hoping for an early start back to Indianapolis the next morning.

The availability of games on Wednesday seemed a bit limited this year, so I guess we’ll be signing up to run something next year.  We were able to find three spaces in a board game demonstration for something called Motora.  This turned out to be a worker placement game themed around tribes on an island with gradually diminishing resources.  Players needed to balance their tribe members between foraging, fighting, and attempting to control idols to fulfill victory conditions.  Including teaching the rules this took about two hours, so it is  on the long side for a Eurogame.  We all thought that it was fun, though, and would expect to back the Kickstarter to produce it when it starts off.


We hit Scotty’s Brewhouse after the game, for lunch and a free die.  It looks like the trendy thing this year is to add macaroni and cheese to sandwiches. (In fact, I went to a different brewpub, in Utah, the week after the convention, and found that they were also adding mac and cheese to sandwiches...) My brother and I concluded that we should really have signed up to run something on Wednesday, since the games available were all sold out, indicating some underserved demand. We played a few of our carried contingency games (Flux, Travel Carcassonne) while waiting for the kickoff party.   I was determined to try the special Gencon brew this year, and the line wasn't too bad, considering.



We eventually picked son Norman up from the airport, and checked into the hotels for the night.

We got off to an early start the next morning, with a couple of 9:00AM events.  As we got to the convention center, people were waiting for events, and gaming tends to break out under these circumstances:

Waiting games...


Norman-son had developed the schedule matrix for the convention, as has become customary the past few years.  As can be seen from the matrix, I started the official first day of the convention off with a demonstration of Mantic's Kings of War fantasy battle game.  I have had a copy of the rules for some time, but haven't played it previously.  

The game zone was well signed.

As a demo session, the organizers set up a series of one-on-one battles.  We were each invited to choose an army.  I picked one which looked loosely like a Hundred Years War medieval army with some knights and archers, plus a fantasy unit of flying knights.  The gimmick to Kings of War is that figures are not removed, and units are of variable sizes, from detachments to regiments.  Hits cause an increasing penalty to morale checks until a unit routs.  We found in play that this doesn't take too long, so it was a pretty quick game.

I chose the army with the archers...
My main issue had to do with army choice; while all the armies were designed to the same point level, my opponent had a demon army led by a fireball-throwing efreet, and the magical attacks were breaking my units pretty quickly.  My archers routed before they could shoot.  It might be worth looking at more closely at some future point, but I would want to read the online commentaries and see what the regulars have to say about the point-buy system.


Irene met up with me after the game, and we took a walk through the exhibit hall.  Irene and are are working on moving to a new house, so we had an agenda to look at gaming tables.  I was impressed by the Prophecy table introduced last year by Wyrmwood, and was interested to see that they had introduced a new model, the Sojourn gaming table.  I ended up putting a deposit on one, so the new house will be equipped for games. 

Irene wanted to try some "escape rooms" during the convention, so she went off to try one while I settled in for the first of my speed painting events for the weekend.  I ended up in three, two using Reaper miniatures and one with Iron Wind.  I was pleased to place first in the first Reaper event I was in, so that got me a seat in the Reaper finals on Sunday and an extra miniature.

Reaper, Iron Wind, Reaper, and Reaper finals, from left to right

45 minutes each for the preliminary figures, 60 minutes for the final


This is the fourth year in a row that I have made it into a speed painting final, so I guess I have some idea of what I'm doing.

Irene and I were signed up for an escape room on Thursday evening, but there was a scheduling difficulty on the part of the escape room business, so we agreed to reschedule it until Saturday afternoon.  

Auction winnings

We ended up at the auction, as in previous years.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but over the weekend, I did end up with a couple of replacements for games I once had in my collection.

Consignment store area at the auction
Games and items not sold at auction often end up in the consignment area at a fixed price, and the consignment area was busy as usual.  I ducked in there a couple of times, but didn't get anything except a Games Workshop terrain book for my brother.

On Friday, Irene and I had signed up for a dance event, called "Dance to the Front Lines".  This was run by Counts to Nine Productions, and was one of several historical dance seminars they put on.  As I expected from the description, this was basically in the English Country Dance line.  After years of ballroom training, this was not too difficult, and I found it relaxing to have someone else tell me what to do. (In ballroom, as the leader, it's my job to decide what to improvise next...)  Regrettably I was too busy dancing to take any pictures.

The next two speed painting events (results as shown above) were back-to-back on Friday afternoon. Signing up for back-to-back events at Gencon is really only possible if they are in the same location.  I ended up second in the Reaper round, which would have qualified me for the finals if I hadn't already been qualified.  I won the Iron Wind round, and picked up a couple of blisters of old Ral Partha sculpts as a prize.  

Irene and I were signed up together for an escape room on Friday evening, with a lab theme.  I don't want to spoil these things too much, but it was an interesting first experience.  We had to actually use some of the lab equipment, including a centrifuge and a glove box, which was somewhat unexpected.   This particular escape room was run by a franchise colocated with the Spaghetti Factory, so we stopped in there for some dinner to round out the evening.

I was signed up for a mold making workshop on Saturday morning.  My brother did this last year, so I had some idea of what to expect.  I had not had time in the run-up to the convention to sculpt any small terrain item, so I stopped off in the open crafting area while waiting for the workshop.  The craft area is part of the Spouse Activities track and is sponsored by the Brother sewing machine company. I knew that they would have various bits and pieces to work with.  I built a base using a couple of dominoes with a dragon design (which turned out to be too big) and picked up a floral design bead which I eventually embedded in a clay rock.

Gencon has an official sewing machine?
I am waiting on some appropriate casting plaster, but here's my completed rock formation mold, with the bead representing a carving, and a sigil of some sort engraved on the other side.

Mold making

Our rescheduled escape room event was on Saturday afternoon.  Irene and I were teamed with a family with about four kids, so channeling the kids' enthusiasm into something useful was the main challenge.  We finished that one about twenty minutes early, so we had plenty of time to make it back to the Westin for our second Counts to Nine dance event.  At four in the afternoon, it was more heavily attended than the previous one, and was a lot of fun.  

We also stopped in for a ballroom party with the Dancing and Dragons team in the evening, which rounded out our Gencon dance experience. 

There were still a few one-day badges available at the beginning of the convention, but by Saturday, the last of the Sunday-only badges had sold out. 

Plan ahead...

Irene and my brother and I wandered around after the party and some dinner, and found our way to the open gaming space at the J.W. Marriott.  This was newly added this year.

About half of the open gaming space

When we wandered by on Saturday night, it appeared to be pretty active.  It would have been a little difficult to drop a pick-up miniatures game there, since the tables were only two feet wide, but it looked like a great opportunity to try out your need board game acquisitions or relax with an old favorite or two.

Norman-son and I hit Games on Demand on Sunday morning.  Norman had spent some time on Friday and Saturday night running some games for them, so he had a priority choice ticket.  I ended up with an early seat, and tried out Ross Cowman's new game BFF from Heart of the Deernicorn.  While the topic (middle school friends) isn't my usual cup of tea, I was curious about how the story-telling mechanics were going to work with a series of location-based segments (termed "hangouts" in this context).  I don't know that story games are going to be my regular fare, but it's good to stretch my improv skills now and then.

While we were occupied with Games on Demand, Irene was doing a final check of the exhibitors, and ran into Nelly, host of Nelly's Nerdy Adventures, a video log of her various convention experiences, including Gencon.  My brother originally introduced me to this...

Nerdy Nelly

Norman-son had gotten an alternate seat in the Reaper speed painting final, which was out last scheduled Gencon event.  As expected, enough there were enough no-shows that he got a seat.

Me, head down in the painting

Norman, also head down in the painting

This turned out to be good for him, because he ended up winning the competition:

Norman's finals figure, back view


All of Norman's speed paints; note the ermine pattern on the inside of the wizard's cloak

Between the snowflakes and the ermine pattern, his amazing freehand skills blew away the competition, so he ended the convention on a high note.

After some dinner, my brother dropped us off at the airport.  Most of the outbound traffic on Sunday evening was Gencon attendees.

Open Gaming at the departure gates

The airport was prepped for us; open gaming tables had been set up in the departure areas, so we settled in for some more Travel Carcassonne while we waited for our plane.

One last game, then farewell to Indy for another year...

We finally arrived home around midnight, and I would have liked to have taken the day off afterwards for recovery, but the timing didn't allow for it this year, so it was a long week, ending with the trip to Utah resulting in the painting displayed in the previous post.

Overall, though, it was another great convention.  After five of them, I think we have the system down pretty well, and our planning and activities this year were about right.  Looking forward to next year!


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Some Painting

I've been painting with the travel kit this weekend, and have finished the figures for a couple of stands for the Portable Fantasy set in 1/72 scale plastic. They are seen here on base mock-ups.

I have also been attempting to write up my Gencon after action report, but have been experiencing technical difficulties, and it may have to wait.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Renaissance Reinforcements (and more)

I had some painting time yesterday, so I finished up the other three pikemen, all in unusually subdued colors for this project, loosely inspired by the Medici Black Band.  Given that the practical minimum size for a unit of pikes in our rules is probably 4 stands, I'm thinking I'll aim to do three more eventually, with the remainder of the reinforcements being back to the usual colorful style.  

First stand of my "Black band" pikemen


May was a slow month for painting, although I did manage to game while visiting my parents one weekend, and got to Huzzah on another, so it wasn't a bad month for gaming overall.  At the start of the month, my top project was vintage fantasy, and I finally finished the basing and varnished these three Minifigs NS-range figures as part of a small batch of individually based berserkers/bandits/brigands to fill out the original D&D encounter tables for a future D&D revival game supported by all vintage figures.  

Minfigs NS figures from around 1978

I was also digging through my old notebooks recently, looking for information about the molds I've been using for the Dux Bellorum project, when I found that I had ordered a one-each set of Vikings/Saxons/Normans from Foundry in 1996 some time.  Many of these figures were finished up promptly, and have served in various Dark Ages games since, but a batch of Normans got sidetracked somewhere along the way, and have been languishing on painting sticks in primer for the better part of the past twenty years.  I had a break at lunch one day the week after Huzzah, and I have had a few of them with my portable painting kit at my desk since I was inspired to buy the Saga rules last year. With the Saxon/Viking game I'd played on my mind,  I finished up one Norman archer. I suppose I should sit down with the rules again at some point soon and figure out what I would want to paint to be able to deploy a pleasing Norman war band.

Foundry Norman archer
 Unfortunately, of course, shortly after I bought the rules, the 2nd edition was released.  The local Saga players seem to have stuck to the 1st edition for the most part, so I'm in no hurry to 'upgrade'.


Friday, June 1, 2018

The 16th Century Project


A Visual Inventory of my 16th Century Project

As I was writing my Huzzah report last weekend,  one thing led to another.  Ross and I agreed at the convention that next year's game(s) was(were) going to be something using the combined resources of our 16th century home cast 40mm projects.  So, yesterday I dug out my bags of castings to see what I should start working on, and I decided that the proper thing to do was to muster the troops on the table and see what I really had. (My last inventory is both hidden somewhere and probably suspect anyway.)

So, there they are: 4 artillery pieces, 18 assorted cavalry stands, 10 stands of pikes and pike command, 5 stands of swordsmen, 4 stands of improvised converted crossbowmen, and 8 stands of musketeers. 

The story that goes with these figures is this:

I have been interested in the 16th century, and the warfare of the 16th century, for longer than I can remember.  It's probably a combination of being an early music enthusiast and being exposed to Sir Charles Oman's History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century at an impressionable age.  In the early years of the current phase of my interest in the miniatures hobby (starting around 1987, say) I would play 16th century games at the conventions when I could, but never started my own project, being intimidate by painting all those Landsknechts.  

By the time our club, the HAWKs, had started in 1994, I was already casting some of my own figures from commercial molds.  Chris Palmer, also a member of this board, and I both had fairly extensive mold collections, including two non-compatible 40mm 18th century sets.  Mine were Prince August, and his Nuernberger Meisterzinn. He also had a Meisterzinn catalog.  I don't know much about Meisterzinn, but they were already a zombie company (things kept in production but no new products) by 1994.  They had a small range  of 16th century molds, and I thought that it would be an interesting challenge to collect them, cast up some figures, and put a game together.  (If one follows that link, I might note that there are two molds no longer in production; an artillery piece, and a musketeer with a choice of three separate heads.) A set of rules called Armati had just come out, with a Renaissance section and provision for playing with a single stand as a unit, so I used that as the basis for my casting.

It took, as these things do, a couple of years to get things done to the point of playing games with them.  Not long after that, Chris decided to build some 40mm Leonardo da Vinci machines to go with them, inspired by a number of games of Leonardo Plus which were run at the cons for a few years.  Those rules didn't suit our collections, though, so we ended up staging a game using home rules at Cold Wars in 1999.  

After that, the figures got put away for a while, until Ross and I ended up in discussions about how difficult it would be to convert enough of the figures to form the basis of a 16th century English army (still using the longbow).  From there, we ended up deciding to put on a game in 2004 using a scenario from the Anglo-Scots Wars of the 1540s.  The siege of Haddington in 1548 was nearly a perfect match for our hodgepodge collections, with mercenaries from all over Europe participating on one side or the other.  Once again, we had to write rules to suit our collection of miniatures.  My pictures of that game are unfortunately pre-digital, and buried somewhere.  We even got an award from the convention for that one, because it was unusual and eye-catching.

Since then, we dust them off every few years, revise the rules again to taste, and set to.  If I'm at home, I'm limited by the total size of my collection, but I can still put on a decent two player game.

I still haven't managed to get to the Siege of Malta in 1565, but Ross wants to do Turks this next year, so we'll see what happens.
Some reinforcements


So, meanwhile, I pulled out the castings for a stand of four pikemen, since pikes are relatively speaking in the shortest supply in my collection, and a three man command stand for swordsmen or other light foot.  As far as I can tell from my records, I haven't painted one of these figures since about 2011, and I don't think I've done an infantryman since we staged Haddington. I thought that I had better start small and see how this felt.



I roughed out one pikeman at lunch one day this week, and it didn't seem too difficult, so perhaps there will eventually be a second pike block (of nine or so stands).  I have also ordered some molds from Berliner Zinnfiguren for more fully round landsknechts in 40mm, and I'm very curious to see how they'll look side by side.  Irregular Miniatures has also added an Italian Wars range since I started this project so many years ago, and I may end up adding units of those as well, rather than fiddling with converting so many things from so few basic poses.








Monday, May 28, 2018

Huzzah 2018 After Action Report

I have been in the habit of attending Huzzah, in Portland, Maine, for several years now.  This got started when my friend Ross Macfarlane had been unable to make it down to a Cold Wars for a while, and suggested that we meet somewhere halfway between his home in Nova Scotia and mine in Maryland.  It's a twelve hour drive for me, or a relatively short flight, which seems like a long way to go for a local convention, but between an opportunity to stage games with Ross and the fact that the Maine Historical Wargamers put on a great show, it's worth it.

This year I had planned to fly, so Ross and I ended up deciding to run a Dragon Rampant game, using my portable 1/72 scale plastic fantasy set.

Portable fantasy game configured for an air trip the week before Huzzah

I've been working on the 1/72 scale plastics a fair amount this past year.  For air travel, they have the advantage of being light enough to carry around, and also light enough that the bases stick to the magnetic travel boxes very firmly.  The configuration shown above was from the Detroit trip mentioned in the previous post, and I had to dismount the top box to get it jammed into the overhead compartment.  This time, I left that at home and just brought a 6 liter box with three war bands worth of troops (about 35 60mm x 40mm bases) and the 12 liter box with support gear such as scenery, dice, tokens, and rules.  I had some curiosity from the TSA agent boarding in Baltimore, but no problems.  Norman showed up with a fourth war band and some spares in a 4 liter box, so we had two thirds of the game in hand.

My older son, Norman, elected to come up with me this year, so I met him at the airport on Friday morning, and we had an uneventful flight to Portland, arriving at the hotel and convention venue around 10:30.  Huzzah has elected for easy planning, and has each day set up with gaming time slots, so that there are two on Friday, after lunch and after dinner, three on Saturday, one after each meal, and one on Sunday, after breakfast.  I have not typically had much problem getting into games, but apparently Huzzah is getting to be more popular, because most of the games were fully signed up throughout the weekend.  As a gamemaster, I was registered and had a badge, but I hadn't gotten around to signing up for anything in particular.  I did a quick search through the registration books and found a few open things, which is how I ended up playing in a 1973 October War tank game using "picoarmor" and the Spearhead rules, an old set by Arty Conliffe.  I was reminded that Arty's design philosophy was that commanders were constrained in their abilities to control events, so, like Armati (his ancients rules), Spearhead seems really designed to be a two player game.  There aren't really enough decisions to spread them among multiple players.

Picoarmor, more visible en masse than I expected

I elected to take the Syrians, which turned out to be functioning in the role of ducks in a shooting gallery.  The Israeli Centurians were effectively indestructible, so it wasn't my best game of the weekend.

Ross and I neglected out "best practices" handbook a bit this weekend, mostly due to my real life being a bit hectic recently, so we had not staged a trial game of Dragon Rampant by Skype beforehand.  Therefore, when he proposed that we should do a warm-up game in the Friday evening time slot, it seemed like a prudent idea.  We recruited a few other players and grabbed an empty table for a simple head to head slog between the six war bands we were using for the morning game.  As a result, we made some pen and ink changes on the hand out sheets; for unfamiliar players the terminology used by the game seems to be difficult to pick up.

Ross had originally proposed that we use Scenario 10, The Alliance, from C.S. Grant's Programmed War-games Scenarios as the basis for our Dragon Rampant  game.  After the Friday night test, I was generally unworried about the scenario; the game tends to be a little swingy anyway, so sticking to scenario victory conditions was unlikely to be a main concern.  

Barbarians of the Cold Islands in action
We modified the rules for multiplayer games by using side activation; each of the three players on a side got to act until a unit failed its activation roll, after which play passed to the enemy.  We issued each player three reroll tokens, good for an activation or morale roll, so that they had some luck mitigation available in the event of bad rolls.  Nevertheless, this game does work better as a two player game, and six is pushing the upper limit of what can remain fun.  As Ross noted, the point values are approximate, and I'm not sure that our war bands were actually balanced as intended.  On the barbarian right flank, for example, 30 points of Cold Islanders with "bellicose foot" (essentially berserkers) were unable to make any headway at all against a 24 point war band of Robin Hood-Style archers and scouts.  Nevertheless, the players seemed to be enjoying the game, so we'll call it a success and plan better next year.

I had the tables turned on me, as it were, in the afternoon session when I found myself appointed commander of a Saxon force in a six player Saxon/Viking Lion Rampant game on account of my familiarity with the rules.  I was able to get in a few solid attacks with my household mounted force, but, on the whole, the Saxon fyrdsmen seemed to be outmatched by the ferocity of the Vikings.  The gamemaster used a similar concept to the reroll tokens, except that he gave out two per player and they were automatically worth a successful roll.  As with my game, six players seems to me to be about the practical limit for any game in which players are acting approximately one at a time.

54mm Accurate AWI foot in action

After a leisurely supper, I was invited to play in a pick up game of Osprey's Honours of War, which I picked up on speculation a while back (as I already have figures) but which I hadn't read.  This was hosted by Al Coughlin, using 54mm figures from Accurate and All the King's Men.  I do love the toy soldier look of the big figures on the table, but the rules were probably not anything that I see using in the future.  

Ross's 40mm homecast WWI
On Sunday morning, after the traditional breakfast at Cracker Barrel (next door and an easy walk from the hotel), we ended up doing a reprise of Ross's Friday game, a 1914 scenario using home cast 40mm figures and a gridded map.  I'm not a big fan of gridded maps, but I think that has more to do with not wanting to fuss with constructing one than the actual games.  I took the Germans on the offensive against my son Norman's French and British.  Apart from some success on my right flank, where I was able to push my scout cavalry and bicycles up through the woods, attempting to attack the redoubt in the center of the board was a costly mistake.  It needed a lot more artillery preparation, and I see how WWI offensives ended up starting with weeks of bombardment.  

Ross, Norman and me, at departure time

I managed to avoid most of the shopping for the weekend, spurred on by the knowledge that everything had to go back with me as a carry-on.  I did end up picking up a few books from the flea market, something on the 30 Years War, something on the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th century, and a copy of the old WRG guide to Armies of the Greek and Persian Wars, one of the few I don't already own.

Ross and I agreed to work toward a 16th century game using our 40mm collections again next year, so I guess I am committing to driving next time, as that project won't pack in flying luggage very well.  I decided it was time to add to my mold collection for the period, and ordered some sample Landsknecht molds from Berliner Zinnfiguren, which carries a range from Artidee/Creartec, while I was sitting at the airport waiting for our return flight.

Overall, it was a fun convention, as always, and I am looking forward to next year.