Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 Retrospective

It has not been a good year for gaming or for blogging. I have not lifted a paint brush in anger at all this year, which is disappointing after last year's successes. I have bought no new figures (this may well be a good thing!). I have not really engaged with gaming at all this year. Certainly no new plans were mooted or initiated and I found little inspiration anywhere. I fear I am suffering from wargaming ennui.

Picture from http://existentialcomics.com/
On the plus side, I managed to get in a few board games, but no figure games. The games I played were:

  • Advanced Squad Leader (4 games)
  • Arcadia Quest: Inferno (1 game)
  • Fire and Axe: A Viking Saga (1 game)
  • Super Dungeon Explore: Forgotten King (1 game)
  • Border War: Angola Raiders (1 game)

This amounts to 8 separate gaming sessions, although the solo session of Border War: Angola Raiders only lasted about half an hour, so I'm not sure it really counts.

I returned from Ireland at the beginning of this year and moved to Nottingham which has hindered my gaming just as much as living in Ireland did. My regular figure-gaming buddy Steve does not often have Saturdays free, so the two of us managed to meet twice in the whole year, playing Arcadia Quest: Inferno and Super Dungeon Explore. Both games are similar concepts but different executions, and both are very enjoyable to play. AQ:I takes less time to play out while SDE really requires a longer session to finish.

Border War: Angola Raiders is a solo game. It's cheap and cheerful, but I found it a bit random in the game I played. When playing solo, I prefer to have a solid system to beat.

The four games of ASL were good. I have a keen ASL buddy Mal who finds it easier to play on a Saturday, so we managed to organise a few sessions. The scenarios we played were Russians versus Finns and Swedish volunteers in Finland. They were all enjoyable romps through the snow and extreme winter. It's just a shame that we could not organise more sessions.

I managed one game at the board games cafe in Nottingham where I work, but getting away from work in the evenings has proven to be particularly hard this year so gaming after work has not really been on the cards. Who knew that curating an exhibition about Vikings and sorting out a full public engagement programme would require such regular long hours?

Although I played no games in the Talomir Tales campaign this year, I did umpire it to a conclusion, so there was that to be pleased with. The campaign began in early 2009 as a vehicle for our fantasy gaming, and expanded to include half of the continent of Talomir. I am very happy that it lasted for 8 years and actually reached a proper conclusion.

So, that's my 2017. I have had too much work to do, and it has left me no energy for relaxing with a good game. I wonder if reducing the Unpainted Lead Pile (ULP) by just getting rid of most of it might not leave me more enthused to paint, but it is hard to decide what to focus on when I have such a butterfly mind, and time is so limited at the moment that I don't really feel I can sit down and sort through all my stuff yet.

For 2018, I would like to do that sorting. Hopefully work will not occupy so much of my time and I can sit down and have a guilt-free moment to sort out my figures properly. A good sort out and tidy up should put me in a better frame of mind for dealing with the ULP and actually returning to painting. I need to find something that will give me a quick fix, as it were, something easy to complete so that I see results before ennui sets in once more.

In terms of gaming, I hope to play more ASL. We are planning to start the big Red Barricades campaign again, so I hope to schedule monthly ASL sessions to get some good progress on that.

Other games/genres I would like to play this year are (in no particular order):

  • 6mm Command Decision: Test of Battle
  • 15mm science fiction 
  • 6mm Great Northern War
  • 6mm and 15mm Viking Age
I have armies for all of these, so they require little or no additional work on my part, which is a good thing given how little spare time I have. Actually playing them might encourage me to sit down and continue work on the remaining elements of my armies for these periods/rules.

One other thing I would like to work on is my terrain. I feel like I have too little terrain, and I particularly want to develop my 15mm sci-fi setting with new terrain to fight over. All those Mad Mecha Guy buildings won't paint themselves, you know.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Talomir Tales: A tale of a successful campaign

This blog has been neglected for a long time because of my peripatetic work life which led to a lack of face-to-face gaming. My Talomir Tales blog continued, largely because my players were remote, and I did not have to be present for the games. However, the long-running Talomir Tales campaign has finally ended (for now) with a victory for the Mirish empire. What gets me about this is that the campaign lasted for eight years and we could probably have gone on for another eight, had the freakish circumstance of Mirish acquiring all three artefacts not happened. As it is, Mirish successfully did this and thus wins. Presumably, the emperor will take them to the Peaks of Gorath and enact an unspeakable ritual to bring to pass a new age of the Black Moon.
This has caused me to reflect upon what made this campaign successful. To some extent, the reasons are probably nebulous. Steve and I made a connection with this campaign that endured and maintained our interest, where other campaigns that started well have foundered along the way. I have no idea what this connection was. Still, I can point to a number of things that contributed to the campaign's success.

1. We started small and built up. The campaign began with four nations fighting it out. That meant that we could get the armies painted quickly and easily with no downtime while we waited to finish the forces for each battle.
2. The campaign rules were simple with little book-keeping. I could easily run a campaign turn through in 15 minutes. This was a great help. When life got busy, I was still able to find time to run a campaign turn through and work out what the next battle was.
3. The campaign rules were focused on battles.This meant that the game was all about the table-top action, not the campaign actions. Players had little control over when they went to war, because that was dealt with by the campaign system. They only needed to focus on playing games and winning battles for their leader.

These are the practical matters that helped. The campaign was never a burden with loads of record-keeping, although it did become difficult when it expanded beyond a certain point, because we wound up with too many battles to fight. At that point, we recruited more people to help us.

This is where the chosen rules were also a great advantage. Rally round the King is eminently suited for solo play, so no one needed an opponent present to fight the battles. The rules include sections to aid solo deployment and fighting of battles, so that the player can get on with the important task of rolling dice. You can play one side against the system or you can let the system control both sides. The THW reaction system even drives most of the action anyway, so it is all very simple to have players all over the world even if they have no opponent present.

Finally, we got engaged with the story, and I think this is one of the main reasons why the campaign continued to a conclusion. We told stories about the battles, engaged in banter relating to the characters and generals in the armies, and we constructed a whole history for the campaign in our heads. We wanted to continue because we enjoyed the storytelling. The campaign could have been played to a conclusion without that, but I really do think that the storytelling drove us to continue.

So, head on over to the Talomir Tales blog if you want, and check out the history of the past 15 (game) years in Talomir. I hope you find something to inspire your gaming too.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

2 Yarthmont - Dinner time?

Broneslav opened the door into a corridor. Moving to the nearest door which lay to his right, he paused and listened. Nothing. He opened the door. The room beyond was covered in a thick layer of dust. The bed, writing desk and chest pointed to it being a bedroom and study. A sun symbol on the wall might have been religious, but Broneslav knew little about the gods of this area. Seeing nothing to warrant further attention, he moved to the door on the left, a little further up the corridor. He could hear nothing through the door and opened it. Like the other room, this one was dusty and in a poor state of repair. Unlike the other room, the dust here had been disturbed and scuffling noises could be heard coming from beyond the bed.

Warily, Broneslav stepped into the room. A large blue lizard poked its head out from behind the bed and hissed angrily at him. Suddenly it charged at him. Broneslav swung his sword and cut a large gash along its side [2 DAM]. It swerved away involuntarily because of the pain and missed its chance to bite him. A second lizard suddenly dropped from the ceiling onto Broneslav, but his armour stopped its teeth. He swung once more and this time his sword found the first lizard's heart. It twitched as it bled out on the floor, but it was no longer a threat. The second lizard made good use of his inattention and bit into Broneslav's leg [1 DAM]. He spun towards it and tried a thrust but the lizard dodged out of the way, before diving back in to bit Broneslav once more [1 DAM]. As it did so, Broneslav's sword flicked out and cut a line across the lizard's head [1 DAM]. This only seemed to anger it as it got a grip on his arm, but his armour stopped the teeth from cutting through. A furious moment of dodging and slicing followed before Broneslav finally swung hard at the lizard's neck and severed it's head [2 DAM]. He panted as he recovered his breath before bandaging his wounds.
1 square = 10'
Looking beyond the bed, he found a fresh corpse that the lizard had been feeding on. It was a human, but wearing a bird-like mask with gold inlay. The mask went in his pack and he prepared to continue his exploration of this pyramid.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

2 Yarthmont - Avoiding getting slimed

Broneslav opened the north-west door onto a corridor. Moving carefully, he advanced quickly to the corner and peered round it. Nothing there, so he moved on to the next corner as the corridor turned back on itself. Again, nothing there, but a door on the south side. Easing the door open, he was met with a strong, musty smell. Nothing moved within. The room was dusty and had obviously not been used in a long time. It was full of old crates, bales of cloth and rotting sacks.

He headed back out into the corridor and further along, following its twisting route. The next door was on the north side of the corridor. He could hear voices through the door, even as he approached. Carefully easing the door open, he peered inside.

"Oh, a man," twittered a high-pitched voice.

Broneslav had not been sufficiently quiet. Suddenly he was bombarded with questions by the small, winged people who were seated on the crates in the middle of the room. They all talked over each other, and did not appear to listen to his replies. He tried asking them about the place he was in, but the only reply that made sense was that he was in the city of Cynidicea. Well, at least he had a name for the place. He left the small people to their twittering ways and left the room.

The corridor ended at a door. No noise came from this one. He opened it and beheld an empty room, apart from a large pile of green slime on the floor. As he looked in, the slime suddenly moved. He slammed the door shut and retreated. There had been no door out of the room, and he saw nothing to gain by fighting this thing. He headed back towards the central room again.
1 square = 10 feet
As he walked back, he suddenly realised that there was something amiss with the wall of the corridor immediately before the door to the room he had first entered by. Checking further, he found that the wall swung inwards into another room. Something glittered on the floor in the middle of it, but his attention was drawn to the half dozen bird-like creatures that swarmed towards him as soon as he entered. The speed of these creatures surprised him, but he was up to the challenge. His sword darted with devastating swiftness in and out of their bodies, and in seconds six of the creatures lay crushed and skewered on the floor. Unfortunately, as these six distracted him, the last of them landed on his shoulder and sank its beak into his unprotected neck (1 DAM). He grabbed the creature and threw it to the floor, crushing it under his boot heel. He cursed as he bandaged his wound, before examining the room.

From this side, he could clearly see that there was a secret door on the opposite side of the room too. He had missed that before. On the floor in the middle of the room, for no readily apparent reason, there lay some gems. Broneslav cleared guano and dust off them, and put them in his pouch. Other than more guano and dust, there was nothing else in this room. He returned to the central room again. Just one more door to try, before he went down the stairs he had found before.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

2 Yarthmont: Bee-hind you, Mr Torenescu

Broneslav decided to leave by the south-west door of the room. Beyond was a corridor. He followed it to a door that led to some stairs, but decided against going deeper into the pyramid until he had oriented himself here at the top. He followed the corridor further to a room that had obviously had a fight in it; the broken furniture and the rotting corpse on the floor were big clues. The room looked like it had not been used in a long time and was covered in a thick layer of dust, except where the fight had disturbed it. The dead hobgoblin had a water flask on its belt. With hope and fear, Broneslav took it. It felt full. He opened the flask and took a long sniff. It did not smell bad. A tentative tast. Then a much longer draught. The water was cool and felt glorious sliding down his throat. He breathed a huge sigh of satisfaction as he forced himself to stop drinking. He knew he might be sick if he drank too much in one go. He hung the flask on his belt and helped himself to the purse that also hung on the body's belt. It jingled satisfyingly. If the purse remained untouched, it suggested animals rather than humanoids. With sword and shield in hand he prepared to explore further, ready for whatever might lie ahead.
1 square = 10 feet
Broneslav moved to the door on the far wall. It lay slightly ajar and he could hear buzzing from the other side. Looking through the gap, he saw a giant bee, a good foot long, fly across his field of vision. He carefully pushed the door open a bit further and beheld a large pile of treasure in the centre of the room. A beehive hung directly above it, and half a dozen of the large bees were circling the room. The young warrior pulled the door shut, before the bees noticed him and decided to retrace his steps. There would be time to return for the treasure later, if he could find out where he was and the route back to civilisation.

He retraced his steps to the room he had first entered and considered which way to go this time.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

2 Yarthmont: Bugs, Mr Torenescu

As he descended the ladder, Broneslav could slowly make out more detail of the space below. The light got brighter as he neared it, although not as bright as a lit torch. The space below was obviously a room or corridor. With his feet near the ceiling of that room, he could see a large beetle with glowing stripes on its face and back. Fire beetles. [Oracle says that he knows about them] He'd heard of them before. They had glands in their body that gave off light. His family had occasionally had recourse to keeping them, but they were known to be vicious and hard to manage. With that in mind, he carefully unslung his shield drew his sword. Taking a quick breath, he dropped the final ten feet to the floor and swung at the beetle. Staggering slightly as he landed, his first blow missed, but the follow-through caught it at the back of the head, and it fell in its tracks, twitching. Suddenly a second beetle that he had not noticed before attacked him. He got his shield in the way of its bite just in time and crushed its head with his booted foot. Meanwhile a third beetle had now joined the fray. It's mandibles fastened on the back of his leg, tearing a bloody gash in his calf [2 DAM]. Off balance, Broneslav backpedalled quickly away from it, and it scuttled after him, biting another hole in his leg [1 DAM]. As his back hit the wall, Broneslav rallied and attacked. He skewered the beetle with his sword and then sliced its head off. Looking quickly around, he could see no other beetles, so he stopped to bandage his wounds before checking out the room he was no in.
There were a dozen or more urns against one wall. They were sealed, except for one whose contents had long ago evaporated. Against the other wall was a small forge with tools and scraps of metal around it. He opened one of the sealed urns and found it half-full of oil. Presumably the contents had evaporated even through the seal. There was nothing else of use, so Broneslav contemplated the three doors out of the room. Which one to take?

Sunday, 17 July 2016

2 Yarthmont: Into Cynidicea

Stepping over the corpse, Broneslav entered a short tunnel. The air was cooler in here and felt like a balm to his cracked skin and dry lips. He stumbled slightly, but righted himself and continued forward. As he moved forward he saw a crossbow in the wall facing the door. I was unloaded, but looked large enough to have fired the bolt in the corpse's chest. Turning a corner he was faced with another stone door. The dust in the corridor was thick at the sides, but disturbed in the middle, footprints evident in it. This tunnel was used. Warily he drew his sword and unslung his shield as he faced the door. Pushing hard he opened the door flinching slightly in anticipation of an attack that did not come.
Tier 1
The room in front of him was about forty feet on each side and contained three bronze cylinders, each about ten feet in diameter and reaching from floor to ceiling. In the centre of each cylinder, facing him as he entered was a door. Broneslav entered the room. The door swung shut behind him. Seeing nothing else in the dusty room, he opted to try the door in the central cylinder. Opening the door, he could see a ladder in the darkness of the cylinder. It looked like it was possible to go both up and down here.

Tentatively stepping onto the ladder, he started climbing and soon found himself in an enclosed space with a speaking tube and a number of levers. It was possible to look out from here. The view confirmed what would have been obvious were he not so exhausted; he was high above the desert inside on of the statues on top of the pyramid. With no way to go from here but down, he began to descend the ladder until he saw a light below him. He continued to descend. Perhaps here lay help.