Vienna Nerd Institute

Together with an artist friend of mine, Johannes Grenzfurthner from monochrom, I have started a new project: The Vienna Nerd Institute.


This is intended to be a sort of adult education center for nerd-related stuff. We want to provide low-threshold access to skills such as miniatures painting, running RPGs, drawing comics or designing games. We have secured an attractive location in the heart of Vienna’s Museumsquartier, a lively area full of museums, cultural institutions and cafés. We have also managed to rope in people who are really good at what they are doing.

The kick-off event will be a miniatures painting workshop with my regular gaming partner Sigur Skwarl, who, as you will know, is also the master painter behind Battle Brush Studios. People can come along and either bring their own figure or paint one provided by Sigur – so if someone just wants to try out miniatures painting without investing in figures and paint, this is the place to start! While the workshop is geared towards beginners, Sigur is a very talented guy and I’m sure old hands will also profit from his skills.


So, if you are in or around Vienna on 18 October, why not register for the painting workshop?

You can also find us on Facebook at

For those of you who are somewhere else, I’ll keep you posted on what’s happening and how the project is doing.


ZAMspielen Gaming Event in Vienna

The Museumsquartier is a large area of museums, cafés and cultural institutions in the center of Vienna. Three years ago, the group ZAMspielen together with the art communication agency started to host a semi-regular board and video gaming event there. ‘Zamspielen’ is Austrian dialect and means ‘playing together’, so the idea behind the event is to host a low-threshold opportunity for people to drop by and play games.

Last week, I finally had the opportunity to visit and join the fun.

The available board games were mainly family games, some older titles and some new ones. I started with Suleika, a rather nicely made tile placement game – I especially liked the small carpets made from real fibre.


We then had a go at Ice Cool, which recently won the Children’s Game of the Year award. I’m not normally a fan of dexterity games, but this one is quite fun – you have to snip the penguins with your finger, one player taking on the role of the hunter trying to catch the others. It’s quick and simple and I can understand why kids like it.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Anita Landgraf of White Castle, a Viennese company that examines and brokers game ideas – so if you invent a game, you can come to them, they check it and then try to sell it to a publisher. I had the opportunity to test the prototype of a strategy game with an interesting movement mechanics. We also played a round of Elk Fest, another dexterity game that is being re-published by White Castle.

There were also a couple of video games from Viennese publishers on display, one of them a very nice looking adventure game called Old Man’s Journey.


The event was small, but had a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was a bit too much geared towards family games for my taste, but I guess this is easily remedied as everyone can bring what he or she wants to play. Let’s see, perhaps next time, I’ll bring one of my favorites.


About four months ago, I discovered the joys of BoardGameGeek. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a huge database of board games (including miniature wargames), allowing you to rate games, search for specific mechanics etc. You can also enter your own collection and even the dates of games played. It’s a fun tool and it produces some interesting statistics.

Let’s start with my collection. I’ve entered everything I own at the moment as well as everything I can remember playing back to my childhood. This makes 93 entries; however, they do contain a couple of items I put on my wishlist, so those are games I’ve never played.

My collection – some of those games I used to own but no longer have…

Also, role-playing games are not in the database; there is a separate site, RPGGeek, for those. I’m not registered there because I only play D&D at the moment and also because one bureaucratic obsession is enough.

…some I’ve last played more than 20 years ago.

I rated all the games I have played according to the 1-10 scale BGG provides, 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. I tried to be true to the wording, which is quite interesting, because it does not only ask how good you think a game is, but also how much you are prepared to actually play it. This is an important distinction for me, because there are games which I think are good but I’m still not really keen to play them (such as Chain of Command, because I’ve no interest in WW2), and there are games that I don’t find very good but will play because the family enjoys them (e.g. the kid’s game Drecksau).

This is my average rating:


Most of my games are rated a 6 or 7, meaning “Ok – will play if in the mood” and “Good – usually willing to play”. Those would be the games that most of the time are not my first choice when it comes to discussing what to play, but I will happily agree to playing them if the others want to. For board games, Colt Express, Small World and King of Tokyo are among them, for miniature wargames, there are DBA, Hail Caesar and SAGA.

I was rather surprised at the high number of games I’ve rated a 9. The singular 10 (“Outstanding – will always enjoy playing”) is not surprising and you will have guessed it by now: It’s my all time favourite Sharp Practice. The 9s (“Excellent – very much enjoy playing”) are board games like Zombicide, Battlecry and Empires in America and miniature wargames like Flashing Steel and Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes. I’m pretty glad I’ve got so many games with such a high rating, meaning my collection is not flooded with stuff I won’t play anyway.

Let’s compare this with actual gameplay. I’ve logged the games played since beginning of May, so there are now over four full months of data.

I’ve logged 37 gameplays. The most played games are Battlecry and Sharp Practice (both 8 times), followed by Zombicide (6 times). This is good, because it means the games I enjoy the most also get to the table most often. I’ve also played Mice & Mystics quite often (5 times), but this is a bit of a special case because although I enjoy it, I do it with and for the kids. The rest of the numbers are made up of games I’ve played twice or once. Most of those are games I don’t own myself and have played at a friend’s place.

Another fun statistics are the “Largest Disparities in Ratings” – where do my ratings differ from the community? Sharp Practice is again on top of this list, as on average, it is a meager 5.574 (“Mediocre – take it or leave it”). The same is true for Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes and Empires in America. On the other hand, many people are really keen on Carcassonne, which has an average rating of 7.334 from the community and an almost embarrassing 4 (“Not so good – but could play again”) from me. I really find it rather boring.

BoardGameGeek is a fun tool. It’s interesting to compare your ratings with the community and logging game play is a good way to remember yourself what you played – and what you’d like to play more often. They also have a lively forum and a friendly marketplace. Highly recommended!

On the Painting Table

I’ve been pretty industrious painting-wise during the last weeks. After finishing the Confederate cavalry, I’ve decided that I also want a force of white Union troops. I got figures in marching pose for a change and have now finished three groups of those. I’ve got a couple more coming up, this time in shooting and loading poses so they can also be used as skirmishers.

The last issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy contains a fun looking mini campaign for Sharp Practice featuring the Louisiana Tigers, the most famous (and one of the few) Southern Zouave regiments. I wanted to paint Zouaves for a while and this seemed as good an excuse as any. Fortunately, the scenario specifies only one group of skirmishers as the Tiger Rifles, the company that wore the characteristic uniform with striped trousers. I was a bit apprehensive about doing the stripes, but I think they worked out ok.


And now for something completely different: rats! My recent game of Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes gave me the spontaneous idea to make a small fantasy warband. I like rats and I’ve always wanted to have Skaven, so I got a couple of figures very cheaply second-hand. Virago has promised me to give me some more.


This is actually my first attempt at 28mm Games Workshop figures. I’m not totally convinced, as they contain too many frills and furbelows for my taste. Still, second-hand GW figures are arguably the cheapest option of getting 28mm fantasy figures and they will work fine enough. I hope that I can wangle some plainer rats off Virago.

Finally, I’m making more sabot bases for the 15mm ACW figures. They are made of magnetic foil on thin sheets of brass – looks ok, is very handy for moving groups in formation and allows easy removal of casualties.