Sunday, February 26, 2012

Noteworthy Blog #1: The Campaigns of William Augustus Pettygree

(Image:  General Pettygree reviews the troops in Chapter 5:  The Relief Column, 1898 Campaign)

I'm not the only one telling a story with miniature figures.  One of my main sources of inspiration for writing a Star Wars Miniatures webcomic, came not from science fiction, but from the esteemed  General William Augustus Pettygree.

This blog, authored by Bill, follows General Pettygree's campaigns on the Northwest Frontier (modern day India, Pakistan and Afghanistan). 

I stumbled across Bill's work a couple of years ago and admire is narrative creativity.  However, I've only managed to read most of his first year's entries--the 1898 Campaign: Khyber Pass and Tranjapour. 

But I have a good excuse for falling by the wayside in reading Bill's excellent narrative!  I've been busy working on my own projects.  Now that I've "rediscovered" Bill's work, I look forward to catching up with the good general and the colorful cast of characters.

For those craving a "touch of elegance" in their wargames, Bill also maintains his Campaigns in Germania, about the diplo-military activities in 18th Century Central Europe.  (I'm even further behind on this one, than I am with General Pettygree!).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Space--The Final Place to Conquer, A Space Empires Campaign Report

The picture below illustrates the mysterious--and possibly hostile--"final frontier."

Last week my friends Joe, Terry, Tom and I played our inaugural game of Space Empires.  Each of us directed the operations of one of the interstellar contenders.  These were:  The Chulakian Empire (me)...

...the Vasyrian Empire (Terry)...

...the Terran Empire (Tom) and...

...the Altairan Empire (Joe).

As the scoutships ventured forth, they discovered space was full of lethal danger...

...unexpected detours...

...and astrogation hazards--like asteroids, black holes, nebulae and super novas--just to name a few. 

Once the loose mineral deposits were gathered and mined, each of us began developing our colonies on habitable worlds, while conducting research on terraforming.

Below, two barren planets, Babbage and Abydos, were discovered between the Chulakian and Alatairan borders.

Once our empires settled the planets within our spheres of influence, scoutships ventured out into deep space--escorted by warships.

By this time, tensions began brewing in the void.  Here, Altairan and Vasyrian task forces faced-off over one of the last free mineral deposits found in deep space.

Meanwhile, Chulakian and Altairan colony ships, along with their escorts, were set on a collision course in the Abydos System.

The "Abydosian Affair" erupts.

Once within sensor range, the opposing task forces were revealed.  The Altairan colony ship was escorted by a single destroyer, while a Chulakian cruiser, destroyer and scoutship screened their colony ship. 

Chulakian commander discovered the Altairan destroyer had a slight technological advantage over his own ships--after his destroyer was incinerated by Altairan return fire.  Despite this loss, the Chulakian cruiser made short work of the Altairan destroyer, thanks to its heavier firepower.  The Altairan colony ship, then met the same fate as it's escort.  There were no survivors.

Both sides claimed their opponents "relocation ships" were transporting convicts to establish penal colonies on Abydos.  Terran and Vasyrian intelligence agencies were unable to verify either accusations.  (Maybe because they were too busy shipping their own convicts out to inhospitable worlds).

Upon hearing of the destruction of the Altairan ships by the Chulakians, the Vasyrians decided to strike. 

As the opposing task forces closed to within sensor range, the Altairan commander discovered he was outnumbered nearly 2-1, and outgunned.  His force of 3 destroyers and a scoutship were faced with 5 cruisers and two destroyers.  Despite this disadvantage, the Altairan was confident his ships were technologically superior and could inflict serious damage to the Vasyrian vessels.  The burning strategic question was, however:  Was this rock worth fighting for?

The Altairan didn't think this chunk-o-mineral was worth loosing ships over, so he ordered an immediate withdrawal.  The Vasyrians blazed away into the void, but to no avail, thanks to the Altairans' enhanced defenses and electronic counter measures (ECM).

As the Vasyrians began hauling away their prized rock, the Chulakians and Altairans rushed reinforcements to their respective (penal?) colonies of Abydos and Babbage.

As the "line in space" was being drawn, Chulakian long-range sensors picked up ELINT (electronic intelligence) of a ship larger than anything in their fleet--a battlecruiser.

The armistice between Chulak and Altair continues, but the question is:  How long will it last?


During the battles, I turned off the light to cut down on the glare, reflecting from the map.  I took several photos of each encounter and was planning on adding some special effects.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to lighten the images very much, so I decided to post enough photos to give one the gist of the action.


Space Empires is a fairly simple, yet elegant game.  The rules mechanics were easy to understand, even after only one reading.  For those who don't like book keeping, this can be an onerous task, especially since one has to keep track of multiple ships of varying tech-levels.  (One optional rule is that once a technological advance is made, it is available instantly throughout the space fleet).

The game's simplicity, did leave a loophole or two, that required house rules to cover.  Primarily, the rules don't specify that if a ship yard is built, would it be able to help produce a starship on the same turn as it was constructed.  We didn't think this was realistic, so we imposed a one-turn delay in ship construction for newly built shipyards.

We look forward to playing this again and incorporating some, if not all, the advanced rules.  With a little more time and experience, we should be able to play a game to a definate conclusion.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Webcomic Chapter 2 Posted

Pages 30-47 have been added to Breakout from Bongolaan, which can also be found under the Studio Pages tab.

Along with the new pages, I've added a new feature: Soundtrack Interludes.

I collect soundtracks to the movies I love. While writing this story, I often daydream about the type of music that might fit each scene, as if it were a movie.

For Chapter 1, I chose The Stars Align, #17 on the Necronomicon CD, by Nox Arcana.

As for Chapter 2, AC/DC's Hell's Bells seemed most appropriate.

This feature is, of course, optional because the intention is to enhance, not detract, from the reader's enjoyment of the story.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Product Review: Space Empires

And now for a look at another space combat game...

Space Empires, published last year by GMT Games, is the latest in the "4X" genre of space games, that is:  eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. 

One to four players seek to expand their space empire--even if it means waging a genocidal war against one of their opponents.  The simple, yet elegant game mechanics allows players to implement the "4Xs" during the course of the game.  I like the large hexes on the mounted mapboard that can accomodate several of the beautifully illustrated counters.  So there's no worrying about toppling over teetering stacks of counters when you try to move your fleets.

Three of my friends and I played an inaugural session last weekend and an after action review will be forthcoming.  Until then, I'll leave it to The Gaming Gang to explain some of Space Empire's details.  One amusing anecdote noted in our game and in a discussion on Consimworld, is that some (all?) of the planets are named after worlds in popular sci-fi movies and TV shows.

Released last year, Space Empires has proven to be a hit.  So much so, that after its initial run, GMT issued a reprint last month and the expansion, Close Encounters, is in its final development.  On a scale of 1 (abysmal) to 10 (awesome), Space Empires scored a 7.58 among 510 reviewers on Board Game Geek.

If you are in to any kind of sci-fi gaming at all, then put Space Empires on your "definate buy" list.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Product Review: Imperium, 3rd Millennium

I bought the original Imperium when I was still in high school and just delving into Traveller.  I can't remember playing this game more than two, or three times with my brother.  While it was a quick, easy and fairly enjoyable game to play, my main reason for buying it was to incorporate it into the Traveller campaign I was running.  Due to my frequent moves while on active duty, I lost the original Imperium.  Then, in 2001 Avalanche Press came out with its 3rd Millennium Edition (I3M) to much anticipation--and much disappointment. 

I3M's demise is best told by Avalanche Press's owner, Mike Bennighof, in A Tale of Obsession.  So with the luke-warm-at-best reviews on sites like Board Game Geek, I held off on buying it.

However, last week I came across a copy, with unpunched counters, for sale on Board Game Geek's Market Place for less than $20.  So I bought it.


Because I always purchase boardgames with the idea of incorporating them into other games, primarily miniatures and role playing games (RPGs).  I own several versions of Traveller and I'm currently running a Star Wars RPG military campaign.  (Yes, I know Star Wars and Traveller are vastly different, but I'm looking for a quick and easy way to resolve large space battles).

Overall, I'm pleased with my purchase.  The maps and counters are sturdy and gorgeous!  However, in admiring the counters, I wondered what all the numbers and triangle symbols meant.  The small rulebook--normally a good sign that the game will be easy to play--doesn't have a single illustrative diagram to explain away the mystery.  (These might be buried in the rules, but I haven't read the booklet in-depth yet).

Fortunately, ER Bickford's Illustrated Replay of the First [Terran-Imperial] War solved the counter mystery with this photo:

While I3M is long out of print, Avalanche Press maintains several player's aid links in its Valhalla of Games page.  There are also several files available for download on Board Game Geek.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ahoy! Age of Sail Links Added

(Image USS Constitution vs HMS Java)

I've always loved naval history, especially Age of Sail, when I played my first game of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.  Then I immersed myself in C.S. Forester's stories of Horatio Hornblower and later other naval heroes.  Not to mention, watching the movie produced by Raoul Walsh, anytime it was on TV.  Of course, I also had a wicked crush on Virginia Mayo, but that's another story...

Anyway, I stumbled across a post inquiring about ship armaments on The Miniatures Page, which in turn, led me to the following databases:

Both links can now be found under the Historical Sites section in sidebar.

Wishing all of you "fair winds and following seas" in all your endeavours.