Game report: Skirmish at Jumonville Glen

Family Game Night at Martine’s school was postponed due to weather, so we didn’t play the Jumonville game until last night. It went as well as I expected: successful, but very hectic with a group of 1st-4th graders.

The format of game night was basically a free-for-all: anyone could bring games and play with opponents they found, or borrow games from the school. My game was an oddball. I set it up and waited for people to walk up and decide to play. Lots of kids and a few parents and teachers were interested in the game before it started, and a handful of kids stayed to play.

When I started handing out figures and explaining the rules, there were 6 kids from 1st through 4th grades, Daniel, and me. I decided on 8 players worth of soldiers with the idea that Daniel and I could step out if anyone else wanted to join in.

People came and left a lot between the instructions and the first few turns. We ended up with 4 kids and three adults who pretty much stayed for the whole game, and a few kids who came and left.

The game itself went relatively well. It took maybe an hour and fifteen minutes including instructions. The French started at the base of the cliff, and the Virginians and Indians were at least a foot away. Early on, the battle was relatively even. Then the French got a long run of turns in a row, and did some real damage. We played until the bitter end: the last Indian soldier, dubbed “sniper,” took out 2-3 French before finally being shot for his last hit point

I learned a lot about running games for kids. First of all, most kids of this age don’t want to listen to instructions at all. I’m not sure whether it was a good idea to remove Blood and Swash’s “roll for your soldier’s ability scores” process or not. On one hand, it was some setup time that was avoided. On the other hand, it would’ve gotten the kids to do something while learning about their soldiers’ abilities, instead of just listening to me talk.

I think it might work best to set things up ahead of time, and introduce the rules by playing the first turn. Describing the rules to players who are just going to leave is a waste, and you’ll have to re-explain for people who walk up anyway.

I got a hint of another problem when playtesting with Martine, but it was more obvious with a group of kids. Kids have short arms, and they’re short. It’s not easy for them to reach figures in the middle of the table, especially without dragging their arms over all the terrain. The Blood and Swash games they play with kids at conventions did a great job solving this problem I didn’t know I’d have: the games are in a very small (1-2′ square) model bar room, with outside walls. The outer walls require kids to lift their arms high enough not to hit any of the contents of the game board. A ship’s deck model with railings on the sides might also work well for this.

The useful attention span of these kids was also only about an hour. Things can’t go on longer than that without losing steam.

As for the rules themselves: we ended up making some mistakes, though the players were mostly insulated from this. In an earlier playtest, I could never remember to tell players to activate 2 soldiers on face cards, so I didn’t even try to implement this rule last night.

The other big rules mistake I made was allowing charging into close combat without any bravery tests. I forgot this the first time someone charged, and so I skipped it completely from then on. It didn’t really make the game worse, but it was simpler and different: we had a lot more close combat than in playtesting. One tactic the “free charge” ended up allowing was leaving close combat to charge a different soldier in order to get the charge bonus for fighting. I didn’t have a rule that said you can’t leave combat, because most of the time it would not be beneficial to do that anyway… as long as you have to make a bravery test to charge again.

I had enough d20’s for all the players to use, and I said players could keep them if they stayed for the whole game. Obviously for most of the players who left in the middle, this wasn’t enough motivation. But I think there was one player who was staying on in the end only to get the free stuff. It’s probably worth doing this again, but I won’t have any expectation that it’s going to keep everyone playing forever.

I didn’t have any figure casualties, not even a bent musket. 3 of my trees broke off, but I mostly expected that; I’m surprised they didn’t break off earlier when adults were playing.

Overall I’m quite happy with how it went, and I’m really glad Daniel was there to help me herd the cats. Thanks! In the end, it was probably just an excuse to paint figures and terrain that seemed interesting, but we had at least 2-3 games worth of “playtesting” as well as one “real” game so that’s worth it. I’m not likely to try anything with more complicated rules at an open game night, at least until some of the players really show they’re interested in learning more.

The Slippery Slope: Later Achaemenid Persians

On the fanaticus forums, someone asked about building a BBDBA army (a triple DBA army from one army list and its allies) starting with the armies he already had. They just happened to have most of the same armies as I do, so I did some calculating.

If you have all of the Later Achaemenid Persian (II/7) options painted, a Skythian (I/43a) army with all the options painted, and one of the later Hoplite armies (II/5), then you have a great start on a double Persian army with Skythian ally for BBDBA. Reading the DBM lists, you can make a theoretically accurate army by using greek hoplites as mercenary spears, Skythian light horse as allied units within the Persian army, and Cretan archers (use Greek) for the Psiloi. Then
all you need to paint is a few elements of Cavalry and maybe more Psiloi to fill up the BBDBA army.

But… I have all those armies. That means I could do it too. And, I just happened to have a spare pack of Persian cavalry… and so my slide down the slippery slope began.

I painted two cavalry stands and the cavalry general I hadn’t painted previously. Around this same time, I started looking into Basic Impetus and Impetus. To field an Impetus army for the Persians, I’d only need a few more cavalry stands and a bit more Psiloi. So I bought a pack of archers, and painted the rest of my cavalry.

The four stands of cavalry in the rear are Chariot Miniatures (Magister Militum/Navigator Miniatures). The Cavalry general in front is from the Essex DBA army pack. The archers are also Essex figures.

Now… the archers give me more Psiloi than I need. If I use mercenary hoplites from my Greek army for the spear elements, then all I need to make a triple Persian army for BBDBA is another cavalry or chariot general and either scythed chariots or psiloi.

But once I have a BBDBA army for the Persians, who are they going to fight against? Clearly I’ll need to paint a second BBDBA army as an enemy. I chose Alexander the Great (II/12), because apparently I have a driving need to paint 48 more pikemen. Actually, if I paint a triple Alexandrian army, I’ll be able to morph it into about 5 other Alexandrian/Successor armies, and I’ll have enough figures to have some of the successors fight against each other in DBA. It’ll also get me enough figures for a substantial Impetus army.

Now I have both Persians and Alexandrians on order from Magister Militum, to round out the Persian army and triple my Alexandrians. I chose the figure packs myself instead of buying premade DBA armies, so I could tweak some of the options so they’re more useful in other armies.

Studded Tires

Thanks for the studded tires, Mom and Dad!

I built this bike to use the Nokian A10 tires. It’s a low geared 3 speed, so I’m not tempted to go too fast when I shouldn’t. It has good fender clearance, using Velo Orange aluminum fenders. Unfortunately I have to use my battery light on it, that’ll be disappointing.

Installing the tires on their rims was the most difficult part of this whole job. The tires are very stiff, and tight on the rims. Also, they have carbide spikes for additional hand comfort as you wrestle them onto the rims.

On my first attempt, when my hands got sore I broke down and did what I knew I shouldn’t: I used a tire lever to install the tire. Even though I was being careful, the inevitable occurred, and I popped the tube. After getting some additional tubes, I tried again; the second time, I succeeded. Then I tried the rear tire, and put another hole in the tube.

For the next two days, my palms were sore. It hurt to run water over them. The next day, I remembered I had another tube available, and tried that one; but this time I got smart and used gloves. That tube got pinched and popped, without even using the tire level to install it. After using my last 2 patches to repair two of the three tube failures, one final attempt got the tire on the rim without any holes in the tube. (I have more patches coming in the mail)

There are a few upsides here. There’s no way these things are going to get holes in them or pinch-flat, since they are so stiff and heavy. I’m just going to leave my repair kit at home since I’d never be able to replace a tube on the road anyway.

I took the bike out for a spin last night, on our unplowed road. On my limited ride, the tires worked really well: they didn’t slide at all, even though it was easy for me to slip on my feet when I was standing.

I have a cold, and we’re getting 4-8″ of snow in the next few days, so I haven’t ridden it to work yet. Maybe I will next week.


Plumbing WTF decided to join polite company, and declared that their use of “WTF” stands for Worse than Failure. This site is sort of a There I Fixed It for programmers.

What is Worse than Failure? Success, when it looks like this:

It’s not failure: it works. It’s just a horrifyingly bad solution. That’s 5 separate fittings screwed together with teflon tape, in order to replace one T-fitting that isn’t available in the exact size and specs I require. It also required at least 4 trips to the hardware store to get the actual parts I needed.

(Yes, I even asked for help at the store on two different occasions, and no one knew what the heck I was talking about, despite the fact that I bought the water filter at the very same store.)

The long story:

We got a new water filter, that came with a plastic T fitting to plumb it into the supply line between the faucet and the supply hose: 1/2″ pipe threads. The water filter stopped working. In the process of figuring out why, I screwed up the faucet. The replacement faucet has the supply hose built in, to prevent people like me from breaking it the way I did. But that means the water filter T fitting needs to have 3/8″ supply hose fittings instead of 1/2″ pipe threads now. Hilarity ensues.