Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looking back (and forward)

It's almost the end of January, so I figured I'd better complete my "new year" post.

Looking back at 2012, I am much more pleased with what I've done than in the previous few years. 2010 was miserable for many reasons that I don't wish to revisit. 2011 picked up a bit and I got a few projects under my belt. 2012 was probably the most creative year I've had in a long time. So what did I accomplish? Here's a brief review:

Wrote two sets of wargame rules

OK, neither is complete, but I have produced playable versions of my Pike & Periwig Dutch War rules and my Row Well and Live! ancient naval rules. The latter are far more polished after several play-tests than the former, which has only had one play-test.

Pike & Periwig started in February last year with me poking around in Adobe InDesign CS3 and playing with various antique fonts to get the look and feel I wanted—even though I had yet to really get any ideas going.

The inspiration to write was the resumption of Mark Copplestone's apparently moribund Glory of the Sun 28mm range of 1672-era figures. When Nick Eyre at North Star Military Figures acquired the range and hired Steve Saleh to complete it as North Star 1672, I got interested in reviving the painting project I had put on hold some time before (about 2010, I think). The rules we planned to use for the earlier project (Beneath the Lily Banners) didn't really inspire any of us. Being fast play rules, they lack meat. They also contained some unintelligible bits that left us somewhat perplexed.

I started out by looking for ways to revise a set of rules called King's War written by one of the locals here in the PNW (Bruce Bretthauer). They had a small following in 15mm and I wanted to use them for 28s. However, as I spent more time looking at them I wanted something more detailed and different mechanics. I've written more about the genesis and development of P&P here and here. I'll let it suffice to say that I have about 70 pages of rules, diagrams, and examples of play written out and formatted in InDesign CS6. The work has involved a lot of writing, research, and revision with a few lengthy hiatuses thrown in for good measure.

My only play-test was an afternoon with Rick Martinez using wooden bases for the units and a dining table for the battlefield. The rules played out well and I've caught a lot of things that I need to either write out or define better (so much of the play-test came ad hoc from my head). I also saw places where I needed to change some rules. It was productive time well spent.

Row Well and Live! started in June last year. The basic ideas for the game came to me while I was lying sick in a hotel room in San Jose, CA. I had just bought a sackful of 1:600th scale Xyston galleys from The Game Kastle in San Jose to augment the small handful I already had. I wanted to do something with them, but I couldn't think of a good set of rules that allowed a reasonably enjoyable game with just a few ships per side.

My time in San Jose was mostly spent with friends—and being sick—but I managed to hash out the basic vision for the rules. My inspiration was, of course, Ben-Hur. The rules seemed to flow faster than Pike & Periwig, but then ancient naval rules are a bit simpler than pike and shot land war.

Returning home, I managed to bang out enough rules for a play test in a bit more than two months. I was surprised at how well everything came together. The revisions since then have been minor. Most of what I have left to do is polish what I've got.

Some pics of my latest game can be seen on Dave Schueler's blog Naval Gazing.

Painted a lot of 1:600 scale galleys

At the time I was languishing in my hotel sick-bed in SJO, I had no ships painted at all. I tinkered with building the models, but hadn't done anything until I started writing the rules. So far I have about 25 ships completed and maybe another dozen, plus sinking ships, to go before I call it good. My posts about painting the wee ships can be seen here.

Created a lot of game pieces

The Row Well and Live rules require a number of counters to mark shooting attenuation, grappling, damaged oars and steering, damaged rams, initiative sequence, etc. I came up with ideas for them and created a huge pile of these markers in no time. My exuberance over my little brain-farts of counter-making inspiration can be seen here and here.

Created islands

RWAL also needed some land bits to be avoided. I picked up some 2" pink board insulation and a hot knife and got to it. My land-making adventures can be revisited here.

Painted some 28mm pikers and shooters

OK, the total number painted and based is not inspiring—certainly not to people who churn out hundreds of figures a year. (You know who you are.) However, I'm happy that I made progress. One unit is complete, but I have many more that are nearly so—and a couple guns as well.

Bolt Action Japanese

I got inspired late in the year to further dissipate my already feeble project focus when I play a game of Bolt Action WW2 skirmish. I don't love them, but they're fun and they got me dusting off the 28mm Japanese that were languishing in neglect for so long. I managed to paint two tanks, two MMGs, two squads, and some other "team" stands like knee mortars, snipers, and flamethrowers. I also finished two USMC 81mm mortars and two bazooka teams. I have many more Japanese cleaned and primed and some in further progress than that. Once painted, I assume that I will have well over 1000 points, as they're counted. I might play in some 1:1 tournament style games, but I'm mostly looking at creating multiplayer game scenarios.

Looking forward...

I want to get both my rules sets completed and made available to others. My initial thought had been not to sell them, but I'd like to look into a way to make them pay for themselves. Lead is expensive. If I could recoup in rules sales what I spent (and will spend) on 28mm figures and 1:600th scale boats, I'll be happy.

I plan to run Row Well and Live! at Enfilade in May and perhaps a game of Bolt Action. I won't count on running even a wee game of Pike & Periwig by May, but perhaps after then I can devote my time to the alchemy of turning lead into painted figures. I have a lot of lead for P&P. I just need to hunker down and paint!

More rules? I may be a bit addicted to rules writing now, and I should finish what I have before I start anew. However, reading William P. Guthrie's excellent volumes on battles of the Thirty Years War, I've got a bug in my ear about writing skirmish rules for the period. Kleiner krieg (small war) was the near-constant conflict that engaged small parties of men in between  the big battles. I have a few skirmish rules for later periods that I could adapt, but I'd like to do something that is specific to the period rather than modify an existing set. (Of course I'll steal their good ideas...)