I’m Your Huckleberry #Nashcon 2017

You know it’s the end of a long editing cycle when the biggest problems you are encountering are kerning issues with your font on the charts! I’m Your Huckleberry has been in a long development processes for a little over 3 years. The first edition was in March of 2014. The biggest impact it has had has been on the development of The Devil to Pay, actually. For myself, its also been a great learning experience. At all times it has been a process of improving the game theory present in gun fighting games and improving the gaming experience. I was first driven to write it because just about every other game I came across did not scale well at all as players were added. So I set out to create a system where people had fairly atomic choices of action, and all players went simultaneously. The rules are the system that makes it work, because otherwise you’d think it would explode instantly into chaos and fist fights among the players. 

Taking careful notes about how people played the game gave me good insight into how to set the levels of certain modifier and in which order actions are resolved. The latest version that I’m running at Nashcon will be the last version of the chart updates. I am confident the game works as intended. The next phase, which I’ve already started, is the writing of the verbal description of the rules. Thankfully I have an editor who has worked with me before and is excellent at technical writing.

As stated in previous articles, the damage has been changed to remove all of the markers and many of the special states models could get into. It made the table top ugly moving all of the markers and it did really lend itself to a more immersive experience. In this version there are 4 wound states that have an impact on the game.

I’ve also changed the dice up. There are now equal odds for hit, unloaded, and no effect. Basically 2 red faces (hits), 2 blue faces (unloaded) and two blank faces (no effect.) The benefit is that the game is more dangerous. Its more likely you will get wounded. It’s also more likely you’ll be out of ammo. In many ways this is more realistic. Before you could take great chances and get away with them. We had a game, in the past, where someone took two aimed shots at someone in the open with 11 dice and missed both times. The odds of missing with one roll of 11 dice was actually 43% back then. Now, with the new system, it’s only 7.5%. So still possible, but far more unlikely. Once you start taking shots is much more likely to get deadly if you aren’t in cover.

We have also cleaned up the way shotguns work. The way blazing away with a repeater works. We’ve defined the difference between blazing away with two guns verses fan firing a six shooter. It’s realistic and cinematic. That doesn’t make sense. No, it’s cinematic because, honestly, that just isn’t a good use of ammo. It’s realistic because that shit happened and a lot of unintended people died which is in the rules.

The campaign rules are coming along. I’ll write more about them as we play test them. Just like the way the gunfight rules are not your grandfather’s Old West game, the campaign system is going to stir up things quite a bit as well. See you on the range next time!

Devil to Pay 2

An evolutionary update is in the works for the ACW game Devil to Pay. After 4 years of running these at conventions we have a few reasonable rule updates that will improve the game without changing it too much. There are various abuses we have seen that are being tweaked out of existence. They were legal abuses, but still. We also discovered a rules hole or two simply because out of all the playing we’ve done, we just haven’t seen every single permutation! The ones we did see are fixable though.

The Devil to Pay at Nashcon

DevilToPayI am running two games of The Devil to Pay at Nashcon. If you have not heard about them yet, these are regimental level rules for warfare during the American Civil War. They have been out since 2015. We started work on them in 2006, with primary development getting underway in 2011. This first edition plays really well. The mechanics are easy to understand and you won’t need an expert player to turn to in order to figure out something like a charge. The authors have been playing Johnny Reb since the mid-1990s, and other civil war games as well. From 1989 to 1998 I developed Bonnie Blue Flag, a brigade level set of rules. When Nathaniel St. John set out to write these rules he knew what he liked and didn’t like in rules. He didn’t like complications and felt that the rules had to be memorable. He did like there to be friction of command. As a veteran he has some experience with that.

The scenario I’m running is Lookout Mountain. Normally one would not choose this as the historical outcome was so one sided. In the real battle the mountain was beset by heavy November fog and by 3PM was in whiteout conditions. The Union was able to advance unimpeded by Confederate artillery. This is an interesting situation. Fog like that is extremely random. I’ve seen fog like that. It’s tenuous. So, for my Lookout Mountain scenario I make the fog random. It can build and wane. If it get to an extreme of either clear or foggy it will stay at that level for the rest of the  game. This means the Union can’t rely up Mother Nature being a solid ally. The most notable feature of the battlefield is it’s rough and steep nature. I’ve been working on custom terrain for it. While the convention is right around the corner, it’s not quite ready yet. Otherwise I’d have photos up! I treated the miniatures and the scenario first. Terrain can always be cobbled together, so not having special terrain wasn’t going to stop the game from happening. Not having enough miniatures, however, was! I’m confident the terrain will be ready in time, however.

The rules will cover this battle very well with little intervention. One rule I will be making up will be how artillery works against troops. There is a flat area that leads up to the mountain, which artillery can fire upon with no penalty. However, trying to fire at troops on the mountain at a different elevation is at half strength. Its not easy getting cannons to fire above or below their normal angles and that would be required upon this hill.

Another thing I like about The Devil to Pay is that if you just follow the turn sequence and don’t try to seize the day, you are going to lose. The turn sequence isn’t set. It’s kinda random, actually. You need to take advantage of the Carpe Diem cards to force the sequence to do what you want. If you just let the other side decide it will become their battle, their way, and ultimately their victory.

I’m Your Huckleberry, Update

I am continuing to work on I’m Your Huckleberry. I started this project about 3 years ago. The current revision is looking ready for release. The biggest change lately was how the damage system works and it’s a major change. One of the dissatisfying aspects of the old damage system was the large number of tokens that could end up on the table…

20160518_094753As you can see, one can end up with a rather gigantic amount of tokens and it isn’t just unattractive but you have to move them and it becomes a real problem when you have multiple stacks of effect tokens surrounding a figure. Of the many possible streamlining changes, this one was at the top of the list. Any change that makes the game play more efficient and aesthetically pleasing is a big win.

The change I propose is to reduce the wound states to Duck Back, Startled, Bruised, Incapacitated, and Dead. 3 of the states require tokens: Startled, Bruised, and Incapacitated. I chose to use round acrylic disks to be placed under the figure but which are visible enough to clearly indicate the state. The Recovery token is removed from the game. The new damage effects are as follows:

  • Duck Back – simply move toward cover and getting out of line of sight. The recovery token has been removed.
  • Scared – this is with a yellow marker. Can be removed with a Recover action. -1 die to combat and movement.
  • Bruised – shown with a blue marker, a more substantial injury, -2 dice to combat and movement.
  • Wounded – incapacitated. Shown with a red marker.
  • Defeated

20160518_094646There is a progression of wounds I am working on. I want it easy enough to remember. Basically, a yellow marker won’t increase the wounds of any other marker. A blue will promote a blue to a red. A red will promote a blue to a red, or a red to defeated. We will see how it plays out in convention games!

 

Rules 1840-1890

6 Regiments Ready for The Devil to Pay.

6 Regiments Ready for The Devil to Pay.

The Devil to Pay

These are the ACW rules I’ve been working on with Nathaniel St. John and his group in Atlanta. I knew Nathaniel as a kid back in Massachusetts. He and another kid all met at the same small convention. I went there for the role playing games. Every one of us fell in love with historical war gaming. To this day we still play these games, often with each other.

Nathaniel came up with this colonial game years ago. I got to play it and really loved it. After sitting on his rules for about 3 years I called him up and said I was going to dig up my ACW figures and try them out. I had already written Bonnie Blue Flag. I just simply took some ideas from there and put them into the colonial game. It sort of worked. I made a few adjustments and started to add things that were on my very advanced rules ideas list. It worked better. I made a couple more adjustments and without testing them brought the game to Historicon. It was a disaster. Nat was there and we looked over the whole system and he came up with 20 things that needed to be addressed. Then I got a real job and didn’t have much time. We talked about some ideas here and there but neither of us had a lot of time. He spoke with and old friend, Peter Rice and together they stitched together a new game system that again mixed the old and the new.

We had another gaming weekend where we ran the game several times and added in our latest ideas. I worked on what I knew, artillery. Another friend, Ed P. came down and he helped with the general flow of the game. He has been writing games since the 1970s and he’s good at it. This time the game seemed right. Nat polished the rules after the weekend of playtests and brought it to Siege of Augusta. We did the battle of Brawner’s Farm at 2nd Manassas. It went extremely smoothly with players who had never seen the system in action.

Nat changed the basing to 40mm x 40mm square which changed a lot of things for the better. One is that at that base size any figures will work. 10mm, 15mm (see mine on the right), 28mm (what Nat uses) and even 54mm (we saw another game with figures of that size on 40x40mm bases!)

With his 28mm figures he had flags he was able to attach rings to to show how many commands the regiment had and red rings to figures on the bases to indicate hits (one ring: no effect, two rings: no longer combat effective with a third hit eliminating the stand.) I had used 40x15mm bases for my figures. I ended up just gluing them to the bigger bases as is. I needed two stands of figures to get the right mass effect and I have to say it looks a lot better than what I had previously! The large, square bases, allow for the regiment to go from line into column more easily. It looks better because you have the right numbers of troops massed together. It further regulates the game better than rectangular bases. The rings are held on using flat-head rivits. You can get 500 for $5. They work great!

The Devil to Pay is still not published but that is only because we have a lot more play testing to do of various scenarios and various types of battles (such as artillery duels and lots of cavalry.) I’m highly confident this will become a great product that people will enjoy playing.

Fast Play Old West Rules

In the meantime I am also play testing my fast play Old West rules where everyone takes their turn at the same time. How does that work? Well, with just a nod to a few situations where players might interupt each other, it works really well. I’ve run half a dozen games with more to come. The basic game is based upon The Rules with No Name by Foundry. That got simplified and then I added in simultaneous play. In order to get that to work everyone operates on the same card. Each card indicates either Movement or Combat. There are two sets of actions, further subdivided so that whatever action you take, it has to happen in the right sequence and you have to announce if you are using an action that would interrupt someone. In which case the interrupted player is then given options for their reaction.I am really happy with how it is working out. There are still some kinks in the system but it’s pretty easy to update at this point as there are good, reusable mechanics to fix the problems. It follows my latest concept of keeping core rules to cover things that happen in every game, and additional rules only in the scenarios that use them. The attempt to have one set of rules that covers every situation leads to large sets of rules that are hard to remember or comprehend and which are harder to keep consistent.

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Fast Play Old West Rules

New Rules: Fast Play Old West

Includes link to the quick reference sheet, handy for printing out!

These rules are very highly modified at this point from The Rules with No Name. They are designed so that many people can play. Now, many people can play any Old West game, but when you have a dozen players with a card driven system it can take forever for your turn to come up. That isn’t fun to me. I’ve been stuck in that situation many times. I believe multi-player games should be simultaneous to the degree possible. Everyone should be doing or reacting to something. It should be as orderly as possible. It should have some friction and chaos in it though.

When playing Old West games I started with Desperado. From the mid-1990’s until about 2005 I played that game to death. We had a lot of fun scenarios we invented culminating with The Great Train Robbery using a train my friend Rohn put together. It was magnificent. 1/48th scale, the figures could move on, over and within the cars. The only thing that suffered was the card driven system when we had too many players. Later I played Legends of the Old West by Games Workshop. That is one of the finest games for Old West that there is. It’s a remarkable game and well researched. It’s designed for one on one play where groups play campaigns and break up into individual fights between their warbands. If you can get a lot of people to play that way its a great system. It isn’t easily adapted to convention play without a complete rewrite. Honestly I like it as it is for what it is.

The Rules with No Name is a fairly complex game that tries to cover everything under one set of rules. The printed and bound version sold by Foundry is a cornerpiece of my rules collection because it is a beautiful book and I enjoy showing it to people interested in the Old West. At first it is what they think they want in a game – rules for every situation. After years of playing games I’ve moved much more towards rules that support a basic premise and then scenario specific rules to cover specific situations. I love the idea that you don’t need to know a thousand rules and play with only ten of them but instead to know 20 rules and play with them all.

I don’t have a name for this variant of the rules. I am tentatively calling them “Convention TRWNN” with the ultimate goal being that the basic game play information is on one sheet of card stock and the scenario information is on another. The write up of the rules will be online here. I see this being useful for any genre with modest changes. Something I’d like to do is put some Science fiction figures I have back on the table. There are other rules I like, such as Tomorrow’s War. However for something a bit more gritty and personal I need something else and this fits that bill.

Posse

Building by Sarissa Precision, figures by Black Scorpion, Old Glory, et. al. and painting by Combat Painter.

Ranchers vs Rustlers

I’ve been modifying The Rules with No Name [also see this free version] so that the game can be played quickly with a lot of players. Basically I made as much of the game simultaneous as possible with additional rules on handling some events out of sequence, such as calling people out onto the street for a challenge. I still need a few more play tests of the rules. I’m waiting for some custom Litko token sets to come in to help manage the game. I also recently got a large number of buildings from 4Ground and Sarissa Precision. I will be reviewing those and displaying pictures of them. If you have looked at them and though they look like they might be hard to put together, let me assure you they are a piece of cake and they look amazing!

More details to come. In the meanwhile enjoy these game photos.

15mm ACW: The Devil To Pay

This weekend we are continuing work on the ACW regimental combat rules ‘The Devil to Pay’. These rules have been used for a variety of 18th and 19th century periods. The development of ACW rules using them is interesting because it is the very start of the modern era of combat (rifles, advanced artillery, advanced communications, rail, etc.) and because the authors have significant military experience in real life and working knowledge of the period. In fact I would say my knowledge of 19th century artillery is a hindrance because I want to model everything! However at the level we are doing it, we are dealing with sections of artillery and so I must constrain myself. Work on the game was going well up through last year. Then I made some changes and the game I ran at Historicon was a disaster. Luckily, Nat and the other Peter got to work on ironing it out again. I am really excited about the direction it is going in. I think this has the possibility of being a really excellent set of rules that will appeal to a wide number of gamers. The rules are not complicated, produce good results and have just enough suspense in them to make for very entertaining games.

Watch for after action reports and also watch the twitter account for photos of the games as the playtest continues.

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Polar Expedition an alternative idea for ASGARD

So I was looking over old marketplace items on The Miniatures Page and came across one for a set of polar adventure figures. They also had some Call of Cthulhu inspired figures.
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The original idea was that some previous expedition ventured into this arctic region, encountered many troubles and the lone survivor came back with wild tales of what they found. World Governments, in a rare moment of solidarity, declared the area off limits. Of course wild stores and forbidden knowledge is the surest thing to drive science adventure teams to see just what exactly is going on!
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The objective of the game is to document the activity, collect samples and survive long enough to return to your ship. There is no second place so teams will be very competitive and perhaps aggressive in their drive to secure the treasure of scientific knowledge of the place!
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So I was thinking, ASGARD is GM free but its not set up to handle competing teams… or is it? What ASGARD does is it sets up various encounter points where when you get into range of one you test for an encounter. If you get one then you apply it. Once you’ve seen some variation of an encounter you mark it off the sheet and ignore it if it comes up again. So, with multiple teams this is still possible. What might change is what happens when an encounter goes out of contact. I think in that case we might instead put a marker down with it’s number on it and wait for someone else to approach it.
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I think otherwise, there isn’t anything preventing a game like this from working with ASGARD. I’m excited to give this idea a try.

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A Method for “Gaming” Predictions for the D6 Generation

D6_badge_transparent_472_CroppedI have been listening to the D6 Generation for a few months now and enjoy the podcast. I highly recommend all gamers to listen to it. It’s long so great for listening to in parts during your commute or between classes or during your performance review. At the end of last year apparently they did gaming industry predictions. This year they did the same and scored the previous years results. They have a loose set of rules they use. It’s amusing. As a data scientist in my real life job I’d like to suggest an alternative system to them that will make it more of a game and more strategic.

Rule 1: Each prediction must have a quantitative final measure. This can be true or false or a verifiable number. “FFG will bring out a new line of miniatures in 2013.” That is good, it is either true or false. “FFG will bring out another full-of-fail Silverline game.” No, that doesn’t work because its not testable. The “full-of-fail” part of it is subjective. “FFG will do really well in 2013.” No, that is also subjective. “FFG sales will double in 2013” That follows the rules but unless FFG releases the numbers it is unverifiable. “Games Workshop’s stock price (GAW: LONDON) will be greater than 740GBP by the time of the next end of year show.” That one is good – It can be researched (and is adjustable in the case of stock splits.) It is resolved in time for the follow on show.

Rule 2: Each question has a value of 1 point, +1 points for each hosts that doubts it will come true, for the predictor. If the prediction fails to come true then the predictor looses that many points. Hosts may agree with the prediction and may win or lose 1 point if it comes to pass or fails to. Neutral votes are an automatic deduction of 1 point.

Example 1: Prediction “Paizo will introduce a D7 die in 2013!” Hosts, 2 and 3 say nay. Value of the prediction is 3. If it comes to pass the predictor will get 3 points. If it fails, they will lose 3 points.

Example 2: Prediction “Games Workshop will introduce a Tau Titan in 2013” Host 2 is all for it, Host 3 doubts it. Prediction is worth 2 points to the Predictor. It is worth 1 point to Host 2.

Example 3: Prediction “Dark Future will make a comeback in 2013 due to a Kickstarter project!” Host 2 is neutral. Host 3 is vehemently against such a possibility. The Predictor risks 2 points and Host 2 will automatically lose a point.

Rule 3: All information is public. If a host has inside information they must reveal source and all relevant data. This is an honor system rule.

This form of the game puts a consequence on every action. In order to score well you have to make outlandish predictions but they also have to come true. You can disagree with a prediction but that indicates it is risky and thus there should be payoff. You can agree with a prediction but you share some of its inherent risk.

It is unlikely that anyone will cast a neutral vote but the option is there to limit the gains another player/host might make. Having a penalty for risk avoidance means that the hosts have to make a priority of understanding the market and making informed decisions over just “winging it.”

I think these rules can make the little game of chance interesting. It would be really interesting to see them go back over the December 2012 predictions and rework them into the framework – rejecting soft predictions or modifying them and seeing how it plays out.