Thursday, May 28, 2015

The (plastic) Walking Dead

Mike and I started a multi game zombie apocalypse campaign following the fortunes of a biker gang (him) and a Latino street gang (me) in Midvale Ohio starting on the first day of the disaster. We used All Things Zombie (ATZ) for the campaign rules and Dead Walk Again (DWA) for for the combat rules. ATZ has a good process for gaming the world of the apocalypse while we prefer the elegant DWA combat system. We had no trouble joining the two for a playable game. Note that in the pictures the figures are all portrayed carrying weapons. In this first scenario the male bikers carried concealed knives only while the one female also had a concealed pistol. Her job would be to hold the knives outside the police station while her friends were inside clearing up the misunderstanding. The Latinos carried concealed pistols and knives except one who had a knife only.
                                  Michigan Avenue in the slums of Midvale Ohio  The game started with the bikers, 4 men and 1 woman, leaving their clubhouse/abandoned store front in a very bad section of town at about noon, headed for the local police precinct station to answer an appearance ticket for a minor infraction their leader, one 'Santa Claus' Covell, might or might not have committed. At the other end of Michigan Avenue the surviving members of WTF13, the Latino street gang has heard the TV new reports of some sort of disorder that occurred overnight. While the reports were unclear on the nature of the disorder, the gang thought this might be a good time to rob the neighborhood bar, Rotten Appleby's.
                                   Blossom and friends cross the street The Bikers ran into trouble immediately. As they were crossing the street they collided with a group of terrified citizens running the other way. They forced their way through the frantic civilians with some difficulty only to encounter what they were running from. A young woman with a bloody raw wound on her shoulder and vacant eyes lurched toward them. The bikers were spread out from the encounter with the civilians and Blossom, the female in their group was closest to the stranger. The horribly wounded woman lurched forward and sank her teeth into Blossom's throat, and was cut down by the knives of the furious bikers. Blossom died moments later.
                              WTF13 on their way to rob the bar
At about the same time as the attack on the bikers the Latinos were confronted by what they thought was an overly aggressive drug addled panhandler. When the stranger attacked Paco, he and Montoya quickly dispatched him with their knives and concealed his body under one of the piles of trash bags that were dotting the streets since the collection trucks had failed to make their scheduled run the previous day.
                                WTF13 encounters frightened civilians
Soon after the killing a mob of fleeing civilians crashed into the Latinos. With punches and kicks they scattered the mob. A single police officer came out of the nearby police precinct and approached the bikers who were walking toward the front entrance. The officer asked the bikers their business and they explained they were on their way to the station to respond to an appearance ticket when they were attacked by a crazy woman who killed their friend Blossom. They had killed the attacker in self defense and were coming to report the attack. The cop seemed rattled by something more than just them, and he told them in rather unprofessional language to come back another day. When Covell tried to explain that he didn't want trouble, the cop cut him off and ordered them away from the station. At this they slouched away toward Rotten Appleby's for some ribs and beer. On the way they encountered another knot of hysterical citizens. "Whole damned town has gone crazy" quoth Santa Claus Covell, ever the philosopher.  At this, one of his boys directed his attention back the way they had come. There, in the middle of Michigan Avenue and shuffling their way was Blossom, who they had left for dead! "We'd better get inside the bar and lock the door" said Santa.
More damn citizens in the way! What the &^#@%!
As they made their way toward Rotten Appleby's they found the Latinos between them and the door. "Best step aside amigo, that's our bar" said Santa. The Latinos smiled and produced their guns. "My bar now, Homes" said Montoya. As she who had been Blossom was moving closer, and with purpose, and their own guns were back in the club house, Santa held his hands up in mock surrender and said "No problem amigo. C'mon boys, let's go home". The bikers walked around the other side of the bar to put more distance between them and the Blossom thing and walked briskly toward the clubhouse.  

                                           "My bar now, Homes"
WTF13 walked into the bar and were confronted by two waitresses holding pistols and a tough looking barkeep with a machine pistol. "Strange way to welcome new customers" said Montoya. Barkeep replied "We live in strange times, friend. Now, why don't you leave the way you came in". Montoya briefly considered taking the bar the hard way, but concluded that he couldn't afford to lose any more of his people.
Hospitality lacking at the neighborhood joint
The Latinos backed out into the parking lot just as Blossom got there. They became aware of the new threat as Maria, one of the women in their group screamed and fell to the ground with Blossom tearing her with her teeth. Paco fired a shot into Blossom's head to put her down but it was too late for Maria. She died in Paco's arms. A patrol car screeched to a halt across the parking lot exit and a cop with a shotgun got out. As he had been dealing with the horror all night, the cop was less concerned with the two dead women than he was with four armed gangbangers. "I'm going to need you to lay down those guns" he said. Montoya did a quick calculation. The police station was just the other side of the fire station that shared the parking lot with the bar. If the shooting started there would be cops everywhere. He quickly agreed to lay down his guns on condition that the cop bring them all into the police station. As the cop was collecting the guns another of those bloody things came around the corner, attracted perhaps by the sound of gunfire, and grappled with him. With difficulty he drew his pistol and shot the thing in the head. As it crumpled to the ground he said "Leave the guns where they are, let's go!" and started herding the Latinos in front of him toward the back door of the police station. They had almost reached the door when dead Maria advanced on them from the shadows! The unarmed Latinos recoiled behind the cop, who summoned his last reserve of steadyness and shot the monster in the head. The door to the station swung open from the inside. The cop and Latinos bolted through the door and it was slammed shut and locked just as yet another of the things came into view.    

"If we can just get past that thing we are home free"
Notes: That was Day 1 of the Apocalypse for the survivor groups. We hope to carry on this campaign to see how these two groups (now each reduced to four people) develop. Mike 'Santa Claus' Covell's bikers have a Day 2 objective to set themselves up a base in Rotten Appleby's. There they will have plenty of beer and pork to sustain them while they figure out what to do next. It remains to be seen what the bar owner thinks of this plan. My WTF13 is currently safe in the police station, but they are also unarmed and their status, guest or prisoner, is unclear. Their Day 2 plan is to depart the precinct on friendly terms, reacquire their weapons currently lying in a dark corner of the parking lot and establish themselves in a safe haven. From there they will be able to collect the supplies they need and recruit new members.   


Saturday, May 9, 2015


Enjoyed back to back Saxons vs Vikings games recently. The rules we use are basic DBA mechanisms with the tactical classifications replaced by troop quality classifications. DBA is a great game but it tends to downplay differences if troop quality (Spartan hoplites are the same as Syracusan hoplites). When the tactical style of the opposing armies is pretty much the same and lacks variety, then it makes sense to downplay that in favor of the very real differences in quality.
Mike, King of North Anglia commanding his monks to pray harder as Vikings approach 
The other liberty I take with this game is to redefine element size. I like visually appealing games and I like toys. The basic infantry element in this game is a 6"x2" base with twelve 28mm figures mounted on it. The opposing armies each had about 65 or 70 of these elements. That allows us to play with two armies of about 800 men each represented on a one figure equals one man scale. 800 men would be a significant army in this period. And it looks like this:
    The Danes attempt to capture the bones of St Cuthbert from the chapel (top)
Since there are no tactical differences between the opposing armies, that leaves room for lots of period 'chrome'. We include rules for pre battle pep rallies to pump up the morale of the armies with appeals to the gods, passing around the alcohol, rousing speeches, shield banging displays of aggression and duels between champions. All of these are optional and entail both potential reward and risk. There is also an allowance for chieftains of sub sections of an army to bolster flagging morale by taking heroic risks. There are praying monks who might allow an occasional reroll of unhappy dice and a giant Viking king who likes to take a personal hand in the fighting. All in all a visually appealing game that 'feels' like the period it represents and is easily completed in about 4 hours of casual gaming.
        Viking king Orm Longsword takes a selfie before the fun starts

The Boyd-Parker Massacre

I recently attended the first of what I hope will become an annual regional wargame event; Wargames Among the Warplanes. The venue was the Geneseo Warplane Museum. There were a number of games offered up in the one day event, including Flames of War, Bolt Action, Force on Force modern skirmish, Musket and Tomahawk, Wings of War, Gladiators and my own American Revolution skirmish game.

The town of Geneseo happens to be the site of a little known skirmish in the American Revolution, the Boyd-Parker Massacre. I volunteered to host a wargame of this obscure battle. I really enjoyed the preparation for the game. Since I am a local boy I was aware of the skirmish from childhood, but knew nothing of the details. I went out on the internet and found quite a bit of detail. I read The Iroquois in the American Revolution, which described the Sullivan Expedition, of which this massacre was a part, in depth. I learned a lot about this fascinating episode of the American Revolution. The roster of individual men on both sides used in the game included many actual names of participants. I used the game as an excuse to acquire and paint up Wargames Factory Indians and Americans from their excellent American Revolution range.

The short version is the American commander sent Lt. Boyd with a scouting party of 26 men (mostly Morgans Riflemen) to locate the position of the Iroquois/British force in the area. They passed through the enemy lines undetected in the night but were attacked on their way back to the American position the next day.
       Boyd's men cross a creek with the Iroquois in hot pursuit
The game wasn't called Boyd-Parker Massacre for nothing. The scenario was designed for the scouting party to be overwhelmed. Victory for the Americans lay in escaping with as many men as possible. In the event, the dice were not kind to the Americans, and few escaped.

I believe the Wargames Among the Warplanes will run again next year. If it does, and you are within a couple of hours driving distance (which would include Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse) you should plan to make a mini vacation of it. The National Warplane Museum is located in prime wine country if you enjoy wine tours. The magnificent Letchworth State Park is right there and the rolling landscape is dotted with beautiful little villages. Check out the local attractions on line.

Expedition up the Zambesi

A few weeks ago I chugged up the great gray green greasy Zambesi River on a river boat with an understrength company of Colonial Marines (circa 1880 something) to rescue Dr Witherspoon from the local savages commanded by Pete. The good doctor had come to Africa to convert the locals to Christianity. It wasn't long before the climate and local customs had caused him to lose his already shakey grip on reality. He settled in with a primitive tribe and soon had them converted to his own brand of religion which involved the worship of a giant invisible gray cat.
               Doctor Witherspoon spreads the Word in the dark places of the earth.
His tribal congregation was allied with a band of Arab slavers who would strike from their base on the river to capture slaves from the less warlike tribes in the area. While in the neighborhood, the Marine commander, Captain Gary, was charged with the task of breaking up the Slaver ring.
                                Gratuitious picture of hungry giraffe
In due course the Marines landed near the native village and moved slowly inland (it was hot). The natives and their Arab friends saw them coming from miles away, and had massed their forces to resist this attempt to bring the blessings of Civilization to their corner of the world.
The Marines begin to deploy as the fast moving natives move to surround them
It was the firepower of the European breechloading rifles and gatling gun against the overwhelming numbers of natives.
                                    The Arabs move in to close the trap
In the end numbers (and dice related misfortune) told, and the marines were overrun and wiped out.
Artist rendering of the last moments of the Lost Expedition
Since there were no European survivors the newspaper accounts were free to imagine the heroic exploits of the Marines as they fell to the heathen hordes. The natives attribute their victory to the intervention of the Great Gray Cat.