Hark, gentle reader! Do you hear that? The grinding of massive gears hints at some foundational updates to Comrade’s Wargames. Specifically, I have created a new section on ye olde blog to collect the various narrative campaigns that I have taken part in recently. These campaign chapters have heretofore been sprinkled throughout my blog as individual posts, spanning months if not years. The new page attempts to list them all in rough chronological order for ease of reading.
The page itself is creatively named “Narrative Campaigns” and it is linked in the menu bar on the front page of this blog.
The page, in turn, displays links to three additional pages showcasing the backstory and a listing of battle reports from three recent narrative campaigns. They are:
In keeping with tradition here at Comrade’s Wargames, these narrative campaigns feature beautifully painted miniatures from me and my buddies, alongside visually stunning terrain and a compelling tabletop narrative. I’ll continue to update these pages as we play additional games for them. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and dig in!
I ran a game of Grimdark Future Firefight at C3 GameCon last month! I’ve run many convention games before, and it’s always a real joy to welcome new players to the table and give them a glimpse at this wonderful hobby that has brought so much happiness and creativity to my life.
For this game, I selected Grimdark Future Firefight because I wanted to get my gorgeous infected city terrain onto the battlefield. This was a batch of terrain that I commissioned from Morti5 Studios a couple years ago … my pandemic splurge, as I recall. It’s a big setup, and I haven’t had very many opportunities to get it all onto the table at the same time. That changed last month!
The best advice I can give to anyone who is considering running a convention game is this: “Focus on the spectacle.” Get your best terrain and your most impressive painted miniatures onto the table. You want to attract peoples’ attention, to have them walk across the room to inspect your little miniature world, and have them say “What IS that?!” in a breathless tone of voice. If they do that, you’ve won before a single die has been rolled.
Pick a game that’s simple to teach and explain, and then strip out all the superfluous content. Don’t worry too much about game balance. Toss out special rules and anything that slows down gameplay. A convention game is not the time for flipping through a rulebook. Make sure each player has some cool figures that perform exactly like they’re modeled to behave – the guy with the big gun goes boom, the rogue in the cloak is good at sneaking around, the barbarian charges into battle. Just aim to give the players a taste of the general gameplay and provide a few opportunities for them to explore deeper strategies. If they like the game, they’ll do all the additional research on their own.
Anyway, my game had four players with some basic background in tabletop RPGs, but none had played Grimdark Future Firefight. No problem! I provided printouts of the 2-page rules document as well as prepared teams of commando operatives for each player.
The scenario pitted the four players against two GMs (me and my buddy Daniel). We’d be managing a city full of plague zombies, and they would be running the infiltration teams tasked with killing the zombies and retrieving the data cores from deep inside the infected city.
The game unfolded exactly as I’d hoped, with the players whispering about strategy as they warily eyed the roaming hordes of plague zombies arrayed against them. Who’s gonna take the left flank? What about that bunker full of zombies? Grimdark Future Firefight is a pretty simple game, and after a short explanation they were chucking dice and pushing plastic around the table.
The scenario (players against the GM) is one I’d definitely recommend for future convention games. It was structured so the players couldn’t lose – the only question was how badly they would beat up the zombies before we hit our turn limit and the game ended. This led to lots of high fives and backslaps as the players laid waste to the zombies and generally felt awesome. Again, this is a key goal of a convention game: make your players feel like they’re capable and in control.
We got plenty of onlookers as the game progressed, due in large part to the impressive terrain setup. At the end, to no one’s surprise, the players emerged victorious – though we all agreed that it was a pyrrhic victory, and that the commandos were almost certain to be slaughtered once night fell and the zombies regrouped.
Once again Grimdark Future Firefight gave a great game that was perfect for newcomers. After the game, each player received their very own custom purple dice emblazoned with our game group’s logo – the Majestic Gamers. You can see a pile of them in the lower right in the pic above.
As I was packing up, two other guys from my game group (Lawrence and Paul) were arriving to set up the next session – an introduction to WarCry! Like me, they also had a full house and seemed to have a blast teaching new players about this fun game.
Thanks to the fine organizers of C3 GameCon for giving us space to host a fun afternoon of gaming! We’ll definitely be back next year.
In February I once again took part in C3 GameCon, a small local game convention held at a community center here in Corvallis, Oregon. I participated in the inaugural event in 2022, so I was excited to host some events for this year’s convention.
Up first on the agenda was a reprise of my popular drop-in painting workshop. This emerged as the most popular session at last year’s convention, so I wanted to recreate that experience and also put a little bit more planning into it. I have vivid memories of attending “Paint & Take” events at GenCon, where companies like Reaper or Privateer Press would set up a bunch of tables with a random assortment of paints, and then let you grab a free mini and try out some new colors and techniques. These events are super accessible … literally you just sit down and start painting using whatever’s on the table in front of you. I wanted to bring that experience to C3 GameCon.
We ended up structuring the workshop as two back-to-back hour-long sessions. They were designed as drop-in events, where someone could sit down, grab a paintbrush and a free mini (generously printed by my buddy John) and try their hand at painting. I provided all materials – paints, brushes, minis, palette paper, water cups, as well as a little tip sheet.
I had 25 seats packed into a little side room at the convention, and I’m pleased to report that my sessions were “sold out,” all seats occupied by painters of varying experience levels. Most were novices, but a few had advanced skills. All were welcome!
Last year I tried to inject an instructional element to the painting workshop – offering step by step lessons to some participants, while others just jumped right in and started slinging paint. This year, I skipped the detailed curriculum in favor of a more open, come as you are type of experience.
Jim and Rian from my local game group dropped in as well, and they really helped out with setup and teardown, as well as providing that “veteran perspective” when new painters had a question. Here’s Jim (right) and I (left) toward the end of the evening, celebrating a fun event that hopefully kindled some hobby flames for these new painters.
Last month I hosted two sci-fi skirmish games, and despite using two different game systems, we were able to tease out a bit of a narrative through-line to connect them together. Both games were set on Drusichtor, the third moon of Gamma Euphorion Prime in the Juventius Sub-Sector.
Drusichtor is a heavy industrial moon focused on mining and resource extraction. While Gamma Euphorion Prime grapples with a nascent genestealer cult infestation that is rocking the political underpinnings of the fragile ruling class, miners on Drusichtor made a terrifying discovery that suggested just how long the genestealers had been plotting to undermine the planet…
For the first game, we tried out Rogue Hammer, the new grimdark sci-fi ruleset from Nordic Weasel Games. It was a learning game, so we started small and coached each other through the rules. The game was set in the Pits of Volceradon, a vast and crumbling strip-mining operation that sprawls across the surface of Drusichtor. The warbands were competing to reach a hapless miner who had been infected by … something … that he picked up during his forays deep below the moon’s surface. You can see the miner staggering around near some bubbling pools of green toxic waste. Yum!
The game featured an Inquisitorial kill team, alongside a platoon of Ultramarines, racing to secure the miner before the pox-ridden warriors of the Death Guard could spirit him away and conduct a vivisection to figure out what happened to him.
Rogue Hammer was fun, but it definitely felt like a game that needs some additional material before it’s a truly playable Rogue Trader heartbreaker clone. For example: Many of the unit and character upgrades were specifically focused on fighting vehicles, yet you won’t really be using vehicles unless you’re playing a large game of Rogue Hammer. So for the skirmish sized games that we typically play, most of the anti-vehicle upgrades are useless and a waste of points. Meanwhile, factions like Chaos Space Marines – which have arguably been part of the lore since Rogue Trader – were conspicuously absent from the barebones army lists provided in the rulebook. I had to run my Death Guard using the Eldar (excuse me, Space Pirates) list.
In fairness to Nordic Weasel, I believe his intent is to manage Rogue Hammer like a “living rulebook,” with fairly frequent releases and rules tweaks to deliver exactly the sort of content I was missing.
Anyway, our Rogue Hammer game wrapped up with a shocking conclusion, when the poor miner underwent a sudden and violent transformation – the “final form” of his mysterious infection?
The blood-spattered xenomorph creature lurched toward the nearest target, claws akimbo. It was a deadly dance, but Danie’s Primaris Captain was up to the task!
The grisly outcome led directly to game two, which took place a few weeks later. In this game, the action moved to the nearby mining settlement of Ghorston’s Spur, where another specimen had been captured and stashed in one of the hovels. This game featured two teams of factions fighting to locate and secure the specimen – Dark Mechanicus and Chaos Cultists vs. Sisters of Battle and Orks (temporarily pacified, perhaps, to serve as useful cannon fodder for the Adeptus Sororitas? That was what we convinced ourselves, anyway).
For this game, we used Grimdark Future Firefight, an old favorite around here that we return to time and time again.
I had prepped a little scenario with rules for exploring the little ramshackle outbuildings. You weren’t sure exactly what you’d find when you went a-knocking on those doors!
Shooting is fairly potent in Grimdark Future Firefight, and we lamented the unfortunate lack of cover for Lawrence’s Chaos Cultists. They got chewed to pieces by deadly accurate fire from Rian’s newly painted Sister of Battle. Oops!
Jim’s Orks were on top of me by the second turn, which made it pretty hard to explore the outbuildings to find the specimen.
Eventually (through trial and error) we determined which of the squalid dwellings held the specimen, and all of the factions promptly made a beeline for it. Covering fire was laid down by the Sisters of Battle as the Orks rampaged unchecked through the industrial settlement. Rho-Terak, the Enslaver of Logic (leader of my Dark Mechanicus warband) sustained superficial damage to his mostly-metal body during this chaotic scramble.
In game terms, he went out of action, but of course he didn’t die. He’s just … recuperating, back at base. Shouldn’t have been standing there, guy!
The final clash came when Vethidian the Supernumerary, second-in-command of my Dark Mechanicus warband, met the Sisters of Battle Canoness at the front door of the target hut. His sad little withered body was no match for the Canoness’s power sword!
So the Sister of Battle made off with the alien specimen! Doubtless the Imperium’s best xenobiologists will gather important intel from its carcass. The Dark Mechanicum will lick their wounds and regroup for another assault!
Grimdark Future gave a quick and decisive game, as always. There are a number of mechanics in this game that serve to hasten the inevitable conclusion of a skirmish clash. It’s never fun to see your cool models go down, but it’s important to remember that the game’s gotta end at some point.
It was pleasant to write up these two short game reports and stitch them together into a coherent narrative flow. I’m really enjoying the development of Drusichtor as a theater of operations in the larger Gamma Euphorion narrative campaign. There’s plenty here to fight over, and we haven’t even delved into the soot-encrusted Volceradon Furnace Tunnels…stay tuned for more!
As I prepared my workshop for 2023, I went through the annual ritual of clearing and resetting my kanban board. In doing so, I once again reflected on how helpful and nifty this minimalist tool has proven to be over the ~5 years I’ve been using it.
At its heart, a kanban board is a super simple way of visualizing a workflow or process. That’s it – all the rest, the breathless blog posts and TED talks and online courses on how to maximize your kanban – is probably just ASMR for process geeks. I prefer to embrace the simple, diamond-sharp core of the kanban board: help me see what I’m working on right now, what stage it’s at, and what’s coming up next.
As you can imagine, this approach works perfectly for painting and modeling. It’s already an inherently visual hobby, so a visual planning tool slots right into the mix. Several friends in my local game group are engineers of varying sorts, and they introduced me to the concept of a kanban board a few years ago.
Here’s a look at my current kanban board. Literally it’s a piece of paper with 4 columns, each with a label suggesting successive steps in the miniature painting process.
Each project, large or small, gets a sticky note. If it doesn’t have a sticky note, it’s not on my radar and probably won’t get done. As projects move forward, you simply move the sticky note to the next colum, showing progress toward completion. The columns also suggest the tasks required for that step in the process, which helps me match up my desired hobbying effort from day to day. If I’m in the mood to do some painting, I probably won’t pick up by dwarf ram riders, because as you can see in the photo above, they’re still in the “needs assembly” phase. On the flip side, if I decide I want those ram riders in a game 3 weeks from now, I can see that I’ll need to dedicate some effort to moving them along to completion.
This approach also aligns with my current hobby interests. I’m no longer painting entire armies in a single go – those days are behind me. Nowadays I’m more likely to tackle a small group of models from a Kickstarter, or a batch of long-delayed reinforcements for one of my existing armies. So my kanban board projects are almost always small morsels, relatively easy to pick up and work on, with a clear end point that allows me to finish them up and move on to something else.
Anyway, this approach really oils my gears in a weird, lizard-brain sort of way. I’m really not a terribly organized person – I sort of thrive amidst low-level chaos – but this simple sheet of paper helps a lot. I’ll probably redo the labels one of these days, because I literally came up with them in about 5 minutes when sketching this out in Word.
My favorite part of using my kanban board is the “complete” column. I know you’re probably supposed to remove finished projects shortly after they graduate to the “complete” column, but over the last few years I’ve kept them there for the entire year, slowly accumulating sticky notes like a stack of dried butterflies, giving me a deep sense of satisfaction as my hobby achievements pile up slowly over the year.
I’d like to hear from you, gentle reader. How do you organize your projects? What tools help keep you on task, while also leaving room for the creativity that is so essential to our hobby?