Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - Wow!!!

Castle Tilketl, in all of it's depressing squalor...

Well, here we are , having a very nice and very quiet holiday weekend. I have been a very busy boy, and here's the latest news from the front...

First off, I am surprised, amazed, and delighted to see what one of our regular readers has mentioned this little bit of puff pastry of a blog in a guest post on - of all places! - EN World:

I'm gobsmacked. I had no idea. He says very nice things about the kind of malarky and antics we get up to around here, and I am both pleased and humbled; I am startled to be included in with so many people in such a collection of creativity and imagination. All I do, I think, is put stuff on the table and tell stories. But, then, that may be what it's all about... :)

Welcome aboard!


I have been very busy on The Workbench; I have some of the new slingers from the Clan of the Silver Worm done, some of the City Guard / Sokatis infantry well on their way, some of the new (and indispensable!) bearers done, and a bunch of the new personalities and Lorun done. All from the incredible Howard Fielding, of The Tekumel Project, and I hope to have photos to post tomorrow.

I also have over thirty of the old Grenadier "Amazon Guard" figures in progress; these had originally been painted for the Aridani Legion of Lady Mrissa, but with the release of the new figures for this legion by The Tekumel Project I sent them to the stripping vats and am repainting them as a Mu'uglavyani legion from the Second Palace. They will make good mediums, with long spears, and I'll be able to keep some old favorite figures in service.


The game table has now been returned to the 'neutral' state, ready for the next game session where we'll be viewing two of Prof. Barker's favorite movies. I will be taking suggestions for our next 'micro-campaign' cycle...


The very good response to the idea of having a visit to Barsoom got me looking over the terrain stocks, and thinking. A while back, we played out our old adventure at Castle Tilketl, un on the Northwest Frontier, and I built both the castle and the hill it sits on. The castle was very successful as a model, and a lot of fun to build in all of it's unsanitary squalor. The hill, on the other hand, is a pain in the posterior; I don't like specific, dedicated terrain items on general principles - they are hard to store, hard to transport, and never get as much use as you'd like. I did make the hill out of lightweight expanded styrene 'beadboard' but while this cut the weight down to nothing it also meant that the thing is very fragile. I used some 18" wide by 8' long sections intended for use as home insulation, which helped with the storage and transport issues, but we never use the thing.

And, to be frank it's kinda useless as game scenery. The hill is flat, out to the edge of the little cliff that the castle sits on, so building it may have been a bit pointless. We never played the cliff; it's always been an 'up-and-over-the-wall' kind of thing.

So, I got to thinking about Barsoom, and the realization that I had coated the hill sections with a nice reddish stone finish. Hmmmm.... Looks Martian...

So, what I am going to do is break out the table saw and trim down the hill sections into the standard 9.5" tiles that I use on my new modular game table. This will give me a heap of tiles with a Barsoom-like look to them, and recycle an old game 'table' that wasn't getting any use.

Now, all I have to do is find the six bags of 'Martian' soil I had used originally...


More tomorrow! I'm on holiday, today!

Friday, August 29, 2014

An Update From The Missus, and The Galilean Moons...

These are them. 

The Missus saw her surgeon yesterday, and here's the latest update on her condition:


It's been two weeks since my lumpectomy, and I just had the post-op visit with my surgeon.

The good news is that they got all of the cancerous cells.  All of the edges/margins of the tissue removed were normal.

The bad news is that in one spot, less than 0.5mm in size, the cancer had invaded breast tissue outside of the duct.  So I officially have Stage 1 breast cancer.

And it means that there is a small chance (less than 10%) that the cancer may have spread to a lymph node.

So the next step is to do a sentinel lymph node biopsy.  It's outpatient surgery. What they do is inject dye and a radioactive tracer into the breast near the lumpectomy area and follow it to the first lymph node it reaches under my left arm.  They remove the lymph node and check it for cancer.

After that, I get to see an oncologist because the abnormal cells in the lump they removed grow faster in the presence of estrogen.  So we need to discuss ways to suppress estrogen, since I'm not pre-menopausal according to blood levels drawn this past summer. After that I get to see a radiation therapist to learn about the
radiation therapy, which will probably begin sometime in October.

I'll let you know when the biopsy is scheduled.

- The Missus

So, that's the latest. We'll try to keep you posted, but as always I have to be frank and say that aside from the Sunday updates, we may be a little irregular in our posts. But, we'll still be here...


This is, all things considered, pretty good news; it could have been much worse. However, early last week - before we got the pathology report that gave us the first inklings of this good news - I had what I have to say was just about the worst moment in my entire life. (And I include the night I effectively died, when I had my brain bleed.) In my long and eventful career, I've had a few really bad moments; the day Phil passed away, the day my dad passed away, finding out that I'd been betrayed by a supposedly close friend, crappy stuff like that. This was worse. Much, much worse...

The Missus had come back home after one of her numerous medical appointments, and had brought in a very nice telescope. Nothing huge, a three-inch refractor, but a very nice one that she''d found at an absurdly deep discount. (Clothing stores should not try to sell telescopes. Wrong market. In my opinion. Anyway...) So, happening to be up at the moment, I assembled the thing for her; back in my misspent youth, I had done a lot of field astronomy stuff, and hugely enjoyed it. I happened to mention the first time I'd seen the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, and The Missus mentioned that that was why she'd gotten the telescope...

"I'd like to see the moons of Jupiter, before I die."

Yes, my sweet; we will see the moons of Jupiter. I will pack you up, along with our set of binoculars and your brand new telescope, and we will go out into the deep dark of the starry night and have a look at the skies. I will, I hope, be able to show you all of the wonders that I have been taking for granted all these years; the stars, the planets, and all of the other objects out there in the void that have amazed and awed humans for ages. You will, I hope, be able to see the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Historical Interlude - 'Space' Campaigns in the Twin Cities...

I had one of these as a kid - it was wonderful!

A question came in from a Regular Reader, and I thought it deserved a longer reply:

Desert Scribe - August 24, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Thanks for the update, and I'm glad your wife is doing well.

Since you opened the floor to questions, I'll ask something:

Do you ever do any spaceship gaming, with or without miniatures? In addition to boardgames like Starfire and Starfleet Battles, there were several lines of minis that came out in the 1970s, including Stardate: 3000 and Starfleet Wars. [Note; he put links here, which you can get in his original comment.]

I'm into that type of gaming myself, especially the old Starfleet Wars line, using those rules and more modern rulesets like Full Thrust and Galactic Knights. Did you every play something like this back in the day, or more recently?

Oh, yes, very much so!!!

We were all "Star Trek" fans (1), of one sort or another, and we all saw "Star Wars" when it came out. We played all of the rules that you mentioned, and there's still quite a lot of interest in space battles to this day. I had all of the Gamescience plastic "Star Trek" ships, that were done from the pack of 'Starfleet blueprints' (I still have the packet, as well as all my old "Star Trek" books), as well as all of the ships from Valiant. A lot of the guys at the Little Tin bought the Superior ships, and there were many, many battles and campaigns fought there with them.

I did a number of battles with my ships, as well as a generic 'space campaign' and one based in the "Star Wars" setting. We mixed ground actions with space battles; Larry Bond (2) scratch-built a landing boat, ala "Starship Troopers" for our "Starguard" games, and we played a lot of Marc Ratner's "space Marines" as well. H. Beam Piper's "Space Vikings" was also a popular setting for games, and I had a lot of fun painting up Ping-Pong balls in the liveries of the ships in the book - all of them are spheres, so it made making the models very easy.

Most of were also 'wet navy' gamers, and a lot of our space battles played like they were using "Fight In The Skies" (for fighter vs. fighter games) and naval games like "Clear For Action". "Space Vikings" games were a lot like pre-dreadnought battles - you dropped into orbit alongside the opposition, and blasted away with everything you had. My "Star Wars" campaign featured both space combat and ground action - I did the floor plan for the Rebel blockade runner from the pack of "Star Wars" blueprints I'd gotten from Lucas Films, and then did the Death Star's as a set of 'tiles'. We had a great time romping around in them - figures were either Archive, McEwan, or conversions. Space battles were done with model kits, suitably modified, or reasonable proxy ships from various manufacturers. The chase down the Death Star trench - down a set of eight 4' x 4' modular tiles - was done with Valiant 'X-' and 'Y-wings', and Superior 'TIE' fighters. Everything else had to be made from scratch, and on occasion I would get carried away; for the boarding action with the rebel blockade runner, I built the little ship at about 3" long, and then built the Imperial Star Destroyer to scale. It came out at about three feet long, and yes, I made the engines to light up.

One of the problems that we had with campaign games was that we didn't have a set of rules that addressed landing actions; we needed a set of rules that would do both kinds of games, and relatively seamlessly. Mike Mornard had been working with Gordy Dickson (3)on a set of rules set in Gordy's "Dorsai" universe, and we used these - "Planetfall". These rules worked very well - and this is important! - they were fully three-dimensional space combat. One specified course and speed of one's ship, and the attitude in space: you specified the ship attitude in the 'X', 'Y', and 'Z' axis. (Pitch, yaw, and roll, to be precise.) Height above and/or below the table surface was also specified; the table top represented a 'relative plane in space'.

This resulted what I think is the very best battle I ever played. I was one fleet, taking on Fred Funk as the other. Playing Fred was not a casual pastime - he was very, very good, and was an experienced wet-navy gamer. he came on the table at plus/minus zero relative, and 000-000-000. So far, standard tactics. I came on at plus fifteen relative, at 315-000-000. Mike Mornard, who was the referee, nearly had a stroke - we were using written orders, and he know instantly what I was doing. I had started 'high', above the plane of the table, and was 'diving' down on Fred - all per the famous "Dicta Boelcke"; some things never change. Fred blasted away at my ships, but I had my deflectors on 'full front' and took some damage - nothing serious. I didn't fire, much to Fred's surprise.

My ships 'dove' through Fred's fleet, and then I ordered a delta-v manuver to decelerate and then accelerate to match Fred's speed; as soon as this was done, I did a 'pitch-up' to bring my ships' weapons to bear on the unprotected sterns of Fred's fleet - he'd had his deflectors on 'full front' as well, which I had guessed he was going to do...


It was glorious. We sent out for pizza as Mike rolled dice for what seemed ages. I was gracious in victory, and offered to tow Fred's fleet home...

In all due fairness to Fred, he allowed that he sound have read the rules before the game; I offered to replay the game, but Fred - a true sportsman! - declined and simply announced that he was going off to Flight School in order to learn how to really fight space battles. And he did, too - I played quite a few very fun training games with him on my table. A number of asteroids and trainers got bashed up, but hey - that's what Flight School is for. To help Fred visualize three-dimensional angles, I took three 360-degree protractors, cut them up, and then glued them back together to make a three-dimensional protractor for him; he took to this right away, and refined the concept by adding three pipe cleaners to indicate the attitude setting os the ship. Worked like a charm, too.

Footnotes  ( 'cause this is supposedly a serious and respectable blog):

(1) I am a Starfleet officer with the rank of Fleet Captain, with a date of rank of August, 1968. Back in those far-off days in Trek fandom, you sent your money off to Gene Roddenberry's merchandising company - Lincoln Enterprises - and you'd get back a nice certificate signed by Himself making you a Starfleet officer. I did, and I still have the thing around the house someplace - maybe it's with my phaser and communicator...

(2) Yes, that Larry Bond. Author of "Harpoon", friend of Tom Clancy, and author of a whole lot of books in the 'techno-thriller' genre. Local gamer, back in those days, as was his brother Jim. You can guess what they liked to do, when they first met you...

(3) Local author, Gordon R. Dickson. Hugos, Nebulas, Gandalfs; season to taste. Wonderful guy, too. I once got a bottle of Drambuie from him for saving his books from drowning. But that's a story for another time...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 24th, 2014 - Mayhem On The Table, And Life Goes On...

"Hey! Those guys have bows!"
As seems to be the norm, these days, the update about The Missus' health leads today's update. She's doing well, healing nicely, and goes in this coming Thursday to get the results from the surgery. After that, it's radiation time; she'll get a week of it to start with, and we'll go from there. She'd like to thank everyone who's written, e-mailed, commented, or dropped by to let her know that they are thinking of her - she really appreciates it! And, everyone, so do I!


We played the final game in the current 'micro-campaign' cycle yesterday, and it was a fun romp in the jungle. We play-tested the informal modifications to my usual rules that I had come up with for my Barsoomian adventurers, and a good time was had by all. Except, that is, for John Carter, who got nailed with an arrow by one of Lady Djel's guards and had to be carried off by the incomparable Dejah Thoris for some first aid.

We laughed ourselves silly, we did.


Due my football schedule in September, we're going to have a 'movie day' on the second Saturday of the month; on the marquee are "Thief of Baghdad" - 1927 (with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.) and "Thief of Baghdad - 1936 (with the lovely June Duprez as Princess Ma'in Krythai hi Tlakotani). Both movies are ones that Phil said he saw when he was a kid, and had a lot of fun with. Both are a treat to watch, and are the sort of thing that any player-character (or GM) can use for inspiration.


We'll be starting another 'micro-campaign' cycle in late September, and I am taking suggestions. These will be my usual Braunstein-style games, role-playing and miniatures all mixed up in a blender; these seem to be popular with folks.

It was mooted yesterday that we might want to visit the mysterious Pyramids of Mars, to ferret out the mysteries therein, and I'm kinda big on this. Anyone fancy a trip to Barsoom?


I also want to take a moment to thank everyone who's commented or e-mailed me about what I do around here; thank you, all of you, and I really appreciate your interest and your kind words!

Please do fee free to ask me about stuff - it's what I'm here for!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - An Update On The Missus, and The Manifesto Of Divine Deliverance

Just another day at Anch'ke...

Well, we survived this past week. The Missus' surgery appointments took all day, due to delays at the hospital, and we were out there for a good ten hours. She came through just fine, I am happy to report - sore and bruised, but doing quite well. The doctors kept her oxygen saturations well up, and she was pretty lucid after the surgery appointments.

The surgeon felt pretty confident that he got the bad tissues out, and we'll know more when the pathology reports come back later this week. She's off to radiation in the coming weeks, but we still don't know if she's going to need chemotherapy. We're keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping for the best!

And thank you all, from the both of us, for all your comments, e-mails, and messages!!! They are really appreciated!!!


I am way behind on e-mails, due to having to be in multiple places at once all week long - I had to get Middle Daughter out to the airport the same day as The Missus' surgery, for example - but I will try to get caught up with everyone in the next few days. Thanks for your patience!!! (It has been a very long week...)


One of the things sitting in a hospital waiting room provides is a lot of time to think. Yes, I brought a book, but at my usual 2,000 words-per-minute reading speed they just don't last very long. (Add in the worry factor, and it gets to be a very long day.) If you don't mind, Gentle Readers, I'd like to share some of my thoughts with all of you, for your considerations and comments...

It's been about a dozen years since I started the current incarnation of my gaming group, and I have been giving a lot of thought as to where we've been, what we've done, and where we might be going. The idea, back when, was to try and recreate what we had for some dozen-plus years out at Phil's where we explored his world and had a lot of fun. I don't know if we succeeded; you'll have to look at the photos and videos I've posted, and judge for yourself.

About five years go, I start to post on various gaming groups on the Internet, in an effort to do 'outreach' to people, and also to start this little blog to do the same. I also extended invitations to the local gamers, especially the local 'indie' authors, to join us and have some fun in Phil's world-setting. On balance, some five years on, I think the effort has largely been an utter failure. The style of gaming that I do, the same thing we did for years at Conflict Simulation Association meetings and at Phil's, is - from what I gather - not the right way to game. I have been described as one of those "filthy story-gamers", people who have ruined the RPG hobby for everyone else. I'm also not 'old-school' enough, as I don't play any of the modern games that are being promoted as being the best possible play experience as they properly simulate the game-play and play styles of The Great Gods of our hobby; my personal favorite Internet exchange on this was when Mike Mornard, one of Gary's original players, was criticised for not playing game 'X', as it was the best possible simulation of OD&D. The Glorious General pointed out that as he played OD&D in his group, why did he need to play one of the new 'retro-clones', and was chastised for not being 'old-school' enough by all of the 'old-school' people on the forum.

Ah, right. I play 'Tekumel', the way Phil did it, and I make no apologies about that. I still enjoy it, and I am continually startled by the people who told me over the years that I am DOING IT RONG!. Well, O.K., but I'm still going to play the games I want to play; I'll certainly be happy to look at new games, and I'm especially delighted to see how some very good people have adapted their favorite rules sets to work in Phil's world - keep them coming, folks, I really enjoy looking at your work!!! - and how they enjoy playing in his creation.

What I have not appreciated getting are e-mails like this one:

"You and your gaming group are a detriment to our business interests"


"You are unfit to represent our Tekumel"


"Why do you insist on using miniatures? Gary Gygax said that we don't use miniatures in RPGs!" (1)


"Why do you still use all those old rules? Why don't you use something new?"


"Tekumel is stupid! I don't want to play anything where I have to learn anything so complicated!"

"Don't talk to 'X'; they are politically incorrect, and if you do I'll boycott your games and bad-mouth you all over the place!"

I've got heaps more stuff like this in my files - I do keep everything in my archives, for later... - and every now and then I go back and read through the files to remind me why I don't do some things that I used to. Between The Missus' health issues, my own health issues after the brain bleed, and my inability to suffer fools gladly (as Mike Mornard said when somebody asked him why I am "so difficult to work with"), I don't have time for this kind of nonsense. I can either write and paint, or feed the swollen egos of some very self-important people.

You get one guess as to which one I'm picking, people.

I will be continuing to game, to write about Phil's world and the adventures we had therein, and paint up my little actors in my miniature stage productions. I will continue to keep you all informed as to what sort of hijinks I get up to in the game room, and you are welcome to come along for the ride if you like - you are not being compelled to do things The Right Way; you are being invited to have a look at what I do, and if you want to take something away for your own games, please do feel free! For me, that's what it's all about, and what I've been doing for all these years.

Have fun, and play some games, eh?

Footnote (1): What Gary said, at least to me, was "Keep your hands off my Elastolins - they break easy, and they're hard to replace!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

And Now, A Word From The Missus

Over on her Facebook page, The Missus has updated her status:

 "Those who know me know that I am not comfortable in the spotlight.  I much prefer staying in the background and helping put on the show, not star in it.  Now I feel I must step up on a soapbox and tell all of my female friends to make sure they get their annual mammogram.  I almost didn't get one this year, and that might have been a fatal mistake.  Yep, after my mammogram this year, I was told they'd discovered calcium deposits in my left breast and I needed a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound.  After determining that the calcium was considered "microcalcifications" I had to get a biopsy.  The finding was "ductal carcinoma in situ" or DCIS.  The surgeon considers this a "pre cancerous" condition.  This is good because it is localized and probably has not spread.  Had I waited a year, the outcome would not be as good.  The treatment is surgery to remove the affected tissue (a lumpectomy), then radiation therapy.  I have the surgery this week, then have to heal before starting radiation.  Needless to say, I won't be skipping any mammograms in the future!  Finally, on a different note, RIP Robin Williams.  I know all too well how crippling depression can be, and can only hope that the publicity surrounding Robin's death will make others get help before they contemplate suicide."

Thank you, my sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 10th - Bad News From The Source Comics and Games

From the archives - The Source, D&D Day some years back...
I'm very sorry to have to report that one of the co-owners of The Source Comics and Games passed away on Friday. It was quite unexpected, and I can only refer you to the announcement on the store's website:

Our thoughts here at The Workbench go out to his family and all our friends at The Source...



In other news, The Missus goes in for her surgery the middle of this week; it's the same day Middle Daughter goes back to her home in Zurich, so I will be in multiple places at once. So it goes; we gotta do what we gotta do...


In an attempt to have some cheery news today, I am happy to report that the little LED-lit domes that I used in the night game we did a while back (see also the Photobucket page for the "Then Darkeness Fell" game photos - link to the left, at the bottom of the column) are now on sale at IKEA as part of their end-of-summer clearance of the 'seasonal' items. These are the SOLVINDEN LED lights, and we were able to snaffle quite a few packs of the lights at three of $1.99 - something like more then half off. Our local IKEA had yellow and white domes left from the sale, which is perfect for our games as these work very well for simulating lanterns and 'Create Light' spells for our little lead people.

As part of the same sale, we also got some packs of the conical LED lights from the same series. These have either red or blue bases, and white conical tops that are lit from within by the battery-powered LEDs. They come three to a pack, use the same batteries as the domes, and we think that they will make great markers for spells or fires in night games - they look very different then the little domes, and really stand out in the dark when lit.

I'll post photos, when I can get some free time; this is going to be a very busy week...

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Braunstein Interlude - Maps And Campaigns

An old photo, from the archives...

If people wouldn't mind, might I talk for a little bit about maps and campaigns?

This short interlude has been prompted by the comments by several of you on the recent post about campaign games. As I mentioned then, the usual thing for games here in the Twin Cities back in the 1970s and early 1980s was for somebody to announce that they were going to run a campaign based in some period, and people could sign up. This applied to both miniatures and to board games, and later on to role-playing games.

Players would sign up to be anything from small unit / faction / warband leaders to kings and princes controlling small(ish) states. This principle was later (again, I'm speaking from my perch in time, back in the 1970s) enshrined in the idea of the 'domain game' in D & D, where the party / player-character would aspire to run their own fief.

These campaign games - so-called because of the 'campaign season' in our world settings, usually the spring and summer months in our worlds - were springboards to adventures of all kinds. We used them to run games both big and small; we were only limited by the resources that we could bring to bear. Now, I like doing miniatures and models, so I quite often would set up campaigns where I would provide all of the 'means', and the players would provide the 'manpower'. Players would hand me their written orders, usually once a week, and I would use these to set up the next week's game at the Little Tin Soldier Shoppe or at CSA meetings.

For example, I ran a space campaign set in the universe of the book "Handbook For Space Pioneers" (which is still available from Amazon, by the way) and using the "Starguard" figures in my collection for the ground battles; battles were fought out with Mike Mornard's "Planetfall" rules. This was a multi-player game, with something like a dozen players running different factions, and their plots, plans, and general skullduggery are what drove the games we played.

Prof. Barker's Tekumel campaign was played out on both a larger and a smaller scale. We fought map-based campaigns, such as the Northwest and Northeast Frontier campaigns, and then played out our personal adventures in those military campaigns. I spent a lot of time, for example, fighting what you could call 'skirmish' actions with our party of player-characters out in front of the main army doing scouting and mapping work, and having to fight off both our foes, the locals, and the wildlife. (Book Two of "To Serve The Petal Throne" covers this period in my career in some detail.) Similarly, when we played the Hekellu 'mini-campaign', we played the middle-level managers of the province and the attached frontier protectorate; for us, this was the exact equivalent of the D & D 'domain' game.

We collected maps from a great many sources, and use them in our games as we needed them We played one NATO-Warsaw Pact game, for example, using detailed survey maps of Southern Minnesota - my goal, as the commander of the Soviet forces, was to get my motor-rifle division from Red Wing to Rochester. The defenders were on the Minnesota side of the river, and were supposed to try and stop us. we had a lot of fun, poring over the maps, and it was a very fun campaign; all of our movements were plotted on the maps by the referee / GM, and our encounters (sound familiar?) would lead to all sorts of small actions. The terrain we were in determined the scenery on the tabletop, and it was a considerable point of pride to be able to translate what was on the map into stuff on the table.

The model rail supplies of the local hobby shops took a fearful beating, in our battles; I shudder to think just how many of the 'Life-Like' brand of trees and shrubs went to wrack and ruin in our games.

A lot of our RPG games also used 'real-world' maps - Mike Mornard ran a medieval game set in England during the Wars of the Roses, and we fought for control over the villages and manors of High, Middle, and Low And Behold. The Slaughters also saw a lot of, well, slaughter. (Dorset and Wiltshire, if you must know. See also The Ampneys, in the Cotswolds.) Small scale maps were also used - we collected a lot of town and village maps, and more then one part of player-characters fought it out with the orcs in some otherwise peaceful village in rural England or Wales.

Our Tekumel adventures, of course, took place in Phil's creation, and he simply loved to draw maps. We had everything from the epic large-scale maps of the Five Empires down to the plans and maps of local buildings; the 'Fortress Chalukolumel mini-campaign' was based first on the Northwest Frontier maps, and then on the plans of the fortress itself drawn by Ken Fletcher from Phil's notes and rough sketch. The battles for Castle Tilketl, up to the northeast of Khirgar, were done the same way - and I eventually built the castle in miniature for our 28mm figures to fight over.

I think what I am trying to says, with all of this, is that maps and campaign settings can do a lot for your games and campaigns. Use them as a sort of game aid to turn your imagination loose, and I think you'll have a lot of fun - I know we did!

Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Braunstein - A Question From Ed

Vrisa and Chirine discover why Harchar's 'package cruises' are so cheap...

Here's another question from you, Gentle Readers; Ed writes:

edowarsblogAugust 4, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Chirine, thank you for the series of posts on Braunstein style games. I've only recently heard about this style of game and I find it quite fascinating. I'd very much like to run such a game sometime, whenever I can find enough space to set one up.

It sounds like most Braunsteins are scenario driven events, but have you any experience running an ongoing campaign-style game? Perhaps something where players represent entire kingdoms instead of small groups? I'm just curious whether a Braunstein format would be suitable for such a game. Thank you.

You're welcome! We do a lot of specific scenarios for Braunsteins, mostly because it is simply easier to do the larger 'public' events that way.

Yes, I do have a lot of experience with running these as part of a larger campaign; it's the way we used to do campaigns here in the Twin Cities in the 1970s and 1980s, usually at either The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe or at Conflict Simulation Association meetings at Coffman Union. There would be an over-all referee / GM - called a 'controller', in Tony Bath's book on how to run these campaigns - and players would pick a country to play. After that, it was up to them to run their little nations, to raise their armies, and get into trouble.

There was a very popular game out at that time called "Diplomacy", and this - with "Kingmaker" - was the basis of many fun campaigns. The players would send each other notes, and get together in the back corners during games to negotiate and plot with each other. Quite a few deals were made in Coffman's stairwells, for example.

The over-all Braunstein approach to the campaign would generate some wonderful miniatures games, and these in turn would be Braunsteins of their own. The national commanders of the various armies involved would have to recruit the other players to be their subordinate commanders on the table, and this process was fraught with peril - could you trust the guy not to do something that would mess you over, but benefit his country?

It was delightful, really. Think the battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard the Third found out just how far he could trust the Stanleys - NOT! - and many other real-world battles. Working from this, Phil did his own campaign setting, "Megarra", and this had all of the same elements of the classic Braunstein that the table-top battle version had.

Campaign games are fun, and I think you'd really enjoy this!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - Daughters, Doctors, And Diversions

A Hlyss'-eye-view of Capt. Harchar's luncheon buffet

Here we are, another week gone before the start of the Twin Cities' football season - I am not talking about the real thing, but rather the game played in the Good Old USA - and I will be working a lot of overtime in the nxet few months as we have the local NFL team in my employer's stadium for the next two tears. Their season runs from August 8th to December 28th, so reporting from hereabouts may get a little spotty - it all depends on the random nature of my sleep schedule.


Fourth Daughter is in the middle of her visit, and reports that the facilities in the Chamber of the Daughters are satisfactory. The new paint scheme has met with her approval, as have the soft cushions and comfy chair. She reports that the three cardinals talking in funny voices are a little distracting, but then - wait for it! - she wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition!

The figures of which, by the way, are available from:

Go ahead. You know you want to.


And a big thank-you to every one who had called, e-mailed, and commented on The Missus' health! She really appreciates the kind words and thoughts, and asked me to thank all of you.

Her surgery is scheduled for next week, and then she's getting a week of radiation therapy. She had her pre-op physical this past week, and we had a scare over a potential heart murmur; still no hard news on this, but we're hoping that it's nothing serious. Likewise another set of biopsies for another set of issues came back negative, so we only have to deal with one major crisis - and several minor ones, but we're used to that.


I am coming down off a summer cold, but the good news is that my right hand is almost back to full functionality. The little finger is in excellent shape, and the swelling in the ring finger is really down - I can now grab objects with it, as well as bend it, and the numbness is now almost completely gone. As a result, I am now getting caught up with things, like my writing and miniatures work, and I am almost back up to my usual speeds at both. I'm very pleased, If I may say so; having gotten the fingers crushed was both annoying and painful!

It does not help, of course, that I am both dyslexic and ambidextrous. It simply makes things funnier, like when the doctors would come in when I was in the hospital to ask me which hand they were holding up. I'd say "That one", they'd get all worried, and The Missus would have to explain that I don't really have a 'left' and 'right'. "Try 'port' and 'starboard'," she suggested, "he understands those..."


My little series of essays on how I run my Braunstein games is moving along nicely, if I say so myself. Lots of very good questions from all of you, and I am really enjoying trying to give answers to them for you.

It's an arcane art form, admittedly, but I enjoy it - it's a fun way to game!


Howard Fielding, he of The Tekumel Project, has announced that the Legion of the Sapphire Kirtle is off at the casters and will be available later this fall. Please - use the link in the left-hand column and take a look! Thanks!


Speaking of Howard, I have gotten the Lorun 'Sacrifice' group all painted up - I'd better get you some photos, eh?


Brett Slocum is looking for event submissions for a Tekumel gaming track at the Twin Cities' game convention, Con of the North, which is held here every spring. You can find his announcement on Google+, this morning.


You know, I think that's all the news. Back to Braunstein, then...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Braunstein - More Of Your Questions!

Another quiet day on the Loshomon Canal

Thank you for your questions! Let me see if I can't try to answer them for you...

Desert Scribe July 31, 2014 at 12:22 AM

Any suggestions for doing a Braunstein space combat game? I have a few ideas for a multiplayer scenario, but with most spaceship rules I'm worried that players who lose initiative will get bored waiting to move or will get blown up before they can move.

Oh, wow!!! I'd love to be there for this!!! My thought for you is to use the system I've used to great effect for 'initiative'; instead of the usual "roll for move / countermove", have everyone roll percentile dice and then they move in order of the dice rolls - in practice, this means that all of the players hang around the table waiting with baited breath to see what the other players are doing. That takes care of the movement phase. Next, do all of the combat resolution at the same time - I do this to reinforce the mental concept that everything happening in the table is simultaneous.  I'd try this out in a small game first, and see what happens. Let me know - we'll think of something!

I'd also allow for the players to be able to signal each other somehow - the actual technology will be based on the setting, of course! - as you want the players to be able to bribe, cajole, persuade, and otherwise connive and plot with each other. A truly fiendish referree / GM would hand the players small pocket mirrors, so they could send signals to each other across the table with heliographs...

(As an example of this, I once ran a naval game set in Tekumel where the players had to pull alongside each other's ships to be able to talk normally. Otherwise, they had a set of the little plastic map flags on a wire to signal each other, as well as whistles and hand-waving. You can imagine what happened...)

Tim Knight July 31, 2014 at 9:54 AM

In the game you have been using an example, what are the choices of spells? Does each mage just get the one spell or does he have an arsenal to call upon?

They each get a selection - I bring along a copy of "Empire of the Petal Throne" to my Tekumel-based games and let the players choose their own spells. It's much funnier, that way.

I also use the plastic templates for spells - the longer one for the ranged spells, and the circular ones for the 'local area effect' ones. That way, there's no confusion over who gets hit by what. If they cross the streams - overlapping templates - I make 'em roll for the effects of doing so. Again, it's funnier that way.

dervishdelver July 31, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Chirine, I was hoping you might talk a little about the actions that take place in a Braunstein. This question may seem a little off target, but in traditional wargames the rules (more specifically, the turn) dictates what can happen when. It usually revolves around move, missiles, melee, and morale. Since Braunsteins are more based on player interaction, there must be some form to the game that encourages it. I'm thinking dialogue, subterfuge, and alliances here. Thing that move beyond a traditional wargame. When and how does this take place in the game?

Great question!

The plotting, conniving, wheeling and dealing, bribery, and general chaos happen all the time in the game. There is no specific 'phase' in the turn order for it, as it happens naturally all during the game. (And in the restrooms, too.) As the referree / GM, you will have no control over this whatsoever in the course of the game. Once the players figure out that they can do this kind of thing - you told them that they could in your introduction to the game, remember - they will go off and do this every time they get a spare second or three. It tends to happen most during the movement phase, when you have players waiting to take their turn to move their figures - I use the egg timers to speed this up, by the way - and the old proverb about "idle hands" really applies here. In my time, the players get up to the most mischief during movement.

I generally run things as 'move', 'missile fire', 'melee', 'magic', 'other actions as needed'; you do have to stay loose, stay flexible, and deal with the situation as it changes. It's utter chaos, more then anything else, and you as referree / GM simply hope to ride the shockwave a the game builds up momentum. Braunsteins are more like an out-of-control roller coaster then wargames / RPGs; about all you can do is hang on and try to stay in your seat as the players romp around.

You will have no control over the 'table talk' all you can do is clearly state that if two players are handing something over to each other, they have to have two figures in base-to-base contact. The entire rest of the game, stay alert and watch your back - they'll be getting up to all sorts of things in the corners.

And that's what makes a Braunstein a Braunstein... :)

welbo July 31, 2014 at 8:08 PM

thanks for the series.
So (given that the Braunstein involves players resolving competing goals) some of those goals are mutually compatible and some are mutually incompatible.
do you have any advice for how many of each makes for a good game? 

Do you start with a situation (e.g., shipwrecked sisters), then add particular types of goals? ... and how does the number of players interact with their number and type?
Any rules of thumb ?

Right! Two good questions!

1) I like to give each faction a common goal that they share with a number of the others - but not all! - as well as an individual goal that's unique to them. I normally use no more then three goals per faction total, and more usually just two, in order to keep things as simple as possible and as uncomplicated as possible. More complication makes for slower games, and you want to avoid that like anything.

2) Yes. I come up with an idea for the game scenario, and then work up the goals from that. I prefer to have a basic premise, and then add in the details based on that.

More players adds to the fun, as they get more diverse goals and they get into more mischief. I think the minimum number is about four, and this can be one vs. three like in the Underworld game I did recently. This was a 'defender' vs. three 'attackers' scenario, and the fun was in watching the three other players wheel and deal with each other for help and aid.

I also try to keep the factions as simple and straightforward as possible; again, complication take time and slows down the flow of the game play. I also make the factions as easy to use as possible, with as little complication and detail in the make-up of the various parties as possible. I give each faction a balanced little (15 to 20 figures each) force, and I make sure that it's easy to use on the table.

I think I got everyone's question - does this help? Looking forward to more questions, too!