Monday, May 30, 2016

Honoring Memorial Day

(Image from

I love my wargaming hobby. 

However, as a retired service member I'm aware every day that real wars have real costs.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: Jutland 1916

We're now in the second year of the First World War's Centennial.

Despite the historical significance of this moment in time, I haven't read any in-depth material on The Great War.  In fact, I don't own a single book on the "mud, blood and poetry" of the trenches.

However, I do own over 30 softcover books by Osprey Publishing.

All of them unread, until now.

I thought I'd use the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland to read my first Osprey book, cover to cover.

Jutland 1916 is a concise, readable account of the events that led up to the clash, the battle itself, and the aftermath. 

(Note:  My copy is a different edition with an "armored plate" cover, but with the same cover art and was published the same year as this "Campaign Series" book was.  My copy also lacks "The Battlefield Today" and "Wargaming Jutland" chapters).

Jutland 1916 is divided into the following chapters, typical of Osprey's template:

Origins of the Campaign
The Opposing Fleets (Forces)
The War in the North Sea (Battle Area, Region)
The Opposing Commanders
Opposing Plans
The Battle

The book provides a nice over-view of events, which is just enough to give readers basic details, and maybe spark interest in reading weightier tomes.

The battle continues to be controversial even after a hundred years have passed.  Basically, both sides had mirror-image plans, blundered into each other--repeatedly--from the evening of 31 May until the morning of 1 June; more British ships were sunk than German, with heavier loss-of-life; but the German High Seas Fleet retreated into port--and never sortied for battle ever again.  Both sides claimed victory.

The author acknowledges the controversies swirling around each of these facets of the battle, and glosses over them.  Sympathy and scorn towards the attitudes and decisions made by the flag officers is fairly even-handed.  Nearly all of them entered service in the mid-to-late 19th Century, when navies were just phasing-out, or still using steam-powered sailing ships, or ironclads.  No one had a complete grasp of the radical technological advances made up until "the guns of August."

Jutland 1916, earns a solid 4-star rating on

I give it the same rating.  Not because I find any fault with the book, but because it is more of an overview than a detailed analysis of the battle.

Bonus Article & Video

While scrolling through Facebook a few weeks back, I came across a post on the Naval Wargames page.

Here's an article with a Battle of Jutland animation.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rulebook Review: Battlefield Evolution

On May Day I mentioned in-passing that I purchased a bunch of Battlefield Evolution pre-painted miniatures.

Since I got the figures, I figure I should probably read the rules.

Produced by Mongoose Publishing back in 2007, Battlefield Evolution was billed as a fast-paced, skirmish set of rules for ultra-modern combat in the near future.

This "advanced" rule book weighs-in at 94 pages, of which only 49 pages constitute the rules portion; which includes an Introduction, Preparation and Building an Army chapters.  The last 45 pages consist of chapters on Scenarios, Campaigns, Model Buildings construction an example of play (Contact at Qafir), an Index, some sample campaign maps; along with a few pages of news releases (i.e. fluff).

The rules themselves are easy to understand.  Any unit can conduct two actions per turn.  These usually are:  Move, Shoot, Charge, and Ready.  Attacks such as shooting and charges are resolved by rolling the damage dice, which are D6's or D10s (six-sided or ten-sided, depending on the weapon systems).  Rolls of "1" are automatic misses, while "6s/10s" are automatic hits.  Units receive beneficial modifiers for being in, or behind cover.  Defending units may also receive an armor save against non-automatic hits.

When a force's incurs about 75% casualties, it reaches it's Shatter Point and withdraws from the battle.

There are no details about any of the units listed within the rules.  Such information is found on the unit cards which are included in each boxed set, or at least they should be.

If I were to only assign a rating to the rules, I'd give the Battlefield Evolution book 3-stars.  They're a good, basic set of rules, especially for beginners, convention game masters, or even seasoned gamers who don't want to delve into complicated rules. 

The one problem in this aspect is there's no Quick Reference Table (QRT).  Everything is dependent on players having access to the unit cards, which aren't available unless a gamer has bought one, or more (all?) of the box sets.

But this isn't the only problem with the Battlefield Evolution Advanced Rules book.  The biggest is the production quality.  This hardcover, printed in China, is cheaply made.  Even though it's nine years old with no signs of wear-and-tear, the binding should still hold the book together.  My copy is falling apart.  The paper itself feels brittle and easy to tear.

As someone who likes to make gaming-based webcomics, I'm usually reluctant to criticize someone else's artwork.  But in this case I'll make an exception.  While the pictures of the miniatures used throughout the book are good, the campaign maps leave much to be desired.  If I were in the position of convincing my fellow wargamers to dispose of their disposable income, I'd want to provide them with a top-notch product.

So production quality is 1-star.

Finally, there's the 2-star fluff.

One of my favorite political commentators often remarks "nothing dates faster than THE FUTURE."

True, Battlefield Evolution's fluff takes place in the fictional country of Kerakhistan, but it still has a dated feel. 

While the publishers aren't to blame for failing to foresee the rise of the Islamic State or the Syrian Civil War; they over stated, or avoided, a number of items in their vision of what 2018 is suppose to be like.

For example:

The European Union (EU) has solidified into the European Federation, when it's actually struggling to cope with external and internal issues, like Russia's invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, along with the mass Muslim migration and the possibility of Britain leaving the EU.

The People's Republic of China's Army (PLA) gets glowing praise for modernizing to near-western standards.  However, the publishers say nothing about China's history of draconian domestic politics, or belligerency beyond its borders.  (Maybe because they didn't want the Politburo to put the kibosh on publishing this book?).

Unnamed Muslim nations have joined together in a loose association called the Middle Eastern Alliance (MEA) to fight the invading infidels.  It's seems as though conflict stems from the European Federation, along with America and China, trying to re-assert their colonial rule over the middle east.  There's only a vague reference to giving Islamic troops a "religious zealotry" modifier, but nothing on what religion motivates the troops to become zealots in the first place.

It's as if the September 11 Attacks, the Bali Bombings, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis, the Madrid Train Bombings, the Beslan School Siege, the London Underground Bombings, and the Mumbai Train Bombings, and much more--all taking place before 2007, and beyond the borders of the middle east--didn't happen.

A lot has happened since.

So forget the fluff.

Just re-label the miniatures and develop more plausible scenarios and campaigns, unless you're setting your game in a alternate reality.

You can buy hard copies of Battlefield Evolution on for $5.77 and up.  Or, you can buy an ebook directly from the publisher. 

The miniatures, which will be the subject of a future post, can be harder to come by. 
But you can use similar figures from other manufacturers.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rulebook Review: Black Powder

A few weeks ago, a bought a bunch of painted Napoleonic miniatures from my friend Dean, author of the popular WAB Corner blog.

I intend to take pictures of my "new model army," but have been busy at work and with non-wargaming projects when I'm off-duty.

In the meantime, I thought I'd at least read the Black Powder rules, which Dean based his figures on.

If you're looking for a set of rules that provide detailed data on the various weapons, tactics, and doctrines of the various armies from 1700-1900, look elsewhere.

Black Powder is a game, not a simulation, a point the authors make clear throughout the book. 

Lavishly illustrated and weighing-in at 182 pages, the Basic Rules comprise the first 50 pages, with another 26 pages of Advanced Rules.  The rest are scenarios, battle reports, a quick reference page and an index.  This makes Black Powder popular for resolving big-battles within the time frame of one gaming period at a convention (usually four hours).

However, rules designed to handle big-battles can also be a detriment.  No one I know has a 6' x 12' gaming table the authors used to play test the rules.  Big-battles also require a big collection of miniatures.  Large--and fully painted--collections take a long time for an individual to amass, or require the cooperation of a gaming group to invest in.

I also think the authors stretched the timeline of the "Horse & Musket Era" to 1900 so their fine-quality, late 19th Century figures can see the light of day--or more likely camera flashes--in order to impress the rest of us.  (I'm certainly impressed).

Despite these quibbles, I'll give Black Powder a 4-star rating.  Published six years ago, and still commanding a $48 price tag, the rules are currently out of stock on (which has a 3.9-star average rating), but can still be obtained at On Military Matters, and possibly other game/book store websites.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Book Review: Pleasure Model

Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley is the first illustrated novella in the Netherworld Series published by Tor Books and Heavy Metal Magazine back in 2010.  This short-lived collaboration was branded as Heavy Metal Pulp.

In Pleasure Model, we meet Detective Rook Verner of the the Hudson Valley Police Department.  He's assigned a strange murder case involving a high-profile victim.  Upon investigating the scene, Rook and his partner discover a pleasure model, or "Pammy," was overlooked by the killer(s).  Pammys are illegal, genetically-grown humans, created as living sex toys for whoever purchases them--or rents them out.

The story contains elements of Blade Runner (artificial beings), Solyent Green (government conspiracy) and 50 Shades of Grey (sex, kinky and otherwise).

I loved the author's minimalist writing style.  The story is fast-paced with just enough descriptive details and exposition to ignite the reader's imagination.  There's no data dumping in Pleasure Model.  It wasn't until page 77 that I was able to figure out what year this dystopian story occurs in, which required some arithmetic.

The reader is never bored with the story.  Shocked sometimes, yes, but not bored.

And speaking of shocking, two women reviewers on hated the book, giving it a 1-star rating, because they thought it objectified demeaned women.  However, 88% of the other readers, including some women, liked the book, giving it anywhere from 3 to 5-stars, for a 3.9 star average.

I don't think the book itself was demeaning towards women, but showed a future society that looked upon genetically-grown people as tools and toys that can be callously treated and easily discarded once they outlived their novelty and usefulness.  More importantly, the protagonist, Rook Verner, doesn't mistreat women, naturally-born or artificially-created, in any way.

Nor is Rook alone.  He receives assistance from allies, mostly intelligent and capable women, that serve more than eye/mind-candy for the reader.

There are mixed feelings about the small black-and-white illustrations found on most of the pages in Pleasure Model.  I liked them because it saved the author from having to add additional descriptions that would bog down the flow of the story.  Besides, I like graphic novels and comics, which is one of the reasons why I bought this book; although I can't remember from where.

The biggest disappointment was the story's ending.  Or, more correctly, lack of a satisfying conclusion.  Pleasure Model ends rather abruptly, which I would be fine with if I had books #2--The Bloodstained Man, and #3--Money Shot handy to read right away.

Otherwise, I enjoyed Pleasure Model, and it is my pleasure to give this story a 4-star rating.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book Review: You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost)

After reading several blood & guts-style sci-fi stories and a  military history book, I was in the mood to read something cute & quirky.

And among any gaggle of entertainers, you don't get much cuter--or quirkier--than actress Felicia Day.

About four years ago, my friend Adrian told me about a webseries called The Guild.  Up until then, I've never seen Felicia in any of her TV roles, or in any commercials.  Now I'm not clairvoyant, or even empathic, yet as soon as I started Season One's First Episode, I KNEW Felicia's performance was partly (entirely?) a self-portrayal.

Fast forward to April, 2016, and as I was reading through Felicia's memoir You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost), I was satisfied to see that I was right about her.

In addition to seeing her on The Guild, I subscribed to her Geek and Sundry Channel, and I even had a "Ralphie Moment" when I met her at the Emerald City Comicon 2013.

Felicia Day is funny, engaging and grateful to her legion of fans.  Based on this flimsy idea that I made a personal connection with Felicia, it was easy to imagine her voice speaking the words on the page.  Her prose is often populated with ALL CAPS expressions when she's excited and/or stressed out, along with parenthetical asides for "inside-voice" remarks.

However, if you're not familiar with Felicia Day at all, the book will probably have your wondering:  Who is this ditzy chick?

In fact, a handful of 1-star raters on had this very problem.

So, to fully appreciate You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost), you don't have to be a complete fanboy/fangirl, but you should fulfill a few prerequisites before reading this book:

a. Watch most, if not all of the first season of The Guild
b. Play, or at least know something on-line gaming in general and about World of Warcraft specifically.
c. Watch some Geek and Sundry shows

You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) has an average 4.7-star rating on, with 84% giving the book 5-stars.

While Felicia is funny on-screen and off, her memoir isn't all laughs all the time.  Most people--myself included--think that once you "made it" your life is on cruise control.  Felicia's story tells us otherwise.  That even when she was a soaring success, her mental, emotional and even her physical health was spiraling out of control.

While it was enlightening to see the effects of the price of fame, the author glosses over some aspects of her life.  Felicia mentions a (some?) boyfriend(s) a few times, but almost as an afterthought.  This was somewhat surprising since she writes at length on how her mom manipulated her into having her First Kiss.  One rater commented that "...we're not asking for this guy's social security number..." but it would be nice to give the guy some credit for standing by her through "sickness and in health."

I enjoyed the book for the most part and give it a 4-star rating.

Why only 4-stars?

Well, I hate to sully a book review with politics, but the author brings up her political-social views throughout the narrative.  It is her memoir after all, and fortunately she wears her biases lightly and cloaks them with humor.  Usually, criticism towards others is often followed by a "(no offense/just kidding)" disclaimer.  Unless, that is, you're from the south and/or a churchgoer, then no parenthetical apologies are offered.  She also mentions men who've hit on her and stalked her, but of course these creeps deserve jail time.

And finally she brings up her eventual involvement with the Gamergate Scandal.

Video and computer games make me ill in the first place.


I'm very prone to motion sickness, so I can't play most video games.  I'm more of a traditional gamer ("/tg/"), and what I know of video games is based on what my family and friends play.  So before I could continue with this review I had to Google conduct extensive research on what the fuss was all about.

The most even-handed account I found was Erik Kain's Gamergate: A Closer Look At The Controversy Sweeping Video Games, with the most likely suspects being Internet Trolls going on the offensive against just about everyone on all sides.

(Image from:  Know Your Meme)
Felicia's harrowing experience after posting a comment included death threats, doxing, and being stalked.  I'm truly sorry she went through something like that.  It's inexcusable.

But where my impression differs is that I don't see all the trolls as coming from one political-gender demographic--conservative males.  (As an aside, I stumbled across Kukuruyo's Gamergate Life comic strip, which I find entertaining).

Gamergate and political-social biases aside, I still enjoyed You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost), and recommend the book to anyone who's at least vaguely familiar with the topics I mentioned in this review.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Great Game Store Near the Great White North

(If you pass this building, you missed the game store!)
Last Sunday, my wife and I took a road trip to visit to Peter's Games and Things, in Bellingham, WA.

The reason for the visit was to pick up some painted Warhammer 40K (WH40K) figures I bought from the owner, Peter Wort.

Peter's Games and Things exemplifies the phrase "good things come in small packages."  The storefront area is composed of two small rooms, one primarily for boardgames and one for miniatures, along with an office/cashier/receptionist area at the doorway.  The store sandwiched between a charity, and a loading dock in an business/industrial park.  But both rooms are filled with--well--games & things--old & new.

While the address is listed as being on Meridian St., if you're coming off I-5 as we were, to get to the store you'll have to turn left on to Orchard Dr., then right on to Orchard Pl. (see the map on the Google link in this post). 

Peter's Games and Things also hosts a large, well-stocked game loft above the store, which is accessed via the hallway and through the charity's storage area.

Peter is an excellent miniatures painter, whom I commissioned to do some DBA figures and micro_armour.  So when I stumbled across his post offering some Imperial Guard (now called Astra Militarum) figures and vehicles for sale, I replied without hesitation.

In addition to the figures I purchased, I brought along some of my unassembled/unpainted Imperial Guard figures for him to work on.

As it turned out, our visit wasn't a one-for-one exchange.  That is, I didn't just leave with my coveted WH40K figures and vehicles.  I found a large carrying case which I'd need to store said figures and vehicles, just about every Battlefield Evolution set I've been looking for.  I spent several moments pondering which ones to buy.

However, in light of the three hour drive it took us to get to this border town near the Great White North (the country, not the sitcom), I threw caution--and my budget--to the winds and bought all the sets I set-aside.

My wife even picked out a family-friendly boardgame she liked.

So, if you're--

a. Looking for a brick & mortar game store in the Bellingham area
b. A place to play games
c. Someone to professionally paint your figures
d. All the above

--then contact Peter Wort, or stop by Peter's Games and Things.