Ho Chi Minh Rampant

For the past month or so David Sullivan and I have been trying to get together to try out something new for our Vietnam figures. Yesterday, we are able to do finally do it, and we had it out on the table using Xenos Rampant as the basis for our game.

We had been using Arc of Fire. Honestly, we like the mechanics of the rules, but unless you want to do something like direct fire with small arms, they are just sort of impenetrable and we can’t seem to keep our nose out of the rule book. Looking. And looking some more.

But Xenos Rampant = Lion Rampant = Rebels and Patriots = Daniel Mersey and his acolytes = we know our way around these rules.

After looking at the obligatory unit types included in the rules, we each cobbled together a force of 24 points. David chose from his North Vietnamese regulars and I chose from my U.S. Marines. We both stuck with infantry and agreed not to allow for the fire support option which would have allowed for indirect fire support. We also agreed the Marines and NVA were, according to the rules heavy infantry. Meaning these were troops most likely to shoot it out rather than shoot and scoot. We agreed that Viet Cong would be, in accordance with the rules, likely be light infantry. MACV, SEAL teams and Special Forces types would likely be Elite troops.

We each went a different direction with selecting troop types. Though both of us chose heavy infantry units, David gave his troops embedded heavy weapons for a couple of extra points. We considered the heavy weapons as light machine guns. These have some advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that a hit roll of “6” does two points of damage. However, it’s limited by the standard of the infantry’s 18″ optimal shooting range. Just to be clear, any weapon has an unlimited range, and suffers a penalty beyond the optimal.

A look down the table at my positions. You can see my first M-60 position, an infantry squad and a few more guys down the table.

I chose the support weapon option for the squad M-60’s. This makes them separate, small units. It also gives them an optimal range of 24″, meaning they hit better under 24″ This was problematic because we never got within 24″ despite lots of terrain to obstruct line of sight. When the rubber hit the road, David’s option was best for his LMG’s because rolling 6’s did so much more damage AND his LMG’s couldn’t be targeted. They were just part of the unit.

My sniper team. All figures by Gringo 40s

We also each took an additional weapon. David opted for a DsHk heavy machine gun and I opted for a sniper team. Both were unpleasant for the other side. Snipers are recon infantry. The Dushka is a support weapon.

A quick look at the table. A village surrounded by cover.

The mechanics of the game were easy. Like The Men Who Would Be King, each unit type had some free actions, if movement or shooting wasn’t “free” they had to be activated. Unfortunately, I know I didn’t activate some things in retrospect. For example, the sniper gets to move freely, but has to activate on a die roll of 7 or greater to shoot. I don’t think I ever rolled to shoot that bad boy. Heavy infantry gets to shoot freely, but must roll to move, and I’m not sure I did. Maybe.

My lucky squad with my leader figure in their starting position. Sniper team in the background.

The scenario was a big shoot fest. We kind of set up the show to have a village surrounded by woody bits. The rules allow shooting into woods but not through both two edges of a woods, so you can’t shoot through woods to a unit on another side. Lots of shooting into cover, which makes catastrophic death harder. But there were a fair number of casualties.

Chief among these were my support weapons. They were targeted by David’s DsHk, which had a bit more to offer than my M-60. My other LMG got blasted pretty well from one of his infantry squads with the heavy weapon option. The double damage from a six die roll did ’em in.

There were lots of things we didn’t get to try. Because our range remained pretty long, we didn’t get to use the Firefight option. Gotta try that. There are other things to work out too. However, I thought the ease of play was perfect and very enjoyable game. Can’t wait to try again.

Just a Few Things I’m doin’

Are you overwhelmed with all your stuff? Is your usable painting area limited to 6″ X 6″? Are you having a hard time focusing on meaningful progress. Me too. Welcome to Kevin’s pile of stuff and why I enjoy it so much.

My big achievement for the month will be the completion of the 2nd Virginia Regiment for Nathaniel Greene’s army in the American Revolution. It’s 40 figures, ten stands, mounted for Regimental Fire and Fury. The figures are by the Perrys. Have I said how much I love this range? In terms of variety of figures, and the wide range of uniform styles in the Revolution, they are very good. I also like the relative simplicity of the figures. It doesn’t feel like they have a pile of stuff hanging off them like traveling tinkers. They are sleek and ready for battle. My sole criticism is that they are often festooned with tiny mold marks that are hard to see and I often don’t find them until well after they are primed and I am painting. That’s a frustration that I’m willing to live with.

I’ve promised myself to get a ship or ships done every month. I have a great pile of them to do from a variety of periods. George Kettler, a few months back, gave me some 1/600 hulls from Bay Area Yards. I’ve ordered some gun sets I’ll need to finish them. I have a couple of Thoroughbred ACW masted ships that are candidates for work as well.

This month I’ve worked on four Superior 1/1200 Americans ships from WWII. This is the USS Philadelphia, a Brooklyn-class light cruiser. The Philadelphia wore its measure 22 paint scheme throughout the war. I chose Philadelphia due to its yeoman service in the Leyte Gulf battle at Surigao Strait. I’ve also worked on three Fletcher class destroyers including two that carried Kingfisher seaplanes, because you can’t have too many destroyers carrying seaplanes. Well, actually you can.

This is a tough little project for me. My hope was that Dave and I would do something with them. We discussed it, but just never got very far. I’ll need to invest some time in rules and hope I can find others who might be interested. I have a copy of General Quarters 3 and Shoe was interested in Admiral of the Fleet.

In truth, this is one of those projects which was so Dave and Kevin-centric, I’m kind of wondering why I’m still flogging it but I’ll try to carry on.

For the first time in a long time, I’ve hauled out my stash of resin hydroplanes and given them a serious lookover. The little 1/72md scale resin models are really very nice and Sean McEvoy did such a super job of creating them. They are a labor of love. I found one already assembled (you have to add the tail) and painted it up as the U-4 Smyth the Smoother Mover from 1971. I couldn’t resist. I have more than a dozen boats unbuilt and I’d really like to finish them over the coming year. I find assembling them a bit of a challenge, but really enjoy the painting. I also would really like to have an annual Thunderboats! event in Dave’s honor, so the more boat options the better.

Freed from the pressure of Enfilade planning, I’m just having a good time painting whatever sounds good.

2023: What Will It Be?

I usually am full of New Years resolutions for what or won’t get done. By this time of year I’ve identified my Enfilade projects and they are moving along. I’m a big stick to the script guy.

To really change things up, I won’t attend Enfilade this year. I’ve never missed one in the convention’s history. However, after some discussion with my wife and the opportunity to travel with my sister and her husband, we are taking a Viking cruise around the UK. So I’ll miss Enfilade for the first time. It wasn’t even under protest. I turned down offers to re-schedule.

I do have a plan for 2024. I am going to run the three Nathaniel Greene battles for the American Revolution. That’s Guilford Courthouse, Hobkirk’s Hill and Eutaw Springs in the order they happened. I’ll leave out Ninety Six which more of a siege. I’ve always had Guilford on my list. I have a ton of AWI figures, but I’ll be doing a bunch of painting. I am enamored of the Perry range for the Revolution in the South, so there will be plenty of those on the board. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the figures they replace. I’m thinking some conversions to Rebels and Patriots are in order, or I might part with some to some deserving young person getting started.

As far as further painting, that’s never an issue. I’m up to my neck in unpainted goodies. I think my focus is on the Spanish American War, SAGA Anglo Danes, and Maximilian stuff. But there are ships and planes to work on as well. I also have some buildings to complete and some fencing to build. My forgotten pile of hydroplanes for Thunderboats have been calling to me as well. In a perfect world I would finish a building and at least one ship every month. Would like to sneak in some planes too.

If that sounds unfocused, well, I don’t have to be focused this year, and I’m going to try to enjoy it.

One of my New Year’s resolution is just to play more. I want to enjoy the games and my friends as much as possible.

On December 30th (I hope I can count this) I managed to get in a game of Chain of Command at George Kettler’s house. I confess, I’m not a huge fan of the game. It’s out of my period and the rules require regular play to remember them well. However I am a huge fan of George’s. He does great work. His terrain is almost all hand made, and his tables looks so great. He’s been incredibly kind and supportive over the years. The guys playing are also super: Wil D, John K., Daryl N., Scott A. Wil has a deep understanding of the rules and he was on the German side with Scott and me. That solved some of my lack of play issue.

The game is part of a Stalingrad campaign George and the guys are running. I was content to be a stand in German platoon with StuG III. We assaulted a key building, Scott dropped in some incredible smoke, and flamed a Russian rifle platoon with his engineers. We made progress and moved the table a bit in the campaign. I had a good time and it was great to hang with the guys.

This first Saturday of the month is another gaming opportunity I hope to take advantage. It’s Regimental Fire and Fury at historic Fort Steilacoom. I’ve known about this for years and wanted to take advantage of it, and the past couple of months I’ve done so. The guys have 15mm ACW figures mounted properly for the system and they have a deep knowledge of the rules. And I’m glad, because even though I love Regimental Fire and Fury I don’t have that level of understanding. But I’m really good at reading the QRS.

They don’t do a lot of scenario making, which I’m not wild about, but I do really enjoy Gene, Lawrence, Gary and the boys. I’m going to take my turn running the game using 28mm AWI with the rules variant for R FaF. That will be February 4th so I’ll be sure to include pictures and an update.

Finally, we have a game group that is meeting regularly at Silver King games in Tacoma. This is a midweek group of retirees. We started out by playing SAGA, which we are committed to, but we’re going to play twice a month with a board game and likely SAGA. I think there are other miniature opportunities too. We met to play Viticulture by Stonemeier Games last week. It was a blast and we enjoyed each other as well. That’s Mark W, Kurt W., Scott A., and Dave D. Much fun. Next week, SAGA and I’ll unlimber my Dark Age Irish for their debut on the table.

Nothing is written in stone about must do’s but I’m thinking after all the tragedy of 2022, this year has to be better.

Shoe

Dave and Lynn at our place for my 60th birthday party, 2015

Dave Schueler’s fight against cancer is over.  He fought, but ultimately didn’t win.  Dave passed quietly on New Year’s Day. I had an hour and half with him and his devoted wife Lynn, but shortly after I arrived home from the Seattle hospital he was gone.

Dave was my dear friend.  He is of the brotherhood of Dave, the three Daves in my life, including Dave Demick and David Sullivan.  Periodically we would all gather together to play board games and we would call them the 3DK days.  Of course, it would make communicating during games difficult, so Dave Demick would be Dave, David would, naturally, be David, and Dave Schueler-drawn from his AOL email address, Daveshoe, would be Shoe. 

I have a wonderful sister, but no brother(s).  The Daves all have brothers.  But they are like my brothers.  So losing Shoe feels like losing a close family member. 

I met Shoe in the early 90’s when we began Enfilade.  He was very involved with Blue Max, the WWI air game. I wasn’t a Blue Max or WWI air guy. But I was drawn to a painting competition he won with a scratcbuilt balloon and thought I really needed to get to know this guy. 

I was drawn into the Air Pirates group with Dave and Paul Hannah that began with 1/300 WWII planes paired with the Avalon Hill Mustangs rules played on hex mats.  But I was even more impressed as Shoe began adapting these rules to other periods, such as the Korean War with his Mig Alley Aces variant.

Mustangs was never my long suit.  I was always a willing participant and painted plenty of planes.  I just wasn’t very good at planning a move or two ahead and was mostly good at flying aimlessly about or being shot down.  My greatest achievement was one night playing at Paul’s and flying a French De. 520.  I’d been shot and caught fire.  The next turn I put the fire out and the following turn crashed into a mountainside.  Sigh.

One of our first big air projects was Bombing the Tirpitz during the Tungsten Raids in Norway 1944. We used Mustangs as our rules.

Our friendship grew in other directions as Dave invited me to Mariners games.  Dave and Lynn had season tickets, wonderful seats, down the first base line.  He knew from the inescapable game banter that Paul and I were both devoted, deluded Mariners fans, so invitations to ballgames followed.  Eventually Lynn and Lorri would join the two of us for several games and that relationship was established as well. 

Listening to Jerry Dipoto at FanFest in 2017. Lunch and a beer at Hanks. It was a good day.

The highlight was when Dave and Lynn won one of the Mariner charity auctions that allowed them invite a couple of buddies to join them on the field to meet Mariners pitcher Jamie Moyer.  Paul and I joined the Schuelers.  They didn’t let us stand on the grass, but we did get to meet Moyer, exchange nods with Edgar Martinez and Lou Piniella, say hello to Tacoma News Tribune beat writer Larry LaRue, and shake hands with the immortal Doug Creek.  It was awesome and clearly, I’ve never forgotten. 

The Mariners and baseball would remain a part of our relationship until the end.  Shoe and I did ballgames and Fanfests.  We commiserated whenever we talked. We played baseball card games and board games.  When Dave went into the hospital in November, whenever I dropped by, at least weekly, I brought news of Mariner offseason not-action, of the big signings and of the Carlos Correa not-signing.  It was not unusual to see us both in our Mariners garb.

Dave was always an air and sea guy.  He’d been a submariner, serving on boomers and attack boats, and it’s his time over at Bangor that brought him from his southern Colorado birthplace to Seattle.  His game interests were largely doing plane and ship stuff, and I was happily sucked into that whirlpool of interests.  Honestly, it didn’t take much.

Dave’s real talent was in game design. To be clear, Shoe was a legit designer of board games and miniature systems.  Published.  Sold stuff.  He had a real genius for understanding what the players were going to experience in a game and ensuring the game would be inclusive, thoughtful and challenging. 

Golden Age Air Racing at the Museum of Flight 2022

He wrote the Golden Age Air Racing rules in 2000.  They were fun, easy to run and play, with lots of choices for players to make.  Dave and I used our best modeling skills to build a bunch of ancient Hawk air-racer kits in 1/48 scale and we were off. A few years later he followed with a version 2.0.  But the crème de la crème was the introduction in 2005 of Thunderboats!  This was a hyrdroplane racing game using many of the same mechanics.  We concocted the base ideas for these on a Sunday at Enfilade when we were punch drunk and silly, but amazingly Dave produced the rules.  Sean McEvoy provided the resin boats, and the game became a much-loved feature of the convention, nostalgic for a snapshot of the Seattle they grew up in.

Shoe, foreground, runs Thunderboats! while Casey, opposite, decides whether to push that turn.

David introduced me to the rules of David Manley, and we became “Manley Men.”  We started with Action Stations and WWII coastal actions.  We tried Airwar C21 for jet age combat.  Things accelerated from there to try Lord of the Seas, Airwar 1940, and Fire When Ready.  We embraced Manley’s use of just enough detail combined with playability to make games that we could not only play ourselves but share with others in a convention setting.  This led to a tremendous run of games we would plan and share at Enfilade. At the center of it all was Shoe and his superb planning, crafting excellent games that a novice could easily understand.

We were Manley Men!!

I did lots of stuff on the side and with David Sullivan.  We are mostly lots of figures kind of guys, and David and I have and always do lots of projects together.   And honestly, I’m drawn to the off-beat.  Convention themes are simply unimportant to me. With the attention span of a fly crawling on the wall, I am often captured by whatever historical experience has ensnared me. Whether it was gaming baseball on a tabletop or playing out a Spanish intervention in the Lewis and Clark Expedition, I would try it.  I loved the history and painting the figures, and I firmly believe you can game anything.

It didn’t matter how wacky my projects were, Shoe would help me with them. I could block out a game and he’d remind me of what each side, every player would or would not be doing.  Would the game bog down in mechanical uncertainty?  Would a player be left with little or nothing to do?

When I told him I wanted to do The Burr Conspiracy as a game for Enfilade 2014, he rolled his eyes, but was also interested in James Wilkinson and what a ridiculous human being he was. Shoe helped me sketch out ideas for the game. Players would write orders. They could communicate with one another only in writing.  Interesting perhaps for 1976, but something quite different 40 years later.   In the general weirdness arena, “Emperor of Texas” was unmatched, but Shoe was there to watch and cheer me on that Sunday morning.  In the great scheme of things, it wasn’t Waterloo or Teutoburger Wald, but for me it was a triumph, a game that played exactly as I hoped, one I couldn’t have achieved without him or the genuine interest of the guys who played.

Shoe, on his own, hosted DANG, or Dave’s Annual Naval Game.  This had its own ritual which usually began in August or September as Shoe offered ideas to the dozen or so attendees.  Those able to come to the late December event voted in two rounds to select the topic for a day’s mini campaign that Dave and Lynn hosted in their living room.  For fifteen or so years, Shoe hosted a variety of naval events from Lepanto to a modern campaign in the South China Sea.  I was there for almost all of them and enjoyed each immensely.

Yes, we had this great gaming relationship, but there was so much more.  We just enjoyed each other’s company.  Whatever was happening either Dave or myself would try to combine a get together with lunch and a beer.  Dave was a lunch and beer kind of guy.  I’m kind of a goat and will eat almost anything, but Dave was a little pickier.  Chicken strips were his thing.  Our favorite place to eat was the Elliott Bay Brewery, which had pretty fine chicken strips.  Any of their locations was okay, but we loved Burien the most.  We had so many great meals there, followed the M’s in the bar, talked politics, reviewed games, miniatures and rules.  My favorite was after buying Dave Smith’s giant pile of planes, spreading them across the table and puzzling over some of them.  Lots of laughter over lots of beer.

I am one who enjoys self-celebration.  Birthdays are big.  Dave and Lynn came to my 60th birthday celebration.  When I retired, Lorri celebrated her 60th birthday and we remembered our 40th anniversary with a party-a trifecta of important dates. Dave and Lynn were there.  As our Lorri’s family shrank and our Thanksgiving dinner table seemed less full, we asked friends who didn’t have plans to join us on Turkey Day.  We asked Dave and Lynn and Dave Demick and Margaret to join us.  It was all much fun, if a bit of a frenzy.  Casey loved Lynn, and because we were politically more or less aligned, there was little chance of an unpleasant eruption.  John and Susan Gee joined us in 2021.  It was wonderful.

Dave and Lynn help us celebrate our trifecta: My retirement, Lorri’s 60th, and our 40th anniversary in 2019.

Dave and Lynn were a great twosome.  Sometimes Lynn would join us at Elliott Bay.  If we were lucky we could persuade Lorri to make the drive up too.  They were great with our boys.  Casey sometimes joined us for board games at Meeples.  He could be a force to be reckoned with.  They surprised musician Patrick a couple of times as they attended his shows at Whiskey West in on California near Fauntleroy.  Everything felt like the best of friends. 

After I retired, Shoe would always torture me about being retired and having all the free time to paint and game regularly.  But when Covid struck the following March it was like the world came to a standstill.  We learned very rapidly just how social miniature wargaming was. I didn’t miss working, but I sure missed my friends.

Dave seemed to solve that problem as he began hosting a series of games under an outdoor pavilion in his front yard.  The summer of 2020 was filled with all sorts of games including What a Tanker, Fire When Ready, and I ran my Philiippine Insurrection game.  It reunited lots of old friends, and we added new friends to our circle.  It was the best.  Even if we were masked and distanced the beer and discussion afterward was the best.

My Philippine Insurrection game was one of many played on Dave’s front lawn the summer of 2020.

Of course the summer series lasted as long as the good weather did.  Games became scarce as the rain became plentiful.  In November Dave suggested John Gee and I use David Manley’s Splendid Little War campaign rules to play the Spanish American War.  John graciously agreed to take the Spanish.  Yikes. We only were able to play my attack on Manila Bay in person and it just didn’t work out well for the Spanish.  I had fun, but was looking forward to games in the Spring. 

But the Northwest’s Great Darkness became much darker when Shoe announced in January he had cancer.  I am a prostate cancer survivor.  Mine was detected early, I had surgery and eight years later I remain cancer-free.  Dave’s situation was much worse.  Stage four prostate cancer had aggressively metastasized to his lungs and bones.  He let me know by e-mail, not quite sure of how to tell the guys.  I read his missive, laid my head down at my computer and sobbed. Just fucking sobbed. I didn’t know where this would go, but I vowed to be the best friend I could. 

In 2021 chemo and Covid kept Dave from a Labor Day Enfilade.  We had planned to do Ploesti, but that wouldn’t fly.  David and I did our Hue game, which was great fun. But we did reprise the summer series on the lawn.  We were a happy group, but what hung over everything was learning in the fall that Dave’s chemotherapy had little lasting effect on his tumors. A second round was scheduled for 2022. 

I planned another Enfilade without Shoe, which seemed doubly weird.  But Covid was definitely present and with his suppressed immune system, there’s no way he could attend.  Gaming throughout the summer seemed sparse and Dave seemed weakened by his illness and his treatment.  We did play Lissa in his living room, but Shoe seemed thoroughly done in by the experience. I was worried. 

In June, the weekend after Enfilade Casey died. It was and remains devastating. For the next month my life was pretty well subsumed into working through the different threads of getting his apartment cleaned out, planning a memorial, contacting his various business interests. It was exhausting. I tried to stay in touch with friends and I called Dave every couple of weeks. He was struggling with his symptoms. When Casey’s Celebration of Life was held in Sumner on July 10th, Dave and Lynn were there. Dave, unable to sit for long periods, and having faced an hour car ride, stood through the hour presentation. I’ll be forever grateful. I know there was a cost.

Cyber-knife treatment in August brought some relief and September was better, but by October it was clear the cancer was spreading and he was feeling the effects.  We spent a sorrowful day playing board games, enjoying one another’s company but afraid of what was coming.  Dave made an appearance at our Museum of Flight event on November 18th, but the week after Thanksgiving, Shoe was admitted to the hospital. 

This is how I’ll remember him best. Having designed a wonderful day’s fun for DANG, Shoe is letting us know what we’ll have to do, how to win, and sharing the resources we have to achieve victory. Oh and you can get more, but they might not show up on time or in the right place, and it will cost you some victory points too. Sigh. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Dave was a gamer. He was a far more accomplished miniature wargamer than I am.  He was probably much smarter than I am. I learned a lot from him.  Not only in the sense I learned how to play games or design scenarios, but in other much more important ways.  We were friends who enjoyed our shared interests and experiences. We weren’t the same, but we just clicked, and I loved him and miss him so much. He made me a better person, one who taught me lessons I hope will help me to lead a better life.

2022: Year in Review

2022 was a not so great year from many perspectives. I’ve detailed those issues in the past, and I’m not gonna spend a lot of time going over it again. That doesn’t mean my issues have passed, it just means I’m not going to rehash here again.

But there were some things to remember.

Mexican Imperial troops defend a redoubt at Matehuela north of Mexico city. Ran this scenario twice with Rebels and Patriots and would love to run some new scenarios this year.

First, I spent the first part of the year resurrecting my Maximilian in Mexico project. That laid fallow for more than a decade and I took the time to A) rebase the entire army for Rebels and Patriots, whew. B) I painted scads of figures. C) I hosted two Maximilian games-one at my house and the same scenario at Enfilade. Though I am currently distracted from these figures, I have plenty more to paint and am hoping to try a few more games in 2023.

I learned to play and enjoy SAGA with Mark, Kurt and Scott in Tacoma. I have two painted SAGA armies, the Norse Gaels and the Dark Age Irish. The Irish haven’t seen the table yet, but they are ready to go. Our hope is to get in at least one SAGA game per month. However, there are some rule changes I’m not aware of yet, which doesn’t excite me. I promise to take more photos of our little games and post them more frequently.

Brodir of Man is a Norse Gael hero who has appeared in a couple of my SAGA games. He’s a bad-ass.

The 1914 project. My god, the 1914 project. I painted more than 600 12mm figures for that project so we definitely need to do more games. Yikes. Interesting rules and a fun game.

Not as many games played as I would have liked. Definitely circumstances have contributed to that. Sometimes, I’d just prefer to be at home. Loss of game spaces is another factor. As Dave’s house became less available, we haven’t made the adjustment to search for an alternative space. On the to-do list for 2023.

Sometimes, game opportunities seem available in abundance, at other times it feels super busy and there just isn’t time. I’m hoping regular game play happens more in the new year.

In the really good news department, there was a very successful Enfilade in May. About 300 attendees and 100 or so games made for an excellent weekend. I ran three games I really enjoyed.

Also in the yippee column was the return of our Museum of Flight day. This was our first gig at the Museum since 2019, so that’s a nothing but a good news thing. It was very well attended with a plethora of great games and some first time attendees.

So what did I accomplish this year and what are the plans for 2023?

I painted 126 figures for December. There were a few leftover 12/15mm 1914 and fantasy figures to wrap up, but by far the most completed goodies were 28mm figures. I completed all the 1914 miniatures I have and passed along my leftovers to David Sullivan, so the door is closed there. I completed my Dark Age Irish army for SAGA and it was nice to wrap those guys up. I continued to plod ahead on my slow dance of the Spanish American War, completing the last of my American infantry, the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers. I finished the month with four (yes only four) South Carolina provincial dragoons that fought at Hobkirk’s Hill and Eutaw Springs, mounted for Regimental Fire and Fury.

On the year, that is a total of 1,416 figures. That’s an unimaginably big number for me.. It’s unlikely I’ll ever make that number again. Lots of small dudes, but that’s okay.

What’s probably not okay is that lots of these figures painted were new purchases. Ugh. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of other stuff to paint or that I don’t enjoy painting them. It’s just that I, as with most miniature gamers, have the attention span of a fly crawling on the wall. I’m hoping to do better for 2023.

Here are some things I hope to make progress on:

AWI Regimental Fire and Fury. More about this in the near future, but I love Nathaniel Greene and the war in the southern colonies. The Perrys have such a great range and I have lots of them to paint.

The Spanish American War. I’ve chugged away on these recently and honestly I don’t have that many left to do-under 100 figures. Unfortunately the rest are all Spanish in rayadillo which is time consuming. But this is a priority.

Anglo-Danes for SAGA. Another priority. I see this as my last likely SAGA army from the Age of Vikings book, and I am not interested in opening a new SAGA can of worms at this time.

Maximilian in Mexico. I still have a huge pile of figures for this period. And, realistically I’d like to add a bunch of French to the mix.

These are the highlights. I can fill in with ships, planes and 15mm fantasy figures to keep things interesting.

Scenario design, and what’s it all about anyway

I am in turmoil at the moment. It’s been a hard year. My son Casey died unexpectedly the weekend after a very enjoyable Enfilade. Let’s just say the following six months have been very difficult for me, my wife, my son Patrick and the entire family.

Casey Golden Age Air Racing at the Museum of Flight in 2004

To compound the feelings of grief more, Dave Schueler, my dear friend, one of my gaming brothers of Dave, is quite ill with cancer and the outlook is grim.

Dave and yours truly at DANG 2019.

The painting goes on. I enjoy it, but it’s also a major coping mechanism for me. If I stay busy enough I won’t feel quite so bad. I wrapped up the last of my 1914 figures last week. I’m hoping I’ll finish the last of my Dark Age Irish for SAGA this week. I’ve also engaged in significant retail therapy in the last month or so. I’ve purchased buckets of AWI figures from Perry Miniatures, the Beowulf figures from Eureka, and a half dozen mostly biographical books on the American Revolution in the South. Like the figures requiring paint, the books need reading. I’ll get to ’em.

But, I’ve also become quite introspective about the hobby. Mostly I’ve focused on scenario design. I think it’s a natural because Daveshoe is the best scenario designer I’ve ever known, and we did a lot of work together. I was always someone happy to paint whatever was needed and Dave would build a game around it.

Dave’s Lissa game in August did the best of all things Dave. We took what was a really big naval game, and Dave adapted the Sail and Steam Navy adaptation of the game over to something more playable with six guys. It was fun and manageable in an afternoon.

Let me share a pet peeve. Point scales in game systems. Why do I dislike them? They encourage two or more gamers to point out some figures, set up on opposite sides of the table and have at it. From Daniel Mersey games to Flames of War, this is what rules systems tend to offer to gamers. This is nothing new. I played WRG ancients and they are like the granddaddy of points based games. Blame it on Phil Barker. T

I am inspired by historical battles, though I’m not wedded to a historical order of battle and having it out. I prefer something that encourages players to be creative with the forces at hand. I prefer games that begin at least seeming balanced, but maybe they aren’t really. I like designing scenarios though it often doesn’t drive my projects. Often it’s the period that gets me started and then I way overbuild for what I’ll actually use. A great example of this is the almost 200 planes I painted for a WWII air campaign over Malta. I have every eventuality covered and I think I’ve used a total of 20 planes.

To a certain degree, I think we all do that. Build it all dammit. All the French at Waterloo or Borodino, and then we realize that these often make bad games because the battles turned on an unlikely circumstance, or one or two terrible command decisions. These would never happen on a tabletop in which the order of reinforcements was known and the entire tabletop is seen. Of course, we do have better access to pain reliever for our headaches than Napoleon did.

Having worked on more than a dozen scenarios with Dave, his real genius is adopting the gamer’s eye view, rather than the designer’s experience. Rather than focusing on the figures and the terrain, some simple directions and turn ’em loose, Shoe looked at the scenario and what were some options the players could have along the way. Usually these options had a historical basis, but sometimes they were about technological upgrades. And often there was an element of risk involved.

Example. In our scenario of bombing the Tirpitz during the Tungsten raids in 1944, both sides could add some planes not actually present. But the element of risk always included-where would the reinforcements show up and when would they arrive? How many victory points would you have to sacrifice and would the defenders be better prepared? These are examples of the kinds of choices often offered to players.

This had an additional effect on the game and that is requiring cooperation between players. Dave annually hosted his annual naval game in the week between Christmas and New Years. Called Dave’s Annual Naval Game or DANG for short, these were carefully planned out with players having input on a period and genre in the three months or so leading up to the big day. Once decided, Dave assembled the ships and carefully crafted a mini-campaign lasting most of a day. The attendees divided themselves into opposing sides and were faced with a semi-strategic and tactical situation requiring a bunch of choices, agreed upon by each side. It was usually up to each group when and where to bring on battle and how they would confront the enemy. Think of the search phase in Avalon Hill’s Jutland game and you get the idea, but perhaps search skills would be augmented or upgraded, or sacrificed for some other advantage. But the group was given the problem to solve.

In the past few years, I have very much adopted my own view of scenario-making as a problem solving activity. One of the problems gamers encounter is can you work with the players on your own side. That’s rarely a problem, but I have been in those games where communicating with the guy on your right can be just as difficult as attacking the guy to your front. But the problem-solving approach is useful. Here’s your problem, here’s your troops go solve it. It does, however, put a lot back on the shoulders of the players, though factoring in some options along the way could make it more interesting and involving.

My Buffalo Hunt game from 2019. Based on some dino-hunting rules, it pitted Native American clans against one another in the annual tribal hunt. Fun, weird with some of its own stories.

What about the idea of a scenario as story-telling? I confess, as a person who thinks story-telling is important in all its different forms this is attractive. I think it is more easily achieved with smaller, skirmishy games. We all bring our knowledge, interpretations and biases to a scenario anyway, what is the outcome we’re trying to achieve with the game? Set up the conditions, ply both sides with benefits and how do you get there? I’ve played in several of Michael Koznarsky’s wonderful Russian Civil War games and he comes closest to achieving a story-telling environment.

I’m hoping the coming year or so I can pay more attention to my scenario design than having the troops and terrain on the table, setting up commands and saying have at it. Sometimes it’s difficult, along with managing the players at times, to get past that, but that is one of my real goals for the future.

November check-in, and what’s ahead.

Actually it’s a November and October check in. I didn’t get my stuff together and there you go.

It’s actually been an interesting couple of months. In October I was pretty devoted to wrapping up my 12mm BEF stuff. I wasn’t quite as ambitious as I had been in September, but I did complete 190 figures. That’s a lot.

I decided I’d focus more on my 28mm projects in November, and I certainly began the month that way. In October I’d ordered a Dark Age Irish army for SAGA from Footsore Miniatures. and my hope was to switch back and forth between working on those and my significant stash of Spanish American War figures.

Certainly the month began that way. I had some Gripping Beast Dark Age Irish plastics. Some of them are already fighting for my Norse Irish army, but there were enough left for a couple of units of warriors. Assembling them was a pain, but I lived through it. The second batch of figures were my Irish cavalry from Footsore and they were quite a pleasant paint task.

From there I moved on to painting Spanish American War figures. I focused on some American equipage. I had two packs of Colt machine guns and Sibley dynamite guns by Old Glory. I only painted up two of the four machine guns, because who needs machine guns when one can use Gatlings. Yes, that is sarcasm. That said, I really liked the Colts better than my Tiger Miniatures model. The crew for the cannon were quite nice, though I think the gun model by Gringo 40’s is probably better.

I wrapped up my Cuban rebel forces as well. I started with eight mounted rebels and folded one of my extra figs into a rebel commander role. They were easy. Mostly painted Vallejo grey-white highlighted with Vallejo Cold White. Unfortunately, in my rush to wrap them up and finish them, I sprayed them with primer instead of matt varnish, so there was some re-do action necessary.

I wrapped up my 28’s with three units of rebels infantry. So all together I have five units of infantry and one of horse for the Cubanos. Generally speaking, they were fun and easy. Just enough to be a guerrilla pain for the Spanish.

The month ended by chasing around trying to wrap up some smaller dudes. I painted ten more 12mm Great Escape Games highlanders for 1914. I just needed to fill out my two units to four stands each.

I also spent time adding some 15mm fantasy figures to my pile. I have a playtest scheduled for December 14th and they were the last of those I needed to add. I did take some time in November to re-base a significant proportion of the many figures I already had. My guess is we’re talking about more than 50 bases had to be swapped out. So I accomplished a lot on that front too. A few more will get done in December, but much smaller numbers.

I painted 13 wolf riders and nine Dunland horsemen.

The total for this month is 111 figures. So where are we as we stare the end of 2022 in the eye? At my end of September post, claimed 989 figures painted.

October adds 190 figures to that.

November adds another 111 figures.

That’s a total of 1290 figures. About half of those are 12mm figures, which were almost like cheating. But 1914 was a new project and when it’s done it’s done. There are more 15mm fantasy figures to be painted, but for the most part they’ll be painting up as part of 2023.

December will be busy with a few games and some holiday doings. But here is my painting plan.

I have 24 15mm Dunlanders for my Tolkien project. They are about 60% done and should go fast.

Then it will be on to my Irish army. It’s a must finish for December. It’s small, come on, how can I not finish them?

I still have a tiny handful of hangers on for 1914 and I’d really like to put those to bed once and for all.

After that, I’m not sure. I’m considering painting one of my dozen or so 54mm figures–a Berdan’s sharpshooter from the Civil War.

Insanity alert, I also bought an Anglo Danish army for SAGA. Love those Dark Ages armies. Actually I was suckered in by my long time interest in the Eureka Beowulf miniatures. I was able to cobble together enough figs from their associated Dark Ages range to make it work. Also ordered Cnut the Great and Harold Godwinson and his brothers figures from Gripping Beast. Ah me. Paid for with my winnings with my fantasy baseball team.

Should be a fun painting month.

The Tolkien Urge

A variety of orc wolf-riders from various makers.

I think every wargamer has those influential books that guided their interest in a game or an era. I always think of John Keegan’s chapter on Agincourt in The Face of Battle that spurred my interest in the Hundred Years War or Bruce Catton’s Army of the Potomac series that gave me an interest in the Civil War.

My passel of orcs-blue bin-and Rohirrim. The former includes 15mm orcs from Black Raven Foundry, Demonworld and somebody else. The Rohan figures are Dark Ages horsemen and Dark Age Infantry from Essex. They have been painted for a long time. I’ve done a lot of remounting, but very little painting.

But one of my great unrequited loves is the Lord of the Rings and all the ancillary Tolkien goodness that goes with it. The older I get, and the deeper into Middle Earth I delve, the more I am captured by the idea of doing something with Tolkien.

Black Raven Foundry orcs top image. Demonworld orc bottom. Yes, the latter are clearly behemoth sized, and they will be my Uruk-Hai.

Tolkien inspired pallets of paper devoted to rules derived more or less from his stories. From Chainmail to the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings and all of its various expansions (gotta do something to pay those licensing fees,) whether directly or indirectly the Oxford professor has, and continues to inspire the industry of fantasy miniature gaming.

To be truthful, I’ve had a load of 15mm miniatures for Middle Earth painted for some time. Some of them were once historical miniatures–I built an Ostrogothic army for DBM a long time ago. I’ve had many orcs and crafted a few what iffish Middle Erth armies for DBA back in the DBA days. I spent a lot of time gazing wistfully at Luke Ueda-Sarson’s work with DB Middle Earth, but because I loved neither DBM or DBA, I admired his efforts from afar. No, if I was gonna do something on my own it was going to be mechanically direct, and, hopefully fun.

Dunland chieftain and mounted troops. Yes, they are just Gallic/British horse by Old Glory 15’s.

But lots of other projects intervened. It wasn’t until I started actually sorting through my figures, and discovered how many painted figures I had that the bug really bit me. I made the decision to do some serious remounting and began pondering what rules could look like.

As I suggested in an earlier post, I’m very enamored of the command-driven games I’ve been playing recently, including, but not limited to, SAGA, 1914, and Altar of Freedom. I’m also interested in playing with units. The unit sizes and base sizes will all be the same, except for over sized critters like trolls and mumaks. Archery, magic and heroes all fit into my plans, but that’s not where I’m going to start.

Theodred assembles his supporters and they ride to destiny at the Fords of Isen.

No, I’ve always loved the riders of Rohan, with their Gothic heavy cavalry. My test scenarios will begin with their border war with Isengard. I’ve scheduled a playtest based on the Battle of the Ford of Isen for December 14th with some friends. I’ll keep you posted on preparations and perhaps some rules updates as time goes on.

Museum of Flight 2022

Under “normal” circumstances and perhaps in a “normal” year, I might not post about the Museum of Flight. It’s a gathering we’ve been doing since 2001. I’m fortunate to have a good relationship with the Museum Event Coordinator. We are now a regular member of their Hobby Day threesome of plastic modelers, RC aircraft enthusiasts, and there we are historical miniaturists. We draw folks in to run and play games and the public checks us out.

Credit for photos goes to Tom Bieker and Dean Motoyama. There may be one or two of mine in here, but I thank them for allowing me to use their superior shots.

Scott Potter is yakking with yours truly. In the background from left are: Scott Murphy, James Miller, Mark Serafin, Dean Motoyama, Gene Anderson and Ford whose last name escapes me.

But this wasn’t a “normal” year because the Museum has carefully limited events through the Covid days. It’s kind of a one man-show. I plead and beg not to be forgotten for future events. This year Hobby Day was on the calendar and we were included. Then its time to schedule game hosts.

My guess is we had about 40 NHMGS guest. I’m not going to list all the attendees because I know I’ll forget someone. Many were old and dear friends, but there were some folks there I simply didn’t know. However, I do want to give a shout out to our game hosts. These are folks who give up their Museum time to help out and I’ll always appreciate them.

Daryl Nichols and his friend Steve (whose last name I didn’t know, sorry) hosted a game of Gnome Wars in each of our two game periods.

Scott Potter ran a well-attended game of Wings of War in the morning period

Lawrence Bateman had immersed a group in a the 1856 Puget Sound Indian War also in the morning period

In the afternoon, Scott Williams and Joe Grassman ran a Galactic Knights scenario

Henry Thomsen had a group trying to survive Pony Wars

James and Chris Sagen introduced a group to Valour and Fortitude, the newish Napoleonic War rules.

Paul Hannah, Andy Hooper, and Craig Steed enjoyed the best venue on earth while walking through some interesting DBA scenarios.

Mark Serafin, Darcy Town, Kurt Weihs, Scott Murphy, Karen Waddington, Dean Motoyama and Tom Bieker joined me in a nostalgic moment as I hauled out my 1/48th scale Golden Age Air Racing. It was fun. I had to revisit some rules and do some repair on my planes which have been in storage for the last decade or so. Still, it was quite the fun game. With the exception of Tom, who sadly ran out of fuel after the first lap, the entire group remained close together the going into the final turn. Darcy and Kurt ended in a virtual tie until Darcy’s Laird Solution stalled its engine. A really fun game. This could become an annual thing.

A simply terrific day with terrific people. Can’t wait ’til next year.

305: When Too Many Serbs is Not Too Many

I had plans for September. They involved painting my usual mix of Spanish-American War 28’s some ships and progress on my 1914 project. I finished August with my batch o’ Serbian cavalry and dutifully started work on my infantry–and then more Serbs arrived from Kallistra. I put my head down and decided to finish the lot. This morning I did just that. There were a lot of them. These are 12mm figures, so it’s not like I’m painting 28mm Napoleonics or Highlanders or something like that, but 305 is a whole lot of figures and I’ve never completed anything like that in a month or anything like it.

The Serbs are interesting because all troops aren’t the same. The army is divided into Class 1, 2 and 3. The Class or Call or Ban 1 troops form the bulk of the regular army and have the 1909 khaki uniforms. Okay, you can make the argument that they are a little greener than my figures, but I used the Vallejo khaki color which is more green than tan .

Reservists are in blue. I used Vallejo Prussian blue. I lightened this with Sky Grey and dry brushed a bit before washing with Army Painter Blue Wash. Don’t know how much of difference it made. The sajkaka or funky Serbian hat and the pants were Vallejo Light Grey.

Painting this many figures was kind of an effort of will, and required a lot of machine-like work. It was consistent painting–mostly in the evening watching Mariners games. It also required preparation for the next unit as well as basing. So one is getting ready to paint-glue dots and priming, actual painting, and basing. It was a process that works, but I can’t say that I loved it.

October will be about finishing the BEF and then 1914 will be complete and I can focus on playing the game. I thought about getting a bunch of Germans, but Great Escape Games is out of them, and right now I think that’s a good thing. I also have a little trip to San Diego planned for the middle of the month, so I’ll have less time.

I didn’t enter my figure count for August. I painted a bunch of 12mm British, those same guys I hope to finish in October, as well as some 28mm Spanish for the Spanish American War. My figure total was 129.

In September my numbers look something like this–all 12mm Kallistra figures.

36 mounted Serbian cavalry

45 dismounted Serbian cavalry–includes machine gun figures

16 Serbian guns and gunners

8 Serbian command figures

184 Serbian infantry figures

16 Great Escape Games highlanders plus machine gun

Total = 305

My total through July was 554.

August 129 + 554 = 683

September 305 + 683 = 989

I’m getting dangerously close to the promised land. Unfortunately I’ve also bought a pile of figures too, including all those little 12mm dude. Oh, well. Still, a big accomplishment.