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Crazy for Khazad-Dum: Barrage 2019 Con Report

I wasn't at all certain I was going to be able to sneak off to the Barrage Convention this Saturday due to crazy work commitments this time of year, but everything fell into place on Friday to allow me to spend Saturday gaming with old friends while making some new ones.

Barrage is the convention put on by the Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers (HAWKs), and this was something like their 23rd year organizing the event. I readily admit that the first Barrage Con I attended in January 2018 was a significant inspiration for me in proposing to my own club that we should start Scrum Con. The HAWKs are on the whole an exceptionally amiable group of gamers, as I've written many times on this blog in the past, and I've mixed with them enough times now that I feel pretty comfortable calling them pals (whether or not the feeling is mutual).

It was fun getting to bump into some of the stalwarts from the area who attend these conventions, including a few folks who either attended or ran a game at Scrum Con earlier in the year. One of the highlights was seeing Ed Watts again, who I've decided is the friendliest guy in wargaming. It was a pleasure chatting with him over hot dogs and Cokes in the afternoon, listening to his stories of how the wargaming hobby stretches across three generations in his family, with both his son and his late father having been collectors and players. Ed's game tables are always inventive and fully realized, and I can't wait to eventually get the chance to play on one.

Ed sporting a Scrum Con t-shirt! Thanks for spreading the word on our fledgling convention...It's much appreciated!

Ed and his son Brendan playing in Ed's samurai game.

And it's also always a pleasure seeing David "Zeb" Cook. He's going to run a role playing game at Scrum Con 2020, and our chat suggests he has something quite cool in mind. More details to come!

Zeb setting up the table for his Irish civil war scenario.

If we ever stretch Scrum Con into a two-day affair, I'm tempted to ask Zeb to run a role playing game one day and one of his cool miniatures games on the other.
It was also nice getting to hang out with my fellow Scrum Clubber Walt O'Hara all day yesterday. We meet every month at Scrum Hall, but it was nice getting to pair up for the day to talk and play games. I recognized the potential from the first time Walt and I played together at Historicon in 2017 that we could make cool gaming buddies, and now I'm also lucky to count him as a smart, funny friend.

Me and Walt as we tried to lead the Fellowship out of Moria.

Walt playing Cruel Seas while I marched my Dark Elves on the Dwarven King's stronghold.

  Dark Elves vs. the Alliance: The Dwarf King's Last Stand

This was a fun game run by a new member of the HAWKs, Francis Grice. He constructed a well-balanced battle that was a fierce contest to the very end. Fellow-HAWK Eric Schlegle moaned a lot about whether the opposing troop strengths were balanced when he thought he was going to lose the game early on, but in the end I think we all agreed that it was a good time. We played using a version of the Kings of War rules, and was told it plays like a stripped down version of Warhammer Fantasy Battles (which I've never played). It played well enough, especially in a convention setting, but I wouldn't describe it as my new favorite set of rules. My only point of caparison for a game of this type is Dragon Rampant, which I liked a little better, I think. But it was a fun time, and Francis was an excellent referee. Hope I get the chance to do some more gaming with him in the future.

Some of my troops at the battle's beginning arrayed against the dwarves played by a young woman named Emril and Eric Schlegel of the HAWKs.

My dragon and heroic rider. The pair killed a lot of dwarves before accidentally exposing our flank to a ranged attacked by some of Emril's troops late in the game.

Some of my elite guard.

My lizard-riding (?) dark elves.

The leader of my War Dancer units.

My teammate had a hydra that lasted pretty far into the battle before getting killed off, too.

My dragon got within striking distance of the dwarven king, the killing of whim was our objective. It would take a strategic retreat on my part and a few turns of weakening some of those dwarven ranged units around me before I would eventually kill the king off with my elite guard.

Die, You Fiend!

My game with Francis and crew ended about an hour earlier than scheduled, so I ended up playing a quick game of Eric Schlegel's design that he calls Die, You Fiend! It's essentially gladiatorial combat in which each player chooses a fantasy character of some sort and fights to the last person standing. It's a light, fast ruleset with some neat resource-management ideas, and it's a good way to pass 30-45 minutes between games. I always look forward to squeezing a game of it in at Barrage. Emril was responsible for killing my dragon in the earlier game, and in this game she killed my barbarian, so I've decided I don't really care much for her.

Emril and Eric.

Eric and his long-suffering girlfriend.

The Bridge of Khazad-Dum

The standout game of the day for me was Matt Kirkhart's mounting of "The Bridge of Khazad-Dum" from The Fellowship of the Ring. Rather than using other manufacturer's miniatures or terrain, Matt built everything from scratch, including all of the figures. His aesthetic is a fully formed one that is fun without being too playful, almost primitivist yet somehow sophisticated in execution, like a really cool folk art version of a wargame. It has a minimalism and tone that is the utter antithesis of the Games Workshop's self-serious, slavishly realistic Lord of the Rings range of figures and terrain, and that alone endears Matt's work to me. If there was a way to purchase a set like this, I would do it in a heartbeat, even if it isn't necessarily what I've been drawn to in the past. But I can't buy it and neither can you, and there's nothing else out there even remotely like it, which makes it a special treat to get to play a game with Matt's cool handcrafted creation. I understand he has also crafted a set up for a battle in Balin's Tomb. I hope to get the chance to play that one day, too! you fools!

Game's start...

We had to get five of the Fellowship, including Frodo, across the bridge and up the stairs. Looks easy, right?

Gandalf races ahead as the Goblins start clamoring in around the edges.

Close up of Goblin bowman.

Goblins starting to overwhelm and slow us down on the way to the bridge.

It was, indeed, just a matter of time before the fearsome Balrog arrived!

What a beautifully abstract interpretation of a Balrog! It really did feel intimidating on the game table!

Now the pressure is on to get the hell over that bridge!

I played Aragorn, who had been bringing up the rear and so unfortunately ended up having to tangle with the Balrog a number of times.

By this point we had lost Gandalf. Walt got him a little too close to the bridge, which alerted a group of hidden archers on the other side who proceeded to shoot him full of arrows. At this point Legolas is at the fore trying to clear the bridge with the hobbits scampering up behind.

A front and rear shot of Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli. Everybody had a special ability; you can see the horn in Boromir's hand that we used at one point to scatter the goblins blocking our path to the bridge.

A Wraith would enter the game if Frodo ever put on the One Ring.

For the record, this is Walt's thumb. Thanks for the letting me steal the pic, friend!

Frodo, visible and invisible.

Tin pan Sam!


Aragorn, dual wielding!

"Uhm...that way!"
Special shout out to Walt for letting me use some of the above photos from our game.


I did alright this convention in terms of finding some cool stuff to bring home, most of it at truly bargain prices.

One of the unexpected pleasures of Barrage was getting to know vendors Don Hauser and his wife, owners of Wee Wolf Miniatures. I ended up buying these cool miniatures that are not based on Ralph Bakshi's 1977 movie Wizards. Nope, they're not, I tell you. Regardless, he and his wife were warm, affable, easy conversationalists. Hoping to see more of them both at future conventions, maybe even Scrum Con.

I bought a giant bag of 50 space marines for $10. I figured for .20 cents a piece I'd find a game in which to use them. I already primed them all today, and will pick away at painting them over the winter months.

That same vendor convinced me to buy the above space marines by throwing in this box of Mantic skeletons for free. Do I really need more skeletons? Nope, but I do like Mantic's skeletons, didn't already own any, and best yet, they were already cut from the sprues and glued together, the absolute least enjoyable part of this hobby for me.
Did I really need a dead horse and cow miniature? What's it to you?!? 
Super cheap and I thought they had some nice character.

Kinda goofy, but he's a large bad guy, and I got him cheap for $2.

I was really excited for this out-of-print Ogre Mage. I had seen him years before, and liked that he came with the option of carrying a kidnapped princess in his left hand. Unfortunately, when I got him out of the package (which had been poorly taped shut some years ago), I found that he was missing the giant katana for his right hand. Oh, well...still kinda cool...and only $2.

Scrum Con

Thanks again to the HAWKs for letting us promote our upcoming Scrum Con at your convention. Eric Schlegel generously printed out some fliers for us and had them on a table near the front door, and I brought a few myself and handed a good number of them out. Many folks seemed to have at least heard of our convention, and a few wanted to offer ways to help support it. It was really encouraging to hear folks talk enthusiastically about our little convention and their hope to see it succeed. Thanks again to everyone I spoke to about Scrum Con!



  1. Hey Joe, thanks so much for the very kind write up about the Khazad-Dum game. I had a great time playing and was very happy to have you at the table. That was a very good and very experienced group of minis games players in that group, and you all certainly played that way. With Gandalf dying so quickly, you all could have lost your focus but you didn't and everyone stayed together which is the key to that scenario, at least in terms of keeping the hobbits alive.

    If I am able to make it to ScrumCon this year I will run a couple games of this at your convention. By the way I took your advice and altered the rules to make it easier for the heroes to be wounded and, as an extension, be knocked out of the game. So when you play the Balin's Tomb game in the future, you may find it to be more deadly than the Khazad-Dum game you played in. :-)


    1. Thanks for commenting here, Matt! Hope we can keep in touch and even get some games in together outside of the convention circuit, time permitting!

  2. Awesome khazad-dum game, fantastic and wonderfully character full figures, the goblins are fab as are the balrog and the fellowship, one of the best things I've seen online, absolutely brilliant!
    Best Iain

    1. I agree abut this wonderful game, Iain. I'll hopefully get the opportunity to play in and post about some of Matt's other games in the future.

  3. Hey... where can I get a ScrumCon t-shirt?

    1. That's a good question...let me see if I can flip the switch and make it available on Amazon. Or, if you want to wait for the upcoming shirt, I think we've successfully commissioned old school artist extraordinaire Russ Nicholson to draw something for the Scrum Con 2020 shirt.

  4. Great fun at the convention, hanging out with Scrummers Joe & Walt and all the HAWKS. Francis Grice & I thought we had the samurai game sewn up, we were at about to leave the board with our ill gotten gains when my son popped several ashigaru pikemen out of the blue roofed temple and blocked the road so we couldn't escape. I got some revenge when my tavern keeper reclaimed his money chest from Brendan's brawling pirates at Chris Palmer's Spyglass Inn. I got to play Austrians versus "long suffering" Miss Vicky in Black Powder and then got trounced as Prussians vs. Russians in a second game. Also played an unsuccessful train robbing outlaw in a game of Colt Express. Lotta games, lotta fun. Now we have to get ready for Scrum Con in February!

    1. Those sound like some great games, Ed! And let's try to get a couple of games in at my place or yours between now and Scrum Con, if you're up for it!

  5. Oh wow, really love the style of the LoTR models, it's like they walked straight out of a comic book.
    What materials did he use to make them?

    1. I think Matt uses a variety of bits and bobs to make those figures. If I remember recently, he has a couple of posts on his blog in which he discusses the crafting behind his games.


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