Monday, July 27, 2009

Martians!!! Have Landed... your nearest game store!

You've fended off hordes of undead--or abandoned you buddies to their fate while you scurried to the helipad--in Twilight Creations Zombies!!!

Now it's time to defend your rural town from invasion by little green men from Mars.

Martians!!! appeared this month in hobby stores and on-line. This game is nearly identical in concept to the popular Zombies!!! series. That is, the playing area is generated randomly as players move about and combat occurs when a player's piece occupies the same square as a zombie/martian. Players win fights with the undead/alien invaders by rolling a 4-6 on a six-sided die (1d6).

At first glance there are two differences between the games.

First, in Zombies!!! the first person to reach the helipad or dispatch 25 zombies wins. While in Martians!!! the first player to reach the mothership once it lands, with 3 components to make a bomb in order to blow it up, or kills 30 martians wins.

The second difference deals with player cooperation, or lack thereof. Zombies!!! is what's called an FYB, or "Screw" Your Buddy game. After all there's only room for one in the inbound helicopter. There are several homespun rule variants incorporating team-play posted on line, but this isn't part of the core rules.

The Martians!!! rules on the other hand incorporates cooperative play so everyone can help gather the bomb materials to greet the mothership.

I haven't played this game yet, but since it's so much like it's undead predecessor, it promises to be fun.

No Twilight Creations game would be complete without over-the-top, morbidly funny artwork:

My aesthetic complaints are the bases of the player pieces are too small making the figures easy to tip over. This can possibly be remedied by gluing the player figures to wider counters or bases. Also the crop circle tokens are too dark and are merely black disks. Hopefully better tokens are available.

Despite these minor complaints, it's time to plug in your copy of Mars Attacks! and blast alien invaders!!

Ack! Ack! Ack!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pass & Review #3: Early Imperial Roman DBA Army

The Psiloi and archers.

A bolt-thrower, camp and camp followers.

Roman legions and their commander (foot bound option, off to the left).

The general (mounted option), Cavalry and Light Horse.

Auxiliary legions.

The regular legions.

The Imperial Roman Army arrayed for battle (all options).

All figures painted by Adrian Nelson.

Ceasar's legions...

Probably no other army has been so documented and therefore, well-known among wargamers and historians, than the Roman Army.

For example, here's an on-line bibliography containing some of the material written about the military might of Rome:

The flexible formations of the legion and the iron discipline of it's soldiers invoked awe among it's admirers--and fear among Rome's enemies.

But it took more than one legion to defend a republic and conquer an empire:

From 25 BC--197 AD, this army extended the empire's reach, put down revolts and fought fellow Romans in two civil wars (69 and 193 AD).
In DBA terms, the Roman Army of this period looks like this:

One, 3-figure Cavalry (1x3Cv) unit or 4-figure Blade (1x4Bd) unit with the general; along with either of the following--another 3-figure Cavalry unit (1x3Cv), or a 2-figure Light Horse (1x2LH) unit, or a 4-figure Bow-armed (1x4Bw) unit, or a 2-figure Psiloi; another 3-figure Cavalry unit is include (1x3Cv); while the infantry consists of 4, 4-figure Blade (4x4Bw) units--the legions; 4, 4-figure Auxiliary infantry (4x4Ax) units; while fire support is provided by an Artillery piece (in this case a bolt thrower, 1xArt).

This army can be found on page 33 of the DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) rulebook (ver 2.2) and looks like this in the DBA shorthand:

1x3Cv or 4Bd (Gen), 1x3Cv, 1x3Cv or 2LH or 4Bw or 2 Ps, 4x4Bd, 4x4Ax, 1xArt.

Imperial Rome had no shortage of enemies. While times may have changed within the newfound empire--Rome's enemies didn't. In fact, according to the DBA rulebook the Empire acquired 6 more foes than the bygone Republic.

So as in the previous post (Pass & Review #2), here's another long list of folks hostile to the imperial order:

Early Libyans (I/7d), Illyrians (I/47), Thracians (I/48), Meroitic Kush (I/58), Ariarathid Kappadokians (II/14), various Arab-Arameans (II/22abe), Nomadic and Yemeni Arabs (II/23ac), Early Rhoxolani Sarmatians (II/24), Bosporans (II/25), Siracae, Iazyges and Later Rhoxolani Sarmatians (II/26), Early Armenians (II/28b), Parthians (II/37), Numidians/Moors (II/40), Commagene (II/44), Early Germans (II/47cefg), Late Judeans (II/51), Dacians (II/52), Ancient British (II/53), Scots-Irish (II/54a), Nobades/Blemmye (II/55a), themselves (II/56), Later Moors (II/57), Alans (II/58), Jewish Revolt (II/59), Caledonians (II/60) and their cousins--the Middle Imperial Romans of the Eastern Empire (II/64b).

The number of nations allied to Rome (when not at war with each other) can literally be counted on one hand. Here are the 5 allies the Romans could depend on in a "Big Battle DBA" or in a campaign:

The Arab-Arameans (II/22abe), the Commagene (II/44), the Armenians (II/28b), the Batavi (II/47d) and the Late Judeans (II/51).

As with the Marian Roman Army, the home topography of Rome is "Arable." So the mandatory terrain remains the same--a Built-Up Area (BUA) or a Road, along with optional features such as: A River, Steep Hills, Gentle Hills, Woods, another Road or Waterway.
The Early Imperial Army lost none of its combat effectiveness over its Marian predecessor either. The Romans of this period still have an Aggression Factor of 3.

This army also has an Essay page posted on the Fanaticus website. In addition to the information listed above, the Early Imperial Romans Essay contains tidbits of history along with figure availability, painting tips, miniature availability, historical rescources and recommended DBA tactics:

I came across Dan Becker's miniatures website which includes several DBA armies. Here's Dan's Imperial Romans page along with some great pictures of his figures:

For anyone interested in reading about other DBA armies, back on the Fanaticus website there's an Essay contents page listing all the DBA armies:
Since many of them are currently unwritten, additional submissions are welcome. Just contact the site's Imperator Chris Brantley at:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pass & Review #2: Marian Roman DBA Army

Legionaries and their general (dismounted option, off to the left).

Light and heavy cavalry with the general (mounted option).

Auxiliaries, psiloi and the Roman camp.

The Marian Roman Army deployed for battle with all options. (Figures painted by Dan Proctor, while the camp was painted by Adrian Nelson).
The might of Rome rested with her legionaries...

From 108 BC to 25 BC, the Roman military was founded on the "Marian Legions," based on the reforms initiated by Gaius Marius during his first consulship.

Of course it took a few disastrous battles and a stagnant campaign in Numidia to help goad the traditional-minded Romans into re-vamping their army:

Marius didn't just replace maniples with cohorts, but was elected Consul of Rome six additional times during his lifetime:

This was a time of turbulent transition for Rome as the republic gravitated towards becoming an empire. To re-fight the battles from 105--25 BC, the DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) Marian Roman Army, listed as II/49 in the rulebook, is organized as follows:

One, 3-figure Cavalry unit (1x3Cv) or one, 4-figure Blade unit (1x4Bd) representing the army's general and elite fighters; along with either an additional 3-figure Cavalry unit (1x3Cv) or a 2-figure Light Horse (1x2LH); meanwhile, the backbone of the army consists of 8, 4-figure Blade units representing the legions (8x4Bd); one Psiloi unit provides a modicum of missile fire; and finally additional skirmisher support can be either one, 3 or 4-figure Auxiliary unit (1x3/4Ax) or an additional psiloi (1x2Ps).

In the DBA rulebook hieroglyphics, the Marian Roman Army Order of Battle looks like this on page 33 of the rulebook (ver. 2.2):

1xCv or 4Bd (Gen), 1x3Cv or 2LH, 8x4Bd, 1x3/4Ax or 2Ps, 1x2Ps.

The Roman Republic had many enemies--including itself. In fact a list of who Rome didn't fight would probably be shorter. However, for sake of historical accuracy and completeness here's a list of Rome's foes (taking a deep breath as I type):

Early Libyans (I/7d), Illyrians (I/47), Thracians (I/48), Gallic (II/11), Ariatathid Kappadokian (II/14), Ptolemaic (II/20cd), Later Pre-Islamic Arabs (II/23a), Early Armenian/Gordyene (II/28ab), Galatian (II/30bc), Parthian (II/37), Ancient Spanish (II/39abc), Numidian (II/40), Commagene (II/44), Sicilian/Italian Slave Revolts--"I'm Spartacus!" (II/45bc), Early Germans (II/47ab), Mithradatic (II/48), themselves (II/49), Late Judean (II/51), Dacian (II/52) and finally the Ancient British (II/53).

In a campaign or "Big Battle DBA," which uses 3 army groups (36 units) per side, the Romans can count on the following allies--once they've been subjugated, of course:

Bithynians (II/6), Later Pre-Islamic Arabs (II/23a), Late Judeans (II/51), Early Armenians (II/28b), Galatians (II/30bc), Numidians (II/40), along with their fellow Romans--as long as they're with the same consular faction.

Apparently the Scots-Irish didn't get along with anyone because the DBA Army List shows no allies for the wild men of the highlands. (See "Pass & Review #1").

Rome started out as a city-state occupying several hills along the Tiber River, so the home territory of the Republic is considered "Arable." That is, a battlefield the Romans are defending must consist of either a road or a Built-Up Area (BUA), along with any of the following: A River, Steep Hills, Gentle Hills, Woods, another Road, or Waterway.
Since "Marius' Mules" were always on the march, a Roman Army of this period has an Aggression Factor of 3.
As an aside, there are several armies with Aggression Factors of 4, the highest listed in the rules. Some of these "usual suspects" are: The Assyrians (I/25), Muhammadian Arabs (III/25), the Norsemen (III/40), Early Crusaders (IV/7), Teutonic Orders (IV/30) and the Mongols (IV/35).

Not at all surprising is it?

Meanwhile, getting back to the Romans, the Fanaticus website has a few Army Essay Pages, which include this army. In addition to the information listed above, the Marian Romans
contains tidbits of history along with figure availability and recommended DBA tactics:

Sheez! Writing all this makes me want to watch my Rome DVDs!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pass & Review #1: Ancient Scots-Irish DBA Army

Scots-Irish Warbands and their general (foot option, off to the left).

Scots-Irish "psiloi" (a psuedo-Greek word meaning skirmishers), and the army's camp.

Scots-Irish chariots and their general (mounted option)

Scots-Irish Army arrayed for battle (with all options).

Another photo of the Scots-Irish Army. All figures were painted by Adrian Nelson.

One of the first things a new DBA player must do is decipher the game's shorthand. This is one of the many quirks of the rules-system most consider poorly written. (There's a 72-page Unofficial Guide available on Fanaticus to help explain some of the original rules concepts!).
For the sake of non-DBA players, I'll spell out the Scots-Irish composition and other qualities.

First, this army falls under Section Two--the Classical Period-500 BC to 476 AD, in the rule book and is Army # 54. This is abbreviated as II/54.

This army was active from 55 BC to 846 AD. However, sometime after 433 AD, the Scots-Irish fielded a different army.
So from 55BC to 432 AD, a Scots-Irish Army would look like this in 12-unit DBA terms:
1 Light Chariot (LCh) and the general (Gen), 2 Light Chariots (2xLCh); 6, 3-figure Auxiliary infantry units (6x3Ax); 2, 2-figure Psilois (2x2Ps); and one of the following--1 Light Chariot (1xLCh); or one, 4-figure Warband (4Wb), or an additional 3-figure Auxiliary (3Ax).
From 433 AD onward, the Scots-Irish Army did away with most of the chariots and was organized in this manner:
1xLCh or 1x3Ax or 1x3Wb with the general, along with--9x3Ax and 2x2Ps.
The enemies of the Scots-Irish were (listed in numeric order in the DBA rules):
Ancient British (II/53), themselves, Early Imperial Romans (II/56), Caledonians (II/60), Middle Imperial Romans (II/64), the Picts (II/68), Late Imperial Romans (II/78), the Sub-Roman British (II/81), the Welsh (III/19) and finally the NorseViking and Leidangs (III/40).
The "Aggression Factor" (Ag) of the Scots-Irish is "3." In each game, both players roll one 6-sided die (1d6) and add the Ag. The player with the highest result is the attacker. This also determines the Home Topography of the defender.
The home topography of the Scots-Irish is "Littoral," that is a major waterway will be one of the mandatory terrain features in a game involving Scots-Irish on the defence. Other terrain features may include Steep Hills, Marsh, Woods, Dunes, Built-Up Area (BUA) or River.
I haven't played any games using this army, but when I do it's battlefield performance will be the subject of an After Action Review (AAR).

Pass & Review--The First Armies

I'm starting a new section on this blog called "Pass & Review." In this section I'll present my miniature armies in a static display format and discuss some of the particular facts, values and characteristics of each army or combat unit.

The first three armies presented will be from my De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) collection.

DBA is a popular, fast-play, tournament-style miniatures game system:

DBA has its fans and detractors. The following post on The Miniatures Page, illustrates the game systems good and bad points:

The Fanaticus DBA resource page is already linked to this blog and provides invaluable information to the DBA gamer:

While my movie Ambush at Adrianople is just one of 31 DBA films posted on YouTube:

While I like Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, I wasn't planning on getting into DBA. This changed when a couple of friends offered their 15mm armies up for sale. Both of them are First-Class painters and I truly admire their work.

I couldn't pass up their deals, so in one fell-swoop I purchased: A Marian Roman Army, an Early Imperial Roman Army and an ancient Scots-Irish Army.

A few months ago I purchased a Parthian DBA Army pack made by Essex Miniatures in order to have an "eastern" army. I'm currently having these figures painted, because my painting skills aren't up to par with my friends.

While DBA is primarily used for tournaments, it is also ideal for campaigns. I downloaded two campaigns from the Fanaticus website I thought would be suitable for my armies: The Roman Civil War (49-45 BC) and The Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD).

Once the Parthians are painted, all I'll need is time to play...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

PNWA 2009 Literary Contest Feedback

I finally received my official feedback for my entries in the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association's (PNWA's) Literary Contest. This year PNWA initiated a new critique procedure where entries are given a numeric score up to 100 points.

Entries can accumulate 10 points within each of the following technical categories: Plot, Viewpoint, Characterization, Pacing and Mechanics. While 25 points can be awarded in the two subjective categories: "Did the Story Grab You?" and "Would You Read More?"

How did my works rate?

Let's just say that when it comes to writing horror stories, I'm no Stephen King.

I imagine the two judges looked at my vampire story Sweet Stakes (Adult Short Story Category), with as much skepticism as Grandpa Munster, pictured above.

Judge #1 awarded me a whopping 22 points.

Auu! (Romanian for "Ouch!").

However, he/she attached a nice letter complimenting me on the stories good points. Judge #2 nearly doubled #1's score by awarding me 40 points.

The most common detractors were: "Over-written," "too many adjectives," "redundant sentences" and lack of background material on the protagonist.

So this story is laying in it's coffin until I can figure out how to fix it.


...Rakkasan Recollections (Adult Short Topic Category), about my dad's antics during the Korean War, was something I submitted on a bit of a lark.

(The unit patch pictured above is for the United Nations Partisan Forces-Korea).

I wrote this over four years ago and entered it into a national writing competition. However, I never received a critique. I haven't worked on it since and I was merely looking for some feedback.

While my vampire story had a stake driven through it's heart, Rakkasan Recollections to my surprise, was very well received by the judges (#3 and #4).

Judge #3 gave it an 80! The lowest score was a mere "1" in the Plot category. According to #3, my memoir didn't have one. The other item the judge didn't care for was the use and explanation of all the military acronyms.

And in a "saving the best for last" gesture, Judge #4 awarded me 86 points. I received "9s" and "10s" in all the technical categories, while both judges rated the story high in the subjective areas.

Nor was it the high score alone that made my day. Judge #4 wrote the following comments:

"Good story about men and their wars."

"Good word pictures of the father and his influence on the children." Judge #4 is more correct than he knows. I and two of my siblings made careers out of military service.

Finally, #4 had this to say, "Very publishable--perhaps in Reader's Digest or a military magazine or even in AARP."

Wow, talk about irony. The story I worked on the least earned the most points!

So I'll review Rakassan Recollections and see if I can find an interested editor.

Who knows, mabye someday Sweet Stakes will even arise from the grave...Bwah-ha-ha-ha-hah!

I Am Their Leader...

From today's Wizard of Id by Parker and Hart.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Movie Review

My wife and I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen during the 4th of July Weekend.

Despite being panned by an overwhelming number of critics, we both really liked the movie. I'd say it was almost as good as the first movie. (Sequels have a way of degrading due to their own accord). However, some of the criticism against this film have some merit.

Warning: This narrative contains some plot-spoilers.

First, more Decepticons and Autobots make their appearance. But you barely get an idea of who, or what they are. Two stood out but not in a good way: The "twins" Mudflap and Skids, or as one of my friends called them--the Ghettobots. These two characters, meant for comic relief, ended up causing as much annoyance--and controversy--as the Star Wars character Jar-Jar Binks.

Second, while the CGI effects are awesome, it can feel too busy and overwhelming. Sometimes it was hard for me to tell who was who among the 'bots, especially during the fight scenes. For instance: After reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, I was surprised to learn that it was the Decepticon known as "The Doctor" who interrogates Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf). Heck, I thought it was Megatron!

Also thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the movie's femme fatale Alice, is a Decepticon "pretender." That is, she's able to assume human form. (Is there some Decepticon-Terminator cross breeding going on or what?).

I'm not sure if the critics complained about this, but my wife and I thought the "going to college" scene was out of place in this movie:

Sam is off to college, leaving his parents and girlfriend Mikaela Banes (played by Megan Fox) behind. This brings out all kinds of conflicting emotions any family faces under such circumstances. This scene forms what Christopher Vogler calls "The Ordinary World" in his book The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.

(Vogler's premise is that epic adventures and myths follow a similar, stylistic pattern. After getting a glimpse of the character's ordinary world there are such phases as: The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, and so on).

The problem with Sam's ordinary world is that it's not at all ordinary. Not only is he moving away, Sam's also leaving his Autobot guardian/Camero, Bumblebee behind as well.

How "normal" is that?

Sam's already knows what's at stake in the on-going Autobot-Decepticon War. This inconsistency is further compounded as Sam "refuses the call" when Optimus Prime asks for his help. Sam also fails to mention finding another fragment of the Allspark, a key artifact from the first movie.

Fortunately as in other epics, Sam can't "escape his destiny" and is forced to re-join the fight to save our planet from destruction.

Despite my comments above, I really enjoyed this movie. What I loved most was portrayal of our men and women serving in the armed forces. Once again, Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg made our military look awesome!

I give this movie 3.5 stars. As long as you enter the theater without any "movie critic" expectations, you will be entertained.

Wikipedia movie synopsis, characters, production and filming information:

Transformers Official Website:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Image: The Signing of the Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.

Mayhem in Makassar Strait: The Season Finale

Part 6 of Mayhem in Makassar Strait was uploaded earlier today on the HISTORICON website:

In this final episode, four American destroyers attack the Japanese landing force at Balikpapan.

Meanwhile, Episode 5 was posted on YouTube: