Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Victorian SF & the Yuletide Invasion

Bastet, in the form of our cat Vader, couldn't
resist nestling down amid all the
plastic foliage.
I’ve wanted to run a Victorian science fiction miniatures game for a while now, ever since John from the 54mm or Fight! blog generously sent me a box of 15mm painted and based miniatures. In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing – and reflections on gaming and colonialism – I started developing a storyline in which I could fight battles between the various forces John sent, including French Foreign legionaries, African troops, some American Civil War zoaves, and a massive host of lizardmen. I pulled out my jungle terrain and Egyptian temple pieces, set them up on my three foot square green felt mat, carefully assembled and deployed my units, jotted stats on record sheets, prepped my dice and cards...only to realize the yuletide holidays were bearing down on me. Although I’ve done everything to set up the initial battle in a campaign, including developing an overarching storyline, playing will have to wait until after the holidays.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Share Our Good Fortune

 “We count our miseries carefully and accept our blessings without much thought.”

Chinese Proverb

I was thinking of making the two-hour drive from Culpeper to Mechanicsville, VA (a suburb of Richmond), at some point in November to treat myself to a few purchases at Waterloo Games. A friend from the Williamsburg gaming conventions I attend, Rob Eubanks, opened the store just as the pandemic started in 2020 and, through his own dedication, his family’s support, and the patronage of a great gaming community, managed not only to stay open but to thrive. I’ve visited the store several times in the past year. Before trekking down to Richmond I check the website and Facebook page to see what’s going on. This time I saw Rob posted a notice that he’s collecting food donations for a local charity, Feed More, to help those in need during the upcoming holidays. It reminds me how fortunate many of us are to have the means to indulge in the adventure gaming hobby...and how unfortunate many others are. I celebrate folks like Rob inspiring his game store community to help their neighbors during the holiday season. And it reminds me to not only show gratitude for my good fortune by donating to help others now, but to do it more often throughout the year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Reconnecting with Tunnels &Trolls

I’ve been busy lately more with wargames than roleplaying games – both core elements of the adventure gaming hobby (along with board games) – but I recently took a break from various wargaming projects and dove back into an old yet renewed game I’d enjoyed in my youth: Tunnels & Trolls. At first I didn’t get very far, just reviewed the rules and rolled up a character, but soon I was perusing different adventure books and couldn’t resist running a solitaire scenario. For a short while I basked in a comforting feeling from my earliest gaming days, sending my character wandering through programmed adventures, stumbling around traps, and either fighting my way to victory and fantastic treasures or failing that one saving roll and suffering a seemingly arbitrary and undeserving death. The experience proved a refreshing change from my current activities and one I intend to return to when I need a bit of contrast to my usual gaming scene.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Card-Driven Battle Games

I’ve recently enjoyed playing around with some wargames using cards for unit activation and actions. They’re new acquisitions with elements I thought I might like to explore, something different from board games and miniature wargames, though with plenty of similarities in different aspects. Manoevre from GMT Games (2008) covers early 19th century combat (the Napoleonic era), while Airfix Battles from Modiphius Entertainment (2016) offers an introductory wargame experience set in World War II. They loosely fall into the “board wargame” category, though enterprising hobbyists can craft their own conversions to a more visually impressive experience with miniatures and terrain. The central card mechanics work well in providing players limited choices maneuvering units on the field. As with any game, each has its own strengths and disadvantages; but on the whole each game provided a positive play experience.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Star Wars RPG Instant Adventures

I’m trying to jumpstart my work on a neglected system-neutral fantasy roleplaying setting and, in seeking inspiration to fuel some creative momentum, I’m looking at some of my favorite roleplaying game supplements for ideas and reviewing notes I’ve gleaned from others on relevant game design. My reading includes the Instant Adventures collection for West End Games’ D6 System Star Wars Roleplaying Game. Although filled with scenarios, its original design parameters offer some ideas on how I might approach developing and presenting my setting sourcebook – short, easily digestible sections with maps and sidebars to quickly orient readers – still useful 20 years later in our Internet Age of instant gratification and dwindling attention spans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Considering Bloody Tarawa

 I cannot tell you what profound respect I have for these Marines who took Tarawa, the living and the dead. I do not believe any Americans ever fought more bravely or so unselfishly.”

Robert Sherrod, Time-Life photographer

A few weeks ago I reflected how our wargaming experience might have more depth when we consider it more than simply playing a game, but give thought at some point to the history behind the battle, the ramifications for people who, on the board, often look like cardboard chits and playing pieces. Although that piece focused on issues of colonialism in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, it also pertains to other issues, notably the human cost of war. I’m reading John Wukovits’ One Square Mile of Hell, an account of the battle for Tarawa in November, 1943, from its planning and training phases, through the ruthless fighting, and its aftermath with survivors and families. Coupled with my occasional visits to the National Museum of the Marine Corps and my enjoyment of Worthington Publishing’s solitaire Tarawa 1943 game, the book offered a vivid, painful reminder of the price we pay to wage war.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Gaming Artifacts: AD&D Deck of Encounters

I’m always on the lookout for interesting resources to inspire and enhance my solitaire roleplaying gaming. Most work just as well for group play, but some can form the basis for solo adventures when the gang just can’t coordinate schedules and you want to spend an afternoon immersed in an imaginary game world. Years ago I recall using the second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deck of Encounters: Set One for a few weekend forays back into my favorite Basic/Expert D&D rules. I don’t recall much about the few play sessions other than they offered some satisfying entertainment and relief from stress at the time. Perusing the deck today I can see how they provide a range of adventure seeds one might develop into sole encounters or springboards for more involved adventures. It’s quite AD&D specific, but enterprising gamemasters can adapt most encounters to their favorite game setting or genre with a little work. Alas, it’s not cheap to acquire these days, especially when other resources exist today with a similar if not more effective inspirational impact.