Monday, July 23, 2012

Historicon 2012

This may end up a somewhat abbreviated report, which is sort of appropriate as Historicon seemed like a somewhat abbreviated convention--in both cases due to my recent change of circumstances: new job, new town, and no internet connection at my new place. (I'm impinging on the local Starbucks as I write.)

Anyway, I had originally planned to run a couple of Bronze Age games on Friday, but as my job started Monday, that turned out to be impractical, instead I found myself driving down from Germantown to Fredricksburg through rush-hour traffic on I-95 with no one but my not-so-trustworthy GPS for company. I arrived just in time to lend Dad a bit of assistance in running the first of his official NQSYW games. ("Official" because I'm given to understand I missed a pick-up game on Thursday night.) As always, casualties were heavy (particularly among my hussars--a theme that would continue throughout the convention) but at least some of the Wachovian infantry survived to see their side win a skin-of-the-teeth victory (from their vantage point holed up in a walled farmhouse--about the best place to be in Charge!)

Saturday morning I got around to picking up my one-day badge and sifting through the rather sparse collection of games, eventually ending up with a ticket for a French Foreign Legion vs. Arabs game using The Sword & The Flame, of which more will be said in due course. We then headed over to the flea market, where we each found something of interest. Dad came home with a selection of someone's Meisterzinn castings, mostly 18th century but with a few Renaissance arquebusiers thrown in for variety. I ran across a Bronze Age fort section; resin wall, tower, and gatehouse pieces that I think were intended for 15mm but which should still be reasonable with my 20mm plastics. And William bought an entire Playmobil pirate ship, for the munificent sum of $12 dollars. If he does manage to get that painted up for use with his selection of 40mm pirates, it should be quite a sight... but he had an interesting time finding space for that one in Dad's car.

At 1:00 pm, Dad ran his second NQSYW game. Three players turned up, so William got a chance to command his Wiegenburgers as a fourth, while I again took on the assistant gamemaster role. The scenario saw Pragmatic Coalition troops (Schoeffen-Buschhagen and allies) attempting to push a Stanzbach-Anwatsch regiment off a hill before they could be relieved by their North Polenburg allies. This game saw the Pragmatics gain a somewhat clearer victory, and all the players seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Dad and William get the Pragmatic troops set up.

Wachovian light infantry doing what they do best.

The view from the ridge.

The attack goes in!

Pragmatics press forward.

Ranks are getting thinner. Meanwhile in the background, the Wachovian hussars get pummeled again...

North Polenburg commander bringing the relief column forward.

View from the Pragmatic side.

Working on a very messy cavalry melee...

The Wachovians have gained the ridge, but at what cost?

Wiegenburg guns and infantry prepare to decimate the advancing North Polenburgers.

The third game, from the glimpses I saw of it, appeared to be a military disaster for the Pragmatic side, but presumably Dad can talk about that a bit more in his report. I, on the other hand, was off playing colonials... or rather, not playing Colonials, as I ended up commanding the reinforcements that didn't arrive for nine turns. (By which time we had pretty much lost--I had a brief shining chance to affect the game if the initiative cards came up right... so naturally they didn't. Ah well.)

At least the figures were nice.

After helping Dad get everything packed away, I headed back to my new place Sunday morning--this time through more reasonable traffic, and with another convention behind me.

(Fortunately, Dad also got a chance to hand off my desk lamp, which I had left at home--so now maybe I can get some painting done in the evenings...)

A couple more pictures of other interesting games in the HAWKS room:
Gaslight Extravaganza... on Mars!

Blood & Swash western shenanigans... on a train!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wachovian hussar officer

Well, it's been a long time coming, but the first of the new squadron of Wachovian hussars is finally here! I've had the whole batch of them primed and ready to go, sitting on my painting surface for the past couple of days, and last night I sat down and got the officer painted up. He's shown here with the officer from the first squadron, a veteran of many battles. (The new guy is on the right--as always, I'm kind of interested to note how my painting style has evolved.) Perhaps the new squadron will have greater success against the regiment's mortal foe--the Yellow Hussars of Rosmark...

(And hopefully I'll have the eight troopers done in a timely fashion.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Maps, part VII

Haven't done one of these for a while; guess it's time for another! Remember, these are alternate history. Don't use them for your school reports.

First up, a map showing the empire of a more successful Queen Zenobia of Palmyra!
Aurelian gets killed a stray arrow, and the Crisis of the Third Century goes even worse for the Rome--the Goths have fun plundering everything that isn't nailed down, while the Empire fractures permanently into several successors--including Queen Zenobia's realm of Palmyra in the east, as Palmyrene cataphracts smash both Gothic raiders and the Italian emperor's half-hearted attempt at reconquest. The map shows the Palmyrene Empire at the time of Queen Zenobia's death in 310 A.D. (Technically the former Queen-Regent Zenobia, as her son Vaballathus came into his majority some years back.)

Next up: a world where horses were never domesticated, and the Bactrian camel is the riding animal of choice!
At some point in prehistory, Eurasian wild horses undergo a slight mutation, resulting in slight behavioral changes that render it unsuitable for domestication, much like its relative the zebra. Instead, the Bactrian camel takes the role of the primary riding animal throughout northern Eurasia, while its dromedary cousin plays a similar role in Africa and parts of the Middle East. (Oxen and donkeys are also used in various capacities.)
A certain number of butterflies are in effect here, but the majority of them do not become apparent until the Indo-European expansion of our world fails to occur on schedule. (Some Indo-European speaking groups do make their way into Europe, but their accomplishments are minimal compared to our world.) For the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and their neighbors, the broad strokes are much the same, though most recognizable individuals have been butterflied away, and any specialist would be able to point to a number of differences.
Around 2000 BCE, the Bactrian camel is domesticated, much as it was in our world--however, this gives the first adopters a comparatively greater advantage than they had in our world, as the Bactrian camel spreads across Eurasia. (Domestication of the dromedary occurs in a similar timeframe, but is outside the scope of this map.) As with the horse in our world, not all the Bactrian-riding cultures are closely related to the original developers, though many of them are. The introduction of domestic camels and the absence of horses will be the final element in setting this world on a divergent path--by 2012, pretty much no elements of language or ethnicity will be recognizable...

A map focused on New Guinea, because there aren't enough of those!
A PoD somewhere in the 18th century shakes up the balance of power in the East Indies--the Dutch lose some parts of what would have been Indonesia, but gain a piece of western Australia. Time passes; colonialism goes in and out of fashion. Radical ideologies reshape Europe and the rest of the world. Former colonies gain varying degrees of independence. An organization called the International League is formed to prevent the horrors of industrial war from revisiting the world. Over the decades, its mandate evolves until International League troops are being deployed in various troubled parts of the globe far from the centers of power. 
One of these is New Guinea, or as the natives call it, Papua--the Disunited Land. Never terribly profitable, various parts of the island kept getting swapped around between the colonial powers, and as a result not much infrastructure ended up getting built. As of forty years ago, New Guinea was still divided between three countries. The Dutch sector was the first to gain independence, as the Republiek van Nieuw-Guinea, followed soon after by former Portuguese Menesesia, which became the República da Menesesia. British Papua was granted independence about five years later as East Papua, just in time to be invaded by the newly unified "Provisional Republic of Papua," consisting of the first two. 
While East Papua was eventual overrun and incorporated into the PRP, the Provisional Republic fared poorly--only by sheer numbers had it won the day, and the new country was coming apart at the seams under the stress. Corruption was rampant. Many of the newly-appointed generals were running their territories effectively as independent fiefs, with some going so far as to broker deals with foreign mineral consortiums and arms manufacturers in order to maintain their power. Ethnic violence and sectional conflicts both boiled over, following a coup attempt, and East Papua made a bid to regain its independence. 
Currently, the entire island is nominally under the control of the Second Provisional Republic of Papua, but their control barely extends beyond artillery range of the capital. The East Papuan government has regained most of former British Papua, but their independence is still not recognized by much of the world. (With the exception of Australia, which prefers them to the PRP as far as neighbors go, and supports them with the occasional arms shipment.) The remainder of the island is a stew of warlords, Islamic radicals, leftist rebels, and stone-age tribes whose introduction to the wonders of modern technology has been the assault rifle. In recent years, pirates have begun to harass shipping through the region, and the International League has put up a cordon and dispatched peacekeeping forces to occupy several coastal cities in an effort to deal with this problem, but for the foreseeable future, Papua will continue to live up to its name...

Finally, a world locked in a cold war between Imperial Germany and... the Utopian States of America?

Sometime in the 1820's, Robert Owen's life takes a slightly different term. While his views on human society remain much the same, he does not attempt to put his theory into practice with the "New Harmony" settlement--instead, he devotes his time to writing more books, including one called Towards An Improved Human Society which describes a world made up of so-called "townships" of a a few thousand people, each formed around some common trade or attribute, and how a greater society of these townships might be formed. Without the failure of New Harmony to discredit it, these views remain popular in certain intellectual circles; later writers build upon them to form the basis of what is known as the Utopian Movement.
In the United States, Utopian ideas stay mostly below the surface into the mid-19th century, as the country is busy with a civil war and a period of Reconstruction which both proceed much as in our own world. (Although Seward never ends up purchasing Alaska, for one thing.) However, the turbulent era of economic growth and experimentation followed by a severe depression leads to Utopian ideas gaining a wider audience, and a number of Owenite and similar communities  are founded throughout the country. A few of these prosper, and others emulate them. A second wave of Utopian philosophy and political thought develops during this period, and some Utopian communities remain even as the country recovers.
The US manages to avoid getting involved in this world's equivalent of World War I, which occurs in the 1890's and sees Britain and Germany defeat France and Russia. Unfortunately, it does not manage to avoid a second round of economic malaise, and in the aftermath of that, the Utopians emerge as a major political party for the first time. A perfect storm of charismatic leaders, clever politicking, and a few dirty tricks puts the Utopians in power by 1912, and pretty soon a few minor reforms have snowballed into a "Fifty Year Plan" to reshape the country along Utopian lines. Citizens are encouraged to join "phalansteries," the descendants of Owen's "townships"; eventually membership becomes mandatory, and the phalansteries evolve into economic and administrative units. After a dismal showing backing the Germans in the Second European War, the military is reformed along Utopian lines. Dissenters are assigned to "special education phalansteries"; some flee abroad instead. By the time the first generation of collectively-raised children comes to adulthood, America is an entirely different place.
In the meantime, Germany has been building a more conventional powerbase, balancing imperial authority with a modicum of constitutional reform, and harnessing growing industry with a system of powerful cartels. The Second European War saw revanchist elements in France and Russia defeated decisively;  the formation of the Eurobund established German economic and political leadership of the continent. Britain has remained acquiescent, more concerned with trying to hold its empire together than challenging German dominance.
The success of the Utopians in America has inspired similar movements elsewhere; the details vary widely, and poor Robert Owen would be appalled by many of the results. Perhaps the largest is the "Peach Blossom Movement," which has reunified much of the country, formerly a mess of warlordism and European interference. Liberia's ties to the US have extended to the Utopian ideology; the Liberian variant is virulently anti-colonialist as well, much to the distress of the Eurobund, which is struggling to maintain its influence abroad. Britain's attempts to hold onto its empire have been largely unsuccessful: India was a spectacular and bloody failure; much of Africa was less spectacular but equally bloody, and the "white dominions" are largely autonomous these days--with the exception of Canada, which is extremely concerned about its southern neighbor. Russia has recently slipped the German leash--still annoyed by the loss of Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltics, it has been cozying up to the US.
Atomic weapons have been developed by both German and American scientists, but rocket technology lags significantly behind our world; vast fleets of jet bombers are still the delivery system of choice. In fact, technology in general lags behind our world--despite the propaganda, the US system does not work nearly as well as advertised, and a significant amount of its brainpower is devoted to working the bugs out of that system--and what with one thing and another, the Germans aren't much better off. Space travel is still out of the picture, but the Americans have been working on building a self-sufficient community in Antarctica to serve as a model for the next stage of Utopia... if no one ends the world first.

(Yes, I've been going through one of my "weird map projection" phases...)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Green Menace

Orcs! Yes, this staple fantasy army has worked its way up to the top of my to-do pile. I did up a couple of stands of Caesar Minatures' Orcs in the past, but what good are just a couple of stands? Orcs really cry out to be deployed in piles and piles, and while my supply of paintable orcs is limited, it should at least stretch to cover a Hordes of the Things army. And with this week's painting, I'm now about halfway there. (At least when one counts their potential Beast allies that I did back in January.)

I'm not going to dwell on the foot, since one warband looks pretty much like another (especially when they all contain the same five or six poses) and to be honest, the painting is not exactly at my highest level, but here's a closer look at the riders:

(Yes, I nicked the idea from Paul of Paul's Bods. Always borrow from the best!) I realized I was going to end up with some extra archers, and I have a few spare Mongol horses lying around, so with a bit of trimming I managed to turn out these guys. There'll be a second stand eventually, but I'm not quite sure whether I'll use the same poses or try to switch it up a bit. Some might ask whether orcs ought not to be riding wolves instead, to which my reply is that it's much easier to find little plastic horses than little plastic wolves of the proper size. Besides, this way I can easily distinguish between Beasts and Riders for HotT purposes.

Anyway, I have the rest of the Orcish army pretty well planned out. Evidence would suggest that this means I'm about to move on to something else and this is the last you'll hear of them for a few months.

(Actually, if I move on to something else, there's a good chance it might be the long-awaited second squadron of Wachovian Hussars. I've had NQSYW on the brain lately, and Dad's running some games at Historicon...)

Coming soon?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Get Me To The Temple On Time" playtest

(Where does the title come from, you may ask?)

I had a number of my friends over yesterday to try out a Bronze Age scenario that's been in the works for some time now--based around the mysterious disappearance of a Hittite prince en route to Egypt where he was going to marry King Tutankhamen's widow. (It's historical, see?) The rules were nominally the same as the last time I had the Bronze Age figures out for a game. (See parts 1 & 2) and the forces were split into four commands, two for each side.

This is where I may have gotten a little too clever--I gave each factions a slightly different list of goals, which wasn't a problem, but then I set the starting positions so that each faction would have the most difficult time achieving all the items on their list. (Again, not an issue from a balance standpoint per se, but it meant that everything sort of devolved into one big battle, which is not quite what I had envisioned.) Also, I started the two Egyptian players on table and had the Hittites enter along roads--in retrospect, I think it would have been better the other way around. Oh well--that's what playtesting is for. Everyone seemed to have a good time, despite the sweltering heat that's been afflicting the East Coast lately, so I think I'll count this as a success.

Some pictures, which alas are not my best. (Turns out it's difficult to take pictures and keep the game moving at a reasonable pace. Also, I missed some of the good bits, like when a band of Egyptian mercenaries snuck through a gap in the lines and made a run for the supply train... only to be driven off by the baggage handlers.)

Egyptian mercenaries move forward.

Egyptian chariots clash with Hittites and their allies.

Hittite chariots charge uphill against some Sea People in Egyptian service.

This was the turn that pretty much everyone got into melee. After this, the board started getting a lot emptier.

Dad's new Libyans have their moment of glory, swooping down on the flank of some heavy chariots that were already stuck in melee.

Hittite spears push forward.

Prince Zannanza attempts to gather up his remaining troops.

In the end, the two Hittite players came out ahead in points, and the prince survived. (Though he didn't manage to make it off the table.) As I said above, the wording of the various factions' goals and their starting positions will probably get changed before the next time I run this.

Afterwards, we had time to play a few other games, including a round of Hordes of the Things. One of my friends had recently acquired some 40K "epic scale" troops, which are just the right size for 6mm HotT, so we threw Space Marines up against my Lizardmen, just for grins. The Lizards won, but it was a pretty close game.
Lizards advance through the woods.

Lost some stands against his Blades in the open.

Behemoths, having just trampled over some Shooters.

Turns out it's not such a great idea for Blades to chase Warbands into the woods.