Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Signing out of California, finally!

Well, just a quick post to let you know, I am moving this weekend and am in the process of packing and preparing.

Due to the record heat-wave of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more almost a month straight, I did not want my stuff out on the back patio to cook, especially my hobby paints, primers, glues, etc. Nor did I want my books out there, as the heat causes problems with the bindings (the covers end up coming off the books, leaving the pages to eventually come apart).

So, I elected to wait as long as I could, before packing up. I did have a number of items out at my parent's shed, for the past ten years, which did the boxes they were stored in no amount of good (animals and sun), but as I was re-packing that at 6:30am, today, I discovered I had a LOT of Games Workshop figures, including Mordheim, Battlefleet Gothic, Warmaster, 40k, and Warhammer Fantasy Battles, plus some Old Glory historicals. The GW stuff is just like found money, were I to sell it, I could probably get a few thousand dollars, as there are some rare or one-off figures that only employees and prime retailers were able to get, including a 3-up Space Marine in pewter.

I plan on keeping a lot of this, but may sell large chunks, which I will of course regret later. But, as I am starting a whole new life, with the needs of a new life, my budget for the next six months is very tight.

I also found, in excellent condition, many of the older GW publications from the Black Library, including Epic 40,000, Warmaster, Town Cryer, Blood Bowl, and other 'zines. I was relieved as I thought I had accidentally thrown all that out years ago.

As the paints, and I am talking about a thousand dollars in paints, if I were to take them in the moving truck or in my car, which is being towed behind the truck, they would cook off and harden up, becoming useless. Since this already happened to me before, when I moved from Wisconsin back to California, I want to avoid it again. So, I purchased a ice chest/cooler, with some chemical ice packs, to keep everything cool for the two days of driving. The temperature in the cooler should be about 40 degrees, which will not cause the paint to freeze.

Luckily, this Sunday's temperature is supposed to only be 96 degrees (only!) and that means the internal temperature in the car will be under 130, so maybe my primers will survive the trip. I cannot fit them inside the cooler, unfortunately, as 100+ bottles of paint takes up a large amount of space.

Yes, there is a bit of stress with the move, just the packing, loading, driving, unloading, and unpacking, to look forward to over the next week, but otherwise it is all good and all ahead full.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Finally, I have my move date.

Well, I can now feel safe to announce that I am moving to South Dakota in August. My new job starts on the 20th, but I can move into my home any time after the first. So, I will be moving up there about the end of the first week or the beginning of the second week of August.

I will be living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, teaching at a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

My new home is two bedrooms, with a detached garage and full basement. In other words, a perfect mancave. I'm hoping to acquire some prints from historical painters, within the first year, to hang on the walls.

Everything in the small town is withing walking distance. I will be able to see my place of employment from my house. Between the savings in gasoline and other living expenses, it will be a financial boon for me.

The best part though, are the students I will be teaching. I am excited and looking forward to teaching Native American youths, helping them earn and education and find their roads to success.

My move will be stressful, as it is a long drive in a rental truck, but I have a friend who is planning on helping me drive and unpack, before I send him home on a plane.

Future plans are in the works for hobby related projects, mainly finishing ones I've already started, but there are a few others that I can now start as I will have the space to do the work.

I am looking forward to the peace and quiet, something I rarely ever get in California.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


Well, yesterday I finally received some word on my new job. I've passed their internal background check and now I get to deal with the Office of Personnel and Management, sometime in the next week.

I am supposed to receive an email explaining the next step(s) and once this last portion is completed, I should receive my move-in date to my housing unit.


Also, over the next few weeks, I will be going over the results from the various medical tests that I've had to undergo, hopefully with good news all around. I am thinking my inability to get more than a couple to a few hours of sleep a night is due to sleep apnea, which then triggers my frequent and painful headache episodes, among numerous other symptoms and issues that are causing me problems.  I am hopeful and expecting some form of treatment that will improve my quality of life, starting before the end of this month.

I am about to bid farewell to my current job, which comes to an end on Thursday afternoon. While extremely excited for the new job, the move out of California, and going to live on a reservation (I honestly cannot express the huge relief this will bring for me), there is a slight feeling of melancholy lingering. I have some very good co-workers, which is rare, and leaving them behind will be a permanent parting of ways. I love teaching and being a plank owner of this school site means I have a lot of good memories from here. However, I simply cannot wait to get to my new school site.  I promise to reveal more on that soon.

As I am working on a second Master of Arts degree, this one in military history, I am again back to researching and writing in preparation of a thesis. The topic centers on British preparation for WWI in tactical and technological innovations as influenced or not by the American Civil War. I have some very good books on this subject, but unfortunately they are not from academia, meaning they are useless to this project apart from their bibliographies. I've bought a few hundred dollars of books and then saw another two, last night, that are more than a hundred dollars each....ouch!  I'll have to wait on those until after the move is complete.

Anyhow, this present line of inquiry has inspired me to build the 28mm ACW army I mentioned in my last post. I've ordered a box of Union infantry and Zouaves from Perry Miniatures, as test units for painting strategies and assembly times. I intend to use the "dip" method a'la Army Painter, but we'll see just how far I can bring myself to not paint the detail.

Lastly, my 50th birthday is in three weeks. on the 27th. As I am lacking a significant other, I do not have anyone who is all that supportive of my birthdays, anymore. Last year was the first, in the last decade, where I did not pay for my own birthday dinner. My last birthday gift received was in 2010, from my last girlfriend, an expansion for Campaign Cartographer 3. So, it was a good present, well appreciated, she just turned out to be a complete nutter. <sigh> Thus, I end up buying myself something that I want or need. I have no idea what it will be, this year.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Future plans, projects, and predicaments

...still. Well, the job I accepted back in February, with the proviso that I pass their background check, as still yet to complete said background check. I understand that time goes more slowly there, truly, but as I live in California, time brings tons of pressure with each passing moment.

Thus, I am under a little bit of stress, far too much according to my blood pressure, while waiting for the "your move in date is ___." I cannot think of anything that would prevent me from passing through his background check, but government workers cannot be forced to move at anything beyond a glacial pace. No insult intended, just a commentary on the culture of working in government.

Of course, this puts me into a predicament, in that the longer it takes for me to get the final okay, the more it will cost me to move. Which reduces my spending money, delaying what I really NEED to buy...more miniatures. <sigh> ...and books....lots and lots of books.

Which brings me to future plans.

I've long wanted to have at least one nice 28mm army, actually opposing armies, so that I can invite someone to play a game, where they do not have to bring anything except their beverage of choice and themselves.

I am looking hard at ACW, using Perry Miniatures (mainly plastics, but metals for leaders and special units).

I mean, just look at these figures. They paint up very nicely, at under $1 per figure.

And this leads me to a future project...

I will need to buy, assemble, and paint these models in a fairly quick manner. This way, I can either invite someone over or travel to play elsewhere, with most everything necessary to play, minus the table.

I've seen the suggested method of using Army Painter sprays to basecoat the figures, but they also used the same color for boat coats and trousers. I'd rather use a darker blue for the Union coats and a variation of good colors of greys and browns for the Confederate coasts.

Any suggestions, using Army Painter or GW paints? I've already got most of both lines and really do not want to go into Vallejo. Now, if a few paints from Wargames Foundry would work, fine, but again, I do not want to invest into a large amount of paints.  They will all dry up before I can use them up.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I have been a fan of Battletech since it was first released in the early '80s, when FASA was a thing. The idea of walking tanks, which is what a 'mech essentially is, was cool then and remains so, today. My fandom cooled somewhat when WizKids took over the reins, but now that the storyline and products licensed by someone else, from Topps, at least things seem to be back in order.

I really like Alpha Strike, a new edition of which is pending for release this summer, as it speeds up large games tremendously. But Classic Battletech still resides in a warm, soft region of my gamers-heart. I own all of the current core books, and quite a few of the old ones, but I no longer have any of my metal miniatures, except a Battlemaster. In one of my many moves, they disappeared. So, I have to again collect the 'mechs I will need to play a solo campaign. Luckily, the newer plastic miniatures are reasonably priced if in unalterable boxed selections by lance type.

Once I move again, as I will then be a solo gamer, I will convert the rules over to running a solo campaign. I've already got a good theoretical view of how I will accomplish this and look forward to the challenge.

However, the computer version of Battletech was released recently, after a lengthy period of beta-testing (yes, I was a beta-tester) and I have been playing, perhaps too much if I am honest, the single-player campaign and am enjoying the experience. While not a perfect game and while it may not have every feature that I want to see in a computerized version of the miniature game, it IS a good game and a reasonable representation of what is played on the tabletop.

The game is set in the 3025 era, but does have some missing technology available for the player to acquire, some as very, very, rare salvageable loot and others as a reward for completing a critical mission in the campaign story line.

There are some bugs in the game, and a few have reported that their games have crashed, but in the hundred hours or so of playing, I've only had a single crash occur.

From the mechbay on the second of two dropshops the player can acquire.

Although there is a storyline, there is a sandbox element to the game. Players can go on other missions, for salvage and MC, to gain new mechs and pay the maintenance costs for your mercenary company. Yes, you run a company, potentially, of mechs, but you only ever get to field a lance of four at a time.

Salvage is handled in a functional and clean way, gather three pieces of mech salvage for a given mech type and variant and your busy maintenance crews will assemble the pieces into a new mech for you. You can then either store this mech, to save on the maintenance fees each month, keep it in a mech bay, ready to use, or sell it. You can also salvage weapons and equipment, including improved gyros, more protective cockpits, advanced targeting systems, AC and missile ammo, etc. Players "negotiate" salvage rights and MC, using oppositional sliders (increase salvage rights and MC payment decreases), so if you need an influx of hard cash, you can focus on that. If cash rich, then go for the salvage.

Conditional effects are just above the 'mech armor readout to lower left. 

Piloting skill checks are handled far differently than in the tabletop version, which may be off-putting for die-hards, but it is done in a fairly logical manner, with ballistic and missile weapons affecting stability and with each mech having a stability threshold. Once the threshold has been passed by weapon damage, the mech becomes unstable and the next stability hit causes the mech to fall. Whereupon the pilot takes an injury, but no additional damage is done to the mech's armor or structure, a departure from the tabletop version. This can be abused, especially if a player has some missleboats, such as a Stalker and Catapult, that between them send off 70 missiles a turn for 12 turns.

The mission system is adequate, but not fully dynamic, yet. Players can check for missions via the ComStar/MercNet, but I've never had more than four missions listed at once, with one of them being the storyline mission. They do have defensive and offensive missions, often with secondary missions that can provide MC bonuses upon completion. The missions change when moving to a new planet, and sometimes there are no missions available from a given location.

Environmental conditions are present, and players will see these listed as they click on a given mission, but also sub-types including water and geo-thermal vents. These all affect heat dissipation as a percentage of heat sink efficiency, where the heat sinks give a set amount of heat reduction (-3 per turn). Getting too hot causes a 'mech to shutdown, but in its next turn it can restart, losing all accumulated heat in doing so.

Pilots gain XP for completing missions, not by what they accomplish within the mission itself. So, if you have a pilot that is of low skill, send him/her off in a Spider or Firestarter, keeping them safe, while the rest of your lance finishes the mission. They all get the same amount of XP at the end. Note, after the first few missions being a 'mech down can make completion a bit difficult. The pilot XP is used to rank up four different traits, with each trait having a primary and secondary ability, which is either passive or active. A pilot can only have two primary and one secondary ability selected and the secondary must be in the same trait as one of the two selected primary abilities.

At the top, the initiative system in action. Activations 5 and 4 have come and gone, now it is the 3rd activation of the round/turn. The two grey chevrons indicate the player has two 'mechs to activate, the one red chevron means the enemy has a single 'mech or vehicle or turret to activate.

'Mechs are moved one at a time, moving then firing, in initiative order (5 to 1). A pilot ability does allow a 'mech to move after firing, provided it has not already fired that turn. This can be very handy when conducting a fighting withdrawal, what some may call "kiting." 

The way the missions appear to be set up is that one either destroys buildings and/or an opposing lance, and then an enemy  reinforcement lance arrives, taking on the player's now damaged lance. However, the way it works is that the reinforcement lance can show up even before the player encounters the primary enemy lance, so one can be facing eight 'mechs or a combination of 'mechs and vehicles at the same time, seemingly a bug. This can go badly, if the randomly determined enemy mechs are all heavy and/or assault. I've faced two Highlanders and two Zeus who were reinforced by a King Crab a pair of Orions and a Stalker.

A saving grace is that if the player desires, they can reload the mission and hope for a more promising random selection of enemy units. I admit that I have done this, rationalizing that the reinforcement bug is not intended and thus unfairly punishes the player in what would otherwise be a balanced game. I have read that the developers will be adding an Ironman mode, which I look forward to playing, once the bug is sorted.

One of my major complains is that the flamers only have enough ammo for 6 uses each, with no means to increase the amount of fuel/ammo for them. Thus, the tactic of overheating enemy 'mechs and then using called shots to "leg" them can only be of very limited duration. This is a huge departure from the tabletop version. Also, flamers and small lasers count as "special weapons" and can only be installed on a 'mech that has special weapon slots.

A major change is in how initiative is determined. Individual 'mechs have an initiative rating, with most 'mechs of a given size class having the same rating, where assault 'mechs are initiative 1 and light 'mechs initiative 4. There are five initiative ratings and this is because there are ways in which a pilot can improve the initiative of his 'mech due to certain actions or skills. Also, the more agile 'mechs can "reserve" their actions, taking action later on in the turn, potentially forcing the opponent to act with his 'mechs first and allowing a reaction.

Another departure is that 'mech pilots have a morale rating, both individually and as a group. The group morale is partially determined by the funding level set at the beginning of each pay cycle (every 30 days), but is largely determined by a base rate plus an increase which comes from improving the company dropship's recreational facilities. Morale is also gained within a mission, some from special cockpits that a player finds and installs and from killing opponents. This morale is then spent on either called shots or a defensive action which decreasing incoming frontal fire by 50% and clears any instability. I've used this many times, often by sending out a 'mech as a forlorn hope, to take all the enemy fire, while allowing my other 'mechs to concentrate fire on a heavy hitting opponent.

Called shot screen. Notice the weapons on lower right, which can be toggled off. Enemy rear center armor has already been damaged and is selected for the shot. White is undamaged.

Headshots do come into play and I have killed three enemy 'mechs with a single gauss rifle hit to the head. Those are nice, but very infrequent, as they should be. I've done it twice with my first shot of the mission, a nice moment of relief when a heavy 'mech goes down immediately.

The graphics and music within the game are above par and greatly enhance the experience. The voice over work can be a little annoying, but fits within the theme.

I'd like to see more work on the negotiation part of the game. One does not gain any skill at all, it is just a simple slider. So, no RPG aspects at all in an otherwise crucial part of the game. Of course, I'd love to see 3039 and 3050 technology and 'mech designs, which may come later if the game sells well enough, according to the developers.

I'd also love to field 12 'mechs at once, but I doubt that would happen in this game, maybe in a Battletech 2, but the developers have stated they want the experience to center on a single lance in action.

One thing which would be very exciting is the inclusion of player owned ground vehicles and infantry, or even just enemy infantry units at all. This would open up the game so much more in terms of mission design. And this leads me into my last desire, a fully dynamic mission designer, where players could create single missions and linked-missions or even mini-campaigns, and then share these with the rest of the players.

All in all, I do recommend the game to Battletech fans.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Historical (?) Wargaming...

While I was attempting to sleep, last night, while undergoing a sleep study, with a lot of wires attached to various parts of my face and body, causing me to be highly uncomfortable, I was thinking about wargaming and especially historical wargaming in general. No pun intended.

When I frequent, less often than before, the biggest (as far as I know) wargaming forum website, I see posts about games or campaigns of historical battles. For example, "Waterloo," "Kolin," "Gettysburg," or even "D-Day." I think think to myself, "why?" Why are historical wargamers so fixated on "re-fighting" battles that happened historically?

I do not exclude myself in this. Way...way...way back, I owned a number of Avalon Hill games, ones which let me game out some of Alexander the Great's battles or Gettysburg or, yes, D-Day. I suppose it was too much for hobbyists to ask them to play a WWII-ish game, and then create a game system allowing them to do just that. No, the designers and publishers had to have historical OOBs, a relatively correct hex map, and CRTs that required a 3-1 numerical advantage for the attacker to have a decent chance at winning a combat. This was likely due to the state of the market at the time, a post-WW2 group of consumers that had recent history inundated within society.

However, in miniature wargaming, this just does not make any sense to me...at least in perspective. Now, I have put on games that were "not-Austerlitz" and "not-Wagram," borrowing many of the terrain features of those battlefields and also the OOBs, but these were really games, if I am going to be honest, that were based closely on actual historical battles.

Looking at different historical miniature rules systems that I own, the majority are set within the period of a given conflict, but do not force the player to "re-fight" certain battles. Any of Sam Mustafa's games fall into this category, but so does Flames of War (which I do not play), and the numerous rule sets from Too Fat Lardies, SAGA, and others. These rules all give the player the tools to play games of certain eras and ages, but they do not shoehorn gamers into only re-fighting a set group of historical battles.

So, why do we do this?

We are not Robert E Lee, so re-playing 3 July 1863 again and again is not going to save the South from utter defeat and it will not gain us eternal glory on the field of battle. Most often, we're going to remember "good" die rolls or "bad" ones, from those games, and maybe a few of us will walk away thinking, "If I'd been there, the battle would have turned out differently." I do not include myself in the latter group, but I have to allow for the outliers from those involved in the hobby.

Over the past half-dozen years or so, I have become more and more inclined to play historical games that have no direct relation to a particular battle. Thus, my various ImagiNation projects, which are temporarily on hold due to my pending move across the country. I have also become more involved in working on versions of the Portable Wargame, which will allow me to play different kinds of periods, beyond what the currently available rules support. This is not to say I am better than others, just that my tastes have changed to be a bit more flexible and ahistorical when it comes to gaming.

But is that really even true? Isn't gaming by its nature ahistorical? Even the values used to represent strength, weaponry, armor, etc., are relative representations to historical entities and not actual history themselves, no matter what name we give it. Of course, this applies to historical wargaming in general, which probably would be more accurately called science-fiction, as the historicity of a game or rule system is only found in the names and titles given to places, pieces, and persons found within them.

One of the early and common criticisms of Flames of War was that it was a WWII version of 40K, and as a playtester (unofficially) I felt the same way. Yet, could not 40K be called, in a sense, a sci-fi version of a historical game? Sure, two systems are not all that dissimilar, using measurements and dice to adjudicate movement and result, only the genres differ, and in some cases not all that much. One could compare an Ork army to a Sino-Soviet one, with green skin and "advanced" weapons, but they are tactically similar in many respects.

I'm not sure there is a definitive answer, at least one I am not qualified to diagnose, but there must be something in us that wants to make that connection between what happened and how we play. I mean, even games we played as children, at least my generation and a few before it, such as "cowboys & indians," which pulled its terms from the American west, and no other. It could have been called "nobles and serfs" or "knights and peasants" or whatever, "cops and robbers" being another name and another variant of the same game.

In my club, we have a game coming up, WWII Pacific, Tarawa. A good friend is putting the game on, and I will play it because he is putting it on, but he went through a great deal of effort to cut out a foam table, closely matching the island. While not a criticism, my question is why does it "feel better" to have named the game Tarawa and not "a WWII marine amphibious landing?" A possible answer is that the latter name is a mouthful to say in comparison. But, my point is that it is a LOT of effort to go through in order to put on a game that the club members will play. Could it not have been a rough oval, with some jungle terrain, pill boxes and bunkers, surrounded by "water" with USMC figures and landing craft? Would the players like the game experience any less if it was a generic title?

Yeah, just some of my questions and thoughts as I was trying to go to sleep.

Monday, April 23, 2018

John Churchill and Me

When reading through the 1st Duke of Marlborough's correspondence, one sees that he often suffered from extremely bad headaches; what I and others believe were migraines. In several letters to his wife, he complains bitterly about how badly his head aches.

As a long-term sufferer of migraines, and having had a daily headache for 35 years, I know exactly how he might have felt.

I had a recent allergy test and out of 60 items tested, I am allergic to 42; nearly anything green, be it plants, grasses, or trees, I am allergic too, with the sole exception of pine trees. Since I have had bad sinus headaches lately, I imagine these allergies figure into the severe discomfort.

With that being said, I am done with the physical portion of the requirements for my new job. Now, I just need to send the various doctor reports to my future employer.

One annoying thing, though, is that they are still in the reference portion of the background check and my point of contact is not sure they even received that information, which I faxed to them on 3/5/18. A week after I checked with her the first time, about this, I still do not have an answer. I am calling today, to see what she can tell me. At the very least, I can either fax it again, at nearly $10 cost to me, or send it via priority mail, at almost $7. This application process has cost me over $100 already.

On the wargaming/gaming side of things, I have not been able to paint, due to the three headaches at once, since it is more painful to look down at the models. Yet, I did get to play a game of Wasteland Express, last Friday. I did not win, but I had a fun time. Basically, I just was plain unlucky as three random events went against me, in that I could not take advantage of the bonuses they offered, while the other players could. I also blew two combat die rolls, which put be back even further.

I am still working on the Portable War at Sea concept, but I need to make time for creating a set of cards for the game before I can start testing it.

I am also looking at using Axis and Allies infantry models, from the boxed games, and 10mm tanks from Pendraken, for an imagiNations portable wargame in a quasi-ww2 setting.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Portable War at Sea - card concept

Here is a sample of the card mechanism I described in my game design post of yesterday. The cards are very rough, but one can easily get the idea from what I've posted below. Comments are welcome.

Torpedo Run
Select a friendly submarine or destroyer to make an attack on one enemy surface ship up to two spaces away.  The target may attempt to evade: Roll d6
DD-CL: 4,5,6
CA-BB: 5,6
CV: 6

    Fire: Roll d6, 1-5=1 hit, 6 = 2 hits
A friendly submarine or surface ship may move up to two spaces; if a destroyer, it may move up to three spaces instead.
Air Strike
Select an enemy surface ship that is up to 10 spaces from a friendly carrier. Roll a d6:
1: no effect
2-3: 1 hit
4-5: 2 hits
6: destroyed
Target may not evade. After the attack is resolved, roll a d6. On a 5 or 6 return this card to the owner’s hand.
Move a friendly capital ship one space and draw a card or move a friendly capital ship two spaces.
Plunging Fire
Use only when attacking with a BB: After designating a target and determining hits, if the target is hit, you may add the effects of this card to that attack.
Effect: Target suffers 2 more hits
A damaged friendly ship may move up to four spaces.
Main Guns: 9”- 11”
Roll an attack against an enemy ship that is up to 3 spaces from a friendly CA. The target may attempt to evade: Roll d6
DD: 4,5,6
CL-CA-BB: 5,6
CV: 6

    Fire: Roll d6,
Range 1: 1-5=1 hit, 6 = 2 hits
Range 2: 1= miss, 2-6 = 1 hit
Range 3: 1-3 = miss, 4-6 = 1 hit
A friendly CL or CA may move up to two spaces.
Main Guns: 12”- 14”
Roll an attack against an enemy ship that is up to 5 spaces from a friendly CA. The target may attempt to evade: Roll d6
DD:3, 4,5,6
CL-CA: 5-6
BB-CV: 6
    Fire: Roll d6,
Range 1: 1-5=1 hit, 6 = 2 hits
Range 2: 1= miss, 2-6 = 1 hit
Range 3: 1-3 = miss, 4-6 = 1 hit
Range 4: 1-3 = miss, 4-6 = 2 hits
Range 5: 1-3 = miss, 4-6 = 3 hits
A friendly BB or CV  may move one space.
Fire Control
Use only when attacking with main guns: After designating a target, play this card to receive a +1 to the Fire die roll.

Up to two Fire Control modifiers may be played on a single attack.

Select a friendly ship and move it up to two spaces..
Smoke Screen
May be played when a friendly destroyer is targeted by an enemy main gun or torpedo run attack; negate the attack.

After the attack is negated, roll a d6. On a 6, return this card to the owner’s hand.
A friendly DD may move up to four spaces.
Combat Air Patrol
May be played when a friendly surface ship is attacked by an enemy air strike within 6 spaces of a friendly CV. Negate the attack and discard the enemy air strike card.

After the attack is negated, roll a d6. On a 6, return this card to the owner’s hand.
A friendly CV may move up to two spaces.
Random Course Change
May be played when a friendly surface ship is attacked. Apply a -1 modifier to the enemy’s attack roll.

When this card is played, the enemy player may move the targeted ship one space in any direction.
A friendly submarine may move up to two spaces and is hidden.