Friday, November 16, 2018


This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend GAMEHOLECON in Madison, WI.  Unlike many gaming conventions I attend, this one I was just playing and not hosting any events.

GAMEHOLECON is a fairly large convention that draws a national and even international crowd.  The focus is RPG such as D&D, board games and some miniature gaming.  Many gaming notables make an appearance here such as game designers and even some gaming "celebrities" who draw a crowd.

This was only my second time attending, but since I have ventured back into D&D along with my miniature gaming there was enough on the event listing to keep me busy.  The convention took up most of the Alliant Energy Center and ran Thursday thru Sunday.

Throughout the weekend I attended a couple of D&D seminars, played in multiple sessions of D&D adventure league, the D&D Open, Gettysburg historical game, and finished with Star Wars Legion Tournament on Sunday.
Rare picture of me actually getting my nerd on
Unfortunately I failed to get many pictures of the D&D sessions, but they were epic.  Imagine a room filled with close to 400 people simultaneously playing various D&D sessions.

Gettysburg was the only historical miniatures game I played.  It was scheduled from 10AM-2PM Saturday.  You will see the pictures look eerily similar to my set up.  That is because the game master has the exact same maps and terrain I use, just with different scale minis and his own home brew rules.  He had also added 3D building to his setup which look very impressive.

Looks very familiar

Gettysburg map
I signed up for this event as I have run this game several times using Fire and Fury and I wanted to see someone else's take. 
Town with 3D buildings
There were only two players for our session, so I took command of the Confederates and had a very enjoyable time learning a new system of rules.  Not to spoil the ending, but the Rebels won.

Confederate Arty on Herr ridge
Rebels driving off Buford's Cavalry

Infantry mixing it up at the stone wall

Confederates massing to take the seminary
The main difference was playing with 6mm figures (they are small even compared to mine) and the rule system.  It is a unique system of rules based on morale that goes up and down as the battle rages to show the impact of fighting on the troops involved.  Originally designed for Napoleonic battles it seems to apply well to this period.  I hope they are published for sale at some point.

The remainder of Saturday was the D&D Open scheduled from 2PM until Midnight,  During the Open there were over 350 people all playing the same adventure essentially competing to solve the mystery in the shortest time and score the most points.  fortunately it finished around 11PM.  Our team did not win, but we did accomplish most of the adventure goals and had a great time with some very chaotic moments and hilarity.

Sunday AM I came back for the Star Wars Legion tournament organized by my friend Ben.  There were only six signed up so we decided to go with a relaxed style of play as opposed to a rigid time limit.  I was glad for this as it had been awhile since I had played and was a bit rusty on the mechanics.
Imperial army ready to deploy

First table with amazing terrain

Snow troopers in position

Rebel scum
Die traitor!

Amazing save against an equally amazing attack

Second game fought in the desert

Troopers getting slaughtered by terrorist leader Luke Skywalker

Overall I won and lost and was able to play against Rebels with my Imperial list, so that was a win in itself.  Most importantly we all had a good time.  Congrats to Chris who finished undefeated.

In addition to all the gaming the convention also featured a large vendor hall which hosted an assortment of gaming supplies.  I practiced some restraint, but did score the nice dice box pictured above which will work well with all my gaming hobbies.

Overall GAMEHOLECON was a success.  Even better because my lovely bride decided to get a hotel so I did not have to travel back and forth, so I was able to spend some time with her as well.

Already thinking about the possibilities for next year.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Foray into Blood and Plunder

As mentioned in my previous post Blood and Plunder was on the agenda at ROCKCON this year.  While I did not actively participate as a judge, I did get to watch Phil and his bothers James and Will host a very nice event Saturday evening.
Eric's Spaniards at the weekly gathering
At the same time our weekly gaming group just so happens to be playing Blood and Plunder so I was able to watch and learn last week before ROCKCON.  It is like the gaming gods are telling me I really need to try this game.  DUH!
ROCKCON scenario hosted by Phil
The only thing I hoped to purchase at ROCKCON was a copy of the rules for Blood and Plunder so I could follow along better after watching last week at Mark's.  I was successful when my friend Mike won an extra copy in the raffle and happily sold it to me.
Spanish town for the taking
After a quick skim of the rules while watching Phil's event Saturday as well as watching a few of the YOU TUBE tutorials I felt confident enough to take on a command last night during the weekly gathering.  My son, Justin, and I attended and were each given a command.
Well defended beach
I was assigned a French command that included three units of veterans, (two Marines and a support unit that included grenades) along with a commander.  My units were only armed with pistols and melee weapons, so getting in close would be key.  The scenario was a combined Dutch, English and French raid on a Spanish held town to find treasure and take hostages.  My French contingent had just landed on the beach when we started and the Dutch and English were attacking from inland.
Well executed landing
Knowing I had to get in close, I took to the woods using a hill and trees for some cover. The initial intent was to execute a double envelopment with my Dutch ally.  No plan ever survives first contact though and I was quickly accosted by some natives who bloodied a unit of my marines.  They were then joined by some Spanish spear men who successfully routed my lead unit of Marines, but not before taking some casualties themselves.  This is probably the time I should have used a fortune token to re roll and try to save my marines, ahh lesson learned.

Where did those natives come from?
My commander took note of the threat to the rear and quickly adapted, commanding the support unit to throw grenades and shoot the spear men.   He then lead a charge which effectively eliminated one threat.  Shortly after the French were able to drive off the natives as well scoring a 2nd unit killed.
When in doubt charge!
While I regrouped another group of natives came out of the woods.  They would prove no match for the well led marines and bombardiers.  Apparently natives do not like grenades...Who knew!  Having dispatched a 3rd enemy unit there was only one more threat, a will armed Spanish militia unit who fired  on me at range. The well lead French rolled excellently and were able to save all hits and avoid extra fatigue. 
Finish them lads!
This insolence would not be tolerated.  My reduced support unit advanced and shot them in the face with a blunderbuss and grenades scoring 4 hits and killing 3 leaving only one man and the commander.  The Spaniards decided retreat was the better part of valor and made a run for it.  The French blood was up though and I was able to chase them down like the dogs they were and deliver the knock out blow claiming my fourth unit of the night.
You can run, but you cannot hide
Fortunately my allies were also having success, although they were finding treasure and fair maidens while my French were doing the heavy lifting.  As it was getting late we all agreed the result would be a decisive victory for the attackers who had found all three treasures and two of the three civilians.
Dutch allies on my left
Having watched the game a couple times now and played once I am very impressed.  So much so that a will be making the jump and acquiring at least one 100pt force and adding another to my X-mas wish list.
Captured field gun
I am sure we were not doing everything exactly as intended as we were trying to make it work with 8 players.  It did seem to flow pretty well though even for a large game.  I did like the activation system with the varying amount of actions based on troop quality and the activation card suit being played.  I also liked the reload and fatigue system.  It took some thought and planning to make sure your troops were in the right status to do what you wanted.  Of course being hard charges, that meant my French mostly attempted melee combat every chance they could.  The grenadier also proved very effective when he hit.

Remaining unit consolidated as the action ended
I look forward to playing again maybe on a smaller scale to try the rule out as intended instead of making them fit for a larger group.  My son approved and is willing to give it a try which is the most important part, so I will have an occasional opponent when he is home on break.

Thanks to Eric and Mark for hosting such a great game.

I am confident there will be more Caribbean adventures to come......

Monday, October 22, 2018

Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift -ROCKCON 2018

This past weekend was ROCKCON 2018 in Rockford, IL.  It is a great regional game convention I have been attending and supporting for several years.  The past few years Phil and I have teamed up representing The Northern Front Podcast to put on events.

Initial Set up Friday night
This year I decided to recycle a couple of tried and true Anglo-Zulu war battles, Isandlwana and Rorke's drift  as this coming January will be the 140th anniversary.  We have never run them back to back, so figured it would be a great opportunity.

Since we dove into Anglo-Zulu war a few years ago we have run Isandlwana a few times and last year Rorke's drift made its debut, so why not fight them both on the same day just like they were historically.  Both scenarios are fairly large games to manage, but with Phil's help we have them both down pretty well and those that get the opportunity to play certainly enjoy them.
British Camp
Once again the ROCKCON staff gave us the royal treatment and put us in a prime location with a nice alcove to set up an extra table so we could stage the hordes of Zulu.  This worked great and allowed the action to flow well on the gaming table.

I arrived Friday evening to scope everything out and was told the area was ours for the weekend as Phil and his brothers (James and Will) were running Blood and Plunder following the Anglo-Zulu events Saturday evening an Sunday AM.   This allowed me to set up Isandlwana Friday night and have it prepped and ready to go for Saturday AM without being rushed.
Thin Red Line
Saturday I arrived and made some final adjustments  before Phil, James and Will showed up.  We had 10 players registered for our event which worked out perfect as I was not counting on James and Will so they could jump in and make it an even 12 while helping the others and learning the rules  themselves.
Quartermaster readies the ammo
I believe this is the fifth time we have run Isandlwana.  We use Black Powder rules with some modifications to make the scenario run smoothly and produce historical results.  Some of the scenario specific adjustments we have made over time include:

1. Zulu can make an initiative move even if disordered.
2. British Infantry move at half speed (6 inches per move)
3. British can not move backwards (Retreat) until told to do so by judges.
Scouts forward
We start by detailing a brief history of the battle for the players for those that do not know.  We also let them know that the British are going to lose.  The British objective is to survive and help their sister units survive.  The Zulu are controlled by the judges and those players who volunteer or sign up last.  We currently have 25 units(Roughly 500 figs) of Zulu which are recycled endlessly facing off against 6 British line units, NNC Unit, Carbineers, 2 guns, 2 rocket sections.

British Goals or Victory Points:

1.  Gain 1 point for each turn they survive
2. Gain 1 point for successfully retreating from the designated exit point (Road)
3. Gain 1 Bonus point for the randomly drawn sister unit escaping from the battle

The sister unit is randomly drawn and kept secret, so each player knows which unit they are supposed to help, but the player being helped does not know it and they all have a different unit.
British deployed
Set up/game:

The British scouts have spotted the hidden Zulu and deployed from the camp setting up a loose line of battle supported by artillery and rockets.  The Zulu then attack from two directions slowly building up pressure.  As judges we make a judgment call as to when the British can begin to withdraw based on how the battle progresses.  This is usually done in two phases.  Once a British unit is forced back they receive and order to fall back to dress the lines.  Once the first unit breaks or the line is fully engaged the British receive the order for full withdrawal.  Again, this is a judgment call based on our experience, but has worked very well every time we ran the scenario.  It then becomes a race to survive and hopefully get your sister unit off with you as the Zulu swarm all around.

The Game:

Zulu begin to advance from across the Donga

Zulu pressure on the right

The lines close for the first time

Defenders hold, but give some ground

Where are all these Zulu coming from!

Dress the lines and prepare to defend yourselves

Here they come again!

A chink in the armor as the Red Coats begin to crumble

Save the guns!


There are just to many of them

NNC providing rear guard

Casualties mounting fast

The crew as Phil looks on

 In the end, this running of Isandlwana played a bit faster than previous events and we were able to complete in a little over 3 hours.  Once the British started to collapse it cascaded rather quickly.  Two British units were able to escape to tell the tale and send warning of the disaster at Isandlwana to Rorke's Drift.

Most importantly everyone had a great time maneuvering toy soldiers around the table.  Finishing a little early was fortunate as we had to make the transition to Rorke's Drift for the next session on the same Table.

Rorke's Drift is the more recent scenario we have run in the last year.  It was developed using a scenario I found on another blog and you can see a few other AARs as well as more details about the scenario itself on my other posts.

This time we had a total of 8 players divided in half for Zulu and British.  We had a number of familiar faces who had gamed with us previously including a couple from Isandlwana returned to try their fate at Rorke's drift along with some new blood.

In honesty, Rorke's drift can take much longer that 4 hours to play out to final conclusion, but we are comfortable running it in a 4 hour slot.  Our experience is that everyone will get a good feel for the game and have a good time.  That said, this particular re-fight went much different that past battles and greatly deviated from history.

The Zulu players made their plan for the initial attack while the British players shored up their defenses for what they expected was coming.  In the opening round the Zulu are limited to 8 units (one IMPI) along with 4 feint units and attack from two jump off points.  In later rounds they can use up to 12 units along with feints and all the jump off points.

Once set the battle began with the Zulu attacking from the kraal and behind the hospital evenly divided.

Initial attacks move in

British poised to defend

First contact

Zulu attack the hospital and set it ablaze

Attacks on the Kraal are persistent and score an early victory

Apparently the British have no stomach for this as a 3nd unit breaks early

Zulu make it all the way to the wall with the first attack before they withdraw to reorganize.

Zulu go right back in this time attacking from the Garden and Kraal

The attackers on the Kraal are once again successful

Brits are able to keep up a sustained fire on the Zulu coming from the garden

The Zulu find a weakness near the hospital and make it over the barricades

With the Kraal in Zulu hands the Brits take to the redoubt

Desperate defense ensues as the British are caught out of position

Final defender is driven from the Kraal

British suffered 6/12 units lost to the Zulu 3/39

Battle ended on turn 2 after the 2nd active phase

 The re-fight was unique from the rest in that the Zulu achieved greater success than any other and very quickly.  We called the battle after 3:45min with the British willing to concede as the Zulu had thoroughly bloodied them and still had 2/3 of their forces in fresh reserve. 

It was a bad day for the British Empire with the disaster at Isandlwana and now losing Rorke's Drift and their supply point.  They may have to reconsider the invasion all together and withdraw their forces from Zululand.  The Zulu were not to be conquered this day.

Again, the Players all had a great time with many shouts of ZULU! throughout the game.  The best part was that two of the new younger players were the Zulu attacking the Kraal.  Granted they had amazing die rolls vs. some lack luster British defense dice, but I think we have some new Black Powder converts.

Once again the ROCKCON staff came through providing tickets for all the  participants to claim a prize from the donation prize vault which was icing on the cake for a great game.

One of the players was so impressed we were asked to come put on a game at his upcoming convention on January 19th 2019.  It just so happens that is 3 days prior to the actual 140th anniversary of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift.  If the calendar works out we will try to make it happen.  Also good motivation to paint more Zulu.

Once the battle concluded we immediately began tear down as we needed to transition to Blood and Plunder which Phil and his brothers ran Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Here are a few preview shots from the game Saturday night.

 I originally hoped to play in blood and Plunder, but instead chose to pack up all the Anglo-Zulu, grab some dinner and a couple of beers while I watched the Cook boys run the game.

I am not familiar with Blood and Plunder, but was able to secure a copy of the rules so I could follow along.  I do look forward to actually playing soon.

As Sunday was the Mrs. Birthday and my eldest was home from College I did not make it back for the Sunday AM session.  I trust Phil will have a full report of the Blood and Plunder action on his blog at some point.  When that happens I will come back and add a link.

Overall another very successful ROCKCON.  Thanks again to the staff and minions for being very accommodating of our requests and all the behind the scenes work they do to make ROCKCON a successful event year after year.  I know they need GMs to have the event, but it is always easier to go above and beyond for ROCKCON because of the support and help they provide.

The only change I might make if we do large events back to back again is to request a second set of tables so one can be set up and ready to go while the other is being played.  Making the transition in an hour was a bit tough.  fortunately we finished early for Isandlwana and had four of us there to help.

Already starting to lay plans for next year.