Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ancient Greeks vs Orcs / Dragon Rampant Battle Report

On Friday I played Dragon Rampant with Krüger. It was our third game using Daniel Mersey’s popular ruleset and we enjoyed it a lot. It has elements of other games I like. Movement feels as free as in 40K, troop types remind me of HotT and the battles look a bit like Warhammer. On top of all that the rules are streamlined, simple and encourage creativity.

Herr Zinnling

The game was part of our ongoing campaign which takes place on the tropical island Waltrop. The Greeks from Kalimera under the command of Foibos moved into a piece of jungle controlled by the orcs.

I put a lot of tropical forests and some swamps on the board and other pieces of terrain to represent the jungle.

We choose scenario A (Gory Bloodbath on the Plains of Doom), forgot to dice for leader traits and decided not to use quests in order to learn the basic rules first. 
Foibos’ enchanted weapon didn’t work.

ancient greeks vs orcs

We played with 24 army points. Krüger played the orcs. He was the defender and deployed his troops in this order, as seen from my perspective:

Bellicose Foot / Heavy Riders / Light Foot / Elite Foot (Leader) / Bellicose Foot / Light Riders (Short Range Missiles)

I deployed my troops like this:

Scouts / Light Riders (Short Range Missiles) / Heavy Foot / Elite Foot (Leader + Enchanted Weapon) / Heavy Foot / Light Missiles

I took two pages of notes during the game but unfortunately I can’t decipher them any more. What happened was basically this:

On my left flank I moved the Thracian scouts into a piece of swamp. I sent a unit of Thracian light riders to support them. I also had a unit of hoplites (heavy foot) in that area.

ancient greeks vs orcs

Krüger sent a unit of boar riders (heavy riders) and some night goblins (light infantry) to attack the Thracians. He also wanted to attack with a warband of orcs (bellicose foot) but couldn’t activate them during the first rounds.

The boar riders were able to destroy my light cavalry, but then I attacked them with my hoplites. The boar riders were battered and retreated into the swamp where they were attacked by the Thracian scouts. They had to retreat once more and were destroyed as the result of a failed rally test.

The orc warband arrived too late and made a wild charge into the swamp. They lost the battle against the scouts and were also destroyed.

I don’t remember how I lost my scouts. Maybe the night goblins (light foot) killed them.

I had placed a large piece of forest in the centre. Krüger’s orc boss (elite foot) and an orc warband (bellicose foot) were moving towards my general (elite foot) and a unit of hoplites (heavy foot), while some goblin riders (light riders) and a unit of psiloi (light missiles) were shooting javelins and throwing stones at each other. I didn’t want to enter the woods with my hoplites, so I formed a spearwall and waited for the orcs.

ancient greeks vs orcs

The orcs attacked. Both units were destroyed.

Then the armies’ generals and their guards (elite foot) attacked each other. After a couple of rounds only Foibos and the orc boss survived, they had lost all their companions.

I asked: What is the name of your general?

Krüger said: Gurkbatz.

I thought: Finally the orc tribes, that live on the northeastern coast of Waltrop, have a boss with a name.

In a desperate move Gurkbatz attacked my slingers (light missiles) and was slain.

(Let’s just say Gurkbatz crawled away and left the battlefield, all beaten up and in pain. Otherwise the name „Gurkbatz“ will be lost and Krüger might take two years or so to come up with a new name for another general.)

When Krüger’s night goblins were also destroyed, only four units were left on the table: a unit of goblin riders (light riders) on Krüger’s side and Foibos (elite foot), a unit of hoplites (heavy foot) and a unit of psiloi (light missiles) on my side.

We rolled a die to see if the game ended. It did. I won. The Greeks from Kalimera now control hexagon 11 on our campaign map.

campaign map

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Humboldt and the Lost Treasure

Herr Zinnling, Marjorie, Trinka, Florian

It was Trinka’s birthday and she invited us to Humboldt and the Lost Treasure, an escape room in Berlin Lichtenberg. (Attention! Spoilers!) I had never been to an escape room before. We had to solve all kinds of riddles, so doors and chests would open. Like putting four items in a certain order to get a number combination for a lock.

What I found interesting was how we acted as a group. "Humboldt and the lost Treasure“ has a central room with hints and instructions. It’s probably best if one person stays behind and tells the others what to do through walkie talkies. We didn’t do that. First we couldn’t figure out how to work the walkie talkies. Then we had so much fun looking at all the objects in the rooms, we didn’t even bother to read the instructions. Maybe we are too curious and playful to act efficiently. I was good at seeing how the riddles worked, but too lazy or laid back to actually solve them.

We went through the first riddles quickly. Then we were lost. I had dropped a flashlight and it didn’t work anymore. Marjorie was worried that we had to pay for it later - the game master had said something about very expensive new equipment - and everybody thought we needed the light to solve the riddles. Florian and I were starring at a box with a large wooden centipede for ten minutes. We thought of very complicated things that could be done with the thing, until the game master got impatient and gave us a clue.

Apart from this we were doing fine as a group. We only needed five minutes extended playtime to solve the room.

Now I’m thinking how this experience relates to RPGs. I have never played a role-playing game that was all about solving riddles.

How about you?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year!

plastic plant

Some days ago, I left a comment on a wargaming blog, something like "Wonderful army. Also, I like your terrain, the plastic plants. Happy New Year! Karl" The comment was published and to my surprise removed a day later.

I tend to brood over things. Did I say anything inappropriate? Was the comment removed accidentally? Did the owner of the other blog look at Herr Zinnlings Arbeitszimmer and say: „I don’t want to have anything to do with that piece of shit blog.“ Did he think my comment about the plastic plants wasn’t honest? (I assure you, I love miniature plastic plants.) Did he think I’m a spam bot? Is it considered bad luck in the UK to say Happy New Year on the last day of the year?

I don’t know.

By the way, I’m always happy about comments on my blog and got some interesting, detailed, helpful, funny, inspiring, wonderful responses from you so far. Thanks a lot!

(Ok. I also get comments like „You might be eligible to get a free $1000 Amazon gift card.“)

When I was in Sioux City, Iowa as an exchange student, the most awkward situation for me was to go to the school’s restaurant for the first week. People already knew each other and were sitting at the tables with their friends, of course. I was new to the school, from another country and my English was bad. Also, when I was 16, I was very shy. Ending up at a large table to have lunch all by myself, I found quite horrible at that time.

Well, sometimes trying to communicate with other people about games through the internet, people that tend to be organised in groups, reminds me of my first week at the Bishop Heelan Catholic High School.

Whatever. It’s 2017 and I’m not 16 anymore.

Happy New Year!


Friday, 23 December 2016

Enchanted Weapon


Foibos and Grigoris, a man in a red coat, discuss an enchanted weapon.

Foiibos & Grigoris

I was sent from Sparta to be your mentor, to enable you to fight the creatures that live in the forest of this island.

I’m glad you are here, Grigoris.

Considering your feeble physical statue and your general lack of training, I give you this sword. It is blessed by Ares, the god of war.

Thank you.

It’s a powerful weapon and it comes with great responsibility, but you need to know that its powers will not work all the time.

What do you mean?

Let’s cut time into centuries, centuries into decades, decades into years, years into months and months into weeks.


Let’s say the week has seven days and you go to war six days and rest one day. You need to know that your weapon will only work once a week, but you don’t know which day this will be.

I don’t understand. Seven days? What are you talking about?

 I'm just talking about probabilities, Foibos. You need to know something else. Since it would be unfair to your opponent if you have the sword of Ares and he doesn’t, we will line up all of your men before battle and count them. Every 24th man will stay in the camp. 

What? That’s not fair. I need all my men. Why would you give me such a weapon? And why do we need to be fair to Orcs?

We are Greeks and we will act like Greeks.

That sucks.

Yes. I know.

(The miniatures on the picture were painted by Steve Dean and Andrew Taylor and as a commission.)

Monday, 31 October 2016

Orc Head for a Hand Puppet

I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon in October making hand puppets with the children and took the opportunity to make an orc head.

orc head

It looks a bit like my grandfather from my mother's side and still needs to be painted.

Anybody know if Humbrol enamel paint and gloss varnish work well on paper mache?

Lina's hand puppet

Happy Halloween!


Friday, 7 October 2016

Tupi + Giant Insects vs Orcs / HotT Battle Report

After a three-month summer break, in which I spent most of the time cleaning up my parents' house and taking my children to swimming lessons, Krüger and I had a game of Hordes of the Things on Friday (The Waltrop Campaign / Day 11).


He played the orcs who live on the northeastern coast of Waltrop.

Warband General, 5 Warbands, 1 Hero, 3 Riders, 1 Shooter

Krüger was the defender and placed a hill in the centre of the table and two tropical forests right next to it on each side. This is something he had wanted to do for a long time and it looked kind of silly.

tupi and giant insects versus orcs

He deployed his hero and an element of riders on his right flank, two elements of riders on his left flank, all of his orc warbands and a shooter in front of the hill.

I played the inhabitants of the jungle.

Behemoth General (a very big insect), 5 Shooters (Tupi Indians), 4 Beasts (Fiendish Giant Praying Mantis), 2 Water Lurkers

As seen from my side of the table, my army was deployed like this:

Beasts / Beasts / Shooters / Shooters / Behemoth (General) / Shooters / Shooters / Shooters / Beasts / Beasts

So this is what happened:

Krüger’s hero destroyed one of my beasts.

My behemoth general made it to the top of the hill and destroyed two orc warbands.

Two Orc riders destroyed one of my beasts.

my behemoth general is pushed back

My behemoth was pushed back into the forest and destroyed another element of beasts in its path.

(We had some doubt if the rules actually work this way.)

My last surviving beast destroyed Krüger’s shooters.

Three Tupi shooters combined their forces and shot down two orc warbands.

my behemoth general is destroyed

Krüger’s warband general chased my general through the woods and finally destroyed it with the help of some side and rear support.

Krüger’s hero destroyed one of my shooters.

The orcs won and now occupy hexagon 11 on our campaign map.

Hendrik's campaign map

Six-year-old Hendrik watched us prepare the game and drew his version of the campaign map. He thinks it looks much better than our map. I think he might be right.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

My Entry for the First Round of the Thought Eater Essay Contest

I like talking to a friend, my son calls Kügel, because he can’t pronounce his name well. He is a long-term philosophy student, gamer and avid reader of cheap fantasy novels. Today I talk to Kügel about “Evocation vs Imitation vs Emulation in adapting literary source material to RPGs“, my topic for the first round of the Thought Eater essay contest.

We have some difficulties defining the three terms, maybe because English isn’t our native language, maybe because we are not that smart. “To emulate“ seems to have two meanings.

1. imitate with effort to equal or surpass

If this essay is supposed to find out which of the three forms of adaptation is the best, emulation automatically beats imitation. Per definitionem, says Kügel.

2. The other meaning of “emulate“ is more interesting. A program can be emulated on a computer, it wasn’t originally written for. What the original program and the new program do looks very similar to the user, but the programs are actually different. Emulation in this sense works best when a text is adapted from one system to a similar system. The fairy tale “Hänsel und Gretel“ can be translated from German to English, for example. German and English are both languages. But can the story be emulated as a film? Or as an RPG?

At first, we understand the difference between evocation and imitation, but talking about it for a while, we get lost. To imitate means to copy superficial elements, all the details of a text. To evoke means to create a similar atmosphere, to write in a similar style, to copy essential elements only, like the more important parts of the plot or the structure.

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre“ is a clever adaptation of “Hänsel und Gretel“. You have a group of young people getting lost in the wilderness. You don’t have two children abandoned by their parents. You have cannibalism, but no witch. You have an isolated house, but it’s not decorated with ginger bread. Both stories create a scary atmosphere.

Thinking a bit more about evocation, imitation and emulation, the lines get more blurry. Most texts which “evoke“ other texts also copy some superficial elements and emulation just seems to be a more accurate or better form of imitation, depending on how you define it. Kügel says the topic is unclear, because the terms we deal with are too similar. “And what is literary source material anyway?“, he adds. “The plot? The characters? The style of writing? The world the story creates?“

I propose to work with this: Playing an RPG, you can refer to a text in different ways. One extreme way is trying to imitate as many elements of the text as closely as possible. MERP springs to my mind. The other extreme way is to refer loosely to the text, in an abstract way, and only copy elements you find essential. “A Red & Pleasant Land“ does this. You could call both forms of adaptation “imitation“, the first one “emulation“, the second one “evocation“.

Kügel says: “Your essay will be disqualified. Let’s think about this in a different way. Try to be original. What works best for a GM?“ Kügel doesn’t like to work if he can avoid it. He says: “Which way needs less preparation?“

Well, if you are good at seeing the structure of a text, picking up elements that interest you, changing them, combining them with other elements and filling the gaps, a concept like “evocation“ works for you. If you are good at memorizing lots of information and reproducing it, a concept like “emulation“ works for you.

Kügel says: “Remember. ‘Opinions differ round-up‘, and ‘Well it’s a balance‘-style essays will be disqualified.“

Ok. Here’s another, more personal way to look at it. As an experiment, I wouldn’t mind adapting “Hänsel und Gretel“ as an RPG and stick to the original as closely as possible. Of course, the first thing that would get lost in the process is the plot of the fairy tale and with the plot a lot of other elements would transform. Being an improvisational effort of a group of people, RPGs open up texts anyway. Because of this, one could argue, when adapting a text, a concept like “evocation“ works best with Role Playing Games. It gives enough space to improvise.

But there is something else. I usually don’t feel too comfortable with people who stick to all the details of a given game world and obsess about it. I live in Germany, a country populated by square headed people.

“You said, we were playing ‘Hänsel und Gretel‘, so why did we encounter a wolf on the way through the forest? This is not ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘, is it?“

“It was just a wolf, an animal. It didn’t say anything. It ran away.“

“Why do we keep finding little bones and wooden objects where we left the breadcrumbs? Where is the gingerbread house? And why did Hänsel just disappear? That wasn’t supposed to happen. Where is the witch? I don’t like this.“