Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some choices to make on Saturday.

I wandered with my iPhone camera on Saturday morning and just tried to get some pics of games.  These aren't all the games in the ballroom, but these were some of my favorites.
Wes Rogers 28mm Battle of Soor

Sven Lugar left behind his 6mm figures to host a 28mm Winter War skirmish, Lake Kookojarvi.  There were a number games fought in winter terrain, and Sven's was excellent.
Neil Marker's Fallout scenario, "A Town With Troubles," may have had the most original and interesting terrain of the convention.  Based on the video game, and some say it was a dead ringer.
Scott Potter's 15mm Battle of Fredricksburg.  One of several Regimental Fire and Fury offerings at Enfilade.

Chris Craft's 15mm Palo Alto game.  Another Fire and Fury scenario.

Will Thompson's Battle of Tsushima.  Used the Fire When Ready Gridley rules.  Naval games were quite popular at Enfilade this year.

Allan Dyer and Jeroen Koopman hosted 2nd Day at Gettysburg all day using Regimental Fire and Fury.  Get 'em boys.

This photo doesn't do justice to Bruce Smith's Swamp Fever game.

Olympia Gamers' Schlemmer's Gold.  Nothing like fightin' on Venus right after breakfast.

Enfilade: The Big Picture

Enfilade 2011 was a great convention.  On so many levels it was one of the best of the twenty years of that event. 

It didn't start out auspiciously.  I had to work on Friday, which meant I couldn't leave until school was out at 2:10.  I blew out of the parking lot ahead of the buses, but still got stuck behind the giant piles of ER traffic.  Even so, traffic down to Olympia wasn't the horror show everyone talked about in years past, and I didn't hear many folks complaining.
I spent lots of time with luggage carts, schlepping stuff to and from my car and to and from my room.  My room seemed to be in a different zip code from the convention ballroom.

Due to the late start I missed getting into first Friday game session.  It would set the pattern for my weekend.  I spent most of my time wandering and watching games, talking to friends, having lunch with Dave Schueler.  I also ran three games, each of them great experiences, and I'll review them in subsequent posts. 

The wandering times gave me the opportunity to see a lot of other games, look at the terrain, and the interactions between players.  I was in charge of determining the best of period awards and the subsequent Best of Show award.  There were 115 games scheduled for the weekend, and together with some friends we did get to choose from some great games.  Just as a note, this year's group of games lacked that super aesthetic wow factor of other years.  However, as a group, the quality of the games and the level of engagement by those playing them was much higher than in the other years.  Overall, just better game experiences, a sentiment which was echoed by many of those playing them.
The middle scenario for Teutoberger Wald.  One of the best run games I've ever seen.

The convention was remarkably trouble-free.  My colleagues on the Enfilade committee-Bruce Meyer, Adrian Nelson, Jim Denberger, Al Rivers, Michael Koznarsky, Dave Schueler-really did a superb job.  There were enough games.  Lots of vendors.  Registration ran smoothly. Very few glitches occurred during the convention itself. 

There were some great games that won awards:

Friday Afternoon--Viking Run hosted by Lloyd Bowler

Friday Evening--Battle of Sluys hosted by me, Kevin Smyth

Saturday Morning--Battle of Teutoberger Wald . . . the Road Home hosted by the White Rock Gamers

Saturday Afternoon--Port Royal  hosted by William Stanchfield

Saturday Evening--Chelmsford on the Move hosted by Bill Vanderpool

Sunday Morning--Ice Age Hunting hosted by Mike Garcia

Teutoberger Wald also won the overall Best of Show for its originality and the engagment of its participants.  The White Rock guys really were masterful in moving the players through a complex game.  They win the suite and an admission to the convention for next year. 
Buffalo River by Bill Vanderpool.  Not actual winner, but one of six games Bill ran at the convention.

William Stanchfield's breathtaking Port Royal game.  Eye-candy a-go-go.

I gave the Director's Award to Michael Koznarsky for his work with the painting competition, and perhaps more importantly, providing leadership to the Citadel and the Enfilade Yearbook.

I'll be following this post up with additional posts about the three games I hosted at the convention: Battle of Sluys, Hobkirk's Hill, and Closing Wilmington.

Sluys-It Couldn't be Better

In my previous post, I noted I arrived late to Enfilade, which gave me time to check in, grab a very quick meal, and grab my stuff to set up Sluys for the evening period.  I was on the convention floor at 6:00, which gave me an hour to set up.

I was pretty nervous about the scenario.  On one hand I was very excited because it was my hand made project and I was so proud of it.  I thought others might think it strange and geeky and my work unworthy.  Really the latter troubled me more because most of my game projects are strange and geeky.  I was also worried the rules wouldn't work right, or I would somehow screw them up because I'd only run the scenario once. 

I shouldn't have been concerned.  The game was filled.  Mark and Sam Fortner, and Al Rivers ran the English.  Keith French, Brian Renninger, and Arthur Brookings ran the French.  Best, and most importantly Dave Schueler was there to help me with the scenario.  I'd re-written the quick sheets, taking changes from our playtest into consideration, so that helped.  We took the time to walk through the rules, and while there were some inevitable holes to fill, the game played pretty smoothly.  By the end of the fourth turn, I was no longer necessary, and Dave and I could talk about the Mariners-Yankees game.  Most gratifying, many gamers dropped by the table to look and ask questions about the cogs, the period, and the game.  Doug Hamm and Andrew Mah, tasked with scoring games for the Friday night period, chose Sluys for best of  show for the period.

The set up with both fleets hard against the Cadzand Is. shoals.

The game began with the French shuffling the order of their ships,while the English grouped theirs. The French position was centered between Cadzand Is. and the headland, and the English were prepared to take advantage of a small gap between the island and the fleet.  Unfortunately the gap closed with the night's tidal action, so the battle proceeded pretty much head to head.

Another view of the set up.  The French fleet clearly overlaps the English right. 

For the first three turns the English and French engaged in desultory artillery and missile fire.  Though there were some lucky die rolls on both sides, by turn four it was clear to the English they were going to have to close to win. In turn four the English closed and began supported melees in true DBA fashion.  Unfortunately DBA also requires some decent die rolling, and the English commanders, Mark and Sam, had much better dice karma than the French commanders, Brian and Arthur.  With poor command points, and much less capable of removing damage points, the French line began suffering large holes in the first squadron. 

The French third squadron moves toward their left flank.
 After turn four, Keith unchained his combined cog and galley squadron and began moving around the French left.  Though he had some early success, this flank attack was quickly stymied and then defeated.  By turn twelve, with the French suffering three times the English losses of five ships, I called a halt to the bloodbath.  Though the French three times during the battle, crippled King Edward's cog, the game was up.

Even so, there were lots of smiles afterwords, and I was happy the game was so well received. All photos were taken by Doug Hamm, and I thank him for letting me use them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sluys terrain pieces

In April, while playing Sluys with Dave, Mark and Joe, we chatted about the table for the game and how I might spice it up.  Let's face it, there was a naval game-never an eye catcher, in a big roadstead with lots of land, and all the pieces were made of felt.  Based on my illustration of the area, in living color in Fighting Techniques of Medieval Warfare (Matthew Bennet, et. al).  The picture shows the land area, the river estuary, headland and island.  In the illustration there are four small villages forest covering the rest of the area.
Bare felt terrain from March.  Lots of open space

I started out by thinking about the villages.  We're talking about the 14th century, and all I could imagine was that each little village probably had a church with a number of houses and other folks living in the surrounding area.  To keep it simple, I decided to make structures out of square wooden dowels available in the craft department at Michael's.  I cut them in a couple of different sizes and shaped their roofs with a Dremel sanding tool.  I painted them a brown and the roofs a yellow brown for thatch.  Each church I made pretty much the same on a much later model-but using my 28mm Miniature Building Authority church as an example.  The structure is longer with a bell tower.  I kept the painting deliberately simple
One of the four villages made with wooden blocks and somewhat shaped Litko bases.

 Trees were a bit more of a challenge.  I had an unopened bag of small tree armatures from Woodland Scenics.  The question was:  what to do with them?  It thought seriously about individual trees mounted on washers for weight.  I thought I'd just be picking up a bunch of trees all through the game.  So, I cut up some sheet styrene for bases, and applied some acrylic modeling paste from Liquitex that was tinted with Ceramcoat spice brown. Then I just squished the trees right into the paste and let dry for a couple of hours.  I wish I had more sheet styrene because I could probably use some more clumps, like twice as many as I have.  Hopefully it will look a bit more than a few clumps of trees.
One of the larger tree bases

Cadzand Island with trees and village.  Yeah, still seems bare to me too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

With Enfilade a Week Out . . .

It's that time of year again.  Social Studies classroom based assessments, the last issue of the paper in process, and of course Enfilade. 

Fort those who don't follow, Enfilade is our annual historical miniature gaming convention, held each Memorial Day weekend in Olympia, WA.  I'm the director this year.  I was director from 1999-2004. It's a busy job, and I don't feel like I've quite been able to do it justice.  I've actually announce that I am resigning from the Enfilade committee after this year.  I'm just too busy with school and currently stressed out by life in general to do it justice.  I've also been on the committee for a long time so I think it's time to take a break. 

I'm looking forward to having some time to prepare for games at the convention-hosting and playing-being one of the guys in the back of the room.  Next year I expect to do just that-avoid the registration desk, and everything except run and play games.  I can see offering to help in other ways in 2013-judging the painting competition, working the desk, other small things.  But I just need to enjoy myself a little more than I do. 

My games are nearly ready.  Because I have to run down after school this year, I'll be packing early, starting this weekend.  I want to see if I can fit all my AWI stuff for the Hobkirk's Hill game in one big box.  I still have a gun and crew to finish up for that game.  I'll also try to assemble the ships for Closing Wilmington.  I need to decide on the battery composition and work through the infantry rules again.  Finally, I need to make piles of trees for  Sluys.  I've made four little villages to represent the towns in the estuaries, just for show, but the terrain is heavily forested as well.  It will add to the geographic flavor.

In many respects I'm very excited about my game offerings.  Sluys can be more than a one-off game. But it's the satisfaction of having made everything that goes with it that pleases me. Hobkirk's Hill is the first in a series of games I'll offer on the Revolution.  Next Year I'd like to do Hobkirk's and Eutaw Springs, which has fairly challenging terrain, but not a lot of new units to paint.  Closing Wilmington is the game I'm most conerned about because Ironclads can be so fiddly for new gamers, but I confess it's the only game system I like for the period.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Can I Possibly Keep Up?

Twenty-five years ago, the only Osprey Books that drifted on to the market were the Men At Arms series.  I'd wait anxiously every couple of months hoping they'd fill out their Napoleonic range, got really excited when they issued the two volumes on the Polish renaissance armies, and even bought a couple titles just for the pictures.  The two latter that come to mind are the volume on the Ottoman Turks and the Burgundian Armies of the late middle ages.  The first had a fabulous picture in the ruins of Constantinople of an Ottoman soldier about to be flambeed by a soldier with a Naptha projector.  The look in his eyes of one about to be barbecue is priceless.  The Burgundian MAA has an illustration of a bombardier measuring stone to be shaped into cannon balls for a bombard.  It' s a job I think I could do quite well, and probably make more money (and definitely have a higher status) than I do as a teacher.

 At some point, however, Osprey became a publishing empire.  Men At Arms was not enough.  First there was the warrior series, with more in depth examination of certain troop types.  I've picked up a few these, the ones I thought were quite useful-longbowmen, highlanders, Huns, those that coincided with my projects.  Battle books.  Some are very good.  I love the Hundred Years War battle books by David Nicolle and Matthew Bennett.  I've avoided the essential histories, even though they often are written by great authors.  For example, Anne Curry wrote the Hundred Years War volume. 

I also didn't get into the small but potentially interesting  Order of Battle Series.  With one exception.  Unfortunately there is also a sad story that goes with it.  Perhaps the most useful book ever published by Osprey was the Battle of Quebec OOB #1 in the series.  I bought it when American Eagles in Tacoma closed.  It was super.  Great history of the campaign, campaign histories and color plates of each unit that fought at Quebec.  Wonderfully comprhensive and practical.  I gave my copy to Dave Demick, who I thought could use it more than me because Dave is my friend.  I though I could pick up a copy easily enough. WRONG!!! It's out of print.  It was out of print when I bought it.  It was out of print when I gave it away. I see that decent used copies can be had for under twenty bucks, so that may have to be a summer investment.

In any case, as you can see, Osprey, the little specialist company, has morphed into the big, giant military history octopus, adding new series ad infinitum.  I have seen one book in the new Raid series, however, that looks pretty interesting. The Great Chevauchee will be published at the end of May and includes details of John of Gaunt's raid into central France in 1373.  It will include details of skirmishes and ambushes along the way and should be a useful source for some HYW scenario.  I'll be keeping an eye out for it.

It used to be there were those who simply collected Osprey books.  How can they possibly afford to do it anymore?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hobkirk's Hill Playtest

Enfilade is only a couple of weeks away and with three games on the docket I've scrambled to finish figures and get games ready.  I've also struggled to try and playtest my three scenarios, so hopefully they all turn out.

Last summer I walked through Closing Wilmington a couple of times and it just needs some minor tweaking.  I got in the Sluys playtest last month and enjoyed it thoroughly.  We tweaked a couple of modifiers to the charts, but the game will play as planned.  I was hoping to get in a second playtest but it just didn't happen. The only game left out there for me to run through was Hobkirk's Hill and yesterday seven of us got together to play through it.

Hobkirk's Hill  was fought on April 25, 1781 near Camden, South Carolina.  In the grand scheme of things it was a minor affair, but it was the first of a series of actions that forced the British to abandon their outposts in South Carolina to very active patriot militia.

The action took place as American commander Nathaniel Greene tried to enlist the aid of South Carolina militia leader Thomas Sumter.  Sumter, not an easy guy to get along, let the pleas of Rhode Islander Greene fall on deaf ears.  In the meantime, the British command, young Lord Rawdon committed to attacking Greene in his encampment at Hobkirk's Hill.  Counting on information from a deserter that Greene had no artillery, Rawdon made a night march through some heavy woods and massed in front of half of Greene's army, and that's where the scenario began.

We used the Regimental Fire and Fury rules with official modifications for AWI. Bruce Meyer, Al Rivers, Mark and Joe Waddington, Scott Murphy, and Wayne Harold came down to Game Matrix to walk through the game.  I went with a historical set-up, the British largely set up against the American left flank, but seriously overlapped by the American right.
A panorama shot of the set up.  The British are clearly massed east of the Logtown Road, while Huger's Virginia Brigade is in position to turn the British flank.

David Sullivan controlled the first group of three British regiments.  He promptly rolled three 10's for fire in the first two turns of fighting, reducing the effectiveness of the two Maryland infantry battalions.  Sensing an opportunity to shatter the American left, David quickly assaulted the 1st Maryland, who unexpectedly repulsed his charge.  Al Rivers likewise attacked the 2nd Maryland with the 63rd Regiment and the Convalescent battalion, and despite some initial struggle, eventually drove them off.  A second assault by Sullivan's troops cleared the left flank of American troops,  leaving a gun behind to be captured.  Only a large unit of North Carolina militia and Washington's Light Dragoons remain to hold on to the center.  The 1st Maryland broke and fled the battlefield while Greene tried to rally the 2nd Maryland.
The Volunteers of Ireland, and the The King's American Regiment get the best of the 1st Maryland in a firefight.  The Marylanders repulse their bayonet attack, and hold the hilltop by their fingernails.

A longer view of the battle shows the 1st and 2nd Maryland under attack by the British all along the line.

On the right flank, Mark Waddington, running the Virginia Brigade, struggled with Brigadier Isaac Huger's poor commander rating.  This large force, came up only slowly as the British made a mess of the American center and left.  The 4th and 5th Virginia watched helplessly as Bruce launched Coffin's militia dragoons against the North Carolina militia.  Things ended badly for Coffin's troops, however, as fire from artillery and the militia decimated them.
William Washington's Dragoons are about to ride to the rescue and run down the 63rd Regiment.

Just as things began to look hopeless for the Americans, Joe managed to launch two devastating charges against the 63rd Regiment with the Continental dragoons. With everyone in extended order to move over the rough ground, the light horse had its way, slaughtering the British foot.  At that point we agree to wrap things up.
At game's end, the North Carolina militia hold  the Logtown Road in support of the Continental Dragoons.  In the distance, Huger's Virginians make slow progress toward the British.

I did get great feedback on the game.  All agreed the basic concept was good.  Al even asked if he could help me he could help run the game on Saturday night at the convention.  He has the most experience with the regimental version of the rules so I was all over it.