Where have you gone?

Although my blog has been eerily quiet during the month of August, I haven’t gone away. Rather, I’ve just been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t had the focus-time to sit down and blog about anything.

Getting Social Again

On a personal level, my wife and I have had events (concerts, winery outings, and dinners) non-stop every Saturday since July 31. Throw in some other events on Fridays, mid-week hobby painting, going to restaurants more often, etc., and life has been full. It almost feels like we’re back to a pre-pandemic social life. We’re not there yet, but it’s definitely getting better, especially for us vaccinated folks. Now, if I could just start getting some face-to-face gaming happening in my game-loft, that would be a welcome addition to the social calendar.

Game Design Inspiration

I’ve also been heads down in wargame-development during August. Since the back-half of July through mid-August, I worked on enhancements to my Sword of Severnia fantasy battle game. Although this game is nearly complete and I really wasn’t expecting to touch it, sometimes surprise inspiration hits you and you discover an idea that makes your creation a little better. Rulebook updates have been made and I can’t wait to get this game to the table soon.

I also made tremendous progress in August with my rules-light, fast-play fantasy wargame, Warlords of Hexenstein. I’ve finally got something playable, now I just need to carve out some time to create a set of Unit stat-profiles so that my friend Wally and I can get together for an initial playtest game. I’m really looking forward to that.

I was also struck by sudden inspiration on the development of one of my back-burner games, a pulp skirmish game currently titled PulpLand Adventure. I spent much of last weekend working on the game design and rules. Most of the core mechanics have fallen into place, and I feel like I’ve finally found my “hook” which gives the game its own unique feel. At least I hope so. I won’t really know that for sure until I get it to the point of a playable game and start playtesting it. Nothing shows you what works and what doesn’t like live playtesting.

A quick aside. Once you’ve spent several years designing games, you realize that the difficulty in developing an interesting game isn’t really in creating mechanics that work. There are loads of ways to do things mechanically. What’s especially hard is finding those elements that make your game feel different & unique from the majority of other games of its type. You ideally want something that provides a different feel and different game experience from other games. Because what’s the point of creating another slight variation of a popular game? I’m a big proponent of game designers going their own way and taking chances with their designs. Innovation is hard. Some people will hate your ideas and approach. But, I always appreciate new approaches and designers who take chances (folks like Joe McCullough, Andrea Sfiligoi, Dan Mersey, Alex Buchel, and Arty Conliffe immediately spring to mind).

Mustering Campaign Mojo

I’ve reached a real point of frustration with my current wargaming campaign. Things have petered out. Life has gotten in the way for several of the participants, me included, and we just haven’t been able to maintain the momentum and progress that I was hoping for.

I’m trying to put my finger on the problem. It’s in my nature to immediately look at myself and figure out what I’m doing wrong, since I’m the Campaign Secretary and organizer. I’m also the person who designed and wrote the rules. I realize that we’re playtesting this game, and some things will inevitably change as we go through the process of playing it. But, the feedback I’m getting from the guys participating in the campaign has been mostly positive. Really, nobody is complaining about the rules. I’m not receiving any new rule suggestions from the guys. Aside from some self-proposed refinements to the rules based on my observations to-date, I can’t say the rules are the cause of our campaign stagnation. Players seem to be enjoying themselves when we get together online and play.

The WHEN is probably the crux of our problem. We can’t collectively agree upon the WHEN. Participant schedules are either not aligning, or I’m not even hearing back from people on what dates work for them so I’m hamstrung in picking feasible dates.

I’m coming to several conclusions. First, if I don’t lay down some official schedule that we must all adhere to in order to keep things moving along, then this campaign will eventually peter out and die on the vine. That has happened to two earlier wargame campaigns that I’ve started. Look, I’ve run several successful & fun fantasy sports leagues, one for 23 straight years, and they’ve all been played to a conclusion. And they all had a set schedule that the 10-12 players stuck to. There’s definitely something to that.

Secondly, I think my current campaign rules are not as flexible as they need to be to support a group of adults who will never be available to make every single play-date. While the rules work fine for a group of players who are 100% committed to playing as regularly as possible, they fail to work well for a more casual group, where players are all-in sometimes, but missing at other times when their lives become complicated. So, I’m taking a closer look at my rules, with an eye towards finding ways to better handle casual & absent players, while still enabling the campaign to move forward with the players who play more often. Wish me luck!


War of the Jade Zodiac Turn-4 Recap thru 8/15

Here’s a recap of Turn-4 campaign happenings so far. It certainly wasn’t a great season for the Red Army, that’s for damn sure. 


  • A roaming, brutish army from the desolate Sulphur Plains has invaded GHOST GATE within Keltha Hellbringer’s realm of darkness. 
  • This sets up a Field Battle between these OUTLAND INVADERS and the Army of BELDARTHIA. 
  • Steve (Campaign Secretary) will put together the 2000-point Invader army. 
  • A Dwarfnuckle battle will be fought between Keltha Hellbringer (Kevin) and either Geoff or Steve taking on the role of the Outland Invaders’ Warlord.     


  • Enemy raiders have attacked Queen Sefertooti’s Siege Train, burning and destroying some of the weapons in it, and reducing its Strength value by 1 point. 
  • Turkopolonia’s Siege Train strength drops to 3.    


(1) GLORT performs a DIPLOMATIC CONVERSION action.

  • GLORT spends 2 Glory points. 
  • GLORT acquires the Province of BLACKBURN (worth 4 LP), as Reptilian diplomats convince the Blackburnians that their nattily attired Landsknecht soldiers would look better in alligator shoes and jungle headdresses.  

(2) Keltha Hellbringer attempts a CONQUEST action. 

  • Keltha’s Siege Train attacks the seat of power in the Province of SPIRIT WOOD, currently part of Queen Sefertooti’s kingdom. 
  • Keltha’s heavy bombardment succeeds and he recaptures SPIRIT WOOD (2 LP), a land that he formerly ruled at the start of the campaign. 
  • Keltha also gains 1 Glory point. 
  • Turkopolonia loses the land of SPIRIT WOOD.     

(3) Thorvial Brightspear buys siege equipment to bolster his Siege Train by 1 point. 

  • Thorvial spends 1 Glory point. 
  • Thorvial’s Siege Train strength now equals 3. 

(4) Queen Sefertooti also chooses to buy additional siege equipment, to replace the weapons lost from sabotage earlier this month.   

  • Queen Sefertooti spends 1 Glory point. 
  • Queen Sefertooti’s Siege Train strength now equals 4. 


(1) GLORT chooses to send raiders into the TE KUITI desert to try to enrage an already angry Queen Sefertooti. The raid proves fruitless (no losses, no gains). 

(2) Keltha Hellbringer sends a raiding party into DRUMLISH to raid oceanside villages that are under the rule of Thorvial Brightspear. 

  • Keltha’s Raiders hit-and-run incursions drive the inhabitants crazy. Thorvial is forced to send a portion of his army into Drumlish to drive off the pesky invaders. 
  • If Thorvial partakes in a Field Battle this turn, his splintered army can’t exceed 1200 AP.      

(3) Thorvial Brightspear sends raiders into reptilian-controlled TROON, and they attempt to cause havoc at a strategic crossroads within that province.  

  • The raid fails miserably, and Thorvial is shaken by the unfortunate turn of events. 
  • The Eastern Scarnish Alliance army loses 2 Regiments (1 VETERAN and 1 REGULAR unit). 
  • Thorvial Brightspear loses 2 Glory points. 
  • Thorvial Brightspear loses 1 Aggression Dice.   

(4) Queen Sefertooti opts to unleash raiders into the land of OLDE FOSLO, which had been been converted into a RUT territory through shrewd diplomacy earlier in the campaign. 

  • The month of Hibernia has cursed the Red Army. This raid is a big failure; the second consecutive month that the Queen’s roaming desert bandits have gravely disappointed her. Surely, heads will roll!  
  • Turkopolonia’s army loses 2 Regiments (1 VETERAN and 1 REGULAR unit). 
  • Queen Sefertooti loses 2 Glory points. 
  • Queen Sefertooti loses 1 Aggression Dice.   


  • Thorvial Brightspear puts 3 Aggression Dice into the Battle Bag. 
  • GLORT puts 2 Aggression Dice into the Battle Bag. 
  • Keltha Helbringer puts 1 Aggression Dice into the Battle Bag. 
  • Queen Sefertooti takes a non-violent stance and doesn’t spend any of her dice.  

(1) Keltha Hellbringer’s BLACK dice is drawn from the Battle Bag. He attacks first this phase. 

  • Keltha chooses to besiege the desolate province of YORN, which is currently ruled by Queen Sefertooti. 
  • Keltha’s Siege Train proves to be unstoppable, blasting an ancient castle to ruins and capturing the grim land of YORN (1 LP)
  • Keltha gains 1 Glory point. 
  • Turkopolonia loses the land of YORN.   

(2) Thorvial Brightspear’s BLUE dice is drawn from the Battle Bag. He attacks second this phase.  

  • Thorvial Brightspear lays siege to a swampy castle in MURKWATER, hoping to wrest control of it from the cold-blooded GLORT.   
  • Thorvial finally catches a break, using his strengthened batch of Siege engines to defeat the troops garrisoned at Trollfoot Castle. He captures MURKWATER (1 LP)
  • Thorvial gains 1 Glory point. 
  • RUT loses the land of MURKWATER.      

(3) The Field Battle between OUTLAND INVADERS vs BELDARTHIA has yet to be played out.   

-Reported by Einar, the Fat Bard of Vela- 

FLGS – Games & Stuff (Glen Burnie, MD)

Last weekend, during a trip with my wife down to Glen Burnie, Maryland (near Baltimore), I had the good fortune of visiting a friendly local game store called GAMES AND STUFF.

What a fabulous store. I just wanted to give them a shout out. Games and Stuff is easily one of the largest game stores that I’ve ever been in. The sheer number of board games that you see upon entering the front-door is amazing, if not a bit overwhelming. Added to that are large sections devoted to role-playing games, card games, and miniatures & hobby supplies. There’s also 8-10 paint-station tables setup for folks to sit down and paint figures. Very cool.

I was especially impressed by how clean, bright, and well maintained the store was. This isn’t a grungy den of geekdom; it’s an inviting store where anyone would feel comfortable shopping.

I also found the staff to be very friendly – they actually took the time to ask if they could help me find anything, which is a small touch that so many FLGS’s fail miserably at.

I ended up buying the Gods of Asgard expansion to Blood Rage, Chaos Dice and Magic Dice sets and a deck of Spell Cards for SAGA Age of Magic, grass tufts for basing, and some primer and paints (a couple of Turbo Dork metallics).

If you’re ever in the Baltimore area, check out Games and Stuff in nearby Glen Burnie. I told my wife that I enjoyed the store so much, I would consider making the 90-minute drive down there for a weekend road-trip just for the fun of it.

Hump Day Hobby Painters

When it comes to miniature wargaming, I’m a Game Designer first, a Game Player second, and a Figure / Terrain Painter third. I truly enjoy all these things, but that’s how I prioritize my time.

In an effort to make #3 happen much more often, I suggested to some friends that we start a recurring online painting session. It would be an opportunity for me and my gaming buddies to meet on Zoom once a week, chat about tabletop games (collecting, armies, games, campaigns, painting, books, and other hobby stuff) and just catch up on life in general while painting our miniatures.

Gotta start slapping more paint!

Last night, I officially kicked off the first Hump Day Hobby Painters session. It was just me and my close friend Wally Wenklar. We had a great time & gabbed for 2.5 hours. We probably spent the first hour doing show & tell, so my actual painting output was marginal. But… baby steps! I’m hopeful that a couple others will join us in the coming weeks.

I desperately needed something like this to rekindle my painting mojo. I haven’t picked up a brush in 4 months! I did a bit of detailing on some rat-men, and finally tried out Golden Fluid Acrylics (Payne’s Gray) on a bug-man. It’s a start; just gotta keep it going.

Oddz & Endz – July 2021

Here’s another, random, brain-dumping post of the sort that I do from time to time. Oftentimes I find that these type of posts help clear my mind of all the wacky hobby debris that has accumulated there. Hope you find something useful in my blabbering.

8-in-1 Dice

I’m a sucker for weird dice. Precis Intermedia sell these unusual 8-in-1 dice that combine the functionality of a standard D6 with averaging-dice, D2, D3, 2D6, +/- Fate Dice, Directional, and Yes/No + Conditional dice.

I just purchased a set of four dice yesterday.

There’s a range of cool uses for these in existing tabletop games and new game designs. Really can’t wait to get my hands on these and try them out.

8-in-1 Dice by Precis Intermedia

Ravenfeast – Viking Age Rules

As a self-confessed wargames rules junkie I’m always excited when a new set of rules catches my attention. A few months ago, I became aware of a free set of Viking era wargame rules released by the guys at Little Wars TV. The rules are called Ravenfeast.

The title of this game sounded very familiar to me. Reading more about it, I came to realize that I had come across these rules many years ago on a hobbyist web site that’s defunct. They were written by a gentleman named Al Halden, a Pennsylvania wargamer, and were a variant of the One Page Fantasy Skirmish Rules written by John David Slor.

Perhaps even more interesting, I’m quite certain that my friend Kevin and I played a viking battle using these very rules during an HMGS East wargaming convention years ago. It makes perfect sense given that the games author was from Pennsylvania and a member of a local gaming club that does a lot of historical wargaming.

I recall that the rules were relatively simple, and the game was fun & bloody. If you’re looking for something light and simple to play, especially as a convention game or a way to introduce new/casual gamers to the wargaming hobby, these rules are worth a look.

Space Crocs & Lion Dog Cavalry

Warlord Games has some new releases available for pre-order this weekend. Two really cool things caught my attention:

<> Klegg – large, mercenary space lizardmen that resemble crocodiles with rifles. These models are frickin’ fantastic. Months ago, I said that I wanted to mix pulp sci-fi wargaming into the games that I play with my friends. I’m firmly in the “bring your own models” camp, playing games that take a broad brush approach to sci-fi, rather than a specialized mass-market game requiring its own models to play (i.e. Infinity, Kill Team, Gates of Antares, etc.). New releases like the Klegg are getting me more excited to make sci-fi games happen.

The Klegg – Warlord Games

<> Komainu Lion Dogs – statue guardians of Japanese shrines that come to life, serving as cavalry mounts for Samurai warriors. I’ve seen something like these before, although I can’t put my finger on where. But knowing that Warlord makes these means they’ll be accessible. Do I need to add Lion-Dogs as a creature/mount option in Sword of Severnia? Maybe. These are appealing to me.

The Scarlet Knights

I’m always interested in seeing what Jamie Loft is up to over at Old School Miniatures. His latest Kickstarter is for these nice looking fantasy foot knights.

Just wanted to share the link to his campaign since it’s a short one (only 6 days left). At $35 USD for 10 Foot Knights, that’s an excellent deal. What gives me pause is that I’m unsure about the shipping costs and any new taxes in the Post-Brexit UK world. Maybe I’ll try it and see.

A Parcel of cheap D&D Minis

Overall, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the pre-painted D&D and Pathfinder minis. Many of them are “just okay” from a sculpt standpoint, and the factory paint-jobs usually leave a lot to be desired.

But there are some decent figures out there if you look hard enough. I’ve discovered that the figures that appeal to me the most are the larger monsters. Many of them are painted to an acceptable standard and can be used in your games as-is. Others need a little TLC and some touch-ups; a darker ink-wash here, a drybrush highlight there, or picking out the too-dark bits with some brighter colors. It’s a heck of a lot easier than painting the entire figure from scratch.

The best part of course, is that the Common/Uncommon ones are often cheap. I purchased the following 7 minis from Miniature Market for $39 USD (not counting tax & shipping). That’s around $5 and half bucks a figure. Not horrible.


I wanted a Sphinx for my Egyptian/Arabian themed campaign army. I couldn’t find an affordable, bigger Sphinx, so I settled on this guy with the neat headgear. Turns out he’s the size of a large Orc. Wish he was larger but he’ll do for now. He could use a highlight on his nose/cheeks and maybe his hair/fur, but he’s playable.


I’ve had my eye on the guy in the middle for some time. He’s perfect as an Insectoid (bug-man) in a Sword of Severnia army, or as a Demon. I actually have a second one, plus a Mezzodemon variation of him, coming from eBay. They’re a bit hard to find. That gives me a nice 5-man Warband regiment of Insectoids or Demons. I will probably do some highlighting on these guys because they’re really dark and don’t stand out enough from a distance.

Frost Giant

This funky Frost Giant was only $6. His horns and skin color are actually more muted than it appears in this photo. Some ink-washing & highlighting could make him pop more. He’ll be stomping enemies into the frozen tundra in no time.


I plan to use this unusual big beastie as a Basilisk in my Sword of Severnia wargame and other dungeon crawl games. Touch up his horns and an odd detail, and Bob’s your Uncle. Whatever you do, don’t gaze into his eyes!

Grey Render

This was the most disappointing figure in the batch. He’s the size of an Ogre or Troll. I thought he was larger than that. And his paint-job is ugly and needs work — black teeth & nails, come on WizKids! And he was $7 (a buck more than the Giant). Oh well, no worries, he can be improved and serve nicely as a Greater Demon or a passable Golem.

Why Wargaming is Better

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I love all types of tabletop games. To say that there is an ultimate “best” type of tabletop game is at its worst, highly contentious, and at its best patently absurd. So yeah, my headline was just to get your attention.

That said, if we’re being honest with ourselves, each of us has a favorite “type” of game. Some folks prefer the accessibility, competitiveness, and endless variety of board games. Others prefer the immersive storytelling of role-playing games. I prefer the creativity, beauty, and tactical challenge of miniature wargames. For me, wargaming is the BEST loved of them all.

Before I explain why miniature wargaming is my favorite type of game, let’s take a look at its chief competitors: board games and role-playing games.

Hive – a fantastic abstract board game

Board Games

According to my inventory of games on BoardGameGeek, I own 200 games and 63 expansions. Granted, a good number of those are miniature wargames. But the majority of them are actually board games. That’s probably not the profile of someone you would say has just a mild interest in board games.

What’s great about board games? Well, here are some of the key points for me:

  1. Ease of Play — Everything you need to play is included in the box. You open the game box, take out the board and components, do your initial setup, and you’re ready to go. Aside from learning the rules, which is necessary to play any type of game, there are no major barriers to getting right down to playing.
  2. Simpler Rules — In comparison to miniature wargames and role-playing games, the rules to most board games are vastly more simple. While there are board games with complex rules, for every Advanced Squad Leader, Magic Realm, and Twilight Imperium, there are hundreds of simple, rules-light games. That lower barrier to entry means it’s much easier to round up friends to join you in a “board game night”.
  3. Endless Variety of Themes & Mechanics — When it comes to pushing the envelope with regards to game themes and game mechanisms, nothing beats board games. That’s not to say that there aren’t innovative and interesting rules in RPG’s and miniature wargames, but their specific focus (adventure storytelling or war) limits how far they can deviate from an acceptable standard of what constitutes these types of games.

All great stuff right? So, what are board games missing? Stay tuned, I’ll get to that.

D&D Basic Set – This is what I started with before moving on to play 1st edition AD&D

Roleplaying Games

Some of my fondest memories in tabletop gaming are from playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends as a teenager. I played a lot of board games as a kid, but when D&D came along, it opened up a world of new gaming possibilities. Games weren’t just competitive any more, you could engage in a shared experience with no strict winner. Games weren’t just played in one 60-120 minute session; one game could actually span weeks, months, or years. And the rules… The rules were loose, flexible, and very open to interpretation. Imagination and narrative trumped any slavish adherence to a rulebook.

But the truth about roleplaying games is that there are two VERY DIFFERENT experiences from those who play them.

About 95% of the time I played roleplaying games, I was the Dungeon Master. I created my own world, my own villains and NPC’s, my own dungeons and maps to go along with them, my own magic items & artifacts, and my own overarching background story to tie these things together (even though it was loosely defined and ever-changing, so it could adjust to where my players took it). Being the DM was why I loved D&D. It truly let me explore my creative side in a massive way, and because of that, it was so much more fun than just being a player.

Most people who play D&D and other RPG’s come at them from the perspective of being a player who controls a character or two. Their fun is assuming the persona of a fictional hero, solving puzzles, negotiating with & outwitting other people, attempting wild feats of daring, and besting fearsome monsters in violent combat. They share failures & successes co-operatively, and actively drive the story along a path that THEY directly influenced.

Thus, a gamer’s perspective on roleplaying varies drastically depending on whether they’re playing a character or creating & running the game as a DM.

Sword of Severnia playtest battle from 4 years ago

Why Miniature Wargaming?

I still regularly play board games and I’ll always have a soft spot for D&D. But both of them, in different ways, lack several key things that make miniature wargaming my favorite type of tabletop game. What’s lacking?

  1. Collecting Toys — RPG’s are mostly played in the imagination. There’s not much you need to start playing them, aside from a mini to represent your character (if your group does that). When playing board games, you buy a game with everything needed to play included in it. You can collect multiple games, but that’s a different thing. In wargaming, you collect toys (miniature soldiers and terrain) that are often used in a variety of games. You’re collecting the components to play a game, rather than a fully realized game. I enjoy collecting figures, it goes right to the heart of getting new toys like you did as a kid — now I’m just a BIG kid with my own money to spend on cool stuff.
  2. Painting & Crafting — You don’t have to paint figures or build terrain to be classified as a wargamer. One of the guys in my group doesn’t do either, but I still consider him a wargamer, he’s just enamored with army building, tactical gaming, and the story that comes out of it. While I’ve always enjoyed the art and relaxation of painting, I don’t do it nearly as much as I would like. Point #5 below gets in the way. So, I buy nicely painted figures at shows or off eBay to make-up the bulk of my collection. But painting is a key element of wargaming to me. It’s part of the ART & CREATIVITY aspects that set miniature wargaming apart from the other types of games.
  3. Army Building — There’s no “game outside the game” when playing a board game. You open the box, setup, and play. RPG’s are different in that respect, especially for the Dungeon Master. The amount of “out of game” prep work that a good DM does is astounding. But there’s not usually anything required of the players; they just show up and play. Wargaming has a distinct “game outside the game” aspect to it the others lack: Army Building. Building an army to an agreed upon points value becomes its own mini-game. This is especially true for fantasy & sci-fi games where you’re not choosing historically accurate units. For me, constructing a fantasy army is a bit like building your ideal rotisserie baseball roster. You build it with hopes of finding that ideal combination of effective troops within your points constraints, and then tweak it later after your troops get slaughtered in battle. It’s a real challenge and lots of fun.
  4. Spectacle — Nothing in gaming beats the pure visual spectacle of well painted toy soldiers marching across an expanse of beautiful model terrain. Even the most beautiful board games can’t compare with it. The eye candy factor of miniature wargaming is something that has never lost its grip on me after all these years in the hobby.
  5. Game Design — I’ve saved the best part for last. There are a segment of board gamers who dabble in game design and who go on to create their own games. And to a larger extent, almost all Dungeon Masters eventually design their own scenarios & dungeons, and many dabble in RPG rules design. Heck, I created my own unpublished RPG (called Merchants of Magic) back in the 1980’s. But the vast majority of miniature wargamers, at some point in their lives, will design a scenario, a battlefield map, their own campaign rules, or even go as far as creating a full set of wargame rules. Not all of them are good or detailed, but that’s not the point. The “Do It Yourself” trait is what really sets wargamers apart from other gamers. Wargamers love to experiment and tinker. For me, the creative aspect of wargame design is what attracted me to this hobby more than anything else. I absolutely love designing games. There’s huge satisfaction in creating something fun, playing it with your best friends, and creating lasting memories that you can reminisce about for years.

As in all things, your mileage may vary. What’s your favorite type of gaming? Leave a comment. Until next time, have fun gaming!

The Porc has Arrived!

My Kickstarter package of Pig Orcs from Dragon Bait Miniatures arrived a week or so ago and has been sitting on my painting table unopened. Tonight I opened it.

After trimming an odd piece of flash here & there, straightening a weapon or two, and sticking these guys on some slotta bases that I had handy, here are some quick pics snapped with my cell phone of the 28mm metal Pig Orcs in all their unpainted porcine glory. They’re pretty damn cool…

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll organize these guys into Sword of Severnia regiments. The more heavily armored guys are beefy and fit on 25mm bases, while the other more rag-tag Porcs are slimmer and fit on 20mm bases. I’m probably going to make two 6-man Warband units of Schweinorks (pig orcs in Severnian parlance), and one 8-man Heavy Infantry unit (although moderately armored with shields). I’ll stick the Wizard/Shaman in with one warband, and the extra rag-tag guy in with the other warband.

Click on the left/right arrows to view the slideshow.