Sunday, January 17, 2016

Drumbeat 2016

NHMGS held Drumbeat, our annual mid-winter game day, this Saturday at the Lake City community center in Seattle. Drumbeat is the brain-child of Dick Larsen (Yes, Dick has a brain and his brain has children) who looked and beheld the winter doldrums and saw that it was not good. I'm not sure when the first Drumbeat was held, but it's become an annual effort, helped immensely by the efforts of John Kennedy of The Panzer Depot. (Drumbeat is perhaps the only event where you can observe John outside the native habitat of his store.) We started out at a location in South Seattle, but moved to the more convenient (at least for me) location in Lake City some years ago.

I played Bill Stewart's Battle of the Marne game. He wrote a 2-page rule set with simple move, combat, and morale. The situation was a handful of French troops in 1914 holding off what must have been the entire German army.

The last battalion stands between Paris and the Hun
Bill painted all the figures (beautifully), made the buildings (also beautifully) and most of the other terrain. He even supplied the pennies to use as "prone" markers for the units. The rings around the figures heads in the pictures aren't scale versions of toilet seats or those small styrofoam flotation rings. They're what old-school gamers know as casualty markers.

A sea of feldgrau about to wash over the few islands of bleu
Steven Puffenberg and I were Les Français, Dick Larsen, Scott Murphy, and Mark (?) were Les Boches. I had a feeling from the start that this game would make Custer's Last Stand look like a even match, only our Sioux were in feldgrau and carried Mausers.

The imminent collapse of the French left
We were outshot pretty early on in the game. Scott's Krupp Feldkanone knocked out my Soixante-Quinze in short order and then proceeded to play havoc on my troops in the buildings. Before long were were in a last-ditch effort to survive the onslaught. We made it through about five turns before the inevitable end.

After the game, Bill, Mark, Scott, and I repaired to The Elliot Bay Brewery for lunch and suds. The brewery occupies the location of the former American Eagles hobby store. Bill used to work for Mike Edwards at American Eagles in the 70s (in their Greenwood location) when he was a student at the U. Lunch at Elliot Bay always has a bittersweet taste.

After lunch, I fell in with Mike Lombardy and Troy Wold. We got Kaffee und Gebäck at a little German coffee house (Haus?) just a few stores down from the brewery. I'm not sure how recent it is, but it's a pretty nice place and the pastries (das Gebäck) are wunderbar! On the way back to the community center, we decided to play a game of Jugula, which Mike conveniently brought along.

I have the rules and cards and have been painting the 35mm minis for Jugula, but have been mostly ambivalent about which rules to use for gladiator games. Playing Jugula for the first time has convinced me that it's the way to go.

Across the deadly sand I go...
The game is heavily dependent on card deck management. A player's turn involves playing one of the cards from his hand and doing one of the things the card allows. The allowable actions can be moving x number of figures, attacking x number of times, increasing your popularity with the crowd, drawing more cards from your deck, adding primo cards to your deck, or some other special action specific to the card.

Troy's boys waiting
Mike read the rules and Troy and I squared off against each other. I had two heavy gladiators and two lights; Troy had three heavies and one light. I advanced right into the arena from the start, while Troy bid his time increasing his popularity and adding primo cards. The advantage of popularity (the Vox Populi track) is that your gladiator's attack and defense values increase as your popularity does. By the time I hit Troys figures, he was already at +1 against me and soon made it up to +2, +3, and +4 while I was still mucking about using my cards to move and attack.

My scissors wounds Troy's secutor
I managed to finish one of Troy's gladiators and wound a second, but the disparity in Vox Populi started to tell against me. Troy's wounded secutor came back and finished my scissors and then proceeded to go after my others. I eventually caught up in Vox Populi, but too late to matter. My last gladiator went down surrounded by Troy's three surviving gladiators.

Drumbeat turned out to be a nice diversion as I head into a very busy week with work and parish activities. Next Saturday I'm cooking Cajun for about 60 people.


  1. Sounds a really enjoyable day for all concerned. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Thanks for the pics, David. I've only been to a few Drumbeats - but they were also nice. I actually liked the earlier location - near the golf course. That WW1 game looks cool - the red legged French are lovely. Your gladiators look great too - one thing that steered me away from Jugula was the need for cards - a set for each player, IIRC. Otherwise, it does look good.

  3. The gladiator figures in the pics are Mike Lombardy's. They're 28mm Crusader minis.

    I was turned off by Jugula for the same reason. I always start ticking up the overall cost for a game like this and it holds me back. Then bit by bit I get sucked in.

    The cards add a very interesting dimension to the game that has to be experienced to be appreciated. One of the things about the gladiator rules that I've played before is that they play out really as just a kind of skirmish melee.

  4. It looks you made the same rules mistake we did.
    Vox Populi increase your attack value - but not defence!
    So as it goes up, the game gets more deadly.

    It's a good game, and has lots of interesting decision making (not normally a feature of gladiator games).