Monday, May 22, 2017

Youtube Channel Saga Thorsday

Via Studio Tomahawk forums I found Wisco Horndog and his Saga Thorsday videos. I have been playing Saga for over 3 years ... 4 years? ... and consider myself experienced. I'm not tooting my horn or anything but I've quite a few Saga games under my belt though I can always use more experience. On top of that I never felt very good at "figuring out" any rule set until I am running it for years (Dungeons and Dragons 3.x for example). Still, time in and reading other opinions about something is the combo I need to learn something. I used to suck at it, now I think I am an OK player and would not feel completely outclassed at a tournament.

Most Saga videos, over the years, have been really basic; unboxings and tabletop reviews. Frankly I hate those kinds of reviews for anything. Nothing is more of a waste of time to me than a review where somebody videos a new and shiny item they just got in the mail and surmise things it could do.

Where was Wisco Horndog (funny fuggin name) 3 years ago!?! Wow! This guy and his guests really do a good job of breaking things down, the Saga battle boards that is.

That brings me to a point I'd like to make and an epiphany I had and have discussed face to face wit ha few others. First, as I have mentioned before, my first 2 games in the genre of Historical Wargames was All the King's Men (in 54mm) and then Saga. I got into other games later. I kind of dove into Historicals feet first and with little knowledge of the generations the hobby has been around and it's history, sacred cows, and traditions. I'm learning about the nuances of the hobby and it's culture as I type this here blog entry.

Bare with me here...

Saga is not a historical wargame. Please, take this statement as just that, a statement. I mean no offense, I also do not mean to attract haters of the game in some shark-frenzy.

It's got historical trappings - Dark Ages, figures in nasal helms and hauberks with spears and shields. They are called Norman and Norse Gael and Anglo Saxons. They have specific boards that have abilities that are congruent to the mythology of the culture named. Pagan Rus are connected to the cold Russian steppes so have all kinds of winter abilities. Byzantines are the Eastern Romans and have a military system to match thus Saga board abilities that match that. The diaspora of Vikings is a fast-moving and aggressive force and their battle board replicates that rather well in my opinion.

BUT ... it plays more like a typical War-Ham-Ma-Hordes game. It at least leans that way. It's "fiddly" and there are distinct tactics you should be playing depending on the war-band you are playing. Not being aggressive with Vikings? You'll fold real fast. Charging straight in with your Bretons? You'll probably get crushed.

Further - Saga is not a beer and pretzels game. It kind of acts like one. Games are under 2 hours most of the time. Small-ish board and not a ton of terrain needed. Around 40 figures per side. Easy to get said figures as there is no exclusive line.

BUT... there are objectives, figure removal, scores, you can pull an ability combo at the right time and change the course of the game so there is some gaminess. One can torque and tinker with a build to exploit certain rules if so inclined.

To me, and in my small amount of experience in wargaming, that is not a beer and pretzel game like Lion Rampant can be. Like many other games I have not experienced can be. You can get a game in under 2 hours though, that's really easy for some experienced players.

On that note, and to bring back around full circle, that's why I love Rodge "Wisco Horndog" and his Saga Thorsday videos. He tells you what the function of a specific Saga Battle Board is and unpacks it to it's core and, since he's a War-Ham-Ma-Hordes guy (and I assuming, I know very little about him really) he can break down Saga like that.

If you are inexperienced I recommend his videos as he and his guests go over a war-band's battle board, some abilities gets a "JUICY" comment, and that indicates to you it's something you should be doing while playing. He boils it down much better than I could ever do I think.

Brings me to the point regarding my discovery a few years ago about finding the "rice" to you battle board... the ability that only costs you a common or uncommon dice and you should load up every round (other than the ability almost all war bands has that increases your attack pool). Here is a partial list off the top of my head from my own experience:
Vikings - Ulr
Normans - maybe Gallop
Pagan Rus - Standing Like Bears
Norse Gaels and Bretons - not sure yet
Scots - Hold the Ground and Counter-Attack

Why do it this way? It speeds up the game #1 (a complaint about Saga I have seen - people take a long time pondering the battle board allocating Saga dice). It also gives you a base tactic that all other tactics will play off of. This helps me focus myself and speeds up the game for me.

Anyways, most of you are getting ready for Enfilade 2017 as I post this so I'll cut it here. If you like Saga give Saga Thorsday a good watch and, even if you are expereinced, you may learn a thing or 2. I sure did.

See you at Enfilade. If not, have a good weekend, Memorial Day is for those that passed before us, and I hope to run into you soon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shield and Spear – Portland Saga Tournament 2017

In October 2017 I am hosting a Saga tournament. 11:00 – 6:00, Saturday October 14th, at Guardian Games in The Level Up room upstairs above The Critical Sip.

Entry fee is a $5-$20 donation going to Horns for theHomeless, a non-profit I have been working with this year. Also accepted are new(ish) outdoor gear like socks and gloves, tents and tarps, backpacks and sleeping bags.

Some tournament rules:
Dark Ages, Crescent and Cross, Arthur and Aetius war bands allowed.
Bring 7 points for your war band; you will be playing 6 points per game.
Scenario based score, 3-2-1 (win-draw-lose) scoring – no slaughter points.
Swiss Bracket; tie-breaker will be strength of schedule.
Scenarios will be revealed day of tourney; all of them will be from Core and Crescent and Cross books.
I will be playing if there is an odd number of players – I cannot win anything but I will play my best.

This is the basics for now – I might have a painting contest and I am working on prizes from local vendors or individuals only as I want to support my local gaming suppliers.

Since it’s still pre-Enfilade, no need to RSVP but I’d like that to happen. Keep up with news and developments here and on Portland Historical Wargames Facebook page.

Also you will find this advertised on the Ambuscade! blog:

I will also be handing out small handbills that look the same as the Ambuscade! post at Enfilade this year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Guardian Games

Guardian Games is my Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). I’m lucky to live in a growing city that offers me a few choices like Red Castle in SE Portland in Foster-Powell and Portland Game Store in N Portland on Killingsworth, which interestingly enough are both located in neighborhoods I lived in the past… and if I still lived there they would be where you found me all the time.

Alas, Guardian is HUGE comparably. They also have some historical products on the shelves though they have a bit of almost anything I could ever want gaming-wise: Historical miniatures, Osprey books, paint and craft supplies, fantasy and sci-fi miniatures, any boardgame I could ever dream of, Dungeons and Dragons and pretty much any other RPG, even some video games for my PS4. The one thing they offer that I partake of mostly is a gaming space. Red Castle and Portland Game Store do too but Guardian has, like product, a huge range.

The reason why this is important to me is that I live, with my small family, in a small apartment. We do not have the space for me to run an RPG or wargame. One goal I have in life is to have a home that has a garage/basement/extra room/backyard I can put a nice shed in with a big table and shelves for gaming.

Guardian’s space offers me:
·         A walk-in table for any kind of pick-up game, let’s say on a Wednesday night I want to play Tanks with Jeff… we’d just go meet at Guardian.
·         Reservations for any small event, either in the general area or in The Critical Sip where beer can be bought. This is typically how we do Portland Historical Wargaming monthly games. It’s free.
·         I can also reserve a game room, from 4 people to 40 people. These do cost money. Ambuscade and my Saga tournaments are usually up in the Level-Up room that has a capacity of 60 people (though that would be tight).

Like I mention above, you can buy a beer in The Critical Sip. You can also buy snacks of all kinds, wine, cider, mead, Slime Jims, and a Coke. On top of that many places will deliver food there and on weekends a burrito truck will park in the parking lot. If that does not suit you there are many restaurants within walking distance, Bunk Sandwiches being one of my favorites.

A little bit about them selling beer:
Here in Oregon our alcohol sales (and now cannabis) is regulated by a state agency called the Oregon Liquor Control Commission aka OLCC. Not to get too much into how I feel about them the OLCC is very strict and complicated. To sell beer you must open yourselves to regulation by the OLCC. Typically this is done by bars and restaurants and convenience stores. Other places could sell beer too but it is just too much of a hassle for a place to sell beer if selling that beer is not your focus … like a game store.

I worked as a bouncer at many places over the years, almost all of those place selling alcohol thus under the scrutiny of the OLCC. Further, in the late 00s security at establishments licensed to sell alcohol had to also get an OLCC card like a bartender would. I’m not sure if that was legally mandated or just suggested. One of the things I was constantly on the lookout for was OLCC agents setting up stings and sending in people with fake IDs or getting served without showing an ID, there being no “you look old enough” law. The law, as I knew it since the early 00s was that a person old enough to drink in an establishment must have satisfactory proof of age to do so… ID. You can look like fucking Santa Claus and if an OLCC agent sees you in a bar and you do not have ID the bar gets fined. Last I checked it was $750.

So that’s why old guys get carded all the time in The Critical Sip, where they sell beer and cider. It’s also why you can’t bring in your own water bottles or other drinks. It’s not just for them to be able to maximize profit but also it’s the law that, if broken, could cost them $1000.  Being as how beer sales is more a friendly service than a focus of business one should kindly abide by such rules. It’s not them, it’s the OLCC.

The Level Up room and other rooms upstairs, since you have to go through the Critical Sip to get to them, is also under the umbrella of OLCC service rules. That is why, when you come to one of my Saga Tournaments, I will offer everyone a bottle of water that I bought from Guardian.

For those that do not know the lay out of Guardian here is a link to Spencer's Ambuscade blog where he just put up some directions and diagrams. I'll copy and past those diagrams here too:

I also have some very poor pictures of the actual room but I'm going to take some better ones next week, I had reserved a large table in Critical Sip for some pre-Enfilade Saga games and I plan to run up stairs to get a few panoramic shots of Level Up Room for Ambuscade blog.

And to advertise it on my own blog - Shield and Spear - Portland Saga Tournament, will be held in The Level Up October 14th, 2017. Start painting that Dark Age Irish army now! More details to follow of course. Stay tuned on this blog for that. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hastings - Bayeux Tapestry plastic flats from Russia

These were brought to my attention by Spencer last month. I went ahead and ordered a box (reasonable price and shipping) from the dealer in Russia via Ebay.

54mm plastic flat figures based off designs on the Bayeux Tapestry's depiction of Hastings in 1066. A novelty for sure but, now that I have them, maybe not such a novelty any more.

Got them today and here is the opening!

Box came in a padded envelope. Shipping was 5 weeks but ... y'know. I did check up on it last week and discovered there was a shipping number. Opened envelope and there was this nice box with not a lick of English on it. Kind of cool! Scale is apparent in pic.

Open it up like an ancient treasure chest full of treasure!

Figures are in a thin zip lock plastic bag.

A total of 11 figures in the box. No multiple poses, all of them were different. The pack is billed as "King Harold's Army".

I pulled 4 of them for a close up.

They are molded with "opposite" sides? Is that what it's called? Like anatomically correct. Left arms are left arms, right arms are right... etc.

These things are pretty cool and I plan to get more after Enfilade. They also make mounted Normans. I'll even do some kind of game with them.

Here is a link to the seller on Ebay.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Walking Dead – Watching Out of Loyalty

Coming up on the season 7 finale this Sunday and hoping for 90 minutes of explosions and running and gunning and pacts being made and heroics and stuff. It won’t happen and I accept it. I don’t like it but it is what it is and that’s how it’s going to be.

I don’t hate the show, it’s the only show I regularly watch now. I’m going through an “old cranky man” phase and nothing on TV really excites me. My mid-life crisis (I’m turning 46 soon) consists of wanting to learn to do (craft) more things, Viking stuff, losing 100 pounds and getting fit, rationally being able to protect my family, table-top (miniature war toy soldier) gaming, collecting mess kits from military surplus, and getting back out into the woods and camping. Then I want to get a record player and some vinyl.

I still really want to buy a house too but that’s even bigger than my mid-life crisis. Hey… at least I’m not freaking out over red sports cars and 24 year old women and cocaine. I think the above list is reasonable.

Sitting down and burning up 6-8 hours a sitting bingeing some TV show is just not in my wheelhouse anymore. It was but not now. I also just finished (last year) the book The Revolution Was Televised. It is about the Golden Age of TV and, though it’s purpose is not to do so, it turned me off (tuned me out of?) TV today … satisfied I was there for the Golden Age that just happened a few years back.

I saw Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and a few other shows on the Golden Age list and I was satisfied. Maybe I was spoiled too. I feel good about those shows and proud that I chose to watch them as they aired (mostly). I just really think the Golden Age is over and the new “norm” is kind of played and lame.

I’m like a TV hipster!!
“I liked The Wire before it became popular…”

So, my problem with AMC’s The Walking Dead is many faceted and a lot of it is my own fault:
1) I love the comic book and I will never be able to not compare the two.
2) The pace is slow. There is too much time spent on exposition.
3) Too much time is spent on showing us emotional impacts of events.

4) I feel pandered too. As someone once told me, “They are opening up your head and dumping into it.”. Tropes are being used to illicit canned emotional responses.

At least there has been less sweaty and bloody Rick Grimes.

I’m still going to watch it though. I still like it. Fear The Walking Dead too but I’m not too invested in that. At least it is not 100% tedious to me like Game of Thrones was, and that is most likely due to the fact I identify as a TWD fanboy and not a GoT fanboy.

I do still have some TV guilty pleasures though – the ABC family comedies. Thirty minutes long and funny, I watch Black’ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Goldbergs. As for TWD… I still REALLY love the comic books and still subscribe to them and buy an occasional hardcover trade for my bookshelf.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sea Stories - Flying Fish and Sea Sick

When I was a little kid my Father or Grandma or someone had bought me a book about dinosaurs. I'm not sure if it was a used book or not, I remember it had crayon scribbles in it and one of the pages was torn. Still, it had color pictures of dinosaurs in it. My favorite was this 2 page spread of prehistoric creatures of the sea. It had big toothy things with long tails, long-necked Loch Ness dinos, giant fish eating smaller fish, a Megaladon, and up at the top of the page were flying fish.

My 5 year old brain was blown thinking that a billion years ago there were fish that could fly.
Fast forward to April 1990, I had been on the St. Louis for a few weeks and we were rigging up to go out to sea and sail up to Yokosuka Japan. A three day trip at most. I got a little drunk the night before and handled my first sea and anchor detail well. I was feeling a bit hung over though. I had a watch that night, my first at sea watch, and did not feel well after supper.

Next morning a storm brewed up and the seas became rough. Found out my "hangover" was actually sea-sickness. Sea-sick is horrible. This is how I felt:
You are on a carnival ride. You have been drinking a little bit and you just ate a bunch of candy, some corndogs, and a pile of elephant ears or Churros. The ride is really spin-ny and you just gandered upon a guy vomiting into a bucket of greasy pork chops and cigarette butts. You can smell that too. Then you notice you stepped in dog doodoo and it’s all over your shoe. You put your hand in spit.

That sick feeling? It'll go away when you get off the ride, puke, and/or give it some time. You can also move away from the puke, wash your hand of the spit, and take off your doodoo shoe.

Not on a ship. There is no getting off that ride or taking off the doodoo shoe. You also cannot just sit for a second, you've got to work. The sea sickness gets worse too. Like really bad hours into it.

I trudged through my day, other sailors either making fun of me or concerned. I skipped breakfast and lunch but I had a Chief order me to eat supper which I did. I ate some chili mac, a piece of bread, and a cup of red drink affectionately known as "bug juice". I finished and stepped out to the weather decks with my friend Kevin to get some air and a last bit of sunlight.

I lost it all, all that food. I leaned over the side and heaved. Some other Chief was nearby and he came to see if I was OK. My head is over the edge and I'm just letting it all flow out including the red bug juice.

"Oh shit, you're puking blood!!??" yelled the chief.
"No, that's just red bug juice chief." Kevin told him.
"Oh, OK. Make sure he cleans this shit up then." The Chief replied.

Just then, as my head was over the side of the ship and about 35 feet up from the ocean, a school of flying fish, hundreds of them, erupted from the wake of the St. Lou and flew away for about 30-40 yards. Then they dove back into the deep.

I choked out, "Whoa! Flying Fish! **yerch**".
Kevin and Chief look back at me, "Yeah, lots of them out here."
Me, "I thought they were extinct."
Chief, "No you idiot… there's millions of them out here." And he walked away laughing.

I dry heaved a few more times and this is how I learned that flying fish were not extinct. Little did I know this was a beginning of my love/hate relationship with these little fuckers. They would enjoy dying in places I would have to clean them on the weather decks.

This was also the last time I got sea sick while in the Navy. I was fine the next day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Bouncer Story - Saint Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick’s Day Memories:

It was a while ago, 2005 or 2006. I was single and dating a lot. I met a woman on Craigslist and we decided to meet for a few drinks and get to know each other. She said she liked dive bars so I suggested we meet at The ‘Vern for a few beers on a Thursday or something.

Little did either of us know that we agreed to meet at The ‘Vern on Saint Patrick’s Day night.

First, for the non-native Portlanders, The ‘Vern is a classic dive bar. More the real kind and “Old Portland” than what you see today. It was a punk rock hang out, whatever that means, for a while. It’s not actually called The ‘Vern, it’s real name is “Dave’s Tavern” or something but the TA of TAVERN burned out decades ago and it never got fixed so it’s just called the ‘Vern now. I think it became “punk rock” because the jukebox was decidedly punk over anything else. The place was kept up just enough to keep it legal and even then…

Secondly, I’m not a St. Patty’s day guy. Thought I was but I’m not even a lick of Irish, nor Christian, nor do I care for that stuff. If anything my white side is Scandi/Norman, and if any of my line comes from some Celtic lands it’s as a conqueror and not a native. On top of that I see St. Patty’s as an excuse for people to be drunk dickheads. I will assume responsibility for that though as I am the one hanging around drunk dickheads. I’ve solved the problem by not being a drunk anymore, nor being a dickhead tough guy, or even going out to invite such shit into my life.

So there I am sitting at a table on a first date with some woman I had never met before at the Vern listening to some Dropkick Murphy’s on St. Patty’s day over some PBRs. Her name was Angie and she was pretty and new to Portland and getting out and meeting people. I liked her but I knew right off she was not into me and my kind and I called it right off to make things more comfortable for us. She wanted to hang though and we were being friendly towards each other and I was answering her questions about Portland.

The bartender is a buddy of mine and he’s doing his duty (on top of serving on St. Patty’s day) of making me look cool in front of a lady and spotting me PBRs and saying cool shit about me.

Everyone is being friendly when a group of “St. Patty Day revelers” loudly walks in and is disruptive. They are lead by a “I’m from fuggin New Yowk!” guy who can’t stop spitting. Those guys and Texans are the same. Texans spit on the floor less though.

Some other regulars are at the Vern and the bartender buddy gives me and some of the other regulars The Look. The, “I’ve hooked you up and it’s payback time.” Look. Apparently we’re going to get in a fight with the rowdies. The New York rowdies get louder and tougher. The bartender asks them to tone it down some and this is taken as a great offense and they get more asshole-ish. I’m keyed up and am sure I’m on the floor soon. I do my shot and tell Angie, “Hey, this is going to get stupid. Stay out of the way OK? Actually, you might want to leave.”

“Oh shit!” she says, “are you going to kick those guys out?” Angie asks.

“I’m not sure… I’m waiting…” then New Yawk Spit Dude throws a punch at one of the regulars that was too close and squared off.

Bartender jumps in and so do some of the other regulars and it goes south right off. I wait for an opportunity to grab a dude and throw them out and it comes and I do. Others follow. I end up squared off with New Yawk Spit Guy and we tussle and head outside.

“I’m from fuggin New Yawk Bro!” was his battle cry. We get outside and are locked together like 2 fat bears fighting over mating rights. Somehow I trip him up and he falls down and I back off to make sure none of his buddies are closing on me. New Yawk Spit Guy tries to get up but some other Vern regular runs up and kicks his head and knocks him the fuck out. He then takes off because New Yawk Spit is now convulsing on the sidewalk doing the “I have no idea I’m KOed” thing that freaks some people out. His buddies gather around him and are now calling 911 on cell phones. I back off as I know it’s cops time. Angie is walking down the street on her phone, that was the last time I saw her.

I thought I’d get busted for this one but plenty of people saw the one guy that kicked New Yawk Spit in the head and KOed him. I did not know him. I was scrutinized by cops and told to go home. New Yawk Spit got hauled off in an ambulance and threats of suing everyone were made. Sympathy and empathy aside – fuck that guy.