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Wargaming in the Time of COVID-19

I went in with low expectations about what this experience would be like, and I left very pleasantly surprised by how much much fun I had with fellow Scrum Clubber Steve Braun playing a game of Battlesystem "virtually" today using streaming video via Facebook.

Steve set up everything on his dining room table, and he would occasionally pick up the camera at my request (or to clarify his own move) and move it around the table so I could get a better sense of positioning in various parts of the battlefield. I'd give him orders, roll dice on my end, and we went back and forth from there.

Battlesystem (2nd ed.) is a lot of fun, and while a clear descendant of Chainmail, it does have a bit more rules overhead that we are still grappling with. We'll have to dig into the rulebook a bit more to make sure we're getting correct the costs for certain kinds of movement and changing formations. So, though a bit more complicated than Chainmail, it also adds a lot of much-needed material to help differentiate an Orc from a Dwarf from a Troll from a Bugbear. Furthermore, the magic system is far more robust.

We both really wanted to get our feet wet with this new (to us) set of rules, and we accomplished that and had fun bashing into each other's armies at the same time. We're hoping these rules will work for the mass battle sessions in our Braunstein-esque campaign the Scrum Club is working on.

Thanks for setting it up, Steve! I'll definitely play again! Here's to miniatures wargaming in the time of COVID-19!


Well-thumbed posts

Chainmail: Battle of Emridy Meadows

In my imagination, Chainmail has always been that shadowy precursor to Dungeons & Dragons that I was both intrigued by yet leery of. I loved the idea of a game involving mass battles in a fantasy setting akin to those depicted in the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I also had a sense that Chainmail, released in 1971 a mere year after I was born, was likely a clunky wargame that would be too frustrating to bother mastering. It also didn't help that my first inkling of its existence was around 1980 or so when I could never dream of amassing the miniature armies needed to play out these massive conflicts. No, back then I was pretty sure Chainmail was the province of grizzled old grognards who had started wargaming before I was even born.

Even after my gaming rebirth decades later in 2016, I was fine with letting the dim past remain so, and was more than content during my first couple of years back in the hobby exploring rules of a more recent vintage and manageable scale…

Take the High Road: Making Cheap and Easy Dirt Roads

I have wanted some good roads to add to my games for a while now. My first attempt was a couple of years ago when my standards were a bit lower and I wasn't sure how much I was interested in investing in this new hobby. I bought some PDFs of cobblestone roads that I sized, printed, and glued to felt. The result was okay, but the way my laser printer  produced the roads ended up being quite reflective to the point of almost being glossy looking. The combination of glue, paper, and felt also meant the roads had a wavy consistency and almost always curled at the edges. I used them once or twice but was never happy with them.

I've been meaning to take another crack at making some roads now that I have more terrain-making experience under my belt and find the process less intimidating. If I had to pass on any advice to newcomers to terrain making it would be to watch a number of YouTube tutorials or check out a site like my pal John's 1,000 Foot General, and then just jump in …

Lost Art of D&D: Alex Nuckols

Artist Alex Nuckols made what disappointingly ended up being a minor yet still evocative contribution to the visual history of D&D with a series of paintings he was commissioned to produce for a school supply company named St. Regis. It seems he painted nearly a dozen pieces that graced the covers of D&D-themed notebooks, folders, and three-ring binders in 1980-81. As a D&D-obsessed kid of 10-11 years old at the time, I owned three or four of these and have never parted with them. 

Here are some examples I found online. I’ve always regretted that Nuckols didn’t produce work for any actual gaming material released by TSR (or any game company) because to this day I think he captured the gritty feel and texture of how I imagined these fantasy worlds in my mind’s eye. He was certainly a more accomplished artist than many of those who ended up in the stable as staff at TSR at the time. Artistically, his compositions are always compelling and typically eschew the over-heroic pose…

Historicon 2019: New Digs, Epic Games

Historicon is turning into one of the highlights of my summer. I've developed some fond friendships over the past three years of attending and feel like I'm beginning to be more a part of a community and less a neophyte or spectator. It was at the first Historicon I attended in 2017 that I met future fellow Scrum Clubbers Walt O'Hara and Steve Braun, and the circle of gaming friends has expanded significantly from there to include great guys like Ivor Evans, Miles Reidy, Jeff Allen, Joe Bloch, Eric Schlegel, and a bunch of the HAWKs gaming group (Don, Duncan, Buck, Chris, Greg, Bill, et al.).

The two hour trip up to Lancaster Friday morning made for a lovely drive with the convertible's top down and Spotify blaring out a summer tunes mix. I had found a great Airbnb condo five blocks from the convention, but I decided to go straight to Historicon without checking in (which finally happened a bone-weary dozen hours later and well after midnight).

I spent most of that fi…

All Together Now: 'Sellswords & Spellslingers' and the Pleasures of Cooperative Gaming

I've always enjoyed a good competitive match as much as the next guy, whether it was sports in high school or video games (HALO, etc.) in my thirties. But regardless of the game, I've always been partial to team play, and the best cooperative games put all of the focus on succeeding as a team. That's one of the reasons I was enthusiastic about getting Andrea Sfiligoi's latest release, Sellswords & Spellslingers (Ganesha Games), on the table for this month's Second Saturday Scrum Club gathering.

Last year I had organized a Halloween game (recap) to beta-test Sfiligoi's Run From the Dead, which is built atop the same cooperative mechanics as Sellswords. I was surprised when I discovered these rules were re-skinned for the fantasy genre and released last December ahead of Run From the Dead. Hopefully, the zombie apocalypse version of the rules is not too far behind because I definitely think Run From the Dead is the best tabletop miniatures rule set I've …

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 ra…