What I did during the last weeks…

Life has been busy, but in a good way. I’ve got a new job and still have to settle into the new routines. I haven’t actually neglected playing games and painting (though it’s going slower), but I didn’t find time or leisure to write blog articles.

Here’s a quick update on my gaming-related activities. I hope that in the future, this blog will again resume a more structured appearance.

My painting has been rather eclectic. I really enjoyed painting the mole at the Vienna Nerd Institute painting workshop, so I’ve continued to work on the fantastic anthropomorphic animals from Oathsworn Miniatures. Here’s my collection so far:

animals

Inspire by our recent sci-fi game, I’ve also finished a landing party for an IPU (Interplanetary Union) starship:

IPU

It get’s even more idiosyncratic. I recently met a very old friend again. When we were youngsters, we played a lot of games together, among them Man O’War. Now he wants to rejoin the hobby and bought a whole load of Man O’War stuff. I couldn’t resist and by chance found a couple of second-hand Orc flyers, so I decided to give them a coat of paint:

flyers

I haven’t yet committed to build up a fleet, but I did get some Renaissance galleys from Navwar, which might do double duty as Orc ships if I can convince anybody to play the excellent Galleys & Galleons

And my final product shows that I haven’t completely lost my sense, as it leads back to my perennial obsession. Using the Busch maize field sprues, I built a corn field for the ACW. I’ve made it modular so troops can be placed inside.

 

I’ve also played a couple of games. Most of them Sharp Practice, but we’ve also started T.I.M.E. Stories, an interesting cooperative game about which more in another blog post.

And I had a game of Flashing Steel, still one of my all-time favorites!

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A Scrap in Colony Town – 15mm Sci-Fi AAR

K. and I have been playing a lot of Sharp Practice recently, as we’ve been playtesting scenarios for the booklet I’m preparing. We suddenly felt like we needed a change and wanted to play something completely different. Remembering the whimsical and colourful figures of my 15mm science fiction collection, we got them out and set up a game.

We used our home-brewed rules Wandering Star and started with the pre-game phase. Dicing for forces, K. got the better end, having better quality troops and one additional group as a bunch of trigger-happy locals joined her forces. The scenario we played was number 9, Follow the Clue.

The small colony town is still peaceful… The two objectives are situated in the middle of the table, one to the right of the creek opposite of the communications building, the other to the left of the creek between the bunker and the hill.

K. deployed a lot of her troops on her left flank: The fierce Brunt, a group of Pasiphaeans, her special operatives and the eager locals. On her right flank, her Sharkmen advanced threateningly.

I had one group of Quar and a bike on my right flank, while the rest deployed to the other side of the creek. I decided that I would go for the objective to my left and advanced cautiously while K.’s Brunt rushed forward. Having put my teams on overwatch, it was not too hard to discourage the Pasiphaeans to keep their hands off the crates. They fell back severely mauled, but meanwhile, K. had brought her second wave forward. Also, the groups from her left flank had positioned themselves to shoot at my guys covering the objective, causing some casualties among my Auxies. I was now on the defensive while K. brought her Brunt forward to capture the objective.

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Across the creek on my right flank, the Quar on the speeder bike had first added to the covering fire targeting the objective. When K. advanced her other troops, it fell back. As I saw that I was stuck on the left flank, I decided to try to speedily grab the other objective in a surprise move. The bike and a lone group of Quar rushed forward. However, the bike suddenly came under fire from K.’s special ops.

When her pesky locals joined the fray, the rickety vehicle blew up.

With the bike, my hopes of achieving the right-hand objective went up in smoke.

On the other riverside, the Brunt needed a couple of rounds to figure out how to open the crate – they had to perform and intelligence check, which is not their strength – but there was not much I could do to stop them.

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The game ended with a victory for K.!

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It’s been a while since we’ve played Wandering Star. There are some things that bug me about the rules, but K. thinks that’s just because I wrote them myself. She’s happy to play them and they give a fast and fun game, so I guess I’ll stick to them.

The game also motivated me to rummage through my lead pile looking for more 15mm sci-fi figures. I realised that I’ve got enough to create a whole new force! I’ve already prepared a couple for painting…

Currently Reading

Summer’s coming, we’re getting settled in the new house and the whole family is working in the garden. What better time to bury oneself in books?

I’ve decided to start a small new project I’ve been thinking about for a long time now: The French and Indian War. Several of my wargaming chums have started collecting and painting FIW miniatures for Sharp Practice and, what’s even better, they are doing it in 15mm! How could I resist? So, apart from getting a couple of the nice Blue Moon figures, I bought Empires at War by William Fowler.

Fowler

Fowler aptly gives an overview of the conflict, setting it firmly into the context of European power politics while still dealing fairly detailed with the actions in North America and Canada. He outlines the quarrels between the different colonies, the role of Native Americans and even the impact of events in Europe, the Caribbean and in India. There are moments when his style almost becomes ironical, but considering some of the whimsical events of the war one can easily understand the temptation and it makes for an entertaining read. Highly recommended if you want a first overview of the FIW.

My main reading diet is still the American Civil War. Having recently finished Noah Trudeau’s excellent book on Gettysburg, I looked for other titles from the author. Trudeau writes very well, he builds up a narrative and tension without getting carried away by his subject. In Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, he manages to tell an engaging story while still keeping an analytical distance – not something that can be said from all authors writing on battles in the ACW…

 

Trudeau has written a couple of other books, all of which look interesting and most of which can easily be found at second-hand booksellers. I’m now finishing Out of The Storm, an account of the last weeks of the Civil War. Starting with a fairly detailed retelling of the events that lead to Lee’s surrender at Appomatox Court House, he presents several episodes, among them famous events such as Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth as well as less famous but equally dramatic affairs like the sinking of the steamboat Sultana. The book is a bit episodical as there is no real overarching story. However, Trudeau manages to capture the atmosphere of an epoch ending very well, not the least because he is very apt at chosing quotes from contemporary sources – something he also showed in Gettysburg. I’ve already ordered his book on black soldiers in the Civil War.

hess

In contrast, Earl Hess’ new study Civil War Infantry Tactics looks like a rather dry and scholarly affair. I haven’t had chance to read it yet, but my cursory browsing nevertheless left me looking forward to delving into it. Being very much interested in how small units operated, I hope to finally learn all about the intricacies of infantry drill and formations.

I read most of my science fiction books on my e-book reader. Sometimes, however, I’m in the mood for a ‘real’ book. A trip down to the bookstore got me Andrew Bannister’s debut novel Creation Machine. Although I follow forthcoming sci-fi books on the excellent tor.com blog, this one seems to have escaped my attention. At the moment, I’m about two-thirds through and like it very much. The world-building is great, with some grand and at the same time whimsical ideas, and the main protagonist is engaging.

Creation-Machine

The evil guys may be a bit too much over the top for my taste, but the story is developing nicely and I’m curious to find out what’s going on with the strange setting. In some of its ideas and in the general approach, it reminds me a bit of Charles Stross’ early space operas, which for me are still among the most imaginative of the genre. Highly recommended if you fancy a sci-fi adventure with an original background.

Playtesting Star Patrol

And now for something completely different. I’ve had the idea for a spaceship game that could be played cooperatively or solo about three years ago. I jotted down some notes and ordered a couple of ships from Ground Zero Games and Brigade Models. In my excitement, I even managed to paint up a couple. However, I didn’t like the GZG models very much as the casting was a bit bumpy and fuzzy. So I lost interest and stored the whole stuff away.

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About once every six or so months, I got them out again, painted one or two ships and made some notes for rules. I never finished enough to get down to doing some real playtesting though.

Well, two weeks ago the spaceship bug bit me again and this time, I decided to pull through. I painted enough ships for a small squadron, printed out some markers and sorted through my notes. Then I had a first game.

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Star Patrol is intended to be a simple game of spaceship combat which can be played solo or in teams against an enemy which is commanded by some simple rules mechanics. My initial inspiration to try something like this was the board game Pandemic, which impressed me very much when I first played it. Meanwhile, I have also played the excellent cooperative variant of X-Wing, which offered some more ideas.

The main idea is that there is a ‘threat level’ which rises each turn, making more enemy bogeys appear and making enemy ships react more aggressively. The games are scenario based, so you’ve got a mission you have to accomplish while the enemy tries to prevent that.

I’ve kept book-keeping to a minimum and this works fine. There are still three separate tables to consult for enemy reactions, but I guess less won’t be possible if I want to get a halfway decent variety of actions.

I’ve now played three games and had a lot of fun. I’m not completely happy; there are some issues with balance and I feel the whole game lacks a certain je ne sais quoi – something that makes it stand out and get you excited. I’ve been tinkering with a campaign system, but I still think the gameplay itself needs improvement.

Anyway, it’s always fun to tinker with game mechanics and perhaps something will result from this. If not, at least I’ve had some fun pushing spaceships around the table!