Science Fiction Armored Cars

Two armored cars. The top right is how the armored car looked (minus the mediocre paint job) before I started messing with them. The bottom left has a Tesla cannon.

At Historicon I purchased four armored cars that look like they came from bags of green army men.  I bought these for a dollar or two each with the idea of using them in my science fiction Combat Patrol games.  First I disassembled them and painted them.  The barrel (top right of figure above) is how they came, but they were separate pieces, so they were easily removed and replaced.

Two more armored cars with Tesla guns (or something)

I ordered two packs of Tesla guns from Company B miniatures.  They arrived very quickly.  Each pack has three different guns.  I put one type on the vehicle in the first picture and the same type on the two vehicles in the lower picture.  I was really only home for a day and a half from being on the road, so I didn’t do a lot of weathering.  Still, these are game table good enough.  I will look for some stowage items to add to them to give them a little more character.   I see these as “space Stuarts:” fast, light, okay gun, and armored with tin foil.  They will make good scout cars.

Science fiction troopers

I also painted a couple of science fiction figures I found in my box of stuff to paint.  (I try not to buy figures at a convention unless I paint the figures I bought at the last convention, so my unpainted lead collection stays pretty low — probably in the 4th or 5th percentile of gamers.)  The figure in the middle is one of the Aliens colonial marines from Woodbine that I painted a couple of years ago.  I don’t know the manufacturer of the new figures, but their armor, uniforms, and cameras on the sides of their heads are an exact match, so they may be Woodbine as well.  I like the robotic machine-gun a lot!

Each year I have been running a New Year’s Eve game for the HAWKs.  We start about 1500 and run until a little after midnight.  This gives me plenty of beauty sleep and allows those inclined to find wilder parties for the rest of the night.  This may be our last year hosting the New Year’s Eve gala.  I am thinking of running a 6′ x 20′ science fiction Combat Patrol(TM) game as one of the two main events.  I have been collecting and painting science fiction figures for several years, and I need to get them on the table.

More Cars for Mad Maximillian

I have compared Gasland and Mad Maximillian for armed car racing.  I like Mad Maximillian better; although, the rules writing is somewhat cryptic.  I have all the Eureka Mad Max cars painted up, and I ran the game at a club night some months ago.  I need to try to run it again one of these days.

Right before Historicon, I ordered the set of jalopies from First Corps.  I really like them.  They didn’t come with weapons, so I had to add some.  For some reason, the tan piece of board I used to take these photos goofed up the white balance, so you don’t get to see the right colors, but they look okay anyway.

The monocycle from First Corps
This car is copper colored. I swapped out the head with a Hydra Valkyrie head.
Two more jalopies
Three motorcycles, including one being ridden by a nun

I hope to run a game with these and my other cars soon.  I think I have enough now for each player to have two cars.

Blood and Sand

In my copious free time, I’ve continued to think a bit about gladiator rules.  There are some nice sets of rules already on the market, and I don’t see this as a commercial project.  I am looking for something quick and easy for one-off games.  Greg has been looking at distinguishing special abilities to make the various types of gladiators seem different.  The working title of these rules is Blood and Sand.

I am pretty sure the game will be run on a hexagon grid to make it abundantly clear the gladiator’s facing.  The discerning gamer who already knows the unbounded joy of Blood and Swash, will find some of the mechanics very similar.

Above is a sample, working draft of a “character” card for a gladiator.  Note that gladiators can attack into their front three hexes.  When a player rolls up the gladiator’s attributes, one of the attributes is Attack.  That goes in the hex with the dark border.  The other two hexes have the Attack number modified as shown in the leftmost card.  Similarly, for defense, the dark hex contains the Defend attribute, and Defend is modified ginghams around the figure as shown on the right two cards.

Each class of gladiator (heavy, medium, and light) will have a different chart for rolling up attributes.

Attribute generation chart (DRAFT) for heavy gladiators, such as Murmillo, Secutor, and Thraex. These are the more armored gladiators with large shields.


Attribute generation table (DRAFT) for light gladiators, such as Scissor, Sagittarius, Retiarius, Laquearius, and Dimachaerus. These are gladiators who carried now shields.

Gladiators were most frequently grouped by class (e.g., heavy vs. heavy) to provide the most even, balanced, and entertaining match (sort of like the forced mediocrity created by the draft system in professional sports).  I’m not exactly sure how that will work in the game.  Greg is working on the scenarios and matchup.  Like recent sets of rules like Jugula and Sons of Mars, Greg has the idea that a player will have a stable (ludus) of gladiators and select the right one for the upcoming match.  I’m sure that will appeal to many gamers, but for me, I am looking for some quick games to fill and hour, not a campaign where I have to manage resources.  That sounds like work, not play.  Also, while the head of a ludus sounds interesting as a gaming mechanism, apparently they were considered about the same as pimps or flesh peddlers in their day.

Three Foundry gladiators

I have created a “middleweight” gladiator class that doesn’t seem to have existed formally.  Gladiators in this class include the Provocator and Hoplomachus.  These are armored like heavy gladiators but carry a much smaller shield.

Two Foundry gladiators and a Bad Squiddo shield maiden I plan to use as a gladiatrix.

Greg is also researching special abilities for the gladiator types within a class to distinguish them from each other.  Where Sons of Mars has a lot of special abilities, many of those are already taken into account in the attribute generation tables.  We are looking for things more like a foot sweep tripping attack, and shield bash (using your shield as a weapon), etc.  More to come on that.

Two more Foundry gladiators

You may note a Speed attribute on the character cards.  I envision two uses for this attribute.  First, it is the number of hexes a figure may move when it activates.  The second use will be to determine the activation sequence.  Instead of cards, I am thinking that at the beginning of each turn, players will roll d20 for each figure and add that figure’s Speed number.  The highest resulting number goes first and then on down the line.  I would like to do a d6, because that will make the Speed attribute more important than when rolling a d20, but I am worried about too many collisions requiring a “roll off.”

Two Foundry gladiators and an attacking lion

So that’s where I am today.  I am waiting for my sand-colored hex-grid cloth to arrive so that I can do the first play test.  Also, Greg is still working on the special abilities.  Stay tuned for more information as the concept matures.  I am hoping to have the cloth and be ready to run a game at Barrage, 27-28 September.

The gladiatorial arena of Surdu-kahn. Tickets go on sale soon.

The Deep Ones are Coming!

Pulp Figures deep ones from their Cthulu range with some German WWII weapons added.

At Historicon I had a chance to look at the Black Sun figures from Bob Murch.  These are Vietnam figures but with two pulp science fiction forces added.  One are these Deep Ones, for of Creature from the Black Lagoon looking.  The ones for Black Sun come with AK-47s.  Very similar Deep Ones are available in the Cthulu range.  I bought the starter box of those and added a bunch of extra German WWII weapons.  I was also told that the next pack of Black Sun Deep Ones will be armed with rifles, instead of AK-47s.

More Deep Ones with WWII weapons. The starter packs come with the large Deep One on the rock.

I have a giant alligator from Reaper that is crying to have a German infantry gun or heavy machine-gun mounted on its back!

Deep Ones with AK-47s.

If you value the lives of your pulp figures, tell them to stay away from the water, or a lot of little lead widows will be getting sad telegrams.


I have been working on a Roman gladiator project recently.  I recently bought three sets of Foundry gladiators and painted them along with a bunch of Steve Barber Roman spectators.


I also purchased a Playmobile Roman coliseum / arena.  My daughter painted it for me.

I bought a copy of Sons of Mars and read through the rules.  I think they have a good amount of period flavor, and they seem to be okay.  I have been toying with a concept for a die progression system that is tailor made for something like gladiators.  Then today in a text conversation with Greg, I hit upon the idea of using mechanics similar to Blood and Swash.  I still have some of the details to work out, but I think I am going to call it Blood and Sand.  Stay tuned….

Armies for Kids Feedback

The HAWKs recently received an Email from John Spiess about his daughter and the Armies for Kids project.  With his permission, I am sharing the letter:

Hi guys,

I know you are probably getting busy planning for Barrage, so I wanted to send you a quick note to say thanks for all you do for our Hobby. Please see the two photos below. The first one was taken at Historicon 2011 which I believe was the first year the “Armies for Kids” project took place. Notice the little nine year old girl on the far left.

Armies for Kids participant in 2011.

Fast forward eight years to Historicon 2019, just held in downtown Lancaster. The same girl, now seventeen, just won the Best in Show Award for her Saturday “Siege of Paris” game.

Erin Spiess wins an award at Historicon 2019.

If you haven’t figured it out just yet, her name is Erin Spiess, my daughter. I remember her first convention was spent entirely in the HAWKS room, and she has been completely hooked since then, thanks to all your efforts. So give yourselves a nice pat on the back.

I’ll also share some details on her game. First, I ran the same game on Friday. I had six slots, but let 15 people play (I don’t like turning people away, so I always bring extra figures). Erin ran the game on Saturday and let 19 play, nine of which were kids from our education program. When I tried to help she just said, “Get lost dad, I got this”.

Anyway, it turns out that one of the kids was also a special needs student. He showed up late and just expected to be turned away. Not only did she give him a warm welcome, but the way she handled the game mechanics to keep him and the other young kids involved, while making sure everyone was having a good time was pretty inspiring. Guess what, she learned a lot of that from the HAWK gamemasters. The young man actually went to the Awards desk afterwards and told them that he had the best time of his life.

So thanks again and good luck with Barrage. Hopefully, I’ll see you both at Fall-In.

Best regards,
John Spiess
President, HMGS, Inc.