Monday, February 29, 2016

Minis & Modeling Monday - Simple Surcoat Minis

With Gary Con VIII coming up later this week, I've put together some simple minis to use for my Surcoat Medieval Fantasy Miniatures Wargame slot.  The basic rules are easy to learn and utilize a d20 as the primary resolution die.  The slot is open to youngsters and their parents and I wanted the terrain and minis to reflect easy-to-craft options.  Essentially the scenario includes one side protecting a border wall at a checkpoint gate.  The figures for this session are set up as light, medium, and heavy units with leaders and spellcasters overseeing the forces.  Here's a look at how I went about putting together some simple, inexpensive units.  I started with some dollar store plastic minis and dominoes to use as bases.

I looked around for minis that gave me some variety and found some that came thirty figures to a pack.

They don't have a ton of detail but aren't bad and are roughly the size of typical plastic army men.

The bases I used for these are actually dominoes that come in packs of 28 for one dollar.

Each is roughly 1 1/2" x 3".  One side has the pips and the other has a thin cardboard surface to which I planned to glue the figures.

I took a big Sharpie marker and colored in the dots on the bottom and touched up the edges with the marker after finishing.

As inexpensive as these bases are, and you can't beat the consistency, it's easy to make some out of sheets of foam or foamboard and you'll get plenty out of a single sheet.

The figures came in both silver and gold so that made it easy to decide on the colors for my armies.  Light units in most traditional wargaming for the Medieval period (and for Ancients) are generally based with two figures.  These would include conscripts, peasants, archers, slingers, and the like.  This shows their loose formations and lack of regimented training.

Medium units, and I'm mainly talking armor but also weaponry, are often based three figures to a unit.

They can be spaced in a number of ways but it helps to not have too much hanging over the edges so the units and come up against one another easily during play.  If they have to hang over, better to have that happen in the back rather than the front or the sides.

Heavy units are the shock troops, work in tight formations, and crowd together at either three or four figures per base.  Special units, like leaders and artillery, should stand out and be easy to identify.  The leader figures, by the way, come from those nifty Toobz that can be had at many toy and crafting stores (make sure to grab a coupon first!).  Those figures aren't proportioned quite the same as the other but that works fine for these simple units.

Once the figures are glued down to the bases, throwing down some paint on the base before adding any ground cover can help keep the grass or sand from appear too thin.

I've collected a good number of flocking and other ground cover options but for these simple units and using black base paint with grass flocking for the gold units and brown base paint and sand for the silver units.  Any inexpensive craft paint works well enough for this purpose, sand is cheap, and probably the most expensive single thing I've used for thee armies is the grass flocking but look around online and even less expensive solutions can also be found.

For some of the units I primed them black and used cheap gold paint with a drybrushing technique but for other units, I simply based them and left them as is.  Cheap plastic figures, with the soft plastic they use, tend to not hold paint very well and it will flake off so don't get to detailed with these.  They're meant to be nothing fancy.

I also used some flat matte coating to keep too much of the flocking from coming off during gaming.  Remember, simple and inexpensive is often just fine for convention and gameday sessions.  These figures aren't for display cases and are meant to be used as much as possible.  Keep a bit of glue in the bin you use to transport them for quick repairs when necessary!

A look at prepping and painting Miniatures,
crafting buildings and paper Models,
and other non-terrain stuff for the tabletop.
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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Sunday Miscellanea - Evolution (2014)

Local gamer and family man Jacob popped by the Gather of Gamers last weekend with his son and broke out a couple of games including Evolution (2014).  I'd heard of this one in passing but hadn't played it yet so this was a real treat.  It has some complexity to it, but not a lot of moving parts, so it's easy to pick up quickly.  Five of us played and I think the final scores were all pretty damned close.  The game has solid, if simple, components and colorful artwork that fits well with the theme.  The cards are of sturdy construction and the iconography works well.  Once you learn the basic rules, all you need is textually on each card you draw.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
In Evolution, players adapt their species in a dynamic ecosystem where food is scarce and predators lurk. Traits like Hard Shell and Horns will protect your species from Carnivores, while a Long Neck will help them get food that others cannot reach. With over 4,000 ways to evolve your species, every game becomes a different adventure.
Evolution packs a surprising amount of variety for a game with simple rules. The variety comes from the synergies between the trait cards and from the different personalities at the table. Some players thrive on creating Carnivores to wreak havoc on their fellow players. Others prefer to stay protected and mind their own business. Evolution encourages both play styles by giving each of them multiple paths to victory. And it is the mix of play styles at the table that ultimately determines the eco-system in which the player are adapting. So gather your friends and see who can best adapt to the changing world around them.

My advice for this game is to go big rather than try to get too many species into play all at once.  It seems to me that unless you can seriously protect your main species, as well any additional species from predators, your secondary species will simply become a food source for the other players and help them gain more food tokens (which are the prime source of victory points in the game).  If you do start up a second or even a third species, make it earn its keep as a predator.  If you wait until you get the cards to support this strategy, you'll manage to have a second species with a net gain.  I'll need to play more to really test these ideas and I look forward to doing just that!

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Systems Saturday - The King's Abbey (2016)

At the last Burlington Gameday and the Gathering of Gamers in Elkhorn, though I have no pictures from the former, we played The King's Abbey (2016) among other things.  This was a recently fulfilled Kickstarter that a handful of my friends picked up.  Laura brought her copy on Saturday and taught a group of us then Wendy brought hers to the Gathering and asked me to show what I had learned the previous day.  It's a nicely complex game with a good combination of well-loved mechanics combined well with a theme that is one of my favorites.

The description on Board Game Geek is as follows:
In AD 1096, hope fills the air like a bird's song after a long winter, the seeming endless road of the Dark Ages may soon come to an end. For years now, warlords have roamed the land, every surface is covered with filth, and disease has ripped through towns like great tornadoes. King Sivolc has dreamed that building a great gothic structure is the answer to leave this Dark Age behind forever. But for the last decade, there has been a massive decline in the building activity, and hardly any great cultural achievements have been made.
Recently, while on one of his crusades, King Sivolc met a master architect named Elias. Elias told the King about his devotion to the mortar arts and how he longed to build a structure so great that people would travel hundreds of miles just to gaze at it. This meeting created a spark that ignited the King’s dream with a fire that would burn away even the darkest of days forever. King Sivolc looks on from his castle and watches with great expectation as his dream becomes a reality. With Elias’ help, he has hired some of the greatest architects and monks in the land to complete this task. He waits patiently for this great abbey to be raised from the earth, filled with people, changing the course of history forever!
The King's Abbey is a worker placement/resource management game in which each player has their own player board that represents the abbey they have been tasked to build. Players take charge of monks that are represented by ten dice as they go out and gather resources, go on crusades, construct buildings, train clergy, bring in peasants, and defend their abbey against the darkness. Each player does this by rolling their dice and then assigning each die (monk) to different places on their player board, resource boards, and crusade cards. The places on the player boards will bring in peasants and train clergy. The places on the resource boards will give them wood, grain, stone, and sand for building the various parts of their individual abbeys.
Each player receives prestige (victory points) for completing crusades and constructing various things in their abbey such as towers and different kinds of buildings. The game proceeds over a total of seven rounds where the "darkness" becomes greater each round. The darkness represents things like depression, famine, raiders attacking, and other things that the Dark Ages brought with it. You fight the darkness by keeping the defenses of your abbey strong. Players are trying to have the most prestige than any other player by the end of the seventh round.
After seven rounds, players add up all prestige earned. Whoever has the most prestige wins the game!

Both times I've played, a couple of the rules were misapplied but I won't blame this on the rules themselves.  I think it is just a complex game and we juggled them as best we could with a quick training sessions and off to the races playing.  That's fine enough as I don't think it hurt either game's outcome dramatically.  Just the same, I would also say that this isn't the kind of game where I'd be overly worried if you don't feel you've grasped everything the first couple / few gameplays.  There's a lot going on and not only will it take a few games to see how the parts work with one another, it might be a bit before you figure out the best way to make it work in a strong strategy.  I think it is worth it and will tackle this game again!

A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, February 26, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Pirate Fluxx (2011)

Although little could sound less appetizing, last time at Culver's we played Pirate Fluxx (2011).  The Fluxx line of games gets complex but as long as you can read the cards, they can often be silly and fun.  The artwork of Pirate Fluxx certainly gives that impression though I think the Monty Python version was even more so if you're a fan of their movies and television show from nearly half a century ago.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Fluxx with a pirate twist. Getting the Captain's Hat allows you to have a good bit of control, but watch out for Scurvy and Shackles, which will keep you from winning. Grab lots of Booty keepers, maybe some Ships, and expect a few new Surprise cards along the way.
A pirate themed variant of Fluxx, this game is much like the original. Simply follow the rules that are currently in play. Start by drawing a card and playing a card, but even those can be changed. There's no way to win at the begining, but once a Goal card is played, you have to play the appropriate Keeper cards in front of you or play other cards to keep them away from everyone else, like Steal a Keeper or play a new goal card to replace the old one.
New to Fluxx are the Surprise cards which can be played at any time to cancel certain plays or steal a keeper as played.

Being in control of the goal in this game is key to winning, as are having the cards to complete that goal and that ability to get them out on the table before anyone can stop you.  This is why it is also useful to be in charge of the rules as much as possible.  The problem is, there's no way no one else at the table is going to change some of that stuff, so once you're ready you have to strike quickly.  There's a lot of luck in this game, for sure, but they can still be fun with the right people.

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Trade Winds (1960)

Tom rolled into lunch the other day with a copy of Trade Winds (1960).  The box had been replaced and it had been beaten up a bit but seemingly the components are all there and we played that game that was older than me.  I don't get to say that often anymore so I'll say it again.  We played that game that was older than me.  Oh, my, that feels good.  I'll probably repeat that from time to time today, under my breath and with a silly grin.  But I am losing the point here.

The description on Board Game Geek is as follows:
In Trade Winds, players collect treasure to accumulate enough points to win. Players can attack and rob other players ships.
Not enough?  I'll elucidate further in the last section of this post.

In Trade Winds, players have a hidden hand of cards that determines both their fighting strength and movement.  Cards depicts crew members in a range from one to three and a player's movement is the total of what they have in their hand.  However, crew cards can be either red or black and the strength of a ship is the difference between the total red in hand and the total black in hand.  You start the game with five, IIRC, but there is no actual limit and there are a number of circumstances under which your hand size can change.  First, you can leave as many cards in your home port as you like, though other players or even you can stop by and scoop them up, exchanging an equal number of crew points from your hand.  This is how a player manages to get as close as possible to having all red or all black crew cards in their hand to maximize their strength.

Each player has a home port and there are four additional neutral ports as well as two bays and a center island where most of the game treasure will reside.  Neutral ports start with a few crew cards which a player, when docking there, may exchange with crew cards form their hand provided they leave behind the same number of points as taken.  The center island is piled high with rum barrels (worth two points), pearls (worth three points), gold bars (worth four points), and gems (worth five points).  The object of the game is to go and gather as much treasure as your ship can carry, eventually winding up with 21 points of treasure at your home port.  If you drop a piece of treasure on the board while loading it into your tiny ship, it is gone.  If you knock over your ship and spill all your treasure, it is gone.  If you don't keep an eye on your home port after stashing some treasure there, other players can swoop in and exchange crew points for treasure in equal amounts and limp away to their own home ports.

There is also an event deck from which each player must draw each turn.  Some banish a pirate ship to an isolated bay, effectively detouring your plans.  Other require you to go to one port or another (often the "closest" port) and make some exchange or perform some task.  Sometimes, whole crews are exchanged with the nearest pirate on the high seas.  In the course of your treasure collection a player can even sail up next to another ship and challenge them by comparing crews, potentially gaining some or all of their treasure.  Fortunes change in this game from time to time so it does require players to be flexible in their strategies.  Solid game, particularly for one that is older than me.  OLDER than me!

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wargaming Wednesday - Divine Right (1979)

Divine Right (1979) is another one of those classic early games that I love to play every year, more than once if it can be arranged.  This year, in the warm up to Gary Con, I broke it out for my weekly group.  While I don't think it had as big an impact as Civilization, they seemed to be warming to it.  Of course, we only played the basic game and it was slow going even then.  Sometimes I forget that the complexity of some older games will put modern players on their heels right out of the gate and make getting into a game.  I don't want to have a "back in the day" moment but it is true that back then when we knew a particular game was going to be played we would spend time before that day learning what we could about it.  This, of course, was pre-Internet which makes it more amazing.  Imagine the number of phone calls and stop-overs the person who had the rule book had to handle?  They were the conduit to everyone getting a running start at the big day and maybe a leg up.  Nowadays, time spent between games for gaming won't be spent on those games but other games with an immediate gaming-fix.  Prep seems like a dirty word despite how much easier it is in these modern times.  And here we are in the same place where this game was first published by TSR roughly 37 years ago.  Whoops.  Looks like I had my moment anyway.  Anyway . . .

The description on Board Game Geek is as follows:
Classic game of fantasy empires clashing. Each player controls a unique realm and attempts to use diplomacy and might to ascend to rulership. A colorful map and a host of fantastic creatures bring out a fleshed out fantasy world.
You expected more?  Maybe it does need some additions . . . such as:
The mechanics of this game are fine if you like wargames. If you're more of a modern-era boardgamer, it might be too fiddly. The base game is fairly simple once you know how movement, sieges, and combat work. The Advanced game adds tons of additional factions, powers, magic, that all are basically sub-systems and work in their own peculiar ways. A sentence or two explains each one but with dozens of them, it requires keeping the rule book to hand.

As I said, we stuck with the basic game and played about 10 of the possible 20 turn game before the time on our evening ran out.  At that stage, one player was far enough in the lead to call it a decisive victory.  I did mention at the time about the changing fortunes in Divine Right, how a few bold moves while certain allies were controlled, could change that lead in a turn, and how a player could get knocked out of the game but still win if in possession of enough points.  Nevertheless, I didn't push for making this a two-week affair.  We did that with Civilization but the circumstances of that game are different.  And, since with Divine Right we were only playing the basic game, stretching it out further was less incentivized.  We have played some older wargames in the past but I'm not sure this group feels the pay off on most of them is worth the effort.  Some loved Civ and enjoyed parts of Divine Right, but some of the other historical games left them cold.  Even wargamey boardgames don't make it to the table very often.  That's okay though.  There are plenty of more straightforward modern games to play.  They also seem to enjoy some minis wargaming so perhaps next week I will have some tales of that to blog.

We played a basic game and did not include either "Magic" kingdom.  Muetar was neutral and was the last of the non-player kingdoms to be controlled by a player.  The Dwarves managed to snag Mivior early but struggled to get Pon, then lost them, but gained them again later.  Hothior brought the Trolls on his side early and pulled the loyal card for them, which made the a very good ally to help defend their homeland.  Rombune sat on his hands most of the game thinking somehow an opportunity would arise where there was no risk and easy pickings but also had no like with mercs.  Shucassam picked up the Elves (at half strength), the Goblins, and a very unstable Immer and swept south, forcing Muetar into play but making the most of his allies in taking a stronghold in north Immer and knocking off their leadership. All the Dwarves could do, as they kept losing population to events, was harry Hothior with Mivior and sit on The Gathering so they couldn't do an end-around with their Troll allies.  In the end, Shucassam was the only one able to get much traction of VP by turn ten when we ran out of time for the evening.  Still a good game but Hothior and the Dwarves needed Rombune to be threatening Shucassam to tie up some of their forces so we could do something in the north about Shucassam's allies without worrying about them in the south as well.

A closer examination of board and miniatures Wargaming.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Terrain Tuesday - Caverns & Classics

Here's a quick note about some upcoming website adjustments for the CMG Blog Triad that will manifest in March.  I've often felt that having some types of cartography on Terrain Tuesday on was shoehorning.  While I feel battlemats, battlemaps, and the like work well for this category, because they are essentially two-dimensional terrain, larger scale maps and cartography are going to move starting in March to the corner of the CMG Blog Triad appearing on what will be dubbed as Mapping Monday.  They fit better with the setting-oriented blogging for  This will replace the old Monday blog on known as RPG Media Monday which will in turn move to the Monday blog slot.  That will replace Media News Monday, since I have often felt that news there was not very timely.  What I had posted there either had been widespread news by the time it was posted or would work well enough under the heading of RPG Media Monday.  I hope these adjustments don't throw anyone for a loop.  I feel they will work better going forward. 
Thanks! - Mark CMG
Meanwhile, over on, have a look at the cavern created by superscenic here.

Also, on, check out the fully operational 3D Tomb of Horrors here.

Finally, on the Defjeff01 YouTube channel, he's got a "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief -- fully mapped scale model with interior."  Enjoy!

For purposes here, the term Terrain is used broadly
to cover 3D and 2D maps, foam, felt, and such.
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Monday, February 22, 2016

Minis & Modeling Monday - 3D Scans, Light Arches, & Paint Carts

Over on, they tell us we can "3d scan anything using just a camera" here.

Also, on, the first part of a DIY on Light Arches is here.

Finally, on the Tested YouTube channel, we get a look at "Adam Savage's Custom Glue and Paint Carts."  Enjoy!

A look at prepping and painting Miniatures,
crafting buildings and paper Models,
and other non-terrain stuff for the tabletop.
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Sunday Miscellanea - Home Improvements

Over on, they explain the concept of "One-of-Kind Wool Rug Artworks by Alexandra Kehayoglou Mimic Rolling Pastures and Mossy Textures" here.

Also, on, they encourage you to "Make Your Own 8-Foot Long Giant Squid Pillow" here.

Finally, on the Hot Wire Foam Factory YouTube channel, they teach "How To Make A Fake Rock Wall Facade Out of Foam."  Enjoy!

Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics on
not covered elsewhere or wanting a particular focus.
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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Systems Saturday - Roll for the Galaxy (2014)

Last Second Sunday at Lake Geneva Games, a few of us got to play Roll for the Galaxy (2014), and we played it four times in a row.  Not everyone loves playing a game even twice in a row but I personally love when I get the chance to play something multiple time.  While I have blogged about this a couple of times last year, I guess it's been a few months since I played it.  But this is one of those games that comes right back to you.  In fact, several of the games wound up with some of the highest scores, all around, that I have seen in games I have played of it.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Roll for the Galaxy is a dice game of building space empires for 2–5 players. Your dice represent your populace, whom you direct to develop new technologies, settle worlds, and ship goods. The player who best manages his workers and builds the most prosperous empire wins!
This dice version of Race for the Galaxy takes players on a new journey through the Galaxy, but with the feel of the original game.

I think, in the past, we did a lot less producing and shipping thus not getting as high of scores.  Also, games in the past tended to end with someone completing their 12 tiles galaxy.  This still happened but not before most of the victory point chips were claimed.  Plus, rather than producing and shipping being an after thought, galaxies were built to facilitate the producing and and shipping more readily.  I will definitely be trying to build on these new strategies in future games.

A look under the hood of various Games, Rules and Systems.
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Tabletopper Friday - Game Lists for All

Over on, Melissa Garner tells us about "3 Tabletop Games that “Grow” on You" here.

Also, on, Kelly Knox suggests "5 Educational Kids’ Tabletop Games That Are Actually A Blast To Play" here.

Finally, on the Top Shelf Boardgames YouTube channel, they share the "Top 10 Benefits of Board gaming."  Enjoy!

Mostly about card games and board games,
unless they have a decidedly wargamey feel.
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Nostalgia Thursday - Ra (1999)

Okay, okay.  Too many posts about Ra (1999)?  I suppose that might be true since we have played a lot recently, I have enjoyed it more and more each time, and all of those posts have been since the new year started.  But I double checked and this is only the third from me this year on Ra, only my third on it ever, so I'll just leave this here and try to pipe down about it moving forward.

The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
Ra is an auction and set-collection game with an Ancient Egyptian theme. Each turn players are able to purchase lots of tiles with their bidding tiles (suns). Once a player has used up his or her suns, the other players continue until they do likewise, which may set up a situation with a single uncontested player bidding on tiles before the end of the round occurs. Tension builds because the round may end before all players have had a chance to win their three lots for the epoch. The various tiles either give immediate points, prevent negative points for not having certain types at the end of the round (epoch), or give points after the final round. The game lasts for three "epochs" (rounds). The game offers a short learning curve, and experienced players find it both fast-moving and a quick play.
From the Box: 
The game spans 1500 years of Egyptian history in less than an hour! 
The players seek to expand their power and fame and there are many ways to accomplish this: Influencing Pharaohs, Building monuments, Farming on the Nile, Paying homage to the Gods, Advancing the technology and culture of the people. Ra is an auction and set collecting game where players may choose to take risks for great rewards or... And all this is for the glory of the Sun God Ra!

There are big draw bags that come with other games on the market that need to be employed with Ra.  This point was driven home when we recently played Roll for the Galaxy (2014) [blog post coming on this Saturday].  There's just no way around.  Or maybe two bags could be used to have one at each end of the table.  I can't stress enough how much more quickly set up would be facilitated by this addition.  If you use two bags, as part of setup, you dump all the draw tiles into one bag, mix them up, them dump about half into the other bag before starting.  Someone could even call for the bags to switch ends if they feel they need to "change the luck."  I'm not a big believer in that sort of thing but I've been known to change my dice mid-game from time to time.  Anyway, that's it on Ra for now.  Get some bags, you'll thank me later.

*Edit* - So, it seems that the game originally comes with a draw bag but the folks I play with have either lost them or simply don't use them.  I stand corrected, bemused, and more than a little disgruntled!

Focusing on the roots of current tabletop gaming
with an eye toward the last century and before.
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