Thursday, August 25, 2016

Initial Play-Through of "Poseidon's Warriors"



"Naval battles in antiquity were totally sweet because they were little more than aquatic demolition derbies...Essentially it worked like this:  a fleet of insane wooden deathtraps masquerading as warships would load up with enough sword-swinging warriors to choke a Rancor...and then sail around at top speed with the single-minded goal of crashing head-on into an enemy ship..."
(Badass Ultimate Deathmatch, by Ben Thompson, pg 18, The Battle of Salamis).

Fortunately, Dean and I didn't have to board any wooden deathtraps to play our demo of Poseidon's Warriors.  Instead, we broke out Dean's miniatures, my terrain, and gently pushed the figures around with the single-minded goal of touching bases to represent said head-on crashes in the aquatic demolition derby known as:

The Battle of the Straits of Juno de Fulvio

Two Roman fazions (factions in Italian), led by emperor wannabees Balbus Blu and Rufus Rosso, seek to supply their loyal, as in bought-and-paid-for, legions by sea.  To do so, grain ships must pass through the narrow Straits of Juno de Fulvio. 

Balbus dispatches Diocletian (Dean) with a small flotta (fleet) consisting of the following:

1 x hexareme flagship
2 x squadrons of cataphract triremes (5 ships each)
2 x squadrons of cataphract quadriremes  (3 ships each)

In a case of delusions-of-grandeur minds thinking alike, Rufus dispatches Titus (Ted) with an identical force.

Diocletian and Titus put to sea with their new-formed Blu (Blue) and Rosso (Red) Flottas, respectively, and attempt to secure the straits for their paymasters.

Rosso Flotta enters the straits from the east, and Blu Flotta, already in the midst of the straits, approaches from the west.
Rosso Flotta enters the straits' Centrale Canale (Central Channel).

Meanwhile, Blu Flotta is sailing along the Nord Costa (North Coast).
Enemy sighted!  Diocletian orders Blu Flotta to turn into the Centrale Canale.
As Rosso Flotta passes between Canale Isola Tre and Quattro (Channel Islands Three and Four), Titus orders his ships to deploy from column-of-squadrons to line-a-breast.
The two flottas near the center of the straits.
As Rosso Flotta begins changing formation between Isola Tre and Quattro, Blu Flotta is approaching Canale Isola Due (Channel Island Two, in the center).
Rosso Flotta's line-of-battle is almost complete.
Blu Flotta's Nord Costa Squadrone (squadron, near the top of the picture), starts to slip between Isole Uno and Due.
However, the signal flag couldn't be seen properly as the Blu Nave Ammiraglia (the Blue Flagship) is masked by Isola Due.  As a result, the Nord Costa Commandte misinterpreted the signal and ordered his squadrone to turn back to the west.
A view from the Sud Costa (South Coast):  Both flottas are just outside striking distance.  Blu Flotta has been keeping station, while Diocletian frantically orders new signal flags hoisted aloft to countermand Nord Costa Squadrone's retreat.
The same point in time, but viewed from the Nord Costa.
Blu Flotta's Nord Costa Squadrone finally comes about.
The flottas close with each other.  Two Blu triremes brave the Meridionale Banchi (Southern Shoals).
The battle is joined!
Diocletian's "Blu Nave" rams a Rosso trireme, while four Blu triremes ram three Rosso triremes head-on.
A closer view of the Blu Nave's attack.
The Rosso sailors come out worse for wear, as four of their triremes are sunk, compared to only two Blu ships.  However, the Blu Nave suffered some hull damage as a result of the head-on ram.
A close-up of the carnage viewed from the edge of the Meridionale Banchi.
Titus orders his flagship, "Rosso Nave," and nearby smaller ships to converge on his counterpart, the Blu Nave.
Diocletian orders the Blu Nave to press on and strike first, attacking another Rosso trireme...
...and sending it to the bottom.
But Blu Nave, already the slowest ship in the flotta, has been taking on water, slowing it even further.  Diocletian orders the rowers to increase speed, but to no avail.  His flagship is cornered and rammed by a Rosso trireme and quadreme.
The Blu Nave quickly sinks beneath the waves, as Titus' "Rosso Nave," approaches the scene. 
Is Diocletian among the handful of survivors clinging to the floating wreckage?
The Rosso Flotta's Nord Costa Squadrone takes up a blocking position between the Isola Uno and Due.
With their flagship--and possibly admiral--gone, Blu Flotta backs away, turns and retreats back to the west.  Meanwhile, Titus orders the remaining ships of Rosso Flotta to consolidate around Isole Uno and Due, in order to search for Diocletian--to capture him and hold him for ransom.
This has been an embellished account of how our game unfolded. 

In my next blog post, I'll discuss how things happened, some game mechanics, what Dean and I liked about Poseidon's Warriors, and what could be tweaked with some house-rules.

While I'm writing the upcoming rules analysis, check out Dean's pictures and battle report on his popular WAB Corner blog.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Book Review: Badass--Ultimate Deathmatch


If you dislike pulp/comic book style prose, over-the-top anachronistic descriptions and constant references to causing injury to male genitalia, then Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch is not for you.

This mass-mayhem version follows the same template as the first Badass book I reviewed, but involves includes everything from lone stands by solitary heroes (or villains, depending on your point of view) to major battles and all-out wars.  (I skipped over book #2, Badass: The Birth of a Legend, about gods and myths).

The common theme in all these tales is that the heroes are outnumbered, but decide to fight rather than choose discretion-is-the-better-part-of-valor option.  Not every badass lived to a ripe old age, but they earned everlasting renown for their exploits.

While highly entertaining, Badass:  Ultimate Deathmatch suffers from over-generalizations to outright inaccuracies.  Despite this shortcoming, I still learned about obscure battles and badasses throughout history and even within my lifetime.

Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch enjoys a 4.2-star rating on Amazon.com.  Out of nearly 200 readers, 27 thought the book sucked (1-2 stars), 13 thought it was okay (3-stars), 24--including me--thought it was good (4-stars), while a whopping 132 felt it was badass awesome (5-stars).

I'd consider Badass:  Ultimate Deathmatch awesome too, if the outright inaccuracies were minimized.

The website, Badass of the Week can still be found on-line.

(Full cover art for Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Product Review: WarCraft, The Roleplaying Game (1st Ed.)


I've probably said this before in previous posts, but I'll reiterate my feelings about video/computer games:

They make me ill.

Oh, not because I'm some sort of 21st Century Luddite, but because I'm so prone to motion sickness that I become quickly nauseated watching the on-screen action. 

However, I still have an ounce or two of Geek Cred, and have been vaguely aware of the on-line phenomena that is the World of Warcraft (WoW). So vague is my knowledge of WoW, I missed the Warcraft film that opened two months ago, and apparently so did many non-WoW fan viewers.

(Image:  Warcraft movie banner)

Anyway, bad movie reviews aside, last year I stumbled across Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game at Half Price Books.  I may not be able to play WoW on-line, but I sure can play this tabletop version.

That is, if my rotating work schedule ever meshes-up with any of my fellow gamers that would be interested in a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, 3rd Ed.) adventure set somewhere in Kalimdor on the planet Azeroth.

The case-bound, hardcover book is divided into the following chapters:

1. A World At War
2. Heroes
3. Adventuring
4. Magic
5. The World of Warcraft
6. Campaigning

Player characters (PCs) set out on their quest a year after the Third War (the primary setting for the earlier computer/on-line games) and can be any of the following races:

1. Human
2. Ironforge Dwarf
3. High Elf
4. Night Elf
5. Goblin
6. Half-Elf
7. Half-Orc
8. Orc
9. Tauren (Minotaur)

(Image found on:  Henchman-4-Hire)
Some of the races are standard D&D templates.  There's no changes to humans, while Half-Orcs and Half-Elves suffer from similar discrimination as they do in other settings, maybe even more so.

Meanwhile, Dwarves are on a quest to discover the origin of their species, Goblins act more like Ferengi than the malicious second-class cousins to Orcs.  Speaking of Orcs, they're not inherently evil, as has been the case in every setting since Middle-Earth.  Instead, Orcs were duped by demons, and are now trying to get back to their shamanistic roots.  And while nominal allies, the Night Elves, users of divine magic and guardians of the Well of Eternity, can barely tolerate their arcane magic-addicted cousins, the High Elves.

Divine and Arcane Magic can be compared to the Light and Dark Side of the Force in Star Wars.

The races are divided into two general categories.  The Orcs and the Tauren comprise "The Horde," while everyone else is cobbled together into "The Alliance."  But this isn't ironclad, as some individuals have defected to the opposite faction.  Meanwhile, the Goblins out to make a profit.

Had I known this book was published back in 2003, (the second edition came out two years later), I wouldn't be so "late to the WoW party."  While I can't compare Warcraft:  The RPG to the on-line source material, I liked the book overall and have only two minor complaints.

First, the artwork is great, but exclusively black and white.  This isn't a problem in and of itself, but it would have been nicer if the map of Kalimdor was in color.  Second, there are several short-story/vignettes scattered throughout the book.  These are made to appear as if they're written on parchment by some scribe working by candlelight.  The font used in these stories, while elegantly ornate, can sometimes be hard to read.

Copies of Warcraft:  The RPG, can still be found on Amazon.com, ranging from $9.65 to $49.95 (plus S&H), and enjoys a 4.3-star rating.  The sole 3-star rater thought the material was out of date compared to the on-line games.

Undoubtedly it's even more outdated now, but despite my lack of knowledge of WoW, I'll give it a 4-star rating.

(Full cover image found on:  wowwiki.wikia.com)
A Note About My Current Reading Endeavor:

I do a lot of my reading while during my stationary cardio machine workouts, but still have a lot of unread RPG material.  So I decided to remedy this situation and go on a "Fluff" (lore) reading quest.  When I read Warcraft:  The RPG, I skipped over the "Crunch" (game mechanics), which save time and kept me from getting bored.  The RPG books I'll be reading will be hardcover and case bound, which I find easy to lay open on a cardio machine's control panel. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rulebook Review: Poseiden's Warriors


I've always been intrigued by ancient naval warfare ever since I first saw the 1959 film Ben-Hur.  The naval battle is still my favorite part of the movie, despite the historical inaccuracies.  I'm such a fan of this version, I'm not sure what to think about the upcoming remake.

If I do see the new Ben-Hur, I'll write up a movie review.  In the meantime, I'll get back on course with this rulebook review...

About 30 years ago, I picked up a used copy of Trireme at a game store in North Carolina and managed to play it a few times.  Fast forward about 15 years, when my friend Joe gave me a copy of War Galley for Christmas.  I played this a couple of times too, and in fact, like the rules better than Trireme.  Not to mention the counters are a lot nicer and more detailed.

I still have both boardgames, but I've always wanted to play an ancient naval game using miniatures.  As fate would have it, my friend Dean told me during a visit that he has the rules Poseidon's Warriors along with some miniature ships, and wondered if I'd be interested in playing.  I told him, "of course," and ordered the rules within a week.

Poseidon's Warriors is a 64-page wargame rule booklet covering naval warfare from 480 to 30 B.C.  After a 5-page intro, the rules themselves only take up 14 pages (10-24).  The rest of the booklet consists of historical scenarios, scenario and campaign set-ups.

Only one person so far, wrote a customer review on Amazon.com and gave it a 4-star rating, which I agree with.

The good points about Poseidon's Warriors are:

1. The rules are short and easy, even easier than Trireme and War Galley.  This makes the game great for beginners, and gamemasters running a session at a game convention.

2. The book is nicely illustrated with artwork depicting the actual battles and pictures of ship miniatures.

3. It's a bargain, ranging in price from just under $14 to about $20.

But on the other tip of the trident:

1. Some may consider the rules too basic.  For instance, merchant ships, which relied solely on wind power can move in any direction the owning player wishes.  The author did not want to include complex sailing rules, especially for ships he viewed as mere targets.

2. While there is a front & back page Quick Reference Sheet there are other charts scattered throughout the book that may take some time to find. 

3. And speaking of the charts themselves, the font size is about half that of the regular text, which I find almost impossible to read without my higher-powered, bifocal reading glasses.

One note about all three games:  More often that not, ancient naval battles involved hundreds of ships.  So each game often scales its battles from a 3:1 to 15:1 ratio.

In general, Osprey Publishing seems to be hitting the right note by cranking out easy, inexpensive rules that are enjoyed by gamers and gamemasters alike.  During this year's Enfilade! convention, several games of Dragon Rampant, Lion Rampant, Frostgrave and In Her Majesty's Name were played.

I'm sure Poseidon's Warriors will soon be fought-out at one of our region's future conventions, or game days.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Review: First & Only--A Gaunt's Ghosts Novel


Well, other than my Independence Day greeting, it's been over a month since I posted anything significant.

I have a two good excuses. 

First, I've been working on a photo project for our regional gaming group, NHMGS.  I took several hundred pictures during our annual Enfilade game convention during the Memorial Day weekend.  This involved sifting through photos, titling each one, making adjustments to the color and lighting, along with photo-shopping out extraneous items (dice, rulers, soda cans, etc.).

Second, my wife and I put up some wall shelves in our family room and garage in order to alleviate the storage issue with our DVD collection and--ahem--my wargames.

Now that my excuses are out of the way, on to the review of what I remember from the last book I finished reading several weeks ago...

First and Only is, well, the first book in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts Series, which is often described as Richard Sharpe meets Warhammer 40K.

I thought this book would be an origin story.  It isn't.  Instead the author slips back and forth between flashbacks and the events currently unfolding during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, where the Tanith First and Only apply their backwoods skills as light infantry. 

However, in addition to facing external threats, the Imperium of Man is rife with internal strife ranging from inter-service rivalry to open rebellion.  So Colonel-Commissar Ibram_Gaunt finds himself confronting a conspiracy to usurp the crusade and snatch piece of archeotech.

First and Only enjoys a 4.5 star rating on Amazon.com.  Even readers who've never played Warhammer 40K liked it.  I can see why Dan Abnett is such a popular Black Library author.  While I agree with the one 3-star rater, in that there's a sequence of coincidences and prophecies that fall into place to advance the plot. 


Unlike the Ciaphas Cain stories, First and Only plays the grimdark of WH40K straight, but was still an enjoyable book that I'll give a 4-star rating to.

I look forward to reading the further adventures of "Sharpe IN SPACE!"


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: Waterloo; The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell


As both a wargamer and history buff, my favorite period is that part of the "Horse & Musket Era," between the Seven Years War/French and Indian War to the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon ruled over a continental empire for nearly ten years before he abdicated.  Everyone thought the wars were over, but "The Corsican Ogre" had other ideas.  Escaping his exile on Elba, Napoleon launched his Hundred Days campaign.

But the Corsican's comeback was cut short at the Battle of Waterloo.

Much of course has been written about this climatic clash.

Here in the U.S., Bernard Cornwell's first non-fiction book, Waterloo; The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles was released about a month before the battle's bicentennial (May 2015, but was released in the U.K. in September 2014).

My wife bought me this book just in time for Father's Day last year.  Since I didn't open my gift until after the 200th Anniversary, I made it a point to read it in time for the 201st Anniversary.

Most of what I've previously read about the battle comes from articles, or chapters in books about the Napoleonic Wars in general.  The only book I did read that was solely devoted to Waterloo was a compilation of eyewitness accounts.  I can't remember the title or author because it was nearly 30 years ago when I read it, and nothing I've seen in my Google-search looks familiar.

Bernard Cornwell is an historical novelist, not an historian.  And this is what makes his contribution to Waterloo lore so readable for a general audience.  True, there are tomes chock-full of facts, figures and statistical data.  These impressive works offer a wealth of information to historians, or any Napoleonic subject-matter expert.

But Bernard Cornwell's literary talents brings the 201year-old drama to life.  Sometimes, especially during the moments when crucial decisions needed to be made, the author will switch the narrative to present tense in order give the reader a sense of "you-are-here-now," and the fate of Europe still is very much in doubt.

I happen to like present tense and use it as much as possible in my own writing.  I'm also a fan of Bernard Cornwell's work.  So overall, I enjoyed Waterloo; The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles.

The book enjoys an 87% approval rating (4 & 5-star reviews) on Amazon.com.

However, not everyone is happy with Cornwell's recent work.  Nearly two dozen 1 & 2-star reviewers cited the author's Anglo-centric bias, along with contributing nothing new to the study of the battle.  They also hated the intermittent use of present tense.

I didn't think Cornwell "waved the Union Jack" at the expense of everyone else who fought on that hot summer day.  I felt he was even-handed at directing praise, or criticism towards the leaders and participants.  Although he seemed to have a greater dislike for the Prince of Orange than even Napoleon

As much as I'd like to give the book a 5-star rating (I'm giving it 4 instead), I felt there were some shortcomings.  Just about every rater assigning less than 5-stars to the book commented on how much the author repeated himself.  Key participants are re-introduced, the term "stone [rock], paper, scissors," is used repeatedly to describe the strengths, weaknesses, and interaction of Napoleonic infantry, cavalry and artillery.  Even the captions underneath the pictures were repetitions of the main narrative.

There are also frequent mentions of the various Waterloo controversies.  Most of these are merely acknowledged and not delved into.

Overall though, Bernard Cornwell weaves an engaging tale for readers looking for an introductory-level overview, or something not weighed-down by exposition and statistical data.

Monday, June 6, 2016

NHMGS's Enfilade Convention's Silver Anniversary Bagpipe Ceremony





Here's my first attempt at shooting an actual video as opposed to composing a slide show.  I filmed this with my new Nikon P530 CoolPix Camera in video mode.  I staked out a spot on the convention floor, and mounted the camera on a tripod.

The ceremony was in honor of Enfilade's 25th Anniversary and was conducted by the Northwest Scots Guards.

The honor guard detail included:  Lt. Col Larry Bardell, Josh Hay, Matt Sims, Bruce McGillivory and Jim Sisson.

The opening speaker was Lloyd Bowler, the Enfilade Convention Director.

The keynote speaker was Kevin Smyth, former Northwest Historical Miniature Gaming Society (NHMGS) president and one of the founding members of Enfilade!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Enfilade 2016 Blog Round-up



During this past Memorial Day Weekend, NHMGS celebrated 25 years of hosting it's Enfilade! wargame convention.

Unlike the past few years, I was able to attend all three days.  One of my gaming buddies, Dale, remarked my 3-day attendance was a rarity.

Yes, it certainly was.

This was most fortunate, because the Event Coordinator, Dave Mebust, asked me to be Enfilade's "Official Photographer" for this year.   I responded with my usual, "definite maybe," because of my rotating work schedule.

I didn't play a single game and instead snapped 1,108 raw photos.  The other day, I spent over four hours sifting through them and deleting 350 pictures.  My goal was to take one or two images of the gamemasters and players, then focus on the awesomely painted miniatures and terrain.  The photos I deleted were either blurry, not framed properly, had too much extraneous material on the table (the usual rulers, stat sheets, rule books, soda cans, etc), or a gamer moving his/her pieces just as my camera focused and snapped the picture.

This was also my first time using my Nikon P350 CoolPix Camera, and I was pleased with it's performance.  My only issue so far, is the camera would suddenly announce the battery was exhausted and shut down.  This occurred twice, near the end of the first two days of the convention. I'm glad I brought my old Panasonic Luminix camera as a back up, which in light of this I won't be getting rid of any time soon.

I'm now starting the process of compiling the photos into some sort of on-line format, either a YouTube movie slideshow, or some webcomics.

I don't think of myself as a perfectionist, but I do like to make any adjustments I feel necessary to a picture's lighting and color before posting it anywhere on line.  So it might be a while before my photos reach cyberspace.

In the meantime, while I'm moving at glacial speed, the following wargame bloggers have already posted their pictures and convention recaps:

Operation: Wargaming!'s Battle of Birmingham Meeting House 1777

WAB Corner's At Long Last, An Actual Gaming Post!

And a two-parter by Naval Gazing.

First, Other People's Games, and then the games he hosted.

Plans are already in the works for Enfilade 2017.

I hope to finish my Enfilade 2016 photo project by then.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Honoring Memorial Day

(Image from


I love my wargaming hobby. 

However, as a retired service member I'm aware every day that real wars have real costs.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: Jutland 1916


We're now in the second year of the First World War's Centennial.

Despite the historical significance of this moment in time, I haven't read any in-depth material on The Great War.  In fact, I don't own a single book on the "mud, blood and poetry" of the trenches.

However, I do own over 30 softcover books by Osprey Publishing.

All of them unread, until now.

I thought I'd use the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland to read my first Osprey book, cover to cover.

Jutland 1916 is a concise, readable account of the events that led up to the clash, the battle itself, and the aftermath. 

(Note:  My copy is a different edition with an "armored plate" cover, but with the same cover art and was published the same year as this "Campaign Series" book was.  My copy also lacks "The Battlefield Today" and "Wargaming Jutland" chapters).

Jutland 1916 is divided into the following chapters, typical of Osprey's template:

Introduction
Origins of the Campaign
The Opposing Fleets (Forces)
The War in the North Sea (Battle Area, Region)
The Opposing Commanders
Opposing Plans
The Battle
Aftermath
Chronology

The book provides a nice over-view of events, which is just enough to give readers basic details, and maybe spark interest in reading weightier tomes.

The battle continues to be controversial even after a hundred years have passed.  Basically, both sides had mirror-image plans, blundered into each other--repeatedly--from the evening of 31 May until the morning of 1 June; more British ships were sunk than German, with heavier loss-of-life; but the German High Seas Fleet retreated into port--and never sortied for battle ever again.  Both sides claimed victory.

The author acknowledges the controversies swirling around each of these facets of the battle, and glosses over them.  Sympathy and scorn towards the attitudes and decisions made by the flag officers is fairly even-handed.  Nearly all of them entered service in the mid-to-late 19th Century, when navies were just phasing-out, or still using steam-powered sailing ships, or ironclads.  No one had a complete grasp of the radical technological advances made up until "the guns of August."

Jutland 1916, earns a solid 4-star rating on Amazon.com

I give it the same rating.  Not because I find any fault with the book, but because it is more of an overview than a detailed analysis of the battle.

Bonus Article & Video

While scrolling through Facebook a few weeks back, I came across a post on the Naval Wargames page.

Here's an article with a Battle of Jutland animation.