Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Bear Yourselves Valiantly will be available soon

    Posted By on September 22, 2014

    A couple of weeks ago, we sent the files for BYV off to the publisher, On Military Matters.  Last weekend we reviewed two test specimens.  I tweaked the .pdf files as a result of reviewing these proofs and sent them back to On Military Matters.  These should be hitting the streets very soon.

    Gaming at War Horse Farm

    Posted By on September 22, 2014

    Starting positions for Lvov

    Starting positions for Lvov

    In previous posts I’ve written about events at which the HAWKs have support Senior Leader Professional Development events and gaming days at Sam Fuson’s War Horse Farm.  One of the unit’s members is heading off to the career course, and as a going away event he requested that we run a Look, Sarge, No Charts:  World War Two game.  How could we turn down such a flattering request?  Since we were running these games in September 2014, it was apropos that we chose two battles that took place in September.

    Introducing a younger gamer to the joys of wargaming

    Introducing a younger gamer to the joys of wargaming

    We elected to reprise our large Lvov scenario.  In this scenario, in September 1939, the Russians and Germans are converging on the Polish city of Lvov.  The Poles, however, may not rest on the defense.  While fighting in two directions to keep the Russians and Germans from linking up, they must also advance to seize German heavy artillery that are shelling Lvov from some high ground.

    The action begins to heat up

    The action begins to heat up

    On the flank shown in the picture (above), Polish horse cavalry and tankettes fought against heavy German armor, halftracks, and infantry to hold a line along a stream.  After some fierce fighting, the tankettes and armored cars were overwhelmed, and the Germans broke through.  They were heading toward the key village of Zboiska when the game ended.

    Poles being pushed off a critical hill by the Russians

    Poles being pushed off a critical hill by the Russians

    On the other flank, the Russian tanks finally broke through another Polish infantry battalion; however, the Poles along another creek and those shown on the hill in the picture (above) managed to strip off most of the Russian infantry support.  When the game ended, the Russian tanks were pushing toward Zboiska as well, despite a pummeling by Polish anti-tank rifles.

    When the game ended, the Poles were on the slopes above Lvov destroying the German artillery, and the Russians and Germans were in no position to take Zboiska without a protracted fight.  We declared the game a Polish victory.

    Duncan provides the historical context for his WWI game

    Duncan provides the historical context for his WWI game

    The second game of the day was a WWI game with Duncan’s modification of LSNC: WWII (with elements of A Union So Tested rolled in).  The scenario involved the beginnings of the battles around the Marne in September 1914.  This is a period of history in which I have little knowledge, but I’ve really enjoyed Duncan’s early WWI games.  In this scenario, the French were advancing to seize high ground on the far end of the table, while the Germans had to keep the French as far away from the high ground as possible.

    French advance across open ground toward the Hun

    French advance across open ground toward the Hun

    Despite terrible casualties, the game was a marginal French victory.  The French had an isolated regiment on the high ground and another regiment in position to advance to the high ground (against substantial resistance).  On the French right (show above early in the game before the carnage), however, the French economy-of-force regiment was nearly wiped out and holding onto the village shown in the picture) by the skin of their teeth.

    All-in-all, it was a good gaming day!

    Blood and LARP at Barrage 2014

    Posted By on September 14, 2014

    The swashbucklers before the brawl

    The swashbucklers before the brawl

    As Barrage 2014 was winding down, we set up a “barroom” ala Blood and Swash for some semi-LARP-ing.  The basic idea was to replicate the pirate tavern brawls and Jennifer, Chris, and I run using Blood and Swash with the HAWKs as the figures.  Note in the picture above that we used foam koozies as beer mugs.  We put koozies, paper plates, tables, and chairs around the playing area.

    Sammy's early musket shot takes out Tom before he even had a chance to do anything exciting.

    Sammy's early musket shot takes out Tom before he even had a chance to do anything exciting.

    There were four swashbucklers in the game, and they were assigned additional players to be on their teams.  Each swashbuckler was assigned a suit of cards.  I pulled cards and announced the suit.  The swashbuckler would then determine which of his team members would act.

    Kurt and William display their fencing skills.

    Kurt and William display their fencing skills.

    Rob accosts Sammy.

    Rob accosts Sammy.

    In Blood and Swash tavern fights the objective generally is to get a treasure chest full of gold out of the tavern.  It is every player for himself, with each player controlling three or four figures.  This game was no different.

    A three-way fight between Sammy, Rob, and Chris.

    A three-way fight between Sammy, Rob, and Chris.

    Rob is victorious against Sammy; Eric attempts to dodge a musket ball from behind.

    Rob is victorious against Sammy; Eric attempts to dodge a musket ball from behind.

    We used standard Blood and Swash rules.  Each player was given a card with pre-rolled stats (Slug, Shoot, Sword, Save, and Hit Points).  In Blood and Swash, figures are in one of four categories from swashbuckler (best) to men at arms (worst).  For our LARP event, the more dressed up the players were, the better their character type.  Equipped with foam swords, Nerf guns, and other accouterments, we launched into the game.

    Jennifer the pirate meets her doom.

    Jennifer the pirate meets her doom. Note the fallen "beer mug" and the spill marker cut from a cheap shower curtain.

    Bill and Chris fight over William's dead body.

    Bill and Chris fight over William's dead body.

    Sword play, shoving attacks, and fisticuffs were handled with the GM (me) calling out die rolls, which the players compared to their stats to determine success or failure of the action.  Throwing and shooting was accomplished by players physically throwing mugs or plates and firing Nerf guns.  As in Blood and Swash, reloading took four actions.

    Rob attempts to take the chest as Geoff considers his alternatives

    Rob attempts to take the chest as Geoff considers his alternatives

    After killing Rob, Geoff prepare to leap over his body to take the chest out of the bar.

    After killing Rob, Geoff prepare to leap over his body to take the chest out of the bar.

    The participants, observers (HAWKs not participating in the game), and GM all had a terrific time.  All of the things that make Blood and Swash fun, such as people slipping on spilled beer, dropping swords, and leaping over tables, chairs, and bodies, all occurred in this game.  The HAWKs are already talking about how to make this better next year.  I suspect at a minimum more people will develop costumes so that they get better characters.

    Geoff brought a fist to a sword fight.

    Geoff brought a fist to a sword fight. It didn't work.

    A protracted sword fight...

    A protracted sword fight...

    Chris bends down to pick up his dropped sword as he faces William amidst the growing pile of dead bodies near the chest and the exit.

    Chris bends down to pick up his dropped sword as he faces William amidst the growing pile of dead bodies near the chest and the exit.

    The victor!

    The victor!

    As Elton John said, “Saturday is all right for fighting!”

    Barrage 2014 Was Another Huge Success

    Posted By on September 14, 2014

    "Argh!" Geoff says, "If you did't attend Barrage, you're a scurvy bilge rat!"
    “Argh!” Geoff says, “If you did’t attend Barrage, you’re a scurvy bilge rat!”

    Barrage 2014 was another major success.  We had a record or near-record number of attendees and 16 tables full of game that ran from 0900 until after 2100.  Again Age of Glory and On Military Matters came and set up dealer tables.  We had to set up additional flea market tables on they fly to handle the demand.  The Flames of War tournament had 18 competitors, 17 of whom were pre-registered.  Once again we had a successful snack bar that provided hot dogs, drinks, pizza, and other food and snacks throughout the day at a reasonable cost.  For additional information about Barrage, you can check out http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Barrage.html.  The breadth of events was quite good, with games spanning the ancient period through modern Afghanistan.  Below are some pictures from the event.

    Jeff Wiltrout's soccer game in full swing
    Jeff Wiltrout’s soccer game in full swing

    Several of the HAWKs enjoyed this interesting soccer game.

    Chris Palmer's 100 Years War battle

    Chris Palmer's 100 Years War battle

    Roxanne Patton's Bataan game

    Roxanne Patton's Bataan game

    A view of some flea market tables

    A view of some flea market tables

    Rob Dean's dark ages game

    Rob Dean's dark ages game

    Battlegroup Kursk

    Daniel Erdman's Command Decision game

    Beau Geste by Ed Watts

    Beau Geste by Ed Watts

    Muskets and Tomahawks demonstration games

    Muskets and Tomahawks demonstration games

    Noah Guibault's Dungeon Hack and a somewhat long view of the gaming area

    Noah Guibault's Dungeon Hack and a somewhat long view of the gaming area

    Dave Wood's battle of Orthiez (1814)

    Dave Wood's battle of Orthiez (1814)

    Daniel Erdman's Command Decision game

    Battlegroup Kursk

    Tim Tilson's Sangshak scenario

    Tim Tilson's Sangshak scenario

    Eric Schlegle's ACW kids game.  As the number of kids was small, his game ended up with mostly adults.  This picture also shows a bit of a long shot of the gaming area.

    Eric Schlegle's ACW kids game. As the number of kids was small, his game ended up with mostly adults. This picture also shows a bit of a long shot of the gaming area.

    War Rocket kids game

    My War Rocket kids game

    Norman Dean's "Encounter at Jebora"

    Norman Dean's "Encounter at Jebora"

    Two opponents in the Flames of War tournament

    Two opponents in the Flames of War tournament

    Geoff Graff's Lego pirate barroom brawl

    Geoff Graff's Lego pirate barroom brawl

    As usual, we have a dedicate table established for games targeted at younger gamers.  Although the number of younger gamers was lower than we would have liked, the kids who participated all had a great time.

    A lull in the action at the snack counter

    A lull in the action at the snack counter

    Mike Byrne's Force on Force game with Chechens vs. Russians

    Mike Byrne's Force on Force game with Chechens vs. Russians

    Brian Cantwell's ancient naval game

    Brian Cantwell's ancient naval game

    Kurt Schlegel's battle of Corinth game using A Union So Tested

    Kurt Schlegel's battle of Corinth game using A Union So Tested

    My G.A.M.E.R. WWII skirmish game

    My G.A.M.E.R. WWII skirmish game

    My WWII skirmish was a bit of a surprise.  I planned the game for 6 players, and I wasn’t sure if the game would fill with an 1800 start time.  Not only did the game fill, but I had to add troops at the last minute to make room for 10 players.  I think the games as quite successful.  People keep asking me when the rules will be available for purchase.  I have been developing this for myself, and having just finished the three-year slog to get Bear Yourselves Valiantly ready for publication, I’m not sure I’m ready for another rules publishing project.  WWII skirmish is a crowded field, with Force on Force and Bolt Action being the big players with hard cover books and a lot of marketing oomph.  Too Fat Lardies have the UK market sewn up.  I’m just not ready to try to suffer the slings an arrows of biased reviews and TMP sock puppets right now.

     

    GAMER Cards

    Posted By on September 11, 2014

    The design of the cards for G.A.M.E.R. is mature enough that I wanted professionally printed decks for continued play testing.  I set them all up in the correct template and sent them off to Superior POD to be printed.   We had an early glitch in which I need to make some corrections to the files, but the instructions from Superior POD went into my SPAM folder.  Once that was corrected, in less than two weeks I had 16 decks of cards in my hand.  There are eight different backs so that each player could have their own deck without risk of getting the decks mixed up.  I will be using them for the first time on Saturday at our Barrage gaming day.

    Reaper Bones Sci Fi Figures

    Posted By on September 11, 2014

    Reasonable Sci Fi figures

    Reasonable Sci Fi figures

    I mentioned in an earlier post that last weekend I had started a couple f painting projects.  One was to paint up the Reaper Bones science fiction figures that were part of the Bones I Kickstarter.  For me, these are meant to be opponents for the Aliens-like space marines.

    Getting silly

    Getting silly

    I suppose these figures are meant to be painted in Stormtrooper white and black.  There is no situation I can imagine, other than embassy gate guard duty, in which white uniforms make any sense in a tactical environment.  Regardless of how far future you get, we will always strive to camouflage ourselves.  I opted for a brown theme to distinguish them from the green uniforms of my colonial marines.

    Many of the figures (see top picture) are armed with something that looks like a reasonable assault rifle.  Some have silly looking GW-like oversized weapons (see middle picture).  Others are just ridiculous.  I am not a GW basher; although, I’ve played almost none of their games that I enjoy, but one thing that really rubs me wrong are those crazy oversized weapons.  They are stupid from a physical/tactical sense, and they are aesthetically painful.  The good news, however, is that much of the rest of the industry has seen fit to follow suit in order to attract the hard-core Warhammer players.

    Completely ridiculous

    Completely ridiculous

    I can suspend disbelieve with the best of them at times, and I really enjoy old black and white movies.  There is a scene in a really good, old, WWII propaganda movie, called Air Force, in which John Garfield is firing a .30 cal machine-gun from his hip.  Silly.  That scene looks like real battlefield footage compared to the figures in the photo above.   Even if you presume some sort of exoskeleton type of assist to carry and hold the Gatling Gun looking monstrosity, you’d look like a ballerina doing a pirouette as soon as you pulled the trigger.

    Anyway, the figures are done, and I am ready to put them into a game.

    Weekend Projects

    Posted By on September 8, 2014

    I spent a fair amount of the weekend helping my son with college applications, taking my daughter to the Demi Lovato concert in Baltimore, and some computer work for my moonlighting job.  Despite an increase in my normal state of ear ringing induced by the concert, I did have some time on Sunday for some hobby work.  I washed, primed, and began painting a bunch of Reaper Bones science fiction infantry in armored suits.  I also glued a bunch of Iron Wind turrets to a bunch of GW Epic Warhammer 40k vehicles as a start on my 10mm near future, science fiction project.  Finally, I painted the tunics on 11 battalions of Not Quite Seven Years War 10mm figures for the country of Bergdorfreuthenheim.  I expect to finish all but the NQSYW figures by the end of next weekend and will post pictures then.

    Ocean City for Labor Day

    Posted By on September 1, 2014

    One of many impressive examples of "sand castle" art along the boardwalk

    One of many impressive examples of "sand castle" art along the boardwalk

    Despite taking the family on a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon and two weeks in Alaska, I was informed that I was a failure because we didn’t visit the beach all Summer.  Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the beach, but the next thing I knew we were spending a huge wad of cash to visit Ocean City for the long weekend.

    Candy and me being lifted into the air

    Candy and me being lifted into the air

    A highlight of the weekend was a spur-of-the-moment parasailing adventure.

    Sam and Tom going airborne

    Sam and Tom going airborne

    We also bought tickets for all we could play miniature golf.  Over the four and a half courses we played, we had a record 20 holes in one!

    Masters of Miniature Golf ca. 1814 (or perhaps 2014)

    Masters of Miniature Golf ca. 1914 (or perhaps 2014)

    Chips off the old blocks

    Chips off the old blocks

    Larry, Moe, and Curly

    Larry, Moe, and Curly

    We spent both evenings walking up and down the boardwalk, had some nice meals, and generally had a good time.  Considering this is the last big weekend of Summer at the beach, the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as I expected.  It was a nice way to spend the weekend.

    Ugh!

    Ugh!

     

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    Posted By on August 31, 2014

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    Revised Vehicle Record Sheet for G.A.M.E.R.

    In the past two weeks I’ve had a chance to run two GAMER events with vehicles.  As mentioned in an earlier post, the infantry rules are pretty solid.  We find some interesting nuance from time to time that must be addressed, but the infantry rules are largely complete.   As a result of recent play test, I have been able to streamline the vehicle hit resolution procedure, think about terrain effects on vehicle hits, and redesign the vehicle record card, getting it from two 3×5 cards down to two.

    In the low-resolution version (in which each figure in a squad has all the same attributes, a double-sided 3×5 card is need for an infantry squad (shown below).  A vehicle requires one of these double-sided cards for the crew and a double-sided card (shown above) for the vehicle.

    Current version of a low-resolution infantry record sheet

    Current version of a low-resolution infantry record sheet

    Correcting the Deficiencies in Card-Based Activation

    Posted By on August 31, 2014

    A common issue with card-based systems is that everyone sits around watching one person perform actions.  For years I eschewed card-based activation in my designs.  I employed card-based activation for Blood and Swash, because a figure can’t do much with a single activation, so the amount of idle time for other players is short.
    The LSNC family of rules (and Battles of GASLIGHT) addresses this through the double activation TM mechanic.  Typically, but now always, many people are acting at the same time.  This has been demonstrated to limit idle time, even in really large games — particularly if the players are thinking about their next move before their card comes up.
    With the use of the joker (or reshuffle card that ends the turn before everyone has gotten to move), however, it occasionally occurs that a unit cannot activate for several terms.  While this is probably realistic, it can be frustrated from a gaming perspective.  You could pull out the joker, ensuring that everyone activates during a turn, but to some extent this defeats some of the fog and friction that intended in card-based systems.
    Two Saturdays ago, during a small gaming session at Buck’s War Room, we were discussing this.  Below is what I’d like to try.  It’s too late to test this in time for the upcoming release of Bear Yourselves Valiantly, but I’d like to try it during my next G.A.M.E.R. session.  If it works, I can publish it to the yahoo groups gang as an “official” optional rule.
    ————
    Proposed optional rule:
    The overall commander from each side is issued some number of “activation tokens.”  When the reshuffle card is drawn, all the remaining cards (below the joker) are turned over.  If a number (e.g., three) did not get any cards (e.g., neither the black, red, nor “handicapping” three was drawn before the joker), an overall commander can spend ONE activation token to pull ONE of the undrawn cards ahead of the joker.   The player may choose whether to pull either the red, black, or “handicapping” card ahead of the joker.
    Players declare that they want to use an activation token and give the token to the game master BEFORE either commander declares what number card will be moved ahead of the joker.  Only one activation token may be spent in any given turn per side.  If both sides wish to spend an activation token during a turn, they each declare which card they wish to bring forward AFTER having already paid the game master.  If both commanders want the same card, it will be activated only once.  In the case that both commanders want the same card, neither commander gets his activation token back.  One player may choose to activate the red card while the other player chooses to activate the black card with the same number.  If both sides pull a different card forward of the joker, the cards are activated in the order that they would have appeared if the reshuffle card had not been pulled.
    Units from BOTH sides whose die matches the card, may activate according to all the existing rules for activation, including die swapping and “rolling off” when units from both sides have the same activation number.
    The recommended number of activation tokens to give to each side is two or three.  Most four-hour games only last eight to ten turns.  You want enough tokens to be meaningful, but not so many that you may as well pull out the joker.  The GM may allocate additional activation tokens to the attacking side to ensure that they actually get to attack instead of sitting at the edge of the table waiting to activate.
    ————–
    Let me know your thoughts.