Friday, December 09, 2005

My little Old World

The GM's confession
So there you have it: my first attempt at plotting my own scenario in my WFRP campaign, and it turns out to be a shaggy dog story. Hardly auspicious I have to say. So what happened? Two things in essence.

First, as the adventure advanced haltingly from session to session, I became ever more aware of the glaring loopholes in the basic scheme of the plot. When the initial message was passed on to Siegfried, I had a notion in mind of how the various secret tongues and signs in the Old World could be used to pass a message up the line a bit more quickly than the pace of the fastest messenger. As time went on, this began to look more and more unlikely. The consequence of this was that the situation of peril into which the PC's were supposed to arrive 'in the nick of time' looked increasingly like one which would have been essentially resolved by the time the PC's arrived.

I tried to figure out various fixes to these problems, but they began to look increasingly contrived in my mind's eye. In addition, even if these fixes could've been made to hold together, they began to look ever more complex at a time when I was more and more interested in just getting the damn thing over with so that I could get back to running published material as I had been doing.

The other main problem was the plausibility of the whole threat itself. This was brought home forcefully to me in the encounter with the outlaws, which cost the PC's 3 fate points. I began to realise that a threat sufficiently dangerous to require a call for help such as the one I had posited would be too dangerous for the party to face, not to mention strong enough pretty much to have mopped-up at the scene long before the PC's arrived. A threat that avoided these 2 problems suffered from the fairly obvious problem of being insufficient to require a call for help in the first place.

Again, I considered potential fixes to this problem, but they all seemed to point in the direction of increased complexity and added playing time just when, as I have already noted, the dynamic of the game itself demanded the opposite.

And so it was that I found myself caught between a rock and hard place, with the session in which these issues would have to be resolved- and quickly- rapidly approaching. There was only one thing for it I decided: I had to abort the whole sorry episode, and turn it into something that fed back into what had been going on in Middenheim before my injudicious diversion. Not the most satisfactory of outcomes I realised, but one that could work if I put in the appropriate hooks for the players' emotions, while also adding new layers of intrigue and paranoia.

That much seems to have worked rather well, but even in that I made a crucial mistake. Nervous as I was at the outrageous stunt I was about to pull after some 4 sessions, I telegraphed the outcome to my players with a couple of cheesy jokes before the session got under way.

Ah well, c'est la vie. Still, the session went quite well all the same, because I'd prepared it more thoroughly than recent ones. And the players quite enjoyed themselves. So all's well that ends well I guess. Anyhoo, I've learned one lesson that I'll bear in mind for quite some time to come: with 3 volumes of the 'Paths of the Damned' to hand or imminent, Plundered Vaults, scenarios in other BI supplements, plus some 29 scenarios downloaded from the BI website and elsewhere, I really don't need to hurry to invent my own plotlines. I'll just stick to adding my own touches to these ones for the forseeable future I think!

From Altdorf to Corman's Landing
- #1 Curiouser and Curiouser
- #2 The Plot Thickens
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My little Old World: From Altdorf to Corman's Landing #2

The Plot Thickens
The overnight stay in Wurtbad proved uneventful. Taking a rest from his work, Grundi noticed Machholt and Reinholt talking to someone, who soon departed. The same scene was again witnessed by Grundi, and also by Seigfried, the following morning, outside the inn the party was sharing with the merchant and his servant, but nothing came of it- merchants seeking new deals have to foster contacts after all.

And so the party set out on the last leg of their trip down the River Stir in the Black Swan: 2 more uneventful days marked by a following wind helping them make good time, and by flurries of snow which never became the threatening storm. Arriving in Marburg they stayed in the Bosun's Rest they had visited so many months before. There they were recognised by the innkeeper and given a friendly reception.

Seigfreid took advantage of this to pursue a scheme involving the purchase of a horse. The innkeeper directed him to a farmer who might have an old horse to sell. It turned out that the farmer did indeed have a tired old nag he was happy to sell. The price for this discovery was a lengthy chat with the garrulous old goat, in the course of which Siegfried did at least hear a couple of interesting tales. The first was that the outlaw Heinz Gerber was still at large and had recently been active in the area. The other was that Ernst the boatman- who had gone missing when the PC's had last been in the area- had killed himself after his wife Renata had run off with another man. These tales served to remind the PC's that they were returning to the scene of former triumphs.

The following morning the party set off bright and early for Corman's Landing, the site of the Strutting Cock inn. Detouring only briefly to visit the farm for the purchase of Siegfried's 'new' horse, they made good time northwards. Then they heard 2 voices shouting at each other round a bend in the road.

Nursing painful memories, the party halted while Seigfried sneaked ahead through the woods to scout the situation out. Soon enough he saw a cart with a broken axle and 2 peasants arguing over whose fault it had been. Reassured, Siegfried snuck back to the party, and together they continued up the road.

The 2 peasants stood slack-jawed in fear at the sight of the party, the elf and 2 heavily-armed dwarfs in particular. Attempts to glean information about events at the Strutting Cock proved futile other than to elicit the pair's fear that the party were outlaws. Siegfried treated this suggestion with scorn, and headed off up the road. Torn between a desire to help the stranded pair and the need to press on, the others dithered for a while, before following Siegfried, with the promise to send help from the Strutting Cock.

Soon thereafter the party approached the edge of Corman's Landing. Siegfried organised his plan. He had some smart new clothes and a horse. He would pose as a noble, while the rest of the party played the parts of his bodyguards and other members of his retinue. The idea, he explained, was to have a cover story ready to explain their presence to any evildoers they should encounter ahead. Thus prepared, the party proceeded, Berthold slung over the back of the horse because he had by this time fallen quite ill.

Breaking out of the treeline into the open space of Corman's Landing the party caught sight of the inn, the tollhouse, and the other buildings they remembered. Everything seemed strangely normal, and they could hear the birdsong from the surrounding trees as they approached the Strutting Cock. Entering the inn's courtyard, they headed first for the stables. Finding the stables empty roused their suspicions.

Undaunted, they made for the entrance to the inn. On the way they passed the kitchen window. Looking inside, they saw Heidi Handler and 2 serving girls hard at work. Seigfried approached and by dint of hand signals tried to get Heidi to come out and speak to him. Heidi's only reply was shrugs of incomprehension. In the end, she opened the kitchen window and asked Seigfried what was the matter.

We're here because of Josef's message Siegfried explained. What message Heidi asked. The message he sent asking for our help because he was in trouble explained Siegfried. Heidi patently didn't understand what he was talking about. I think you'd better speak to Josef she said. Realisation began to dawn on the PC's, and Mordrin kicked a stone which narrowly avoided breaking the kitchen window.

The party made their way into the inn. In the bar room they found Josef Haarig, Emmerich Handler and a servant decorating the room for the annual harvest festival. Even as the PC's began to wonder what was going on, Siegfried was struck by the realisation that he'd almost forgotten about Mittherbst, one of the major feast days of his god, Ulric. Meanwhile, Haarig welcomed the party as long-lost friends.

Soon enough, the party began to explain why they were there, only to find that Josef knew nothing at all about the message he was supposed to have sent. He did however grasp that they had travelled all the way back from Middenheim on the strength of a message that he and his inn were in peril. So he sat them down with some food and drink, and proceeded to get the whole story out of them.

Haarig was moved and deeply touched by the PC's story, reminding them that he was already in their debt because Grundi and Alane had saved his inn from the curse of having innocent blood spilt on its grounds. He began to review their tale, and just as he did so, Seigfried and Mordrin jumped to the same conclusion at the same time: somebody had wanted them out of Mordheim. Siegfried cursed the name of Beyer and began vowing bloody vengance.

The conversation continued and the PC's began to realise that there were hidden depths to this garrulous innkeeper as he took all their tales of intrigue in his stride. In the end, he pointed out to them that they had progressed from their adventures around Corman's Landing to serving some of the most powerful people in Middenheim. Haarig noted it was likely that they had made similarly powerful enemies.

The talk also turned to Beyer's companions. Josef told the PC's that they had been working with Captain Kurtz and his roadwardens and with Lars the bounty hunter to help restore law and order after the local soldiery and militias had mustered to march north to help defend the Empire against the Chaos incursions. The innkeeper warned the PC's to be wary of Kaltenbach, the leader of the group, who Josef described as a hard and brutal man.

As the PC's sat trying to absorb what Haarig was telling them, the innkeeper announced that they were his guests, and that they would pay not a single penny for their food and drink, neither that night, nor during the festival tomorrow. Josef went off to get on with his work.

The party sat around in the barroom as it filled up for the evening. The locals were familiar with the PC's and their previous exploits, and Josef made sure that they soon knew all about why the party had returned. The PC's found themselves the centre of friendly curiosity. The locals were agitated by rumours of an impending grain requisition, about which one Theoderic- one of Kurtz's roadwardens, currently on duty at the tollhouse- was particularly exercised. That night though, the PC's stories of heroic adventure gave the local farmers something more diverting to think about

Basking in the glow of the locals' admiration for their exploits, the PC's played up to their reputation as local heroes, and soon forgot their troubles. Except for Berthold, who was too busy being ill upstairs, and Siegfried, who continued to bemoan his wasted 60gc, and to nurse his deepening grudge against Beyer, Kaltenbach, and anyone else he might find had been involved in this pointless diversion.

Mittherbst dawned crisp and clear. Seigfried was still brooding, but Grundi and Mordrin sat down to breakfast with typical dwarfen gusto. As they ate they were approached by a young man in the trailworn garb of a woodsman. He introduced himself as Corvin Liess. Liess explained that he was a Longshanks- a servant of the gods Taal and Rhya, and that he was investigating the disappearance of his mentor and his confessor.

Faced with the incomprehension of the 2 dwarfs, the young Longshanks explained his duties as a guardian of the holy places of the woods. He then explained that his missing companions- a priest of Taal and a fellow Longshanks- had last been seen boarding the missing boat of Ernst the boatman. The young fellow told the PC's that he knew of their own search for Ernst, and asked if they had any information that might help him in his search. The PC's had to confess they knew nothing that might help him.

Corman's Landing was by this time beginning to fill up with local families arriving for the day's festivities. Children ran around shrieking with delight as they took part in the games and other diversions. After a while, something about the decorations struck a chord in the dwarfs' minds- some of them reminded the pair of Reinholt's corn doll. They spoke to Josef, who directed them to Liess.

Hearing what they had to say, Liess reacted with shock. He asked them to explain in detail what they had seen. Had they seen a symbol of a sickle he asked them. Grundi and Mordrin racked their brains, and concluded that they did have a vague memory of a ring that Luthor Machholt had been wearing. The young Longshanks explained that these were the symbols of Ahalt the Drinker, a god of the Old Faith whose followers were the sworn enemies of the followers of Taal and Rhya because their cults had supplanted Ahalt's own.

Liess thanked the 2 dwarfs for their information, and went off to play his part in the day's celebrations. Grundi and Mordrin were left with the impression of a sincere young man a little out of his depth.

The rest of the day passed peacefully as the PC's took full advantage of Josef's generous hospitality and joined in the Mittherbst celebrations with gusto. Except for Siegfreid, who spent the day brooding in his room, before going out that night to conduct private rituals to Ulric to mark his own celebration of Mittherbst.

From Altdorf to Corman's Landing
- #1 Curiouser and Curiouser
- The GM's confession: again I lament.
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My little Old World: From Altdorf to Corman's Landing #1

Curiouser and Curiouser
Arriving in Altdorf docks, the party quickly attended to the business of selling off their loot from the pirate attack. As they did so, a cheery voice hailed Master Adelbert as he oversaw the unloading of the Ventura's cargo. A bald-headed middle-aged man arrived on the scene and he and Adelbert were soon in animated conversation. Asking Adelbert how his trip had gone, the newcomer was treated to the full story of the pirate attack, with all the enthusiasm the Master of the Ventura could muster.

Hearing this story, the newcomer- who by now had been introduced as Jost Reichart, the master of the riverbarge Black Swan- looked with renewed interest at the PC's. So you're in the business of guarding riverboats, he asked. The party agreed that this was something that they'd been known to do. So Jost explained that he was another river trader, currently plying a run from Marienberg to Marburg and beyond.

The PC's expressed interest in journeying to Marburg, so Jost offered them the chance to work their passage as guards and general labourers. The party were keen to accept another chance of free passage, but not so pleased at the prospect of having to haul cargo as part of the deal. In the end only Grundi signed up for this deal. The rest of the party negiotiated a 6gc charge in return for not having to work as regular crew, plus 1s for each day's food provided by Jost. Ever conscious of each penny he was spending, Siegfried declined the latter in favour of eating his own trail rations.

And so the party hung around for a couple of hours while Grundi set to work with Audric- a brawny but dimwitted youth- to load up the cargoes Jost was buying from the various petty traders who frequent the Altdorf docks.

Jost Reichart proved to be a talkative man, filled with curiosity. He plied the PC's with questions as to where they were going, and why. He proved particularly intrigued by the sight of 2 dwarfs and a female elf travelling together. These questions were parried in a friendly manner with references to visiting an old friend and the fortunes of the road, and so on. Jost was happy enough to accept this, though he left the PC's with a newfound sense of the unusual spectacle they presented to the world at large.

Kemperbad was the first significant port of call on the trip up the Reik. The journey was uneventful- if cold due to unseasonal snowfalls, but was at least quick thanks to the winds which blew the snow into every nook and cranny aboard the Black Swan. Arriving at Kemperbad Jost explained that he would be trading before setting off again, so the PC's would have to stay in one of the local inns. He recommended the Clifftop Arms situated a conveniently short distance from the edge of town. Seigfreid and Mordrin grumbled at having to pay extra because they couldn't spend the night in the boat as they had been doing, but Jost was insistent that he needed privacy to pursue his dealmaking, so in the end the pair cheered themselves up with jokes at Grundi's expense as the aging dwarf sweated away hauling Jost's cargos.

Several hours later Grundi finished work and joined his companions who were by now settled in the Clifftop Arms. As he sat recovering from his toils the dwarf heard a friendly voice call his name. Expecting to see a member of his family, he looked round to see a prosperous ruddy-faced dwarf approaching. Grundi quickly enough remembered that this was Zamrig Skaninson, who had been a smith cum wheelwright responsible for maintaining coaches Grundi had ridden for a previous employer.

Pleased to meet an old friend, Grundi called for a round of drinks and passed the obvious remark: you didn't get that prosperous mending wheels and shoeing horses. No replied Zamrig, explaining with gusto that he had moved on into gemcutting, a far more lucrative line of work. The drinks having arrived, Zamrig was just about propose the first of what would have undoubtedly been many toasts to gold and its virtues when his manner unexpectedly grew icy cold.

Everyone was momentarily taken aback, and Seigfried was the first to realise what was up. He looked round and, sure enough: there was Alane, heading for the table after a visit to the privy. Siegfried's frantic efforts surreptitiously to divert the elf proved to no avail, and she arrived at her seat just as Zamrig exploded into a rant.

What kind of dwarfs share the company of an elf he demanded angrily. Grundi, Mordrin and the others tried all sorts of explanations: how dwarf and elf had stood together lately against evil at Middenheim; how Alane herself had proved her worth more than once; and so on. Their words were to no avail: Zamrig's tirade simply became more insistent. While Alane stood silently by, the enraged dwarf leapt to his feet, denounced Grundi and Mordrin as elf-lovers once more at the top of his voice, and stormed out of the inn.

A shocked silence reigned throughout the Clifftop Arms. The other patrons were sneaking nervous looks at the party. Some were muttering. Others were shifting in their seats. The landlord realised that there was nothing for it. He announced a round of drinks on the house. The atmosphere of incipient hostility was replaced by expectant calls for this or that drink. A couple of the PC's found themselves wondering if this might not be a neat trick for getting themselves free drinks in future. Meanwhile Grundi noticed Zamrig's tankard sitting on the table. Is anyone drinking this he asked.

The rest of the night in the Clifftop Arms passed quietly, though the PC's remained the centre of a nervous attention and the local steered a discreetly wide berth around their table.

Grundi rose early the next day for work loading the Black Swan, as did Seigfried- though his purpose seemed to have more to do with teasing his companion as he laboured. As the party assembled ready for boarding they saw Jost deep in conversation with 2 men. The conversation ended with all the signs of a deal agreed.

Jost came across and explained to the party that the 2 men had booked passage to Wurtbad. He added that they had booked full board, which would mean some reorganisation of cabins. The pair came forward and a very tall and gangly middle-aged man with a pox-marked face introduced himself as Luthor Machholt- a merchant seeking to trade in the fine Wurtbad port, accompanied by his servant Reinholt. The latter was a young, greasy-haired fellow, with heavy-lidded eyes that seemed to peer moodily out at the world, and a nose-ring.

The nose-ring immediately attracted the PC's attention and raised their suspicions. Grundi commented on how striking it looked, and asked if it had been painful. Reinholt answered these questions with as few words as possible.

Master Jost then instructed Grundi and Audric to take the new passengers' luggage to their cabin (which occasioned more jollity on the part of the other PC's), and the Black Swan set off up the River Stir for Wurtbad.

Once the barge was well on his way, Reinholt appeared and extended an invitation to the PC's to join his master in his cabin to sample a few of his wares. Receiving the nod from Jost, Seigfried, Grundi and Mordrin left Berthold and Alane on watch and repaired to Machholt's cabin.

Luthor Machholt proved to be a genial and chatty host. He offered the PC's drinks from the various samples he had collected in his travels, in which, he explained when asked, he was trying to set up a new venture trading in fine wines and other quality drinks. The dwarfs accepted his offer of a glass of port with a measure of reluctance. Sipping the sweet concoction they found themselves mystified as to why it should be so highly regarded. Fortunately for their palates, Machholt was able to offer them a fine ale instead.

As the conversation continued, the PC's once again found themselves subject to the scrutiny of the curious. Mordrin found himself suggesting that perhaps it was time that dwarfs put aside their traditional emnities against the elves. Machholt seemed mildly amused by this, and commented that he could empathise. After all he said, most of the people I want to deal with already have traditional trading partners, so you could say that I too want to change traditions.

Time passed in this vein for an hour or more: the PC's feeling themselves subject to gentle probing because of how their suspicions had been raised; Machholt being ever the genial host. This atmosphere was broken only by a single, trivial incident. Reinholt was bending over to pick something up while attending to his duties, and a small corn-doll dropped from his blouse to land on the floor.

Seeing Reinholt start at this, the PC's asked what was the matter. A look flashed between Reinholt and Machholt, as of a servant asking permission to speak. Go ahead said Machholt, unperturbed. Reinholt explained that the doll was a keepsake from his sister, which he cherished. This explanation was allowed to pass as sufficient, and the matter rested.

There was little contact between the PC's and the other 2 passengers after this encounter, and the rest of the trip passed in a routine manner. The foggy weather that had marked the departure from Kemperbad cleared after a day or two and crisp autumn weather took its place. The wind didn't favour the barge this time though, and the Black Swan arrived in Wurtbad on the afternoon of Konistag 29th Erntezeit, some 7 days after setting out from Kemperbad.

From Altdorf to Corman's Landing
- #2 The Plot Thickens
- The GM's confession: again I lament.
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Friday, December 02, 2005

DiceConEast 2005

Other highlights
DiceConEast is staged in a place on Princes Street called Overseas House, which is a clubhouse of the Royal Overseas League. This is a kind of friendly society of the British Commonwealth, and Overseas House's air of quietly down-at-heel gentility is apt to and evocative of this relic of Empire. DiceCon's event room is on the 2nd floor. The lift is an ancient device that fits only 2 people- with barely enough room for bags full of games, and which almost makes you think that it is steampowered, if not manually hauled! Upstairs you wend your way through corridors giving the impression that the whole place is a veritable warren.

There is a bar situated beside a white linen service restaurant. This is one of my favourite rooms. Well surprise, surprise I hear you say, but the bar's real delight is that it looks right out across Princes Street, giving you a view of Princes Street Gardens, the Castle, and the Old Town. This is quite simply one of the most spectacular city centre views there is, and a very pleasant prospect to enjoy while you sit there supping a pint.

All in all then, Overseas House is exactly the sort of place from which pulp adventurers might set out on their heroic travels, or to which they might return to reflect upon the weird and wonderful sights they witnessed, and the horrors against which they prevailed. In short: it is a bit of a feast for the roleplaying imagination, which just adds to its peculiar anachronistic charm.

So, after the M44 tournament was over, we were casting around for something else to play. As ever at DiceCon there was a veritable feast of games available to choose from, courtesy largely of Ellis and Gordon's remarkable collections. The emphasis is typically more on the modern Eurogame genre, but there is always something there that you won't have seen or tried before. Lots and lots in fact.

I had a look at the recent Avalon Hill release Nexus Ops. I've had a look at this on the website
and tried out the online demo. I came away with the impression that it was a Settlers type game, set in space, and with combat. The set available at the con was brand new, but it seemed to be missing its rulebook, so I had to pass on playing it, although a brief rummage through the box certainly confirmed my interest in the game.

In the end then, 4 of us settled for a game of Settlers. Hardly novel, except that it was the 10th anniversary deluxe 3D edition we were playing, which incorporates the Cities and Knights expansion. This comes with moulded ceramic region tiles, 3D moulded plastic playing pieces, knights with lances with little flags, and so on- all with hand-painted detail. There are even little sheep on the grassland regions! You can find some pictures here, and here. It has to be said that it did take a bit of time to adapt my senses to the lush pieces (and I did spare a thought for the poor souls who'd've had to paint them- hardly lucrative employ I'll imagine), but I have to report that they did nothing for my game: Badger won, which he found most gratifying, since it was his first ever win at Settlers.

After this we rounded off the day with a few games of Ivanhoe- the results of which escape me, before leaving for the drive back to Glasgow. The evening was getting on at this point, so the games room had quietened down a bit from its buzzing peak, but there were still quite a few committed gamers left determined to play on for as long as possible.

And that was DiceConEast 2005- here so soon and gone before you know it. Thanks as ever to Ellis and Gordon for all their efforts in running DiceCon. Roll on DiceConWest 2006! ;)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

DiceConEast 2005

Memoir'44 TournamentSo the 2nd DiceConEast passed on Sunday 20th. Donald drove Antony, Badger and myself through for the day, which required a hideously early start! As I said earlier, I was planning to run a Memoir'44 tournament because I think this is a great game ideal for convention play. My original plan had been just to GM this in the hope of getting a chance to play some ASL or Up Front, but things turned out differently on the day.

Anyhoo, after a tour of the centre of Edinburgh in search of parking, and a visit to McDonalds for breakfast, I set to getting the event going. First off there were some interested people who'd never played before, so introductory games were organised. Meanwhile I had to rustle up players and finalise the details of the format. In the end there were 5 other willing players, so I joined in to make 6, which just happens to be the number required for the official M44 tournament format that I'd downloaded from the Days of Wonder site.

The main issue in M44 tournament play is balance- the game's scenarios are unbalanced by design. One approach to this would be matchplay- playing each scenario back-to-back from each side. This would solve the balance problem, but with the disadvantage of reducing the number of scenarios played, or lengthening the playing time of the tournament. The WBC pack takes the approach of splitting the players into 2 sides- Axis and Allied. Each player then plays the 3 players on the other side across 3 different scenarios, competing to see who is the best Axis player and the best Allied player over the 3 games. These 2 then matchplay a 4th scenario to decide the final winner.

With the format decided then, Badger, Sean and myself became the Axis generals with the task of stemming the Allied tide led by Donald, John Evans, and Mike.We fought our way through the following scenarios:
#1: Pegasus Bridge- British glider troops attempt a coup de main to grab bridges securing exits from the D-Day landing beaches.
#4: Point du Hoc- US rangers scale cliffs to neutralise German artillery batteries on D-Day.
#9: Operation Luttich- the panzers strike to prevent the US army from breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead.
Each scenario was a 4-medal game.

The scoring system for this tournament format is based on victory medals gained instead of simply on wins, with medals and/or figures lost as tiebreakers. This means that even a losing game should contribute to a player's overall score for the qualifying games; whereas a close and costly win could well lose a player their place in the final. The merits of this were seen in the final round. My last game finished first. Checking out the standings and taking a quick look at the remaining 2 games, I noticed that every single one of us still had a chance of making it to the final. I thought this was pretty impressive. It certainly made for some tense moments as we gathered around to await the outcome of the last game to finish.

In the end Badger won out on the Axis side with a total of 10 medals from 2 wins and a loss. Sean was pipped by Badger, losing out by a mere 1 medal after John Evans rolled over his German defence at Pegasus Bridge. With that medal in hand, Sean would've won out on the figures lost tiebreaker. We all thought that this was an impressive performance from someone who'd only played their first game that morning. I trailed a sad 3rd with 8 medals- a performance that included the day's only duck, when my Germans had failed to take even a single medal off of Mike's lads at Pegasus Bridge. Ouch!

John Evans led the Allied camp with 11 medals- another 2 wins and a loss. Mike was 2nd with 9 medals. Donald came 3rd with 8.

John and Badger contested the final over #2: Sainte Mere-Eglise- US paras land to secure the right flank of the beachhead. John played the Allies first, and promptly got in a perfect drop- this scenario starts with the Allied player dropping 4 figures onto the board to determine the number and location of his airlanding reinforcements! John's airlanding reinforcements landed without loss and perfectly surrounding Badger's exposed unit holding St. Mere-Eglise. The result was a swift walkover. Badger was unable to win so decisively as the Allied player, and the day went to John.

The overall standings then were:
1. John Evans
2. Badger
3. Mike
4. Sean
5. Me
6. Donald

Ellis and Gordon of the Scottish Boardgames Assocation pulled out the stops when it came to prize support: all 6 competitors received a prize, donated by Esdevium Games. This was very cool.

So I can happily report that the DiceConEast 2005 Memoir'44 tournament was a great success. Everyone who took part enjoyed themselves. Several people commented on how good the tournament structure was, and I have to agree. Looking over the tournament scoresheet as I wrote this, I could see how every single medal won by each player in all of their games was important. The value of this in a tournament should be self-evident. This tournament structure therefore only enhances the benefits of the supreme playability of M44- itself evidenced by the excellent showing made by the players new to the game on the day. The format can easily be adapted for more players too, without extending the 4 hours it took to run the event (5 if you count the tutorial games).

With this experience under my belt then, I am looking forward to running future events for so long as people want to play in them.

Finally, I would like to conclude with the traditional votes of thanks. First: to Ellis and Gordon of the SBGA, for laying on the venue, and the prize support. Second: to Esdevium Games for providing the prizes on offer. And third: to the participants, for making the event such a success. My thanks to one and all. ;)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Back in the saddle...?

Back in the saddle...?
A fortnight since my last post and regular readers might be wondering what's up. I'd say I'm sorry not to have posted for so long, but I can't really. That is to say: I am sorry that this blog has lain fallow for so long, but it's not something I would want to apologise for. My reason for this is simply that I'm ill. Reading this, you might be asking yourself what kind of illness could prevent me from posting a short article to a blog now and then. So I might as well tell you.

I suffer from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. This means that for some 20 years or so I have been subject to an annual cycle of mood-swings, flipping between highs and lows lasting several months at a time. There is no prospect of remission for me, and I require daily medication to stay well enough to avoid long-term hospitalisation.This medication doesn't cure me, it just limits the intensity of the mood swings.

And so it is that, towards the end of October, I slumped into my depressive down-swing. One result of this was that I was unable to maintain my blog (another was that I was unfit to GM last Sunday). As my bloglag lengthened I found myself confronting the unspoken question 'Where have you been?' when I was to resume posting. The idea of handwaving this away was deeply painful to me. This is no abstraction or metaphor: the mentally ill endure not only the suffering of our affliction; we also bear the burden of stigma. Internalising this stigma because of fear- eg. by hiding the cause of my long bloglag- actually contributes to our suffering. Long experience has taught me that the best way to deal with this is to be up front about my illness, to save everyone as much bother as possible.

And that is why I've gone into so much detail about such a deeply personal matter. I'm not trying to turn this blog into a confessional for my sufferings. Rather, it's that the alternative- ie. passing over the matter in silence- could well have turned my bloglag into a blogging black hole.

Incidentally, manic depression is something that is handled very badly in rpg's, if it features at all. I remember once seeing a rule for a manic depressive disadvantage which involved rolling for mood swings whenever the afflicted character was in a stressful situation. Roleplaying being what it is, this would be combat more often than not. The results would've been something like this: roll a downswing, and you can't be bothered defending yourself, even against puny kobolds; roll an upswing, and you're invulnerable- you'll attack anything, especially the army of the Invincible Overlord, from which the rest of the party are beating a stealthy 'tactical' retreat. What a crock!

One noteworthy exception to this is Call of Cthulhu. The core rulebook has very credible capsule descriptions of the condition. Also, some well-meaning waffle in the insanity rules aside, the rules enjoy the merit that they don't reduce everything to some kind of willpower rolls to avoid instantaneous mood swings. In fact Chaosium have worked so hard on their account of insanity- which is, after all, the defining feature of the game- that Unseen Masters won the '2001 Mary Seeman Award in the area of Psychiatry and Humanities for the background given on mental health and addiction', awarded by the University of Toronto School of Psychiatry. Pretty good going for a rpg scenario pack I'd say.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

My little Old World: From Delberz to Altdorf #2

Turning the tables
The Ventura set off on time the following morning. Adelbert, the master of the Ventura, explained that the journey to Altdorf would take 2 days, because they would be travelling without tying up for the night, in the hope of avoiding outlaws. This hope was to be unfulfilled.

Early the following afternoon, Adelbert's mate- Wolmar- came and told the PC's to hide themselves at the stern of the barge. He explained that a rowboat was approaching and that Adelbert was worried that it would prove to be a pirate attack. When the PC's questioned the wisdom of their hiding, Wolmar told them that Adelbert was banking on the power of surprise. The PC's saw the sense in this, so they secreted themselves around the stern.

A longboat crewed by 4 men approached the stern of the Ventura. In the prow stood a man who identified himself as a river exciseman, duty bound to inspect the barge's cargo. Adelbert assented, and the longboat drew closer. The master of the Ventura told the hidden PC's that this was an old trick. Our heroes began to cackle gleefully as they considered the prospect of themselves getting the drop on some outlaws for a change.

Throw me a line called the exciseman. Sure thing replied Adelbert, crouching down to hide the club in his right hand as he threw down a rope with his left. Just then the man in the prow of the longboat pulled out a crossbow pistol and fired at Adelbert. Fortunately for the master of the Ventura, the bolt missed. Simultaneously, the forward oarsman put up his oars and readied a grappling hook.

The surprise was to be all on the part of the pirates though, when 5 people leapt up in the stern of the river barge, and a hail of extravagant curses, arrows and crossbow bolts rained down upon them. The pirate leader in the prow soon fell into the river with an arrow sticking right through his elbow. At this point, the pirate readying his grappling hook for yet another throw dropped it and grabbed for his oars.

Everything might've ended there had it not been for Seigfried. His blood up, the young thief was unwilling to see such a valuable longboat disappear. He took out his own grappling line, and prepared to throw. What are you doing?! came the chorus from around him. Undaunted by his companions' incredulity, Siegfreid swung his line, and snagged the longboat with a single throw.

The pirates' own would-be grappler promptly pulled out a dagger and tried to part the line. His fellow oarsman pulled hard to widen the gap between the barge and the longboat. The man at the tiller grabbed a crossbow and opened fire, hitting Alane in the chest with a bolt. Meanwhile, realising the booty that could be theirs, the other PC's went to Seigfried's aid with a will.

Mordrin tried to help Siegfried to pull the longboat in, only to find that the young human had dropped his end of the rope, so that the young dwarf's strength was insufficient to keep his grip. Berthold meanwhile had grabbed Siegfreid's shortbow, and opened fire on the pirate trying to free the longboat from the grappling line. By this time, Siegfried had picked up the end of his line and was able to tie it up, so that Mordrin felt the rope pull taut as it slipped through his hands.

Faced with the increasingly desperate attempts of his companion to part the rope now dragging them along behind the barge, and seeing a bow, a crossbow, and a blunderbuss arrayed before them, the pirate at the tiller of the longboat shouted to his mates that this wasn't going to be their day. He promptly jumped into the river, to be followed by the other 2 pirates.

Adelbert was delighted at this outcome, and hooted and hollered as the pirates swam away. He was so pleased at having kept his life, and his cargo, that he was quite happy to allow the PC's to keep the longboat for themselves, asking only for fair shares of the other booty. The party was happy to agree to this.

The rest of the voyage passed without incident, and the Ventura arrived in Altdorf just before dawn the next day. The greatest city of the Empire stood before them.


The GM's lament
So, that was Sunday's session of my WFRP campaign. Andy, Antony and I were talking about later in the pub, and I had to confess to them: I was having problems with the campaign. We quickly formed the consensus that the game had lost a bit of focus. And no wonder: I'd got them all to Middenheim, where I dropped them into volume 1 of a 3-volume epic campaign. Part 1 of volume 1 completed, what did I do? I promptly diverted them in pursuit of a plotline of my own devising, part 1 of which entailed a journey all the way back to where they'd started...

What on earth was I thinking of? Sheesh.

Ah well, as Andy said on Sunday night: I'm stuck with it now, and I'll just have to get this bit of the campaign sorted out, and see where that takes us. It's just, well, it's just that I feel such an idiot! ;)

From Delberz to Altdorf
- #1 Strangers in town
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Monday, November 14, 2005

My little Old World: From Delberz to Altdorf #1

Strangers in town
Finding safe haven in ‘Wat's on the Wharf’ in Delberz, the PC's paid over the odds for their bed and board. Awakening the following morning they were easily able to book passage on the Ventura, a river barge leaving for Altdorf the following day. Fortunately for our heroes, they were able to gain this at a significant discount. Unfortunately for our heroes, this was gained by hiring out their services as guards, which was not good news for 3 PC's who were so badly wounded that they would have reason to fear attack by toddlers armed with butter knives.

All was not lost however: Delberz being a major town, the party had no difficulty in finding a temple of the goddess Shallya. There they met the priestess Ellinde, who was tolerably friendly without being terribly forthcoming. The PC's explained their needs, and were invited to join a service to Shallya that was just about to begin.

The party's bedraggled and bloodstained appearance- not to mention the strange sight of an elf in the company of 2 dwarfs- drew some strange looks from the assembled congregation. The congregation itself was divided into 2 groups, one of which looked as trailworn as the PC's themselves. Concluding that these must be refugees from the shanty town itself, the PC's decided to sit with them.

The service passed as these things do, and offering plates were presented to those present as they filed out. The PC's made their offerings. Then the priestess Ellinde approached them and took them aside. She asked them why Shallya should bless them of all people. On hearing an account of the PC's heroic adventures, the priestess decided to tend to their wounds, naming a price of 4gc each.

Ellinde began by cleaning and bandaging the PC's wounds. Then she laid hands on their wounds and invoked the healing powers of the goddess, with the aid of leeches which she attached to the wounded areas. First Alane then Berthold enjoyed the benefits of the goddess' intervention. When Ellinde came to Mordrin something seemed to go wrong. The young dwarf's wounds were healed sure enough, but Ellinde's air of tolerant neutrality changed to one of near outright hostility. She insisted on receiving another 1gc from each PC then told them to leave immediately.

A bit confused by this, the PC's did as they were told. Finding themselves out in the streets, they noticed that there were many small bands of militiamen visibly on patrol. Oh no, realised Siegfried- it's Aubentag [Levyday]. This realisation came too late though, as the party were called to a halt by a well-dressed gentleman accompanied by 6 halberdiers and a sergeant-at-arms.

The gentleman explained that, what with the pressure of refugees having swollen Delberz's population to twice its normal size, the town's coffers were under serious strain. This meant that, the party clearly being outsiders, they were to be levied the sum of 1gc each, a statement that did not go down well with the PC's. Siegfried in particular was outraged.

Siegfried's first ploy was to try to point out 'his' name in the tax collector's register of residents. The thief being illiterate however meant that this ploy relied for its success on the help of young Berthold. This assistance wasn't forthcoming. The tax collector decided to take this in good humour, and insisted on payment all the same. Siegfried next tried dropping the name of Captain Schutzmann from Middenheim. Unimpressed, the tax collector retorted with a remark about Graf Todbringer, the Lord of Delberz, his own master and Captain Schutzmann's own noble overlord.

By this time the sergeant at arms accompanying the tax collector was quietly deploying his men in case of serious trouble, and Berthold at least was growing ever more nervous at the prospect of yet more pointless violence. Recognising this, Seigfreid finally paid up, albeit with poor grace and as many small denominations as he could find in his purse.

Watching the locals in the streets give them a wide berth as they headed back for a quiet night at Wat's on the Wharf, the party resolved to ensure that they never spent another Aubentag in a town, preferring to risk mutants and monsters than face another overzealous taxman.

From Delberz to Altdorf
- #2 Turning the tables
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Friday, November 11, 2005


Finally caught the Serenity movie the other day, when Donald and I went to see this much-awaited Hollywood space opera. Long story short: I just loved it! Having been a fan of Buffy, and having seen a couple of episodes of the Firefly TV series, I had high expectations for this latest piece of work from Joss Whedon, and boy I wasn't disappointed!

Right from the outset we were plunged into a world of paranoid doublethink and murderous darkness, making me feel that we weren't in the familiar territory of the Hollywood blockbuster. This was kept up throughout the movie, thanks to the plot, and some great dialogue and really funny lines.

Sure, there were some real cliches in this film, and the homages to Star Wars and to Bladerunner was obvious, but so what? I came out of watching Serenity having been entertained, with my intelligence stimulated, and having had my heartstrings plucked. This is an all too rare experience for me these days. Serenity might well be the best space opera movie since Star Wars.

Ros joined Donald and I after the movie and we got in a game of Settlers. Ros' normal talents failed her in this game, leaving Donald and I to fight it out for victory. In the end I won thanks largely to a rash of quick city-building. This win was unexpected because Donald looked to have by far and away the best resource base, and he certainly got off to a good start with rapid early expansion.

Finally for now: I will be attending DiceConEast 2005 in Edinburgh on Sunday 20th November. Dicecon
is run by the Scottish Boardgames Association, and this is the 2nd Edinburgh event. I will be GM'ing a Memoir'44 tournament on the day, and hoping to get a chance to play some Advanced Squad Leader, and maybe even some Up Front. If anyone reading this is in the vicinity on the day, I heartily recommend this event: it's just boardgames, boardgames, boardgames all the way!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In review: Sigmar's Heirs

Sigmar's Heirs- A Guide to the Empire
Anthony Ragan
GW: Black Industries

The new BI/Green Ronin WFRP2 range continues to expand rapidly, with 10 products already on the shelves, 8 of them hardback books. Sigmar's Heirs- A Guide to the Empire (WFRP2:SH) was the first general background book to be released for the new range. As such it could be said that SH is a landmark book for the WFRP2 range. I mean to say: 1st ed. WFRP has long been famous for its campaign packs, with The Enemy Within in particular widely regarded as the best rpg campaign ever produced.

All the same, the WFRP Old World setting has long been at least as popular as any specific product throughout the game's history. Moreover, I would venture that it is the underlying strengths of the setting itself that will carry the game forward in its new incarnation. This is why I would suggest that the setting background books which will open up the Old World to a new generation of players are going to be important parts of the new line. Make or break might be too strong a way to put it, but crucial strikes me as less than an overstatement.

So let's see what Mr. Ragan has given us in this here tome.

First Impressions
As ever with this new line of frpg product, first impressions are about as good as they get. We have a nice little hardback volume that will sit nicely on your gaming shelves alongside other books from the range. Inside we find the nice layout for which Green Ronin are justly reknowned. What is particularly neat about GR's approach is that it breaks the contents down nicely into bite-sized chunks that make the contents as digestible as possible for harassed GM's. This isn't unique to GR to be sure, but they do a damn good job.

Delving deeper
The contents of WFRP2:SH break down into an introduction, 8 chapters, and 2 appendices.

The introduction is of the form that will already be familiar to readers of WFRP2 products: a summary of the contents of the book.

The 8 chapters are as follows:
1. The Land and the People
2. The History of the Empire
3. Government and Foreign Relations
4. Law, Justice and Criminals
5. Cults of the Empire
6. The Grand Provinces
7. Forbidden Cults
8. Ill Met in Bogenhafen.

The appendices are:
1. New Careers
2. Provincial Features.

The appendices
Of this material, the 2 appendices are the easiest to evaluate.

There are 8 new careers that provide more colour to the Imperial background. These range from street careers like Gambler and Raconteur, to careers with more of a place in the Imperial hierarchy like Knight of the Blazing Sun or Verenean Investigator. Three careers are basic careers- and the appendix includes notes on how GM's can make these available to new PC's; the other 5 are advanced careers. All in all these look like good additions to the WFRP2 career system, and they should prove particularly useful to GM's looking to widen the range of their NPC's, not to mention offering new scope to players.

The 2nd appendix gives variant starting skills and talents for human characters according to which of the 10 Grand Provinces they hail from. As with the new careers, these are simple rules that add an extra touch to the cultural depth for which WFRP has long been famous. More good stuff in other words.

Meat and drink: the chapters
This material is the core of the book, and it is by this content that it will stand or fall. Overall, it has to be said that the material is very good.

Some of the material expands upon that in the core rulebook. Other material is newer. Chapter 4: Law, Justice and Criminals strikes me as a case in point. One of the things that marked the Old World out from day one was that it was a world of consequences. That is to say: in a time when PC's would regularly walk into village taverns tooled up for all out war- and then wage it against the hapless locals- WFRP was a setting whose very detail addressed players' attentions to the legal consequences of their more murderous actions. So a chapter like Chapter 4 is very important for establishing this important part of the classic background.

This chapter is brief, to be sure- 6 pages, as are others: eg. chapter 1-covering the geography of the Empire, and the 4 races- is a mere 6 pages; or chapter 3- covering the forms of government and foreign relations- 4 pages.

That said, the merit of all this material is that it is well written. What I mean to say by this is that it is well focussed on the sort of material that will help GM's with their games. In other words: what we are getting is a gaming supplement and not a sociohistorical treatise.

This is most evident in the lengthiest chapter in the book: chapter 6: the Grand Provinces. This gives details of all 10 of the provinces that make up the Empire. Each province is presented in the same format:
- Quick details
- The Land
- The People
- Significant Places
- Sample character
- Gazetteer
- Adventure hooks
As well as the above list, each section also includes colour text giving:
- comments on the province from various sources
- local sayings
- lengthier accounts by outsiders.

The latter material gives a real flavour for the self-image of the provincial inhabitants as well as how they are seen by others. The overall effect is to give a nice feel for the insularity inherent in the Old World setting, which is a key feature in the atmosphere of fear and paranoia that has always been so liked by the game's many fans.

The detailed accounts of each province is more than sufficient for GM's new to the setting to find their feet in the Empire. The Gazetteers detail each settlement listed according to 6 categories (plus notes) including size, ruler, wealth, and so on. The other sections give vivid descriptions appropriate to their topic, all of which are focussed on the kind of information which should give GM's ideas for scenarios, or of backgrounds to the same.

The adventure hooks- of which there are 2 for each province- might not be terribly original, but they are well suited for giving new GM's an idea of the kind of scenario they could run in the Empire. Experienced GM's might not need this material in other words, but at some 3-4 pages all told, this is still pretty good bang for your buck it seems to me.

All in all then, while WFRP2:SH might very well be the proverbial quart in a pint pot, it is certainly one where the key decisions- about what to include- have by and large been well taken.

The downside?
So by this time you might be thinking that I am well satisified with my purchase of WFRP2:SH, and I am: it strikes me as a book that will stand a new WFRP GM in good stead for a long time. But there are gripes I have to say.

My first gripe is one that the people at BI are already well familiar with from their forum: typos. It has to be said that there are too many typos for comfort in this book. Truth to tell, there are none that I can remember having a terrible effect on the sense of the text. All the same, I am just the sort of person who's bugged by spelling mistakes, so I have to mention this.

More serious than this IMO is the matter of maps. The Bogenhafen scenario aside, there are only 2 maps in this book: both of the Empire as a whole. One looks like an 'actual' map of the Empire, while the other is an 'actual' document from the Empire itself. These are both OK (the 2nd one is really quite nice in fact).But only having 2 maps is something I don't like. If I am not mistaken 1st ed. WFRP was well known for having many maps, something that I think is important for a fantasy setting in general, but more especially for a game which sets such store in versimillitude as does WFRP.

I mean to say: the 'Ill Met in Bogenhafen' scenario takes up 19 pages (nearly 1/6th of the entire book). Now it has to be said that the scenario looks quite nice: it gives a taster of the unique style of WFRP scenarios while at the same time building on the events of 1st ed's Shadows Over Bogenhafen. So, in this sense, the scenario is OK. But the question does have to be asked whether or not it was appropriate to devote so much of a background book to material of such limited utility, relative to the rest of the book.

It seems to me that this question is all the more pertinent when you consider that the space allotted to 'Ill Met in Bogenhafen' could've translated into an extra 2 pages per province (for example). That is to say: a full page map plus extra background material, to give but one suggestion. Regional maps of this ilk would've been all the more useful given the detail of the gazetteers themselves, which all include more than a dozen locations. Only a handful of these are represented on the larger map of the 2 in this book. And it has to be said that the editorial decision to include a scenario in this book makes even less sense when you consider that BI have 4 books of the size of WFRP2:SH either published or planned.

The above caveats do not mean that this book is less than useful to a WFRP GM. In fact I would have to say that this book is indispensable to a GM new to the Warhammer Old World looking for more information about the central setting for games of WFRP. One of the main reasons for this is that what the book does contain is well written, and well focussed to the needs of a GM. Read this book a couple of times, and I'm sure you'll have plenty of ideas for your own game.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


The consumerist bug bit me today resulting in a trip to GW. There I was able to pick up the new assault terminator set that was released Saturday last- when I was too busy with World D&D Day to have any time for the latest GW releases.

I have been a fan of GW's iconic genetically-engineered power-armoured super-soldiers pretty much since day 1. And the terminator variants of these same definitive toy soldiers of our time were the first 40K minis I ever owned. I have owned 3 different incarnations of these minis since then. The new plastic terminator minis are the 1st new space marine terminators to be released since GW reinvented their plastic 40K with the advent of 3rd ed. 40K several years ago.

The new assault terminators boxed set follows the pattern expected after the release, earlier this year, of the updated plastic terminator boxed set: the leg and torsos sprues with which space marine fans have already become familiar; and additional sprues for lightning claws, and for thunder hammer and storm shield close combat options. As ever with such sets from GW of late there is a full complement of both weapon options.

In addition to the 5 full sets of each weapon options, the new sprues- the lightning claws' sprue to be precise- include 18 new accessories- from purity seals to decorative shields. These are in addition to the 8 accessories included on the leg and torso sprues. This is perhaps not the most generous allocation of extra parts in a GW plastic boxed set, but it's still not bad, especially when you consider that you get 25 parts for the 2 different weapon options that are at the core of this set.

Questions of how much stuff aside, what about the quality of the contents?

Well, I have here to repeat my earlier remark that newer GW plastic releases seem to me to have more flash than did the company's releases of old. And I must also here state a personal preference: for once I find myself preferring an older GW space marine design to an update- the new lightning claws in this case. That said the sheer versatility of the new plastic parts- even before conversion possiblities are considered- mean that I'll certainly be using the new parts for any future terminator lightning claw squads. I'll be keeping the older parts for conversions for other models I guess.

Those 2 complaints aside, the new plastic terminators are just so much better than any previous incarntions of these classic GW minis- because of the inherent posability that comes from their design, that I would recommend them to any space marine fan. They look like fun models to work with. They come with some nice parts for the spares box. And here's hoping that they might just kick some serious ass one of these days! ;)

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Adventures of Felix Mephisto, Gentleman: Part 2

Chapter 5. In which: Conspirators Are Confronted & Confounded, & Felix Receives His Just Reward

So, with 4 of us knackered after Saturday's long session and subsequent late night, we decided yesterday just to round off Donald's first Flashing Blades adventure. Brian's presence brought a 5th PC into the adventure just in time for the conclusion.


It might've been the pangs Felix was feeling over the fate of the innocent servants of the Chevalier Didonner. Or it might've been the tensions of the wait for the confrontation with the conspirators that was to follow that evening. Either way our 4 heroes spent a quiet and restless afternoon which was broken only by another trip to reconnoitre the nearby graveyard, and by discussions to plan their attack.

In the end it was agreed to split into pairs- Felix and Baron Tourné- posing as people interested in graveyard memorial architecture, on the one hand; and van Horstmann and Marie- posing as mourners, on the other. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, our heroes deployed their bravoes- 7 city guardsmen under their command on the authority of the Constable General- in hiding in a nearby mausoleum (Felix winced to see their desecration of this repose of the dead, until he realised that it was a Papist plot, after all). The guardsmen were told that a gunshot would be their signal to rush to our heroes' aid.

Another long wait began.

Some time later shouting was to be heard from the mausoleum that was the guardsmen hideout. Hastening thence our brave defenders of France discovered 2 guardsmen- one of them their sergeant- arguing over a game of dice. Felix instructed the guard sergeant to exercise more control over his men, not to mention more discretion himself. The Baron Tourné had to be dissuaded from joining their game.

Returning to their watch our intrepid investigators didn't have long to wait before they caught sight of the first conspirator, who Jean-Claude recognised as the Baron de Gras, who was the intended overseer of the new project to construct the series of fortifications along the Spanish Netherlands border. He and his 2 henchmen both were decked out in the by now familar red kerchief, which was soon accompanied by a mask that was pulled down from under their hats.

De Gras and his henchmen noticed Felix and Jean-Claude lurking nearby as they passed, but fortunately our pair's ruse to conceal their intentions passed muster, and the conspirator and his companions passed by. Our 4 heroes sought suitably concealed vantage points from which to maintain a watch on events. Soon there were 4 recognised conspirators present- one of whom was a leading member of the Bank of the Brothers de Vittoria, so that Felix and the Baron finally realised that the bank was part of the conspiracy and not one of its victims. Also recognised was the Spanish ambassador. Each was accompanied by 2 henchmen.

Unbeknownst to all present, there was also another watcher nearby, but he chose to maintain his concealment at this point.

Seeing the conspirators gathered for their planned gathering, our intrepid investigators rapidly understood that this was no time for subtlety. This was reinforced when- as our heroes looked to their weapons- another outburst of shouting was heard from the mausoleum where the city guard was hidden. Our heroes opened fire, Felix choosing to aim for the villainous Spanish ambassador.

Taken unawares, the conspirators and their henchmen rallied quickly, drawing a variety of weapons to prepare themselves against attack. Gunshots were exchanged, including some which appeared to target the traitors from an unexpected quarter. The conspirators' bodyguards were just preparing to launch an assault at our heroes when they were diverted by the arrival of the city guard, who had managed to respond to the prearranged signal despite their own brouhaha.

The ensuing melee was mercifully short, thanks in part to the arrival of the mysterious 5th man- a gentleman who became known to Felix only as Xavier; but mostly because the plotters had little stomach for a fight. The one traitor who posed a real threat delivered some telling blows to the unfortunate Baron Tourné, but chose to surrender when his more lily-livered fellows left him outnumbered several to one.

Relieving the plotters of their weapons and other possessions before they were marched off to meet their well-deserved fates, our brave defenders of France found detailed specifications of the plans and armaments for the projected fortresses, as well as a credit note from the crown for several hundred thousand livres: a conspiracy that could've ripped the heart from France's continental power just as it had been stabilised following the victory at Rocroi in other words.

Felix's satisfaction at this outcome was magnified when the Constable General paid our heroes for their endeavours. Receiving the sum of 200 livres, our young gentleman's first thought was that he could, after all, pay his taxes this year. Our would-be bourgeois was to enjoy further gratification later, when he discovered that his services to France had led to his promotion at his Club of Saint George- he was now a club manager, who could enjoy the club's services for no annual fee in return for a minor allocation of his time.

All of which left our gentleman finding it very easy to nurse his minor wounds when he returned to his apartments sometime thereafter.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

World D&D Day

So, yesterday was the first ever World D&D Day. Taking a look at the WotC site it looks like the list of participating stores was fairly impressive in the end, in a certain way.

When I say a 'certain way' I mean to say that it's not a bad list of participants in an attempt to coordinate some kind of event which must, in the end, require people to step up to volunteer their own time and effort. I guess I'm just being a bit wistful here at the thought of what might happen if an event of this ilk could be organised on a scale comparable to, say, one of GW's worldwide ttg campaigns.

One notable feature of the list of official events is the complete absence of any British venues. Could this have something to do with the clash with UK GenCon, taking place in the Bognor Regis Butlins holiday camp over this very weekend? I don't know for sure, but you'd think that an event of this scale in Britain could've made its presence felt in World D&D Day? Maybe it's just down to the pace of WotC's site updates?

In any case, overcome with sentiment in the face of this marketing ploy on the part of WotC, we decided to get together and play some d20 ourselves. Brian and Tony both volunteered to GM, and we set to with a will.

First off was Brian's game.

The Voyage of the Silver Swallow
Set in the 'Full Metal Fantasy' world of the Iron Kingdoms, this game took place on the riverboat the Silver Swallow during a journey down-river from Corvis to the city of the Five Fingers. Brian gave us all pregenerated 7th level characters with enough background for us to have good hooks to get going.

So the party was:
- Sean Mohr: 5th/2nd level Thurian rogue/adventurous scholar.
- Aden Walshfur: 7th level Caspian paladin.
- Grey Lord Gregor Constantine: 7th level Kossite wizard.
- Father Bastion Forbes: 5th/2nd level Caspian cleric/battle chaplain.
- Sergei Kerchenko: 5th/2nd level Umbrian fighter/rifleman.

The adventure was too complex and multilayered for me seriously even to scratch the surface of the depths of the intrigues of the plot, but I will try to give a flavour. Among the events our party had to cope with were:
- blind prejudice
- drunken sexual jealousy and legalised attempted murder in the form of duelling
- theft
- actual murder, in the form of poisoning, stabbing, and frenzied assault
- infiltration of the riverboat crew by pirates
- crazed vengance seekers
- assassination
- a lynch mob.

As we picked our way through the paranoia and the plot twists, we were also 'fortunate 'enough to encounter such fiendish creatures as: a ripperjack, a gun wraith, a couple of other kinds of hellish undead creations of the Cryx. Oh yes, and a Satyxis raider, IIRC. This last is an irresistably attractive goat-horned woman with a taste for fetish fashions and the mating habits of a black widow spider. She was trying to get her husband back, and she had the magical powers to make us feel foolish for trying to get in her way.

In the end though, after a furious melee against the pirates and said evil female's various dark minions, our heroes prevailed (well, except Sean Mohr sad to say).

I have been aware of the Iron Kingdoms setting for some time via the lovely miniatures Privateer Press produce for their Warmachine ttg. The steampunk thing going on in this world has long appealed to me, and I really enjoyed my first taste of roleplaying in the setting. I wonder if we'll return some time?

A wee pause to catch our breath, and then it was time for Tony's game.

The Serpent Women of Kurtin
This was set in Tony's own classic high fantasy setting- Natas Duree, with all the Tolkeinesque trappings. Donald had to leave, so the rest of us set to work with our dice and soon had a bunch of 1st level D&D PC's.

- El-Araiah: elf fighter.
- Shuman Arfos: human cleric.
- Cullin Cormacht: human bard.
- Alderic: human fighter.

This game was the first time Tony had GM'ed in several years, and the first time he'd GM'ed his old fantasy world in more years than that, not to mention the first time he'd ever GM'ed d20. So his scenario was a classic simple plot: help the villagers against the evil monsters, which we all duly did.

Apart from the usual buzz of trying out newly rolled PC's we all enjoyed Tony's descriptions, particularly his spooky serpent women. The scenario left our PC's in possession of some ancient gold coins and a valuable looking dagger, not to mention the mystery of the serpent women themselves, all of which are hooks enough to have piqued our interest for the future.

And that was our own taste of World D&D Day, which we wound down with reflections on what we like and don't like about d20 as it now stands before us. But that's not for today.

PS. Been offline due to problems with my ISP recently, hence my absence on Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


An old buddy of mine read my blog yesterday and felt compelled to email me about it. This was as unsolicited as it was unexpected, so I just had to reply to Martin's comments here.
Initiative:Having played D20 but not WFRP (at least not for 20 years) I have a problem with your interpretation of the initiative system, D20 cannot compare to the Hero Speed Table because essentiallly in D20 you have 1 roll for initiative but after the first round that means nothing i.e. you roll a 20, baddies roll a 19, you move first then them, you roll a 19 they roll a 20, they move first then you, but this is carried forward each turn, so, as a PC, if they move first, I ignore it and count us as moving first from the 2nd turn onwards. That is all there is to it - after the first roll turns alternate, no big deal. With the Hero system there are segments where you move, other segments where they move and some where you both move (dependant on DEX) but this s far more complex than the D20 or by your implication, the WFRP system. I might be missing something because of your rant but????
Well Martin, I'm a bit unclear on some of what you're saying here, but if I get it correctly: you alternate initiative after the first turn? In that case it's hardly surprising my point was opaque to you: you're either houseruling initiative in d20 games, or the rules have changed from v3 to v3.5.

I was commenting on the way that the initiative system of WFRP2 (which it shares with d20) gives each combat a definite beat- or rythym, because the order of combat is essentially fixed after just one initiative roll. It is this fixed order of actions that I was comparing to the HERO SPD table, which has the same effect on each given combat- ie. it fixes the order in which the combatants act, according to their SPD and DEX.

I wasn't saying that the HERO SPD table and the d20/WFRP2 initiative systems are the same (heaven forbid!- ie. HERO is far more complex!). I was just comparing one effect both approaches deliver that I happen to like. This effect is very different from the traditional rules for rolling for initiative- where the action sequence each turn used to vary. This is why the issue of the fixed beat- and the comparison with HERO- leapt out at me when I saw the initiative rules in WFRP2 only a few months ago.
KILLING PC's: I am sorry but to kill 3 PC's in a random encounter is careless, not to mention negligent. If I am a GM, my job is to make sure the players enjoy themselves, tell a good story, put them in peril, kill them if it fits the story, but a random encounter?????
Well yes Martin, I guess I would confess that carelessness and negligence were on display all round that day, from the PC's and the GM. It's a learning curve thing for all of us I guess. But well, there are 2 points specific to WFRP that you might be missing here. The first is that the PC's aren't actually dead, as such. They all had Fate Points left, so they're all still alive- just a little more doomed, is all.

In addition? Well I'm sure that you don't need me to lecture you on the difference between, say a superhero rpg and a 'real death' rpg Martin. Nor will you need any telling that WFRP is a real death game. But WFRP is a wee bit more than that I'd have to say. Both from the setting and the combat rules, WFRP is a pointless death game. Love it or hate it, but that's one of the key features of the atmosphere of this great rpg, a feature that made this game stand out way back when it was first published.

In WFRP there is no such thing as a bunch of mooks there just to provide a speed bump for the PC's on their way to the inevitable climactic encounter with the chief baddie of the big adventure. Nope. In WFRP, every time you enter combat you risk getting wasted at a moment's notice because of Sheer Dumb Luck.

Moreover, just like in so many rpg's- fantasy rpg's in particular I'll warrant- not every opportunity for combat is plot-related: some are simply random encounters, or, to put it another way- encounters which represent the inherent dangers of the setting as opposed to the specific dangers of the given plot. This again is true to the WFRP setting, in which outlaws, mutants, beastmen, and other horrors lurk in the woods and elsewhere just waiting to prey on hapless travellers, especially in the post-Storm of Chaos default setting for WFRP2.

'Fate' chose my PC's to be thus hapless my last session. Restatements of my own shock aside, there isn't anything I can usefully add really.

So thanks for emailing me Martin. I hope I've answered your points satisfactorily.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Well, I'm back. I've been on a trip which made regular updates impossible, so I just decided to take a complete break from the blog.

The trip has meant that I haven't done any gaming to write about, although I have been thinking about killing off 3 PC's in the last WFRP session. I had been commenting only a couple of weeks previously that I was feeling I’d been a bit too kind in my WFRP campaign because I'd only killed one PC in some 12 sessions. This was hardly the "grim world of perilous adventure" so popular among WFRP fans I was thinking.

The next thing I knew your basic random encounter- which I had included for the sake of a flavour of the dangers of travel in the post-SoC Old World; your basic bit of random violence goes and finishes off 3 PC's from a party of 5. I had been thinking of upping the threat levels of encounters a bit, to make the PC's feel the heat a bit more; but I hadn't been planning on wasting them with such alacrity. And the heroes have only just begun their journey to deal with a nameless threat of unknown magnitude back in Stirland near vampire country.

I know that being a 'real death' rpg is one of the peculiar appeals of WFRP. I can tell myself that I didn't set the PC's up to get whacked in some kind of no-win situation. And there is a measure of reassurance in the fact that the players were unusually unlucky with their dice that day. All the same, I still feel strangely squeamish about those 3 PC deaths even as I am well aware that I should know better.

I find this experience peculiar.

Struggling as I am with too many sentences beginning with "I", I find myself thinking that this unsettling feeling comes down to 2 things.
1. A worry that I was, in the end, unfair on my players in some way or another- something I can only get an answer to by talking this over with my players.
2. Another worry (argh!- I seem unable to escape sentences that all want to start with the same words today): that the first adventure of my own devising in my WFRP campaign will prove to be just too much for my PC's- time will tell I guess.

Still, these GM's worries aside, I did enjoy running the combat. I like the WFRP2 combat system, and am looking forward to trying out the d20 system with which it shares several key features.

One shared feature that I particularly like is the initiative system. What I mean to say is that I like the way that initiative is generated once and once only for each combat- instead of each round that is. There is one obvious reason for this: it makes life much easier for the players, the GM especially. In simple playability terms then, this is good design.

I like this mechanic for other reasons though. What I'm on about here is the feel that this approach gives to combat. Let me explain. I am a long-time fan of the HERO system. Some of my most memorable roleplaying has been done with this system. One of the key features of this system is its Speed (SPD) table. Without going into details, the effect of this on play is that everyone's actions in combat go in a sequence that is determined once and for all according to their SPD, with any variations according to DEX alone- fixed initiative in other words. As a PC I used to really enjoy making the most of the particular 'beat' my character's SPD brought to combat.

This is something that WFRP and d20's initiative rules bring with simpler mechanics, and a twist. The twist is the variation provided by that familiar old mechanic- the initiative dice roll. What this gives is a fixed beat for each combat, with variations in that beat possible in different combats. As I said, I like the fixed initiative mechanic because it offers interesting tactical options in play, based on exploiting the resulting 'beat'. The variation given by the initiative roll is nice because it introduces the idea of 'form', or good days and bad days: something players- GM or PC- can use to add to their character interactions in other words.

Ease of play; interesting tactical options; and grist to roleplayers' mills: that's quite good going for a minor twist on a venerable old mechanic, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My little Old World: From Middenheim to Delberz #2

Fate's dark hand
The 'bodies' scrambled to their feet and, with their 2 fellows, drew weapons and shields to ready themselves for combat. Two arrows whipped out of the trees on the right and Berthold suffered a wound.

Siegfried advanced through the woods to take the decoy group in the flank, only to have the left flank of the ambush party rush up behind him. Alane readied herself to use her longbow. Mordrin charged in to attack the decoy party, closely followed by Grundi and his axe. Not wanting to stand out in the open and be pin-cushioned, Berthold charged into the trees to attack the bowmen.

This band of outlaws were no idiots. Not only had they decoyed the PC's into a classic ambush, but they knew how to fight too. Of the 4 members of the decoy party, 3 concentrated their attacks on Mordrin while the other attacked Grundi. The right flanking group were attacking Seigfried. Faced only with the puny Berthold, the left flanking party split its attentions: 1 of them fought the desperate scribe while the other kept up a steady fire at the elf, still in the middle of the road and firing off shots with her own longbow.

Alane was the first to go. Cursing her crude longbow she resorted to a magic dart, with instant results. This was a good move, but unfortunately had the immediate consequence of confirming to the bowman the wisdom of maintaining his fire at the elf instead of turning to attack the young fellow swapping blows with his companion. An arrow whipped out, straight and true, and took the elf right in the chest.

Already wounded, Berthold didn't survive much longer. With a wicked leer, the 2nd bowman drew his sword and felled the young scribe with a single blow to the head. Pausing only contemptously to deliver a few kicks to the brave young fellow's body, the 2 murderous lowlives charged up to join in finishing off the dwarfs.

Up ahead Seigfried had a sinking feeling when he realised that he could no longer hear the sounds of action from the rear. These bandits were much sterner stuff than the rabble they'd fought before. Mordrin was performing prodigious feats in fighting off 3, then 4, then 3 again(!) of the villanous scum singlehanded, but was having a hard time taking them down. And Ulric had chosen today of all days not to bless Grundi's axe quite so lavishly as he had in the past. If these bandits couldn't be broken, and soon, then they were all doomed.

The painful and bloody battle of attrition continued. All of the PC's had parried blows that had shivered their bones and almost threatened to rip their weapons from their weary hands. Seigfried found himself fighting just one attacker, and took heart. Having already delievered a crippling blow to the leg of his attacker, then crushing his shield arm, Grundi finally felled his opponent. The bandits began to panic, and their attacks became uncoordinated.

This wasn't enough to save brave Mordrin though: an axe took him square in the forehead, and he was down and out. Now facing only 2 victims, the outlaws took heart again, and pressed home their attacks once more. All the same, their well-planned ambush hadn't given them the easy marks they'd expected, so their nerves were shaky. Thus it was that, when Seigfreid finally felled his remaining assailant, the last 3 outlaws took to their heels and fled.

Reeling from the after-effects of combat, Siegfried paused a moment to catch his breath. Grundi meanwhile took a look at the bandit he'd felled. Finding that the man was lying doggo, the dwarf finished him off where he lay. Then he attended to his fallen companions while Seigfreid took stock of their fallen enemies. The dwarf soon found that everyone was still living.

Alane had been saved by one of the small darts she kept for her magic dart spells. It wouldn't help her with a spell in the future but- by absorbing the impact of the otherwise fatal arrow- the dart had, it turned out, been much more useful to the elf.

Mordrin had been saved by his mail coif, which had turned the axehead aside at the last moment. Miraculously, this invaluable piece of armour wasn't even damaged.

Berthold too had been saved by his headgear, but also by his right ear: his leather cap had turned the blow aside and the top of his ear had been lopped off.

While Seigfried gathered up the dead outlaws' gear and other valuables he found that they had a pony tethered in the woods a small distance off the road. This was to prove useful. Meanwhile Alane and Mordrin soon regained consciousness after Grundi had tended to their wounds.

It was still only early afternoon, so the party decided that they must press on to Delberz. The equipment looted from the dead outlaws was piled onto the pony while Mordrin constructed a simple travois to carry the still unconscious Berthold. The remainder of the journey passed without incident.

Breaking out of the Drakwald on the west bank of the river Delb, the first thing the party saw was a large shanty town stretched out along the river bank. More refugees from the Storm of Chaos they realised- hundreds and hundreds of them it seemed. Passing through another watch interrogation, they decided to head straight for the merchants' quarter to sell off their booty. Arriving at the close of the trading day as they had, the PC's were fortunate enough to get all of this done without a hitch.

Thus rewarded over and above the simple fact of sheer survival, they set out to look for an inn for the night, there perhaps to ask themselves what price friendship in the grim and perilous Old World.

From Middenheim to Delberz
- #1 Distractions then departure
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim

Monday, October 24, 2005

My little Old World: From Middenheim to Delberz #1

Distractions then departure
Awakening after another drunken night in the Wolf's Teeth tavern, Grundi and Mordrin nursed hangovers while the party made their preparations for the journey south to Delberz. Berthold and Siegfried were to go out to investigate getting places on a coach. Just before they left young Athelus, initiate of Sigmar, arrived with a message for Berthold: he was being offered a job by Father Greimold at the temple of Sigmar. The young scribe was torn between loyalty to his adventuring companions, and the thought of a cushy life.

Berthold and Seigfried soon discovered that the cost of a coach was prohibitive and decided that the party was going to have to walk. Siegfried noticed 2 people haggling over a ring not unlike the one he'd sold to a fence the previous day, and discovered that it had been worth some 10 times what he'd received for it. And Berthold and Seigfreid both also overhead someone talking about Karl, the librarian at the Collegium Theologica, who'd just plain disappeared a couple of days ago. Both characters decided to keep this information to themselves.

Their task completed, Berthold hastened to the temple of Sigmar. He met Father Greimold and explained to the priest that he couldn't accept the man's offer of employment. Greimold praised the young scribe's loyalty and courage, and offered him Sigmar's blessings, but nothing else [Andy fluffed 2 Fel rolls by too many degrees of failure for comfort].

Meanwhile Mordrin had decided to pay a visit to the Chapel of Grungni to pray for good fortune on the journey and to find out what the dwarfen community was planning to do about the shrine he had found in the sewers. On the latter he found that a proper expedition was being planned to locate the shrine and then to decide what to do. He was invited to join this party, but, just like Berthold, he had to decline. And, just like Berthold, he was praised for his loyalty and courage, and offered Grungni's blessings, but nothing else.

Mordrin also met a messenger from Firengul- his contact with his smuggler brother's organisation. Firengul wanted to meet the young runerunner that evening, but Mordrin had to send back a reply saying that he'd be out of Middenheim for some time.

These distractions sorted, and the party's equipment piled on the shoulders of the sturdy dwarfs so that no one was overencumbered, the PC's set off late that morning. They arrived at the gate of the southern aqueduct to discover that Kaltenbach and his crew- including the mysterious Beyer- were on duty. Covert thieves' signals passed between Seigfreid and Beyer to inform the latter that the PC's were acting on the information passed on the other day.

Meanwhile Kaltenbach looked the PC's up and down, and demanded 2gc and 10s toll, adding the explanation that it was for the ongoing repairs to the war-torn city. The party were sure that this was a con. Siegfried aired this opinion loudly, looking for support from those behind him waiting to pass out the gate. The man behind him gave him a look as if to say you might be right, but I'm not getting involved. Most of the PC's noticed Beyer frantically signalling for them to just pay up and get going. Something about this left Siegfreid once more utterly convinced that this Beyer was, in fact, a woman. Grundi stumped up the cash Kaltenbach was demanding, and the party moved on without further incident.

The stench of death was ripe in the air as the party set out for a second time to cross the burnt-out wasteland left by Archaon's besieging horde. Corpses of Flayerkin still dotted the city walls. Work parties could be seen hard at work cleaning up the detruitus of battle. Palls of thick smoke hung in the air here and there from great funeral pyres. Several hours later the PC's encountered a party of militia. After a brief interrogation as to their identities and their intentions, they were allowed to pass. They moved on and the Drakwald quickly swallowed them up.

The rest of that day's journey passed uneventfully under a chilly drizzle. Deciding to make up as much time as possible, the party pushed on for a couple of extra hours and camped out at the side of the road.

Berthold had found the previous day's hard march more taxing than the others so that he delayed the departure the next day. Still the party were making good time on the last leg of their march to Delberz. Then they heard a couple of human voices arguing loudly just round a bend in the road. Pausing only for a brief confab that resulted more in confusion than in clarity, Mordrin and Grundi pushed on round the corner to see what was what, Alane and Berthold followed up cautiously, awaiting developments, and Seigfreid slipped into the woods out of sight on the left.

Turning the corner the 2 dwarfs saw 2 men standing arguing while 2 bodies lay on the ground. What's going on the dwarfs asked. The 2 humans just turned and looked at the PC's. At that moment the sounds of movement were heard in the woods to the left and right behind Alane and Berthold. Mordrin's sixth sense went off.

Ambush!- the young dwarf shouted.

From Middenheim to Delberz
- #2 Fate's dark hand
- Index:- My little Old World: Ashes of Middenheim


Well I'm relaxing watching Gladiator on the telly after a hard day's WFRP, so I've only got time for a quick post- one to report dire tidings from the field of conflict.

Last week after WFRP and dinner Donald and I sat down for a game of M44. We decided randomly to choose a scenario from those I'd downloaded from the DoW website, and ended with me playing the Yanks against Donald's Germans in Scenario 25s: Ardennes- Bastogne Corridor, West. Lots and lots of tanks and some artillery: a good game in prospect one way or another in other words.

After a bit of careful manoeuvring, my tanks crashed into Donald's forces on my right flank, and did what was expected. Donald responded. And then I made what I still maintain was my Big Mistake of the Game: calling on long range artillery instead of getting stuck in with infantry. Long story short: Donald's shattered tank units survived, and proceeded to get stuck in amongst me- with the aid of support moving in rapidly from his centre- and I was ripped a new one (I lost 3 tank units in a single turn!).

I was on my uppers for the rest of the game, and lost quite crushingly shortly thereafter. I still maintain that it all might've been different had I played a different card after my initial armoured attack had been so successful. But then: that's the psychology that makes cardplay commmand and control so exciting. So what can I say?

On top of that, Ros and I played some Ivanhoe last night, and I lost 6-3. Some of these games were close, and others were exactly the sort I've talked about before: games where you just couldn't do anything because you simply didn't have the cards. Even so, there were still games I feel I lost because I gave the initiative away when I had nothing in hand to regain control of play. So that particular bitching is a bit of swings and roundabouts really I guess.

Moreover, I was 5-1 down at one point, so I would like to claim some small crumb of comfort from pulling back to a less than utterly humiliating margin of defeat. But all the same... Well, :(

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I've been a wild rover

So I took another afternoon out in Dundee yesterday, visiting GW and Highlander Games again.

In GW one of the staffers' advance orders had come in, giving me a chance to take a good long look at the new plastic space marine scouts sprues. These look very nice and no doubt I will be picking up a box when they appear on the shelves early in December.

Thereafter it was a quick bus ride uptown to Annfield Road to pay another visit to Dundee's FLGS. I had hoped to get some gaming done this time, but unfortunately had left my visit too late. Which was a shame because the place was really buzzing.

As the ever-cheerful Gary explained: there had been a CCG tournament only the previous day: and there was a M:tG event planned for today. So there were quite a few avid cardgamers present, trying out new decks and comparing notes about tricks and strategies. Other games I saw being played were Upper Deck Entertainment's Marvel VS TCG, and WoTC's Axis & Allies Miniatures CMG.

I also caught up with some of the local Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) crew. The presence of these guys is something that still boggles me a bit when I visit Highlander Games. Let me explain: ASL is a game for the grognard's grognard. Highlander games aside I have only ever met 4 other ASL players in the 20 or so years since I first got into the game after having been a fan of the original Squad Leader series of games. And one of those 4 ASL'ers was the cheesehead in Prague only last month.

Imagine my amazement then to discover a whole group of them meeting monthly in Highlander Games in my old home town! And imagine my frustration to discover that their get togethers clash with my Sunday roleplaying group. Talk about the fortunes of war! Still, I met a couple of them yesterday and we were able to share a dose of our enthusiasm, while I added a rash of my own for Memoir'44, naturally enough.

Caught up in the thrill of the moment, I finally got my hands on a copy of the ASL Starter Set #1. The only set available had had the counters popped out for the 1st scenario and then been put aside for a shop copy, so Gary gave it to me for a generous discount. Which was nice.

Sitting down thereafter for a bit of a gloat, and to enjoy the crack of a bunch of gamers at play, I was able to look over the aforementioned set of the Axis & Allies Miniatures CMG. This looked interesting so, throwing caution to the winds, I got myself a starter set of this too.

After nothing more than a gloat over the box contents and a quick scan of the rules I can report that this looks like a very plausible introductory level WW2 tacsim. If- along with games like M44- this serves to generate new interest in WW2 boardgaming, then grognards everywhere should be celebrating.

And that's it: another gamer's afternoon in Dundee. Thanks to all concerned for making me feel welcome, and to Gary in particular for his generosity to this wanderer. I'll be back, and I'm still hoping to get down to some dice-rolling and ass-kicking just asap. Cheers one and all! ;)