Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fight of the Flying Wing

Ok, so it's been a few months since Origins 2010, and it is only now that I am finally posting more information on my .45 Adventure scenario, Fight of the Flying Wing. I've been busy, but here it is, sort of. I'm terrible about taking pictures when I run a game at a convention. I try to stay focused on running the game. My usual assistants helped set up and pack up, but were off playing games of their own during the game. So what you see here are pictures from one of the games I ran on a typical game night with some set ups to recreate some of the Origin's game. It will give you a feel of the scenario.

This was the second year that I have run an Indiana Jones flavored .45 Adventure's scenario at Origins. It was also the second year that my game was the only .45 Adventure game scheduled for Origins which was too bad. Both times my games have sold out with in a couple of hours of being posted. Both times I have had a good audience to watch, and lots of potential players waiting with their generic tickets in the hopes that a player won't show. I know it's not GenCon, but with around 12,000 attendance it isn't small either, and when you figure that only 1/3 of Origins attendees go to GenCon you are missing a lot of potential customers. Maybe next year. I am planning on taking both of my scenarios to Origins '11 and I have plans for a third - I hope.

So here are some pictures.

The scenario is not a strict recreation of the movie - that would only involve Indy and the Germans. To make it a four player game I added another American and a group of Desert Defenders for a nod to the Mummy.

The Americans where Mick O'Reilly (another nod to the Mummy) and Pennsylvania Smith, both grade 3's. So the Americans were run by two players with a total team strength of six. The Germans were commanded by Maj. Oberst Unter (grade 3) with a commando team of three grade 1's. This was a rouge German team bent on earning points with Hitler by capturing the Ark for themselves, and thus were free to attack any German guards. The Desert Defenders were lead by Hassen Ben Eezy (grade 3) and his team of three grade 1 henchmen. Their job was to protect the hiding place of the Ark and eliminate all witnesses. Add the German mechanic who is simply minding his own business tuning up the flying wing, the pilot, and of course the German sergeant/prize fighter asleep in the tent; these were for my to have some fun with.

Scattered randomly about the field were some extra weapons (grenades, a panzerfaust, etc.), a sink hole (Who thought it was a smart idea to build an airfield on top of some ancient ruins?) asps (Snakes - why'd it have to be snakes?) a short lived dust devil/prop wash, and of course the Ark. Plus a mix of blanks and some other useful items. I don't want to give to much away.

The big attention grabber was the flying wing. Not a great model, I only made it out of a chunk of Styrofoam, some cardboard, a few bit from my bit box, and some wooden wheels. It is roughly to scale with the exception of the wheel - I used ones large enough to move minis under the model without needing to lay them down. The props are held on with magnets so that they can be changed for spinning prop discs when the engines come on. I also made some wheel block that need to be removed and double as weapons. In every game I've run the mechanic always gets pushed back into the prop.

Put in plenty of explosions markers, leaking fuel drums, trucks that no one ever seems able to drive, and a time limit if any large explosions occur (the German base is alerted) and you have a fun game
This year I used the AmmoCounters which added a great visual to the game, plus the fun of having the players ammo run down. They really brought a lot of additional attention to the game. Each gun had it's own type of counter, from Pennsylvania's revolver, to the German Luggers, to the submachine guns. They don't really make .45 Adventures more difficult to run - you just take out bullets as you roll shots. And the sound of all the brass hitting the pile is cool.

So that's it for Origins '10. Those of you that got to play, thanks for a fun game and I hope to see you at Origins '11.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Savage Worlds Character Sheet

Here is my two page version of a Savage Worlds character sheet. This is the one I use at my table for both local games and when I'm running on at a con; Such as this years Zombies on the Zeppelin which I GMed at Savage Saturday Night at this past Origins.

It can be found here.

Hope you can use it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Star Fleet Battle Manual Energy Boards

It's been busy around here with all the orders for the AmmoCounters, but I have had some time to finish two more boards for Lou Zocchi's Star Fleet Battle Manual: the Federation Destroyer and Scout. You will find them at on the Game Files section. The ship dials have also been updated to include these ships. You will still need the game rules to use these.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Origins 2010

Whew! What a week it was at Origins 2010. Now that I'm home and have had time to get somewhat caught up on some sleep I think I might be able to share some of my experiences.
I arrived in Columbus with my friend Brian (a college-age gamer who has been in my group since he was a preteen), Tuesday night. My wife and daughter had come down early to do some shopping for my daughter's college needs. We decided to stay in a hotel on the north side of Columbus for better rates and easier parking.

We arrived at Origins Wednesday mid morning. The registration line was it's usual craziness, but the volunteers were doing there best and all of our paperwork went smoothly. Each of us was in a different line; myself in the GM's, my daughter in the educator's and Brian in the regular preregistration. What seemed to be slowing the lines down was that the badges hadn't been printed out until just before the convention so those of us who arrived on the first day had to wait a little longer while our badges could be found. I did need to go back later to pick up my event tickets since they weren't with my badge and again for my GM vouchers since they weren't ready, but nothing difficult. Most of the attendees in the line were patient, but I did see a few badly behaved and angry ones. We need to remember that most of the people manning the registration line are volunteers and fellow gamers who are giving their time to try to make Origins the best it can be - so try to be kind.

Attendance did seem to be up a little from the last few years. It's always good to see so many friends and acquaintances. Lots of hugs and waves. A really nice surprise was discovering that I had been allotted my own section of the miniature hall for my games. It really made setting up and running the games a lot easier than previous years. Thanks to Steve Smith, the miniatures director for that.

The first game I ran was a qualifier in the Star Fleet Battle Manual tournament. It was held mid afternoon on Wednesday and had four of the six seats prefilled. The game looked really good all set up and always drew a good crowd - lots of gamers who had played it in their younger days. Later I ran a sold out game of WizWar 3D, which is always a favorite. Then it was back to the room for some sleep.
Thursday began bright and early with a 9AM (who scheduled that?) game of WizWar - again sold out. A good group of players and I know everyone loves to play it, but I'm getting tired of hauling that game around. Then it was time for some shopping in the dealers hall.
I always try to hit the hall on Thursday to avoid the weekend crowds. The economy seems to effecting the size of some company's booths, but exhibiter space was sold out for the first time in many years - smaller booths, but more of them. A lot of first time attendees among the dealers which makes for a great shopping experience. Went to the Pinnacle/Studio 2 booth to grab a copy of the new Deadlands Reloaded Players Handbook and to visit with the Pinnacle staff. And to show off my AmmoCounters; they were met with oh's and ah's and approval. In fact they didn't want to let them go, but since I needed them for some of the games I would run later I took them with me. (I did give Mike some of them before I left on Sunday.) Then it was over to the Kenzerco booth to see if Jolly Blackburn received the AmmoCounters I had sent him. Was I surprised to see that they were Editor Picks for the newest copy of Knights of the Dinner Table (#164). I also had to pick up a copy of the Bag Wars Saga from them. My daughter was also pleased to have Jolly recognizer from her picture that was in the article I wrote for KODT #160. I made a quick stop at GameScience to see my friend Matt Ragsdale's dice tower display - truly a work of gamer art; plus it plays even more songs this year.
I also needed to pick up some Gaming Paper, some grenade markers from Litko, and a copy of Rowboat from Moosetache Games (a nice new company with a fun game) Those were the items on my shopping list, the rest of the time was spent exploring all the booths and helping my daughter find items for her steampunk costume.
After a nice lunch at the North Market it was back for the second Star Fleet Battle Manual qualifier. My daughter and Brian spent a lot of time gaming - Hallow Earth, Savage Worlds, Aces & Eights, Realms of Ctuthulu to name a few.
My wife joined us for a lovely dinner at Max & Ermas across the street from the convention center. A great place to eat and see friends.
Friday morning was the last of the Star Fleet Battle Manual qualifiers, and then a game of my Crimson Eagles. The turn out for Crimson Eagles was up to six this year, so it is slowly growing. A good game with some really good players (in fact all the players in my games; mine and the one's I played in were good); it's a fast game so we just gave them a new plane every time some one got shot down. After a quick supper, we all played in a pulp RPG. It was a Hero System game (which none of us had played before, and have decided that none of us like), set in 1935 with rockets, Nazis, aliens, - you get the picture. A good group a players and a fun game even with a rule system we didn't enjoy.

Saturday was the busy one. The Star Fleet Battle Manual tournament final was at 10AM so once again we got there early to set up. It was over at 10:05AM. The players decided to use Klingon cruisers, and on the second round (the first they were allowed to fire), the winner fired a barrage that went through the shields and then rolled the only number that would destroy the other ship's life support. Lucky shot sir! At least it gave me time to do some more shopping - a copy of Pandemic, Say Anything, and Out of the Boxes 7 Ate 9 for a young friend who is having trouble with her math.
Our seminar Learning With Games was scheduled for after lunch so we tracked down the PowerPoint projector (Yeah! they had one for us this year), and set up in the teacher's track room. A really good turn out this year, 35, which was over the limit of tickets, but OK. I think this will be the last year I present this lecture; it is really designed for the teacher who are new to gaming, but most of the attendees are old hands at it so I don't think I'm reaching the audience I need to. Also it was difficult because another lecture was scheduled for the room right after ours and it would have been nice for some time of questions and answers.
Next it was time to run the .45 Adventure, Fight of the Flying Wing. It really looked good set up and lots of people stopped by to see it. The event was sold out (with in a few hours of it going on sale last month), and it was the only .45 event scheduled for the con - I think Rattrap Productions might want to consider having a presence at Origins since this is the second year in a row that my games have sold out. The game went in a totally different direction then any of the play testing sessions went, but the players had a good time, which is all that matters. I used the AmmoCounter which added an extra element, both visual and play-wise, to the game.
After a quick dinner, we headed over to Pinnacles Savage Saturday. This was the first time we had ever gone and we all had a great time. My daughter played in a Deadland's Showdown game and then a fantasy adventure. Brian was in a modern horror and then a fantasy one. I decided to GM a pulp adventure. In the more than 30 years that I have been GMing this is the first time that I have run a game at a convention so I was a little nervous. It went great. A really good group of players. My scenario involved sky pirates, Nazi's, and zombies on a zeppelin so how could I go wrong? The AmmoCounters were a big hit - especially with all that brass hiting the table in the zombie battles.
Sunday was pack up time; worship at our Columbus church with other gamers, GAMA staff, and fellow gamers; then back over to Origins to say good bye to friends and drop off some AmmoCounters at the Pinnacle Booth.
So there it is. Another great year. Now to start planning my events for Origins 2011.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

AmmoCounters & Das Spiel Unker

So what have I been doing lately? Everything but posting on this blog. A lot of time has been spent getting my games ready for Origins. I could have played them months ago, but it's the little things that make the games so much better, but also take all the time.

For instance - the minis for the Star Fleet Battle Manual tournament needed new decals; some of the planes for Crimson Eagles need repairs; a decides to use a few different minis for the .45 Adventure so those needed painted; and I haven't even started updating the seminar on Learning With Games.

The biggest use of my time has been spent getting my company, Das Spiel Unker, up and running. That has entailed a new website, advertising, and of course designing, making, and stockpiling the products: AmmoCounters. I have been making these for years for my gaming group (helps to be a woodworker with a full shop), and have often thought about offering these for sale. So now I am.

These are used for keeping track of ammuntion in RPG's and miniature games that use fire arms. They are much more fun than simply marking off boxes on your character sheets. My group uses them for Savage Worlds (pulp and Rippers), .45 Adventures, and d20 Modern. They work well for Westerns, pulp, steampunk, and war games.
I make AmmoCounters for clips, shotguns, revolvers, the LaMatt, and my favorite - the Tommy Gun. They are all made of hardwood so they will last for years.

I think you will like them, so please check them out. At

The site also has my Crimson Eagles rules and my energy/damage allocation boards for Star Fleet Battle Manual on the Game Files page.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dateline Egypt 1936: This years Origins' .45 Adventure

Here's a teaser for my .45 Adventure scenario that I am running at Origins this year. The title is Flight of the Flying Wing and it will be run in the miniature hall on Saturday, June 26th at 4:00 P.M.. For those of you who would like to sign up when the the events finally become available it is #1238.
Not as elaborate as last years Temple of the Warriors, but it should be fun.
Once again this will be the only .45 Adventure event at Origins which is a disappointment, but I still think it is a great game system. So stop by and check it out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

1st Intergalactic Star Fleet Battle Manual Tournament

In 1977 a group of us traveled to Cleveland (our parents actually drove us since none us could drive yet), for our first Star Trek convention. It opened up a whole new world for us - young teens from the country who had watched the reruns enough times to quote whole episodes from memory, collected the novelizations, built the models and even managed to buy a few Starlog magazine from our local newsstand in the pharmacy when we could get to town. But here we met the stars (Doohan, Takei, and Koenig), saw people in costumes, and entered our first dealers hall. While there I bought a slim, ziplock bagged game with a picture of a Federation dreadnaught on the cover.

I remember reading the instructions on the way home by the light of the streetlights until we left the city. Here was my first starship combat game, but certainly not my last. Those first few battles where played with just the cardboard cards until I could save up enough money to send away for the plastic ships. Battles were waged all over the house since the game doesn't need a board. Furniture was asteroids and stairs made for interesting movements. It was also my first try at home rules with homemade ship designs.

The game was a favorite with my friends and I, and then with my younger brothers. I even played it in college - nothing like a bunch of astrophysics majors to be Star Trek fans. I fact I never stopped playing it. Fast forward to 1997. The game has gotten a little dog-eared (I had picked up a second addition a one point), and I was now playing it with the next generation. I decided to write a letter to Lou Zocchi (the designer) on the off chance he was still at the address listed in the game. That was the beginning of my friendship with Lou. He asked me to run Star Fleet Battle Manual at Origins that year and I have almost every year since. I've played it on tables, on the floor, in the open gaming area. I even have the approved starbase design with 12-foot diameter field of fire with the super phasers - always a crowd pleaser.

This year I've decided to run a tournament for all those long time fans (and maybe some new ones). When I was talking to Lou last week about it he said that as far as he knows there has never been a Star Flee Battle Manual tournament (at least not an official one). Those this will be the First Intergalactic Star Fleet Battle Manual Tournament; open to all intelligent beings and races, though I do feel it will be heavy on the human side.
To add some newness and color to the game I've made some energy and damage allocation boards, rather than just the old record sheets. I think that they have turned out rather nicely. Colored cribbage pegs serve as energy and damage indicators. You simply plug them in.

So if you will be at Origins this year and are a fan (or want to learn) stop by. The events should be going up soon at the Origins site. The game will be run Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the final battle on Saturday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Prep for Origins 2010

I just submitted my events for Origins 2010. I've been a bit concerned about Origins this year since their website has been undergoing redesign since November with no end in site. I just hope the wait doesn't hurt attendance too much. Origins is a great convention, especially for game playing. It is a bit sad to see the constant fight between so many GenCon VS Origins attendees. These are both great conventions, each with it's own flavor. As gamers we need to support them both, not bad mouth one or the other, since they both help keep our hobby alive. The more game conventions the better. But enough preaching.

Once again I will be taking my 3D WizWar. I'm planning on running it twice this year instead of just once. It's always popular and the board just attracts an audience. A few repairs on the traveling damage from last year and it's ready to go.

Crimson Eagles will be back again, though this time I'm going to try a Friday time slot to see if attendance is better. It's also ready to go.

I've decided to run Star Fleet Battle Manual after a break of many years. I used to demo this for Lou Zocchi and his Gamescience company. Even though this is a 30 year old game there are still old gamers out there who have fond memories of it and love to playing it. For those of you who don't know what Star Fleet Battle Manual is, it is the original Star Trek miniature game. Many gamers confuse it with the far more popular Star Fleet Battles. The Star Fleet Battle Manual is played without a board using a ruler to move the ships. Combat is done by figuring the angle and distance to the target by the eyeball method and then stretching out a string to see if you hit the target. While the game is simple compared to most other starship combat games it has a clean elegance that has much more of the Star Trek feel than the other games - no attack shuttles, missiles, fighters, and weapons systems galore. Just phasers, photon torpedoes, disruptors and plasma bolts. The game truly captures the feel of the original series combat.
I'm updating Lou's original design with a combat board system rather than the old paper records. Not only will this be more colorful (always a crowd pleaser at a gaming con), but will make record keeping quicker and teaching the game to newbies should be easier. There will still be a need for record keeping for navigation, but I am updating the record sheets for that part too. There have been a lot of changes in gaming since 1973, especially in the area of home computers and self-publishing which were not available to Lou (plus he hates to use computers). The Star Fleet Battle Manual was done on a typewriter with hand drawn graphics.

I am also running it as a tournament. According to Lou there has never been a Star Fleet Battle Manual tournament (at least not an official one, or one that he knows of.) So this will be the first, official Intergalactic Star Fleet Battle Manual Tournament.

Once again my family will be presenting our seminar on using games in education. This has been very popular the last two years, but I have had requests to move it to an afternoon slot. So we will see how that works for it.

Since the .45 Adventure based on the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Arks did so well last summer I will be running a sort of sequel - the battle at the flying wing. So my big project over the next few months will be to construct a mini of the German Flying Wing from that scene. I'll keep you up to date on its progress.
Well, that's it for now. I need to work on some minis. Hope to see many of you at Origins this year.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Decontamination of Polyhedral Randomizing Elements

For Christmas 2008, I received a container of gourmet hot chocolate in my stocking. The hot chocolate was ok, but what really intrigued me was the metal tin it came in. After all, as a gamer and a miniature builder packaging is often the best part of a gift since it can be turned into so many useful items: rocks, crashed spacecraft, ruins, and parts of larger projects. This item was no exception - a roughly 10-inch metal container shaped like a milkcan but bearing a striking resemblance to some of the radioactive storage containers I had used in college nuclear physics. Perfect. But what to turn it into?

After some thought I came up with the idea of a dice cleanser. As a long time gamer I have heard more than my share of dice superstitions, both serious and in fun. My players had been complaining for some time that I, as their GM had been cursing their dice. So I decided the time was right to build a dice cleanser.

As a scientist I went about the process in a very scientific way. The thoughts and studies that went into its construction are best found in article, Dice Cleansing 101 in Knights of the Dinner Table which I wrote after I had completed the cleanser.

It actually began very simply. I decided to paint the can as a radioactive container in yellow and red and then place a piece of a summer camp cabin that I had lying about. The story behind this piece of wood goes back to my college days when I spent my summers as a camp counselor. The cabin was where the male summer staff that were not counseling stayed - lifeguards, kitchen staff, maintenance and counselors that weren't with kids. Most of us were gamers and many of us still game together after almost 30 years - a feat in itself. When Cabin #1 was torn down several years ago I was able to save a piece of it, so I thought that it would be appropriate to be in the cleanser.

I also thought that autographs of people who work in the game industry would also be a nice touch. So I wrote a letter to my friend Lou Zocchi asking for his. For those of you who don't know Lou, you might say that he is the father of the modern polyhedral gaming dice. To learn more about Lou and his dice check out his YouTube video. He and I have known each other for years so I should have known that I would get more than his autograph. What I got was a small package with some very odd dice and a letter explaining that these were Magic Bubble Dice. Lou went on to explain how these might be able to suck out the bad luck of a die. Well, these certainly had to go in the can!

From there the whole project just sort of snowballed: the piece of Cabin #1, autographs, Magic Bubble Dice, a dice monitor, and pictures of dice torture to strike fear into poorly rolling dice. And then, of course, I decided to write an article on the theory of dice cleansing and how to make a cleanser.

For those of you who are inspired to make your own cleanser I am posting the pictures of dice torture for you to print out and place in your own cleanser. (These are only staged - no dice were actually harmed in the making of them.)

The Magic Bubble Dice can be obtained from GameScience, though you will need to contact them directly since they don't carry them on their website.

Happy gaming.