Tuesday, June 22, 2021

WEG Memoirs: D6 Indiana Jones RPG

All your life has been spent in pursuit of archaeological relics. Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations. You want to see it opened as well as I.”


Following clues to the lost files....
Someone on Twitter last week posted a photo of their used bookstore haul of West End Games’ World of Indiana Jones roleplaying game books...and I immediately had a flashback to those final months of the company’s existence before bankruptcy in 1998 when we proposed a complete reboot of the game line in a premium, full-color hardcover core rulebook. I not only managed to find the proposal still lurking on my hard drive but also – far in the depths of my bottom-most file drawer – the three-page print out in a folder labeled “Indiana Jones D6.” Given its history I’m glad no angry, cursed ghosts few out of the dusty pages to melt my face.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Armies in Plastic

 The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

Carl Jung

I’ve extolled the virtues of Armies in Plastic figures before but never featured the company in a post all its own. Goodness knows I’ve mentioned these 54mm (1:32 scale) plastic soldiers enough during the past 10 years when I used them in various projects. Now that the company’s having a summer sale (ends June 30) it seems as good a time as any to talk about the large-scale historical miniatures it offers, good for young wargamers and seasoned grognards.

Armies in Plastic Native Americans
ambush a party of rangers.
These 54mm soldiers come in solid-colored plastic sculpted with enough detail one can identify them with a particular historical period. They range from 18th century conflicts (Seven Years War, French & Indian War, American War of Independence) throughout the 19th century (War of 1812, Franco Prussian War, various British colonial wars), and even into the 20th century (World War I, Rusian Civil War, and, a large jump over WWII, modern forces for the War on Terror). For some periods different forces are the same figures cast in different colors; for instance, AWI redcoats are red, patriots are blue, even though both have the same mix of poses. But most series include entirely original figures: rangers and Native Americans for the French & Indian War; numerous British colonial adversaries (Zulus, Afghan tribesmen, dervishes), several kinds of British colonial troops (including kilted Highlanders), even Germans in pickelhauben and later-war stahlhelme for WWI (to name a few with which I’m familiar).

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

History Lost/Gained in the Pandemic

 That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.”

Aldous Huxley

The covid-19 pandemic forced many to alter our lives for the sake of the common good in overcoming a novel virus. Everyone’s lost something. If we’re lucky we only lost more than a year of life’s normal activities, routines, and special events. The less fortunate lost jobs, homes, and, worst of all, loved ones. (I discussed some of my own disappointments before in “The 2020 that Might Have Been.”) Hopefully we’ve gained a little something from these experiences...a perspective on what we lost, how much it meant, and how we might appreciate it all the more in the future. We’re still dealing with covid-19, managing our comfort levels, health, and vaccination status against the risks of returning to the way we did things in the “Before Times” as I sarcastically call them. A “normal” school year for students ranks among the losses young people sustained. Partial in-person learning and part- or full-time distance learning online focused on the most central of the core subjects – math, reading, science – and what little history they had studied earlier simply dropped off the academic map. Luckily for our household we try fostering and engaging an interest in history through films and games.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Estimates & Intentions

I enjoy reading scholarly works about the adventure gaming hobby; they help me take a step back and look at things from different perspectives. My most recent reading in this vein includes Jon Peterson’s The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity (2020) and John M. Lillard’s Playing War: Wargaming and U.S. Navy Preparations for World War II (2016). They might seem to cover very different subjects, but, upon reflection, I’ve found some of their core gaming themes quite sound and relatable to my own experiences. Both demonstrate games as interplay between participants assessing the immediate situation and making decisions to change that situation in their favor. I sometimes feel like a simpleton in the shadow of these scholarly analyses of the adventure gaming hobby. Some of their revelations seem so obvious once articulated despite the depth of subsequent discussion and investigation they can inspire. Often I find myself reaching conclusions and then responding to myself with, “Well, duh.” I’d like to think I redeem my naivete in my subsequent reflections on the subjects at hand.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Father-Son Naval Warfare

Among my (admittedly) many gaming diversions from the covid-19 pandemic I’m dabbling in naval warfare again: American Civil War ironclads and World War II South Pacific. Granted I’d previously explored the Battle of the River Plate using both Fletcher Pratt’s rules and Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames along with flats from Topside Minis (which I’ve featured here before). I’d also tried Mike Crane’s The Virginia vs. the Monitor – or, Look Out Minnesota! with some home-crafted models (and the Minnesota fold-up piece provided in the rules). Both periods appeal to me, as did Cordery’s rules for their intuitive mechanics that easily accommodate some minor adjustments. I treated myself to some naval miniatures which, now they’re painted, are ready for some wargame tabletop action with my son.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Developing Skirmish Kids

Aside from the occasional roleplaying game material – inevitably requiring a great deal of time and effort to develop and publish – the rest of my publishing endeavors these past few years have focused on miniature wargames suitable for introducing newcomers to gaming and draw kids into the adventure gaming hobby. Having recently completed a rare freelancing assignment for a roleplaying game adventure collection, I’m reviewing several project ideas vying for my attention, each of which engages my enthusiasm to varying degrees. I’ve decided to advance one of my projects to the next step. Once again I’ve indulged my interest in games for youngsters and spent some time developing Skirmish Kids. It started out as a quick game to include with some miniatures for my son, then something a bit more involved with an intent to publish. After some playtesting on our own and a good deal of writing and self-editing, I have a draft ready for anyone interested to read, playtest, and offer comments.

[Edit 5-25-21: Thanks to reader Russell Phillips, interested playtesters can now download the Skirmish Kids file in both Mobi and Epub formats as well as PDF.]

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Ebb & Flow

 A great life is to be able to ebb and flow.”

Robin Wright

People’s involvement in the adventure gaming hobby ebbs and flows with the tides of their lives. Many enter when they have leisure time to spare, often in middle or high school, sometimes in college. Others immerse themselves in it as an adult hobby, a relief from the trials of everyday life. Some people drift away from gaming and never return; many set it aside for a period and return to it later with renewed energy and a different perspective. For some of us it’s a creative outlet whose output fluctuates depending on inspiration, energy, and opportunity. Although I’ve long cultivated an interest in the adventure gaming hobby across the wide gaming spectrum – roleplaying games, board games, wargames (both with boards and miniatures), even card games – my focus has ebbed and flowed depending on my own life’s circumstances. As I look back on my gaming activities during the past pandemic year – limited as they have been by social distancing and other precautions – I realize I’m undergoing a shift in my gaming tides.