The Raft Lookout

To celebrate the new year, I’ve decided to introduce a new section to the blog. In semi-regular intervals, I want to present new(ish) gaming-related stuff that caught my eye. For the first installation, I’ve found four items which might be of interest to you.

Peter Pig has launched The 15 Mill, a new pdf magazine “that promotes the use of 15mm miniatures and modeling in wargaming”. As 15mm is a scale very dear to my heart, I find this a commendable enterprise! What is even more exciting is the fact that each issue will include a small game (or “gamette” as they call it), and for each of those games, Peter Pig will produce a special pack of figures.

15mill gamette 1 th eduelThe first figure pack is now available: it’s a lovely set of duellers (so we can get an idea what the first game will be about…). The magazine itself contains all sorts of useful articles and is not limited to Peter Pig-related topics. It is available for free, so why not give it a try and download it here?

cover-smallThe end of 2018 saw another new magazine launch, namely TooFatLardies’ Lard Magazine. It supplants the old Specials, which have been published bi-annually since 2004. In contrast, the Lard Magazine will be an annual publication. However, it looks much more professionally, with a clear and modern layout. As to be expected, the content is of high quality: over 170 pages of Lard, covering all sorts of Lardies games like Bag the Hun, Chain of Command, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum and Sharp Practice. I found the two articles on Kriegsspiel especially fascinating: one on playing it over the Internet and another one on using it to generate tabletop battles. The magazine is available for £6.00 and is highly recommended to all fans of TooFatLardies!

littlewarstv_logoLast summer, a new YouTube channel called Little Wars TV was launched. Produced by an US wargaming club, it features impressive production values. Each episode is centered on a battle, which is recreated on the tabletop. However, this is not your usual blow-by-blow battle report with monotonous dice rolling filmed by a shaky hand camera; rather, it is a professionally filmed and, what is most important, edited account of what happened on the table, interspersed with statements by the players about their plans and reactions. Furthermore, each episode is introduced by a short discussion about the historical context of the battle. This is also very cleverly presented: while it is short and succinct, there is always a short critical discussion about contenting interpretations of the events. The games themselves are also very interesting and it is evident that a lot of thought went into scenario design, with some clever twists and surprises for the players. I also like that, while most of the battle are rather large affairs, they mainly use smaller scales – and those look very good, making nonsense of the trite argument that only 28mm looks good in visual media. Little Wars TV is not only very entertaining, it is also a great inspiration which manages to showcase the best about historical wargaming.

As you know, I’m very interested in co-operative gaming, so I’m happy to see that co-op mechanisms increasingly make their way into the realm of miniatures wargaming. After Andrea Sfiligoi’s pioneering Sellswords & Spellslingers,  Joe McCullough has recently released Rangers of Shadowdeep.

257695Joe is the designer of Frostgrave and the new game seems to share core mechanics. However, it is fully cooperative, with players working together to accomplish different missions. In contrast to SS&SS, which is more of a construction kit, Rangers has a fully developed background world and the characters seem much more pre-defined, each being a ranger with a companion. I’ve not bought it yet, as I still feel like I’m not finished with SS&SS, but I might succumb to the temptation as I’m interested in how Rangers approaches co-operative play. The rules are available via wargamevault as a pdf ($20.00) or as a printed book ($30.00).

And 2019 might bring even more co-operative miniatures gaming goodness: Alternative Armies have announced no less than two sets of co-operative rules: one called Doom Patrol for special operations through the ages and another one, which is in development and might or might not see the light of day, for robots cleaning out a space station. You’ll find more information here as soon as I get it!

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Cracking Christmas Game!

Some weeks ago, my mate Sigur was struck by a vision. ’twas the vision of Dark Elves trying to ruin Christmas for us all. Why not make a game of it, he thought? And he did!

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It was indeed Sigur who came up with the idea of a special Christmas game. He also provided the evil Dark Elves and their leader, the nasty Greentch (a converted Troll shaman), as well as the good Ice Queen and her loyal bodyguards. And he exceeded himself with splendid winter terrain! Virago contributed Christmas gnomes, which consisted of delightfully converted goblins and dwarves. The scene was set for an epic clash between good and evil…

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The attacker’s – played by Sigur and me – aim was to enter the houses and steal at least three presents. The defenders’ – played by Virago and his daughters – objective was to drive away the evildoers and save Christmas.

 

Everything was peace and quiet… until the nasty Dark Elves arrived. One group, commanded by me and led by Barei the Witch Elf, took the right flank.

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The harpy immediately flew into the big house to its left and rummaged through the stuff. She was hoping for a nice jumper, as it was a cold and snowy night. One of the raiders entered the barn but had difficulties finding anything resembling a present.

The other group was led by Mr Greentch himself and was commanded by Sigur. The Greentch and one of the elves also entered buildings, looking for presents to unwrap.

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However, the guardians of Christmas were on their way! Approaching fast, they relied on their archers to clear the way. Arrows were whizzing past the Witch Elf, who had charged forward.

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And then the group were in range and battle was joined. The once peaceful streets rang with the menacing jingle of bells, the curses of Dark Elves…

 

… and the dull thud of a bauble hitting the face of an elf.

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Although the raiders did manage to get some presents, their joy was cut short by the defenders’ relentless attacks.

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When the Greentch himself was taken out, the raiders’ morale plummeted and they started to fall back.

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In the end, none of the Dark Elves managed to hold on to a present – the few that got away were glad they had escaped the wrath of the Ice Queen and her little helpers.

Christmas was saved!

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This was great fun! What better way to get into the festive spirit than a splendid game with excellent miniatures, wonderful terrain and, most importantly, good friends.

I wish all of you a merry Christmas, a wonderful Hanukkah, Kwanzaa blessings and happy holidays!

Sigur has published a much more detailed report with lots of pictures on the Skirmish Wargaming website, so head there for even more Christmas gaming goodies!

Review: Gloomhaven

I’m usually quite resistant when it comes to new & shiny and when I first heard about Gloomhaven, I shrugged it off as yet another Kickstarter hype. However, the more I read about it, the more intrigued I became. When I finally watched the review on Shut Up & Sit Down (which, incidentally, is one of the best video reviews I’ve ever seen) together with K., we both looked at each other and decided: we want this game! I have to admit that I also had a hidden agenda: we’ve been playing D&D with our nephew, but I was really tired of being DM, so I hoped that this game would supplant D&D and get us back to gaming with the kid more often.

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After lugging it home from the local games store – the box weights around nine kilo – K., the nephew and I opened the box and sorted the contents. There really is a lot in there! We were especially fascinated by the sealed stuff – things that you only unpack when certain conditions are met during play.

Gloomhaven is basically a glorified cooperative dungeon crawler. It is also a legacy-style game: The game itself changes permanently when you play it. For example, when you unlock a new scenario, you put a sticker on the map. This, of course, reduces the replay-value, but as the game is designed to take around 100 game session to complete, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem – it will keep you occupied for a long time to come.

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At the core of the game is a card-driven mechanic: Each character has a unique set of action cards which can be played to move, fight and do all sorts of cool special actions. There are no dice – again, each character has his or her unique deck of combat modifier cards. The interesting thing is that those decks can be changed by adding or removing cards, so the probabilities will change with the development of the character – something that would be hard to achieve with dice.

Apart from the single scenarios, which seem to be more or less dungeon bash games, there are also all kinds of events during the travels and in the city of Gloomhaven itself. Together with the branching paths of the scenarios – a finished scenario may unlock two or possibly more other scenarios – this really comes as close to giving the feel of an RPG as a board game without a DM might get. The designer himself compared it with a chose-your-own-adventure book, and this seems about right.

We’ve played three games now. During the first, we where quite overwhelmed by the cards and their interactions, and I already became a bit nervous if this is the right game for us. However, during the second game we already got the hang of it. Gloomhaven is often called a Euro game because luck doesn’t play as big a role as in other dungeon crawlers and knowing when to play the right combination of cards can be the key to success. As a matter of fact, this is not something I usually enjoy, as I prefer a more spontaneous and narrative style of play and get bored by the meticulous bureaucratic planning required by some Euro games. However, when we played it, it worked fine with our style of gaming. Admittedly, after our first abortive try we chose the lowest difficulty setting, which is much more forgiving. And as we are more into it for the story and the crazy action than for the puzzle-solving, we will keep it that way until we are proficient with our characters.

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That Gloomhaven manages to convey a sense of narrative after no more than three games does say something about this game. The branching scenarios as well as the event cards create unique decisions that almost from the outset help to define the group and the characters. Will you be reckless? Will you just do the jobs offered or will you stick your nose into things that shouldn’t concern you? Will you be kind to people you meet, or will you prey on them? Such is the stuff stories are made off.

If you want a unique gaming experience and if you have a dedicated group of two to four players who enjoy an RPG experience without anyone wanting to do the hard work of DMing, I can highly recommend Gloomhaven.

On the Painting Table

Painting is still going a bit slow. I’m slowly building up my 15mm Native Americans for the ACW and managed to finish a couple more of the Union Indian Brigade. I also painted another one of the Oathsworn anthropomorphic animals.

I modeled the fur colour after the tomcat living at our place!

Some time ago, I also received Annie’s Kickstarter and I finally painted up two of the figures.

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On the painting tray are even more Indians – this time, Confederates. In the end, I want to have four skirmishers group of six figures for each side.

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In the foreground, you can see some mounted Indians. They have been standing there for a while and I’m pretty stuck with those at the moment. They are from 15mm.co.uk and are not the best sculpts and castings, so painting them is a bit of a hassle. I’ll give them one more chance, otherwise I’ll put them away. The snakey guys you can see in between are 28mm serpentmen from EM4. They will be used for our Sellswords & Spellslingers games.

Last week, I suddenly had the desire to build something. I found a nice photograph of the Hilton Head post office during the Civil War and spontaneously decided to model this building. As always, I made the shell out of plastic sheet and added cardboard strips for the weatherboarding. It’s not yet finished, but it’s been a fast and smooth build so far.

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Last but not least, I got myself some pine trees. I’ve been thinking about those for a while now, as many of the ACW actions I’m gaming were fought in or around pine woods, and I finally caved in and got two packs. Let’s see how they look on the tabletop. The tiny animals will also add some detail to the 15mm landscape.

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