Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Preparing for my “Tales of the Gold Monkey” GASLIGHT Game

    Posted By on February 27, 2019

    I am going to run a GASLIGHT game at Cold Wars that is very loosely based on the Tales of the Gold Monkey television show.  Each player will have a group of explorers and will set out to find treasure.  They will have cards that they can play on each other to slow down the other teams with wild animals, natives, natural disasters, and monsters.  The table will be mostly empty except for some jungle.  When the players move into terra incognita, I will place different terrain pieces on the table.

    Team 1: Teddy Roosevelt and some odd explorers.

    Team 2: Jake Cuter and some Americans.

    Team 3: The sergeants from Gunga Din and some friends.

    Team 4: Bing, Bob, Dorothy, and the Andrews Sisters of Mercy.

    Some native fun that must be stopped.

    Team 5: Germans.

    Team 6: Brits.

    Team 7: Italians.

    Team 8: French Foreign Legion.

    Will the players rescue Amelia Earhart?

    Will the players pry the eyes out of this idol?

    Or will they ransack this temple?

    Hydra Miniatures Retro Raygun Valkeeri

    Posted By on February 25, 2019

    Some years ago, I purchase the dismounted Hydra Miniatures Valkeeri, and I use them as “Venusians” or other suitable aliens for my pulp games.

    Dismounted Valkeeri from Hydra Miniatures.

    A few months ago I ordered several of them on rocket sleds.  Today I finished painting them.  I didn’t get the skin color to match exactly, but they are close enough.

    Watch for these in a GASLIGHT game near you.

    Work in Progress Terrain Project

    Posted By on February 25, 2019

    Over a year ago, I purchased some of Terra Former products from Sally 4th.  See https://wargamesbuildings.co.uk/epages/950003459.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/950003459/Categories/TerraFormers.  I really like these, but I have been hesitant to get started.  Last weekend, I worked on a couple of them, and this weekend I finished laying in the foam and cork bark on the 15 that I purchased.  From these pictures you can see how they turned out.  They certainly don’t look as good as the ones that Sally 4th makes to display — and that Chris Abbey uses in his gaming room — but when I finish them, I think they will be good.

    Here is one view of the 15 tiles I made. They can be arranged in different ways for different games. While slightly less flexible than Dwarven Forge, I think these are significantly more practical to set up and take down.

    The tile in the front right slants downward so that the doorway on that side is at table level. All the others are two inches above the table.

    There are three doorways that you can punch out on each side. I just punched out the middle doorways to ensure that the results would be geomorphic. Some are four-way, some three-way, some two-way (either a turn or straight), and some are dead ends.

    Because the base of each tile is filled with two inches of insulation foam, I was able to cut into the top layer to make some depressions. The round one toward the top center of the picture will eventually be filled with molten lava.

    The rock formations are made of cork bark.  You can buy bags of it on Amazon.  It does not cut easily, and I had to use a jigsaw.  I was wishing I had a band saw.

    I hope to begin to paint them entirely in chocolate brown next weekend, inside and out.  The next step will be to mix some sand in the same chocolate brown and paint the mixture on the horizontal surfaces and walls that down’t have cork bark.  Then I will dry brush all of it with a lighter brown.  After that, I may add a few rocks and other items to give it some character.

    Once completed, the boxes have holes on the side.  They came with rare earth magnets.  When I glue in the magnets, the tiles will connect securely during game play.

    What will I do with this?  Part of the project was just DOING it.  It is something I’ve not done before.  You can imagine any number of scenarios that can make use of tunnels.  It could be an Indian tunnel, and the Army could attack.  I’ll almost certainly use these for my giant ant games.  I may run some sort of dungeon crawl as well.  I am sure they will be well used once I finish them.

    Progress on Albedo Combat Patrol Activation Decks

    Posted By on February 22, 2019

    I recently received the artwork for the Activation cards from the artist. To that artwork I added the card serial number, copyright information, and morale results. I think they look pretty good. See what you think of these samples.

     

    Another Approach to LSNC: Sci Fi

    Posted By on February 19, 2019

    I have been making a number of abortive attempts at LSNC: Sci-Fi.  I am trying to take into account the difference between directed and kinetic energy weapons, represent different types of motivations (wheels, tracks, hover, legs), RF-guided weapons, thermal sensors, unmanned systems, and cyber/EW.  The first attempt used the shooting and defense numbers very much like LSNC: WWII, but it didn’t seem like the d10 provided enough variance for sci-fi.  Then I tried to use the card-based mechanic like Combat Patrol, but it didn’t quite work for a non-skirmish game.  It seemed like we were shooting Nerf balls.  In all previous cases, the amount of information needed on the base tables was getting hard to fit.  I have been playing around with a dice progression idea that includes more than the standard D&D set of polymorphic dice.

    In this example, you can see that moving to a die progression mechanism simplifies the base label, because what is listed is a base capability, which is modified by the modifiers shown on the top half of the figure.  The idea is that modifiers of +1, +2, etc. move up and down the die progression.  Combat would be an opposed die roll.  I might start with a d10 to hit, but I am shooting on a unit’s flank, so i go to d14 (yes, they exist).  Your defense might be d10, but you are in woods (light cover), so you go to d12.  We roll.  If my attack roll exceeds your defense roll, I inflict a point of damage.  If my attack roll more than doubles your defense roll, I inflict two points of damage, knocking out a base.  I specifically didn’t have a capability to inflict two hits in WWII, but I think it would be good in Sci-Fi.

    The advantage of such a system is that I could attack you with a d4, and you could defend with a d24, but I might still score a lucky hit.  I was explicitly trying to prevent this in LSNC: WWII, but I think it makes sense for Sci-Fi.

    Why the special dice instead of just using more than one die?  Rolling 1 die, produces random numbers from a uniform distribution.  Rolling more dice produces random numbers from a distribution that looks like the normal (i.e., bell curve) distribution.  The more dice you roll, the more the results will tend toward the mean.  So I think all rolls need to be the same number of dice, 1, 2, 3, or whatever.  I like one die per roll.

    An opposed die roll for shooting and defense seems right to me.

    The bottom half of the card, could represent a unit roster for a player as a series of labels, or the labels could be cut out and pasted to the bases.  I went with a darker color scheme so they won’t stand out so much on the terrain.

    I like the idea of a reaction number instead of an opportunity fire rule.  This could also be used for other purposes in the game.   There is no room for it on the label.

    The movement table is a recognition that as I have been working on this, there is a pattern for the different types of vehicles (and infantry), which is represented in the table now.  I figure that people won’t have to refer to it much after a turn or two.

    I also think players won’t have to refer to the card to remember the defense and attack modifiers.  I wonder if the shooting and defense modifiers should be different for directed and kinetic energy weapons.  What do you think?

    My biggest concern with this approach is that people will get frustrated looking for the die they need. I was careful to collect dice so that each die type is always the same color (e.g., the d20 is always dark gray), which I hope will help.  The need to purchase several sets of these dice, one for each player, means that this game will likely be commercially non-viable.   I was thinking that if I sold these through Sally 4th, we could package up sets of dice in canonical colors, but if it is annoying, people won’t play.  As I’ve not had a set of rules that fall into the “cool rules” category, perhaps I should be sweating this.  What do you think?

    Commandos Strike at Dawn

    Posted By on February 17, 2019

    This Saturday, Greg and I ran our commando raid game with Combat Patrol(TM).  From the play test a couple of weeks ago we added a few more commandos, but the commandos actually did worse!

    Commandos sneaking through he woods.

    The commandos started well, keeping to the woods to avoid being spotted.  But then things went badly, and the commandos made some bad calls.

    The fighting begins.

    The commandos entered a patch of woods from two directions.  They activated first, and discovered a german team in the woods, but the Germans hadn’t spotted them yet.  Because of the alert level, the Germans weren’t able to move.  Instead of moving to avoid contact, the Commandos charged into them.  This was their first big mistake.  The German player “rolled” exceedingly well in hand to hand combat, making noise, killing a commando, and raising the alert level even farther.

    The fighting grows.

    This is when the commandos made their second mistake that sealed their fate.  Instead of holding this German team with one group of commandos and continuing to the objective with the other three, they pushed everyone into a general engagement.  This raised the alert level farther, releasing German reinforcements, and bogged the commandos down far from their objective for several turns.  Though the commandos got the upper hand eventually, by they time they cleared the woods (which was not a part of their objective), the German reinforcements had arrived, and other units were released to move to the sound of the guns.

    A Pz 38(t) advances.

    The Germans had pretty well cut off commando access to the chateau with the general they were trying to kill.  The Pz 38(t) arrived and gunned down the only two commandos who got near the chateau (despite the coax jamming).  At this point, the commando players failed their player morale, and we called the game a German victory.

    Despite the lopsided outcome, the players had a good time, I think.  It was a nice group of players who were there to have a good time, so it was a fun game.

    Friday Feudal Fracas

    Posted By on February 17, 2019

    The War of the Roses game begins.

    Friday night at our club meeting, Chris ran a game using Feudal Patrol.  Feudal Patrol is the under-development version of Combat Patrol(TM) that is more for mediaeval games (or games in which there is more melee than shooting).  This is still very much under development, but it is at a stage where it is playable.

    The table layout early in the game.

    The game involved a baggage train that was desired by both sides.  Seeing armies approaching, the civilian drovers bugged out, leaving the wagons and supplies for either side to loot.

    One side nears the baggage train.

    I have play test card decks that are in their fourth revision.  I think they are getting pretty stable.  One thing I am thinking about changing as a result of the game on Friday is armor.  Right now, if the hit location icon is red, the target’s shield doesn’t count.  If the hit location is yellow, it does count if that area is covered by the shield.  I was thinking about making two or three of the icons black.  In this case it would be that lucky hit that cancels out all armor.

    Lord Hawke’s Banner.

    We had some questions about how cavalry works.  I think we just need to re-read the original rules on cavalry and the modified rules in the Napoleonic supplement.  As much as possible, I’d like to keep the cavalry rules in Feudal Patrol the same as the Napoleonic supplement for Combat Patrol to avoid confusion.

    A wide shot of advancing Lancastrians.

    In general, I think people were pleased with the rules.

    Savage Worlds Flash Gordon Kickstarter

    Posted By on February 14, 2019

    Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for Flash Gordon.  I love the old serials (three of them), the old comics, and I can even tolerate that campy 1970s movie.  So, when the Savage Worlds Flash Gordon Kickstarter occurred, I jumped on the bandwagon to get the figures.   I have just about every other manufacturer’s Flash Gordon figures, but you can never had too many Flash Gordon figures — at least that’s what I tell my wife.

    Since I have been home this week (first of several), I have been getting some painting done in the evenings.  Last night I finished the Flash Gordon figures from the Kickstarter.

    Princess Aura and Ming the Merciless.

    I painted these figures in comic book colors.  The figures have nice animation and styling that is consistent with the Alex Raymon drawings.

    Ming’s soldiers.

    The space ship in the background was made from a Denny’s happy meal sip cup.

    Dale Arden, Flash Gordon, and Dr. Zarkov.  I love the animation of the Dale Arden figure with the rifle.

    All of the figures were fun and easy to paint.

    Prince Thun of the Lion Men, Prince Barin of Arborio, and Prince Voltan of the Hawkmen.  I’m not overly happy with how the wings turned out on Voltan.

    And for some reason when I pulled these figures out of the to-be-painted box, I also pulled this Superman figure.  I don’t know where it came from or who was the manufacturer, but I painted it up anyway.  I don’t even play superhero games; although, To Be Continued… by GASLIGHT has rules for Pulp-era superheroes.  Does anyone know who made this figure?

    Superman.

    The Last of the Mantic Terrain Crate Pieces

    Posted By on February 12, 2019

    The abandoned mine sets from Mantic terrain crates.

    I have been posting pictures from time to time of the various terrain pieces that I got in the Mantic terrain crate Kickstarter.  Tonight I finished the last of the two crates and various add-ons that I purchased.

    I finished two sets of the abandoned mine.  I will use these in an upcoming game I’ll be running at Cold Wars in a few weeks.

    Mission complete.

    Two Martian Tripods

    Posted By on February 10, 2019

    In the continuing effort to reduce the unpainted lead collection, I knocked out these two tripods this weekend.  I went with battleship gray for the paint scheme thinking that they might be Earth imitations of Martian tripods (I have the ones from here to be real Martians).  They looked too clean, so I gave them a heavy brown wash.

    I like the quirkiness of these. They look like water towers on legs to me.

    I bought these at Barrage 2017.  I may buy a third one at Barrage 2019 if they are available.  They were pretty easy to assemble, and they painted quickly.