Sunday, August 30, 2015

Con Cuisine

I actually brought a camera among all the other conference paraphernalia I carried to last month's PNWA Summer Conference.  However, it remained buried in my back pack throughout most of the event. 

One afternoon I accidently pulled it out while rummaging for a water bottle to wash down my lunch, pictured above.

Normally, I don't take photos of my food.  However, I thought this would make an interesting blogpost about typical "con cuisine." 

Such fare usually consists of a pre-made sandwich, a side dish choice of candy, chips, or fruit; along with a small drink.

This isn't a complaint, but merely an observation.  Conventions and conferences are packed with so much activities that meals, primarily lunches, are often an afterthought by everyone involved. 

Convention "Survival Guides" regularly remind attendees about the importance of good nutrition and staying hydrated to keep your energy level up--so you can participate in even more activities.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Program Review & Upcoming Event: LARPs the Series

(Image from:  LARPs the series, opening sequence)

I just finished binge-watching a webseries I recently discovered:  LARPs the series.

LARP, the non-series, is an acronym meaning Live Action Role Playing.  That is, instead of sitting around a table rolling dice and pushing miniatures around, players physically act-out the action.

LARPs the series (YouTube Channel), premiered on16 January this year. 

The show follows the misadventures of "LARPers" Arthur, Shane, Evan, Brittany, and Will (pictured left-to-right in the led promotional photo, and played by Jonathan Silver, Elizabeth Neale, Jon VerrallCharlotte Rogers and Scott Humphrey).

In this first season the characters' fantasy world and daily lives blur with comedic, dramatic, and poignant results. 

The cast & crew of LARPs just finished shooting Season 2 and are currently doing post-production work. 

In the meantime, mark your calendar/set your appointment app for 29 August, just two days from now, for...

(Image from LARPs the Series Facebook Event Page)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Webcomic Chapter 11 Posted

I finally managed to get getting Chapter 11 of Breakout from Bongolaan (pages 330--363) posted. 

For this chapter's theme song, I stumbled across a piece of Epic Chase Music by Ross Bugden

I now have nearly a year's-worth of daily material, which I mentioned as my trigger point in my previous webcomic post

My life has been busy this year, involving work and family matters, so I haven't devoted any time exploring for new format for this webcomic. 

Now that 2015 is about 2/3rds near it's end, I want to set Monday, 4 January 2016 as the launch date for Breakout from Bongolaan's new format. 

In the meantime, I'll be working on Chapter 12.

Thank you for your continued interest and support.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg

I've been to the Gettysburg National Park twice, and have watched the movie at least three times over my actual visits to the battlefield. 
While I know the overall history of the American Civil War, or as wargamers abbreviate it "ACW," I've read very few specific books on the subject, so I don't have a fine grasp of the details.
And I've never read any personal accounts of the war, until a few days ago.  I unearthed the booklet, Through Blood & Fire Gettysburg, that a former coworker gave me and I had stashed away in a file cabinet.
The booklet is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's account of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment's valiant defense of Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg
(Image of Chamberlain played by Jeff Daniels in the movie Gettysburg)
Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg was originally published in Harper's back in 1913 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the battle.  This particular copy was published by Stan Clark Military Books back in 1996, of which the back half is composed of maps and photos.  I think my friend picked this up at the Gettysburg Museum Gift Shop.
As to the story itself, I have very little to offer other than praise.  Nothing I write here can compare to Chamberlain's lofty and eloquent prose.  He was a firm believer in the Union's cause, and his narrative is heavily influenced by his religious convictions.
Chamberlain calls little attention to himself, and instead focuses on the gallantry of the soldiers--both Union and Confederate. 
Most of his praise was of course heaped on the soldiers of the 20th Maine.  According to Chamberlain; regimental clerks and cooks, along with the walking wounded joined-in the fight.  Everyone knew what was at stake.
When the do-or-die moment was upon them, Chamberlain said one word:  Bayonets.
And every solider still standing knew what to do.
Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg is an epic poem of the American Civil War.
(Image:  Don Troiani's painting Lt. Col Joshua Chamberlain)
Most reviewers (18 out of 20) on gave the booklet high praise, giving it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The 1 & 2-star raters thought this was a rip off, because the booklet either didn't go into details about Gettysburg as a whole, or that half of it was "filler" with maps.
Even if I had purchased the book, I doubt I'd give this less than a 5-star rating.  It's hard to take-down a first-hand account, especially from such a notable historical figure.
Now I have to admit, ever since reading The Killer Angels and watching the movie Gettysburg, I've become a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain fan.
When my youngest sister was stationed in Maine, we stumbled across Chamberlain Museum, after her wedding and she bought me a T-shirt at the gift shop.  I had it for years until it became unserviceable.
On the left breast was a small bust of Chamberlain and below were part of his words spoken at the Commemoration of the Monument to the 20th Maine:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Bunker Hill

 My brother has a keen interest in the American Revolution (aka The American War of Independence, often abbreviated by wargamers as the AWI).
After visiting him in New England, the "epicenter" of the Revolution, I remembered I had a couple books about the AWI taking up space in my "TBR File" (To Be Read).
One of these was Bunker Hill by Howard Fast
I must admit this is the first book I've read by the author of Spartacus, which I didn't know he wrote, along with a slew of other well-known works.
Which means I've got a lot of catching up to do--or at least more books to shove into my TBR File.
Anyway, getting back to the AWI...
(Image from:
...Bunker Hill is an engrossing semi-fictionalized account of the actual battle, which was mostly fought on nearby Breed's Hill.   
By semi-fictionalized, I mean that the story follows the actual course of historical events leading up to, during, and after the battle.  However, Fast places historical figures in social situations that may, or may not have happened, along with providing dialogue that may or may not have been spoken.
And speaking of speech, the language used by our forefathers, both British and Colonial, was quite different from the eloquent and carefully preserved letters in museums and archives on both sides of the Atlantic.
Translation:  Their manner of speaking, especially when talking about war--or sex--was heavily laced with F-Bombs.  (One reviewer on gave the book a 2-star rating because of this).
Apparently, sex was foremost on the minds of William Howe, "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne and Henry Clinton, who spent as much time trying to hook up with Boston's Loyalist babes than dealing with "those damned rebels."
It was the "rebel scum" however, who snuck onto the Charleston Peninsula during the night of 16 June, 1775 and erected a redoubt.  
(Image from The Bunker Hill Museum via The Miniatures Page)
According to Fast, they managed to pull this off because His Majesty's Trysting Trio were dealing with erections of a different sort.
While scandalously delightful to think about, in actuality; the British were planning to re-occupy the Charlestown Heights, but a spy tipped-off the rebels, who stole a march on the redcoats.
The American cast of characters is much larger, featuring Israel Putnam, William Prescott, Joseph Warren, John Stark and Thomas Knowlton, just to name a few.  In fact, it was rather difficult for me to keep such a large cast straight and I had to refer to the Major Characters page quite often.  The American point of view often rested with a Dr. Feversham, a fallen Catholic and cashiered British Army surgeon, who finds acceptance among the rebels.
 Bunker Hill weighs-in at 223 pages, divided into a dozen chapters organized according to the date, or time.  The first six chapters take place from 12 June to the early morning hours of 17 June 1775. 
The first shots of the battle, which occurs on page 104, were fired by HMS Lively, when it's crew discovered the rebels toiling away at their redoubt on Breed's Hill.
Chapters 7-11 focus on crucial points of the battle, from 9 AM until 5 PM, when the rebels are finally driven off.
(Image:  Howard Pyle's famous painting, The Battle of Bunker Hill, 1897)
 While it seems like a lot of pages are devoted to everything but the actual fighting, Fast's prose easily conveyed how decisions were made and events unfolded, which lead to the Charlestown showdown.  The only thing that I found annoying was the author's repetitious use of the date in most chapters. 
The final chapter takes place the following day, when Dr. Feversham and another physician attempt to exchange, or at least provide medical care for the wounded rebels captured by the British.  They receive a cold response from the British, which convinces Dr. Feversham to continue his support of the AWI.
A lot of this had to do with the high number of casualties the British suffered during their three assaults...
(Image from Lora Innes' The Dreamer, Act I, Issue 14, Page 43)
I give Bunker Hill a solid 4-star rating.  While it was an entertaining tale, the narrative didn't strike any low notes, but neither did it strike epic high ones either, especially for a battle that had such lasting repercussions for both the British and Colonials.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

PNWA 2015's Agents Forum

(Movie poster for next week's opening of: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)
Fire Season is in full-swing here in the Pacific Northwest.  Even though I managed to slip away and visit family, my coworkers and I have been busy here at WA State Emergency Management.
So these PNWA recaps, along with my other blogposts, will be slow in coming.  I thought I'd do another quick list because I'm still being lazy pressed for time. 
Robert Dugoni continued his role as perennial emcee during the Agents Forum and introduced the following
Now I don't remember Katie Zaun being present, and instead I have a Dale Sevens listed in my notes.  He appears to be in cahoots with JD DeWitt of Ink Slinger Entertainment.
Anyway, last minute cast changes aside, the post-intro discussion dealt with the Four Minute Pitch Session.
That is everyone trying to sell (pitch) their book had four minutes, usually less, to win over an agent. 
So agents want to get down to basics, or as April Eberhardt summed it up:
Who? What? Where? Why should I care?
And of the four minutes you're given, you have only one minute to talk.  The remaining three minutes are for the agent to ponder what's good, bad and ugly about your book.
Be prepared to explain what compelled you to write this story.
A few other things to keep in mind:
Be open and knowledgeable about the genre you're writing in.
Have a clear idea on who the main character is and what's the conflict.
While speaking, be engaged with your listener (the agent), and make eye contact.
Advice against stalking:
As usual, we were treated to a friendly reminder not to stalk the agents. 
If you've attended more than one writers conference you've probably heard of agents being ambushed in bathrooms and having manuscripts slipped under their hotel room doors.
But one agent, I forget which one, took this year's Best Stalker Story, when she said she was approached by a writer wannabee while swimming laps.
Talk about a good way not to get published.  Ever.
So one last piece of advice:  Save the stalking surveillance to the professionals...
(A scene from the original series:  The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Wargame Wayback Machine

(My Road Trip Purchases)

Shortly after the PNWA Writers Conference, I travelled to the east coast to visit my family. 

During my journey, I managed to delve into The Citadel Games Cellar and unearthed a treasure trove of games I haven't seen in years--and still in their original shrink wrap.

The store has moved around a bit over the years, but still gets a good review on Boardgame Geek, especially for having older games in stock.

(Golan's entry on Boardgame Geek) part of Decision Games Folio Series.  While Golan is a relatively new game, it's based on the older Modern Battles Quadrigame by SPI. My brother and I use to play The Arab-Israeli Wars, so I couldn't pass up a $20 similar themed game with a mere 100 counters to clip.

After flipping through the short rule book, the only issue I have with this game so far is there's no additional literature:  No history about this campaign, nor any designer's notes.  One reviewer called the Folio Series fatally flawed gems.

The next item is Issue #229 (2007) of Wargames Illustrated.

(Some back issues are still available on WI's website)

I snatched up this magazine at the last minute because it contained an article on Napoleonic Warmaster.  Since I have Warmaster and Warmaster Ancients, I thought this would be a good supplement to add to my collection of Napoleonic rules. 

The only problem was:  The article is Part I of a two-part series.  While I love gaming magazines, I get annoyed when these publications split a topic over two, or more issues.

Now I have to go on a quest to find out-of-print Issue #230.

Speaking of quests, I picked up Heroes of Olympus...

(First edition boxed set) augment my Ancient Greece-base RPGs (role playing games) and supplements.  Hardly anyone seems to have played this, but a tad over 16 years ago, Heroes of Olympus garnered a a good review on

I was never into crime dramas, but for $11.95, I was compelled to purchase Crime Fighter.

While Heroes of Olympus at least got one review, there's very little on-line data on Crime Fighter. 

So much for a "just the facts" commentary here.

Last but not least we come to my favorite era in wargames:  The Napoleonic Wars.   I actually have an old copy of the Empire Campaign System...

...but I messed up the map in my attempt to numbering the hexes.  Although I've never owned a copy of Empire III miniatures rules, I figured I could still use the Campaign System for any central European Campaign I'd conjure up, in a round peg-square hole sort of way. 

Which I have to admit, I've not yet done so.

Anyway, this is another game, or in this case a game supplement, that gamers expressed little enthusiasm over.  I found one wargame blogger who played out a short campaign two years ago. 

The overall opinion was the campaign required a lot of paperwork and the map hexes were too small the counters, which made it hardly worth while running a full-blown campaign.

Despite the luke-warm at-best reviews, at least where such reviews exist, I'm happy with my purchases.  I paid "80s prices" for each item, so I don't feel like I've wasted my money.  Or at least too much of it.

Plus, these items take up very little of packed-to-near-capacity storage space--plenty of room for Wargames Illustrated Issue #230.