Sunday, February 27, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Amoeba Wars: Rise of the Ruby Empire

Wargames, or "conflict simulations," can be emotionally draining affairs, especially when playing games of high complexity.  Sometimes it's fun to take a break and play something light-hearted and fun.  Amoeba Wars, produced back in 1981 by Avalon Hill, fit the bill for my gaming group last Saturday.

Boardgamegeek provides a game description and a popularity rating, along with possible links and forums devoted to the game:

The galaxy was carved-up into several factions (starting from the top left):

Feldspar Empire--Seth
Jade Empire--Adrian
Amethyst Empire--Ted
Topaz Empire--Michael
Amber Empire--Dan (owner of the game)
Ruby Empire--Daniel

And of course, the amoeba hordes...

The Space Lords vying for control of the galaxy.

An amoeba attacks the homeworld of my Amethyst Empire.

The amoeba is destroyed for the cost of two Amethystian scoutships.

A Jadian cruiser squadron probes the borders of the Amethyst Empire.

The first core world system falls to the Ruby Empire.

Meanwhile, the Amethystian Starfleet battles a Doomsday Machine--a remnant of the Old Empire.

The Ruby Armada assembles for a coreworld campaign.

A Rubian battlestar ambushes a Topazian cruiser.

The Topazian coreworld system falls before the Rubian onlsaught.

The Rubian Armada continues its drive, this time attacking an amoeba infested system.

A third corworld system is "liberated" by the Rubian Armada, while a second one falls to the Amethystians.

The Rubians destroys the last Doosday Machine guarding the secrets of Saestor.

With the Doomsday Machine obliterated, the Rubian Armada turns its weapons against the amoeba and claims Saestor--the heart of the Old Empire.

We had the optimal number of players (6) for this game and had fun zapping amoebas--and each other--in this retro sci-fi romp.

For the next Amoeba Wars game session, maybe we could use this as a vintage sci-fi theme song:

Then again, maybe not...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shopping Therapy for Gamers

Once a week I try to make time to do a "shelf check" at the nearby Half Price Books.  I often find RPG (role-playing game) books and supplements; and once in a while some wargame material for--well--half price.

A couple weeks ago I hit the jackpot. 

I got to the store just after a new shipment of books and they had to put a lot of material on the Clearance Shelves.  What I found were eight Warhammer Fantasy Battles Army Supplements for $2-$3.  True, these are older edition books, but since I don't have the latest & greatest edition of the Warhammer core rules, I thought this was a fantastic bargain.

So my "ill-gotten" gains included books on Bretonnia and the High Elves, seen above; along with...

...the Dark Elves, Vampire Counts and Hordes of Chaos...

...Orcs & Goblins, the Tomb Kings and finally the Skaven.

Warhammer is a product of Games Workshop (GW) in the UK and a full list of their current products can be found on their website:

GW is also famous for producing the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (LotR). Actually it's more of a skirmish game, based on their Warhammer rules, while the recently released War of the Ring, is GW's mass-combat game.  I bought the core rulebooks for the battle strategy game, but haven't purchased any supplemental material, until now.  The above booklets, Shadow & Flame (Moria) and The Battle of Pelennor Fields (Minas Tirith), were not on the clearance shelf, but were still a good buy at $8 a piece.

GW's LotR products can also be found on the company website:

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), currently owned by Wizards of the Coast, spawned a host of "D20" role playing games (RPGs); named after the 20-sided dice, often used to determine a player's success--or failure--at conducting an action.  One of the D&D offshoots was D20 Modern, an RPG set in today's day that may or may not include magic, near-future science fiction, or paranormal activity--or maybe all three.  I purchased the D20 Modern rulebook and Game Master (GM) Screen last year, but have always wanted to expand on this, by backtracking into history.  I found the above supplement book D20 Past, for $10 and couldn't pass this up.  Despite receiving tepid reviews on, I feel this will be suitable enough to run any historical RPGs, within the book's timeframe (1450--1950 A.D.).

The last D20 Modern product, Dark Matter, was published in 2006 and there's still a WotC's archived link to available to check out some on-line material :

I'm familiar with, but never played Sony's Everquest, or any other on-line massively multi-player on-line (MMORPG). But in 2002, White Wolf brought Everquest to the table-top by producing an RPG, similar to WotC's D20 system:

I must admit, my main interest in Everquest was the awesome cover art by the late Kieth Parkinson:

Specifically, the Everquest cover-girl "Firiona"--which for some reason--always managed to catch my eye, but never enough to intice me to buy any of the Everquest products.  That is, until I found a copy of the core rulebook in the Clearance Shelf. 

So for a mere $3, I can feel good about wasting my money on a game I'll probably never play...

(A model posing as Firiona for the Sony booth during a game convention)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

To celebrate the day, my friend Deborah Schneider, author of Promise Me, posted an anthology of short stories, written by her and several other writers on her website. 

Scroll down and click on the Love Songs Say So Much, PDF link and enjoy:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Redshift Chronicles Intelligence Brief #2: The Merantan Affair and Bongolaanian Connection

Stardate: Thirday, 053-130 ABY/Tarsan Intelligence Service (TIS)
Subsector: Shannekam

Preliminary After Action Review of the Merantan Affair

Ten days ago, Nance Windu, Cad So Billes and Sei'do Avari; members of the 3rd Diplomatic Security Team (3DST), were assigned to investigate the fire at the Tarsan Agricultural (TAg) Market offices, in the Constellation Tower on Merantis. 

Once they landed in the capital city of Stedmonton, they were led to the scene by their Merantan Intelligence Service (MIS) liaison officer, Lt. Trayl Caltos.  They quickly made two discoveries about the fire:  First, the blaze was caused by arson, from an unknown incendiary device placed in the office lounge.  Second, and possibly of more significance--the TAg Market's computer was accessed prior to the fire's outbreak. 

The following three files were downloaded:

1. TAg Facilities on Zenya
2. Cohaine Family Records
3. Service Records and Flight Plans of the Ivory Bantha

Items of note within these files are:

--TAg owns controlling interest of seafood processing facilities on three islands within the Tau Tau Archipelago on Zenya
--The Cohaine family is the prime owner of TAg
--The Ivory Bantha, a YT-1300 freighter, is the Cohaine family transport; and finally,
--Damethon Cohaine, son of CEO Thassall Cohaine, departed Tarsus two weeks ago to inspect TAg's Zenyan operation

Within a day, the DST's investigation turned up two likely suspects:  Kal Jorek and his Shistavanen partner Frizz.  Later that day, they learned through an unnamed source, of Jorek and Frizz's most likely hideout within Stedmonton's warehouse district.  They followed two associate gang members and attempted to break into the hidedout--without calling for back up from MIS or the Stedmonton Constabulary.

In the ensuing gunbattle with seven gang members, Windu was severely wounded after charging into the hideout.  (The photo above shows So Billes and Avari attempting to reopen the warehouse door).  Jorek attempted to bargain with the remaining team members, by offering Windu's life, in exchange for allowing him and his gang to escape.  When Avari opened fire and So Billes attempted to employ a hand grenade, one gang member, Tonda Gunka, ran inside the warehouse and finished off Windu. 

Three gang members were killed and a fourth wounded, before Merantan reinforcements arrived.  The Merantans cornered and killed the wounded gang member and captured Kal Jorek.  However, Tonda Gunka and Frizz managed to escape.  Their whereabouts are currently unknown and the Commonwealth of Merantis posted a 5,000 CR bounty on each of the fugitives.

So Billes and Avari received verbal reprimands for not contacting the Merantans before engaging the smugglers, from Chief of Constables Pendric Nelprin--and Ambassador Heraud--once she arrived to attend the diplomatic conference. 

The Bongolaanian Connection

MIS confirmed that Kal Jorek is a BIB (Bongolaanian Intelligence Bureau) field agent, who employed Frizz's smuggling gang to aid him in his operations.  However, despite having undergone four days of interrogation by MIS, he has not provided any specific information on Bongolaan's interest in the TAg facilities on Zenya, the Cohaine family, or Damethon Cohaine's travel itinerary.

Therefore, it can only be speculated that Bongolaanian forces may be planning either, or both, of the following:

1. To assassinate, or kidnap Damethon Cohaine.
2. Launch a strike against TAg facilities on Zenya.

Cad So Billes and Sei'do Avari, along with additional assets, were ordered to track down Cohaine and ensure his safe return to Tarsus.  Their secondary objective is to determine the most likely Bongolaanian threat, if any, against the TAg facilities on Zenya.  If possible, the team is to assess whether the mainland Zenyans or the Tau Taus (a Gunganoid race) would help, or hinder, any possible Bongolaanian ventures. 

They left Merantis three days ago in their assigned Rockhopper-X Class shuttle (#147, seen in the photo below) and should arrive in the Zenya System within the next 1-3 days. 

Tarsan Defense Force Current Readiness

It has been three weeks since the Commission of Tarsus received the declaration of trade war from the Peoples Democratic Republic of Bongolaan.  After an all-night session with his fellow commissioners, the Prime Commissioner's Office decided that a full mobilization of the Tarsan Defense Force (TDF), would be too disruptive to the planetary economy at this time, in the face of an unspecified threat.  However, mobilization orders have been prepared and activation notices are ready for immediate transmission.

At this time only two units are at 100% operation level:

1. 603rd System Defense Boat Squadron (603SDBS)--16 fast attack boats, plus 4 spares.
2. 641st Strike Wing (641SW)--32 starfighters, plus 8 spares.

Two units are currently at a 50% operation level:

1. 632nd Defense Squadron (632DS)--7 hyperdrive-capable starships (1 x destroyer, 2 x frigates and 4x corvettes).
2. 3rd Lift Infantry Regiment (3LIR)--1st and 3rd battalions are fully manned while 2nd and 4th battalions are in cadre status.

Once full mobilization is authorized, it will take 2-4 weeks for 3LIR and 632DS to reach 100% operation level.

The remaining two units of the TDF are currently deactivated and their ships in mothball orbit around Rond:

1. 654th Pursuit Squadron (654PS)
2. 627th Long-Range Patrol Squadron (627LRPS)

These units, along with the deactivated half of the 632nd totals 30 hyperdrive-capable starships (1 x cruiser, 3 x destroyers, 14 x frigates and 12 x corvettes).  Once 632DS is brought up to full capacity, it will take an additional 4-6 weeks to fully mobilize 654PS and 627LRPS.

The mercenary assault frigate, Alderaan's Vengeance (the "Aldi-Vee"), is currently operating under an anti-piracy contract.  In the event of open hostilities with Bongolaan, another contract may be negotiated, or the ship may be purchased outright.

For now, all we can do is wait for further developments.

The Ivory Bantha, shown below, is a typical YT-1300 transport:

The Strategic Holograph

The subsector map below, displays the most direct route-of-travel, 3DST may have taken to reach Zenya (circled in yellow).  The system lies only 2 parsecs away from Bongolaan, while it is 5 parsecs away from Tarsus. This gives Bongolaan an advantage of launching an operation before Tarsus is aware of the situation.  (Without a holovid connection, it will take 5 days for a subspace radio distress signal to reach Tarsus).

Six years ago, TAg signed a 100-year lease for 3 islands, (within the small green circle shown below), with the Tau Tau Autonomous Government, (circled in red). 

The map below shows the name and location of the TAg seafood processing facilities:

1. Vianda and Ooverton on Vandalla Is.
2. Kul'kva on Kulovaan Is.
3. Pierson Station on Milquoor Is.

Pierson Station also hosts a Class-D starport.

The Tau Taus, however, do not own all the islands within their archipelago.  Within this area of interest, the Zenyan mainlanders have claimed Donmils, Concmar and Havran Islands.  One month ago, the Zenyans activated a Restricted Access Zone north of the TAg facilities.  The purpose of this activity remains unknown at this time.

Editorial Notes:

1. The planetary and local maps are based on the planet Lefiguura, found on pages 76 and 79 of Smash & Grab, Traveller--The New Era, by GDW (1994).

2. The characters Damethon and Thassall Cohain are derived from the characters found in Rescue on Galatea, by Mark Lawrence (FASA, 1982).

3. The player's encounter with Kal Jorek and his gang is based on Adventure #2: Arms Dealer Beware, found in Star Wars Roleplaying Game--Galaxy of Intrigue, by Wizards of the Coast, pgs 160-163 (2010).

4. The planet Tarsus is based on the Traveller adventure module Tarsus: World Beyond the Frontier, by GDW (1983).

Friday, February 4, 2011

All the World's a (Miniature) Stage

A couple months ago, a friend of mine gave me his Battle of Hoth set, along with a bunch of other Star Wars Miniatures made by Wizards of the Coast (WotC).  I carefully tore open the box to extract the figures, because I had "a cunning plan" on what to do with the back portion, shown above.

While concocting my YouTube videos and graphic novels, I'd usually take additional photos after each game session to tie-off any gaps in the storyline. These photo sessions were often a pain, because I'd have to move a desk, or coffee table, against the wall, prop-up the flimsy paper backdrop and take some hasty shots before whole impromptu stage flopped over.

With my new-found acquisition, I was hoping to make an insta-stage that I could place anywhere, add additional terrain as necessary and--voila!--take the necessary "action shots," in a minimal amount of time. 

My quest for hassle-free photo sessions started when I trimmed my Hoth-in-a-Box to the desired half-open form. I retained the tabs and glued them to what I thought was a firm piece of cardboard. 

Next, I trimmed the following pieces, shown above:

1. Light blue felt (for the sky-piece).
2. An old army blanket (for the ground-piece).
3. A selected backdrop, purchased from a model railroad shop; in this case lightly forested foothills.

The sky-piece was glued to the box's wall and once that dried for a bit, the army blanket/ground-piece was then glued to the bottom.

I assumed my work was complete when I glued the backdrop to the box's wall. 

So I took a sample photo of my stage, properly framed as above and thought I was in business. 


...I placed the first "test subject,"--my elf fighter (from WotC D&D miniatures)--and snapped the above photo.  Once I uploaded this close-up on to my computer, I spotted the "sinkhole" in the not-so-firm-as-I-thought cardboard, to the right of the figure--along with the copyright information scrolled along the bottom.

Taking a normal shot, it's hard to notice the copyright info, but the sink-hole stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.  To solve this dilemma, I took some scrap pieces from the blanket, slathered on some glue and shoved it into the sinkhole.

Looks better doesn't it?

Okay, not exactly. 

The sinkhole fillers showed up in every close up and I was stumped on what to do about the copyright info.


...I remembered I had flocking and decorative rocks, that I normally add to miniature bases.  So I slathered on more glue, placed the rocks in a manner that made it look like they were part of the background's stone pile and then dumped out a bunch of flocking to cover up the wording.

While I'm please--somewhat--with the results, the gap between the backdrop and the ground-piece is rather noticeable.  To fix this, I may try to add more flocking along this border at various spots to see if the material makes a more seamless looking blend.

This particular insta-stage is scaled for 25mm-ish figures.  I have another box I'm planning on converting to a miniature stage for with a backdrop more suited for 6mm figures.  For this upcoming construction project, I'll glue on the backdrop before laying down the ground-piece.