The Battle for Ringsend

For the last two months, I have been running a play-by-email game for four friends. It was a kind of Kriegsspiel insofar as the players had limited information, but the map and the rules were more akin to board games. After my last experiences with Kriegsspiel, I wanted to have better structured rules – I thought it would make it easier and quicker to write orders and to process those orders. This worked out only partially: As the rules were written a bit hastily, there were many loopholes and inconsistencies and I had to modify them along the way. I’m very grateful for the player’s patience!

My set-up.

The game was set in a fantasy world I called “Ringsend”, with four kingdoms vying for control: The Wood Elves, the Dwarves, the Orcs and the Humans. However, the humans really were undead – the human leader was a necromancer and I gave him some special abilities to integrate his enemy’s losses into his army. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, I really didn’t think it through properly and it caused some frustration with the players (after one turn, another player took over). I also changed the special abilitiy several times to find a balanced mechanic.

The other special abilities were rather predictable: the Elves were quick, the Dwarves had advanced siege equipment and the Orcs couldn’t be too sure how many of their troops would turn up at a battle.

Players could also assemble heroes and give them tasks, such a retrieving an artefact or trying to assassinate an enemy leader.

The Battle of Ilsig

At the start of the game, the Elves and Dwarves quickly expanded while the Orcs and Humans took some time to get off their feet. Virago, the Elf player, was very methodical in his approach and managed to occupy the most locations. He also forged alliances with the Orcs and the Dwarves. Dwarves and Elves soon began a campaign against the Humans, while there was some skirmishing between Orcs and Humans. The campaign culminated in a big and chaotic battle at the town of Ilsig, which covered the entrance to the Necromancer’s fortress. The battle was a lot of fun for me as a game master, as the Orcs unexpecetly pitched in, but as they were not allied with the Dwarves, those suddenly began to fight against each other.

The Necromancer managed to get the help of a dragon, but had little chance against the combined might of Elves and Dwarves. He sent two assassination parties to the Elvish court, but neither of them succeeded. In the end, his fortress was overrun. His realm was destroyed, but, like any good villian, he himself escaped on the back of the dragon…

As the Elves and Dwarves quite liked their alliance and did not want to break the peace, we decided to end the game here.

This is the end score (numbers indicating locations occupied):

Elves: 12

Dwarves: 10

Orcs: 4

Humans/Necromancer: 0

The final positions.

The Dwarves had a number of well placed armies and a surprise strike against the Elves would have been interesing. But alas, the players prefer peace!

It was great fun running the game and I hope the players also enjoyed it, even if the rules were shaky and rather fluid sometimes. But the narrative turned out great, and at least for me, that’s the main thing.

I’m already planning another such game – this time in a sci-fi setting. Let’s see how it works!

Missin’ in Action 2019

After last year’s success, we had another gaming event with friends. This time, the weather was friendly and we could set up in the garden.

The main attraction was a game I had been working on for quite a while (not continously, though): namely a tavern brawl based on the old Brewhouse Bash rules from White Dwarf #223. I collected figures in brawling poses, which were harder to find than I thought, and built some terrain. The main headache proved to be the playing surface. After several aborted experiments I had to make a last-minute compromise and take a sheet of unpainted PVC floor coating. It looks ok, I guess.

Here are some impressions from the game:

 

The game was simple fun. We had eight player, but it still moved along at a good pace. Austrians of a certain age grew up with Bud Spencer & Terrence Hill movies and the game conveyed the feeling of those comic scuffles pretty well.

Afterwards, we played two parallel games of Sellswords & Spellslingers, which is aways a fun game, especially for events such as these.

Thanks to all the players, it was great to spend an afternoon and evening gaming with friends!

Building a Wizard’s Tower

One of the scenarios in the Sellswords & Spellslingers book demands a wizard’s tower. While there are several available to buy (from the plain Ziterdes keep to the formidable Tabletop World spire), I decided to scratch build my own.

The starting point was a box of pringles. I glued it unto another cardboard roll to, as I wanted to have it protrude from a rocky outcrop. The basis was provided by an old single record.

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For the rocky outcrop, I used blue foam and chunks of tree bark. The basis for a small secondary tower was formed by an empty toilet roll.

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The next step was to fill the holes and cracks with modelling clay (of the air-drying kind) and filler. I also made adoor for the small tower was made out of wood and a parapet for the top platform.

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I then added some details. First, cardboard brickwork to break up the surface of the tower. Second, an oriel made from yet another cardboard roll. Third, the door and windows. I bought those from Thomarillion, as I didn’t trust myself to scratch build nice enough ones. And last, I made protrusions beneath the parapet. They will later carry the Gargoyles, which I also ordered from Thomarillion.

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I then started to cover the whole structure with DAS air-drying modelling clay, an idea I got from Tony Harwood, who regularly uses this technique with great success.

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Before applying the modelling clay, I covered the surface with PVA glue, as the clay shrinks and may otherwise come off when dry. Looking good so far!

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The roofs were made out of cardboard cones, with small bits of cardboard for the tiles. This is a boring and mind-numbing work, but fortunately I’m used to it from other project and those roofs were actually rather small in comparison to some others I’ve made. The base was covered with sand and grit and PVA glue.

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Now there was only the painting to be done… and, after a couple of days, I had my final result – the wizard’s tower!

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Booknotes – Science Fiction & Fantasy

I’ve recently finished reading one of the best fantasy series I’ve come across lately: Jon Skovron’s Empire of the Storms trilogy.

skovronStarting with Hope and Red, it tells the story of two people, a girl who grows up to be a fearsome warrior and a boy who becomes a thief. However, what could easily have become a cliché-ridden ‘team becoming couple’-story develops into a much more exciting thing. The books are set in an interesting world, namely an Empire made up of islands in a vast ocean. This alone is great, as I love nautical fantasy (and I have to admit that this was the reason I got the book in the first place). But if I came for the ships, I stayed for the characters: Skovron introduces a plethora of compelling and complex characters. Each of them has his or her own motivation and, most importantly of all, they all change and develop as things happen to them. Best of all, the changes within the characters actually drive the story and define the stakes – which, in a way, become higher than in most other fantasy novels. Highly recommended!

220px-the_lost_fleet_dauntlessI also finished another series, the reading of which was a sort of guilty pleasure. I’m talking about Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet. Clocking in at eleven volumes, this military sci-fi soap opera had a strange pull – as soon as I finished a volume, I wanted to read the next one. It’s not that the books are especially gripping per se, and several times when I was halfway through one I decided that this would be the last. However, Campbell has what could be called an economical way of storytelling: there is lots of repetition, but in the end there are just enough new developments that I became curious how the overall plot would work out. And, for being military sci-fi, it is refreshingly free from the trashy right-wing ideology often found in this genre. Recommended if you like space battles mixed with a dose of exploration and romance.

artarcanaFor Christmas, I got myself the new history of Dungeons & Dragons, Art and Arcana: A Visual History. This is a huge coffee-table book full of spectacular artwork from all editions of D&D. The accompanying text was co-authored by Jon Peterson, who is the authority on the history of role-playing games. What I like about Art and Arcanais that it not only covers Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the coming-into-being of D&D – something that has already been the subject of several books – but that it delves deeply into the evolution of the game through different editions and settings. If you are a fan of D&D, give yourself a treat and get this book!

blAs I write this, I’m halfway through Nicholas Eames’ Bloody Rose, the sequel to his fabulous Kings of the Wyld. I started with some trepidation, as I really loved the first book, but was unsure how sustainable the analogy between fantasy adventurers and rock bands would be. However, Eames manages to weave an engaging story around Fable, the band led by Rose, the daughter of one of the lead characters of the first book. Again, there are great characters and as the story develops, we get a much more nuanced perspective on the world, especially on the monsters that hitherto served only as the backdrop and cannon fodder for the exploits of the bands. And now some really wild things happened and how will they get out of this and sorry I have to get back to the book…