Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A love of reading

A vast majority of the posts on this blog are related to games and gaming. This post, however, will buck the trend; I want to write about a love of reading.

Books are a wonder. Unknowing and not counting the passing of minutes and hours, reading books can ensnare us, tangle us in other places, times, worlds and imaginings. They can take us on emotional journeys. They can make us laugh, cry, get so angry we have to put the book down only to pick it up again moments later. They can get us so excited our eyes leap from sentence to sentence, racing to see where the action leads. They are a way to experience, a key to knowledge, a challenge to our preconceptions, a teacher of wisdom and language and expression.

Some of my fondest memories from my youth are of me rolled up in my blankets reading Tolkien, Eddings, Feist, Asimov and others, while the silent and dark Earth rolled through the night. I don't read as much as I used to, and it is something I want to get back into the habit of, but I have an undying love of it still, and will, I think, always.

I am lucky enough to have three wonderful children I get to read to, although our evening routine is sometimes just a chaotic and exhausting struggle to make sure they are fed, bathed and in bed. I also have a day job that lets me express my love of learning and reading the (unlucky) kids in my class.

Reading aloud is always something I have enjoyed. Putting expression and emphasis into description, using voices and whispering and thundering the dialog where required appeals to my overwrought sense of drama.

Teaching, as I do, 8-9 year olds, allows for a certain amount of class time dedicated to a class book. I have my favourite books to read, and every year the children in my class will no doubt get to hear of the bravery of Mrs Frisby, the daring of Harry Potter, and the exploits of Mr Fox. Every year I also try and find some new book or three they might also enjoy. The last few years have introduced the kids and myself to Artemis Fowl, A Wrinkle in Time, Alex Rider and many others, and no doubt a few of these will become regulars in years to come.

Every year it's interesting to see the responses of the kids. A few years ago I had a class that would applaud after every reading (unprompted I assure you), this year my class will borrow as many copies of the same book as they can find and sit in little huddles following on as we read.

At the moment we are reading Little House in the Big Wood, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I, in a terrible Southern American accent (wrong accent no doubt, but recognisably American at least), and finding myself drawn through the window into a beautifully sketched world remarkably different to our own. The kids have been horrified at a deer being butchered, disgusted by the making of cheese, fascinated by the making of bullets or of little Laura playing with her corn husk doll. In short, it is a fascinating book, remarkably approachable given the span of time, and one I am enjoying a lot. I cannot think of any book I have read that has given the kids more insight into the past than this one, nor one where they have had so many questions. I thoroughly recommend it, though it is obviously also a product of its time (itself a point for discussion).

 Reading is a wonderful thing, and I hope that some of the kids that walk away from my class do so having lost the conception that 'reading is not for them'. To my mind, it is just a matter of finding the right book...

(I should note - all the pictures I put on my white board are usually my poorly executed facsimiles of an image I liked from the web)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


It has been a little while since my last post, April was a quiet month on the blog, and I only barely managed to hit my minimum of two posts a month - May has followed in kind. Really I should be posting at least once a week, but I haven’t managed it the last month or so, hopefully the coming months will be more productive as far as the blog is concerned.

I have been doing other things though, I have a collection of 15mm Gauls that need to be painted and based ready for use with the Sword and Spear rules, I have been recording episodes of the On Minis Games podcast with Quinton of the Room Full of Resin blog, and I have been getting a few things written for Modiphius.

A practice with a spare Gaul and some black undercoat. I wasn't happy with the result, so I'll be using white undercoat on these.

The last is what has occupied me the most, with the Infinity RPG near to its publication date, I have been busy writing a couple of things for the Adventures in the Human Sphere book, some cards for the decks that come with the Kickstarter, and planning out a few things I’ll be writing for Wave 2. It’s very exciting to see the core book take shape. With the layout, art and styling all done, it is looking really sharp, and a huge tip of the hat to Justin and all the other boffins at Modiphius who have been toiling relentlessly to get it together. I'm proud to have been a small part of the exercise.

In addition to this, I have been writing a few adventures and proposals for the Star Trek RPG, and likewise, this project is very exciting. I'm sure veterans of the industry find it common place, but it is rather enjoyable to think that things you have written are off for approval with CBS, or with Corvus Belli in the case of Infinity, or 343 Industries in the case of my work a few years ago on Halo: Fleet Battles.

Lastly, I managed to get in a first playtest game of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare, and I am very impressed so far. It gave a very enjoyable experience, and I think the system contains a lot of potential for really narrative and interesting game play. I can’t say too much, but we will (if all things go to plan) be recording an interview with Chris Birch (he of Modiphius), to talk more about Fallout, Star Trek and Siege of the Citadel (as well as anything else we might get derailed by). So keep an eye out for that shortly!

Monday, 24 April 2017

2017 Dystopian Wars Tournament...

Well, the 2017 Shepp Minis Gamers Dystopian Wars tournament has come and gone. 25 battles across two days have been waged. It was a fantastic experience again this year, and a big thank you to all of those who attended, it was great to see you all, meet new people and have the chance to play against a range of fleets and opponents.

As one of the organizers, the tournament was, we believe, a great success, and kudos to everyone involved for playing hard but most importantly, for being good sports and friendly competitors.

A huge thank you goes to Gus, of Zepnix Wargames, for again standing up and sponsoring the weekend with prizes. Everyone involved thoroughly appreciated it, and we heartily recommend people check them out, if you don't already. https://zepnix.com/

The standings after day one...

This year we had 10 participants, with a good mix of fleets. The Kingdom of Britannia, Covenant of Antarctica (x2), Republic of France, Russian Federation, Empire of the Blazing Sun, Indian Raj, Black Wolf, Chinese Federation, and Australians all had representation. It was also nice to see some of the new Battleships hit the table...

The prizes this year went to:
1st Place = Quinton, with the Black Wolf
2nd Place = Aaron, with the Covenant of Antarctica
3rd Place = Ryan, with the Covenant of Antarctica
Best Sport = Ryan, with the Covenant of Antarctica
Best Painted = Trent, with the Republic of France

Congratulations to all the participants! We had some memorable games, great conversations and many a Sturginium Flare and Magazine Explosion... Though tired, we're already looking forward to 2018!

Standings at the end of the second day...

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Episode 6 of On Minis Games is up!

Our RSS Feed can be found here.

In this episode Quinton and I talk some more about playing Sharp Practice, and I reflect somewhat on my first game of Burrows and Badgers.

My British try to defend the farmhouse against Prussian 

Burrows and Badgers, using miniatures from Splintered Light...

We also discuss putting together some terrain from 4Ground and Spartan Scenics. 

Spartan Scenics 28mm scale sci-fi terrain...

4Ground building, from their 28mm fantasy range...

We spend some significant time rambling across a variety of Kickstarters and games, including the steampunk game Dystopian Wars, the science fiction skirmish game Infinity, ancients mass battle system Sword and Spear, and post-apocalyptic skirmish game This is Not a Test.

In addition to looking at what we have been playing, doing and looking to play, we talk about new and upcoming Kickstarters: Weta Workshop’s Heavy Hitters GKR, Atlantis Miniatures, Dystopian Wars, Compass Games Command and Colors Tricorne, and Star Eagles from Ganesha. 

In among our general rambling, there is also some discussion on the new release of Shadow Wars: Armageddon and ShadowSpire from Games Workshop, Travel Battle from Perry Miniatures and some good old nostalgia about Full Thrust…

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Burrows and Badgers

I had occasion today to play a game I have liked the look of for more than a little while now: Burrows and Badgers. Burrows and Badgers is an anthropomorphic fantasy skirmish game, written and published by Oathsworn miniatures. The rules are free to download - and well worth doing!

I don't quite know what it is about anthropomorphic animals swaggering about in chain mail hauberks and carrying swords, but it's a visual and thematic device that never fails to draw me in. Perhaps I can attribute this strange attraction to Disney's Robin Hood, Lewis' Reepicheep and too much Wind in the Willows as a lad, I don't know exactly, but I like it.

AEthelric's Guard (my Royalist Warband, using Splintered Light miniatures)

Burrows and Badgers is a light and enjoyable game, players will each command a warband of some 4-10 figures and play through one of a range of scenarios in the book. Each model has a line of stats defined as a dice type (ie: Move = D8, Strike = D6 etc), as well as equipment, skills, spells and so on.  Each turn players will rotate the activation of their models, a model that has been activated may perform and action, then play switches to the opponent, until all the models on the table have acted, at which point the turn ends and a new one begins.

The system is fairly simple, when rolling a test, roll the relevant dice for the attribute required, and add or subtract any modifiers. Most tests will be opposed, in which case the opponent also rolls and the results are compared. There is a lot of little addition and subtraction in the game, as skills and equipment predominantly add or subtract from the dice roll, but it is not overwhelming and doesn't interject on game flow significantly. My son, at 7, was easily able to play the game and work out what his results were after a couple of turns.

Our first scenario: Surprise Attack! My lad's warband: the Beasts, catch some of my AEthelric's Guard on their own...

A round of ranged fire was nearly the end of AElla, my Hare.

I am not 100% sold on the rules yet, but I suppose this is a natural result of having only played the game once. The negative modifier for charging into combat (-1 per inch moved) seems unnatural in a world of wargames that typically provide a charge bonus, but that may be just a mental hurdle. What does play on my mind with that rule is that it seems to promote a more stand-offish style of play, whereas ranged weapons are under no such constraint (although a terrain dense board may change that). Melee orientated models, wanting to close and engage, may hesitate to do so for fear of accruing too much of a negative. Some of the skills, most notably toughness, also feel a little overpowered. But, it is a first game, and those reservations aside, I had a great time, and I am looking forward to playing again soon.

While I have harped on the negatives, I think it's also worth noting that the game is a light and friendly one, where the story of the game is as important as any other aspect. It plays well, and the activation system means the game moves quickly and never really feels bogged down. The small recommended table size and large comparative movements also mean that the state of the game can change quickly, which is a good thing in this style of game.

Burrows and Badgers also includes a comprehensive campaign system, those familiar with games like Necromunda and Mordheim will note the similarities, and it looks like it is done well. I am looking forward to starting a campaign against my lad!

All in all I think Burrows and Badgers is an excellent game, there are some nagging thoughts, but more play will iron them out, overall the good resoundingly outweighs the bad, and I am looking forward to the second edition, which will be published by Osprey.

Oathsworn make a wonderful range of miniatures for Burrows and Badgers, while I have been using my Splintered Light 20mm minis, Oathsworn's figures really are spectacular.