Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Forces Begin to Gather

The Funny Little Wars project continues. Here Army Red's bold, bold cavalry gets a nice first coat of paint. They have already promised to run rough over Army Sea Blue's famed Naval Cavalry squadron. To accomplish this unlikely feat the Red's have now mobilized their entire nation into the cause of conquering poor Fiume and humbling the island empire of Sea Blue. And what's this on their general's tunic? Can foreign mercenaries and general sneakiness be far behind?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

First Unit Assembles for Funny Little Wars

After some false starts and lots of stripping and starting over I've finished the first section of my Maltese Naval Cavalry unit. The greatly feared Rotisuldat Squadron begins to gather together, awaiting only their wunder weapon which is due in the mail any day now.

It's all about the mustache
These dashing fellows started out as Armies in Plastic Rough Riders. They got a base coat of Krylon plastic paint which settles nicely and also is very hard to get off of your hands. Then I applied a few coats of Liquitex Basics acrylics and some Vallejo for where good color really mattered. I also tried some bargain basement brand acrylics in an effort to save money and that was a disaster. Once again you get what you pay for.

Having said that, Armies in Plastic sells boxes of soldiers online at an insane discount. You could claim that it's a waste of money Not to buy some, though probably not out loud in front of spouses or coworkers.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Art Lessons from Kids

Today I needed to do some work on some Armies in Plastic toy soldiers. As chance would have it my nurse's daughter would there and I recruited her into the painting business.

I wasn't entirely sure how much fun a pre-teen girl would have painting French Foreign Legion. To my surprise S________ picked out the colour scheme of my troops, asked great questions about their kit and uniforms, and then settled down to do a lovely job of painting them. As we sat we talked about art and it turns out that she loves to sketch, likes pastels, and wants to start working with charcoal. I suspect that painting plastic toy soldiers with acrylics was actually sort of a step down for her! Still, I think she had fun, I got some painting done, and it's always nice to share the hobby a bit. A good lesson too that even if games, role playing, and miniatures are a bit fringe-y there are lots of elements to them that any older child or teen may enjoy.

Saga First Game Impressions

The miniature gaming scene has witnessed a wave of exciting new rulesets over the last few years. We've seen some, like Hail Caesar, that are appealing but very traditional in nature. And others, like Saga, that really put a new twist into play. I've been wanting to play Saga for some time now and got my first chance last night. 

Saga is a skirmish game set in the dark ages. Translated into English this means that the game is about small bands of Vikings, Scots, English and French fighting with spears and axes. These are really less battles and more good sized brawls. Skirmish gaming makes historical sense for this time period and it lets you play with forty or so miniatures per side.

Photo courtesy Robert D.
In a game of Saga you command a warlord and a group of troops. You may have well armed nobles, fairly well armed warriors, and unreliable peasants. Troops may fire arrows, move here and there, and eventually engage in hand to hand combat. The basic premise of the game is traditional and, for players with even a little experience, intuitive. Saga throws a twist into the mix with its dice. Every turn the player rolls a number of dice. The dice are then used to activate special powers. The better the power, the harder it is to activate. A mild power might require you to set aside any die. An awesome one might require you to set aside two sixes. Players have up to eight dice to roll in each turn and the game forces you to pick and choose which powers you are going to use. If you roll one six only you won't be able to activate the awesome power and will have to choose what use to put your single die to. In a sense it's like getting a random amount of money each turn to spend on special abilities. Further, you can save certain dice for use in later turns (like saving money) but then you will be able to roll fewer new dice.

This all boils down to a very fun, fast moving, and pleasantly tense game. We had the basic rules memorized after maybe two turns. After that we just agonized about never have Quite enough dice of the right sort to unleash the powers we wanted to unleash, and agonized about how to spend the dice we did roll and should we save some for later or would we wish we had spent them now etc etc. Each faction has different powers and that was fun to see in action. The Vikings specialize in just plowing ahead and shrugging off fatigue. The Scots have great defensive abilities and then can deliver some strong counterattacks. The other factions look like they'll play very differently too.

I felt pretty good about Saga. The rules are simple. The dice mechanic is fun and engaging. You need about forty miniature soldiers per player which is more than some people may own (hard as it is to believe that) but in the scheme of miniatures games that's pretty manageable. Saga is certainly more of a game than a realistic simulation but as games go it's terrific fun. We'll be playing more in the near future I'm sure.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Coloretto - Fun Family Game

I do recall that this is ostensibly a blog about gaming for families and that there are a few families out there who are not fascinated by toy soldiers and Dungeons and Dragons. In an effort to serve that group I would like to write about Coloretto.

Coloretto is a small card game. Most of the cards feature an illustration of a chameleon in one of seven colors. There are a few wild cards and a few other special scoring cards. The rules of the game are simple. Players take turns either drawing and laying down cards or picking up a pile of cards to add to the collection. Players score points by having several cards of the same color- for example four cards with pink chameleons on them. The points increase with each new card of the same color so getting a fifth pink card is quite a score.

The twist in the game is that you only score for three colors. If you have pink, yellow, and blue chameleons then if you get cards of a different color they count as negative points. The goal is to stick to any three colors and then avoid the rest. Each player who draws a card lays it in one of five piles and part of the game involves putting a card a player might want in the same pile as a card they won't want. In the above example if you drew a pink card you would be sure to put it in a pile with two brown cards. That way the player collecting pink, yellow, and blue has a dilemma. Get more pink and take negative points for the brown? Or hold out for better cards?

Coloretto is dead simple as games go but it's surprisingly deep in terms of strategy. Younger players will just enjoy collecting cards and scoring points. Older players may spend some time agonizing about what to do with certain cards and when to grab a given pile. This is a good game for all ages and considering the replay value is a great purchase.

Book Review- The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship

Last weekend I ate in my town's finest restaurant and as usual they delivered the check protruding from the pages on an old book. I suspect this is wrong in several ways although it's also a sort of hillbilly fortune cookie since you can try and find some hidden meaning in whatever book you've been given. Anyway, my book of the day was The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating. Bravo indeed for life's little ironies and within the week my wife had a nice new copy Amazon'ing its way to me.

Gamesmanship is copyright 1948 but reads a bit older than that. If you can make your way through some pretty archaic text it is, however, a darn funny book. The author attempts to teach "gamesmanship," the skill of using clothes, language, and circumstance to completely distract and demoralize your opponent. For example, the "second rule of gamesmanship" is:

     "If the opponent wears, or attempts to wear, clothes correct and suitable for the game, by as much as his clothes succeed in this function, by so much should the gamesman's clothes fail."

     "Or if you can't volley, wear velvet socks."

The rest of the book discusses being late for events, how to buy lunches and drinks, incorporating conversations with angry spouses (who need not actually be on the phone, or even exist at all) and gives a variety of scenarios set in popular games like chess, tennis, and golf. It's all quite funny in a dry as a bone kind of way. Ironically, after reading several chapters I got to watch ultra-competitive board gamer R________ put several of the tricks into play that night at boardgame club. I don't know if he's studied the book or is a natural.

I'd recommend The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating as a funny book for gamers and also as an instructive book for gamers. It's written in an older style but worth the effort to translate.