Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hot Lead - "... And a good time was had by all!"

Yesterday, my wife and I and our friend, DJ, journeyed through snow and drifts to Stratford, ON to join in the fun of the convention known as Hot Lead. As winter recedes in Canada, this is the convention to go to. Well, winter is fighting every step of the way as it retreats this year. My friend, Raiffe is taking out a contract on Old Man Winter aka Jack Frost, and I'm seriously thinking about buying into that deal. But winter will leave us to return later, later, later. Once in the con's doors, we met up with our friends, Andy, Kevin, Martin, and Steven as well as seeing old friends (like Steve, the RSM for the Royal Scots reenactors) and new from all over.
I'm uncomfortable playing table-top games with people I don't know so I usually don't game at conventions. I also only have Saturday to go to such festivities, so my main thing is to go and buy stuff. I found a load of good things at the bring-and-buy and sold a few things myself. (The con takes 10% of the proceeds of what you sold and funds a charity with it. I'm all for that since I consider bring-and-buy money to be "found money" anyway.)
Beth and I did walk around and watch the gaming and took photos of the ones we liked and there were some really good looking games at the con.

Gaming the siege of Fort Erie.
We've taken part in this reenacting event the past few years and always enjoy it. So we had to see this game!
The British-Canadian forces are almost at the wall and some are already in the fort.
Such a great model of the fort. See that big cannon in the redoubt on the far left? That's where Andy and I stand during the night battle at the reenactment... as the infantry guard for the artillery piece there... usually a real 6-pounder!
An impressive number of attackers. Andy's son, Steven played part of the Crown forces in this game.
In reenacting, he's usually with the 16th US Infantry.
Napoleonics appeared to be making a come-back at the con. I don't think that period ever goes away; I think it's a perennial and will always bloom at cons and on my game table.

Ah! Austrians! My favourites!
Artie Conlieff's Shako in 28mm using the large battalion option. I like this game although I use 15mm.
It was a welcome sight.
The French opposing the Kaiserlichs.
Intense thought by the Russian command.
Such an impressive array!
Russian cuirassiers. The black thingie is a status marker. I don't know what the dice mean.
Lots of miniature horse-flesh
Success for the Whitecoats. From what I saw later, it was short-lived.
Bladensburg 1814       Not Shako but War of 1812/North American Napoleonics
Maryland Militia vs. British regulars
I liked the look of this game.
Back to Europe for another Napoleonic outing. Rules and sides unknown but fantastic visuals!
Micro-armour. Kevin and our new friend Goeff took part in a WWII Micro-armour game. Looked interesting!
"They're out there somewhere! Do something constructive with your artillery!"
Such a pastoral scene -- makes you want to live there.
Canadian armour advancing with infantry as well. Kevin wondered why they deployed so far back.
Now Beth and I agreed that THIS game was our favourite among all the really great games there. Somehow Japanese monster movies just please the soul. I wish there were some JSDF tanks for the big monsters to kick around but you can't have everything. Beth and I felt that this was the sharpest visual feast of all the games and it looked like just plain fun. I've got a copy of the old Beast That Ate Sheboygan I've got to dig out now.
The city sleeps, not knowing that gigantic terror awaits.
I've rarely seen street this deserted. Do they know something or is it summer holiday?
The dramatis personae line up for their introductions.
Mechgodzilla leaves a trail of destruction and dead rubber-suited actors in his wake.


The final battle ensues! Mothra and Mechgodzilla. Ack! The Tower is down! We'll NEVER get mobile reception now!
King Kong and some other gargantuan beastie fight/dance/tell secrets/end their date/whatever.
The Tower and the movable craters. The dingus in the bottom left corner is a nuclear reactor.
Not in my backyard! Or across from my Mac's Milk!
Property values are going to take a nose dive on Monday.
The bring-and-buy had some great bargains. I've added to my ACW, WWII, DBR, and Traveller stocks.

Beth caught me, Kevin, DJ, and Andy looting - um, checking out the bring-and-buy.
Where else could I buy 50 Napoleonic French hussars for $5.00?
Beth and I saw many other games we didn't take photos of - like an age of steam naval game, ancients, Wings of War WWI aircraft, a sky-dreadnaught game, the DBA tournement, and the Warhammer games (in the basement) to name only a few.
I'd like to offer my personal thanks and congratulation to the leadership and staff of Hot Lead for a job well done, even from a day-tripping scrounger like myself.

Oh, the best thing of the day? Andy bought a copy of Shako.
Vive l'Empereur! Hoch Hapsburg!

A side trip to Middle Earth

Well, this is something new! We'd never played a Lord of the Rings game at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group - at least, not since I'd been part of the crowd. So a week ago Saturday, Orcs, Uruk-hai, Southrons, Elves, Men of Gondor, and Dwarves of the North took the field. No magic was used and there were not "heroes" either. That, of course changes the complexion of the game. The GW LOTR game is heavily hero- dependant and to play without them makes for an interesting game, although it becomes a straight-forward hammering of one side on the other. In the books (so call me a stickler for what Professor Tolkein wrote), heroes are important, but the fighting is done my just plain folks for the most part.


Steven, Rob, and Kevin captained the Good side while Andy, Martin, and I led the vile legions of the Dark Lord.

Mordor orcs... which I had the joy of commanding
Men of Gondor with knights of Dol Amroth included.
Rangers of Ithilien. These are Rob's figures.
Captains of Gondor
Uruk-hai pikes who proved tougher than most.
 The Evil side moved in a general advance which was met my the Good side holding fast for the most part. The Rangers shot up my Southron unit and then started on the orcs next to them. For my part on the left of the Evil line, I felt it was best to press on through the arrow storm rather than return fire for the most part. At lot depended on which side got the initiative. It usually wasn't me and my side.

My Mordor orcs and the Uruk-hai of Isengard take the advance.
More Uruks
The Rangers begin to advance and lap around my far left.
The surviving Southrons and their captain take a stand against the Rangers.
"Sure are a lot of them, aren't there?"
The two side met in the middle with some archers from Gondor firing overhead at the back ranks of the Evils. Through a quirk in the rules a second supporting rank gives support to the front rank BUT is not considered to be "in combat" so they are legitimate target for archers. (A third rank actively supports if they third is pike armed.) Since the Good folk had more bows than us Evilers, they kept up a hot fire over the head of their troops and our first rank. This meant we kept taking casualties fore AND aft. Since individual figures can be targeted, the early firing of the Good folk keyed on our archers.

Gondor presses home the fight at sword's point.
The Mordor orcs take on their weak chins and prominent noses.
The orcs did somewhat better against the dwarves.
The Uruk-hai standard and pikes.
The Mordor orc standard in the unit opposing the dwarves.
The melee gets worse in the stream. That's my last Southron there with the standard.
The Rangers break through! Only a handful of orc arches are there to oppose them!
By the end of the battle, my flank had collapsed and Steven ran rough-shod over what was left. Martin and Kevin were at almost a standstill on the right between the orcs and the dwarves. In the centre, Andy had smashed the Gondor centre and was pushing them back. However... we Evilers had taken enough casualties to require a morale throw... which we failed. A morale throw for each and every orc or Uruk was to be taken and the forces began to melt away. So we called it a drawn battle since our over-all morale had failed but the centre of the Free People's army had been shredded and shredded badly. We lost on morale; they lost on the strategic situation.
Here's the issue - without heroes, the game becomes a slugging match until someone fails morale. At that point, the battle field situation makes no difference at all. With heroes, the armies are little more than supporting cast.
Personally, I'm not sold on the game system, but I'd play it again. (Could you call it "Warhammer Light"? Less calories, less taste, less time required, less options to be considered.)

The Rangers move quickly to take advantage of the collapse of the Evil left flank.
"See this sign? It means 'Stop'! I've got a cease-and-desist order here somewhere..."
The Mordor orc captain attempts to hold the entire Gondor advance by himself.
Uh... no.
A broader view of the same fight.
"Arr! We beez 'holdin' 'em back, just uss'ens! We can do it!"

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I Can Read.

For some unknown reason, I've been reading science-fiction lately. I've finished three books in recent days and I'm going to say something about each.

First off, David Weber's contribution to the Bolo saga begun by Keith Laumer - Bolo!.

The book is a collection of shorter stories. I'm not sure if they'd rate as "short stories" or "novellas." I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Weber can write military sci-fi as good as any and better than most. In the stories, he includes new characters who are massive, self-aware, autonomous tanks/fighting machines in the distant future. Included are a Bolo in love with its commander, a wounded Bolo driven insane by its wounds and hunted by a healthy Bolo of the same unit, and in the final chapter of the Bolo saga, a machine that's wiser than humans.

Second, another piece by David Weber, part of the Honor Harrington series, A Rising Thunder.

This is Weber's signature series and it's a good one. Political intrigue, space battles, back-stabbing, mind control - it's all there. I think we all know this is an homage to the great Hornblower series of books. (If you haven't read them, treat yourself and read them. C.S. Forester can cast a literary spell that could catch almost anybody.) I will admit that I had some difficulty keeping all the characters straight since Weber tosses in dozens - from Manticore, Beowulf, the Solarian League, the Republic of Haven, and many other space-faring nations. There are aliens in other books of the series, but only one species is present here. There is one serious space battle, which is engrossing and has a bit of a twist. I won't say more about it. It does remind me of the space battle in Asimov's Second Foundation, which has to be a favourite of mine.

Last, another Weber novel. (I'm sensing a theme here.) It's the invasion novel, Out of the Dark.


I bought the book with the left-hand version of the cover, but I'd have preferred the right-hand version. Our planet is invaded by a race of canine-ish carnivores who smash most of the world's cities and military installations with kinetic strikes from orbit. When the aliens land, they soon realise that humans don't give up all the easily. The narration follows guerrilla fighters in Roumania, Ukraine, and North Carolina in the US. It also follows the various personalities in the invading force who are baffled by psychology of the human species and whose military technology is only a hair better than the human examples. The book is quite dark and often hopeless from humanity's point of view. Without giving away the ending, I found said ending quite unsatisfying and odd, almost as if the author had written himself into a corner and escaped by climbing the wall. Maybe you'll like it; maybe you won't. Of course, that goes for all books.