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 m├ętier 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.