Coalescence 10 June

The Warpeper club hosted a Coalescence event in the local public library. We had a number of experienced players along with a few new players, but everyone had a great attitude and enjoyed the games throughout the day.

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A few months previously we hosted a Warhammer demo games day which featured both 40K and Age of Sigmar games. We provided armies for interested gamers to try out either game system, and we had a successful painting station where teens had a chance to paint a model for the first time.

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Several of those teens joined us for our Coalescence event, playing loaner armies provided by members of our local club. One of our club members also offered to coach the new players–he was also one of the helpful guys building more terrain when we actually hit our maximum limit of 16 players signed up.

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And I ordered some modest trophies for the event, keeping with our “pepper” theme. Because this was both a narrative and team event, awards were intended to recognize winners of the painting contest (winners determined by popular vote of all attendees) and most valuable player of the winning team as well as the NEO’s prime prize.

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Day of the event, June 10, even with a couple of late cancellations, we had a total of 15 players, and Chaos was well represented with 6 players; 2 of those Chaos players graciously volunteered to join an alliance with Death. Four almost equal teams were matched and commenced the first round of games.

In the weeks leading up to the event, players were encouraged to post a story about their generals on a thread in the narrative section of The Grand Alliance forum; every one that had posted by the deadline received a bonus card with a special ability or item customized for the respective general during the games.

Club member Chris playing for the Chaos team while wearing our white Warpeper shirt at the first table.

The Chaos team took the lead in the first two rounds of battles, narrowly followed by the Order Grand Alliance, but in the multiplayer 3rd round of games, the Destruction team challenged the Chaos armies, and the Order team took the lead to win the Pepper crystal.

During the lunch hour all attendees had cast secret ballots for their favorite armies and single models, and we handed awards to those painters while also announcing the winning team. And in recognition of his help building terrain and coaching the newer players through their games, the NEO’s Prime award went to club member Isaac.

I appreciate our local public library allowing us to use their meeting space and tables, and to those in my local club that helped me build terrain, loan models for new players, and help with the logistics of setting up an event for this many players.

Grilling & Gaming

The grill worked fine yesterday, when I tested it, but today I couldn’t get the gas flames above a flicker, so I ended up finishing the burgers and dogs in a pan on the range inside.  It didn’t seem to matter to the gamers, as they were reluctant to break away from a game of Arcana to eat anything.

tabletop232But eat they did, and after another game ended, many of the company disbanded, leaving myself and the representative from Team Green (everyone picked a color upon arrival and wore a sticker) to play 1775.  The Rebels began to make some serious gains, capturing and holding Boston and local environs while also consolidating the Carolinas and Maryland.  Unfortunately for all, a decisive victory could not be achieved by either side, and all of North America became French.

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When Game Stores Close

I haven’t posted much lately because of moving house and a busy work schedule.  But as I was planning for our next local gaming event in January, I was surprised with news that my favorite FLGS is closing on Monday.  I still don’t know exactly how to describe how I feel.  For the past year, the gaming and comics store has been my special place between work and home.  When I need to meet friends and unwind with a game… I went to the gaming store.  When I needed to get out of the house… I went to the gaming store.  When I felt up to planning a community event focused on gaming… well, it has been a great year of a lot of gaming, and, more importantly, a lot of new acquaintances and even friends I wouldn’t have otherwise run into if not for running into them at the gaming store.

It was a good year, but at least now I feel we have developed a small community of gamers, and that community, I’m sure, will continue to grow despite the closing of our gamer’s haven.

NOVA Open 2014

NOVA Open is a gaming convention on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  More specifically, it’s devoted to miniature wargaming, but, unlike HistoriCon, the NOVA Open is an entirely competitive event.  Sure, there was the vendor area and some guy running a demo game of Dropzone Commander (and there were a few cosplayers at one point), but the hundreds of players showing up were there to compete in multiple rounds of their favorite miniature games for prestige and prizes.

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From the NOVA Open Facebook page.

For anyone unfamiliar with miniature wargames–think of a big chess tournament.  (I recently watched the documentary film “Bobby Fisher Against the World” (2011) with my wife, and she is a mean chess player, and we both enjoyed the film… but I still can’t imagine spectators at an international chess tournament, as many were captured in the film, watching two chess masters face off across a table–even if it was the height of the Cold War, etc.)  To anyone with a passion for toy soldiers and competitive tabletop gaming, as myself, the NOVA Open was an exciting event.

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It all happened in a big hotel in Crystal City.  The Hyatt, to be exact. I was relieved to discover, when we arrived, that I didn’t need to use the valet parking–paying someone else to park my car causes me to feel something like an intruder, even if it’s more efficient in regard to both time and space; I always prefer parking my own car in the economy garage and walking the extra block.  I took the escalator down to the lower level reception area where I met my teammate, Isaac–I had dropped him off at the main entrance while I found a suitable parking slot, and he had already registered at the reception table.

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From the NOVA Open Facebook page.

And then we descended a second time to the ballroom where we had registered to play in a Warhammer Fantasy doubles tournament.  We were actually playing at a table at least 30-feet below the street, but the lack of windows didn’t matter–we were too enthralled with our game.  As a side note:  later that day, when I rode an elevator with a glass window open to one side of the hotel, a fellow passenger said, “This is the closest I’ve been to outdoors all day.”  And it had been a beautiful day.  The drive up to NoVA (a common contraction to designate the general metro area of Northern Virginia which largely serves as D.C. suburbs) was clear and without incident–we actually made the 70-mile trip in 100 minutes, something I didn’t exactly expect because I’ve clocked the same trip to nearby Reagan airport at around 3 hours with traffic.  But after we stretched our legs a bit after the relatively brief drive, checking in at the booth set up by our Friendly Local Gaming Store and saying “hello” to Ray, we started our first game.

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The moment before Dark Elven cavalry descended the hillside and captured the Imperial artillery.

Of course, from the start of the first game, my suspicious Elves didn’t consider supporting the Imperial artillery on the left flank, so when the opposing Dark Elves smashed through the minimal troops supporting the flank, they simply rolled up on the artillery which was helpless against swift cavalry.  It was a great learning experience against some fun opponents, and Isaac selflessly sacrificed many of his Imperial units so that my Elves could live.  During the last turn my animated pumpkin man nearly tore apart a Dark Elf bolt thrower–we at least scored points for having a unit in the enemy deployment zone at the end of the game.  Our opponents offered us some good tips, and we ascended to the main level where we enjoyed some lunch across the street (which was being repaved) at a sun-lit deli.

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Isaac preparing to sacrifice his Imperial troops so my Elves could hide behind trees and shoot magic arrows at enemy ogres.

And it wasn’t all games–there was a big display of beautifully painted models as part of a hobby competition called the Capital Palette.  My friend Mike was busy managing the display, photography, and judging, and some extraordinary pictures of painted minis can be seen on his blog:  http://minimayhem-theblog.blogspot.com/

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From the NOVA Open Facebook page.

The second game we played was more evenly matched–our opponents had lost nearly as completely as we had.  The format is dynamic in the concept that players losing the first round then play another team which lost, and winning players play winning players.  It was a close game, both teams playing conservatively, and when we were close to time being called I pushed forward my dryads into a ridiculously vulnerable position where the enemy hit them on three sides and scored enough points to tip them into winning.  But it was fun, and the first time I had played against Wood Elves and Ogres.

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Start of our 3rd game–we finally managed to get deployment right, but we were outmatched by experienced opponents.

Our third game was a bust–our matched opponents were too tired for a match, so they forfeited the game.  So Isaac and I decided to sit down and put into practice some things we learned in the two previous games.  But half an hour into the round, a medical emergency effectively took another team out of the competition, so to even things up, we started a game against a very experienced team which proceeded to take us apart–but they were perhaps the most helpful in explaining why they were doing what they did, and I certainly learned a lot from that match.

We played the length of each round, almost 8 hours of gaming, and we both enjoyed some time socializing–adding up to a 16-hour day with the drive time included.  My take away from my first competitive gaming convention is this:  it’s something like the best of a sporting event where each attendee can actually participate in the competition.  Before, after, and in between games we talked about gaming, but then we actually played games too!  And the structured format of a tournament created an atmosphere which felt so much more exciting than our humble games in our local game store, but there was still an atmosphere of friendly competition.  And plenty of awesome toy soldiers on every table.  And a cool aspect of this event was the charitable component:  there was a raffle for miniature armies painted and donated by a variety of hobbyists, and the proceeds went to charity.  One thing I really like is how mini wargaming is adding these extra charitable components.  Some guys play golf for charity, but I’m playing tabletop miniature games.  I’m definitely planning to come back next year.

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Forest for the Trees

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Everything is green again, and I’m starting my second Warhammer Fantasy army, inspired particularly by the new Wood Elves released the first week in May.  This weekend I finally ventured out, driving up to a state forest to explore and enjoy a walk in the woods; the excursion was, in part, a relaxing break from work and life in town, but it was mostly a field trip to study colors in the forest… for the sake of choosing the palette I want to use for painting my Wood Elf army.  I’m enjoying this preparation to paint a score of plastic soldiers in a range of green shades.  And because these are fantasy figures, I don’t need to concern myself with historic precedents–although I didn’t consider historical concerns when I have been painting my French & Indian War figures.

But while walking among the trees, hearing dozens of birds chirping away, I realize I need to get out more often for the sake of my health if not also for miniature painting inspiration.

The new store in town is in the process of expanding into a larger space, and we’re organizing a Warhammer event in June.  I’m keeping myself booked with gaming events, between volunteering with the regular teen events at the public library and now preparing to prep and cook hot meals for nearly a hundred people across next weekend at a gaming camp.  I’m enjoying some good success with the local Warhammer league, although I wouldn’t mind playing more games and expanding the scope of the Fantasy campaign.  On that note, it’s about time for me to pack up minis and head to the store to meet my Orks & Goblins opponent.

Painting Project Progress

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I decided to increase the number of figures painted by April 14 up to 14, a figure for each day of the project, and now I have 15 on the desk with paint on them by day 5! I have the base coating figured, and decided to paint the bases yellow as well. My friend Shades suggested adding just a hint of cyan to complement my yellow and fuchsia, and I like how it’s starting to look!  Another afternoon of base coating in all three of the main colors, in addition to some brown and gray, and then I can move onto some detailing and start washing parts of some figures. I’m going to try something I haven’t tried before, using different colored washes for different parts of the figures.

Dystopian Wars Team Game

Last weekend I met several of the regional DW players at a game store in Richmond.  Technically, we all met at a Red Robin in a local mall because the game store didn’t open until noon (what’s the deal with a game store not opening until noon on a Sunday–I’ve been ready to game all morning, and since going to play at the Game Vault at 10 am on any given Sunday is like going to church for me… well, I don’t go to church).  I enjoyed a pint on an empty stomach, and it certainly put me in a good mood to lose the game for my team in the afternoon.

We didn’t have any special plans, and six of us showed up at FTW by noon–we talked about facing off in three different games, but it became clear soon enough that we could play a big game by splitting into respective alliances:  we had 2 Imperial players with a Prussian (well, he also had his Russian fleet as well but admitted a preference for playing his Prussian fleet) against the Grand Alliance composed of Russian, American, and Canadian forces on both land and sea.

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Before I could take a picture of the set up, we were away and gaming the first turn. I really like this shot of Eric pointing out something on the middle of the table while John takes a careful measurement. Most game reports feature shots of the miniatures on the table… flanked by bellies behind t-shirts while I prefer to capture a bit of the dyamic of the gamers actually playing these games.

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Demo Games Day

I spent a Saturday in Maryland at Dropzone Games where I had a chance to see this great tabletop gaming store and run some demo games as well as try out some new games.  Shades organized the event, and beside my table set up for The Uncharted Seas was a setup for Deep Wars (two nautical themed games paired together), in the same room with games of Alkemy, Mercs, and Kings of War.

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