A New Tool

During the last two years or so, I’ve been following the advances of 3-D printing from afar. I was increasingly impressed by the performance of printers, but I was also turned off by the technical skills and patience required to set up and operate the machines.

However, in December, several factors contributed to me taking a serious look at the technology. First of all, I saw some very impressive small prints coming from resin printers in diverse Facebook groups. Secondly, with Brexit looming, it suddenly dawned on me that it would be nice to be independant of UK sellers for small items such as windows and doors. Though I want to support figure manufacturers and I’ll gladly buy figures, small stuff for scratch building can be quite expensive and adding import fees, it may no longer be feasible to order. Thirdly, AnyCubic, a manufacturer of 3-D printers, had a Christmas sale with considerable discounts. I quickly communicated with Mikko, an expert in the matter, and decided to buy a small resin printer, the Photon. It cost me 150,- Euro, plus another 80,- or so Euros for resin and assorted material such as gloves, masks, filters, alcohol to clean the prints and an UV lamp for curing.

The machine arrived a couple of days ago. Set-up was easy, but then I hit a snag when trying to make my first print. Fortunately, Mikko was kind and patient enough to help me out – thanks mate!

I’ve made two print runs so far. I did some fences, a wayside cross, a rustic toilet, windows and an apiary, which for some reasons didn’t come out correctly. The rest worked perfectly.

I’m very impressed with the details of the pieces, although the fences warped after a couple of days – maybe they were not completely cured. Anyway, they are easily straightened.

I intend to use this machine as a tool. I’m not really interested in the technical side of the thing and don’t intend to tinker more than is absolutely necessary. Fortunately, the technology seems to be at a stage were this is possible. My primary objective is to print pieces for detailing and scratch-building as well as small scatter terrain. Figures might be more complicated, but I’m not that interested in printing them at the moment.

The only annoying thing is that cleaning takes some time and is a bit of a mess. The resin smells quite badly, even though I bought the eco resin which is supposed to be less smelly – I don’t want to know what the normal stuff smells like.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

My Gaming Year 2020

Yeah well. The year started well enough with a good selection of games in January and February. We even started a new D&D campaign, with Sigur’s brother as DM.

Sellswords & Spellslingers before the virus came.

Then the pandemic came and all that stopped. The only thing that continued was our Discord-D&D-campaign, which we’d started already last year because I wanted to play with friends living in different countries. I’m glad we already had this mode of remote gaming established and it really helped to keep me sane for the rest of the year.

I also devised other ways of gaming remotely, first running a fantasy play-by-email game and then the big Gettysburg game. Both of them were great ways to keeping gaming and interacting with my friends.

Unfortunately, my other hobby activities suffered from the pandemic. My painting mojo was already weak last year, and I completely lost the will to pick up a brush for most of this year. I made some buildings for the Gettysburg skirmish project, but by summer, my worktable started to gather dust. We did have a regular board gaming meet-up in the garden playing the excellent The King’s Dilemma, but when the weather got cold again, things started to look bleak.

Slow progress with the 15mm Gettysburg project.

Fortunately, by October my motivation slowly returned. First, I had a remote game of Sharp Practice at Virtual Lard III, which I enjoyed very much. Then I was suddenly bitten by the sci-fi bug, and bitten hard (this was maybe due to watching The Mandalorian and The Expanse). I started painting again, experimented with rules for solo games and started a campaign which turned out to be great fun. I vigorously attacked the 15mm sci-fi lead mountain, ordered more figures and painted more in three months than probably in the last two years combined – I guess around 180 figures (many of them easy to paint monsters, though).

And finally, after struggling with technical issues, I managed to host my first remote game, a game of Sharp Practice with Martin and Sigur (who wrote a blog article about the experience) as players. It worked fine and I want to continue to experiment with the format. Virtual Lard has me motivated to think about hosting a remote game for a larger audience; it is, in any way, a good motivation to continue the Gettysburg project.

Sharp Practice remote.

So, in the end, the year turned out to be not as bad as it could have been. The pandemic has pushed me to experiment with new gaming formats and I’m incredibly grateful that I have friends with whom I can share such things.

While I dearly hope that we will go back to face-to-face gaming soon, I would like to continue some of the things I’ve discovered, such as play-by-email and Kriegsspiel-type games and even remote games with people all over the world.

I hope you could also wrest some good moments from 2020. Stay safe, stay healthy and have a good start into the new year!

Gettysburg Campaign Kriegsspiel

At the end of August, we began something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time: namely a large-ish Kriegsspiel covering the Gettysburg campaign. I based the map (but not the rules) on the board game Lee’s Invincibles and found six volunteers – some of them veterans of my past experiments with Kriegsspiel. I divded them into two teams, one playing the Confederates and one the Union. Each group had a C-in-C (Lee or Hooker – we started the game before he was replaced historically), one infantry commander and one cavalry commander. I had to take some liberties with the historical command structure, but the order of battle was correct.

I had two main things I wanted to game to reflect: First, the difficulties of communication. After thinking about it, I decided not to implement a game mechanism for restricting communication – the players within one team could communicate in whatever form they liked. However, there was a time limit set for each turn, which I hoped would put enough pressure on the players so as to make things a bit more interesting.

The second aspect I wanted the game to reflect was the difficulty of locating the enemy and the importance of a close collaboration between cavalry and infantry commanders. Each side had three cavalry units, and those were the only units that could “see” beyond the location they were occupying. Infantry had to feel their way forward by moving into another location blindly. They could, however, chose between the standing orders “attack” and “retreat” – if both had “retreat”, no combat would occur. If one had “retreat” and the other “attack”, there was a 50% chance that combat would occur (modified by the commanders’ skills).

I gave both sides victory conditions, but each commander also had personal aims which would give him glory points. Those, of course, were not necessarily in the interest of the greater strategic picture…

I’m not going to write a detailed narrative of the game, which moved along at a brisk pace and took seven weeks to complete. Lee chose a historical strategy by moving his army down the Shenandoah Valley, while the Union split their troops at first and sent a portion after the Confederates. Just like in history, rebels easily took Winchester, but then a snag developed on the country roads and some units became stuck. Meanwhile, the cavalry fought aggressively, with the Union troopers managing to occupy Snicker’s Gap, from where they had a good look at the Confederate army marching. Hooker set his army in motion northward, while two corps under Reynolds stayed on the Confederates’ heels in the valley, leading to a memorable rearguard action dubbed “Pickett’s Last Stand”. The Confederate cavaly managed to encircle Gregg at Snicker’s Gap and completely destroy his division. As the Confederate army cleared the valley, they split up to plunder Pennsylvania. However, the Union army had also arrived north of the Potomac and elements from both armies stumbled into each other at Frederick City. The Union won this engagement (I had a tactical mini-game for battles) and the Confederates concentrated their army in the area of Gettysburg. Some units advanced to Westminster, where they stumbled yet again into Union infantry. What started out as an encounter battle became the deciding fight as both sides hurried troops to the town. Two days of combat ended with a decisive Union victory. The Confederates had to retreat – the invasion of Pennsylvania had failed.

This narrative, however, does not convey the drama and excitment of the game. The players perfectly fell into their roles, communicating by addressing themselves as “Major Generals”, discussing strategy and sometimes even quarreling a bit. What I found very interesting is that sometimes, the subordinate commanders became quite focused on their area of operations, while the C-in-Cs tried to keep the larger strategic picture in mind. However, the teams worked together very well. Fortunately for Lee, Jeb Stuart didn’t take my bait, which would have sent him far away from the infantry to get some individual glory points.

The battle and campaign of Gettysburg has long been a major area of interest for me and playing a Kriegsspiel covering it was something of a wargaming dream. I’m extremely grateful to the players for making this dream come true in the best way possible! Honestly, this was one of my favorite gaming experiences ever.

Tanit’s Talons – Dead Drop

Marghus Sho approached the Talons to conduct a small and simple mission, “if you can even call it that”: He had a spy at NovaGen (the same guy that sent Nehden Sho the information that led to Lt. Leekon’s ambush) who seemed to have important information about the going-ons at the shadowy corporation. The spy, codename ROOK, proposed to place a parcel into a dead drop at the Quar Memorial. However, he seemed to be nervous and afraid someone might be on to him. The Talons’ job was to retrieve the parcel, but watch out for a trap or ambush.

Tanit tasked Lt. Leekon, who had acquired a taste for cloak and dagger stuff, with the mission. As sergeants Delxen and Chuva were in sick bay, Leekon decided to take new Sgt. Roniac to teach him the ropes. He also took Specialist/CW Jasard Nazzari and his drone to get some situational awareness. Just in case, Fire Team Cyla would be on standby close-at-hand.

When Leekon, Roniac and Nazzari arrived, a couple of people were loitering in the little park surrounding the monument. Leekon had no problems finding a memory chip in a nook of the statue. However, when he turned around, he was approached by a panicked-looking person: “I’m ROOK. I’ve been followed. Help me!” Leekon cursed. So much for an easy mission.

“I’m ROOK!”

Seconds later, shots rang out and shadowy figures ran towards the park. Leekon turned to ROOK: “Run!” Then he drew his pistol and laid down suppression fire to cover the spy’s escape. ROOK ran across the street, followed by Sgt. Roniac, who also fired wildly at the approaching enemy. Specialist Nazzari tried to hack his way into the enemy’s network, but they seemed to have rather potent security measures in place. After several tries, his deck suddenly overloaded and crashed.

With pedestrians and cars moving around, the situation was pretty chaotic. When one of the goons ran across the street to catch the spy, he was rammed by a vehicle. When he saw this, Sgt. Roniac chuckled. But suddenly another car came around the corner. Brakes screeched, Roniac tried to jump aside but too late – he was also knocked down by a vehicle.

Lt. Reekon had meanwhile sent a signal to Fire Team Cyla. The Quar were running toward the fire fight, but it would take them a couple of minutes to arrive.

The approaching goons completely ignored the Talons and concentrated their fire on ROOK. The panicked spy managed to run another couple of meters before a bullet found him and he went down. Leekon ran over to check him – still alive, but heavily wounded. The goons now shifted their fire to the Talons and another bullet found Leekon.

Nazzari was valiantly shooting back, but fire fights were not the hacker’s forte. Things looked dire when finally the cavalry arrived in form of the Quar Fire Team. One of them had jumped on a moving truck’s bed and was the first to arrive. He immediately gunned down one of the assailants. The others were close behind, panting from their sprint, but as always efficient in their team work.

Another complication arrived in the form of urban security, which charged towards the scene of the action, indiscriminately firing at Talons and goons. Fortunately, the Quar could take out the remaining goons as well as a security person. Then one of them commandeered the hover truck while the others dragged the bodies of ROOK and the Lt. on board. Turning the vehicle around, they picked up Nazzari before the driver hit the pedal.

Back at base, Maj. Tanit was angry. Not at Leekon, but at Marghus Sho for not telling her that his spy was compromised and that NovaGen would deploy such a heavy force to take him out. She was glad, however, that Leekon was only lightly wounded. ROOK was in a worse condition and had to be transferred to an EXO Foundation facility for treatment.

Tanit’s mood further improved when a couple of hours later Sgt. Roniac returned. He had only been knocked out by the car. After coming to, he was questioned by security, which was by then swarming the area. Being in civilian clothes, he played the hapless victim of a traffic accident, so they sent him to an ambulance for a check-up – an opportunity he used to slip away.

In contrast to Tanit, Leekon was in an excellent mood. His wound was only light and he was proud of the Quar, who had reacted quickly and decisive and extracted his team from a tight spot by showing initiative.

Recovering the spy and the memory chip also gave the Talons important information. They now knew that the woman in the red jumpsuit was a special operative called Creena Niss, who oversaw a NovaGen project to harness the alien asteroid’s power to transform living matter.