The Khan of Cons
I recently attended KublaCon2015 in Burlingame, CA. It is my favorite game convention and I try to attend every year. Family friendly, diverse crowd of attendees, every kind of game one can think of (many that you can’t), wonderful staff, amazing painting area, and all in a rather nice hotel (Burlingame Hyatt). About the only complaint I can make is the same with most conventions, the food is way over priced and not very tasty (or healthy for that matter). Pretty minor negative considering everything that goes into one of these events and there’s a grill and burrito place right across the street. The Miniatures Painting Competition is really more of an exhibition but I’ll discuss that more in the next post. This is about some of the miniature games.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the minis hall was a table covered with tiny oared vessels and counters. Fleets and their crews were being assembled by Thomas (http://www.skullandcrown.blogspot.com/) and Stan whom Tom had apparently chained to the table and put to work. They were organizing ships and crew counters for the big battle between Venice and the Ottoman Empire the following day.
The first pictures are several games I didn’t play in but liked the look of. Saw a couple of friends playing Star Wars Armada and really liked the ships. Being fully painted right out of the box is certainly a major plus and Star Wars space ships look cool. I’ll have to try it out some time just to see what all the little dials are for. Next is a historical war game named Hell or High Water that was being Beta tested with a scenario called The Sands of Taman Rassat. I always love the table this group sets up, being partial to Egyptian ruins.
Speaking of tables I love, Mike has always been an artist in everything he does from minis to terrain to character sheets and for this he adapted the Conan Board Game rules and had players running classic heroes from Conan to Elric. The heroes worked through several battles before arriving at the huge night time table.
I understand that Elric cut a swath through just about everything and everybody. Not surprising really, vampiric sword and all.
The first miniatures game I played in, later on, was The Battle of New Orleans using Sharpe’s Practice rules and run by Necron99 so I knew the table and miniatures would look great. Honestly, if the toys are nice it just seems more fun to me. Captain Sharpe (of the classic BBC show Sharpe’s Rifles) had replaced one of the historical British officers so it was anyone’s guess what the outcome would be. Fortunately there were no beautifully sultry rebel leaders to aid him this time. The Americans might have a chance.
The British troops were trying to get to the canal where they could begin building a temporary bridge and take the ramparts on the other side. The Americans, on the other hand, were trying to stop all of that from happening but from behind the relative safety of said ramparts. I knew where I would rather be and so joined Jackson on the right flank of the American line.
The Sharpe’s Practice system uses cards to randomly determine which unit or leader will go next as well as when the turn will end. This makes for some frustrating combinations with the British officers getting the first four activations four turns in a row at one point. While one may be tempted to think the Americans will make it up later there is the problem of the turn ending card turning up before that happens. True to history, the Scottish troops marched forward through the American fire.
The Americans were able to put some Shock points on the skirmishers and the Scottish regiments. Of course they were distracted putting out the fire started in the cannon emplacement by the shooting of Sharpe’s Rifles. They then hid from fire in the smoke from those fires making way for the heavies coming up behind them. Guess that’s why they’re the chosen men. True to the TV show, one of the British commanders suddenly saw the merits of guarding the rear and brought a regiment of red coats with him. Fortunately for the attackers the British commander was able to intercept the unit and dismiss the officer from command before the entire regiment left the field.
As the British finished their bridge the pirates manning the gun were finally able to use their rare activations for more than fire fighting and reloaded the cannons. As the first regiment of red coats charged across La Fitte was able to light the fuse with his cigar tipping the balance of the combat and wiping out a chunk of the unit. Just to prove his worth the French privateer then bested Sharpe in a personal challenge sending the wounded captain sliding into the mud of the canal’s edge. It was the second unit across that broke the pirates and held a spot on the ramparts. That activated the American cavalry to enter the board beginning a drawn out firefight. In the end the British didn’t have enough banners left alive to fulfill their victory conditions but since they had done far better than their historical counterparts the GM declared it a moral victory. In Napoleonic era adventures it pays to have Sean Bean on your side.
Typical of me, I thought Wooden Wars was running at noon on Saturday rather than ending then. I realized the error of my ways when I went downstairs to find Thomas cleaning up the last of the lovely wooden soldiers while chatting amiably with con attendees. I was determined to play in his Galleys, Guns, and Glory game Sunday morning. Having seen all the toys being assembled the day before as well as watching Thomas paint crew tokens I was ready for the beautiful ships covering the blue table. Despite being officially signed up for the game I opted to run some of Stanley’s ships on the far right flank of the Venetian line. This would allow more new folks (I’m a long time fan of Tom’s work all the way back to Pre-Pirates! days) and, even better, I could hang out with Stan (who appeared to have been released from painting servitude) and catch up with him. Besides, he had a Hotwheels van to give me so double score!
Not as huge as Lepanto the battle was still an impressive array of colorful ships. Some of the players had played in Tom’s games before, others were new but all were excited to get started as Thomas reviewed a little history as well as the simplicity of the rules. Besides, the toys are just so beautiful, rigged and all, that one can’t help but squat down next to the table for better effect.
Following Stan’s lead, he has played before after all, we closed in on the enemy with the intention of sinking two and capturing the third of the three facing us.
We held our fire until we had closed to medium range to increase accuracy and damage. Knowing these cannons took ages to reload in real life I figured those might be our last shots. Anything more would be a bonus. By concentrating fire and Stan rolling better than I we were able to sink an Ottoman galliot right away. We then prepared to close the distance and readied our marines for boarding action (figuratively speaking). We were fortunate that our targets were more focused on supporting the efforts of the Turkish center rather than our ships bearing down on them. Stanley even managed to roll well enough to reload his guns.
While much of the Venetian force was struggled, Stan and I swept forward, raked the enemies decks with crew killing grapeshot before taking our first trophy ship. Again, thanks to Stan’s excellent rolling, we managed to reload both of our smaller ships before sinking the last Ottoman galley facing us. Leaving just enough crew aboard the captured vessel to sail it home we turned our unscathed, fully crewed fighting vessels to face the center and saw the sea afloat with damaged targets. At this point Thomas called it an Ottoman victory as they had crushed our left flank and were in a stronger position in the center. Stanley and I both felt we could have tipped that fight, being one move from at least two more easy captures but decided to bask in our accomplishments. Next fight I want my own fleet so I better get to work painting the ship I already own. As with almost all the rules Tom writes, I found the system easy to grasp, logical in how it represents combat and moving, and a lot of furious fun to play. It also helps that it was a really entertaining group playing.
I’ll close my report with a picture taken during Mike’s climatic Conan battle. It shows that Thomas is still the king of multitasking, painting crew markers while playing in the scenario. I swear the only thing he doesn’t do better than the rest of us is sleep. That is one skill I still possess in massive quantities. Next post will address my Painting Competition experiences.