Monday, 30 March 2015

Trumpeter Salute 2015

I had a blast this year again at the Trumpeter Society's Salute convention! Huge kudos and thanks are due to the volunteers, game hosts, and vendors who work so hard to put the convention on every year - their efforts really show. We had a full roster of games and healthy attendance, so there were a lot of happy and satisfied gamers at the show this weekend.

I was able to attend the Friday night session and all day Saturday, which means 4 game sessions. I only missed out on Sunday. There were a lot of games registered in which I was interested, but after so much on Friday and Saturday I needed Sunday to recover.

Friday Night

Friday night, Grace and I participated in an All Things Zombie game that took place during the Russian revolution.I was keen to play a game of ATZ, because I've heard about the rules many times and there are other Two Hour Wargames games that I would like to check out sometime, so this was a good 'taster' for the rules.

Kommisar Burnovich and his obedient bodyguards.
Each player had control of three characters, except one (one of the hosts who was participating in the game) who had a light tank. We all started on one side of the table and approached a village that was suspected of harboring a team of rogue scientists working on some secret project.

With six players, plus programmed zombies, the game was a bit slow-moving. Most of the slowness comes down to the rules themselves, which are so chart-heavy they are in danger of collapsing under their own mass into a chart singularity. My only experience with a THW ruleset was when I tried playing Nuts! several years ago, which ended in pure frustration. After having played ATZ, I feel a bit better about being unable to puzzle out the finer points of Nuts - even the hosts seemed to struggle to figure out what the rules mandated in certain circumstances.

Clunky rules aside, the hosts did a great job of providing a fun game, and we managed to clean up most of the zombies - though having a noisy tank rumbling around in the village didn't help.

At one point we encountered a band of Whites. As a Kommissar of the reds, they were my political and ideological enemies, but I was the one who discovered them, and I had a chance to form an alliance of convenience so that we could work together to control the zombies. Unfortunately for the cause of peace, one of the attributes I rolled for my Kommissar at the beginning was 'Dim', so I decided to role-play him appropriately and opened fire on the Whites. At this point I had left my sole bodyguard behind (the other one had been bitten and had to be euthanized for the good of the Party), and when they returned fire I had to duck back into some nearby bushes.

By the end of the scenario, we had searched all of the buildings except the church, but things were looking pretty good for the humans, so the hosts declared it a victory for the living.

Huge thanks to Martin, Tony, and Brian for setting up the game and helping us noobs along!

Saturday Morning and Afternoon

Like last year, I hosted two games. This time it was two sessions of Saga, using the 2x2 terrain board I built last summer and the scenario I developed to go with it, during the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions. The game was well received, and I had full rosters for both sessions with people on the waiting lists, as well as lots of people who came by to check it out. I also won Best In Show for the Saturday morning session, which provided me with a certificate to spend at the Imperial Hobbies booth - more on that later.

I took some photos during the session, but I can't do better than the battle report that David wrote after the second game. You can find it at his blog - Google Translate does a good job, if you don't speak French.

All of the players did a great job and were very gracious and patient in learning a rule set that doesn't lend itself very well to just picking up and playing, and Grace was a huge help in offering rules clarifications and advice to the players through both sessions.

At the end of the day there was a great deal of courage, cowardice, carnage, and arson, of which great Sagas are made.

Saturday Evening

I had hoped to return to Brian's Russian Revolution table on Saturday to try out Chain Of Command, I ruleset I own but which I have never yet played, but the roster was already full by the time I finished packing up my Saga game and eating dinner. So I decided to join Dave and Bryan at their Axles & Alloys game, a set of rules with which I'm pretty familiar. Grace even brought the school bus I painted for A&A to play with - I just used the cars that Dave and Bryan had available.

Axles & Alloys is a ton of chaotic, ridiculous fun, and this game was true to form. Dave and Bryan had it set up as a rolling tournament, where if your car was destroyed, you either picked a new one or kept the same one and brought it on again at the start of the next turn. There was a leader board to show who had the most points (kills were worth 2, assists were worth 1), and who had died the most times.

Our table was probably the noisiest, even out-shouting the chariot game next door. I managed to get one or two kills and only died once before I had to get up and cash out my bring-and-buy stuff. It seemed like everybody had a great time smashing and shooting each other to bits.

Other Stuff

Salute again featured a Bring-N-Buy area, where people could unload some of their unwanted gaming gear. I was able to clear out some stuff of mine that I don't think I will ever use, and I made enough money by doing so that I was able to load up on the always-amazing Pulp Figures miniatures - my Pulp Alley games may see reinforcements from German Zeppelin troopers, Gasmask Cultists, and even more She-Wolves Of The SS. I also bought one of Bob Murch's Breadfruit Queens, which is a figure he's selling by donation to plant breadfruit trees in areas that need them, and I got one of the forthcoming Huron figures in my grab-bag.

As I mentioned earlier, I won a gift certificate to Imperial Hobbies. Imperial is always a great sponsor of the club and the convention, and very involved in the gaming scene. My prize was sufficient to get me a copy of Dead Man's Hand, a set of Western miniatures rules. I have enough figures to do a game, I've just never had rules to play with. I think it would be a lot of fun to do a Western-themed Quar game in the future too!

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Road To Perilous Island: Soerabaja!

For this week's tale of adventure, Bryan and I were joined by my wife Grace and our friend Jenn. Grace was in charge of The Rocketeam, a band of jetpack-wearing daredevils, and Jenn had a rough-and-ready group of Western types called the Bill Hillies, named for their leader, Banjo Bill. Rather than a free-for-all, we decided to create informal teams: the Rocketeam joined the Okkulten Forschungabteilung, while the Bill Hillies teamed up with The Shadow and his cronies.

Grace, Jenn and Bryan preparing to explore the (much more ruinous than you might have thought) city of Soerabaja.

The scenario takes place in Soerabaja, Indonesia, and is the final step in our quest to find the location of Perilous Island. Our main objective was to find an old sailor who could tell us where the island lies, but before we could find him, we had to do some legwork around the town and collect other clues.

Deployment had our characters scattered all over the board, which meant we were getting into fights right from the first turn.

The Extremely Perilous Bridge. I started with 3 figures on the bridge; one died right away (you can see him on the ground at the far end), one spent the game getting knocked down and getting back up again, never moving from her starting position, and the third managed to reach the plot point in the center of the bridge, but could never pass the challenge.

The Shadow, with Elyssia of the Bill Hillies, fight for possession of one of the plot points against two rocketeers.

In the far corner, Mr. Wu and one of the Shadow's mooks race towards another plot point, while Gertie from the She-Wolves chases them to try and beat them up.

We each placed one plot point at the start of the game, and I was the only person who decided to put their plot point in perilous terrain, while everybody else opted to just have them in the middle of the street. Here we see Bertie (no relation to Gertie) picking up a plot point, while a rocketeer lands to punch her up.

Ilse of the She-Wolves continues getting up and falling down, the German trooper continues to try and get the plot point, and Shabby from the Bill Hillies stumbles his way to the top of bridge, while a rocketeer hovers over all of them.

Black Sascha, the leader of the Okkulten Forschungabteilung, rushes Banjo Bill for what she hopes will be an old-fashioned, down-home ass kicking, but despite wielding Weapon X against the banjoist, the combat is inconclusive, with nobody injured on either side.

Gertie manages to brain one of The Shadow's minions and traps Mr. Wu in an alley, with one of the She-Wolves and a German trooper at the other end!

Unfortunately, Gertie was never able to give Mr. Wu the fate that was approaching from both directions, because we had to call the game at the end of that turn - it was past 10:30, and Jenn and I both had to work the next (Sunday) morning.

The Shadow was the overall winner, with 2 plot points. We never did find The Old Sailor, so the Reputation rewards were minimal for everyone.

This scenario felt quite a bit more chaotic (not in a good way) and lacking in focus than the other ones we have done in the campaign. I don't think it's a function of the scenario design, but probably entirely attributable to the fact that we had 4 people playing this time, two of whom had never played the rules before.

Also, there was a Red Herring mechanic built in, where you never knew if the Plot Point you were collecting was real or a decoy until you drew the reward card for it, but the Red Herring card never came out of the deck. It might have made things a bit better if we were chasing plot points around the board a bit more. As it was, everybody (except me) put their PPs out where they were easy to grab, so the PPs were in peoples' possession basically from the first turn, which turned the game into a "kill the other guy" scenario rather than an objective-based scenario.

All that said, we had fun, and we finally know where to find Perilous Island. To the ships!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Throwback Thursday: Bigass Minotaur Wizard Guy

A few years ago some buddies and I who were playing in a D&D campaign together all went to the Comic Shop on 4th Ave. (when it still existed) and bought a bunch of miniatures to paint together. Everybody got figures to represent their characters, and I got a few that I just thought looked cool. I think most of us picked up Rackham miniatures, which I hadn't heard of before, but which looked like really cool figs with tons of character. This is one of those.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Throwback Friday: Mythos Investigators

A couple of years ago, Uncle Mike from Strange Aeons had a booth set up at Trumpeter Salute. I had the chance to try a game and thought the figures were cool, so I bought the rulebook and a couple of packs of figs.

I have never yet actually played a game of SA (other rules keep getting in the way... it was around that time I got Force On Force, and that took all my gaming energy for the next year or so), but I did paint up some of the miniatures.

From left to right, we have a Cultist high-priest type, an Innsmouthy fishman (I added the anglerfish dangler), and three investigators.

When I painted up the miniatures I wasn't particularly happy with the sculpting. There isn't a lot of fine-grained detail and the cultist, especially, was very hard-edged, as though the master had been whittled out of wood instead of sculpted with putty. Even the folds of the cloth came to a sharp ridge instead of a smooth curve. It was strange.

Anyway, after having painted them up, I think they look nice and make for very useful miniatures for pulp-type gaming. The miniatures are cast in some sort of very strong, but lightweight resin, and are effectively indestructible - you could throw one as hard as you want against a wall and it wouldn't take any damage.

My wife and I both still have some unpainted miniatures, and there's one in particular that I think I'll need for my ongoing Pulp Alley campaign, so it's high on the painting roster.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Road To Perilous Island: Casablanca to Athens

This weekend Bryan and I were able to continue our Pulp Alley race to find clues pointing to the secret of Perilous Island!

We had planned on playing the Last Flight Out Of Casablanca scenario, but when that one wrapped early, we forged ahead and set up a different table to do the Warehouse Throw-down scenario (not the actual names of the scenarios, but I don't have the book in front of me).

Casablanca Airport

Following on from our fight to get some answers from the famed archaeologist's daughter at a dig site in Mexico, we found ourselves at cross-purposes once again, this time at the airstrip in Casablanca. The Shadow and his sidekicks, Andre and Mr. Wu, were trying to secure the last tickets out of Casablanca and see the archaeologist's daughter safely on the plane. Black Sascha and the She-Wolves of the SS, meanwhile, were trying to find a mechanic who could sabotage the plane before it left.

The scenario was further complicated by crowds of people and the presence of French gendarmes. The police would crack down on anyone using violence, so the scenario was designed to discourage direct fighting.

An overview of the airstrip: Black Sascha deployed on the lower left corner, and The Shadow on the upper right. BS's first objective was among the barrels near her corner, and The Shadow's first objective is the ticket booth near his. The Daughter and the Mechanic only appear after the first Plot Point is found by their respective teams.

The Shadow reaches the ticket booth swiftly and begins barging his way to the front, while... the opposite corner, Black Sascha races past the objective, leaving it to her sidekick, Gertie.

Andre and The Shadow's mooks sneak around behind some tents and quonset huts.

With the first objective of each team quickly achieved, The Daughter (red dress, center left) and The Mechanic (brown shirt, giant wrench, center bottom) appear in the crowd.

The covert battle is about to turn hot! On the left, Mr. Wu has approached The Daughter, only to be interrupted in his fierce whisperings by Black Sascha, who thunders down out of the sky on her experimental jetpack! The Shadow positions himself to interfere with everybody.

Emma of the SS begins talking to The Mechanic. Gertie approaches the (very recently assembled and yet--unpainted) biplane. On the other side of the airstrip, the first shots are fired as some German troopers and She-Wolves open fire on Andre and the mooks.

The photographer must have caught a stray bullet in the firefight, because the pictorial record apparently ends there. Witnesses on the scene report that Black Sascha spent precious minutes flogging the snot out of Mr. Wu, but it seems she mistakenly packed her late-night tingle-time whip instead of her fighting whip, because Mr. Wu just laughed off every attack and peril played on him.

Andre and The Shadow's mooks fought a bloody, but mostly irrelevant, fight against  on the other side of the airstrip.

Emma got beaten up by The Shadow while trying to speak to the Mechanic. Gertie ran in and took her place, managing to "convince" the Mechanic to come along with her. While this was going on Mr. Wu ran past them and tried to get The Daughter onto the plane, but he was betrayed by an oil spill on the tarmac and fell to his ruin. This allowed Gertie to return to the plane, with the first two objectives in tow, and get the Mechanic to wiggle the fuel line loose, bringing the scenario to an end.

Casablanca was a fun scenario and felt quite different from the usual miniatures game, with the rules discouraging the two sides from fighting each other at all. My big coup in the game, flying BS over to try and steal The Daughter from Mr. Wu, was a bit of a damp squib, as nothing I did had any effect on him. My luck turned around in the last turn, though, as Gertie managed to salvage all three plot points and end the game. In every game I've had so far, Gertie has had a much greater effect on the game than my leader. Maybe a bit of a shake-up is in order?

Athens Warehouse

Following the events at the Casablanca Airport, the two teams found themselves embroiled once again, this time late at night in a vast customs warehouse in Athens. Because Casablanca ended so quickly, we had time to play this one immediately after. I don't have a 3x3 warehouse model, but we were able to put together something representative with some wooden blocks I won at Science World last halloween.

This time the plot points were two night guardsmen, a customs official, and a box of records. Once a character had one of these plot points in their possession, they could approach the center of the table and try to find the major plot point hidden somewhere near there.

The layout before deploying any characters or setting out the plot points. There are entrances to the warehouse in the center of each of the four walls. We treated anybody touching any of the obstacles as being in perilous terrain from falling boxes, and anyone on top of any of the obstacles as being in extremely perilous terrain.

One of the guardsmen patrolling the warehouse, oblivious to the beefy female nazi danger his will shortly be facing.

Nearby, the clueless and nearly-blind customs official walks across the teetering piles of packages, focused wholly on his paperwork (or maybe he's texting his girlfriend?).

Mr. Wu and Black Sascha quickly come to blows over the package of customs paperwork nearest their respective corners. One of The Shadow's mooks tries to get involved, to his cost.
Gertie and The Daughter (who, inexplicably, has decided to join the She-Wolves for the time being [because I won the last scenario]) approach the guardsman and begin beating some answers out of him.

Emma, one of the she-wolves, climbs the stack of crates and tries to talk to the Customs Official. He apparently doesn't see her and bumps her elbow, causing her to lose balance and fall down. Spoiler alert: she never gets back up! Meanwhile, below, Andre approaches a pair of German soldiers, who manage to take out the giant Frenchman, but both perish in the doing.

Due to a series of terrible rolls, The Shadow spends almost the whole scenario talking to the other night guardsman. By the end of the game, he had only just made it back to the center of the table where the action was. We also figured he must have missed a turn at some point in there.

The scenario came to a close at the mandated end of the sixth turn, but by that time it was (due to a misreading of the rules) impossible for either of us to take control of the final objective. We had thought that doing a plot point challenge was a full action, and therefore you couldn't move up to a plot point and do the challenge on the same turn. When we figured out that this was erroneous, we decided to play a seventh turn with the correct rules, and in that time Gertie (yes, Gertie again!) seized the opportunity and nabbed the major plot point. After Gertie succeeded at the challenge, I think Bryan realized that he could have sent The Shadow in there to do the same thing, but his brain was still operating according to our wrong-headed version of the rules.

Again, another fun scenario with lots of action and drama. One thing we both really like about the campaign system is that the rewards and penalties to winning and losing scenarios are minor and temporary, only giving a very small advantage in the next scenario. This is in contrast to other systems like Mordheim, where one really big win or really bad loss can wreck the balance between the two warbands for the rest of the campaign.

The next stop on our itinerary is the mean streets of Soerabaja, Indonesia, which may just happen to visually resemble a half-ruined Normandy village. I have other friends who are interested in trying the game, too, so there may be further complications on our road to Perilous Island in the future!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Throwback Thursday: Some Weird Guy

I painted this figure yeeears ago - back when I lived up north, before moving to Vancouver for animation school. It's another one I got just because it's cool, not because I needed it for anything specific.

I think this fig is some sort of important character in a world-wide Warhammer Fantasy campaign that GW ran back in the 90s. There was a tie-in with Warmaster, which I was heavily into at the time (reminder to self: photograph Warmaster minis for a future Thursday...), but I didn't get involved. Anyway, I think it's a cool figure. Maybe one day I'll have reason to use it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Pulp Alley: Perilous Island Inaugural Session

I got a copy of the Pulp Alley rules a few weeks ago and right away I thought they looked like a lot of fun. The emphasis on the characters and telling a gonzo story, embodied in the Plot Point and Peril rules, seemed like just my sort of game. A couple of friends and I had a game and that was enough to confirm my impressions of the rules, so I ordered the Gadgets and Vehicles book, as well as the Perilous Island campaign. The new books arrived on Thursday, and on Saturday I played the inaugural scenario with Bryan, my pulp-enthusiastic friend.

The scenario pitted The Shadow and his team (giant Frenchman named Andre, a mysterious Chinese man named Mr. Wu, and two henchmen) against Black Sascha, the leader of the SS Occult Research Division, and her team (Gertie, the woman-mountain hybrid, three female SS followers, and three German troopers). A famous archaeologist had gone missing and we were competing to make contact with his daughter at a dig in Mexico in the hopes of getting a lead on where to look for him.

Our mission was complicated by the lady's Mexican bodyguard (Extreme Peril for anyone within 8" of the center of the board), the lady's maid (an Extreme Peril unto herself) and various other dodgy areas of the board (the burial mounds, the tracks, the rock outcroppings, etc.)

Original setup, before deployment. Burial mounds, with an ancient artifact in a crate, are on the left, the lady and her bodyguards in the center. The lady's maid is just visible behind the palm tree down and left of center. There is a package next to the more distant tent, and the last plot point is somewhere in the car next to the closer tent.

A better view of the lady, her bodyguards, and her maid.

The Shadow's two henchmen and two of the she-wolves are positioned for an early race to one of the plot points.

Meanwhile, Black Sascha and her sidekick, along with a friendly local who joined just before they arrived at the dig site, jump out of a truck. The Shadow is caught trying to sneak around the tent and he exchanges dirty looks with Gertie.

On the other side, Andre gets ready to race to the artifact against one of the she-wolves and a German trooper.

The friendly local recruited by the SS Occult Research Division decides that fortune favours the bold and rushes The Shadow by himself...

...and swiftly learns why level-1 henchmen recruits shouldn't try to take down the boss of the opposing force. Still, he wounded The Shadow and reduced his combat effectiveness for the rest of the turn.

On the other side of the tent, one of the she-wolves manages to take out one of the Shadow's henchmen, but The Shadow himself pops around the corner long enough to shoot her, then flees back to where he came from. The remaining henchman begins a multi-turn struggle to open the cases.

In the center of the camp, Black Sascha and Gertie "convince" the lady and her maid to join them over by the rocks for a little while. Mr. Wu and Andre work on the artifact by the burial mounds together, while the last remaining she-wolf begins rifling through the car.  Things are looking good for the SS...

...until the last couple of turn. From about the time they took possession of the lady and her maid, Black Sascha and the rest of her team couldn't roll a success to (literally) save their lives. They swiftly lose both plot points they were holding and can't recapture them.

The game ends in a bloody catastrophe for the She-Wolves. By the end of the final turn, I was in possession of no plot points, and didn't have a single character standing. Still, The Shadow only got away with one or two minor plot points, so it wasn't a complete shut-out.

The game was a ton of fun, even with the disappointing ending for my team. Next stop: an airport showdown in Casablanca (? I think?)!!