Tuesday, October 10, 2023

A Comfy Backlog of Gaming

My son and I just got back from a very positive game convention experience – our first together since the seemingly mythical “Before Times” prior to the covid-19 pandemic – and while I’m unpacking things I’m keeping in mind games that engaged him as well as considering a comfy pile of games I urgently want to play when I find the time and/or a willing opponent. Some call this the “Shelf of Shame,” though rather than “shame” I view it as “opportunity.” Have I read all the books in my extensive personal library? No. But they’re available if the urge strikes me or I need to explore some references for a project. I view games the same way. And, of course, the pile isn’t that backlog of hobby game projects (painting minis, working on terrain, etc.) or the other backlog of game design/writing projects. But I like to strike while the iron is hot to engage my son through the intersection of gaming and his (and my) varied interests, such as history and Star Wars. So I’m looking at newly acquired games and how to get them – and my son – to the gaming table.

At the convention I ran two scenarios using Bob Cordery’s Gridded Naval Wargames rules, with some of my personal modifications (notably a critical damage chart and repair rules). My “South Pacific Patrol” game got off to a slow start; but after my son and I fought a match between two PT boats and a Japanese destroyer, we attracted a few onlookers for a full second round with more ships. Saturday night I ran “Sink the Graf Spee!” with four players, who played through twice, the second time with some rules modifications. The Graf Spee won both times, but it was a closer-run battle the second time. The games inspired the first game we want to try as well as a project. Knowing I have a slew of GHQ PT boats all painted and ready to deploy, my son devised a speculative “What If?” battle pitting the Graf Spee against all 18 PT boats. (A scenario that reminds me of Steve Jackson Games’ OGRE.) In light of all the naval wargaming we did, I think it’s high time I formalized my notes on additions, revisions, scenarios, and other house rules for Gridded Naval Wargames to suit my own style of play and preserve for future reference.

One of the dealers offered a few lines of “knock-off” 3D-printed figures in 25-28mm scale for gaming popular media franchises...things like “Metalmen” for the “Doctor What” range or “Skullhunters” (Predators) made by JS Wargamer Printing (perfect for people like me who love what 3D printing can do but don’t have the equipment or technical aptitude to do it ourselves). My son bought the “Arny Exterminator” from the “War against the Machines” line and I got a pack of “Fishmen Troopers” and a sniper (a la Fennec Shand) from the “Galaxy far Away” line. Both reminded me I should finish polishing my Skirmish Kids rules for kids and newcomers to the hobby (though I suppose experienced grognards might find something interesting in it) and use these minis (along with my collection of old Star Wars metal 25mm minis) for some playtest scenarios.

The convention holds a teacup-style raffle, with tickets pulled Saturday night to determine who wins donated game-related items. I didn’t expect to win Star Wars: Shatterpoint – an expensive Clone Wars skirmish game and the most coveted item in the raffle – but I was happy to win a copy of Star Wars: The Clone Wars game which I’ve considered getting for a while, being a fan of the Pandemic cooperative/solitaire play style, with my son a fan of the Clone Wars era.

I acquired a few more games at the convention flea market Sunday morning – Avalon Hill’s Luftwaffe, Avalon Hill’s bookshelf “gamette” Little Round Top, and the solitaire Drive on Suez from World at War magazine #78 – all of which deserve at least a read-through if not some actual play spread out on the wargaming table. Luftwaffe was in rough shape but seems to have cleaned up a bit. Little Round Top is missing a few counters (hence the excellent price of “free” at the flea market), so I’ll have to track down some decent images for reference or printing; I was a big fan of Avalon Hill’s “gamettes” in my youth, and I still have a few. As a solo North African campaign game Drive on Suez stands the best chance of reaching the game table sooner rather than later. (Alas, I hesitated and missed the chance to buy Worthington Publishing’s solitaire 1759 Siege of Quebec second edition for a good price, not a “must have” for me but a “would like.”)

In the two weeks before the convention – as I prepped my game materials and started packing – a few games arrived that pleasantly demand my attention. Hearing it was recently available again, I ordered a copy of Hollandspiele’s Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Northern Theater, 1775-1777, which arrived faster than I’d expected. After dropping my son off at a birthday party in mid-September I couldn’t help but linger in the regional game store...and pick up a copy of Restoragion Games’ Unmatched Jurassic Park: Dr. Sattler vs. T. Rex to go with my Unmatched Jurassic Park: InGen vs. Raptors. I’ve also just started downloading and printing the Battle Cards World War II solitaire games that released just before the convention (which I’ve featured before).

I expect I’ve recently indulged in this level of game acquisition because I’ve had opportunities to find good deals on stuff I’d wanted. It’s also a sort of mid-point between my summertime birthday and the yuletide holidays, both occasions when I receive game gifts and also treat myself. While I’m playing with my new toys – either solitaire or with my son – I’ll keep devising new games to run at future conventions...or at other venues seeking to engage newcomers through that intersection of their interests and relevant games.


  1. Wonderful stuff. Sounds like good times were had by all at the convention, and I for one would be interested in seeing your house rules for Gridded Naval Wargames.

    1. Drafting house rules for GNW might take a while, but I've put it on my pile of game design/writing projects since I enjoy using those rules so much....


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