Thursday, January 19, 2023

Dice fetish update!

My devoted reader(s?) will have noted that I have a dice fetish. Not only do I own a whole lotta dice, but I'm drawn to unique or even downright weird dice. My latest find to feed the fetish is some solid brass bullet dice that are a hexagonal cylinder with the sides numbered 1 through 6.

They're wider and squatter than a 9mm round. Maybe about the diameter of a .45 ACP, but shorter. Being solid brass, they weigh about as much as a real bullet and more than the average 28mm metal mini, even if mounted on a 1 1/4" fender washer.

I got 'em because I was looking for D6 dice that would harmonize well with Xenos Rampant. The bullet dice will do nicely really for an 19th - 21st c. games where shooting is involved. I don't know what dice What a Cowboy! use, but of it's D6 (WaT! uses D6) I'm ready.

They ain't cheap, but I picked up two sets because they come six to a box and I need 10 for Xenos Rampant and 12 for other "Rampant" games where they might be suitable.

I think I'll use my leather and felt dice tray with them lest they do damage to my other dice trays. It'll also muffle the thunk.

They aren't my first metal dice. About a decade ago (maybe longer—I'm old, time becomes more fuzzy) I bought some at the local Dragonflight convention in Bellevue, WA. They were for a game that never went anywhere, but produced an initial, albeit short lived, enthusiasm. It was a sort of tactical dice game where the style and color mattered in ranking dice value in opposing rolls—or so I dimly recall. The game wasn't much, but they made D6s and D10s for it. 

They had other styles of D6, which were cool and spacey looking, but hard to read—not a good thing when your opponent wants to see what you rolled, but only you can decipher it. ("All sixes, I swear, just trust me.")

I have 12 of one type (the easier to read ones) that I could use, but I discovered that after sitting in a dice bag in my garage for many years, they acquired some metal corruption. I'll try soaking them in white vinegar, which mat restore them. We'll see. They are actually pretty cool dice, but I'm not sure if they're available anymore. Also, the coloring wears off with use.

My new bullet dice, being brass, may be less susceptible to corrosion. They also won't be sitting in a dice bag in my garage.

I used the older metal dice in a few games of I-forget-what (maybe Bolt Action?). They made a loud clunk on the table. I eventually decided after the novelty wore off, that plastic dice were a better option. That's before I discovered bone dice and acquired several vintage sets of bakelite dice. I love the bakelite.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Requiescat in Pace, Mi Amice

Dave Schueler, my friend of nearly 30 years, died in the late afternoon on New Year's Day. I've been struggling to process his death in the days since and I'm not reconciled to it. Although his death wasn't unexpected, it still came as a shock. He'd been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer two years ago. For the first year of treatment, it felt like he might have many years remaining with ongoing treatment. The 10-year survivability rate for stage 4 prostate cancer is about 80%. There was reason to hope. This last year, things seemed to become more complicated and the cancer developed more aggressively. He went into the hospital on December 7 and remained there until the end. I only managed to visit him once, earlier on the day he died. By that time, he was on a morphine drip and not responsive. I stayed for about two hours to say my goodbye and tell him how much his friendship meant to me. I hope that somehow he was able to hear me. That evening I got the notice that he was gone.

In the days since, I've been brooding and revisiting all the things that marked his life and my friendship with him. I've been fortunate to have enjoyed a lifelong hobby with a tight group of excellent people. Among us Dave stood out.

He was gifted at scenario making and rules revising. He inspired my own attempts at revising rules and I owe much to his example. He was also a fully-fledged, published game designer. His credits at BoardgameGeek show 13 items. Two of those are for the games U-Boat Leader (2011) and Gato Leader (2016), which he designed for Dan Verssen Games. Both game designs were inspired by his US Navy service as a submariner. Dave also edited and contributed to the Harpoon Naval Review over several years.

Dave had a special love for naval and air games. Although he wound up serving below the seas, he wanted to be a military pilot, but his poor eyesight kept him from serving in that capacity. He did have some satisfaction that his younger brother became a helicopter pilot in the US Marine Corps. In addition to the two sub games, Dave modified the Avalon Hill WW2 air game Mustangs for use in the early jet era (MIG Alley Ace) and the later jet era (Phantoms). Among our group, we had a respectable collection of 1/300th scale jets and enjoyed many hours of playing games set in the post-war world from Korea to the Falklands. In later years, he and Kevin Smyth devoted their air-gaming time to David Manley's AirWar: C21 rules, which progressed towards a lot of playtesting for Manley's at-that-time unpublished Airwar 1940 rules. Dave introduced us to David Manley's rules systems with the early version of Action Stations! and we've been Manley Men ever since.

Starting in 2002, Dave hosted DANG—Dave's Annual Naval Game—over the Christmas break. It went on with only two exceptions: 2020, when COVID ravaged the land, and 2022. 2021 was actually two mini-DANGs to keep the numbers smaller, but also accommodate all the people who wanted to attend. I didn't make all the games, but they were the highlight of every year. Dave would craft out a mini-campaign that we'd play in a day. He brought us to several eras and locales for naval warfare where we might not otherwise venture. He'd start planning after the middle of the year and send out options for us to vote on. When the day came, he and his wife Lynn would host us all with food and drink. We'd spend the day with Dave herding us cats into getting through each phase of the campaign and the naval actions that resulted.

DANGs were memorable events and the attendees always had a great time, win or lose. Our 2019 DANG photo shows a familiar cast of characters, many of whom have been DANGers from the start.

During the COVID pandemic, Dave provided an essential glue for our group. We lost the opportunity to meet indoors and game, so Dave came up with the solution to game under an awning on his front lawn.


We mostly played naval games—masked and (somewhat) socially distant—since they were the easiest to set up and least likely to blow away in the wind. Afterwards, we'd sitting around drinking beer and talking shop. As restricted as the pandemic made things, our afternoons on Dave's lawn made things feel as close to normal as possible. I think gaming on Dave's lawn drew us closer overall. It was perhaps the one good thing we can attribute to the pandemic.

I haven't counted how many games we played there. They weren't all naval. Dave hosted a What a Tanker! game that let him use his 15mm collection of British tanks for North Africa and Bill Stewart's Afrika Korps, as well as some Crusaders that I had.


That inspired me to finally complete some long-long-neglected British and Italian tanks I had for North Africa and I was able to run a game later myself. Memorably, it included a game of cat and mouse between Dave's A-9 and my CV33. I think we got our only land-based ram attack out of that encounter.


The tanks in question had been started for another collaboration project between Dave, Kevin, and me. We did a game of the Battle of Mechili in 1940 that used an adaptation to miniatures of the Advanced Tobruk board game rules. I played the board game with Dave several times when it first came out, as well as some of its variants. We playtested it ourselves and then ran it at our Enfilade! convention.

We also ran Kevin's Philippines game using The Men Who Would Be Kings rules.

Dave was an avid board gamer and we played several games over the years, though few in the last several. Along with Kevin and Dave Demick, we had a few "3DK days" where Kevin and we three Daves would get together and play board games or miniatures. 

Our last 3DK day was when we played my ancient naval rules on Dave's lawn in August, 2020.

We didn't return to lawn gaming in 2022. Dave planned on it, but as the pandemic waned, it was possible to move back inside. On what was to have been our first lawn game of the season, Dave, Kevin, and I played a Mexican War scenario in Dave's living room using the Rebels and Patriots rules. Dave played the Mexicans defending a redoubt while Kevin and I played the attacking Americans. Dave blogged about it on his Naval Gazing blog.

A few months later we played our last game. It was a refight of the 1866 Battle of Lissa. Dave, Kevin, and John Gee spent a great deal of time working on it, building and painting the 1/1200th scale ship models for it. Dave worked out a quicker-playing version of the rules that made it easier to adjudicate firing and ramming. The game turned out to be the last gathering with Dave of several D.A.N.G. stalwarts.


It was a glorious game and a battle I know Dave was eager to do for a long time—as I was. The day also saw a lot of sharing on new projects, show and tell of finished or almost-finished projects, etc. There was food, there was drink. It was much like DANG events have been.

The smoothness of the Lissa game highlights one of those huge contributions that Dave made. He was an excellent host of events. I'd rather play than run things, but Dave seemed to find his métier in designing a scenario, streamlining rules to make them work for multiplayer games, and then putting it all on. All our collaborations in the past have been fruitful and enjoyable. I'll greatly miss his creativity and insight—not to mention, above all, his fellowship.

All our gaming wasn't done on Dave's lawn, however. Throughout 2021, Dave was able to get around and game at other places, such as Eric Donaldson's rec room where we played an ACW game and Dave got his command shot to pieces attacking Michael Koznarsky's impregnable position.

Since sometime in 2020, several of us have been meeting regularly every Saturday at 7:00 for a virtual get-together over Zoom where we paint and chat about projects and other things. Dave enjoyed those meetings and attended as many as he could until the progression of his cancer made it too difficult. It was in one of these meetings in November, 2021 that he put me onto the Boot Hill minis for the Texas Revolution. That's a project I was hoping he'd be able to participate in. Dave and I played a couple board games about the Texas revolution. I hoped he'd be around when we played it in miniature.

Despite his sickness, Dave had a lot of hope for the future. He was quite pleased to have finished two projects in 2022: A Norman Saga army and a Belgian brigade for 1914. The Belgians were minis I'd given him when we got involved in our 1914 craze. The Minerva armored car was given to him by John Gee. I'm really touched that he was able to paint them this year.

Sadly, he was never able to game with them, but he hoped to. Some of the deepest melancholy I feel with his passing is that we won't have those opportunities to play. Among my activities for processing his death, I've been looking through old blog posts and email threads. It's poignant to see that he was planning for the Enfilade! 2024 convention. His last Enfilade! convention was in 2019, where he, Kevin, and I ran our Retreat from Concord game. We spent a lot of time collaborating on the scenario with playtests and additions to the Rebels and Patriots rules. I think it was one of the best games we ever put on. Even though he wasn't able to attend, Dave did contribute to developing and playtesting in Kevin's garage our Battle for Hue game scenario that Kevin and I ran at a game day event in Chehalis, WA and at our ersatz Enfilade! in September, 2021. He had a guiding hand in things even where he wasn't fully involved.

I realize that I can go on and on about a friendship that has touched four decades. Funnily, I don't recall the first time we met. He became part of our group in the early/mid-90s and it felt like he had always been there. I will miss him deeply, but I think he'll always still be there when we get together. In our games, our Zoom 'n' Paint meetings, and in every interaction among us, his friends, his memory will infuse the moment. I am grateful to have been his friend. I think that's the best way to honor him. Not in sorrow and regret, however powerful those emotions are, but in gratitude for all that his friendship brought.

Another friend mentioned in a Facebook post that Dave had the best laugh. He did. I've been hearing that laugh ring pleasantly in my mind these past days. It helps to lift me out of my melancholy.

Rest in peace, Dave.

Monday, December 12, 2022

2022: A Space Rampancy


Kind of like the Lion Rampant v2 release, the Xenos Rampant release took me by surprise. That's a good thing. I recall lamenting for a year that The Pikeman's Lament wasn't released yet. I hate waiting. I think I might have had some inkling about the XR rules being forthcoming a while back, but I didn't pay much attention. Then just last week I saw a post on FB by a friend of mine saying he'd received his copy of the rules. I immediately reached out to a well-known, somewhat large-ish online retailer of books (and many, many other things) and in two days, I had my copy too.

So the Rampant world has spaced out and gone to infinity and beyond! That's one  small step for rules, one giant leap for rampancy. When we last went rampant, black powder was still all the rage (itself a move up from javelins, arrows, and slingstones). Now we're looking at sci-fi high-tech weaponry and all that. The monolith has appeared, a new evolution is triggered.

Xenos Rampant is a nice hardback book coming in at 192 pages, most of which is intro, unit profiles, scenarios, and appendices (which are actually more of a QRS). The core rules run from page 44 to page 72. 

Rules overview

As expected from any Rampant product, the base mechanics are quickly grasped due to their similarity to other Rampant rules. However, there are exceptions that stand out with Xenos Rampant that makes it come into its own.

Unit sizes

The basic unit size is 5 strength points for all but Militia Rabble, which is 10. Strength points (SPs) essentially equate to number of figures, but single- and reduced-model units are possible. A vehicle, for example, is a single model with 5 SPs. Elite Infantry are 5 SPs, but the  unit can be two or three figures because it represents some pretty serious power-armored troopers. This is a big departure from previous rampancy where most units are 12 figures and some 6. Rebels and Patriots introduced the ability to increase a unit's size from 6 to 12 or 12 to 18 figures, or decrease it from 12 to 6. 

XR units can only increase, although some unit types can't be more than 5 SPs. At +2 points, the Increased Squad Size option not only gives you more figures/targets, but also increases your unit's performance. For example, the Light Infantry unit type with 5 SPs has an Attack Value of 6, Defence Value of 5+, and a Shooting Value of 6/18". If you pay the points to increase it to 10 SPs, the values become 5+, 4+, and 5+/18". The points cost isn't too dear when you consider that a base Light Infantry unit cost only 1 point, the options (and xeno rules) that start driving up the cost.

Options galore

In earlier Rampant rules, the base cost of a unit was typically 6, 4, or 2 points. Any options for the unit added to that, but there were usually only a few options. Units in XR can be more customized, which is in fact what you're doing with any unit you build. For example, Heavy Infantry has a base cost of only 2 points, but has a wide variety of options to alter the base profile.

Xeno rules (pages 74-93) provide even more customizations that can apply to any unit type. They're similar to the fantastical rules in Dragon Rampant. In fact, they're very similar; mostly the names have changed and instead of magic, the effects are made by technology (or alien wizardry).

Free actions

Taking a note from The Men Who Would Be Kings, Xenos Rampant allows some units to take certain actions for free, i.e., no activation roll required. In most cases, these actions are either move or shoot; however, Elite Infantry have both free attack and shoot actions. Kevin Smyth and I have discussed adding free actions to Rebels and Patriots, so it's encouraging to see it here. There are other nuances to XR that can be retrofitted to earlier Rampant rules.

Firefight

The Firefight special rule (intrinsic to most units, so no cost to add) allows certain unit types to attempt simultaneous shooting at the first opposing unit to target them (i.e., once per turn at most). The rule means that you don't just have to grimace and take it when being shot at—unless you're being shot at by a lot of units. This rule, too, is something that could be retrofitted to Rebels and Patriots or even The Pikeman's Lament.

To maximum effective range and beyond!

In keeping with the big techno-shift in XR, most unit types can fire to infinity (or to the edge of the table, whichever is encountered first). A unit's Shooting Value is for a given range, typically 12", 18", or 24". Any unit types with a given range greater than 12" can target units beyond their range, but with a penalty of +1 to the target unit's armor value. This is similar to the long range effect in other Rampant rules. However, in the earlier rules you could never target a unit beyond your max range. In XR, there's effectively no max range. It's just effective range and beyond.

Environment agnosticism

I can't say that I'm an expert on sci-fi game rules, but all of them that I know of are written for a fictional environment and all unit types conform to that world. It often felt to me that the environment got in the way of the rules. I'd rather create my own fictional narrative rather than conform to another. I want rules that just let my sci-fi dudes shoot each other and the game is won or lost by tactics, guile, or dumb luck. Also, the environments often gave particular skills or technology to one faction/race/species to the chagrin or detriment of others. Playing in some games, I was often reminded of the chase in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where they couldn't believe the Pinkerton's ability to keep on their track.


It does begin to get on your nerves when someone you seem to shoot to bits just shakes it all (or most of it) off because, well, technology—technology that your faction lacks (dammit).

The unit capabilities, special rules, options, and xeno rules in Xenos Rampant rules apply to everyone. That doesn't mean every game is a fair fight—or the forces well matched—but you get to select the abilities you want as long as you pay for them. There's no scenario where some uber-tech faction can take more hits than you, or shoot farther, or unleash more truly hellish hell on you because they're just better than you according to the game environment.

You saw me standing alone

Xenos Rampant is my return to a gaming genre I've only ever dipped my feet into, but have always had a fascination for. I played Silent Death in the 90s and after selling off all my stuff, returned to it again (with a much smaller footprint) in 2013, but haven't played in nearly a decade since—though I still have all my round 2 toys. In 2015 I started playing Beyond the Gates of Antares and buying the hideously expensive minis for it. I enjoyed that for a while, but later sold it all at our regional gaming convention for I'm pretty sure less than I paid for it.

Ever since I first saw them, I've been crushing on the Blue Moon 28mm Aliens and Spacemen figures that are available through Old Glory Miniatures, despite never knowing what I would do with the minis if I bought them. They're not cheap, running $44.00 for a pack of 10 figures—though still much less expensive than BTGOA minis. However, because I'm a member in good standing of the Old Glory Army, I can buy the packs for $26.40. I must note, however, that historical minis from Old Glory come 30 figures in a bag for the same price. Why are sci-fi minis more expensive? I guess, because they can be and gamers will still buy them. 

Anyway, I ordered enough Blue Moon minis to make 2 x 5 SP Elite Infantry units, 2 x 10 SP Heavy Infantry units, and 2 x 5 SP Recon Infantry units. I'm pretty sure that after building out the units with options and xeno rules, I will have too many minis.

Final thoughts

I'm pretty excited by Xenos Rampant. Richard Cowen has done a great job adapting a game engine intended for Medieval warfare to a futuristic, hi-tech warfare scene. I finally have reason to buy the Blue Moon spacemen I've been wanting. I think they're a great evolution of the Rampant system. They can also be used for WW2 or really any 20th c. gaming. It's yet another project on my overfilled plate, but I think they'll paint quickly. It's kind of the attitude I had that launched me into 1914.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Let's do the Rampant again!

It's astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely
Not for very much longer
I've got to keep control

Last month, without warning, I serendipitously learned that Osprey was set to release the second edition of Dan Mersey's Lion Rampant medieval rules (LR2). I *immediately* went to Amazon and pre-ordered them and found to my further serendipitous delight that the release date was just days away and my copy would be delivered on the release date, August 16th! Not to understate my reaction, but I was pleased. As the delivery day approached, I felt like a kid on the day before Christmas waiting for the hours to tick away.


I had that Ramones song in my head:
Twenty-twenty-twenty-four hours to go
I wanna be sedated
Nothing to do, nowhere to go home
I wanna be sedated
Upon receiving the wondrous tome of rampancy, I read through it eagerly—indeed, rampantly. The following are my observations.

The song remains (mostly) the same

As the Rampant rules system developed, it was always tempting to retrofit rules from variants onto the older LR rules. The new rules don't do that in any formal sense.

It's a bit of a disappointment, but actually, nearly all of of the rules in LR2 remain the same as in LR1. The 2014 rules haven't been removed or replaced. LR2 mostly clarifies a few rules that were murky heretofore and enhances some others. What the rules do offer, however, is alternatives or optional rules. It should be noted that most of these options have been floating around the interwebs for years. What LR2 does is to formalize them—as options.

I'd hoped for more substantive changes to courage tests into something more like what's in Rebels and Patriots, where only the immediate figure loss incurs minuses, rather than cumulative loss—but no.

The "one and done" aspect of ending an activation phase has been irksome to players from the get-go. I was never bothered by it, but in multiplayer games there's always someone who cannot—cannot—roll higher than a 2 for activation and never manages to activate a single unit. They wind up sulking like Achilles in his tent, disparaging the game, the rules, you, your mother, etc. Ya gotta pity 'em (I've been there myself), but it's a rare occurrence. (Note from experience: Telling those players "sucks to be you" does not ameliorate the situation.) The original rule that ended your activation on any failed test, even the first, made things pretty wild and wooly. As Dan explains in the LR2 rules, that wild and wooliness is what he intended. The alternate rule where every unit tests regardless of any failures isn't the feel he thinks the rules should have, but it's there for people who want it.

Unit proximity—the rule that units must remain 3" apart from other units unless fighting them—is still there, but there's an alternative (p. 25) that reduces the distance to 1", but that requires some mental retrofitting in places where the 3" proximity rule is assumed, such as retreats and line of sight. Although some people grouse ad nauseum about the 3" proximity rule, I've always liked it. Not tolerated it, mind you, but liked it. Even with the 3" rule in play, gamers tend to bunch up as if they're trying to fit their whole retinue in as small a space as possible for, I guess, reasons... I keep having to remind players when I run a game that minis are a 3D experience, not hex and counter; there's no stacking.

Even though the names of the troop types have changed, the stats haven't. Mounted Men-at-Arms are now Elite Cavalry, but the only change is the name. The name change allows more inclusion of types that might not otherwise be considered on par with the fully-armored knights of Agincourt etc.

The fact that there are no substantive changes to the rules indicates that LR1 works exactly the way Dan wanted it to work, what's there to change?


In the bits that outline optional or alternative rules, Dan explains some of his philosophy behind the rule and generally expresses his preference for it. In other words: Here's the alternative you've been clamouring for—but you really shouldn't use it. It feels a bit like that line from the Monty Python Bruces sketch: "As he's going to be teaching politics, I've told him he's welcome to teach any of the great socialist thinkers, provided he makes it clear that they were wrong."

Changes (OK, so there are some)

As mentioned, the names of the troop types have changed to allow for a more inclusive approach. They still remain medievaloid in flavor, but calling your Dark Age hearthguard "Elite Foot" rather than "Foot Men-at-Arms" feels more appropriate, even if the substance is the same.

"Retinue" is now "warband." I shall not comply. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it's still properly called a rose, dammit! As Cicero wrote, "Here is your Stoic decision—'The wise man will call a spade a spade.'" Thus, a retinue is a retinue. So let it be written, so let it be done.

"Schiltron" is now "wall of spears," which reminds me too much of Wall of Voodoo


I think I would have preferred "spearwall," which nicely parallels "shieldwall" ("wall of shields"?). Although "wall of voodoo" would be a nice addition to Dragon Rampant.

More substantively, leaders now intrinsically have the Commanding skill, which provides a +1 to activations for units within 12". This is consistent with what The Pikeman's Lament and Rebels and Patriots do.

Also, a failed wild charge test (i.e., when you didn't go off on a wild charge) doesn't end the activation for the testing unit. The "failed" unit can subsequently test for a regular activation.

Additions

Dan has added handgonners as an optional troop type using three different models, no less! And yes, as my stalwart blog readers can attest, I do love me them fearsome boomsticks of war. These are the same optional rules that Dan provided years ago on a Boardgame Geek forum because I'm not the only handgonne-lover in town.

The rules also provide an option for slingers as a specific troop type, rather than just an alternate set of figures to use as archers. They don't shoot as far (max. 12"), but they cost less at 3 pts. You can use the extra point to buy a commander skill or upgrade another unit.

The rules have expanded backwards to the Dark Ages, so my existing and in-progress Saga armies can be made to do double duty.

Clarifications

There are several clarifications, which I won't detail here. Let it suffice to say that some of those murky "how do I work this?" rules are now made more explicit or at least their murkiness dispelled. There's an appendix (Appendix C) in the rules that list all the differences from 1st edition.


Inspiration

The new edition (or re-release) has inspired me to paint medieval minis. I bought into Footsore's initial kickstarter for their Baron's Wars range. They sat in the box they came in for quite a while. I've now pulled them out and started painting them. I also acquired more figures so I could make a full RETINUE.

I've only done eight bowmen so far. That's all I got in the kickstarter. I have four more now, so I can make a full unit of 12. I also got slingers to use as skirmishers (although I do like the old name "bidowers"). Even more than handgonnes, I love slingers.




I look forward to playing a lot more Lion Rampant, which includes finally getting some traction on the long-unfinished Medieval minis that have had no love from me for more than a decade (almost two!).

Don't dream it, be it

I recommend the new edition. It's got a nice hardback format, the extras and clarifications are worth the price, and—most importantly—all your friends have theirs. In short: Dammit, Janet, give the new Lion Rampant a try. It's just a jump to the left...

I remember doing the Rampant
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me
And the void would be calling

Let's do the Rampant again!
Let's do the Rampant again!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The state of things

Reflecting back over the last two years or so since the whole COVID thing came along, I realize that my blogging activity has been feeble. My loyal fans (or fan—there must be at least one) are perhaps wondering what I've been up to. In a word, much. I just haven't been vomiting up my experiences in blog posts. So, to catch you up, here's a (relatively) brief précis of my doings.

Cats (of course)

As I blogged last year, my beloved little boy Bogart died, which reduced me to just one cat, Maebh. What I didn't blog about—or didn't post about (I started it, but...)—is that about five weeks after Bogart died, I went and adopted a new cat, whom I named Tybalt.

He's a cowcat like his predecessors.

He has thumbs!

His name is an homage to Bogey, let me explain: I called Grendel "King of Cats" because, well, he was. When I adopted Bogart, I called him "Prince of Cats," because he was regal in his own way, but far less imperious than Grendel, who unmistakably ruled the house in his time. After Bogart died, I started a (not yet published) blog post about him called "More than prince of cats." That phrase comes from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene 4. Tybalt is Juliet's cousin, whom Romeo kills in a duel after Tybalt killed Romeo's friend Mercutio. Before all the killing, Mercutio, speaking with Benvolio, calls Tybalt, "more than prince of cats," hence the name. Tybalt is also an anthropomorphic cat character in the medieval stories of Reynard the Fox. That's probably where The Bard got the name.

As I feared would be the case, Maebh doesn't like Tybalt any better than she liked Bogart. Her heart is only for The King (and me). So, after a 5-week period of free-roaming in my house, I'm back to a divided house alternating one cat shut in a room while the other has free reign of the house. It works, but for those five weeks with just Maebh around, I felt the former freedom I had with not having to protect my entrances and exits from closed rooms lest the wrong cat get out or in and calamity ensue.

Maebh is becoming a crabbier, crazier old lady. In 2020, she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. She's still going strong for an 18-year-old cat with all those maladies. The only visible sign of her ordeal is the weight loss. The hyperthyroidism is masking all the other stuff. She's still the queen of my lap and the disturber of my peace. I'm not looking forward to losing her, but I am anticipating those things that will come easier when she's gone, like reading and sleeping through the night.

Bogart's death left me with a melancholy that comes and goes. He was still young and I feel guilt that I may have been able to prolong his life if I'd done something different. However, cats with heart disease have an average survival of 6-12 months. Bogey managed to last over two years. I expected that with Maebh's dire diagnosis in 2020 it would be just me and Bogey. Maebh outlived him. She's indestructible. I'm starting to suspect that she'll outlive us all.

Projects

Oh, the projects! I keep vowing to start no new projects and no sooner do the words pass my lips than I start a new project. I often blame others (cough, Kevin Smyth, cough) for dragging me into something they've started, but I find I'm a culprit myself on more occasions than not. We were deciding on a theme for our 2023 Enfilade! convention. One person suggested that we theme it "New eras and armies that my friends and I convinced each other to buy, paint and play."

The Mexico thing

I blogged about our Mexican War project and how that expanded for me into the Texas Revolution project also. I've managed to play two Rebels and Patriots games of the Mexican War using my Americans. The Mexicans for that project are still bright, shiny metal.

The first of the games was in Tacoma while I was in between jobs and free to play on weekdays. The second was in Dave Schueler's living room. My dragoons managed to cover themselves with glory, chasing the defending Mexicans across the bridge. There were a lot of bad Mexican die rolls and we make the Mexicans poor shooters to reflect that fact that their gunpowder was almost all charcoal. Dave played the Mexicans trying to reinforce and succor a redoubt against Kevin's and my gringos. It seemed like a foregone conclusion, but Dave fought well.







The Tex-Mex thing

I completed my first batch of Texians. More to come, but I got pulled into other things (see below).






1914

I've always been interested in gaming the first months of WW1 when the armies were mobile and hadn't bogged down into years of trench warfare (on the Western Front at least). I blogged about the start of this project recently and it's just grown from there. More people have joined. I'm fighting on two fronts. I even managed to get in a game against Mike Lombardy and his French.



We also got a game in with Kevin's B.E.F. against my Germans and "Kaiser Bill" Stewart's Germans. In this game we learned that attacking a defended position is not easy. It was also a first stab at a multiplayer game. The 1914 rules seem intended as 1:1 games because there's a lot of interaction and backing and forthing that works best when only two players are involved.






I've expanded to building both a Russian force and an Austro-Hungarian force.



However, I'm not too far along with either. I have one cavalry regiment (with dismounts) and one infantry battalion done for the Russians. I've started one infantry battalion and one battery for the Austro-Hungarians. I'd better get to work on the latter. Kevin Smyth has nearly completed a whole pile of Serbs and they need someone to beat up.

There's more Germans to paint, although I have a goodly amount already. I've also purchased a fair amount of B.E.F. from Great Escape Games because how could I not?

I also got lots of 10mm buildings from two different companies. Both are nice and I have a lot of painting on my hands. I've completed several, which I got in our games, but several more are in the works.

Saga (it's back on the menu)

Before COVID, there was a lot of activity with Saga. During the COVID shutdown of all things—and the demise of The Panzer DepotSaga playing took a back seat. However, as the COVID crisis waned, there was a renewed insterest in the game. Bill Stewart,Mike Lombardy, and I had the only Saga armies within our little group. Kevin Smyth, Dave Schueler, and Eric Donaldson took interest and now we have a few little forces available for play. Kevin connected with some friends of yesteryear who were keen to play Saga and he's managed to get several games in down in his part of the state. 

Kevin and I did manage to get one game up here at Zulu's Games in Bothell, his Norse-Gaels vs. my Welsh. It was a near (very near) win for the Welsh.








Zulu's is a nice venue for smaller games. The max table size they have down in the basement is 5' x 7', which isn't too far off from our typical 6' x 8'. They have beer and pub-style food. They have paint 'n' stuff too, but most of their retail is board games. They also have an annex just down the block with more tables and the possibility for small events.

My Saga Welsh have some reinforcements in the works. Another eight hearthguard, some slingers (I love slingers) and javelinmen. I am kicking myself—and will continue to do so—over not buying any of The Miniature Company's mounted Welsh warriors. All my Welsh are from The Miniature Company and I love them. They're very distinctive and don't really mix with anyone else's figures. I was excited to see them release the mounted Welsh in 2020 (or was it 2019?), but held off assuming, erroneously, that they'd be there when I wanted them. Alas no. When I went to buy them earlier this year when Saga came back, I learned that they were kaput. I've trolled the web to see if anyone has some lying around to sell, but no luck. I have discovered that there is stock existing in storage somewhere in the UK, but the owner is loth to sell from it. The upshot is that my Welsh shall remain ponyless footmen (hopefully just for now).

Keep watching this space

That's all for now. I could go on (and on, and on), but this is a nice stopping point. I hope to get more blogging in, but there are so many things that pull me into their orbit—not to mention my deep commitment to sloth and torpor.

Not mentioned here, but I'm back into painting ECW, which I promise a post on in the near future.