Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: Templar

It's been almost a year since I wrote a book review.  The reasons are twofold:  First, I don't have the time anymore to produce content about what inspires my gaming and writing.  And second:  What I've read since last summer has been mediocre at best.  Nothing has really wowed me.

Until now.

Last week, on a rare day my wife and I both had off, we ventured to the local library to renew our library cards and to check out what's inside.

While walking past the fringe of the Young Adult section, Jordan Mechner's "Templar" caught my eye.

This hardcover is actually a graphic novel illustrated by husband & wife Alex Puvilland and Leuyen Pham.

The story is about several members of the Knights Templar who managed to survive the Friday the 13th Purge, who band together and attempt to restore the honor of their order.

Well, in an "Ocean's Eleven" sort of way, because despite the show trial and all the forced confessions, the fabled Templar Treasure is still up for grabs. 

I'd love to say more about this book I consider the best story I've read in ages.  There were a couple things I wish were different about the finale, but upon reflection, I think the ending was appropriate, and more importantly, satisfying.

I'd love to carry-on but I don't want to spoil any more of the plot than I may already have.

As to the artwork: It reminds me of what one would see in an animated film, which isn't surprising since the artists have worked in animation.  The images are neither too detailed or too sparse, and the portrayals of the heroes and villains are delightful to gaze at.

Templar has a nearly a 4-star rating on Goodreads, while it has an average 4.6-star rating on

I loved this book so much, I intend to buy my own copy of what I feel is a 5-star story.

(Image found on:  Mediocrity is the New Genius)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Enfilade 2018 Fly-By Photo Montage

(Image by:  Studios B3 in honor of Enfilade 2018's theme--Rebels and Rebellions)

While the NHMGS officers are planning next year's Show Theme, I've been sorting through the pictures of my brief sojourn to this year's convention.

I won't rehash my tale of woe, as to how I managed to miss most of Enfilade 2018.  (You can see the previous post for that--and more importantly--links to other gaming blogs).

By the time I did make it to the convention, Time Block D: (Saturday, starting at 2 PM) was in full-swing.

Since I had to start work early the next day, I only stayed until the end of the game period in order to: Snap some pictures, annoy chat with my fellow gamers, and buy items I realized I can't live without from vendors, and at the Enfilade "Bring & Buy" (B&B, a gaming flea market).

The rest of this post is a montage of the pictures I managed to take, and put in some coherent order.

Enfilade 2018 Painting Competition Entries:

I'm not sure who won what, but I thought the figures on display were awesome.

The Games of Time Block D

Here is one set of players who "put to sea" for the Battle of Mobile Bay, game mastered by Steve Thorne.

(The players gathered around "the bay")

(Wooden ships vs. ironclads)

Other naval games were scheduled, but I "missed the boat" so to speak, in that they may have wrapped up early, or were cancelled.

The only games during this period that hearkened back to antiquity were a couple of /De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) sessions.

(Chris Ewick, owner of The Game Matrix, running a session of "Big Battle DBA")

I did take a photo of a pair of normal-sized DBA games but it didn't come out.

Advancing through the ages, the "Horse & Musket Era" was well-represented.

A couple of games centered on the American War of Independence.  The next two photos are of Knapton's Trading Post, hosted by Norris Hazelton.

(British troops march on a colonial supply depot)

("Those damned rebels" attempting to hold back the redcoats)

The rematch between America and Great Britain, (a.k.a. The War of 1812), was the topic of one game depicting the Battle of New Orleans.

(British troops attempting to break through the American breastworks)

(They almost made it)
I was surprised no one was playing Johnny Horton's song on their devices.

Looking at the "bigger picture" of the Napoleonic Wars, Bill Hughes broke out his big 6mm collection and his rules, The Conflict, to run a version of the Battle of Kalisz.

(Bill listens to a player asking a rules-related question)

(A close-up of just a part of Bill's collection)

A larger-scaled version of the Napoleonic Wars was also underway.  In this case, it was a composite force of French and allied troops attempting to clear the mountains of Tyrolean "rebel scum" in James Sagen's Alps Aflame!

(An Alpine mountain pass represented by an extra-long table)

(French and allied troops marching in-column)

(Initial contact at the village of "Mittwald")

(French troops and their allies attempt to storm the heights held by Tyrolean "rebel scum")

While the French were trying to take-down the Tyroleans, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was being played-out at another table.

(An "eagle-eye's" view of the battlefield)

(Billy Yanks hold the Wheatfield)

(Contrary to the historical outcome, Confederates sweep over Little Round Top)

(A wider view of the battle for the Wheatfield)

While musket & saber-wielding figures dominated the main show room, there were some sci-fi games, along with a 20th Century alternate-historical game being played.

It's the mid-1980s--sort of.  For some reason, the Godless commie hordes launch "Operation Dragonuv" against the decadent imperialists of western Europe--probably because Derr Kommissar was in town.

This micro-armor game was hosted by Lawrence Bateman and Damon Crump.

(Soviet forces concentrate for a breakthrough)

(Soviet tanks and IFVs cross a river)
There was a Flames of War tournament going on in another room, but the games for this particular round had already ended.

Final Thoughts on Enfilade 2018

So that wraps-up my fly-by impression of Enfilade 2018.

My attendance this year was about as short as Enfilade 2012.  That year, I didn't get off work until Sunday afternoon, and had just enough time to get my t-shirt and buy some items from vendors before they closed.

Despite any of my brief stays, I still enjoy showing up and checking out the gaming scene.

See you--maybe--at Enfilade 2019!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Game Convention Fly-By Prelude

(Image:  NHMGS Enfilade 2018 Logo)

NHMGS's flagship convention, Enfilade!, was held over Memorial Day Weekend.

This year's them was:  Rebels and Rebellions.

(Image from the Enfilade 2018 Events Facebook Page)

Due to my work schedule, I was off and planning to attend the first two days of our annual event.

"Planning" being the operative word.

Our section, the Washington State Alert & Warning Center, has been down two coworkers for the past few weeks.  So the rest of us were pulling overtime, while our agency, the Washington State Emergency Management Division, hired replacements.

However, this didn't leave us with any margin for unforeseen events.

Just as I was preparing to leave for the initial day of festivities, (26 May), the phone rang.

It was my boss.

A coworker called-in sick, so I got the "Obi-wan Kenobi, you're our only hope" speech, and he asked me to fill in and pull a night shift--that very evening.

Fortunately for me, and the rest of the citizens of the Evergreen State, the night was fairly uneventful.

I got off duty, went home and because I'm not in my 20s anymore, slept for nearly five hours.

When I woke up, and made myself presentable, I headed down to the convention site at the Red Lion Inn in Olympia, WA.

I spent about two-and-a-half hours, taking some hasty pictures (about 45 total), chatting with several gaming buddies, and of course purchasing items I suddenly realized I couldn't live without.

Even though we now have our new-hires in-place, it will take several weeks of on-the-job training to get them up to speed.  So I'm still busy at work.

Anyway, that's my excuse for not having any pictures posted like my fellow gaming bloggers.

But I'm working on it.

I have some ideas for a slide-show YouTube video, along with some gag-a-day webcomics.

In the meantime, you can enjoy some pics and commentaries via links to the more punctual gaming bloggers reporting on this year's convention:

Convention Coordinator, Alyssa Faden's Best of Show game:  Teutoburg AAR.

Naval Gazing's Enfilade Recap, Part 1 (games everyone else was running), and Part 2 (games he ran).

Portland Little Wars' Enfilade 2018.

I Live With CatsBrazen Biscuits.

From WAB Corner:  An actual gaming post at long last! Live from Enfilade 2018!

And finally, A Gamer's Tale out-did everyone with six posts covering Enfilade 2018 (see 29 May 2018).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New "Command Chair" for the Studio

I know it's been nearly a month since I posted anything. 

Work has been busy, not mission-wise, but because we're short-handed, and will be for at least another month.

I had a few days off and got all my chores, errands and appointments completed a couple days ago.  This left me with nearly a full day (Tuesday) I was planning to work on some gaming projects and even a blog post.

Alas it was not meant to be.

At the beginning of the week I ran into Staples and purchased a couple magazine binders to house and organize some of my wargame rules.  Before leaving, I stumbled across a Tempur-Pedic-Leather Desk-Office-Chair on clearance--nearly 2/3rds off the retail price.

I had to wait until my wife got home from work because I couldn't fit the chair in my Jeep.  Fortunately, the last-remaining, still-in-the-box chair was still available.

The bad news was:  "Some Assembly Required."  It took me nearly all of my remaining free time to put together my "Command Chair."

The good news is:  I now have a very comfortable, back & hip friendly chair to sit at my Studio desk.

The old chair, fits well at my garage desk where I'd do some terrain & figure painting.  (The chair I had here was too short). 

Now that my work stations are more comfortable, all I need is some time to be able to spend at them...

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Greeting Card for Alabama Game Group

(Image by Dane Tkacs)

One of the things that make Facebook so popular, despite the recent privacy invasion/data mining scandal is the ease and versatility at maintaining contact with family and friends.  When my gaming buddy, Dan, moved to Alabama, he “drafted” me into the “Huntsville Irregulars” (the Huntsville Historical Game Club).  It’s been fun reading and commenting on gaming activities 3,000 miles away.

This past weekend, one of the members posted pictures of his Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, Flames of War game session.  The above picture of one scene in the tabletop re-fight reminded me of Saturday Night Live’s Hans and Franz skit.  So I posted:  “I am Hanz and he is Franz, and we plan to “F” you up!”

A couple members thought it was funny, and I decided to go one better by concocting a greeting card/Facebook cover photo.

First, I cropped the photo, then “cloned out” the pile of status counters using Paint.Net.  After that I used the program’s ink-sketch function to give it a hand-drawn look.  The final step was creating the comic strip using Comic Life.

Here’s the end result:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Caption Contest Prize from the International Thriller Writers Organization

Early last week, I stumbled across the above photo posted on Facebook by the International Thriller Writers Organization (ITW).  It was a Caption This Tuesday Contest for their upcoming Thrillerfest XIII.

I concocted a caption, and a few days later, the ITW's Social Media & Authors Relations Manager notified me that I won!

Not satisfied with "resting on my laurels," I created this gag-a-day webcomic featuring my caption:

I also created this e-poster for ITW to use  in promoting their flagship conference:

I attached copies of both of these back to the ITWs Social Media Manager, asking her if I could use these, along with offering them to ITW for their use.  She happily agreed.

My prize, a copy of The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie, along with an ITW pen and some promotional flyers, arrived in the mail yesterday.

So, spending my youth and adolescence watching Looney Tunes wasn't a waste of time after all.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stern Rake Studio Website

Well, I finally launched an actual Stern Rake Studio website yesterday. 

I've been tinkering with it for over a year now. I'm not 100% satisfied with it, but I'm not sure what else to do with it. 

So instead of letting it continue to lay dormant, I thought I'd launch it. 

I'll continue to work on it when I figure out how to improve it.

In the meantime, I hope you like it: 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Product Review: Warhammer 40K 8th Edition

Shortly before 2017 came to a close, I took the plunge and bought Warhammer 40,000’s Eighth Edition (WH 40K 8E).

Prior to this, I scavenged through used book stores for earlier editions.

Not one early edition either.

As a latecomer to the “grim darkness of the far future...” I ended up with Edition 5, 6, and 7 of the core rulebooks.  (Edition 7’s three-volume set was purchased after Edition 8 hit the shelves).

I didn’t limit my dabbling in WH40K to old rulebooks.  While Edition 7 was in its heyday, I started buying just about every used Edition 6 splatbook (codexes—supplements containing the specific details of a select faction) I could find.

Since I have yet to play a single game of any edition of WH40K, I’m not in a position to make any comparisons, good, bad, or indifferent.

I have though, noticed significant changes have been made with each new edition.  And Edition 8 is no exception.  The rules seem to be the most streamlined of the lot.  The blast templates used for determining casualties caused by flame weapons or explosives have been eliminated.  Also there’s nothing in the new core rulebook to set up a “starter game.”  That is, there’s no crunch (game statistics) about any of the factions’ troops or weapon systems within the core rulebook.

So players are forced to buy at least one splatbook.

Since the bulk of my WH40K force consists of “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances," I went ahead and bought the latest codex for the Astra Militarum, (formerly known as the Imperial Guard)

In this regard I’m one of the lucky players to have a new codex for my main force.  Other players are still waiting for theirs.

I’m still waiting for a codex for my small force of Adepta Sororitas (a.k.a. The Sisters of Battle, or “nuns with guns”).

Fortunately, in the Index: Imperium 2, consists of the basic data,without the fluff, for me to utilize for my Battle Sisters, along with the team of Inquisitors I purchased at a wargame swap meet a few months ago.

So that's three 8E books I've purchased right off the bat--and I want to buy the upcoming codex for the Adepta Sororitas, and the Inquisition.

And at the risk of implying "I can quit whenever I want to" I don't plan on buying any more 8E splatbooks.  While it's a good strategy to study the capabilities of your opponents' forces, I figure I can get the gist of things with the earlier edition splatbooks.

I'm also plannig on keeping earlier edition core rulebooks, because there's still gamers out there who continue to play by the old rules.

So from what little I know about actually playing WH40K, I like the rules.

Maybe I'll even like the game--if I ever get a chance to play.

If you want an in-depth review of the good, bad and ugly of 8E, here's one review by Miniwargaming on what they love and don't love about WH40K8E.

(Image: Adepta Sororitas by Anna Steinbauer)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

After Action Review of: Liberia--Descent into Hell

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I can't remember when I bought Fiery Dragon's Mini-Game#19, Liberia: Descent Into Hell.  Sometime later, I discovered my friend Joe also had a copy, and has been interested in the wars of post-World War II, sub-Saharan Africa.

We talked about playing the game for years.  Finally, a few months ago, we had a few hours of free time on a Saturday and played nearly three turns.  (We did a trial run a month before this, but made too many mistakes interpreting the rules, that it wasn't worth writing about).

I used Plasq's Comic Life 3' "Harrowing Tales" template to concoct this web-comic version of our after action report (AAR).

So our tabletop descent into Hell.

An additional copy of this post can also be found on the Studio Storyboards:

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