Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hotlead 2017 Part II - My Part In Its Downfall

First, for all you kids out there, the title is a riff on the title of Spike Milligan's seven-part war memoir trilogy.  In actuality Hotlead is going strong and survived me, but below are the stories and hindsight from my two gaming sessions last weekend.

I put in to run two games, Silent Death Star Wars in The Force Awakens (Ep. VII) setting Friday night, and Song of Drums and Shakos (SDS) cinematic skirmish Sunday morning.  I chose those two timeslots in part because they're a more casual time to game during the weekend, unlike the hot and heavy (in all senses of those words) Saturday sessions.  And the SDS games in particular only take four players, and I didn't want to take up a whole table for a relatively small game.

For both games, my plan was to run multiple scenarios - for Silent Death so as not to overwhelm the players with handling multiple ships, and for SDS because I expected each game to be relatively short.  So I had three scenarios ready for Silent Death, expecting to get through two, and two ready for SDS, with the plan to have the players swap sides and play them again if the games went super-fast.

In the end, in both timeslots we scenario.  For Silent Death, though the one played quickly, that seemed to be all the appetite people had, getting up to speed and re-setting for another game was more than they wanted to do on a Friday night with all the shopping potential in the hall.  I can dig that, and it wasn't like they didn't enjoy the game (more details below).

For SDS, the one scenario we had lasted almost three hours, so everyone got their fill and was ready to check out and head home.

So after this and my KEGSCon experience with SDS (which was like the Silent Death experience this time), I'm surrendering on the multiple scenarios in a timeslot idea.  I'm not sure what I'll do for Silent Death, as the problem of overwhelming players is still there, but it could be something like a scenario where you get reinforcements as the game progresses, so you start with one or two ships, but get more later.

For SDS, it's simpler, the four-player scenarios work well to fill a timeslot.  That also means less to pack!


Getting into each of my games in more detail, I'll have to be the first to admit (because I can't really hide this below) that I forgot to take any pictures of my Star Wars game, and only a few mid-game and end-game of my Napoleonics skirmish.  GMing is a busy time!  If you want to see a pic of the Star Wars table, either check out the Friday night pics in the Hotlead Facebook group, or look at my pre-Hotlead post where I had a photo of a playtest game.

But despite the lack of visual documentation, I did indeed host a Silent Death game on Friday, for a full allocation of six players, though my buddy Ron helped fill in the last slot.  As mentioned, we only played the intro scenario "Last of the Red Hot Y-Wings", which has three TIE/sf fighters entering a system just behind a beat-up Rebellion-era Y-Wing (the only one that survived the first Death Star) piloted by a teenaged girl who's escaped in grandpa's Y-Wing with her boyfriend in the back seat and some secret First Order documents.  As it turns out, the system she's entered has a Resistance base, and three X-Wings rise to meet the challenge.

The game starts with the TIEs and X-Wings at either end of the map, and the Y-Wing just ahead of the TIEs (and their heavy weapons).  Each player has a TIE or X-Wing, and I controlled the Y-Wing, which only had to race ahead in a straight line.  The TIEs initially have to destroy or cripple the Y-Wing, but their orders change when they realize there's a Resistance base here.  The X-Wings initially have to save the Y-Wing, but that also changes when they see the TIEs trying to escape to report back to First Order HQ.

In this game, the Y-Wing got crippled pretty early, and then destroyed while limping along.  Much faster than anticipated, two TIEs also got blown up (on critical hits to their still unprotected reactors), and at that point we called it a game.  The First Order side, in their rush to retreat with the news of the Resistance base, didn't follow Boelcke's Dicta and gave the Resistance some easy flank or rear shots; they should have flown through the X-Wings and then come back out.  One X-Wing got beat up pretty badly in the exchange, but all in all the good guys had an easy time of it.

I had a good group of players, a father and two teenage boys, another boy (maybe 12) and two other adults.  Everyone seemed to have fun in the brief game, one of the teenagers downloaded the free classic-era Star Wars Silent Death rules that were in a magazine 20 odd years ago and are available online, so maybe they'll check that out and use their X-Wing (the game) ships for it.


Sunday I set up a four-player version of "The Last Pig in Russia", which has very hungry French forces trying to round up some bacon (in the form of a live pig) in a Russian village in late 1812.  The Russians, of course, want to protect their holy Russian bacon.

I had a full table again, my friend Mike took on the French hussars with Roger running the French voltigeurs against young Roy (Russian infantry) and Dave (Cossacks).  The game got off to a pretty furious start, with Roger shooting the pig on turn two, but Roy - who rolled hot all game - getting troops to the wounded animal first and starting to haul it off the table their way.

The French suffered from some terrible rolling, and it looked like I was going to need the second scenario, when all of a sudden the tide turned a bit as the French got their act together.  

Here's a shot of just before that happened, with two Russian infantrymen hauling the pig away in the middle-right of the picture (clicking on the picture will bring up a larger view):
The Cossacks turned around from their sweep to the Russian right to come back to help and engage the hussars on their left, but the French broke through and some volley fire and sabre action lead to the poor Russian pair hauling the pig falling dead with the pig ON the table edge, as you see below in this photo from the end of the game (the pig was never picked up again):
It looked like maybe the tide had permanently turned, but the lone surviving hussar charged into the fray rather than grabbing the pig and riding off, and melee broke out everywhere amongst the survivors, and when the French NCO was killed, the game was over.  Just a lone Cossack and a half dozen Russian infantry were left, but that was enough.  The Russian infantry NCO was pretty heroic, beating off all sorts of melee attacks and cavalry charges against him.

Here's another shot of the table at the end of the game from the French side:
It was a fun game to GM and watch, the guys picked up most of the rules really quickly, and watching the tide of the game turn this way and that was great and got some attention from passersby and other tables.  Without really thinking about it, at one point in the game I referred to a wounded figure (wounded figures are removed as being out of action unless you're playing a campaign game) as being "functionally dead", and that became the catchphrase of the game.  Except when someone was tripled in a combat roll, which led to the catchphrase of "really dead dead".

So my first lesson learned was that a four player game is more than enough to fill a timeslot.  Secondly, my new player aid of "It's Your Turn" with the basics on it seemed to help, but I still was doing too much helicopter parenting of the players, rather than stepping them through the QRS' combat modifiers and results and letting them do the work.  It had nothing to do with the game system or the players, just me "hovering" a bit too much.

To help with that, for next time I think I'll come up with a new set of scenario sheets for the players that has just a very, very basic scenario into, simple victory conditions, and their figure stats, and then the "It's Your Turn" piece on the same sheet.  That plus the QRS with all the combat modifiers should help me (or at least remind me) to let them learn the game.  My big QRS on an easel will still be there to help too.

I also forgot the first time it came up to make a player check for morale because his force had hit 50% of its starting strength, but in the end I decided on the fly to overlook that for everybody.  This was a convention game, not a campaign game or a game between two experienced players, and it wouldn't have been fun for anyone to lose their force in the middle of the game.  Plus, a fight to the death made the game the drama that it was, and in this particular scenario, wasn't an unreasonable situation, particularly for the French.

So I think I'll ignore that 50% rule at conventions from now on - all the other reasons to check morale will still be there (leader death, cavalry charges, Green troops etc.), just not this one.  


In the end then, I was pretty happy with the two games - full games, happy players, learned some things about GMing at a convention, and no disasters and no one flipped a table on me.  Next up will be Broadsword 3 in Hamilton in May, then maybe Cangames in Ottawa, and I'll look to run a game of something at each.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hotlead 2017

I've run out of cute titles for this report on Hotlead 2017, probably because I'm still suffering from sleepiness and random napping episodes after another fun-filled weekend in Stratford.  I'm just going to cover the games I played, other games around me, and my selling and shopping experiences in this post, then I'll cover my two (yes, two!) sessions as game host in a follow-up report.

My buddy Ron and I drove up together, so my Friday started with a mid-afternoon departure from Peterborough to meet Ron after he finished his afternoon shift as a crossing-guard in Pickering.  We hit the road ahead of schedule from his place, and despite some iffy predictions in the days leading up to the weekend, the weather was great.  Traffic was pretty good until we hit Cambridge, and then there was a lot of swearing in the car as traffic slowed to a crawl for no apparent reason (all the construction is off to the side of the highway) and turned our arrival into a bit of a scramble to eat, check in, and set up my Friday game.  I basically ended up doing all three at once.

I'll cover the game in another post, but here are some shots of what was going on Friday:
The shots above and below are general views of the crowd that night, folks were saying there was a lot going on for a Friday.  They're taken from my table, which was very conveniently right beside the bar :-)
I'm going through the schedule for the night to figure out which game is which, this is "Send Pirates, Guns & Money!" by the fellow who brings us "Mongols and Mausers" every year.  You didn't hear it from me, but word on the street was the Thai Rangers ended up with the drug cache.
Mark's "Battle of Slovchenko, Russo-Polish War 1920" game with TooFatLardies' Triumph of the Will rules, I heard this year the armoured train was captured!
These next two pictures must have been a late arrival to the schedule, unless I seriously misunderstood the Battle of Crysler's Farm in high school.
Charlie Company Vietnam game:
Frank from KEGS ran TooFatLardies' Dux Britanniarium games all weekend!  This Friday night one ended in a Saxon loss.
Brian's "Island in the Sun" Napoleonic naval game in a close-up view of the ships.
One of the set-ups at the Ontario Hobbit Adventures booth (they were selling terrain and bits too), a very, very, awesome Goblintown!
I also did almost all of my shopping that night, some PSC 1/72 Universal Carriers for Chain of Command, The Men Who Would Be Kings rules from Osprey, and some terrain bits and bobs.  After the gaming and shopping, many of us ended up in the bar for a few drinks and multiple wide-ranging discussions, and it was about 1 or 1:30 before I headed up to bed.

Saturday started with a run to get some fresh air and breakfast, then I was back to help Ron set up his operational-scale 6mm Kursk game, which he ran in the morning and afternoon Saturday (with an impromptu repeat Sunday morning) and get my stuff into the bring and buy.  I had some 15mm sci-fi, the bleeping 28mm not-Star Trek figures I've been unable to unload for about four years, some rulebooks, and one lone Osprey (that I'd accidentally bought two copies of) for sale.  All but the Osprey sold, so that was good and I basically ended up dead even for buys vs. sells over the course of the weekend.

While doing that, I also ran into Ontario Hobbit Adventures' other awesome set-up:
Before the morning's gaming started, I also did a bit of shopping at one booth (I'm guessing it was Empire and Eagle) and got some German and American WWII trucks, and Pz IIC's, all for Chain of Command.  And that was it for my shopping.  I've sort of run out of things to buy, there's a lot of 28mm pulp or VSF stuff from the vendors, but those projects are sort of on hold because I'm about 100 years behind on them; ditto for RAFM's 15mm sci-fi - and in that case I basically have everything.  So terrain, buildings, and 1/72 Chain of Command stuff made up almost all of my shopping list.  I did a couple of casual sweeps by the bring-n-buy table, but I wasn't committed enough to dive into the crowd.

Anyway, for Saturday morning I got into Brian's "Bloody Buron" battle with TooFatLardies' I Ain't Been Shot Mum rules, my first choice for the timeslot.  IABSM is my preferred set for whichever century I finally get my 6mm WWII stuff finished, and I love to play it.  In this scenario, three of us Germans defended a town in Normandy from a couple of Canadian companies.  It was a pretty bloody battle, like the name says, with a lot of artillery hits and burning Shermans, and was a marginal Canadian victory in the end, the Germans still held the town but were running out of resources to do so.

The table as the forces were setting themselves up:
My half-section of Pz IVH's, hiding.  I had a full platoon as reinforcements, but the game ended before they did more than race up the road.  These two guys did do a bit of damage, including later firing HE into those two buildings on the right.
This is probably about mid-game, before the German ATGs got revealed but after the Canadians dumped all sorts of smoke onto it.  The red-roofed buildings on the left are now occupied by Canadians, and you can see a couple of TDs following along.
Saturday afternoon I played in a six-player game of Frostgrave.  To avoid it turning into a deathmatch, the victory conditions encouraged us to do things other than kill each other's wizards, but that didn't last long and my magic-flamethrower-armed dwarves got into a drag-out battle with the wizard across from us (he started it, I swear!).  I think I killed more of his guys, but he killed the important guys in my warband.  Anyway, the terrain was spectacular and the GM did a good job of getting us all up to speed on the rules and magic; four of us hadn't played Frostgrave before.
This is just a plain awesome observatory.  I magically leaped one of my guys up there, and he did pick off some opposition but eventually got nailed himself.
My warband, pre-battle:
The later stages of the game, an icewall has been thrown up and I've got some opposition interfering with my attempt to read the ancient writing on the walls of the ruins at the centre of the table.
For Saturday night I had a crazy number of games I wanted to try and get into, in the end I had two that I agonized over, One was a big samurai battle using Chipco's Chrysanthemum Throne rules, which I have and have thought may be the best solution for middle-ground samurai rules and the other was an ECW big skirmish game using the new The Pikeman's Lament rules from Osprey.  I went with the latter and it was superb, a lot of fun and I ended up earning the most Honour by achieving my major and minor victory conditions (perhaps the only time in the history of the world that's happened to me).

The scenario had three Scottish forces and a Parliamentarian one (I think, it was at the other end of the table) vs. four Royalist forces.  The game was set up through so it was basically four two-player games, though with a bit of side to side action.  I think that was a good call, as it let the game flow and my opponent and I just had to worry about each other and we could work our way through the rules on our own.  Our main challenge was figuring out how hits turned into figure losses (it wasn't on the QRS) and after reading the rules again when I got home, I realized we'd been doing it wrong.  Luckily we kept turning to our host Mark to solve things for us and that didn't affect the game.

From left to right on the Scottish side, there was a battle over the body of a martyr who'd been tossed from the tower of a church, a battle over that same church, a village battle to find the guy who'd tossed the guy from the church tower, and then a fight over the high ground to see the town, church, and martyr.  I was the immortal Donald McHaggis, hero of the Covenant, fighting over the churchyard.  Here are my guys early into the battle, having not moved far because three of my first four activation rolls were 3s (and I needed 5s or higher on 2d6):
I had two shot units, a pike unit, a Scottish forlorn hope of crazies, and two Scottish trotter units, who were a bit handy with the pistol, but not up to fighting off a Royalist charge.  The photo below is mid-battle, the Royalists had seized the church and churchyard first because of my crappy rolls, but now I was fighting back.  I've driving off their pike in the centre (they're way behind the churchyard now) and my shot is working over the Royalist shot, with my forlorn hope ready to charge the church.  My cavalry on the left are protecting that flank (the Royalist horse never came after me in the end) and my pike block is doing the same on the right.  My other trotter unit has been drive back through a random event, they had been shooting at the Royalist shot unit in amongst the graveyard.  They did return though.  Shortly after this, the forlorn hope took the church, my shot took the churchyard, and though things got a bit crazy when some Royalist horse jumped over the wall and into the fray, ultimately things weren't sustainable for them.
I'm now super excited to get a TPL project underway.  Well, probably a few projects, you could do the ECW, TYW, WSS...

So that was my personal Saturday, here are some shots of the rest of the day:
Above and below are some more crowd shots, this must be from before the BnB opened.
A great Death Star set-up for X-Wing:
Beside the Frostgrave table was this Metaverse game that lived up to its name, Star Wars vs. Star Trek vs. Battlestar Galactica vs. Babylon 5!
That's alotta space ships!
An awesome village (Huron or Iroquois?) for Flint and Feather:
And of course Mongols and Mausers, as I said in a text with this photo I sent to my nephew: "Rule #1 is wear an awesome hat!"
The big "Fenian Raids 1866" game run by Pete and Keith:
Saturday ended with some chats with friends, another drink, and then a run to A&W to get a second dinner, things had been pretty hectic helping Ron take down his game, getting signed up for the evening game, so I just had another sandwich for dinner, which is about 1.5 sandwiches too many for me.  Not sure A&W counts as real food, but it hit the spot at 11pm.  After that I hit the sack as I had to get breakfast, check out, and set up my Songs of Drums and Shakos game all before 9 on Sunday morning.

So that wraps things up until my post of my own game hosting experiences, it was another great year of Hotlead, lots of familiar faces and friends and new ones as well.  Clearly the social event of the season!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hotleading Part Two

Here's the set-up for my second four-player Song of Drums and Shakos scenario, Troubles with the Ladies of Spain.  An escort of French Voltigeurs guarding their General has to hold off squads of the 95th Rifles and British Lights until French Dragoons can (hopefully) ride to their rescue.
The British get to choose which side they come in on, then the Dragoons are random arrivals.

I just have to pack everything back up tonight then I'm ready to go to Stratford tomorrow.  Guess I should stop in at the bank machine as well, the shopping list was the first thing I packed!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Hotlead 2017 is only two days away and while I'm still three years behind on posting pictures from past Hotleads, here's a scoop on my games for this year's convention.  I have two game sessions planned, one Friday night, one Sunday morning, and this is the first time I'm running games at Hotlead.

First up Friday is a set of scenarios using the Silent Death space fighter rules in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens setting.  The ship designs are in their own little universe here, not balanced with the classic period SW ship designs I've had done for years (just waiting for me to finish painting the bleeping ships).  

The ships themselves are Titanium Black Series prepainted "diecasts" (if diescast = largely plastic) plus a couple of Hot Wheels ones thrown in.  A Rogue One ship slipped in, as before the movie came out I just thought it was a background SW:TFA ship, as did The Ghost from one of the animated series.

Here's a group shot of most ships (more TIEs have been added since):
Below are the Hot Wheels additions after a wash to dirty them up and a starry paint job on their bases.  The Corellian Corvette is actually going to be used in the classic period, I have a newfangled type I bought off Shapeways ages ago that will work better as a modern incarnation of the Corvette - once I paint the thing up!  The Y-Wing is too big to fit in with my classic-era Y-Wings from Studio Bergstrom, so it's here for the first scenario I'll be running Friday - Last of the Red Hot Y-Wings.  The granddaughter of the one surviving Y-Wing pilot from the attack on the first Death Star escapes from the First Order with grandpa's ship (and her boyfriend in the back), and X-Wings and TIE/sf ships get to fight over her.
Next, a shot partway through a playtest game of the second scenario, Knives to a Gunfight, that I played with my 6yo nephew last month.  I learned a few things (even the new First Order TIEs need help against X-Wings) as my nephew cleaned my clock!
The third scenario Friday, if we have time to get to it, will see the Resistance trying to shoot down Kylo Ren's shuttle as he escapes a planet after another fruitless search for clues as to Luke Skywalker's whereabouts.  It's entitled Fly Kylo Fly!

Then Sunday I'm going to run some 4-player Song of Drums and Shakos Napoleonics skirmish scenarios.  Learning from KEGSCon, I'm just putting on two scenarios, upscaled variants of The Last Pig in Russia and Troubles with the Ladies of Spain.

I cut off the top of the playing area, but here's the 3'x3' version of The Last Pig in Russia:
And I gamed it out one last time as I was packing it up, using the "set everything up and pack it up straight away" approach to making sure I didn't forget anything.
I'm free to game Saturday, so I hope to get into a 6mm I Ain't Been Shot Mum game, maybe some ancients, and then I have a plethora of options Saturday night, including more ancients, samurai with rules I really want to try, and a game of The Pikeman's Lament, for which I already have a project planned and purchased!

I also hope to pick up some more 15mm 4Ground terrain and vehicles and bits and pieces for 20mm Chain of Command.