Duncan’s Traditional Christmastime Game

A view of Duncan's Christmas game
Woody Kineval, Don, Noah, Eric, and Geoff admiring the chaos.

One of many HAWKs traditions is the Christmastime game at Duncan’s house sometime during the holidays.  Often the game is set in the War of 1812 and often in the winter.  This year Duncan hosted an American raid on a British encampment in Canada in the winter.  The American objective was to capture supplies, loot, and plunder.  The British objective was to hang onto their gear.

Kurt, Noah, Don, and Eric
Kurt, Noah, Don, and Eric

In the past, Duncan has used a variety of different rule sets, including GASLIGHT, for these games.  This year Duncan wanted to try using my G.A.M.E.R. rules that are under development.  In general, though there are questions about a set of rules that are still under development, the system worked well enough.

Dave's men rushed to the front, and then couldn't the broad side of a barn.
Dave's men rushed to the front and then couldn't the broad side of a barn.

Each player had two six-man groups and a leader to control.  Dave’s troops had high morale (“guts”) but terrible accuracy (“shooting skill”).  He rushed forward toward the enemy and then missed with nearly all his shots and Don laughed at him and taunted him.

Kurt and Noah
Duncan, Kurt, Noah, and Don

There was a furious melee in the woods just behind the plantation house, where Noah is seen in the photo moving his troops.  After the melee, which lasted a few turns, Eric was victorious, and Noah was out of the game.  Don taunted Noah too.

Hot and heavy fighting developed around the central plantation house

On my side of the table, Bruce occupied the brown building in the picture and then proceeded to decimate Jim’s and my forces.  We thought Bruce’s forces were snipers armed with Gatling guns.  On the first or second turn, Rob incapacitated my officer.  The officer had moved to the edge of the woods in the center right of the picture to locate the enemy.  He found them, but didn’t live long enough to let the troops know.  By the end of the game Rob and I had ground each other to a pulp, but he managed to capture two cows.  Don taunted me as well.

The game was a lot of fun.  Lots of folks brought cookies and snacks, so the holiday season pig out continued unabated as we battled.

Thanks to Duncan for hosting!

What Makes a Movie a “Christmas Movie?”

The characters from Santa Claus is Coming to Town

I got in a discussion recently about what makes a movie a Christmas movie.  (By the way, in this post, I will use the term “movie” liberally, applying it to 22-minute short animated shorts as well as live action feature films.)  The movie in question was March of the Wooden Soldiers, starring Laurel and Hardy.  While most people don’t know who Laurel and Hardy were, I still find their shorts and features entertaining.  I’ve always considered this a Christmas movie, probably because it was shown on television around the holidays when I was a kid, no one had cable television, and you had to be home to watch these holiday favorites the one or two times a season they would be on television.

I have always considered this movie (and the sad Disney remake, Babes in Toyland, despite Annette) to be a Christmas movie.

But what about this movie makes it a Christmas movie?  Santa Claus appears for a few minutes in one scene, but the movie doesn’t revolve around a Christmas message or even a storyline remotely related to Christmas.  It features clever effects (for its time) depicting nursery rhyme characters.  The humor is light and clean — as would be expected of a movie of its vintage.  The story is uncomplicated and fun, with a happy ending.  Perhaps what makes a movie a Christmas movie is clean family entertainment, a few laughs, and a happy ending?  Is that enough to be considered a Christmas (or holiday) movie?

Is death and mayhem that happens to occur on Christmas Eve a Christmas movie?

While I like Die Hard and even the second film in the series, just because it takes place on Christmas Eve I can’t consider this a Christmas movie.  Somehow dozens if gruesome killings doesn’t seem like a family, holiday movie to me.

I never considered this a Christmas movie until my daughter watched it yesterday and claimed it is.

While You Were Sleeping is among my favorite chick flicks, but I never considered it a Christmas movie.  My daughter recently claimed that it is, and I think she is right.  It takes place at Christmas, and many of the scenes revolve around Christmas celebrations and traditions.  The ending is a bit sappy, but it ends on a high note and is generally a very family friendly film.

Frosty the Snowman takes place at Christmas, features Santa saving the day, and talks about the magic of Christmas snow.
Frosty the Snowman takes place at Christmas, features Santa saving the day, and talks about the magic of Christmas snow.

Frosty the Snowman, featuring Jimmy Durante singing the title song which he made a hit in the 1940s or 1950s, always aired during the ramp up to Christmas, so I always considered this a Christmas movie.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has a clear Christmas message.

In retrospect, these Rankin Bass Christmas movies often portray Santa as not so nice, but they are Christmastime staples at our house — and probably yours.  Is any movie with Santa Claus a Christmas movie?  Rudolph has to be considered a Christmas classic; most of your favorite versions of many holiday songs are the Burl Ives version from this movie.

This version of A Christmas Carol is arguable the best adaptation of the Dickens Classic.

And of course, there have been many versions of A Christmas Carol.  It think it would be hard to argue that this is not a Christmas movie.  If you haven’t seen this version, you are missing out.

This version of A Christmas Carol is not as good as the Alistair Sim version, but it's still quite good.
Patrick Stewart is a terrific actor, and he makes this a solid version of A Christmas Carol.

The Patrick Stewart version is quite good — and his radio adaptation of him reading the story is worth the money as well.

Holiday Inn debuted the classic song, "White Christmas."
Holiday Inn debuted the classic song, "White Christmas."

Holiday Inn takes place across a full year of holidays, but it debuted the song “White Christmas,” and the movie’s finale takes place on Christmas Eve with Bing reprising the song and winning the girl.  While largely overshadowed by its big budget, VistaVision follow-on, this is a terrific movie to watch at Christmastime.

White Christmas is an excellent movie that takes place at Christmas and involves a Christmas present for Bing and Danny's general after WWII.

Though most of the dancing and singing sequences have little to do with Christmas, the basic plot that Bing and Danny pull together a nice Christmas present for their former commanding general is both fun, heartwarming, and tear jerking.  All of us former military folks aspire to that level of loyalty and respect; few achieve it.

Going My Way has a tear jerking ending on Christmas Eve.
Going My Way has a tear jerking ending on Christmas Eve.

If you don’t have to brush away a tear at the end of this movie, you are pretty callous.  I don’t know if this is a Christmas movie, per se, but it ends at Christmas and has a warm feel throughout.  This is the movie that make Bing Crosby a movie star as well as a singing star.

The follow-on to Going My Way, this is a forgotten, feel-good movie.
The follow-on to Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary's is a forgotten, feel-good movie.

Bells of St. Mary’s is decidedly not a Christmas movie, but as wholesome family entertainment, this is great for the holiday season.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was first heard in Meet Me in St. Louis and became a hit for Judy Garland and others.

Meet Me in St. Louis is a movie that is NOT about Christmas, but it ends at Christmas and featured a hit single, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Apparently if a movie ends at Christmastime, it is often considered a Christmas movie.

Another example of a movie that has nothing to do with Christmas, ends at Christmastime, and is considered a Christmas movie.

The Little Drummer Boy has a clear Christmas message.
The Little Drummer Boy has a clear Christmas message.

The Little Drummer boy has a clear Christmas message.  While not as enjoyable as some of the other Rankin Bass movies, it is nonetheless well worth the time to watch it.

A Year Without a Santa Claus portrays Santa in a little better light than Rudolph.

A really forgotten game, It Happened on 5th Avenue takes place at Christmas and has a heartwarming feel.

It Happened on 5th Avenue is a terrific, though forgotten, film.  It involves a group of (oddball) strangers who meet around Christmastime in New York City, work through their troubles, change for the better, do nice things for each other, etc.  If you haven’t see this movie, you are missing a really great movie.

Miracle on 34th Street is a heartwarming tale that not only takes place at Christmas, but has a pretty good warm Christmas feeling about it.

There have been a few remakes of this classic, but none match the original.  Based on a short story, this a fun movie about a man who thinks he is Santa Claus and all the things he does to help a number of people.

The Home Alone series has no Christmas message, per se, but they take place during the Christmas season. Is that enough?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a classic cartoon with a solid Christmas message.
A Christmas Story is a hilarious and nostalgic look at Christmas through the eyes of a child.

A Christmas Story was a sleeper when it first came to theaters.  It has become a classic staple in our house — despite Ted Turner showing it for 24 hours on Christmas day and threatening to over play it as they did with It’s a Wonderful Life.

The Santa Clause is a modern Christmas movie with good messages and a feel good ending.

Though revolving around the secular, rather than religious, meaning of Christmas, the first two movies in this series are solid family entertainment.  This movie was nice in the way it explained a lot of the Santa mythos.

Christmas in Connecticut has always been a Christmas favorite for me -- though not my kids.

Christmas in Connecticut is a largely forgotten gem in the vein of the screwball comedy.  Involving secrets, hidden identities, an overbearing boss, some fun character actors, and a happy ending, we’ve always considered this a Christmas movie.  Though Christmas is in the title, the fact that it takes place during the Christmas season and involves some celebrations and traditions, makes it clearly a Christmas movie in my book.  Don’t waste your time with the 1970’s remake; see the original.

Christmas Vacation is a very funny movie that takes place at Christmas, but not suitable for younger viewers.
Christmas Vacation is a very funny movie that takes place at Christmas, but not suitable for younger viewers.

Christmas Vacation has many hilarious scenes, but it is not appropriate for younger kids.  Now that my kids are older, this has become a holiday seasons staple. The Christmas message is a little light, but Chevy Chase is trying to make a special Christmas for his family as he goes through a number of slapstick misadventures.

As with all animated shorts by Big Idea Productions, The Toy that Saved Christmas has a strong religious message.

The Veggie Tales videos were originally sold only in Christian book stores but are widely available now.  This one and Rack, Shack, and Benny are my two favorites.  This one is about a group of kids — and a toy, named Buzzsaw Louie — trying to find the true meaning of Christmas.  The whole series of Veggies Tales videos are good for both adults and kids.

The Lemon Drop kid introduced the song "Silver Bells."

Another forgotten gem, The Lemon Drop kids, based on a Damon Runyon story, is about a confidence man who is down on his luck and comes up with a scheme to dress up as Santa and collect money on street corners.  The movie has an ending not unlike the Capra classic Lady for a Day.  This movie also introduced the world to the Christmas song “Silver Bells.”

The Bishop's Wife as a five-star, wonderful movie.

Saving probably the best for last, if you haven’t seen this gem, you are again missing out.  The movie centers around a bishop and his wife who are visited by an angel around Christmastime.  In the end, the Bishop realizes that even he has lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas and family.  There are a number of memorable scenes.  Unlike modern movies this is not about action.  Listen to the dialog.  There is a lot of depth to this film.

So, I started out trying to answer the question,”What makes a movie a Christmas movie.”  Along the way, I highlighted some of my favorite Christmas films, but I’m not sure I answered the question.  While I have enjoyed movies like Elf and Jingle All the Way, I didn’t highlight them in this missive.  I suppose for me, a Christmas movie needs to be family friendly, have a positive message, and largely take place at Christmastime.  While movies like Meet Me in St. Louis and It’s a Wonderful Life are terrific, family friendly films, I’ve never considered them Christmas movies, but perhaps I should.  For me Christmas movies must be the kind of heartwarming, uplifting, sometimes tear-jerking movies that help you get in the “Christmas mood.”  Though March of the Wooden Soldiers has little to do with Christmas, we watch it every year at Christmastime.  Perhaps it is the naiveté of innocence of these films that make them Christmas movies.  So maybe the fact that we can enjoy that innocence year after year as a family is what makes them Christmas movies.  In the same way that many “Christmas songs” are really winter songs that have little, if anything to do with Christmas but help you get in the Christmas mood, maybe that’s what makes Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, and A Christmas Carol “Christmas movies,” even though they don’t explicitly talk about the true meaning of Christmas or even the secular mythology of Santa Claus.

My kids will soon be moving out and starting their own lives on their own.  We’ll only see them on holidays and the occasional visit.  Our life will be different — and not all in good ways.  But I’ll bet when she get together at Christmas, the movies I highlighted above will be part of our holiday activities.

Hide the picnic lunch. The ants are coming!

The giant red army ant battlegroup
The giant red army ant battlegroup

I recently ordered some 10mm giant ants from Magister Militium for my fantasy armies.  I went back and forth on whether to make them black ants or red ants.  I decided on red.

The giant red army ants with spears
The giant red army ants with spears

I like the looks of these figures.  The giant ants are in sort of a centaur pose.

The giant red army ants with swords
The giant red army ants with swords
Giant red army ants with crossbows
Giant red army ants with crossbows
Giant red army ants alongside their praying mantis allies
Giant red army ants alongside their praying mantis allies

I thought the praying mantises looked too crowded with all six on a base and too open with just three, so I placed a couple of additional ants on the base as sort of a combined arms team.

Giant red army ants riding on giant beetles
Giant red army ants riding on giant beetles

HAWKs Night

Dave sporting his fashion accessories during Chris Fischer's stomp robot play test
Dave sporting his fashion accessories during Chris Fischer's stomp robot play test

Last night was HAWKs night.  There were two simultaneous games.  The first was Kurt Schlegel’s 1973 Arab-Israeli War game based on the battle of Quatre Bras.  Since many of the HAWKs supported the 114th Signal Battalion’s SLPD (see https://bucksurdu.com/blog/?p=3350) the various game masters have taken turns running their version of the scenario at club nights.  This week was Kurt’s turn.

The second game was a play test of Kevin Fischer’s game based on a Japanese anime series.  It involved large stompy robots (actually these are more like battle mechs that have human (or human-like operators) battling each other.  We also had tanks and infantry running around.

Kurt Schlegel's 1973 Arab Israeli War game based on Quatre Bras
Kurt Schlegel's 1973 Arab Israeli War game based on Quatre Bras

Apparently the Egyptians had a slight advantage over the Israelis when the game ended.

Another view of the Arab Israeli War game
Another view of the Arab Israeli War game

The robot game went pretty well for a first play test.  I don’t know the genre, so I don’t know if the game reflects the cartoon well.  It had a few rough edges and can use a little streamlining, but it was fun.

I hit Mike Fischer's stompy robot in the cockpit in mid leap, and it crashed.
I hit Mike Fischer's stompy robot in the cockpit in mid leap, and it crashed.

The game only took a couple of hours, so we had a little time for a game of Red Dragon Inn.

A quick game of Red Dragon Inn
A quick game of Red Dragon Inn

 

Anything But a Twenty

The "Anything But a Twenty"
The "Anything But a Twenty"

Greg Priebe, one of the guys in our gaming group, sent me a note about a toy available at Target stores from the Disney movie, Planes.  It is a good size for 28mm figures and looks like a C-119 cargo plane.  I’ve always liked the look of the C-119.  Before I could take action on his suggestion, I saw this blog posting:  http://www.inlgames.com/c119.htm.

My pulp games involve Duke Morrison and his buddies, “Wrench” Web and “Boats” Morgan along with his love interest, Gianna Nannini, daughter of the great scientist Serafini Nannini.  Duke Morrison NEEDED a plane.  So within a few days, I had ordered one for me and one for Greg from Target.com.

Cabbie the cargo plane
Cabbie the cargo plane

My son took up the challenge of removing all the red stickers while we watched television one evening.  After a lot of elbow grease and a fair amount of Goo Gone, the plane was ready to paint.

The airplane after the decals had been removed and the plane sprayed silver
The airplane after the decals had been removed and the plane sprayed silver

I first sprayed the plane black and then with a silver paint.  This silver color was brighter than I wanted, so I gave it a third coat of paint, this time an aluminum color.  I then mixed silver and brown paint to make a metallic rust color, which I applied liberally with a wide brush.

A darker, less shiny paint job with rust added
A darker, less shiny paint job with rust added

In the picture (above), you can see the difference between the un-weathered engine cowlings compared to the rusty finish on the rest of the plane.

First coat of blue paint on the tail, engine cowlings, and nose
First coat of blue paint on the tail, engine cowlings, and nose
After the second coat of blue with the propellers painted
After the second coat of blue with the propellers painted

I decided to keep the centers of the propellors silver, but painted the tips of the propellers white.  I like that look.

Then came the challenge of coming up with a name for the plane and appropriate nose art.  After I had considered several names, including Duke’s Duchess and the Granville Gal, Chris suggested Anything But a Twenty.   Granville is the town in which most of my pulp games take place.  “Anything but a twenty” is a reference to the fact that in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., rolls of twenty often cause bad — and usually dramatic — things to occur.

Below are candidate nose art I built from some Varga pin-up pictures I found on line, some image editing capabilities on my Mac, and a few other elements.

Duke's Duchess didn't remain in the running too long, but I like this image.
I really liked the original artwork with the girl in the soldier outfit.
I liked this artwork, but I was beginning to settle on Anything But a Twenty as the name of the plane
The final nose art and final airplane name

Below is a closeup of the nose of the airplane with our heroes posing in front of it.  I printed the nose art on clear, matte address labels.  The artwork didn’t have the vibrance of glossy paper.  At first I was a bit disappointed, but in retrospect, I like the washed-out look.  It seems closer to photos I’ve seen after the plane has had a lot of hard miles.  The faded look seems to fit better with the rusty appearance of the plane.

"Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty
"Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

I chose a tail number of NC-61326.  Since “Granville Gal” lost out, I chose to use the zip code of the real Granville, IL, which is the town on which I loosely based my town for pulp games.

"Wrench" Webb inspects bullet holes in the starboard wing
"Wrench" Webb inspects bullet holes in the starboard wing

And here is one last look at the plane from a slightly more distant viewpoint than the previous close up.  The border around the nose art didn’t quite disappear, but it’s not too obvious either.

"Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty
"Wrench" Webb, Duke Morrison, Gianna Nannini, and "Boats" Morgan in front of Anything But a Twenty

This was a fun project.  I rarely build or paint airplane models, as I don’t have much luck with them.  In this case, I think the end result was quite good.

 

Labels for Bear Yourselves Valiantly

A sheet of new labels on die-cut label paper
A sheet of new labels on die-cut label paper

The Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules uses special dice to take the place of chart cards.  During development of the first set of rules, Look, Sarge, No Charts: World War II, I used wooden cubes from a craft store for play testing.  Those cubes are a little smaller than the blank dice that you can buy.  I have been using the store-bought blank dice, but I haven’t updated the size of the labels.

Side-by-side comparison of the original dice and the new labels
Side-by-side comparison of the original dice and the new labels

At Fall In a couple of weeks back, the guy who works at the “Dice Lady” booth mentioned that there are die-cut labels that fit the dice.  I found them from On Line Labels.  The company tries to sell you a proprietary software package to make labels that requires periodic updating (and fees).  They also have a template that works with Microsoft Word.  It took several hours (and a call to the On Line Labels help desk) to reformat the labels for Bear Yourselves Valiantly and Fate of Battle.  Previously I have been printing the slightly smaller ones on full sheets of sticky labor paper and then cutting them out, one at a time.  With the newer pre cut labels, once they are printed, they can be easily peeled and stuck onto the blank dice.

From the picture above, you can see that the new labels are slightly larger.  This has allowed me to increase the point size of the fonts by one or two points, making the labels much easier to read.

Comparison of an old and new set of dice
Comparison of an old (bottom) and new (top) sets of dice for Bear Yourselves Valiantly

While these are much easier to use than the .pdf files that I have posted to several Web page, I am very hesitant to post these new labels.  The Internet has create a worldwide culture of people who expect others’ intellectual property to be given away for free and will complain and kvetch in public forum when free stuff isn’t perfect.  With these new labels, you have to move them every so slightly left or right on the page to account for slight variations in printers.  That amount of effort will surely illicit complaints on TMP and inquiries into the nature of my parentage.  I’ll make labels available to my co-authors, but I probably won’t make them available to the general public.

Northwest Frontier

New Northwest Frontier figures
New Northwest Frontier figures

Some years ago, at one of the HMGS East conventions, the giveaway for all attendees was a small sprue of four or five 25mm plastic British colonial figures.  Most of the HAWKs handed me their sprues, because they didn’t do any colonial gaming in this scale and thought I could use them in a GASLIGHT game.  I painted several GASLIGHT units in red jackets to use for service on Mars.

Another view of my recent Northwest Frontier figures
Another view of my recent Northwest Frontier figures

As noted in earlier posts, I’ve been picking away at my unpainted lead (or in this case plastic) collection.  So, to finish off these free plastic figures, I decided to paint them for service in the Northwest Frontier.  The sprues only came with rank and file, so the officers, standard bearer (currently missing a flag), and other special figures are Empress Miniatures, ordered from Age of Glory.

Disney Goes Team Punk

Disney steam punk picture
Disney steam punk picture

I was in Orlando last week for a conference for work.  I had an opportunity one evening to spend an hour or two at the Downtown Disney marketplace looking for stocking stuffers for my kids and wife.  In the art store I saw this picture and had to take a photo of it.

Additional 10mm Figures Completed This Weekend

Copplestone half orc archers
Copplestone half orc archers

This weekend I continued to pick away at unpainted 10mm figures.  The three units I finished this weekend were Copplestone 10mm figures.  I like the way the archers are mounted in pairs.  They are easier to paint than individuals, but not as easy to paint as strips of Old Glory or Games Workshop 10mm figures.

A second unit of Copplestone "City Archers"
A second unit of Copplestone "City Archers"
Copplestone "City Archers"
Copplestone "City Archers"