Gaming Marathon

I spent an hour writing this, only to have Livejournal eat it. This version is going to be briefer.I spent the weekend in Olympia at Enfilade, a convention put on by the NHMGS (Northwest Historical Miniature Gaming Society). This has become a yearly event for Rick and I, and I enjoy the opportunity to go to a con just for fun. No business, no booth duty; just playing games. This year turned into something of a marathon because we added in a pickup game of 40K. Rick, Jefferson, Stephen, and I brought down armies and threw down on Friday night in an empty conference room we found in the hotel. We started at midnight and finished up around 4 am. Then I was up at 8 for the first session. By the end of day Saturday, I had played five full games in 28 hours and then did one more Sunday morning. I certainly got my fix for minis gaming. Here’s what I played (and there are pics on my Facebook page).

Kashgar, October 1920: A four way battle in Central Asia between Red Russians, White Russians, warlord Chinese, and Afghan tribesmen. We were all fighting to seize the lost gold of Alexander the Great, recently unearthed by American archeologists. I played the Chinese and it was a vicious battle. My “Dare to Die” troops overran the American marines and seized the pack mules with the gold, but then fell before White Russian firepower in their exposed position. The battle used The Great War rules by Warhammer Historical and most of the minis were from Copplestone Castings’ excellent “Back of Beyond” range.

Unlikely Allies: This is the aforementioned pickup game of 40K. Jefferson’s Necrons and Stephen’s Black Templars (I said they were unlikely allies) took on the Imperial Guard. I think this was the first time I fought Necrons and they were disconcertingly tough. The Imperial Guard battle line held but it was a close run thing.

King Philip’s War: A skirmish scenario set in New England in 1675 during this little known conflict. I was part of a force of American colonists and their Native American allies assaulting a Wampanoag village. The first part of the scenario was the advance of the attack force through the woods. Then we recycled our figs for the attack on the village (sensible, since we only had 3-6 minis each). The game used the Black Powder Battles rules and they had some peculiarities. Had the hang of them by the end though and we took the village for the win.

Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s Cross Border: I’ve recently been reading a book called Tip and Run about World War I in Africa, so I knew I had to play this game. I commanded a German force attempting to capture a British train in East Africa. I think the rules were the GM’s homebrew and overall they played quickly and were fun. He didn’t expect much hand to hand combat though, so those rules were slight. Naturally, our guys did a lot of charging into hand to hand! We blew the tracks, stopped the train, and then successfully assaulted it in the name of the Kaiser.

Venus gehoert Uns!: Last year I played in a Sword and the Flame game set on Mars. This year Chris Bauermeister (a college friend I see but rarely) was running a sequel, a big game with 12 players on a 5′ x 16′ table. This time the colonial powers of Victorian Earth were trying to impose their will on Venus. Having just played imperialists in the last session, I opted to join the native resistance this game. The first hour was slow, as I had only one unit to command. As the game went on, Chris would periodically hand us additional units as more and more Venusians emerged from the fog and mud to attack the Earthmen. It was like the Battle of Isandlwana with scaly Venusians instead of Zulus. We gave those imperialist Earthmen what for too.

Punic War: My last game was a classic matchup of Rome vs. Carthage using Warhammer Ancient Battles. This was four players and two GMs, and it was a nice change of pace after the mayhem of the previous night. I played Hannibal and had a ball. I thought we might have lost on turn 2 when my co-general’s cavalry assault went disastrously wrong and our entire right flank broke and began fleeing. Most of them rallied though and we were able to turn the tide. Our elephants and veterans punched a hole in the Roman line that they could not recover from. No salting my fields this time, Rome.

I had planned to try out Grand Armee, a Napoleonic game, in the final slot but Rick was beat so we headed back north early in the afternoon. We talked about maybe running a game at next year’s show, and that reminded me of when I started going to GenCon. I just went to play for the first few years but then I started running my own games. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to do that Enfilade, as putting on a big convention minis game is a lot of work and it would make the weekend less relaxing. Still tempting though.

Downtown Eating

I started trying to write a helpful post for people visiting Seattle for PaizoCon and looking for good places to eat. I had planned to suggest some eateries in other parts of town (like Saffron Grill, Stellar Pizza, and the Schwalb approved Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon) but I never got out of downtown and Belltown. So if you are looking for somewhere to eat when in Seattle, here are some options.

Bamboo Garden: Kosher vegetarian Chinese food. Yes, really, and it’s good. Near the Space Needle.

Cafe Yarmarka: Unpretentious but delicious Russian food. They’ve got about three tables and plastic chairs, but they deliver on the food. Great pelmeni, stuffed cabbage,and soups. In Post Alley in the market.

Can Can Kitchen and Cabaret: Have dinner and a show here or just the show. The Can Can has a resident cabaret troop that includes burlesque dancers, gymnasts, and even a goth belly dancer. Not cheap but fun. In the market.

Ipanema Grill: As much grilled Brazilian meat as you can eat. I had dinner here with Erik Mona once and even that stout Midwesterner eventually surrendered to the relentless waiters and their giant skewers of meat. Near Pike Place Market.

Le Pichet: French bistro with pate, sandwiches, and other country fare. The same folks run the equally excellent Cafe Presse in Capitol Hill. 1st Ave near the market.

Macrina Bakery: You can get great baked goods to go or sit down for soups, sandwiches, and the like. 1st Ave north of the market.

Panos Kleftiko: This Greek proclaims this the best Greek food in Seattle. They have a huge variety of small plates and we usually just pick a half dozen of those and call it dinner. Close to the Space Needle and the EMP.

Pike Place Chowder: They have excellent clam chowder, and I say that as a New Englander. Salmon and other varieties also tasty. In Post Alley in the market.

Shiro’s Sushi: Traditional sushi place but high quality. Good for omakase dinners. 2nd Avenue.

Umi Sake House: Excellent Japense food and hip decor. They have many unusual sushi rolls, some of which are tempura battered and fried. Mmmmm. 1st Ave north of the market.

Wasabi Bistro: More good Japanese. If you go for lunch, they have a great pick and choose bento. 2nd Ave.

Wild Ginger: Family style Chinese food. If you are a vegetarian, make sure you ask for their special veggie menu. On 3rd Ave near the post office.

Zig Zag Cafe: They have food here but the reason to go is the drinks. Murray Stenson, one of the best bartenders in the country, is the star attraction. His knowledge of mixology is amazing and he ensures the Zig Zag drink list is always interesting. If you are feeling bold, just ask for Murray’s choice with the alcohol of your choice and he’ll surprise you. On the Pike Street Hill Climb.

I could go on but I need to go to bed. If you are looking for a specific cuisine, just holler.

Punk Rock Archeology

I was watching some live footage of bands like the Bad Brains and Black Flag on YouTube today when it occurred to me that some shows I had actually been at might be on the internet somewhere. I started doing searches on ABC No Rio, CBGBs, and other clubs I used to go to in NYC in the late 80s and early 90s. I discovered a bunch of clips from the False Prophets, one of my favorite local bands in that era, and it looked like the band itself had put them up. I was particularly excited to discover that they had clips from the Rock Against Racism show at the Central Park bandshell on May 1, 1988. I was a sophomore in college at the time and remember that show well. The False Prophets and Nausea were the punk bands on the bill on both put on great sets. I started watching the footage and it really brought me back. Then I noticed something: me! Yes, you can see young Chris at age 19 down in front. So follow this link:

If you go to the 7:15 mark you will see someone wearing a black trenchcoat with a big white cross in a circle* on the back. That’s me. If you then go back to the 5:45 mark and watch for that jacket, you’ll see me pogo across the screen and back as the band kicks into “Marat/Sade”. Then go here:

At the 1:46 mark the camera pans by me as I’m turning and you can see my face. So young and dour.

I also discovered a clip of Sham 69 playing at CBGBs in 1988 and I also attended this show, though I’m not in the footage.

The clip has the band playing “Borstal Breakout,” one of their classic sing-a-long anthems. This was one of the high points of a show that overall quite disappointing. You’ll note the presence of a keyboardist and saxophonist on stage. On this tour they were showcasing a “new sound”, which was some weak-ass pop bullshit.Let’s just say the kids were united in not wanting to hear that out of Sham 69.

* I painted that trenchcoat with the symbol of Social Unrest, a California band that I was really into at the time. Social Unrest was, as I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find out, a lefty political band. Wearing that symbol almost got me beaten up by black skinheads once though. I was coming out of a diner on 6th Ave at like 3 in the morning when a group of black skins confronted me and asked me if I was a Nazi. I was boggled by the question and said hell no. They asserted that the Social Unrest symbol looked like the cross of Odin, which the Nazi skins had adopted as one of their signs. I explained the Social Unrest connection and they grudgingly accepted that answer. White paint = bad idea.

War of the Ring

When I was a budding young nerd, the two events that had the greatest impact on me were reading the Lord of the Rings and learning to play Dungeons & Dragons. Tolkien’s rich fantasy world and gaming have always been closely linked in my mind, which makes the torturous history of Lord of the Rings gaming sad. Oh, there have been many Tolkien-based games, but few of them managed to be both good games and faithful to the source material. I would still love to have a crack at doing a great Lord of the Rings RPG, but the rights situation is such that it’s unlikely to happen. News is better on the miniatures gaming front.

Games Workshop got the Lord of the Rings miniatures rights during the production of the movie trilogy. They have since published a series of games and sourcebooks and a beautiful line of accompanying miniatures. The Lord of the Rings miniatures game is fun, but at heart it’s a skirmish game. You might command a force of a dozen or two warriors, though the game is designed to accommodate the presence of mighty heroes like Aragorn, Theoden, and Faramir. I have enjoyed playing the game over the years, but I have to admit it’s not what I really yearned for.

No, what I’ve wanted since I was a lad was a real Lord of the Rings mass combat game, something that’d simulate the clash of armies seen in the Two Towers and Return of the King. I was therefor delighted when I learned that Games Workshop was publishing War of the Ring, a scaling up of their previous game designed for the big battles. I picked up the rulebook a few weeks ago and I must say it looks great.

First of all, it’s gorgeous. War of the Ring is full color throughout and takes advantage of all those years of minis production to show off hundreds of painted models. Second, it’s complete. It includes full rules and comprehensive army lists, so no waiting around for the army book for your favored force. Third, the design choices to scale the game up seem solid. The biggest problem moving into mass battle territory is that the minis range has been sold with round bases and you can’t really rank those up. War of the Ring gets around that by using movement trays as the organic element of army construction, each holding 8 infantry or 2 cavarly. It thus doesn’t matter how your figures are based, as long as your movement trays are the right size.

I haven’t played a game yet, so we’ll see how the rules hold up in play, but my first impression is quite favorable. The only weird thing I noted is that they held over way Ballistic Skill is expressed from the skirmish game. It’s formatted to tell you what you need to roll on a d6 to hit (so 4+, for example). The thing is that missile combat is done differently in War of the Ring and the BS score isn’t used as is. You take the BS and use it figure out an Accuracy score and that’s the number you use. You would think then that the army list would do this simple calculation for you, and list the Accuracy instead of the BS but it doesn’t. Every stat line in the game preserves the format of the skirmish game, presumably for the sake of consistency. I think it would have been smarter to provide Accuracy in War of the Ring, and then give the formula for BS if you wanted to use any of these stats in the skirmish game. Not a big deal but a strange design choice.

A couple of folks at Flying Lab are putting together armies, and Rick is game (as always). In the short run I’m going to use the many elves I have from other games to get playing. In the long run I’ll probably scale up Rohan and Easterling skirmish forces into full armies.

Arise, arise, Riders of Theoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
A sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

Secrets Revealed

As you likely have read already, we announced our mystery license today and it is Dragon Age: Origins, BioWare’s upcoming fantasy CRPG. I will be talking more about the game over the coming months, but I thought I’d start by going through the clues I sent out over the past week via Twitter and Facebook. They certainly led to some lively discussion, but here’s what I had in mind when I came up with them.

“Next week we herald the beginning of a new age.”
The new age is the Dragon Age, of course. I even thought about adding a second sentence to this with the word dragon in it, but I didn’t want to give the game away on the first clue. “New Age” is also a song by punk legends D.O.A. and both the band and BioWare are Canadian but that’s just a coincidence.

“Something old, something new, something needed, something overdue.”
Here I was getting at the nature of the game and what I’m trying to do with it. The pen & paper game shares some structure with the computer game, but uses its own system. “Something old” refers to the class and level nature of the game, which go back to the dawn of RPGs. “Something new” is the system I buit using it and other structural elements of the computer game. As for “something needed,” I was talking about a really good intro game for new roleplayers. I don’t think D&D; has had that since the early 80s (hence “something overdue”) and the tabletop roleplaying hobby needs new blood. It is not a coincidence that the first release is a boxed set.

“You’ll find great adventure beyond the gate.”
Here I was referring to BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate, one of the best CRPGs of all time. Dragon Age: Origins is the “spiritual successor” of Baldur’s Gate, with all that implies. It is the next step, a journey beyond the gate.

“If you want to be a knight, you better be prepared to earn it.”
You get two clues for the price of one here. First, knights in the realm of Ferelden (where Dragon Age: Origins takes place) can win the title through their deeds. In the tabletop game you will not start as a knight, but you can strive to become one. Second, this is an oblique reference to Knights of the Old Republic, another classic BioWare game for meatbags like you.

“No time for a day or rest when the world is imperiled.”
Another reference to the Dragon Age setting. There are those who do not believe that the threat to Ferelden is so serious, and they of course are gravely mistaken. I posted this on a Sunday, and meant to type “day of rest.” I realized later I had actually typed “day or rest” but I let it stand that way. Figured it couldn’t hurt to be more mysterious!

“Few believe the threat is real. Will there be mass hysteria when the truth can no longer be denied?”
This is similar to the previous clue, but allowed me to use the phrase “mass hysteria.” The pertinent reference is Mass Effect, yet another awesome BioWare game. “Mass Hysteria” is also a classic old punk rock song by Social Distortion, which has nothing to do with Dragon Age but it made me smile.

Now all the secrets have been revealed, I need to get back to finishing the game!


I have mentioned a few times this year that I’ve been working on a new licensed game. Well, the clock is finally ticking down to when I can talk about, and I mean that literally. We have a countdown clock to the announcement going on I’ve also been sending out some cryptic hints on Twitter (@GreenRoninPub) and Facebook. This has caused some interesting speculation on various forums. Some good guesses but also some that are far from the mark. To whit:

“Green Ronin is going 4e!” After all the long and ridiculous saga of the GSL, do you really think we’d suddenly reverse ourselves?

“Green Ronin is going to do the 4E version of True20.” We don’t even know what that means.

“He said gate. It must be Stargate.” C’mon, I’m not that obvious.

Yes, I know, I’m teasing you, but not for much longer. Only a few days to go.