26 September 2009

VASSAL vs Cyberboard

Two different systems for achieving the same thing — play by email (pbem).  Cyberboard has been around longer, but is tied to Windows and PC's.  VASSAL is Java-based, so can run on a Mac and Unix, can be sync'd for real time play with another computer over the web, and currently seems to have a larger number of games available, though not as many of the oldie but goodies that Cyberboard seems to have.  I found SPI's Blitzkrieg Module System Cyberboard on the Yahoo egroup for TAHGC's Blitzkrieg, a game I still like to pull out once in a while.  The Module really makes the game interesting.  It adds background and names to the fictional countries of the board, new units, CRT's, and plenty of chrome to liven up the game. 

In any case, both methods give players the opportunity to communicate at long distances and play games at relatively fast speeds.  With my Intel Mac and a Windows emulator, I can run Cyberboard and VASSAL.  So I have the best of both possible worlds.

A New Product

ODGW now has available a great new product for owners of 1:2400 and 1:3000 scale ships. These are clear acrylic bases with bow waves and stern wakes etched into the surface. The effect of the clear base allows your colored cloth to come through, instead of clashing with the base already on the ship.  Though we have had it for some time, we have yet to put it up for sale on the web site, for lack of attention by yours truly.  That will change soon.

Miracle Mile Gamers

My group of gamers is called the Miracle Mile Gamers (MMG) for its location in Los Angeles.

Despite calling itself a "playtest" group, the players are notoriously resistant to rules changes.  They like the consistency of one set.  We play a full bore version of Mein Panzer exclusively — only WWII, and only 6mm.  The ODGW Lounge on the website has many of our AAR's (after action reports).  Sacha, our host for our battles, is an architect by trade and does a superior job at creating scenery for our tables.  His excellent set-ups create believable villages and terrain for us to fight over.  Fortunately, he has a large amount of Geo-hex 12" terrain that he obtained before the company disappeared and the stuff became terribly overpriced merchandise.

The Meine Truppen rules have been extensively tested by our group, and are literally the only version of the game we play, although we use squads rather than sections.  1" = 25yds is our preferred scale, and lends itself to great infantry actions.  Even without the MT improvements, Mein Panzer is a great infantry game.

Meine Truppen playtesting pt 2

We have a number of playtesters working on these rules, providing me with good questions on the rules and promising to try them out in games.  I have no doubt they will, which will provide me with the necessary feedback needed for refinement of the game.  So far two groups have come to the fore, which is better than none.  Other fellows who have offered to be playtesters will be given time to respond with criticism.  If none is forthcoming, I will make a decision about their continued inclusion in the playtester group.

Right now the major source of confusion is about the spotting rules, which have been simplified from the original, but there is an optional set that is deterministic and, at first blush, more complicated.  Playtesting of the optional set will determine if it is included, though it has been thoroughly tested in my own playtest group.  That does not mean it will be palatable to others.

19 September 2009

business meeting

We had our "monthly" business meeting last weekend, and it is divulging no great secret to announce ODGW is doing well.  We have projects in the works, solid cash flow, work on the web site, and very good hopes of finding a printer to replace our recently departed (bankrupt) one.  So all is looking up.  Almost all the ODGW partners except yours truly will be at Fall In in Gettysburg this coming 6-8 November, so if you are there, stop by and say hello.

Research on the horse and musket era continues, as does design work and playtesting on Meine Truppen and American Battlelines.  Keeping me busy.  Still have that niggling little bit of work to do on our latest naval release before its beta test package goes out to the groups.  I spend as much mental effort on wondering why I am blocked on the final few details as I do on writing those last pieces.  It is proving tough to overcome.  I am hoping for some final burst of creative energy this weekend to push this item over the line and out the figurative door.

And we can only hope that USC beats Washington later today.

09 September 2009

playtesters & playtesting

I have been receiving good response from at least some of the playtesters who have our two rules sets in current revision and new design right now.  Playtesting results are not back yet, but rules suggestions have come in, and they are reasoned and reasonable.  They include suggestions I intended to make, but have not gotten to yet.  Dealing with two or three items at once is a fine juggling act, but I think I can pull it off, given that two of three are not in my hands right now.  I have more work on the GQIII module to do, but that will come together soon, I hope.  Right now I am experiencing a bit of writer's block on that one, but it is mainly because outside events overtook me this summer.  Now that I can feel them moving a bit back from the foreground, I will try for some progress on the naval game.

07 September 2009


I attended Strategicon in Los Angeles this weekend as an official representative of Old Dominion GameWorks.  As publisher of General Quarters III, my presence was requested by the “Special Projects Team.”  They are a good bunch of guys who are literally swimming upstream, trying to inject interest in miniatures into this thrice-annual convention by inveigling gamemasters to run lots of games.  Strategicon had become a miniatures desert for a while, and now it is still pretty arid, but there is a trickle of activity.  They are doing their best.  One of the things the Special Projects people do is run GQIII games in 1:700 scale, on a cordoned off area of the exhibit hall floor, with a measuring cloth ruler about 20-30 feet long.  Very eye-catching and well attended.

Strategicon itself is predominantly a boardgame and role-playing con, with Euro games in abundance in the boardgame rooms.  Historical gaming takes a back seat everywhere, including the miniatures area, yielding much of its space to Star Fleet Battles, Warhammer in its various incarnations, and Battletech.  So there is a challenge in looking for passing folks interested in trying something new.

I refereed two games of the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, a fairly well balanced scenario between the USN and the Kaigun (Imperial Japanese Navy).  In the event, it was a US victory, with the Japanese inflicting almost as much damage to themselves through collisions as were inflicted by the Americans.  Historically, USN cruisers' gunfire quickly disabled one Japanese light cruiser. Then two IJN destroyers collided during one's torpedo attack.  Finally, a Kaigun heavy cruiser sliced off the bow of yet another destroyer.  In my games, the U.S. won once, and in the other they had their head handed to them by successful Japanese torpedo fire.  As usual, there were problems with getting adequate table space for games.  Despite using 1:6000 miniatures, I had problems running a game on a small 6’ x 2½’ riser.  The con can do better in allocating sufficient area to miniatures games.

Some friends from San Diego made a day trip to the con, and played in a car racing game called Speed Rally (I think).  It quickly degenerated into Circus Maximus with automobiles, with only one car moving at the end of six laps.  Much hilarity as they collided with and shot at each other.  A good bit better than the much-revered Car Wars, in my view.

I managed to include playing in one game run by a local gamer of the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi, an ACW historical affair from 1862.  Had my entire Union brigade run off its center position by the successful charge of one somewhat depleted Confederate brigade, so I was done fairly early in the game.  Eventually the Union would win, surprisingly.  The casualties the Confederates were racking up finally caught up with them.  Great fun, and demonstrated another game system and how it handles American Civil War combat.

I traded my first edition of Yaquinto’s game Ironclads.  Glad it went to an appreciative friend, who will make some use of it, since I never will.  As much as I enjoy naval conflict in general, ACW has never appealed to me.  Too much like hitting an anvil with a hammer.  Mais, chacun à son goût!

04 September 2009

That D*** Web Site Part IV

One way to work around the problems with the ODGW web site is to look for flashing "NEW" buttons next to Forum topics, even if it shows that there are zero topics within the category.  Definitely not perfect, but our web guy is working on a new site for us.  I am just frustrated by the problems after dealing with them all these years.  So know that the difficulties are being worked on, and a better web site is in the offing.  Or so I am told.

03 September 2009

That D*** Web Site Part III

The weirdly resizing box in the upper right-hand corner is fixed, and now people can access the ODGW site without any problems, but there is still no way to track when a Forum topic is started and added to.  So it looks like there is absolutely no information about Fleet Action Imminent or The Solomons Campaign.  Trying to use the Support Forum as a base for playtest discussion looks hopeless, because the playtest topics are also affected.  I tried something today to see if emulating the Forum topics that work would perhaps change the way the dysfunctional topics are counted.  No joy.

soCal's burning

Surely you have seen the news about the wildfires in southern California.  White dots covered my car one morning, and it took a few minutes before I realized that the winds had shifted, and it was ash from the fires which are several miles from my apartment.  Griffith Park is part of the area burning again, threatening the landmark Observatory.  The skies are dark, and the sunsets are redder than usual, all due to the massive amounts of smoke.  One can see the horizon at night as a red glow from the top of my hill.  The heat is hindering firefighting efforts — hopefully we will see cooler temperatures soon, which will slow down the advance of the flames.

02 September 2009

miniatures vs boardgames

The classic dilemma.  Usually there will be a strong preference by a gamer for one over the other.  And for good reason.  It costs a lot in time and money to play the games, and you cannot do everything.  I like both, with a slight preference for miniatures, due largely to the appeal of the models and the free form of the movement.  But there is an excellent series of boardgames from GMT called the Great Battles of the American Civil War (GBACW), that have drawn my interest.  Their game on Gettysburg, which battlefield I had the good fortune to visit for the second time this past July, is visually stunning and engrossing to play.  Now I will never turn down a worthwhile miniatures game of the ACW period, but GMT has published some real winners here.  The great thing about boardgames is there is usually no doubt where a unit is, what it can see, how far it can move, and once you buy it, your investment is over.

tabletop terrain

Like a lot of guys, I had model trains when I was young.  And like a lot of guys, I still have them.  One of the legacies of model railroading is an interest in terrain and making it look realistic.  Now a lot of wargamers do this, and more power to them.  They have it all — a beautiful table, with finely painted miniatures marching across it.  But too often the splendid miniatures traipse across a terrible excuse for a landscape.  One of my favorite additions to any table is trees, of which one can never have too many.  You can go out and break your bank buying them ready made, or do-it-yourself using the variety of techniques available just by surfing the web.  Also, there is a dedicated Yahoo egroup just for tree making.

Living in southern California gives me access to sage, which makes a wonderful armature for realistic trees in virtually any scale.  You just have to get out and go hunting in the brush.  Living near Griffith Park makes that very easy for me, and gives me the excuse I need to go hiking and biking on the trails there.  The trees one can make are stunning, and really score points when placed on a table.  It is so much better to play a game when one feels that the ground is worth fighting for, than when you have to pretend it is something that it is clearly not.

01 September 2009

Meine Truppen playtesting

So I have a few responses from my four hundred and one email blast to the Mein Panzer database.  Good to see that some are willing to try out my weird and unusual concepts.  I have one idea that is very radical, involving a wholesale change in the way the game is played.  May introduce this to the playtesters at a later stage as an alternative.

secret pleasures

Dare I say it?  I play other publishers' games.  And enjoy them.  I think that no one has a monopoly on the right approach or answer.  And ODGW does not cover every period in which I have an interest.   Seeing how other designers answer the questions of how to simulate a battle churns my creative juices.  Let's face it, as one of my professors in college once said, you will have one, maybe two, completely original ideas in your lifetime.  It may not be the best place to have them on something as mundane as a wargame.