The Raft Lookout

What’s recently caught my eye in the wonderful world of tabletop gaming?

critI’ve started watching the second season of Critical Role, the fabulous RPG video series where a bunch of voice actors play D&D. So far, I find it even better than the first season. Critical Role has now started a Kickstarter to finance an animated series based on the first episode. They are known for their loyal fan base, but this exceeded all expectations: so far, they managed to get over $ 7.5 Million! That is a lot of money, especially for a Kickstarter where people don’t get a ton of stuff. In fact, the animated series will be free to watch, regardless if you back the Kickstarter or not. If you want to back it, it’s still running:

mwAs you know, I like magazines. I’ve recently decided to take out a subscription to Miniature Wargames. I’ve had it for a while before but canceled when Henry Hyde was ousted. I was pleasantly surprised by the last issue. What I especially like is the regular feature by Jon Sutherland called Command Decision. It’s a series of scenarios in a similar format to the venerable Table Top Teasers. What’s original about Jon’s scenario design is that he includes a pre-game decision which will shape the scenario to be played. This gives the scenario a bit more context and involves the player into the wider narrative without having to unfurl all the paraphernalia of a campaign. A really clever idea! I already regret having missed the previous scenarios and hope that Jon might be convinced to collect his Command Decisions in a book…

OLTcolor (Small)The ever inventive Joe McCullough has recently started an interesting new wargaming format. Under the title Operation Last Train, he has published sci-fi rules intended to game the evacuation of civilians from alien-held worlds. The interesting thing is that this is a charity project: not only are gamers asked to donate £3/$5 to Save the Children when downloading the rules, but Joe will also play a campaign. For each civilian he will rescue in-game, he will donate 10 cents. This is a fascinating and – as far as I know – novel way of linking gaming and real-world issues. People are invited to join in and there has already sprung up a lively community on Facebook.

D1dAHuJXQAII1zsThere is also news from Bad Squiddo Games! Annie has been very busy: She has acquired the magnificent terrain range from Ristul’s Extraordinary Market, which is now sold under the name of Bad Squiddo Terrain. New models have already been announced – I especially like the angry tree stumps and the scarecrows. She is also continuously expanding her believable female miniatures. Next up are more WW2 models, this time women from the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Annie has posted a preview with interesting insights into the design process on the Lead Adventure Forum. I’m looking forward to seeing more of those figures.

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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!

Wargaming Article Published

The recent issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine contains a special feature on raiding actions during the American Civil War. One of the article was penned by me!

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It’s on a subject I’ve been interested in for a long time, namely the Combahee River Raid. I’ve written a three-part scenario for Sharp Practice, which can be played as a series of successive games or parallel on a club evening.

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Guy Bowers did a great job with the graphic design and the article is illustrated with very nice pictures of 28mm figures. Those, however, are not from my collection, as my photographic skills are not up to producing publishable images – something I really should work on.

So, here are some images from our playtesting:

I have to say that I’m a bit proud to have published something in what is, in my opinion, the best wargaming magazine around. Guy Bowers is always interested in things off the beaten path and the magazine really puts gaming into the foreground. If you are interested in the ACW, check out this issue – it has a number of fascinating articles and great ideas for scenarios!

Wargames Magazines

Henry Hyde just announced that he would step down from the editorship of Miniatures Wargames. I’ve been a subscriber to this magazine when I was a kid, reading it under the school bench and dreaming of playing games like those depicted. This was around 1989, there was no internet and in Austria, this was about the only way of connecting to the world of wargaming. I’m not even sure how I came to know about the magazine, but it certainly caught my imagination.

Miniature wargames magazine, issue no 7 doug mason, chasseurs de la garde, phil robinson

When I restarted wargaming a couple of years ago, I resubscribed to MW. I also discovered Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy and subscribed to that, too. However, I soon learned that many wargamers think magazines superfluous and are not prepared to shell out the subscription cost – after all, there are a zillion blogs and forums out there and all the information, they argue, can be found for free on the Web. And there I was, even changing my subscription to WS&S from digital only to paper and feeling like an old sod.

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So what is it I like about magazines?

First of all, let me state that my favourite magazine has become WS&S. I still like MW, but it can’t hide that fact that it’s not as well funded as WS&S. Henry did a marvellous job, but there is only so much one man can do in contrast to a team – especially if the team is working on a bimonthly publication and doesn’t have to churn out one issue per month!

And what about Wargames Illustrated? Well… I have to say that I don’t especially like it. It’s full of pretty pictures, but often, articles are disappointing (although there were some notable exceptions). But first and foremost, I don’t like the way they represent the hobby: It’s a very limited perspective, acting as if 28mm is the only scale available. Most of the images are staged dioramas, not snapshots of games – if I wanted a modelling magazine, I’d read one.

And this gets me to the point: I’m not very interested in pretty images, especially if they serve no purpose (like showcasing a game that is actually played). What I want instead are good articles. Pretty pictures can be found on the Web, but for substantial articles, forums or even blogs are not the appropriate medium. Historical background stories, but especially scenarios and ideas for gaming are what I enjoy. A case in point is the last issue of WS&S on monsters, which not only featured nice and useful scenarios, but some very inspiring ideas for rules mechanism. Background stories on the industry are also interesting, as are in-depth reviews that point me towards things I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.

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All this boils down to own thing: good editorship. The Web is full of stuff, and we all know how you can lose yourself browsing around and feeling like you have achieved nothing apart from wasting a couple of hours. There is something to be said for the skills of a good editor who knows how to put together a selection of interesting stuff. In the best cases, he manages to mix things I know I’m interested in with stuff I didn’t care for, but, as soon as I read into the article, might get hooked (or at least broaden my horizon). And there is, in my opinion, even more to be said for reading such a magazine in the paper version, lounging on the couch with a nice cup of tea.

I for one hope that despite the online competition magazines still have a great future!