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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is Dark Matter real or BS?

So I was reading this Ars Technica article on an experiment that is trying to detect particles of dark matter:
New Lux experiment: No dark matter in this corner

And I was reminded once again, that while I am a complete layman with only an intermittent popsci reading level at astrophysics and cosmology, dark matter and dark energy have always struck me as unlikely stuff made up to explain the discrepancy between data and the prevalent theory. Its undetectable stuff that we are told vastly outweighs the detectable stuff but it must be there or the equations don't come out right.

In the comments thread to that article there is one by a guy going by Bobson whose perception is like mine but more informed, responding to a similar comment by jfmiller28. He mentions rooting for the STVG theory that doesn't require dark matter and links to the Wikipedia article.

I'd never heard of STVG, so I follow the link off to the Wikipedia article, and scratch my head a bit at the discussion there. My first thought was"Okay, that's interesting but still confusing. Does somebody describe how would you go about testing it? Is it falsifiable or is it like String Theory that apparently is extremely difficult or impossible to test?" I was still curious so I did another Google search and came up with the Moffat  paper abstract on arXiv and this conference proceedings book in Google Books and start skimming, basically reading the layman-readable passages and skipping over the math. Apparently this was a gathering that was mostly attended by adherents of a new set of "relativistic" cosmological theories as opposed to the dominant ΛCDM model of cosmology.

Here's the gist I got from reading part of some of  papers from that book. Portions of ΛCDM are effectively based on simplifications that use Newtonian modeling of gravity and assumptions of uniformity of distribution of matter in the universe. ΛCDM needs there to be vast amounts of stuff we haven't found yet to make its math work out with observations. When you redo those parts with an Einsteinian relativity based gravity model and take into account the sponge-like structure to the distribution of galaxies in the universe and our measurements being done from one of the voids in that sponge, the fit to the data is much better. The dark matter and dark energy fudge factors drop out as unnecessary.

I'm not nearly qualified to judge this work on the details, but that description sure smells more right to me than dark energy and dark matter ever have. My gut says this will probably be one of those Kuhnian revolutions in science.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Dwarven Forge terrain done

A couple more photos. This time I laid out pretty much all the new stuff that is done, and the diagonal halls and some doors from the prepainted stuff. Looks like I can cover about 3" by 3" with this, will fill in the rest of the Chainmail table with Malifaux Terraclips, Mastermaze (if I lug that) and some homebrew terrain. One more batch of this stuff in the cool palette is on the paint table now.... Postscript, finished up after these pics.

Next up, clear the gaming table to work on the layout for the Chainmail game.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Chainmail game is on for Conquest Avalon in Sacramento

I'm running a battle in a dungeon using the old Chainmail rules at Conquest Avalon in Sacramento November 1st. The scenario is gelling in my head and I'll be fleshing it out on the home tabletop this weekend, and working up more of Dwarven Forge scenery for part of the dungeon. Will have a table full of a mix of Dwarven Forge, Terraclips, and homebrew scenery. This post is basically thinking out loud as to work out scenario details.

 It will use the man to man combat tables at the back of the Chainmail rules, with some monsters that use the fantasy combat table. I'm pretty fresh on the rulebook, having used Chainmail combat rules for my old school D&D game at Pacificon last month.

I signed up to host up to 8, so I have a choice of four options for sides. Everyone vs everyone with spontaneous alliances and each having a mission goal, 4 vs 4, 2 vs 2 vs 2 vs 2, or 3 vs 3 with a couple of spoilers/loose cannons.  Given the setting, I'm thinking to do the last option.

 The main factions, probably Dwarves and Goblins, are both  resident in different parts of a megadungeon. The tabletop representing a level between their home territories that until very recently was protected by powerful magical wards that have precipitously and mysteriously dropped. After a curious dwarf and a similarly suicidal goblin come out of the no-man's level with loot, the gold rush is on! Both factions move in. Meanwhile a smaller force of adventurers comes delving opportunistically, and a monstrous faction emerges from below searching for loot, power, fresh meat, and slaves. If I come up short of players,

Of course it is a classic dungeon, so there are local monsters and traps to beset the unwary looters. Whoever dies first or if there are alternates, one or two extra players can play revealed creatures, or I'll use them as a GM tool. A few might even be potential allies depending on who encounters them. I might have some conflicting individual goals to make for uneasy alliances among the main faction players. The flavor from the delving party perspective ought to be that of a low-res D&D run into the middle of an active war zone.

As I remember from playing a lot of Chainmail many years ago, dwarves are worth about 2 goblins or one orc apiece, so that is my rule of thumb for balancing. So one player might have, say 15 dwarves and a hero dwarf leader, or an ogre plus 15 orcs or 30 goblins, maybe trading away some of the goblins for warg riders at 2 for 1. Will need to take into account the dwarf bonus vs ogres and how I implement it at man to man scale in working out whether an ogre approximately equals a hero. Will need to rank up my figures this weekend to see how many goblins I can field, though swapping out one group for orcs and possibly another for all ogres or something would let me bulk up a bit. It's a pretty lethal combat system once things get engaged, which pushes for big numbers but dungeon hallways restrict frontages unless a player is advancing along multiple routes, so forces shouldn't get too big. The Terraclips stuff has a natural 3" and 6" width of halls and rooms, Dwarven Forge tends towards a 3" space, 2 half squares with wall and two whole squares where the tiles meet between two L walls, or 2" where a walls are separated by a pure floor tile.  3" is a frontage of 3 or 4 figures depending on basing, with a few able to fight from the second rank, so a Dwarven warband like the above would be 4 to 5 ranks if massed in a typical hallway.

I can set up a card for each group with stats, including the portion of the man to man tables they will most likely need, for instance the goblins only really need to hit numbers for each weapon vs chainmail and chain and shield for most attacks, with the full table consulted for the rare other armors amongst the dwarves or other enemies.

Chainmail had awesomely powerful wizards with unlimited fireball or lightning attacks plus a few spells. With factions this small, I'll have to tone that down a bit or avoid spellcasters. Not much fun to see half your goblins go up in a fireball.

I don't have a formal map yet, but I know the characteristics it should have and did a bit of crude sketching. There should be very few door bottlenecks that would constrict the frontage to just one or two for one side, as they lead to stagnant ambush setups. Doors would mostly be into surprise rooms and possibly some narrow secondary routes.  It needs to be a highly networked dungeon so there is plenty of opportunities for lateral or flanking moves. There should be some big central chambers where battles can broaden out with multiple entrances. I'll probably do some second elevation stuff on the main map but not a full break out of two dungeon level maps with notional stairway linkage. I'm thinking about whether to have some of the map covered initially for some double blindness to the action or if the spectacle of an exposed dungeon is preferable. Probably the latter. Maybe just cover isolated rooms or the middle part of the map until it is explored. The two long sides of the table would have the entrance zones of the big factions, and the small ones either enter from the short sides or vertically somewhere in the middle.

Objectives... The two big sides will each score for killing their hated enemy, but not for killing the smaller sides. Everybody scores for finding loot which will be scattered around. The delvers probably score double for loot, monsters from below score for killing, capturing or recruiting anybody. Probably set up one to three strategic rooms that have value to being "King of the Dungeon" and holding at the end. Personal goals like rival goblin clans or dwarven hero bands that want to see themselves do better than a particular ally on some goal. Some valuable portable maguffin. A couple of entertaining magic items.

I'll probably use some variant on the basic morale rules to give some ebb and flow to combat between rounds, with recoils being a possible result after some losses, so it isn't pure rush up, grind down in a stationary fight to morale checks, and then melt away in a rout.

If short of players, the sides adjust something like:

7 Drop the monsters from below, reintroduce if somebody wanders up.
6 Put them back but only have two dwarf and two goblin factions.
5 Do both reductions above.
4 Have all four sides, with dwarf and goblin players each getting about half a player's group extra.
3 Like 4 without the monsters faction or I play the monsters faction.
2 Just line up all the dwarves on one side and all the goblin/orc faction on the other, drop the internal competition goals. Introduce reduced delver and/or monster factions on autopilot die rolls.
1 I fill in for one side in the two sided scenario.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dwarven Forge Dwarvenite Dungeons

I backed the Dwarven Forge Kickstarter for their new Dwarvenite terrain pieces. I am entirely satisfied with the majority that I got unpainted. The pre-painted stuff less so. What bugs me about the prepainted stuff is how they left out the gray maincoat that would make it match the older Mastermaze scenery reasonably well. Instead the new stuff appears to have the olive drybrush layer directly over the black Dwarvenite and picked out detail stones for a very high contrast look.  I might repaint some of it to be more similar to Mastermaze standards. Also I'd have preferred the metal bits of chests and doors to be a duller iron or steel color rather than a bright silver, so I'm going over the hardware bits with a gunmetal color to dull them down a bit.

Anyway, I painted some of the new stuff in a cooler gray, aiming to be a bit more compatible, and part in a warmer earth tone palette for some contrasting sections.

Here is how they came out. I ended up kind of bracketing the old Mastermaze color scheme.

Warm scheme

Cool scheme

That's a piece of Mastermaze at the back left of the gray pieces for comparison of how they came out. They would look more similar if I'd used a lighter undercoat gray and more of a more olive highlight.

I really enjoyed painting these up. They go very quickly. So far I put in about 6 hours on Saturday and 2-3 tonight and have a lot of playable pieces and and started off another batch in the warm scheme tonight, after finishing up the drybrush layer on the cool scheme pieces.

Each batch had a medium to dark undertone, a contrasting color to pick out blocks, and a lighter color drybrushed over. The main color in the warm scheme is the pick out block color in the cool scheme. The pickout color in the warm scheme is a brick red-brown. The warm scheme got a tan drybrush highlight. The cool scheme got a light gray with some olive in it for the highlight.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Looking for a friend, Found my old rules

Over my morning coffee, I started a little web search to try to get back in touch with old gaming buddy Kerry Hanscom who moved away to Arizona something like 8 years ago. I'd subsequently lost his email address when changing jobs.

A search on his name turned it up in the acknowledgements in my Rencounter rules set, which I found as a PDF at I'm glad to see them still available.

Back in '95 I started Ed's Hobby Hovel, a gaming and pre-blog personal website on which I cut my teeth at HTML, CGI programming, connecting databases to the web, and such arcana. It was a passion project, getting wargaming stuff onto the web when there was pretty much none. At first it was Bill Armintrout and me and a few other pioneers, now the blogs are legion. It ran initially off of my desktop Mac while I worked at Stanford as a programmer and sysadmin, and then hummed along on the desk behind me after I upgraded to a new machine for my work. It was a pretty good deal for Stanford too, as everything I learned plowed back into helping other programmers and scientists webify their projects. The Yeast Deletion Project database inherited technologically directly from the Wargame Opponent Finder. After many long years in service, that machine Tetrad wore out and I never got around to standing the site back up on another computer.

One of the core pages of The Hobby Hovel was the Rencounter Skirmish Rules which I had evolved as a club set starting from the classic Colonial Skirmish Wargame Rules 1850-1900.  After many experiments with alternate approaches to sequencing, I eventually swapped out the combat rules for my own, so as to have something that was inspired by the Colonial set, but not infringing on it. And I've been partial to D12 based mechanics for a few decades now, since first playing Starguard.

Reposting Hobby Hovel content, and especially these rules has been one of my many backburnered projects, so its nice I can simply link to them while I procrastinate on the project of working up another version, with improved production values and the later variant of the combat system.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Ouro Burrows

Legend has it that a voracious Purple Worm burrowed out these tunnels long ago. After the worm left, a couple generations of sentient creatures found it easier to move in than to dig through stone themselves.

Some notable features:

The chevron arrows point up slopes.

A1 An elevated platform with a ladder up to it on the left side.

A5 & G7  Irregular pits

B4 I don't know what this is yet. Maybe a mysterious energy field, maybe a plug that fills in a vertical shaft that goes down into the route the worm departed from here to deeper parts unknown.

C7 Another vertical hole from an upper tunnel down to the lower tunnel where a groundwater spring feeds a pool.

D5 metal bar walls and gates.

E2 Partial cave in of both the upper and lower tunnels. There is a hole in the floor of the upper one that opens through the ceiling of the lower one.

F2 The cave in blocks the entrance of an old temple with undead occupants.

G5 The entrance to the burrow.

(I drew this over my morning mocha. I will rescan a straighter image later.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

All Things Zombie Kickstarter

Ed Teixeira has a small Kickstarter going for new 28mm figures for All Things Zombie, an expansion to the game, and nice cards for referencing stats. The figures include zombies and some survivors and a few other creatures: werewolves, vampires, and mages for modern horror & fantasy, with whatever RPG or skirmish game you prefer.

If you aren't familiar with the rules, they are definitely worth a try. I've had the original game and other two supplements read and re-read on my pile'o'rules for awhile now. Haven't played it since my few modern zombies are unpainted and other periods have kept my reduced painting time busy.  I do have experience with the mechanics though, having run his "Six Gun Sound" Old West game a few times and played the WWII version with him once at the minicon in Alameda. It's a solid skirmish system with unusual mechanics and make for a fun, quick game.

Playing too much of The Secret World

I started playing The Secret World this summer when it was on sale on Steam and Guild Wars 2 had started to bore me. It has eaten up a lot of my time since. So here's my review of the game.

The Secret World is an MMO with a modern horror/magic/conspiracies theme. Each player character is in one of three factions, the Templars, Illuminati, and the Dragon. Think paladins from London, manipulative business types from New York and agents of Chaos from the Far East for organizational flavor text but pretty much mirror image functionality. All three are in a low level secret war for dominance but basically go through 95% the same quests to make discoveries and save the world as they go through the game. Missions are undertaken in places that are being overtaken by various evil magical or mysterious forces. There's a lot of Cthulhu mythos type magic via invasive power from other dimensions in the lore. That's not much of a spoiler since you encounter it very early in the game. The first mission zone is basically Lovecraftian New England in the middle of a mini-zombie apocalypse.

It came out last year, but after one of their pre-release weekends I had trouble trying to buy it from them online, so I passed for awhile. Now it is buy once and then "free" but you can figure on spending at least another $20 or so in the cash store for two paid content expansions.  They give you some free bonus points to try the store that will buy one of the three. The cash store also offers extras like titles, potions, clothing, and the like, but the two issues are the only "must have" items and only you keep playing after a couple months (assuming 10-20 hours a week). Optional subscription gives some benefits, but I haven't found it compelling.

Mechanically, it has an interesting skill and gear based progression system. You have two kinds of points to spend on your character as you gain experience, APs and SPs.

APs buy skills you can slot in to use (up to 7 active skills in use at any one time split between two weapons and 7 passives, later on adding one active and one passive for an auxiliary weapon). They start cheap but get progressively more expensive in APs, 1-50. There's an inner wheel of two banks of AP skills for each weapon, each bank scaling up 1-7 points for basic skills, and several banks for each weapon on the outer wheel with costs starting at 9 and going up to 50 in each bank. You'll start off with skills in two weapons, but as you fill them out, you branch out and do others, and can build up decks of abilities that mix and match pairs of weapons, plus possibly complimentary passive skills from other weapons. There are also three special non-weapon outer banks that can be mixed in, one for tanky skills, one for avoiding aggro, and one for some utilities. I currently have about half of the skills unlocked and can do some pretty interesting mixing and matching to vary the playstyle as I get bored or to fit the situation or adjust to be more damage or heals or tanky for trinity dungeon play or make more subtle tweaks when refighting a tough encounter in a dungeon.

SPs accrue at a bit less than half the rate of APs and are used to unlock progressively better gear. Each weapon has two scales that go 1-10 in terms of cost to buy the next level and the level of the item you can use. Your character has seven other magic item slots for Talismans, that also get skilled up. It is worthwhile to keep these within a point of the skill level on the weapons. I gimped myself for awhile by concentrating on weapons first. The stat bonuses from weapons and talismans provide enhanced damage dealing and damage reduction along several mechanical axes. There are three basics - Attack, Hit Points, and Healing, and several secondary ones to enhance penetration or blocking of penetration, critical hits chance and effect, evading being hit, damage reduction from physical and magical damage sources, etc.

Eventually you can unlock all the skills, and your only differentiation from other maxed out people is deck preference, not actually having a fixed class specialty like in most MMOs. This is both good and bad.

While levelling up gear was pretty much a matter of using a mishmash of whatever dropped or came as quest rewards or turned up at a reasonable price in the auction house. Doing an occasional dungeon can load you up with some blue items that are statted better than the basic greens you get while wandering around the world, making it worthwhile to do the 5 player dungeons even if you typically solo. Once skilled up to use level 10 gear, you'll want to do either a lot of dungeons or the 10 character raids into raid zones, to get filled up on a mixed set of blues, and to do all the dungeons at elite level to unlock nightmare level for further gear progression.

Crafting is a matter of breaking items down into materials and combining lower tier materials into higher tier ones or following recipes to combine materials with a toolkit to make stuff. I laid out the first page of my bank storage as a big 2D array of crafting materials with a vector for each kind of material in its different grades. Every so often I pull out stacks and do the 5 to 1 render of the stacks up to the next level, then that level to the next, etc, until I accumulate most of them at the top tier. I haven't actually made too many items yet, as I usually haven't been positioned to make useful things. I made my gadgets, a couple weapons, and a few glyphs that go into weapons to imbue them with secondary stats. Mostly I am stacking up materials for when I eventually get useful blue or purple toolkit drops.

The "missions" are well written as MMOs go and full of lore flavor.  Many are surprisingly atmospheric. A few are very funny. A few missions have puzzles that either make you do things like copy encoded text to decrypt by writing an appropriate script or finding a tool on the web, or foreign languages text to translate. I'm sure there is great satisfaction to puzzle solvers who actually take the time to solve those. If I could have control-C copied out the encoded data and pasted to a text file instead of retyping it from the image, I might have done so when I recognized the encoding schemes. But I tend to want to get on with it and hit the guides at or one of the wikis rather than playing out the trickier puzzles like a purist. There are a LOT of missions. I completed the main story line a few weeks ago, and between ones I missed and ones from the expansions for issues 5, 6, and 7, I still have plenty to do the first time.

Solo mission and open world hunting play is almost all DPS or DPS hybrid decks. Though for the odd get in and get out without killing things scenarios. This morning I decided to try to finish collecting the exploration locations for a map in Transylvania. That meant tagging map locations without a raid group in the lethal to solos monastery raid zone. Eventually I optimized on a tank/heal hybrid casting stun-heal-heal-heal as I ran past and away from monsters, which meant fewer deaths and an amusing variant stealth/ flight survival minigame.

The dungeons I've been to so far are well done. I haven't played all of them yet, since I do more open world mission play. If you stick with the game you'll run the dungeons at three levels, normal as you level up or help lowbie friends later, elite when you hit 10, and then when you've done all at Elite and beaten The Gatekeeper you unlock the ability to go back and do them at Nightmare level and start getting purple items as boss drops, and earning a currency that lets you buy purple items and kits that upgrade them. So far, I've only done three at Elite, so I haven't experienced Nightmare level. Most people tend to break out the 5 character group as Tank, Healer, 3 DPS, though it can shade with some people doing hybrids to beef up on the tank or heal side of DPS. In raid groups before my healing skills and gear were very good, I did a fair amount of DPS/backup healer hybrid, especially for the big boss fights. I did my first main healer runs yesterday.

For PVP there are a couple short game grab and hold the widget zones for small teams and a bigger team continous conquest zones. There are some benefits to players of the side that is winning the secret war but not enough to be really noticeable. PVP is another source of equipment, prestige rewards and costume parts. I have not played much PVP in TSW yet, finding it less compelling than prior experiences in DAOC, Planetside 1 and 2, and GW 2. I've been trying it a bit lately but not enough yet to get my first PVP purple item which from what I can see in the most significant reward.

One thing I did not notice for a long time is that permanent run speed buffs are available from a merchant in your faction headquarters for the basic currency. As you gain faction rank you can buy higher buffs to run faster. You'll do a lot of running to get around maps and tactically for evasion, so it behooves you to buy these sooner rather than later. Its much nicer to buy a speed buff than a couple more costume pieces. I did not realize when I first encountered them that these were permanent and then kind of forgot about them until I asked one of the guys that kept having to wait for me to catch up where he got it.

I joined a very pleasant Templar "Cabal" - TSW's synonym for guild, The Order of Pie, with my main toon. It's a nice bunch of people for raids, dungeons, or paired mission runs. They are friendly, helpful, and low drama.

There are some glitches in the game that annoy, like the alt key to retarget heals to yourself not working well, so you have to hit it a few times to make it stick, and the usual MMO server sync lag and mission bugs, and some weird UI decisions in missions.

Overall, the experience for me has been about as good as my previous favorite MMORPG, Dark Age of Camelot, with a different batch of plusses and minuses, and that is pretty good for a game that comes after so many others in the genre, factoring in the been-there-done-that element. Its an excellent solo PVE game, very good group PVE game, and okay PVP game. Might even be a good PVP game for awhile if you are in the right cabal that is focused on the PVP experience and not doing it as a sideline.

At least up to the point where I'm at there are always several competing goals to work on. At the moment, I have the flamethrower auxilliary weapon to finish collecting SPs to unlock, fist weapons to finish the healing skills on, the missile launcher to pick up more skills on, blood magic and shotguns to develop to be interesting, blades nearly complete to finish off as my skills to do list, with a lot more skills around the wheels for later. I'm in the first mission of Issue 6, trying to figure out how to get into a date processing plant guarded by cultists and surveillance cameras. I need to complete the rest of the dungeons on Elite, so I can unlock Nightmare and start improving my gear again. I am getting close to a purple item from PVP,  and I can rerun Issue 7 to get a purple signet for the reward item from the first time through.

A little dungeon

Did this little dungeon map at the cafe today as a warmup before getting back to work on the city. Enjoyed Dyson's tutorials so I was curious what I could do in that vein from memory. The hachures vary as I experimented with what kind of strokes I liked.

A City in Ruin

Drew this map for a D&D game I've been running at lunchtime on Thursdays at work. The party is finally getting close enough that I need one of the area around a key temple. It's a bit of an experiment with drawing maps plain without any squaring up by graph paper or drafting tools, irregularity to the architecture fitting the setting.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Smugglers' Docks Camera Test

Took a bunch of pics tonight of figures I might use for Smuggler's Docks.  Used an old Nikon Coolpix 4200, which can do pretty good macro photos, but had no good lighting set up. Did a few with the flash and the rest with room light only, which came out really yellow. Did not set up tripod, just rested camera on the tabletop. Tried some color correction in iPhoto, but will really have to reshoot the lot outdoors or with some serious lights. Also played some with cropping and matting in iPhoto. Will replace all of these with better photos and work the final photos into final group sheets with stats. Anyway it made for a fun evening of experimentation, and gave me a chance to do some graphical content beyond that cheesy map sketch. 

Need more steps of matting if I'm going to do it at all. Euripides Club. Flash photo. 
Ditto. I think this Foundry guy is supposed to be Bat Masterson, but he'll do for English if the star is ignored.

Same figure without flash. Really yellow. Looked better on back of camera. That's a blurry mechanical man from the GURPS steampunk set in the background. 

His Lordship'ss face needs some reworking.

This gent'ss hat is dinged up and needs retouching. He's a RAFM ACW duelling officer.

Why does this guy's face always come in out of focus? It was like this in several shots. I guess he's leaning forward a bit and depth of field is negligible, with autofocus getting the sword hand or body right. Will have to focus on his face in the reshoot.  Gave him a lots of push towards cool coloring to try to offset some of the yellowing. Didn't really help. He's the likely initial President of the Euripides club, anyway.

If I remember right, this guy is a Foundry Franco Prussian War civilian. He'll do for a long arm in the Euripides Club.

Another E.C. member with a battered hat needing touchup. He's the same officer figure as above with the hat cut down and sabre removed.

The doctor seems more likely an NPC but could be among the Gentlemen in a pinch.

Mad scientist, first appeared in my Pacificon Deadlands game a couple years ago. No scenario role yet. I forget where he comes from. 40K maybe?

Another mad scientist with an infernal device and weird armor. Possibly for use later when there are more points in play for fancier devices. A Malifaux figure.

Not exactly a gentleman, more of a Quatermain in Africa sort. But I like him a lot. Looks like 6 steps of matting is enough. But I see some at the corners, so maybe I color corrected after matting?

This pirate isn't finished yet, but he's starting to look presentable. There are several more on my painting table about this far along.

I'm fond of this pirate. Will either have to call that gun a heavy pistol or pay for it as a blunderbuss.

This Ral Partha pirate is done mostly in inks, recently finished up.

The hounds for the Cossack version of the Wolfen Jaeger

Foundry Frei Korps Kapitan

Frei Korps Officer

Foundry Darkest Africa guy, has a musket on his back, will probably be in Pirate crew.

Cossack with blunderbuss. The Cossacks and Frei Korps were originally paired opponents so could do an Eastern European port or docks in a river town and use Cossacks for the Pirate side in Cutlass sometimes I suppose. Seems to be the only Cossack photo of the batch that I uploaded, aside from the dogs.

Arab or Turkish pirate.

 Frei korps musketeer. More like him and some in other poses. Its a nice pack for skirmish gaming. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Somebody Make this Monster

 This is a Boarcroc.

That's not my name for it, it is the scientific common name for Kaprosuchus saharicus, a recently (2009) discovered crocodilian found in the Sahara, one of five species that hit the news from the same research team together. 100 million years ago, there were a lot more species in the crocodilians. And this one is maybe the most fun among them for it's gaming potential. Though there is something to be said for the Supercroc as well.

The boarcroc is one of the scariest animals ever, and right up there with Mantis Shrimp* as an underused real world creature to D&D monster.

The boarcroc a twenty foot long, galloping crocodile that hunted dinosaurs. I love the ferocity of this picture.  I've seen it on a number of websites (Artist- Todd Marshall according to Paleoillustration).
 Some of the other sources show shorter hind legs. But this is the best picture for gaming inspiration.

It totally deserves to be in games and have a miniature as cool as this picture.

* The Mantis Shrimp or stomatopod is wildly colorful and at a few inches long. The hammer armed species hit like a .22, and they are known for breaking aquarium glass. There are spearing species that strike just as fast. In game terms, they can see behind them with their stalked eyes and probably see invisible since they see UV as well as visible light with their very complex eyes. What's not to love with scaling up that critter? I put them into my D&D game back in the 70s when I first read about them in Scientific American. Giant ones turned up in Pathfinder or D&D 4th recently, which is the first published appearance I know of.

Smuggler's Docks 5: Beginning to plan a tabletop layout

Both Cutlass and Empire of the Dead expect a 4' by 4' standard tabletop. I can go with that and have part of it be water, or go a bit longer, maybe 4' by 5' or 4' by 6' so that with part as water, the playable land area is about 4' by 4'.

The first might look something like this crappy Paint pic:

I'll have to play around a bit with layouts until one feels right. It will probably take arranging pieces of scenery on the tabletop and not just map sketching.

Looking it back over after a few days, that central group of three buildings would need to come out to make some open space, maybe just have some crate piles there to break up the open area with some cover. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Smugglers' Docks 4: A Marine Squad and a Pirate Gang for Black Scorpion's Cutlass Rules

Cutlass is the second set of rules I plan to try in the Smugglers' Docks scenario.

For it I intend to assemble a Pirates Gang and Royal Marines squad (off the Royal Navy list, but doing all officers and marines, no sailors). At least initially, the Marines will be represented by an old squad of Foundry Prussian Frei Korps.

Building a campaign starter force for one player in Cutlass is very similar to doing so for Empire of the Dead. You'll have a list of leaders and troops to buy and equipment to arm them with. The budget is $500 but they explain the "dollar" unit is a convenience and can be what you want it to be, pieces of eight or whatever.
The prices for people are all higher than in Empire of the Dead, but the equipment is similar so the force size will work out a bit bigger.

The Marines being more uniform, let's consider them first.
Captain $86 Level 7
Officer - $58 Level 5
5 Marines @$44 Level 3 $220
1 Able Seaman $36 Level 1
Will detail the stats and skills later.

$400 for personnel leaves $100 for gear.

Brace of 2 Duelling Pistols and a Longsword for the Captain $16 + $5 = $21
Brace of 2 Ship's Pistols and a Longsword for the Officer $12 + $5 = $17
Musket, Bayonet $7 + 5 = $12  x 5 = $60
Cudgel for Able Seaman - free

$98, banking $2

Pirate Captain  $86 Level 7
Officer - $58 Level 5
3 Pirates @$44 Level 3 $132
3 Rogues @$36 Level 1 $108

$384 for the crew, leaves $116 for gear.

Brace of 2 Duelling Pistols, a Cutlass, and a Dagger for the Captain $16 + $4 + $4 = $24
Brace of 2 Duelling Pistols, a Cutlass, and a Dagger for the Officer  $16 + $4 + $4 = $24
Musket, Cutlass $7 + 4 = $11
Brace of Ship's Pistols and Cutlass $12 + 4 = $16
Ship's Pistol and Cutlass $6 + $4 = 10
Cutlass + Dagger  $8
Axe +  Dagger $8
Two Cutlasses $8
That's $109 so  $7 left, buy the Captain an Amulet for $5 and bank $2

All the lists in Cutlass have the same level/costing distribution, differing in details of the stats, skills, and special rules for each faction, but they have a formula to buy figures by each statistic and skill, so you could be more freeform.

There are a lot fewer equipment options in Cutlass than in Empire of the Dead, and the list tends to provide slightly larger groups, though you could stock up on up to four level 5s, the 7 leader, and fewer 1s and 3s to end with six or seven guys. In either game, paint twenty figures and you can play two sides with a few options.

Now its time to start taking some pictures...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Smugglers' Docks part 3: Wulfen Jaeger for Empire of the Dead

The Euripides Club will need opposition. I have some Cossack figures and some Irish Wolfhounds that will do fine for Wulfen Jaeger from a bit farther east. Their costumes are a bit different, and similarly early in style, and their weapons match well. Google Translate says they are Volka Okhotniki. 

I'm purchasing a list at 150 points to match. 10 off the top pays for being a Gentlemen's Club variant.
They'll have +1 Combat and -1 shooting, so should go for a lot of melee weapons in the mix. +1 Bravado vs supernatural creatures. They can buy wolfhounds for 20 points each as subordinates. 

Digging through Wikipedia, looks like we can call the group a Plastun.
Starshina - Leader (seems to be more of a sergeant later) as President  20
Chorąży  - a junior officer as as Secretary 15
Two Wolfhounds 2 x 20 = 40
Two Cossacks 2 x 10 = 20

This leave 45 for equipment.

Blunderbuss as a Sawn off 6
Hunting Rifle 10
Two Heavy Pistols   14
4 Swords 12
3 Knives  3

Each will get a gun and a sword, three will have knives.

The Reaper Bones II Kickstarter is up!

But the connection to Amazon to actually join it was down for me a couple minutes ago. :(
 .... later ....
Eventually I got through, so I'm in now.