Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scoreboard Update: Another Loss... and a Win!!!

Just a quick update: I never got around to posting about it, but the gang played a couple games of Necromunda a few weeks ago, and I was beaten twice. In the first game, my "Rat Bastards" (a gang of skaven converted with 40K weapons and built using ratskin rules) was trounced by a gang of scavvies. In the second, my brand-spanking-new Goliath gang took it on the chin. Not only was I soundly beaten by the same gang of scavvies, but on checking the status of my injured gangers I discovered that the gang's leader had been killed!

Fortunately, the other players in the group had pity and allowed me to swap serious injury rolls with one of my other injured gangers, so instead of pushing up daisies, Boner (leader of "Boner's Bruisers") lost an eye. (Fitting, since the model for that character is sporting an eye patch.)

So, this past weekend, "One-eyed" Boner (I didn't come up with the epithet - my poor cyclopic gang leader was the source of much amusement amongst my opponents - might have been better off if he'd died) led his bedraggled bunch again into battle in a massive four-way scrum. As usual, we played a custom scenario wherein the four gangs were attempting to secure as many of 12 randomly placed loot counters as possible.

Fortunately, the terrain forced most of the gang on my left flank (the aforementioned scavvies) away from me and toward the gang (of Van Saars) across from my end of the table. Only a third of the scavvy force was approaching my left flank, but were separated from me by a several-inches wide canal of oozing nastiness (that we determined was toxic to lethal levels).

Even more fortunately, the treacherous condition for the game was a swarm of flies, which reduced visibility for shooting to 6" or less and conferred a -1 to all shooting attacks. This meant that the scavvies were little threat, as the terrain prohibited them from from easily approaching me, and their typically abysmal BS scores meant they had little chance of hurting my gang with ranged attacks even if they could get close enough to get a shot off.

All of this meant that my only real threat came from a single flank - for a change. That flank was occupied by my fiancee's vampire gang, who were more than able to make a mess of my poor Goliaths.

Assessing my situation, I secured one of the main access points on my right with my hired guns: a hive scum ("Mr. Wonderful") and a beast-master ("Mistress Melina, the Rat Whisperer") and her "lovelies." My heavy, made virtually useless by the flies, secured the second access point on my right flank. (He spent the entire game on overwatch over that tiny alley way.) The remainder of the gang went as quickly as possible toward the center of the table, where a bridge spanned the toxic river - and where a good number of the loot counters had fallen. Boner took his favorite juves up the near left flank, where he put them through a trial by fire by sending them within range of the scavvy guns to retrieve a single loot counter that lay there. (They all made it back safely, thanks to a typically poor round of scavvy shooting.)

For a few turns, the scavvies beat on the Van Saars, the vampires assailed my hired guns, and I moved the main portion of my gang onto the bridge - and thereby secured more than 50% of the loot counters on the table. (I also took the opportunity to repay the scavvies for taking potshots at my juves, and managed to drop a couple of the pesky blighters with a well-placed frag grenade.)

Once I had said counters secure, I played the third good piece of fortune to befall me that day: a "Genestealer!" event card.

Seeing that the sacvvies and the Van Saars were too busy mangling one another to prevent me from grabbing the loot I'd secured, I chose to play the card on my fiancee's table edge. Much consternation followed!

However, distracted by the nigh-unstoppable xeno, the vampires ceased to be a threat. I swept up all of the counters I could and made my way for the table edge. That same turn, the scavvies bottled from the losses they'd taken at the hands of the Van Saars. Then the Van Saars, similarly maimed, passed their bottle test - but chose to flee anyway, rather than face the rampaging genestealer. Then the vampires bottled, having lost several characters to the beast's claws.

Yeah! The board was mine!

Oops... I was alone on the board with that clawing nightmare! I managed to get off the board with my loot, but not before two gangers fell to the 'stealer. One of these unfortunate souls died in the post-game sequence.

But who cares?! I won!

Not only did I control the board at the end of the game, but I had 7 of the 12 loot counters in my possession. Despite the loss of a ganger, all was good. The other ganger recovered fully, and the only other characters to go out of action were my hired guns. For Boner's Bruisers, everything is happy happy joy joy... at least until the next game!


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

1 win / 2 draws / 11 losses

. . . . .

Friday, July 9, 2010

House Rules: Mi-Go for Strange Aeons

I have a lot of really cool Lovecraftian minis in my collection, and I've taken to expanding the Strange Aeons rules to accommodate as many of them as I can. The first I've attempted to develop profiles for are the very cool Mi-Go (a.k.a. Fungi from Yuggoth) miniatures produced by RAFM:

Mi-go - 6 BP

Weapons: Nippers (CCB +1, Dam. D+1), Lightning gun (+4 BP) or Mist projector (+2 BP)

Special: Humanoid, Hideous

Extraterrene Physiology: The mi-go's alien body is extremely resistant to physical damage. As a result, the mi-go gets a 5+ save to all physical damage.

Hover: This is the same as the nightgaunt's ability of the same name.

Mi-Go Weapons
Lightning gun10"3D+3AP2, Strafe2+
Mist projector8"1D+1Ready, Template2+

. . . . .

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

House Rules: Other Factions for Strange Aeons

[Note: The following rules are closely linked with my Black Market house rules.]

Threshold and the Lurkers are not the only groups vying for occult items and/or power. A number of other parties are also on the scene, each with its own agenda. Here are a few examples of other factions that can be found in our games of Strange Aeons:

Department of Esoteric Studies
A British government organization, the DES is more of a research group than a Threshold-style counter-occult agency. DES operatives specialize in locating and collecting occult paraphernalia for their organization; the investigation and eradication of nefarious occult activities is not a direct part of the organization's mission. A DES team may opt to trade their occult items to their organization for Build Points just as if they were trading them on the black market. They are not subject to the "It's a Risky Business" or "Contested Goods" rules when doing so; however, they receive -1 to each die roll for the BP value of an item. (Once the player has determined to trade an item to the DES for BP, the transaction must be completed - even if the resulting BP value is 0.)

During scenarios involving two non-Lurker factions, a DES team usually follows the set-up rules for Threshold, unless the opposing team is a Threshold team.

Cousin to the covert British ministries MI5 and MI6, MI13 is even more secretive. Often found operating in the guise of MI5 agents (in the UK) or MI6 agents (abroad), MI13's agents are the UK equivalent of Threshold. They ferret out and eliminate occult threats, often supported by special units of the British army and occasionally accompanied by DES teams acting as "advisors."

MI13 operatives are known to use occult paraphernalia they've acquired to improve their ability to combat occult threats. There are no special rules regarding MI13 teams - they operate exactly as do Threshold teams.

Society of the Jade Lily
An independent group bent on discovering and acquiring occult artifacts to further some unknown agenda, the Jade Lily is a loose network of sinister individuals. They are often encountered at the scene of occult activity or where occult items are to be found, presumably there to steal knowledge and/or items for their own ends.

The Jade Lily has a vast network of underground/criminal connections. As a result, any Jade Lily team attempting to sell an item on the black market gets +1 to its Risk Factor roll. However, they suffer a -1 to any roll to see if the character is "done away with" by Threshold agents after three Risk Factor roll failures.

During scenarios involving two non-Lurker factions, a Jade Lily team usually follows the set-up rules for Lurkers.

Pop Hunters
Working for a variety of organizations, from museums to private collectors, pop hunters specialize in locating and retrieving ancient artifacts and the like. They do so for neither power nor wealth, but for the love of adventure and the satisfaction they find in recovering items of antiquity. Righting of wrongs and termination of nefarious activities, if any, is the result of their own moral code - if any. Pop hunters are, effectively, the archaeological equivalent of soldiers of fortune.

All items a pop hunter team finds are expected to be turned over to the team's benefactor. The team earns build points for this as per selling an item on the black market. However, they are immune to the "It's a Risky Business" rule. (Such transfer of goods is still subject to the "Contested Goods" rule.)

If the team ever tries to use an item itself or sell it on the black market, it risks running afoul of its benefactor. The player must roll as per the "It's a Risky Business" rule. If the transaction is discovered, the team's benefactor has discovered their treachery and discharges them from his employ, taking all of his property - i.e. all of their occult items - with him. (Presumably, the team has a new benefactor by the next game.)

Building Teams for Other Factions
Except as noted above, teams for these and other non-Lurker factions are constructed and advance following the same rules as those for Threshold teams.

. . . . .

Friday, May 21, 2010

Resources: Necromunda Cards

Here's a quickie for you: a set of cards you can use to keep track of your Necromunda gangers.

(For the record, I personally think Necromunda is the best game to come out of Games Workshop to date. Don't get me wrong: I was weaned on Space Hulk, and cut my teeth on the first two editions of Warhammer 40,000 - and don't even get me started on Warhammer Quest. So even though I say Necromunda's the best, rest assured that Space Hulk, Rogue Trader and Warhammer Quest are running a close second.)

Anyway, as utilitarian as the stock Necromunda gang rosters may be, they really aren't very useful once your gang's got a few fights under its belt. (Unless your writing is extremely small and precise - and your is eyesight far better than mine!) Also, those 8.5" by 11" sheets tend to take up a lot of prime gaming real estate, especially if you're a kitchen table gamer like myself.

It was for these reasons that - many, many moons ago - I started using cards to track my gangers. The increased room to track skills, wounds, gear, etc. was a great boon, as was the decreased amount of table space the cards required. I've since started using cards for just about every game I play that requires keeping track of my models.

Unfortunately, I've since misplaced the source files for the cards I've been using for several years. Since my printed supply of these cards was running low, I recently created a new set - which I now share with you:

(Note: There's no specific card in this set to keep track of gang-level information - territories, stash, and such. We usually just write this on the back of the leader's card.)

(Necromunda box cover image © Games Workshop)

. . . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

After-Action Brief: In Which I Learn How to Lose a New Game

Since I had to take last Friday off to handle domestic issues, my usual routine of running errands Saturday and playing Saturday night or during the day Sunday turned into running errands Friday and playing during the day Saturday and Sunday. As a result I was able to try out a new (to me, anyway) game: Chain Reaction 3.0.

For those readers unfamiliar with Chain Reaction, it's an interesting departure from the standard systems found in most wargames, namely activate side/unit/model, rinse, repeat. The system follows this same basic process, but adds a nifty twist: any action one of my models/units takes is going to provoke a reaction from my enemy, and vice versa. This process of action/reaction continues until one side is no longer able to act - thus the system's name.

Now, I'm not totally new to the game. In fact, I purchased the Chain Reaction 2.0 rulebook several years ago, thanks to the rave reviews it consistently seemed to receive. Unfortunately, although the system was very intriguing, I found the CR2 rulebook mostly incomprehensible; I found it too densely packed with poorly (IMO) organized and exemplified rules. As a result, I never made a determined effort to learn the system and generally disregarded any subsequent references to the game or the Chain Reaction system in general (which also powers other games, such as All Things Zombie and 5150.)

However, for some now-forgotten reason, I found myself on the Two Hour Wargames Web site last week. I stumbled upon a rules tutorial and a step-by-step battle report that did a good job of walking the newb through the system, now revised into a (again IMO) cleaner, clearer version: Chain Reaction 3.0. (Which is also free - if you're even remotely interested, you should head on over to the Two Hour Wargames site and give the "Tutorials" a read. If you're still interested after that, download the free CR3 and give it a go.)

So, after reading the tutorials and getting jazzed again on the system, I printed out CR3 and gave it a couple of read-throughs. Having a little free time on Saturday, I talked my fiancee into giving the game a try. We each whipped up a 5-person gang and commenced a straight-up shootout between the two forces.

The first thing I have to say is that these rules can be difficult to grasp for gamers like myself. It's not because they're so complex, but because they're so different. This game was such a departure from the linear rules I'm accustomed to that my challenge was not in understanding the rules, but in un-learning over 20 years of wargaming standards. These rules expect a level of flexibility that the rigid systems I've played in the past had almost drummed out of me.

By the end of the first game (an hour or so later) we each had a different opinion of the game. She disliked the system, mainly because of what she perceived to be "too much dice rolling." However, to be fair, we were still new to the system, and the game was plagued with multiple rulebook searches and misunderstandings. As a result, unnecessary die rolls were made and the rules were much consulted. However, the biggest issue was that the system is such a new concept, and I wasn't sure how things I knew to do instinctively in other games should be handled in CR3.

For instance, the "In Sight" test. This proved to be the biggest point of misunderstanding and contention in our first game(s). The idea behind this test is this: when an inactive unit sees an enemy unit it couldn't see before, it must roll to see how it reacts. This makes perfect real-world sense, and the examples in both the rulebook and the tutorials are logical and supportive.

However, these examples all refer to one model seeing another model. But how does that work with unit movement? Does my inactive model/unit only react to the first model it sees? That can't be, because then the game breaks down to my "overwatch" being used up after the first guy pokes his head out - every single time. Does my model/unit react to each model as it emerges from cover (which means one at a time, if we play the way we do in our other games)? That would be fine, but then I'm rolling five In Sight reactions for a five-man squad, and doing an awful lot of firing before the enemy even gets a shot off - so that can't be right, either.

The rules addressed this in a manner that I found vague - and ultimately useless - at the time. I scoured the THW Web site and Yahoo group for info, but couldn't find anything useful. That is, until I re-read some of the battle reports and the rules themselves, then it finally clicked: models don't act in CR3 the way they do in the other games I'm used to. On his turn, a player can move, act, or fight with any or all of the models in the activated unit as he pleases, even to the extent of jumping back and forth between them. (Unlike most games I've played, where one model in a unit must complete its actions before the player can move to the next.) Suddenly, the vague "units with multiple models" reference in the CR3 rulebook made sense to me. (The enemy moves a logical number of models out - all that planned to and could move - up to 2" from where the first model appeared in my line of sight. Then the test is taken against any enemy models that are in line of sight at that moment.) The problem hadn't been a complex rule - it had been me bringing 20 years of wargaming standards into the mix.

Aside from this one sticking point, however, I found that the CR3 rules were generally easy to grasp, and by the end of our second game I no longer had to refer to the reaction tables for most of the reaction tests. Combat was even simpler. After the third or fourth time, I didn't have to look at the combat table for results. That second game was finished in less than 30 minutes.

In the end, my fiancee still didn't care for the game. But I think that she'll like it more when she's had more exposure to it - and when we're playing more interesting forces. (She prefers playing dark elves/vampires/cannibals/scavvies/other nasties to playing what she calls "boring humans.")

I, on the other hand, love it!

The flexibility of this game has not been matched by anything else I've played. Encounters play out in a fluid, realistic manner (as realistic as you can expect from a game, at least), and sound tactics are required and rewarded. The combat system is as deadly as it is quick. When your model's hit, the best you can hope for is it being stunned for a turn. Your best option to stay alive is: just as in real life, don't get shot. I recently read on another fan's Web page how this game had ruined other games for him. I think I can see why.

Unfortunately, despite my fiancee's dislike of the game, she utterly demolished my gang in the first game, and the second I conceded after she knocked out my gang's leader. It's a damn good thing I don't base my like or dislike of a game based on my winning or losing...

On Sunday, the whole gang was here for more BBQ (mmmmmmm, slow-cooked, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sauce-drenched meat *slobber*) after which we played a game of Spinespur. Four factions came to the board looking for "fresh meat" (new recruits, or - as in Slaughterhouse's case - actual meat). Each side earned victory points for dragging living enemies from the table. I didn't lose, since I managed to drag one of Mr. Jingles' thugs back to the chopping block. Unfortunately, one of the other players managed to get two bodies off the table, which left me tied for second place. Oh well, better than another loss, I suppose.

Speaking of another loss, after the Spinespur game, I introduced one of our other players to Chain Reaction 3.0. The game went even faster and with even less consulting of the rules and tables this time. I was doing well at the start, having taken out his leader with a head shot in the second turn. Unfortunately, he managed to achieve a decent position, placing three-fifths of my squad neatly in one of his fire lanes. Next thing I knew, my leader was dead and my specialist (with the only SAW in the group) was pinned behind a wall. I attempted to apply pressure to his other flank by moving a pair of models in close enough to use grenades, a plan that looked like it might work. Unfortunately, one of the pair got shot (instant kill) trying to get into position, resulting in the other retiring too far away for any hope of being rallied. Then my specialist got shot and taken out of action while trying to break from his position. The one active soldier left decided it was time to give it up, and left her spirit-broken comrade to her fate.

Even though the game was a decisive loss, it wasn't like most decisive losses I've suffered. Thanks to the ebb and flow of the Chain Reaction system, I felt like the game could tip my way at any moment. And even though I had the upper hand for the majority of the game, nothing was written in stone. When it was obvious I was going to lose, the game was just about over. Too often I can see the writing on the wall long before the game ends, which really ruins the fun of playing the remaining turns - be it as winner or loser. This game offers enough tactical options to make it challenging, but at the same time allows for a sense of unpredictability.

I can think of no better endorsement for Chain Reaction 3.0 than this: I lost my first three games, and this is now my new favorite miniatures game system.


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 2 draws / 9 losses

. . . . .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

After-Action Brief & Scoreboard Update

So, the group convened this past Saturday for a most excellent repast prepared by my fiancee (BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, potato salad, corn muffins, baked beans, and much more), after which we all battled the urge to slip into food comas so that we could engage in back-to-back games of Spinespur.

Unfortunately, I once again have no photos of the games, as they were taken by one of our group who has yet to share them. (sigh) However, this time around we tried using a combination of Necromunda and Mordheim as the rules system (since the Spinespur rules unfortunately did not go over within our group as well as the setting, characters, and models did). I had spent some time converting the characters over, and the games we played were 500- and 1,000-point, four-player affairs. (Turns out, 500-points worth of the converted characters is roughly the same as a standard force in Spinespur.)

I was too close to a vegetative state at the time to allow me to recall the exact details of the first game, but suffice to say that I was utterly annihilated by my opposition, losing my entire force (Pigskin, a trio of shacklers, and a gormie) to combat losses. Oh, I was also the first player removed from that game - and the only one to not score a victory point. It ended up being a three-way tie, with only one loser: yours truly. (The scenario required each force to eliminate as many of the opposing forces' leaders as possible. My opponents each successfully killed off a single force leader, whereas I failed to do so.)

The scenario for the second game involved four forces scouring terrain features for the keys to Mr. Jingles' pink Caddy. We determined that he'd parked his car in front of "The Pig Pen" (a Slaughterhouse-run dive) where he was scheduled to deliver valuable goods locked in the trunk to Pigskin and his cronies. Unfortunately, he'd wandered off in a highly inebriated state to, erm, relieve himself - and proceeded to misplace his keys. ("Mighta' left 'em under that tree... or was it behind that scarecrow? Shit, I don't remember...")

I had a solid force, but on my right flank was my fiancee's Dark Faith army - she had availed herself of a soon-to-be-rectified loophole that allowed her to field a lot of low-cost models. Her force was easily twice the size of the next largest force on the board - and most of these were the rough equivalent of Necromundan plague zombies, which are not particularly deadly but are extremely hard to put down.

I was undone by two events:

First, I made a gambit on my right to decapitate the Dark Faith leadership by rushing Pigskin and "Maw's Boys" (a pair of shacklers) at the Anti-pope who had surrounded himself with a retinue of zombies. The plan was simple: All I had to do was use the Boys to draw out a pair of zombies with their hooked chains, then Pigskin could do the same against the Anti-pope himself. Well, the Boys did their part, but - of course - when it came to Pigskin's attack, the dice betrayed me. (I know: "Quelle surprise!") This betrayal left my right-most units completely exposed and at the mercy of a force with significantly superior numbers.

The second part of my undoing was when the other half of my force (led by a custom character known as "The Abominable Shitman") encountered the enemy on my left: an Orphanage force supported by molotov-wielding thugs. Three molotovs were thrown at my men: one hit, but did little damage and ignited nobody; the other two deviated. Yay! Er, no, I celebrated too soon - the second deviation dropped the molotov right where the player had wanted it: on top of the Shitman, who spent the rest of the game taking wounds and running around - aflame - at the rear of the battle.

In the end, Pigskin and Jingles, being pincered between a bunch of zombies and psychotic children - and alone, except for the wandering pile of flaming shit - said "Screw this!" and (reluctantly) beat out the flames on their fecal comrade and made a run for the hills. My only consolation is that neither the Orphanage nor the Anti-pope found the keys. That distinction went to the Men of G.O.D., who never ventured more than 8" onto the table; they discovered the keys in the corn field immediately in front of them and made it off the table after only a tiny scuffle with a fraction the Orphanage crew.

All in all, the game played much more smoothly with the Necromunda/Mordheim rules. It still needs a few tweaks, but I think it's going to be a regular game for our group - at least for the foreseeable future.

As for my failure to achieve victory, I blame it on a deadly combination of gluttony and disloyal dice...


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 1 draw / 6 losses

. . . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

House Rules: The Black Market for Strange Aeons

Once again we failed to get any gaming in this past weekend, so I thought I'd share some more of my Strange Aeons house rules. This time, it's an option for the post-game sequence that allows players to use their map pieces, scrolls, etc., to get a few extra Build Points - by selling them on the black market!

The Black Market
During the post-game sequence, at the start of the treasure hunting phase, a team may send one model to the black market instead of using it to search for map pieces, etc. Map pieces, scrolls, and tomes may be sold here for Build Points instead of being translated; artifacts may be sold instead of being assigned to team members. Only one team member may be sent to the black market, and only one item may be sold during any single post-game sequence.
The value of an item on the black market is as follows:
Map Piece1D66+
Unique Tome/Artifact4D62+

These Build Points must be spent immediately to buy weapons or gear, or to add new members to the team. (This is done before the re-equip phase and regardless of whether or not the team is entitled to re-equip.)

Once a player has opted to sell an item on the black market, the transaction must be completed - even if the player is unhappy with the result of the BP Value roll.

(Optional: If the player really does not want to part with the item, he may be allowed to fight the buyer for it. End the black market transaction; once the player's post-game sequence has been completed, he may engage in a "Fight" scenario against an appropriate number of Lurkers (representing the interested buyer and his or her henchmen). If the player's team wins, he may keep the item; otherwise, the buyer has stolen the item and the player gets 0 Build Points for it.)

It's a Risky Business
Selling goods on the black market is frowned upon by Threshold. The agency tries to police the black market on occult paraphernalia through a network of underground spies and informants. There's always a chance when selling occult items that Threshold will get wind of the transaction and take steps to prevent it.

When any team attempts to sell an item on the market, roll a die. If the value is equal to or higher than the "Risk Factor" value of the item, the agent has been caught red-handed. The item is confiscated by Threshold; remove it from the team's roster. Furthermore, the intrusion has frightened off the prospective buyer - the player may not attempt to sell any other items on the black market until after the next game.

If a team is caught selling on the black market three times or more, roll a die: on a 1, the team's character is spirited away by the Threshold agents, never to be seen or heard from again. (Treat this as if the character has died - a new team must be created.)

Contested Goods
If another player wishes to prevent the sale of an item on the black market, he must declare so before the value of the item is rolled for. The transaction is postponed, and as soon as both players have completed their post-game sequences a new game is played. The two players' teams must face each other in a "Fight" scenario; the winner takes possession of the contested item.

. . . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

House Rules: Extra Gear and Darkness for Strange Aeons

Everybody was feeling under the weather this past weekend, so no gaming took place. On the up side, I don't have to add another loss to the scoreboard. /wink

Since I don't have an after-action report to post, I thought I'd share some of the house rules we're using in our Strange Aeons game. Namely, darkness rules and extra gear for Threshold characters:

Extra Gear
Lantern, Torch, Flashlight
A model equipped with a lantern and all models within 2" of it are immune to the rules for Darkness (see below). However, so are models targeting lantern-equipped models with ranged attacks.

A torch follows the same rules as those for a lantern. However, it may also be used as a weapon - treat it as a club with the fire special rule. (Details of this rule can be found in Shocking Tales #1.)

A model equipped with a flashlight is immune to the rules for Darkness. However, so are models targeting the model for a ranged attack. At the start of each Turn, roll a die: on a 1, the flashlight's battery dies and it is useless for the remainder of the game. (Assume that the batteries will be replaced prior to the next game.)

(Note: I recently purchased from eBay the "Adventures" set from Grenadier's old Call of Cthulhu line. I felt compelled to add special rules so I could properly use the camera-wielding mini - "K" in the photo to the right - from this set.)

During a game against Lurkers, a model equipped with a camera may spend an action to ready its camera, and an action to take a photograph of any Lurker model in its Line of Sight. (These actions must be consecutive and taken on the same turn.) Each time the model does so, it gains a photograph token. If the model's camera is destroyed or stolen during the game, the model loses its photograph tokens.

During the post-game treasure hunting phase, a model with photograph tokens may attempt to develop the film in the camera. Roll 1D3-1 for each photograph token; this is the number of Build Points the model's team gets for the photograph. Once all tokens have been rolled for, the player must immediately spend these Build Points (just as if the team were re-equipping).

These rules cover games played in varying light conditions: Dusk/Dawn, Moonlit Night, and Utter Blackness. Prior to the start of a game, roll 1d6 to determine the level of light:
1D6Light Level
1Utter Blackness
2Moonlit Night

When playing a game in low light, the effective range of visibility is based on the light condition:

Light ConditionEffective Range
Utter Blackness3"
Moonlit Night6"

Movement in Low Light
When moving in low light, if a model attempts to move farther than the effective distance in a single Turn, it must make a Dexterity check at the end of the action during which it exceeded this range. If it fails the check, it falls Face-up; if the roll is a natural 1, it falls Face-down.

Ranged Attacks in Low Light
When targeting models in darkness or fog, ranged attacks are made as normal. However, the target gets a saving throw based on its distance from the attacker:

Distance is:Save
Up to effective range6+
Up to 2x effective range4+
Up to 3x effective range2+
Over 3x effective rangeAuto

These darkness rules have yet to be tested, but both the Threshold and Jade Lily players in our last game made good use of the camera, earning a few extra build points each.


. . . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

After-Action Brief & Scoreboard Update

I didn't get pictures of last weekend's games, and I don't have the time to write up a full after-action report for each of them, so I'll just do a quick recap and scoreboard update:

On Sunday the gang got together for a spaghetti dinner followed by a game of Strange Aeons. The scenario was "Treasure Hunt," and this time out the players reversed roles: the Threshold players from the previous two sessions took the role of the Lurkers, and one of the previous Lurkers players brought a Threshold team to the table. The other previous Lurkers player (my fiancee) used this opportunity to test out some house rules we've introduced, bringing a new faction to the table: the "Society of the Jade Lili." (Although the Jade Liliy and Threshold are ostensibly enemies, the players decided that the two groups had settled upon an uneasy alliance for this outing.)

The game went very quickly, and before the allies could move into the second pair of search zones (this scenario has the teams searching the table in sixths for treasure) they were descended upon by Lurkers. My group of Lurkers, composed of several cultists and a winged minion (a house-ruled creature - essentially a winged creature with cultist stats) fared well at first, inflicting heavy casualties on the Jade Lily force. The Jade Lily soon returned the favor, and before long both forces had annihilated each other.

On the other side of the table, the Threshold team found themselves facing a ghoul, a cultist, and - oh no! - another maniac. True to form, the maniac waded through the entire force until, finally, it was down to only a female Threshold agent and the maniac left on the table. When the dust from that little scrum settled, only the maniac was left standing.

Although the Lurkers (barely) won this one, I'm counting it as a draw, since even though the Lurkers won the game, my force was wiped out first. (The Jade Lily herself was still standing when my last model went out, so I didn't even beat my fiancee.)

Once again, I can't help but be left feeling that the maniac is one of the most cost-effective Lurkers a player can field.

For the second game of the day, it was down to three players (since my fiancee retired early). We decided to give Spinespur a go. We've been chomping at the bit to try this game since I picked it (and many of the miniatures for it) up several weeks ago. (Calling people "Jack" and mimicking Mr. Jingles' trademark "mee-hee" noise has become a recurring joke in our group - if you have the book, read Jingles' intro and you'll get the joke.) The three forces we settled upon were agenda builds: Institution, G.O.D., and Slaughterhouse. Oddly enough, despite the fact that he's one of the most talked about characters amongst our group, no one opted to field Mr. Jingles.

I was playing Slaughterhouse, and I quickly lost a gormie to Doc Akron and his Trauma Hounds, and a pair of shacklers to the Men of G.O.D. I also found my leader, Pigskin, locked in mortal combat with the Institution's heavy hitter, Hack. These two are pretty evenly matched, but thanks to my forgetting to do retributive strikes (one of Pigskin's special abilities) and losing blood every turn from wounds inflicted by Hack's chainsaw (one of that character's special abilities) I soon found myself in danger of losing that battle. I lucked out and managed to put him down, but Pigskin was left standing with only three wounds remaining - and three bleed tokens on him. As a result, he bled out at the end of that very turn; the two psychos had killed one another.

Oh, and I lost yet another game. /sigh

Although the setting and characters of the game are an unqualified hit with our players, the Spinespur system itself was not quite as popular. It's very unwieldy, and at times downright tedious. Just about every character has a half-dozen or more special abilities. Keeping up with these and what - especially when contrasted to Strange Aeons - is a complex system leeched the fun out of what would otherwise have been a really enjoyable game. Also, the alternating activation system made it difficult for the teams to act tactically, essentially forcing models that should act as groups to act independently. Although I've used this sort of activation system to good effect in the past (in fact, all three games I've written myself use alternating activation), I've made sure to make allowances for models to activate simultaneously to allow units to act as they should. (Such a rule may exist in Spinespur - but with the sheer bulk of the rules I may have missed it.)

I really do think Spinespur has a lot of potential - and, as I said, the setting and characters are brilliant - but the system needs a lot of paring down, in my opinion.


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 1 draw / 4 losses

Monday, April 12, 2010

After-Action Brief: Strange Aeons

(I'm calling this one a brief because it's not going to be a full after-action report - just a quick recap with highlights.)

So, our gang played its second session of Strange Aeons last night. Once again, we played a four-player game - two Threshold players and two Lurker players. The scenario this time was "Retrieve the Artifacts." The Threshold team was dispatched to gather artifacts at an old farm; the Lurkers, of course, were there to prevent this. (The scenario calls for four artifacts to be placed on the table; we doubled this to account for the two-player Threshold team.)

The Threshold forces were the same as in our last session, with one exception: agent Molly Dawson took the place of her late sister, Maggie. As for Lurkers, the Threshold team found itself facing one group composed of a maniac and two zombies, and another composed of two ghouls and a trio of cultists.

For the first few turns, the game played fairly smoothly. The Lurkers focused on gathering the artifacts on their side of the table and scurrying away with them to prevent them from falling into Threshold hands. Meanwhile, the Threshold team secured and searched several artifacts on their side of the table. The only casualties were the three cultists, one of whom became Molly's first act of vengeance; the other two were J.P. Dither's first dynamite victims.

The tide turned, however, when the maniac emerged from behind the farmhouse on the Threshold team's right flank. In the blink of an eye he was on top of Agent A's group, and in one turn he took out Agent B, then moved to attack Agent A. Agent A held his ground (despite being wounded) but before Agent C could move to help, the maniac finished him off.

Despite the Threshold team's valiant efforts, that maniac dispatched one team member after another - it was a bloodbath. It was only a couple of turns before the only Threshold agent left was The Professor, who was desperately attempting to search the last artifact before being set upon by the blood-soaked maniac. Unfortunately, the maniac got to him before he could do so, and the elderly agent found himself locked in mortal combat with a near unstoppable foe.

Here's how the first action of that combat went (the red dice with black pips are The Professor's close combat dice):

(Let this stand as Exhibit A to any who would dispute my professed inability to roll dice to save my life!)

But The Professor refused to go down without a fight! Here's the next close combat action:

The professor fought valiantly, bringing the ravening maniac within one wound of defeat. Alas, the dice once again betrayed him in the final round of combat, and he fell to the maniac's cleaver:

It was a solid Threshold defeat. Worse yet, of the three artifacts searched, only two held anything of use. (Naturally, the single artifact my group searched was empty. My dice truly hate me...)

On a positive note, none of the Threshold agents suffered any lasting effects from their wounds. (Two went out with only minor injuries; of the other five who suffered major injuries, all recovered fully.) I suppose things could have ended worse...


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 0 draws / 3 losses (but another - oh, you know!)

. . . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Resources: Strange Aeons Cards

Speaking of Strange Aeons, here are some Threshold record cards I've created for the game.

Like many contemporary miniatures skirmish games, Strange Aeons uses sheets to track model/team info. (You can find PDF's of these sheets on the Strange Aeons Web site.) However, table space is at a premium where our group plays (my kitchen table!), and 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper tend to take up far too much space near or within our playing area. That's why I've taken to creating cards - usually 4 x 5.25 inches - to track our tabletop units for such games.

Here are the individual Threshold model cards:

And here are the Threshold team record cards (intended to track overall team data):


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Thursday, April 8, 2010

After-Action Report: The Hills Rise Wild

Our group played a memorable four-player session of The Hills Rise Wild a couple of weekends back. (For those of you not familiar with the game, The Hills Rise Wild is a cross between a miniatures game and a board game. Its Lovecraftian theme makes it great fun for the Lovecraft/weird horror fan, and its semi-comical undertones make it great fun in general. Check out the link above and the game's BoardGameGeek entry for more info.)

Here are the gory details of our session:

The Cult of Ezekial (hereafter "CoE") took the first turn - and found the Great Whately Seal in the first shack they searched! (Much to the chagrin of the CoE player, who knew that carrying the Seal around meant his cultists had a big red target painted on each of their robes.) One of the cultists took a potshot at Lavinia Whately - and killed her outright! (Little did we know at the time that this would be the start of a disturbing trend for the CoE.)

Rather than dashing after the cultists, however, the other factions decided it would be best to poke around and find some useful gear first. Each of the players took a couple of turns exploring the shacks - during which time a scrap erupted between the Whatelys and the DeGhoules. (I was playing the Whatelys and my fiancee was playing the DeGhoules - she always comes directly at me when we play minis games, regardless of the objective of the game.) While those two factions duked it out, the CoE and the Marsh clan jockeyed for position outside the mansion.

Around the fifth turn, the DeGhoules disappeared into their tunnels. (My fiancee was ill, and had to bow out of the game.) The CoE had opened the mansion, however, and found themselves beaten to the Necronomicon by the Marsh clan, who played a relay race with the grimoire until getting it into the hands of the Sea Hag - who promptly teleported home with it! Freed from my melee with the DeGhoules, I sent every remaining Whately dashing across the board toward the Marsh lair.

As the sixth turn started, the CoE found themselves blocked by a wall of fish-men at the rear of the mansion. At the front of the mansion, only Chosen and one cultist were not engaged in combat, so they immediately moved toward the Marsh's lair. Those cultists in combat killed their opponents (two of them) outright. (The first died as a result of a successful hit followed by a high normal damage roll, then a high brutal damage roll. The other was a natural 20 to hit, followed by a high brutal damage roll. Score so far for the CoE: three hits, three kills.)

The Marsh clan spent the sixth turn holding the CoE at bay, but doing little damage to them. Finally, the Sea Hag performed the ritual - and the player rolled a 1! Zot! The Hag was a stain in the summoning circle.

The Whatelys spent the turn dashing around the shacks behind the mansion. (It was definitely the long way around, but the CoE and the Marsh clan had a real charlie foxtrot going on behind the mansion.)

As the seventh turn started, Chosen and the lone cultist made slow progress toward the Marsh lair as the other members of the CoE continued pushing their way through and out the back of the mansion. Two more Marsh members fell dead (five hits, five kills) leaving only Captain Obed to make a mad dash for his home.

Unfortunately for him, the Whatelys got there first, as Clem and George ran to block the window Chosen was heading for, and Wilbur - unable to reach the Necronomicon where it lay upon the Sea Hag's smoldering corpse - opted to block the door. The hound and Cletus circled the building and attacked Chosen, inflicting severe wounds that the creature totally ignored.

At the start of the eighth turn, Chosen attacked the hound, who was still "fresh" (un-damaged). Can you guess the results? (Six hits, six kills.) The cultist attacked Cletus, who was also fresh. (Seven hits, seven kills.) The other two remaining cultists (in the fracas in- and outside the mansion, the Marsh boys had whittled the CoE down to Father Darke and Brother Whatever-his-weird-ass-name-was) attacked Captain Obed, but missed.

Captain Obed broke from combat and stepped to the other side of the door from Wilbur and pulled an "Ezekial" on him. (One hit, one kill.) With his last breath, Wilbur invoked his father's name - but Yog must have been in the shower, because no help came.

From within the Marsh lair, Clem and George finally manage to put Chosen down.

At the start of turn nine, the lone cultist stepped over Chosen's body to attack Clem - and the player rolled a 1. Clem attacked back, and the CoE finally got a taste of its own medicine as Clem laid the cultist low with a single blow.

The remaining cultists attacked Captain Obed, and Father Darke's hit would have killed him if he hadn't invoked his special ability and ignored the brutal damage. (Almost eight hits, eight kills.)

Captain Obed attacked Father Darke and missed, and Clem and George moved to attack him from within the Marsh home. He was trapped in the doorway!

When the scrap in the doorway was finally done, Clem and George were dead - George having been "Ezekialed" by Captain Obed. Obed himself had - despite his earlier dodging of this bullet - become the CoE's eighth hit, eighth kill.

With the book in their - erm, hands - the two cultists dashed back to their lair. At the start of the next turn, Father Darke performed the ritual - and must have mispronounced something, because after a rumble and a flash all that remained of the cultist was an empty pile of robes under a moldy old book. (The player had rolled a 1 for the ritual.)

Trembling with trepidation, Brother Whatever-his-weird-ass-name-was stepped forward and picked up the book. We all held our breath as the player rolled the die, each of us half-expecting a 1 to come up.

Alas, such was not the case, as the player rolled an 18 and the Cult of Ezekial - having left one mangled corpse after another - won the game.

"Praise Yog and pass thuh ammo!"


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 0 draws / 2 losses (but another fun one, none the less)

. . . . .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

After-Action Report: Strange Aeons

I returned home on Saturday to find something oozing with mind-numbing horror lurking in my mailbox: my Strange Aeons rule book had finally arrived! (And there was much rejoicing.)

So I spent the remainder of the day reading the rules and on Sunday the group gathered to have a go*. The scenario we played was "Escape... into Danger!" After the forces were readied and the table set up, we had a pretty good idea about the back-story (which I will embellish upon slightly for your reading pleasure):

Escape from Franklin Corners

Having heard rumors of nefarious activities taking place in the small New England hamlet of Franklin Corners, Threshold sent a pair of its newest operatives to investigate. "The Professor" and "Agent A" assembled their teams. The Professor brought agents Denny O'Keefe (a crack shot), J.P. Dithers (an explosives expert, armed with dynamite) and Maggie Dawson (an intrepid female, armed with a double-barrel shotgun). Agent A brought agents B (armed with a shotgun) and C (armed with a tommy gun).

After a brief investigation, the Threshold team discovered that the entire community of Franklin Corners were members of a cannibal cult. Having witnessed unspeakable rites being enacted in the fields to the west of town, the team attempted to elude the cult and make good an escape to the east. Between them and safety lay the huddled, dilapidated buildings of the sleepy hamlet bisected by an east-west road; beyond the far (eastern) edge of the town lay a cemetery to the south of the road, and a cornfield and abandoned mine entrance to the north.

Here's how the scenario played out:

Figuring that the cemetery - with its high, spiky fence - would slow them down whereas the corn field would offer cover for their escape, the team planned to skirt the town to the north, move quickly past the rear of the run-down houses, through the field, and past the entrance to the mine. However, as they approached the town it was apparent from the swaying of the corn stalks that there was considerable activity in the field. The agents quickly amended their plan and decided to skirt the town to its southern edge, hoping that the cemetery would not significantly hinder their movement.

For a while, it looked as if the Threshold plan might work. Then, as the team approached the last house before the cemetery, Agent A (whose well-armed unit was leading the way) spotted movement among the headstones. Quickly, the team formulated a new plan: since it was obvious that an ambush awaited them and that escape without a fight was no longer likely, they would turn northward toward the center of town, where the open road would provide them the best field of fire.

They moved quickly between the last two houses and into the center of town. On their right, the cemetery was mostly out of view, but to their left the team could see a good portion of the cornfield. The swaying stalks gave away the positions of the cultists within, so Agents B and C - at the vanguard of the escaping team - opened fire. Alas, the cover proved to be too much, and their shots failed to find their marks.

Suddenly, a figure emerged from the all-too-healthy corn and with a half-chittering, half-meeping noise it lunged for Agent B. Agent B fired as it approached, but his shot went wide of its mark. Reeking of the grave, the bipedal creature snapped at him with its canine-like jaws and slashed at him with its long, yellow claws. Despite its fearsome form, Agent B's resolve held, and he struck the beast with the butt of his shotgun, cracking its skull wide open. It fell limply to the agent's feet.

As the beast breathed its last, a pair of shots - obviously from a small-caliber weapon - rang out from the corn, but none of the agents were struck. Agents B and C returned fire, but again their attacks were in vain.

The team crept forward, and again the well-armed agents in the lead fired blindly into the field. This time, their shots were answered by a cry and the heavy "thump" of a body falling to the ground.

Suddenly, a pair of robed figures rushed from the corn, the glint of steel in their hands. The lead agents fired, but their desperate shots failed to hit home. Agent C quickly dispatched his attacker with the butt of his SMG, but Agent B found himself locked in a life-or-death struggle. He cried out in shock as much as pain as the cultist sunk his teeth into his shoulder.

Before The Professor's group could move to help, a cry sounded from behind them and a pair of figures darted out from between the houses. They'd been outflanked by the Lurkers they had spied in the cemetery! Maggie fired at one of the attackers, but her shot went wide and she suddenly found herself staring into the wild eyes of a lunatic. Before she could react, the maniacal woman swung something at her that looked - strangely enough - like a teddy bear. Something inside the stuffed figure's form glinted in the moonlight, and when it fell the sting of steel biting into flesh came with it.

The other figure lurched into The Professor with its bony claws. The stench of rot was upon it, but The Professor was unaffected by it. He wrestled with the undead thing, but despite his best efforts it managed to sink its half-rotten teeth into his forearm.

Behind him, the maniac raised her teddy bear for another strike. This time, Maggie's blood hid the steely glint of the cleaver concealed within. That blood-stained bear was the last thing poor Maggie would ever see.

Meanwhile, Agent C moved to help Agent B. Stepping behind the robed cultist, he drew his Bowie knife and plunged it into the back of his neck. The cultist collapsed like a rag doll. The agent then moved to help The Professor, but the elderly man growled at him (as he struggled with the reanimated corpse): "Get out of here!"

Respecting their comrade's wish, the three members of Agent A's group darted down the road and disappeared into the night.

Denny moved to help The Professor, but the creature lashed out with a decayed hand and tore open a gash in the young man's chest. The Professor finally managed to reach his Bowie knife and quickly dispatched the undead thing - its half-rotted head rolled away into the shadows. Ahead of them, Dithers moved farther down the road and fired at the lone cultist that remained lurking behind the rows of corn. The robed figure fell dead.

With a maddening cackle the maniac leaped over Maggie's limp form and attacked The Professor, her blood-stained teddy bear cleaving a gash in his arm as he tried to fend her off. They struggled more, but neither could best the other.

Denny moved to help The Professor, but the maniac - with her insane strength - threw him to the ground and he struck his head. (When he awoke later, he was severely traumatized. He kept mumbling: "The monsters are coming! The monsters are coming!") The Professor buried his knife in the insane woman's side, but she only laughed at him. Dithers moved to help his friend, but The Professor waved him off.

"You must get clear of this accursed place!" the elderly man pleaded.

Reluctantly, Dithers turned and made for the edge of town. Behind him, the maniac wrestled The Professor to the ground and, with one final muffled blow from the teddy bear cleaver, the night went silent.

(The Professor and Denny would turn up later, in a doctor's office in the town of Kingsport. Recuperating nicely from his wounds, he regaled his surviving comrades with his tale, relating how he pretended to be dead and waited as the maniac moved to the other fallen bodies. She settled upon one of the bodies and began to strip the flesh and eat it. (He told them the body was that of one of the cultists, but in truth it was Maggie's.) While she was preoccupied, The Professor crawled to Denny's inert body and slowly dragged him into the night. He made it to the road several miles to the south, where a passing motorist found them and drove them to Kingsport.)

Unfortunately, the Threshold team failed to procure any of the map pieces they believed to be hidden within the town of Franklin Corners. Despite having exposed the cult's existence, The Professor couldn't help but feel that their mission had been a failure.

. . . . .

*Although there are no multi-player rules in SA, we had to accommodate four players. So we decided we would play our initial game with two Threshold and two Lurker players. Each Threshold player created a team with 15 build points. The Lurkers pooled their 15 build points each, and even though this left one of them with less than half as many models as the other, in the end the one with the fewer models was the only player with models alive on the table at the game's end. This simple multi-player house rule served perfectly for the scenario at hand.

Game Details (as best as I can recall them)

Threshold player 1 bought a character with Improved Command (a waste, since he later took his third agent off his roster in favor of more equipment), an agent with Ambush and a shotgun, and an agent with Ambush and a tommy gun.

Threshold player 2 (myself) bought a character with Improved Command, an agent with a Dexterity boost, an agent with Munitions Expert (IIRC) and dynamite, and an agent with Ambush and a double-barrel shotgun.

Lurker player 1 bought a cultist leader with a .22, a trio of cultists with knives, and a lone ghoul.

Lurker player 2 bought a maniac and a zombie, and the Plot Point (the name of which escapes me) that makes all of the Lurker humans cannibals, giving them crits on 4+ instead of 6 on the second die. (My fiancee - she loves her some crazy cannibals. Maybe I should be worried...)

As a side note: the maniac was portrayed in this game by a West Wind miniature in the form of a woman wielding a teddy bear high above her head. We've decided that this is none other than the grown-up version of little Zoe from Betrayal at House on the Hill. Poor little Zoe, so cute - so broken. (See the images to the right, each courtesy of their respective game publishers.)

Some Post-Game Thoughts

First: I love this game! It's easy to learn, fast to play, and really lends itself to character and story development. (It also reminds me a lot of my favorite Games Workshop game, Necromunda - only with cleaned-up, more-playable rules. This is a Very Good Thing.)

Some things that came up:

Weapon range: We felt that the limited weapon ranges are problematic. To that end, our group has decided to implement the following house rule: at 1/2 a weapon's range or less, attacks are at +1 to hit; at over and up to twice a weapon's range, attacks are at -2 to hit.

Ghouls: They should really be tougher to handle in close combat. I can see them being brought down by gunfire, but agents should be afraid to face them in close combat. With only 1 attack, they're far too easy for an agent to best in hand-to-hand. Just increasing their attacks score to 2 would suffice. (This has already been adapted as a house rule amongst our group.)

Lurkers: Really only one of my players strongly felt this way (she's the one who likes to play the monsters in games like this), but it would be nice if there was some system of development for them the same way there is for Threshold. I explained to her that this wasn't really the goal of the game, but I can see her point to an extent. Some sort of campaign rules for Lurkers would be nice, at least as an option to standard play.

Maniacs: If you're playing Threshold, stay far, far away from them - they're dangerous! (Especially in the hands of a player who's known to warp the dice-rolling bell curve toward the high end. Trust me on this, as I watched in horror as three of my Threshold team fell to one maniac.)

Dynamite: If you're planning on throwing it, make sure the character doing so has boosted Dexterity. Thanks to the range of thrown weapons, the radius of dynamite's effect, and the devious deviation rule that allows the enemy player to determine the direction of deviating dynamite, I found myself very reluctant to even attempt doing so. If my math was right, it panned out to a 67% chance that the blast would end up encompassing the character doing the throwing - and about a 50% chance that his comrades would also be in the blast radius. Let's just say I was not comfortable with those numbers...

Otherwise, Strange Aeons is a brilliant small-force skirmish game. I'd heartily recommend it to anyone who likes the genre.


A Hard Won Thing Scoreboard:

0 wins / 0 draws / 1 loss (but a fun one, none the less)

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Welcome to "A Hard Won Thing," my new blog focused on gaming with miniatures.

As with "A Rust Monster Ate My Sword," I plan to use this virtual space to share the materials I've created over the past three decades of gaming. (Well, technically that's two decades when it comes to wargames.) I also to hope to share the exploits of my miniature armies here - we'll just have to play that one by ear, though.

"Why 'A Hard Won Thing'?" you ask?

Well, it's because that basically describes any game I've won in the last 20 years. I love gaming with miniatures - constructing plans of battle, mulling over tactics, etc. - but when it comes to making those dice work for me, forget it. It's a real struggle for my little lead men to pull out a victory, thanks more to fickle Fortune than to any major tactical flaw.

In fact, I'm pretty certain I've not won a tabletop miniatures game in four or five years...

. . . . .