Sunday, October 16, 2011


Other kids' games are all such a bore!
They've gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
Calvinball is better by far!
It's never the same! It's always bizarre!
You don't need a team or a referee!
You know that it's great, 'cause it's named after me!

—The Calvinball theme song

I ran some Calvinball games last Friday night. The rules were developed by Mardaddy on The Miniatures Page.

For those of you that don't know what Calvinball is (shame on you), it's from the classic Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. It's a "sport" that Calvin and Hobbes played frequently which moshes all sports into one game with ever changing rules. Mardaddy's excellent rules imposed just enough order to create a playable game while incorporating the key concept of making up the rules as you go along.

All 4 players (Calvin, Hobbes, Susie Derkins & Moe the Bully) start at home base. Each player is assigned a "calvinball", one of many different types of sports balls (golf ball, soccer, basket, foot, etc) which are spread across the playing field. The players must then run to pick up their calvinball, & then touch the ball to 1st base.

Once the calvin ball is "based", they then throw their calvinball as far as they can away from themselves & pick a new type of calvinball. (Note that they throw their current ball before they pick a new ball which could be the same type of ball.) They also draw a "rules change card" which could be anything from being forced to all run backwards, gaining Spaceman Spiff's Zorgomatic Shield, or being required to climb a tree and recite a poem in praise of tigers (the players actually have to come up with a poem on the spot).

The play continues as the players each try to base their balls at 1st, 2nd, 3rd & home base, randomly picking a new calvin ball & rule change every time. Of course there's other things you can pick up along the way like hockey sticks, football helmets & water ballons that will help you "interact" with the other players.

The key conflict of the games was when Moe the Bully stole Calvin's Little Red Wagon from Hobbes. They continued to fight over the wagon for many turns, but finally Hobbes decided to one up Moe by just winning the game.

Here are a few pictures from the games. Not much to look at, I know. The game pieces are cut out clip art with the "figures" just tri-fold standee types.

I think Mardaddy lost his copy of the rules, & I only have hard copies. But if there's enough interest, I might be able to transcribe them to a Word file.

Song of Portuguese & Payroll

Today, I ran my 1st game of Ganesha Games' Song of Drums and Shakos, their skirmish Napoleonic game. The scenario was Blunt's Payroll, published in the company's free newsletter. It's heavily based on the payroll dispute at the beginning of Sharpe's Rifles.

The French, with more but lesser quality troops, must defend the army's payroll chests, from the Portuguese who have fewer but higher quality troops. The French set up in & around the ruined inn where they'd camped the previous night. The Portuguese come on from a random edge of the board. I didn't have any British troops, so Portuguese were used as stand-ins.

Here is the board layout with the French deployed around the inn and sentries thrown forward.

The Portuguese came in from the far side of this picture (behind the French standard). The French Ensign noticed them sneaking through the woods just as a Portuguese rifleman drew a bead on Capitan Pierre Rouge and blew him off his horse, giving Sgt Henri a field promotion.

The death of a leader forces a morale check which almost all of the French troops failed. Luckily, when failing morale, having a standard allows troops to use it as a rallying point, running towards the standard, instead of running away. And this actually moved most of the French into cover and a better position to defend the pay chests.

Sgt Henri quickly called for his new command to regroup and take up a position behind the stone wall.

With both sides now ensconced behind stone walls, desultory fire was exchanged.

The Portuguese decided to move things along by moving behind the trees and occupying the inn where the French had just had breakfast. The Portuguese, recognizing they were being flanked, repositioned themselves behind the cover of the pay chests.

The accurate fire from the inn windows finally broke the French morale (they took more than 50% casualties requiring a morale test). In the flight, the French Ensign dropped his standard. A daring Portuguese rifleman dashed out to try to capture an Eagle. But Sgt Henri refused to let his 1st command end so ignobly. So he charged the rifleman, quickly dispatching his opponent.

Encouraged by his Sgt's valorous display of courage, a Voltigeur rushes up to retrieve the standard.

But this was to be their last acts as they were shot down by accurate rifle fire, thus ending the game.

I was very pleased with how well the game ran. It took about 2 hours, but that included setup & rules explanation. Unfortunately, the French player rolled badly throughout the game while the Portuguese players continued to roll well. Otherwise it might not have been so one sided.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lemax Lakes

Lemax, who makes lots of small holiday village houses, etc, also make blue water mat for use in their displays. I picked one up cheap during Michael's after holiday sale, I think about 70% off, with plans to use it to make rivers & lakes out of.

So far, I've only done 1 test piece, but since someone on TMP asked about them, I figured I'd show what I've done so far. Here is the lake I made.

I spray painted some heavy plastic sheet a light blue color & then used spray adhesive to stick the mat down.

I decided to spray the plastic blue 1st because the mat directly over the white plastic seemed a bit too stark in contrast between the white & blue. Here's a picture of the mat over some white plastic.

Since the mat isn't flat against the plastic, the contrast between the blue & white might be hard to see. But hopefully you can get the idea compared to the other picture.

The blue mat over the light blue color seems to work well. For rivers, I might try to vary the amount of paint sprayed along the plastic to get more variation of the color that shows through.

I just need to figure out how to add some sort of green flock/edging around the lake. I'm guessing any basing material or flock won't stick well to the mat.

Monday, August 8, 2011


After my 8 yr old daughter saw the very cool Lego army that Rebel Minis posted on their blog, she wanted to do the same thing with Lego knights.

But while we waited to find deals on lego people, I remembered I had bought some 2.5D tanks & dinosaur models recently. They're made out of styrene pieces that you punch out of a card like the Wizkids' Pirates of the Spanish Main ships. Here are scans of the inserts that came in the packs. There's quite a range of model types.

Unfortunately, the website listed on the packs ( goes to an Asian language site with no English info at all. So I can't help track down any of the models.

I had 5 packs of tanks & 1 pack of dinosaurs which I quickly snapped together & came up with some rules off the top of my head.

Here's the inital board lay out, & the yellow vs green forces (2 dinos, 2 tanks & 2 smaller tank destroyer vehicles each).

Here's a closeups of my daughter's force

& my force

The rules were very simple, but it did include measuring for movement & ranged fire (the dinos had a very short but very powerful fire breath), opposed die rolls to resolve combat, & different sized dice for the different figure types (tank destroyers = d6, tanks = d10, dinos = d20).

She started off very well with her forces hidden behind the woods. She asked if we could move or see through the woods & I said no to make it simple. She also told me which of the dinos were meat eaters & which were plant eaters, & that the meat eaters should be better fighters. I suggested we have all the dinos be the same for now.

She did make the very good tactical move all on her own. She ran her speedy tank destroyers up to hide behind a hill on my flank so I couldn't shoot them. Next turn she had them come over the hill so they'd be in range to shoot my tank, but was smart enough to also keep them far enough back from my forces so I couldn't shoot back (tank destroyers shot 12", but tanks shot 8" just to give the tank destroyers better survivability).

She ended up wiping out all my vehicles at one point. Here is a picture of her forces converging on my 2 remaining dinosaurs.

& another of her TRex coming over the hill to flank my dinos.

Unfortunately, the dino attack die of d20 was just too much for the tanks' d10 & tank destroyers' d6 & my dinos started quickly knocking off her vehicles. Seeing that she was getting disappointed, I "accidently" started rolling a d12 for the dinos instead of a d20, & allowed her to roll 2d6 for her tank destroyers when they fired at the same target.

She finally (luckily) beat me & ran off to tell Mom about her glorious victory. I was very happy she enjoyed it & was very active in wanting to play the game, doing her own measuring & making her own tactical decisions.

At the end of the game, she asked me if I could "put the game on Facebook". I was quite surprised since she's never mentioned Facebook before & only uses computers to play cartoon games like on Disney & Nick Jr. But this blog is as close as I get to Facebook, so it'll have to do. Now I need to go write down the rules I came up since I know she'll start correcting me next time we play if I don't.

General SmoothieFace reviewing her victorious forces

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Overcoming Ennui: Warmaster Terrain

Been unable to get myself motivated to work on any wargaming project for a long time. So, I used a recent Warmaster campaign day as impetus to finally get something done.

I dug out the Warmaster terrain pieces that I'd had for years since they'd be a quick & simple project. I ended up finishing the pieces themselves in about 9 hours. & then about another 2.5 hours to do the bases.

The buildings are all from JR Miniatures 10mm Ancient/Medieval range.

I primed them white and block painted them, with a bit of drybrushing, & finished them off with the Minwax Miracle Dip method.

The buildings are mounted on a variety of hotel card keys, used gift cards, etc. Unfortunately, some are already starting to flex & the basing material is lifting off.

These stones are actually bluish. I wanted them to look a bit more magical than just grey standing stones.

Now I just need to make a river for these bridges to go over.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cheap Flight Stands?

While passing by the $1 bins at Target today, I saw "Telescoping Marshmallow Stick".

It telescopes out in 4 or 5 pieces. The bottom piece attached to the handle was about 3" long, but the other sections were about 5" long. The metal seems to be very light aluminum, so the handle & fork might be pretty easy to remove.

I doubt the friction between the sections would be enough to support the weight of something has large as a Wing of War plane. & any significant lateral force when extended would probably easily bend the tubes. But these might work well for microarmor scale or smaller planes or scifi fighters.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Song of Snow & Slime

Finally tried Song of Blades & Heroes for the 1st time. I used the Bridge Over MurkyRiver scenario from the 2nd issue of Ganesha Game's Free Hack magazine. But since I didn't have Lizardmen & Wood Elves, I turned them into Deep Ones & Vikings. The racial characteristics (Amphibious for the Lizardmen, Forester for the Wood Elves) matched the substitute races well, so it was just a direct replacement.

The scenario is a Deep One shaman leading a scouting part to capture a bridge on the edge of the Viking territory.

Here's the board setup that was specified in the article.

When using 25mm figures, the game calls for a 36"x36" play area. But I played on my collapsible painting table, which is 32.5"x32.5", so it was a bit more cramped, but still worked well.

Unfortunately, I had to raid my daughter's art box to get construction paper for the river & the bridge. I've already got the makings for rivers, but will definitely need to work on a bridge for future games.

Since I'd recently made some huts for another game, I threw those onto the board & turned it into a small Viking outpost.

The Deep Ones forces were 1 Shaman, 2 Warriors, 2 Skirmishers (3" range band Javelins) & 2 Savage Deep Ones (harder to activate, but more violent in battle). The Vikings had 1 Shaman & 5 Long Bowmen. Both warbands ended up being just under 300 pts, the standard size for a force.

Here's the initial force deployment. The Vikings set up around their outpost in the upper right corner. The Deep Ones spread out across the left side, with the Savage Deep Ones inside the wall, the Warriors on either side of the river, & the Shaman & Skirmishers behind the trees in the top left corner.

But after the game was over, I realized it be more interesting to have the 2 forces deployed so the river was a natural barrier between them.

The Vikings went 1st, with the Shaman (figure near the back without a shield) & 3 of the Bowmen rushing to the brush by the bridge (Vikings' racial skill is to move through woods & brush without penalty).

The other 2 Bowmen try to outflank the Deep Ones to gain the high ground on the hill at the north of the board.

The Deep One Warriors dive into the river (their racial skill was to move through water without penalty) while the rest of the Deep Ones advance.

The main Viking party finishes moving into the brush & prepare to ambush the Deep Ones. Unfortunately, the Deep Ones are still outside the Vikings' 7" longbow range (* see note below). The flanking Viking force doesn't get very far due to bad dice rolls.

The Deep One Warriors speed under the bridge & pop out of the water right next to the brush the Vikings are hiding in. So much for the Vikings' long range advantage. The Savage Deep Ones slowly move up, but due to them being harder to activate, they aren't able to make multiple moves in 1 turn like the others, so don't move too fast.

The Vikings in the brush fire arrows & magic to little effect, while the flanking force is still moving slow. The Deep One Warriors reach the Vikings in the brush, but don't have enough actions to attack them yet.

The Viking Shaman is confronted by one of the Deep One Warriors (right side in the picture above), which won't end well. So he tries to run away but gets cut down as he turns around. 1st blood to the Deep Ones. The other Deep One Warrior knocks down his opponent. The flanking Vikings finally are close enough to be of use & shoot down one of the Deep One Skirmishers. The Deep One Shaman & the unengaged Vikings exchange spells & arrows to no effect.

The Vikings continue to be ineffectual in melee, while the flanking Vikings fire with a similar success at the Deep Ones. The fallen Viking is skewered by the Deep One Warrior.

Both sides knock an opponent over, but the Deep Ones are the only ones able to seal the deal, killing the 3rd Viking. This causes a Morale check for the Vikings after losing half their force. The 2 flanking Vikings stalwartly stand, but the 3rd Viking, facing 3 Deep Ones on his own in the brush makes a strategic withdrawal.

After that, it pretty much goes downhill even more for the Vikings. They were able to kill one of the Savage Deep Ones.

But then the Vikings were all chased down & killed to a man.

The Deep Ones gibber in celebration of their total victory.

Overall, a fun, light game, but with some tactical depth due to the multi-activation rule. It took me about an hour to play, with lots of flipping through the rulebook since it was my 1st time playing. But with really only 7 pages of basic rules, the flipping was very quick.

I noticed a big difference in performance between the regular Deep Ones (needing a 3+ on a d6 to activate) & the Savage Deep Ones (needing a 4+ to activate). The affect of that 1 point was quite noticeable.

But, the crushing defeat of the Vikings came down to my usual bad dice rolls. While I could easily activate the Vikings (needing 3+), when it came to hitting, I regularly rolled 1-3s, against the Deep Ones 4-6s. Actually, in the middle of the game, there was a series of about 6 consecutive turns where I failed badly enough activating the 1st figure on a side, that initiative passed immediately to the other side. So effectively, both sides took a long tactical pause, just staring at each other, since I was unable to successfully activate either side.

*NOTE: I also just realized I was doing ranged combat wrong. I only allowed the ranged weapons to fire 1 ranged band. The Vikings were only firing 7". But ranged weapons are supposed to be able to fire up to 3x their range band. So they should have been able to fire almost all the way across the board. It would have been initially at a -4 to hit, but that still would have given them a lot more chances to take the Deep Ones out before they got into melee.