Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lessons of Maja

As I've stated previously I've always wished the I had written down some of my "pretend" sessions.

Call it rainy day cabin fever, but while playing with my near-two-year old daughter, I've discovered two rules to live by, which could also be applied to gaming:

#1 -- Don't leave the front door open, or else leopards will appear in the living room.

#2 -- The fairy tale carriage used to transport the Prince and Princess around? It's used for pizza deliveries during off hours.

I can't make this stuff up...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

(Nostalgia) Some things just need to be posted.

Posted without comment:

(LoS) My goodies have arrived!

So, today was an emotional day, for numerous reasons. First off, my morning entailed taking our faithful dog Dudley to the SPCA to be put to sleep. After 12 good years, his quality of life was dwindling away each dav and it just wasn't fair to see him suffer anymore. He and I never saw eye to eye, but I'll miss him.

The day improved in the afternoon as my much-anticipated purchase arrived in the mail.

Men, lock up your wives... Women, escape from the basement and grab some dice, viscounteric's in possession of Legions of Steel again.

The auction on eBay was for an LoS boxed set, sans figures. I actually didn't win the auction, but the fellow who did did a lousy job reading the item description. Seriously, after seeing the 2nd Edition boxed sets sell for $150, I can't imagine someone putting down a paltry bid and expecting to win a complete boxed set.

The fellow auctioning it off was very nice with his second chance offer. In addition to the boxed set items pictured, I would receive a few non-LoS figures to enhance play...

Throw in a squad of half-painted Ultramarines, and some very fitting Separatist robots from Star Wars for no additional cost, and things couldn't get any better.

But they did.

Knowing my eldest's love of puzzles and miniatures, I let Maja sort through the interlocking tiles and play with the figures. At first she was content with the tiles, but upon seeing the figs, she shouted "No-nos!" (translation: Gnomes!) with glee, and began walking them down the corridors. She also added the little girl with a tennis racket into the boxed set. It was sweet moment, and keeps me thinking I should take her along for my day trip to Cold Wars in two weeks. Yes, it's a logistical issue. Yes, it will impede my ability to play in any games. Yes, it will shorten my visit, which I still have to pay admission. But somewhere inside me, I think she would like all the "No-Nos", I can still get certain things accomplished there, and my wife can have a relaxing Saturday with only our two month old. It would be nice to have a day to myself, but as a parent, you're constantly reminding yourself that it's never about you anymore

And I don't mind that one bit.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Modeling with Formula Bottles

The one thing you get with an infant, besides constant feedings, diaper changes, and resetting pacifers, is waste. No, not the diaper kind, the packaging kind. Piles of boxes and bottles with little use beyond recycling.

My daughter uses formula sparingly, but we've still accumulated a pantryful of two ounce pre-mixed formula bottles. They're extremely convenient, but can produce a pile trash.

The lone jungle fighter versus the Chaos babies....

The question of the day is: What can I do with one of these?

The bottles are 4 1/2" high, 1 1/2" across with the center being more oval.

I've already got suggestions using them as pillars, and I'm trying to think of how to use them as electrical transformers, tesla machines, or other wacky sci-fi goodness. Whether it's using one item, or a pile of them, there's got to be some use for them in at least a Victorian Sci-Fi, or Gnome Wars game, but any other suggestions are appreciated.

And yes, I'm pondering using the cheese cracker box in the background as a building, but I've got a lot of cheesey goodness ahead of me to accomplish that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Apathy of New Releases (March 2011)

Game Trade Monthly #133 is available, covering pre-orders for items being released between March and May.

After a lot of whining the last couple months, this month seems a bit more promising in regards to selection. Nice to see after four months of new releases ranging from mediocre to completely atrocious, a store might be able to pull off this thing known as a profit this month.

Of course, your mileage may vary, so check out and see for yourself.

In order, the only item that goes on my list (after a few purchases at Cold Wars) will be Curse of the Chthonians ($25.95 - Chaosium), another fun CoC reprint that I don't own (yet).

My dreamlist doesn't expand the horizons much: Fog of War: Strike of the Eagle - The Polish/Soviet War of 1919. It is wasn't $65.00 it would be on my want list. Now if I could only find players for a Polish-Soviet War chit-based wargame!

As I harped on earlier, the hypothetical store has a number of options this month. Of course, the release dates for all the items range from January(?) to May, which means April through December in the gaming industry.
  • There are 3 third party Pathfinder books coming out, plus NINE books alone from Paizo. And with the exception of the Ultimate Magic hardcover, they're all under $20!

  • Flames of War Material, although they are noted to be scheduled to ship January 2011. It's always amusing to see Panzer IVs and French horse-drawn artillery being solicited side-by-side. I wonder which one will sell more units.

  • Battletch: 3062 Era Report and the "Historical Reunification War" which I'm so out of the loop, I don't know what that is...

  • A rewrite and relaunch of Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Really? I'm all for retro/nostalgia, and I know lots of people still love this game, but is the buying public still there to justify three print runs vs. three pdfs?

  • I've been treating Dust Tactics as my experiment as a game store owner. I've just not been impressed by the releases. The Special Ops Grenadiers and Special Ops Ranger are solicited this month, and i'm sorry, but they look the same! I'd rather try to justify a true historical game where you can get 2-3x the numbers of figs for a similar price.

  • Two new releases for those Settlers of Catan fans: (1) Catan: the dice game...or "I've got wood for yahtzee?" (2) Struggle for Catan "a fast-paced version of Settlers?" How much faster can you make the game?

  • Mongoose is releasing 2 new Traveller books (Traveller's Aid Society and Supplement 12-Dynasty) and a Runequest product

  • We have the regular Reaper assortment, plus a hot Russian Sniper (!) and the first big mention I've seen of the p-65 Heavy Metal minis.
    They look more like shelf pieces than playing pieces, despite having extra 60% lead in each order!
  • Vampire The Reqium: Invite Only -- holy crap! apparently White Wolf let down it's obfuscate ability and has appeared with new product!
  • WOTC: THE SHADOWFELL -GLOOMWROUGHT AND BEYOND is coming out for D&D, but there's a new Magic expansion to fill the cash registers in gaming stores everywhere.
  • Wizkids: DC Heroclix Green Lantern Fast Forces 6-pack - just in time for the movie.

It might not be my tastes (again, I'm no longer the demographic), but I do believe that there is actually sufficient product in here to keep a store afloat with new releases... New Magic (and a WoW CCG costs a pretty penny to stock, but seem to sell in most places. The Flames of War selection reminds me of a GW launch, again another outlay of cash with little guarantee it will sell. And the Pathfinder vs. 4e battle, I'd be throwing my lot in with Pathfinder. Everything nowadays is hit-and-miss, but if I knew my base, I could justify two copies of each Pathfinder book vs. four of the single D&D title. In most cases the sell-through and reorder of the successfull Pathfinder items will justify the stocking of the less popular items. Plus, a proper inventory system, a well-developed pre-order program, and just knowing my customers would allow those numbers to be tweaked even more efficiently

Sunday, February 20, 2011

NEPA CoC #7: Dead Man Stomp

New Year's Eve is traditionally a racuous occassion in the streets of New York. When Prohibition was enacted, the party became publicly muted, but the celebration spread out many days in the dives, speakeasies, and clubs the sprung out of the rubble to cater to the those who desired a little illegality.

The Blue Heaven was one of those finer establishments. By December of 1922, it was a well-regarded place to those within and above the law. Athletes, politicians, entertainers, mobsters, and any other citizen willing to show civility and pay their tab were welcome... so long as you were White.

The investigators visiting the Blue Heaven the last week of December, 1922:

Marcus Trenton (Scott) was a gentleman from Boston who had aspirations of opening his own version of the Blue Heaven in Beantown. A mediocre lawyer, he stumbled into a relationship and eventual married to an exiled Russian noblewoman, and her family's recipe for vodka made him a popular man in Massachusetts post-Volstead Act. Through his ne'er-do-well connections as a lawyer, he opened up two speakeasies with the help of a Welshman from Pennsylvania coal country.

Natalyia Trenton (Kelley) would be considered a petulant daughter of an insignificant Russian nobleman, but you would not know that from talking to her. In fact, you might think the Bolsheviks had missed one of the Romanovs! She had escaped Russia just after the Revolution with a modest portion of the family fortune and she and Marcus were living off that before Prohibition went into full swing.

Smitty (Adam) He was forced to close his bar, the Angry Welshman, due to "distribution issues" and was looking for a fresh start. He moved up to Boston and became the go-to man for Marcus' plans. Things have been going great and Marcus thought it was a good idea to celebrate and do a little homework on how the classier joints do things. Since it was the week between Christmas and New years, Smitty invited his Wilkes-Barre buddies to come in for some celebrating.

Dr. Nathaniel Millheim (Nate) took some time to recover after a rocky visit to Georgia. He had even spent some time at a "spa" to relax. 1922 had been a rough year in the independent book selling trade, the contacting-spirits-from-beyond business, as well as the nearly-getting-sacrificed-by-Klu-Klux-Klan-cultists, so a week in New york was a perfect way to set up 1923 right.

Brian Nichols (Brian) still a wanted man in name only, he had struggled alongside Dr Millheim in research and book publishing. New york would be welcome relief as well. And, of course, the good Doctor still wouldn't let him read any of the books.

Steven O'Hara somehow had obtained a "hall pass" of sorts from his wife for the week. The prep school teacher had put his nose to the grindstone after the Georgia incident, winning the respect of his superiors at work, and putting back together a rocky marriage with his wife. He hadn't seen his fellow investigators much in the last eight months, and a good time would be had by all.

Marcus had gotten the right connections to get them into the Blue Heaven Ballroom. It was a first-class establishment with fine dining, gambling, and a huge orchestra to keep the even larger dance floor jumping.

Well into dinner and drinks, the large orchestra began to play. Preoccupied by the music, and possibly the fine liquor in their hands, no one initially noticed a man walk up to the table beside them, pull out a large handgun, and blow out the brains of the solitary figure sitting there. The investigators were one of the few to notice, with the blaring trumpets and heavy drumming drowning out that single shot. Smitty and Nichols tried to follow the armed assailant as he dashed out of the club, but he quickly entered a gray Packard and fired a few shots out the back window to deter anyone else.

As word of the shooting slowly spread through the Blue Heaven, pandemonium erupted much quicker when people began noticing the bloody remains. People began dashing out, even with the band playing louder and faster. All the while, the investigators noticed something horrible: The dead man, whose brains were splattered all across Marcus' face, was getting up! He staggered into the throngs of people trying to leave, only to fall apparently be trampled to death again. By the time our group had enough time to gather their wits amongst them and follow this phenomen, the undead gentleman body's had made it outside, only to be hit by a police car and pinned against a telephone pole. Only one person had heard want the body uttered as he staggered out the door... "Joey...."

With police sirens in the distance, the group rushed back in to grab their belongings and with the helped of one of the Negro muscians, escaped out a service entrance. The investigators got a glimpse of the Negro's bizarre trumpet and picked up a business card for a funeral home that must have dropped out of his pocket during the escape.

The next morning, the New York papers summarized the previous night's chaos. The dead-again alive-again man was Pete Mancuso, an "independent" bookkeeper. The papers stated he showed indominatable will in surviving a gunshot wound as long as he could.

As Marcus was still picking out pieces of skull and brain from his hair at the breakfast table, the investigators knew that was an outright lie.

The investigators, plus the Trentons, had two interesting leads to follow that morning. Mancuso's office, and the funeral home.

Mancuso's office door was wide open and already ransacked when the investigators arrived. They only found large gaps in the files in his cabinets, and a poorly written threatening note. Deciding to turn to his apartment for clues, the group discovered Steven's knack with lockpicking, and a number of savings passbooks with questionable-looking deposits.

By the time they got to the funeral home back in Harlem, the procession was already working its way down the street to the cemetary. The group could identify numerous members of the Blue Heaven orchestra at the head, including the Negro with the strange trumpet. As the band yed louder and louder a commotion started closer to the casket. The dead man inside was breaking his way out! Pandemonium ensued and threats of the undertaker burying a man alive permeated the crowd.

The group was noticed by Mitchell Webster, the band leader from the Blue Heaven. He had surmised two things were similar in both acts of the dead rising again: the investigators were present, and trumpet player Leroy Turner had finally decided to sober up enough to play a few notes. He gave the investigators his address and off they went.

A half-drunk Leroy was very frightened to see four white men and one strange sounding broad standing outside his front door, and it took a little "coersion" to convince him to talk. He was confused and frightened: in ten years of playing the trumpet he had never seen anything like the the last 24 hours happen, much less see it happen twice. He lamented the loss of his love and the appearance of his new love, a four valve trumpet with a silver crackled, "I received it from Mister Louie Armstrong himself!"

The interview over, the investigators went back to their car and decided to stake out Leroy's apartment. No more than five minutes later, Leroy exited the apartment, with an empty bottle in one hand, and his trumpet in the other. A quick five minute walk found him outside a well-hidden speakeasy, but before he could get inside, a gray Packard pulled up and a number of well-dressed white men pulled him inside the automobile. The investigators managed to follow the car to an old warehouse along the Harlem River.

The group decided to wait it out beyond the fence surrounding the warehouse. The fight with the KKK had made them cowardly? No, but with the exception of Nichol's three-shot revolver, the group was unarmed, going up againsta very "organized" group.

After a half hour, the group came out, and threw Leroy in the backseat, and drove off. Halfway into the Harlem the tailing investigators notice a fight inside the Packard. The lurched to the right and stopped, and Leroy jumped out, trumpet in hand, and high-tailed it out of there. He managed to elude his "friends", but the investigators were just able to follow him. They found him a cemetary, playing his trumpet with all his might. The ground began to shake and the dead appeared to be rising out of their graves. The investigators did not hesitate to get back to a more respectable place in Manhattan.

This was the third scenario I've run out of the CoC rulebook and despite promising read throughs, this was the least satisfying. Even as a Keeper, the scenario felt railroady, although the notes specifically state it's meant for beginning players or an experience group that's earned a break.

The group actually missed most of the clues and acted as bystanders to most of the acts. As I know my regular players, they were certainly engaged as players, just that their characters had little interest admitting their occult learnings to complete strangers, even if it was in Nyc. Plus at least the character versions of themselves are appropriately racist

Next session: Transgression or "Steve, your physics score is what?"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Opening Seats at the League of Gnomes

Part of my daily routine at lunch is to peruse the ever-expanding list of cool blogs I've discovered.

Today's update of note was from Tim's Miniature Wargame Blog:

Nothing particulary award-winning, I guess. Just a good Great War game set in German East Africa with British, German, Belgian, and native forces. This could be a nice example of setting up the long-awaited Tanga Campaign. But this blog post stuck with me until I started transferring my gnomes from the cold confines of the garage, to the much more accessible area of a hall closet.

There are no Belgian Gnomes!

Granted the number of Great War British in Africa minis is small. The number of Great War Belgian troop types available is ridiculously small. Belgians in Africa I didn't even know existed, or at least I couldn't name a manufacturer, so I doubt I'll see Belgian Gnomes coming out of Brigade anytime soon.

My query tonight follows in the footsteps of the Ham Fighter Revolution post: What current figures can be used to represent nationalities not covered in the Gnome Wars rules?

First off, the Swiss. Outside of the cheesethrowers, the Swiss are your archtypical gnome to begin with. If marketers can sell official Sacremento Kings and Carolina Panther garden gnomes, you can basically paint the Swiss whatever color you would like and call them whatever nation you would want. However certain countries are screaming for their own units (Canadian Mounties, Spanish Matadors, Scandanavian Vikings anyone?).

Just some quick brainstorming, but I think the Swiss could be used to model Belgians, Portugese, North African, and, of course Lichtenstein...Luxembourg has more of a French feel. And even with my statement above, I can picture a pretty cool red and white Canadian solider, complete with maple leaf on the hat. Heck, a couple Italians, complete with meatball or pizza chuckers (they have some stinky cheese, too, I guess). I'm now picturing Swiss-on-Swiss action to recreate the Banana Split Republic Wars, even chasing down a Gnomo Villa bandito across the Rio Grande.

The Germans could easily be Austrians, or any Eastern European state (Just throw in a few Russians for the Slavic states). Some Transylvanian troops would be a perfect honor guard (and buffet) for the vampire. Cut off the Picklehaub, and they can be stormtrooper for every two-bit despot in the world.

Sikhs would be the default colonial troop, whether Sikh, Askari, Oriental native, etc. If the troop type is below-average or worse, I tend to break out the Eureka teddy bears. Seeing a unit of Sikhs driving across the board is a psychological game-changer, no matter how weak they might be on paper.

Of course, the stats for these third and fourth-rate troops would be significantly less. Certain groups, we might allow consistent stats and abilities, like a Vatican Swiss Guard unit:

Vatican Swiss Guard, landing on the docks

Now, I've got enough gnomish lead to paint that I can't think about adding an artillery company of the San Marino guard, but in order to recreate historical battles, we need to be either a little fast and free with the units or the figs representing them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(Review) How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

One of my belated Christmas presents from my sister was How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack by Chuck Sambuchino.

Although it's patterned after the numerous zombie apocalypse handbooks, the author does an excellent job detailing the apparent threat the wee ceramic folk. I mean, enough people are prepping for zombies, but outside of a 5am visit to Dunkin Donuts, there aren't that many zombies hanging around. Garden Gnomes are freakin' everywhere! Right Now! Outside your window!

The book is broken down into four sections:

Part 1 (Assess) allows the reader to determine just how much their life is at risk. Are you in a neighborhood with garden gnomes. Are their minial exit points in your home? Wasn't that garden gnome to left of the birdbath yesterday? The reader is educated on suspicious activities and recognizing garden gnome communications.

Part 2 (Protect) allows the reader to fortify his abode. While not many people can have the local zoning board pass a variance for a moat, "gnomeproofing" allows the homeowner to impede access in the house and make the gnomes think twice before entering. (i.e. big #&@$-ing dogs)

Part 3 (Defend) breaks down the gnomish aresenal (usually items within your own home) and your arsenal in fighting them. Please note, if preparing for a zombie and a garden gnome apocalypse, there is very little overlap in the means of weaponry.

Part 4 (Apply) simply reinforces the lessons taught in the first three parts (stay calm, know your exits), as well as a few amusing anecdotes from garden gnome "survivors". There is also section on roaming gnomes (stealing other people's garden gnomes and taking them on vacation with you.) While I scoffed at such an idea being dangerous, to my horror I quickly realized it was true! My buddies Archi and Balls took a stolen gnome with them to spring break in Florida.

Six months later, the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were hit. Coincidence? I think not. The gnome was acting all cute, when in fact, it was scouting out airports for al-Gnoma.

All in all, if you're a survivalist of the not-so-mudane variety, How to Surivive a Garden Gnome Attack is essential reading. It's a 106-page hardcover, and available at Amazon and other outlets for $14.99.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(Gnome Wars) The Ham Fighter Revolution

First off, the awesome blog that got me inspired to think of this in the first place:

The Din of Battle has some awesome write-ups and pictures of 15mm Boxer Rebellion games. While most of the Boxer games I've witnessed have focused on the siege of the Legations , I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl when someone runs a game involving the relief columns.

And it got me thinking: as if I don't have enough crazy dreams and wishlists in my head, what would the Gnome Wars Boxer Rebellion look like?

Enter: The Ham Fighter Revolution
First, the Nationalities are off. No Americans, Austrians, or Italians to play with, and the Russians are limited. The multi-national alliance would consist of:

  • The Germans are still playing the role of misunderstood gnomish evil. Like their influence, their numbers would be great, and their motivation? To crush the short yellow devils and control the land for themselves.

  • The Swiss would be the German's counter-point. They enjoy open trade and prefer to crush the rebellion and retain the status quo.

  • The French would have a small but very competent force.

  • The Sikhs would hang around due to their alliance with the Swiss only if it suited them. They could very well switch sides and help flush the short white devils from the land.

  • The Russians would do well in the Siege of the Legation, but in open battles they have a small force.

  • The British: I've always pictured British gnomes more are economic opportunists rather than a military juggernaut. British Marines would actively be part of the relief column, perhaps a unit or two of British Highlanders, but I can't imagine more than ONE unit of Scottish Highlanders. Just like Tanga, I can't picture them there in large numbers.

  • Australians and Irish will be sitting this one out, unless the Aussie foot soldiers become available.

Their opponent, by default, would be the Japanese. They are the closest figs to Chinese Boxers that are currently available, they have a huge variety of foot soldiers, and the sushi cannon sounds like a nice take on the smoothbore cannons the Boxers possessed.

The main problem I forsee is the accumulation of forces. Japanese forces would have a few, if any samurais with katanas or komodo dragon cav units loyal to the cause, but to accomplish the feel of the rebellion, mostly yaris, some naginata, and a lot of rocket and riceball figs mixed in to compose the armies. I personally haven't even started working on a Japanese army, and most of the units that come to the HMGS are usually cav units, so assembling an overbearing, yet flawed army to play this out might take awhile.

To make matters worse, I remembered that the Japanese were part of the multi-national alliance, so it wouldn't be out of the question to allow elite units, loyal to western interests aid the alliance, thus making the demand for units even greater.

Now, the games involving the legations would be terrain intensive, but games involving the relief columns would be very basic, a few fortifications for the Japanese, a couple trees, and perhaps a big river or two.

As always, any suggestions would be appreciated.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vis-con delayed indefinitely

I had mentioned in the review of last fall's Mepacon, that we were trying to throw together a con for the Lehigh Valley. To say nothing's been done since Mepacon moved to Northeast Pennsylvania is the biggest travesty that could befall a vibrant and open gaming community.

There were a number of things we needed to review with Wilson Borough Community Center staff just to be sure there wasn't something that would make them shut us down the morning of the con. Everything was on hiatus until the first of this year, as they wouln't even discuss reservations until that time. Our Point of Contact, Brian, appeared to had fallen off the face of the Earth and then the medical issues with my youngest daughter kicked up. However, I did have a few people inquire as to the status of the con, so in the few moments my little girl is rest peacefully and growing stronger I was beginning to throw numbers together and recruit a second POC (who must be a resident of Wilson Borough.)

I finally got a phone call yesterday from Brian while I was (surprise) at the hospital. I'll deem this Point of Contact fiat, but Brian had seen my numerous medical posts on Facebook and felt with all the trouble occurring, it might be wise to push off the con until the Fall. I have no problem with that, although I question why he couldn't shoot a quick email to me a week or two ago.

All that said and don, Vis-Con, Q-Con, The Forks of the Delaware Grand Poobah Dorito Eating and Dice-Chucking Extravaganza is indefinitely put on hold. But I will update everyone once something positive can be nailed down as a date.

Oh Video Games I Curse Thee!

I'm currently at Geisinger Hospital Danville, still in the PICU with my daughter Amelia. I would like to think we've turned the corner with the devil virus cold she caught at two weeks, but until she can go home, my wife and I have been swapping nights staying here while the other goes home and deals with our 2-year old, Maja.

With the upcoming snow, and the fact that I might be here a day or three, I made an executive decision.

I rented Madden.

Well, kind of...

The Children's Hospital has a kiosk where one can rent movies and video games for free. It is convenient that each room has a vcr/dvd combo and a playstation 2. So, I bit the bullet and rented the latest version of Madden in the kiosk.

For 2006.

To make matters worse two separate machines wouldn't read it, so I went back to the kiosk and rented the NEXT option: NFL 2k3, the ESPN version of Madden.

Good news is, except for typing this, I haven't left the room and can follow-up on Amelia's recovery without going stir crazy.

Bad news: The Detroit Lions have always sucked beyond that of any team in professional, college, semi-pro, scholastic, or even sandlot football. I am seriously amazed that the snap isn't fumbled on each play, it's that bad.

Needless to say, I believe I lost interest during game 8 of franchise mode. The college madden curse is broken. Go about living your regular lives again.

If we do get a pile of snow, I may try NHL 2005. Hockey might ease my boredom, less I get hypnotized by the beeps and lines on my daughter's monitors.