Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Austin Gaming Scene

I've called the area in and around Austin, Texas home for the past several years. It's the home to a fair number of gaming stores and events. A little research on my part led to this handy list.

Gaming Stores:
(From north to south, for no particular reason.)

Rogues Gallery in Round Rock has a variety of RPGs and board games. In-store gaming is mostly D&D Encounters and Magic the Gathering due to space limitations.

Wonkos hosts game nights on a rotating schedule. The selection is focused on collectibles and Games Workshop products.

Dragon's Lair has a good mix of RPGs, board games, and miniature wargames. Their gaming events calendar is online. They have a good amount of space for gaming, but it can fill up fast.

The main focus of Great Hall Games is on classic games, board games, and historical miniature wargaming. They have a dedicated play area in the back.

Tribe Comics and Games prides itself as the only comic and gaming store in south Austin. They have a variety of games for sale. The owner sometimes manages to get some out of print or rare stuff, but it goes real quick.

Gaming Events:

South Austin Game Night is a board gaming meet up held every Tuesday night in south Austin.

Give To Game is a charity board gaming event usually held in April, but recently threw together an impromptu event to benefit the Bastrop County Food Pantry. Show up, make a donation, and jump into a game.

The Austin Board Game Bash is a board game convention scheduled for August. It started last year and attendance was high enough to send the organizer looking for a new venue. Their website has a list of board game groups in Austin.

Millenniumcon is a miniatures wargaming convention in Round Rock. The main emphasis is on historical wargames, but fantasy and science fiction wargaming take up a fair chunk of the schedule.

I hope this list comes in handy for those new to the area and long time residents alike.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Critical Mass Games Delivers!

Well, the USPS delivers, but the order I placed with Critical Mass Games showed up today. I get a couple little plastic bags of 15mm Arc Fleet Infantry, my wife gets some stamps from the UK, and you get some .jpgs and comments whenever I paint up my new miniatures. Everybody wins!

Kudos to Critical Mass Games for getting my order out so quickly. From the UK to Texas in a little over a week is pretty darn good by anyone's measure.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Holiday Season, the Death of Campaigns, and Finding Alternatives

I was expecting a stronger reaction when I announced to the group that I would not be starting any RPG campaigns until next year. Instead, I got sage nods and knowing looks. November and December is a hard time for long-term games here in the United States. The demands of family during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the shopping season, the disruption of the New Year, not to mention things like religious observances, all work to make a mockery of scheduling. New campaigns die stillborn as GMs cannot find the time to sit down and work out their ideas. Established campaigns wither away as attention wonders and interest declines. Even non-RPG gamers have a rough time. It's tough to convince people to join in your multi-week wargaming campaign when the Day of the Turkey is just around the corner.

But the holidays don't have to be a hiatus from gaming. There are ways around the issue. A willingness to work with less and accept certain limitations can go a long way.

Time is the biggest limiting factor. Not only will there be fewer gaming sessions, but those sessions may tend to be shorter. 4+ hour games of any sort might take too long to finish. All day gaming is probably right out for most of us. Shoot for something lighter and faster. Write a quick one-shot RPG adventure with per-generated characters. Seven Wonders is one example of a board game that doesn't take long to play. Work out a small scale miniatures scenario with strictly limited numbers and objectives. Not every game has to be an epic tale. Aim for something short, sharp, and satisfying enough to last until January.

Outside of actual playtime, there is plenty to be done with the little bits of time that can be found here and there. There might be game books waiting on the shelves for a good perusing. Those miniatures won't assemble and paint themselves. That oft-delayed terrain project might be a good distraction from the pressures of the holidays. And it might be a good time to plan those campaigns that will get started early next year. Down time is a good time for things that tend to get pushed back otherwise.

If nothing else, there's always looking forward to the gaming goodies from understanding relatives. Or, failing that, planning on how to get the most bang out of the gift certificates and cash from relations who don't quite get the gaming hobby.

And if that doesn't work out. Well, there's always next year.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Millenniumcon 14 - Saturday Night After Action Report

After barbecued brisket for dinner and some shopping in the Millenniumcon 14 Dealer's Room, it was time for another game of Ambush Alley Games' Tomorrow's War.

The Crusties are Coming!!!

Chris Arnold wrote and ran this scenario. He clearly knew the rules cold and smoothly handled a situation not covered in the book.

Once more, humans were defending their homes against the Crusties. This time, Bowie Company of the 141st Aerospace Mobile Battalion most hold the line as three APCs load up with civilians and make a run for it. Wave after wave of Crusties were ready to overrun the brave men and women of Bowie Company.

This time, I decided to play on the alien side. You know, for a change of pace. Total number of players: six, three on each side. The scenario would end in six turns.

The Crusties began the scenario with the initiative. Worse, any unit of Crusties other than the "boss" could reappear at a randomly determined hot spot after getting wiped out.

Meanwhile, Bowie Company could not move the APCs until the beginning of turn two. It takes time to load civilians, after all.

The Crusties spent the first turn either moving into position or exchanging fire with Bowie Company.

On turn two, the APCs started up and hauled off. Fortunately, the Crusties' had an anti-armor team in position to fire on the retreating vehicles. I picked up the dice...

...and both of my units got wiped out. I did get one of the APCs. And my units respawned elsewhere a turn later.

Bowie Company spent the rest of the game trying to get around the destroyed APC and through everything the Crusties could throw at them.

So Bowie Company got desperate.

And desperate times involve pulling concepts out of other miniature wargames. That's right...

...tank shock!

But even this was not enough to change the outcome. By the end of turn six, none of the APCs had escaped the board.

All in all, the scenario had some rough edges, but everyone had a good time. Thanks to Chris Arnold for a good time and all the players for a good game.

Millenniumcon 14 - Saturday Afternoon After Action Report

I only managed to play two games this Millenniumcon, but both were good. Both also used the Tomorrow's War rules from Ambush Alley Games. I picked up the rule book last month and wanted to get as much play experience as Millenniumcon could offer me.

Battle: Austin

Micheal Scott Miller ran this scenario pitting the modern US Army against the Crusties in the ruins of Austin, Texas. The US Army was looking for a crashed helicopter and its VIP prisoners. The Crusties were looking for the data collected from two of their reconnaissance robots. Neither was leaving without a fight.

I joined the US Army team along with three other players. The US Army had eight fireteams supported by a medic, two machine gun teams, and a sniper team. They moved north from their deployment zone, looking for the crashed helicopter. Air support was available, but the Crusties air defenses were formidable.

The Crusties also spread out, scanning or searching each building for their lost robotic assets. Both sides met in the middle of the table and spent much of the game exchanging fire from defensive positions.

Casualties mounted on both sides until the Crusties charged into close combat with the US Army soldiers. The US Army's defense began to fall apart as their left flank collapsed and the Crusties just kept coming in.

Ultimately, the Crusties were able to recover the data from their lost robots and inflict heavy losses on the US Army force.

Looking back, the US Army deployment could have been better - the left flank was too exposed and some units were out of position to support other units. It's hard to gauge the balance of the scenario, which was a work in progress. It felt "off" to me, but I can't put a finger on what exactly is wrong. Maybe move the scenario a little further into the future and give the US Army some higher-tech toys? Not sure.

Overall, I had a good time with Tomorrow's War and this scenario. Thanks to Micheal Scott Miller for putting this scenario together.

Next: More Tomorrow's War.

Millenniumcon 14 - Saturday Afternoon Arrival

I've of two minds when it comes to mornings and events like Millenniumcon 14. On one hand, I don't care to miss out on morning events. It was something that I used to kick myself about when I was young enough to miss out on some sleep with no real effects. On the other hand, I kicked myself last year when I showed up early and crawled home exhausted from a full day of gaming.

So, I skipped the morning this year to sleep late, exercise, grab lunch, and show up both fed and rested.

Since I showed up with time to spare, I took a look around at some of the tables folks were setting up. Terrain building is tricky enough. Getting enough terrain for table and the playing surface itself transported and set up for a convention game is something that I'm not yet ready to try. Fortunately, people are usually happy to share some of their tips and tricks when asked politely.

First up is this table full of fantasy monsters. I'm not sure what game this dungeon / wilderness set up was for, but I'll have to keep an eye out for it next year.

Next is this huge replica of Helm's Deep. The pictures don't do it justice. This is one I was hoping to try, but it filled up before I could get my registration in. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I wonder how the owner can spare the space to store it?

Below is an example of a first attempt that came out well. It was built by Howard Barasch for a Russian Civil War scenario and is still a work in progress The board was constructed of square expanded polystyrene foam boards laid out in a grid pattern. This let Howard expand the board over time instead of having to commit to completing it all at once. He plans on adding some trench sections later.

Last is something I've never run across. The board below is constructed from interlocking play mats. It makes sense - the stuff is durable enough to resist the worst that a bunch of kids can do to it. It bends without breaking, which is a weakness of insulation foam. And it's lighter than MDF or other wood boards. Plus it breaks down for easy transport and storage.

Next: A Tomorrow's War After Action Report.

Millenniumcon 14 - Friday Night

Millenniumcon 14 - a weekend of miniature wargaming goodness in Round Rock, Texas.

Too bad I was too darn tired to do much when things got rolling Friday night. I did make it out long enough to pick up my registration packet and take a look around. Attendance looked pretty good this year. There was an empty table here and there, but all the rooms had games going on.

Next: Saturday afternoon arrival.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Work Bench #1

Here are some recently completed terrain pieces. I put these together for three reasons. One, I realized that I would need more terrain if I was going to try running Tomorrow's War. Two, more terrain is always helpful for miniature wargames and role-playing games. And three, terrain don't need no reason.

These are a couple of craters from GW's Moonscape set. The plastic is pretty thin on these. I'm not sure how well they will hold up on the long term. Getting them tabletop ready was pretty straightforward. I glued down some sand on the smooth edges for texture. Painting consisted of a gray spray primer followed by a brown basecoat, black wash, linen highlight, and brown wash.

Presented below are a few stands of trees. These were Christmas diorama trees purchased on sale after the holidays last year. I'm still working out a streamlined way to get these tabletop ready. This time, I started with a green spray paint to cover up the white snow effects. Flock was applied with brushed on tacky glue. After it was dry, I used a spray bottle to apply a layer of watered down glue to further secure the flock. The original bases were replaced with tree trunks sculpted from two part epoxy putty and mounted on wood circles purchased from a hobby store. I glued down some sand to texture the base and painted the trunk and stand.

Next time, I might try brushing on some paint to cover up the white snow effect rather than spraying it on. Very little of this layer actually shows through the flock and it will save me a trip outside.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Painting By Numbers #1

Here's a couple of miniatures I finished up recently. And by "finished up" I mean "hit the diminishing returns stage" rather than reach a satisfactory result. Neither has a fantastic paint job, but sometimes the best thing is to put the brush down and move on. I'm still picking up the skills needed for tabletop standards, much less anything more demanding.

The first miniature is from Reaper's Chronoscope line - Kirby McDowell (50028). I've been experimenting with Citadel's washes and decided to go for a dirty, rugged look. Not sure I like how it turned out. Kirby looks like he's spent some time outdoors, so I got the overall look right, but I need to work on my brush control. The suspenders look a little messy.

The second miniature is also from Reaper's Chronoscope line - Veronica Blaze (50007). I nicknamed this one "Lexi" for the contrasting purple and green color scheme. This one is another experiment - I used Citadel washes to bring out the details while drybrushing the highlighted areas. Overall, I think this one worked out well, except the skin turned out darker than I intended.