Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Creepy Hollow: The Wrath of the Headless Hessian

This past weekend saw Megz and yours truly at Cold Wars in Lancaster, PA. We ran a 7V/Witching Hour scenario featuring Ichabod Crane and the Headless Hessian, twice, both games were full, and both saw very different results.

Setup: Ichabod Crane and Katrina van Tassel are planning to search the Old Dutch Burying Ground for the Hessian's skull, to break the curse and end the haunting of Creepy Hollow. Lady van Tassel (aka The Witch) is going along to secretly thwart their plans. Abraham von Brunt has ridden to Mount Pleasant to raise a portion of the Westchester Militia.

The action takes place at night, with no moon. Safe movement is limited to a 6", with an attempted run adding 1d6". Shooting is limited to 12", with a -1 modifier for anything beyond short range.

If the Horseman had not been summoned by turn 6, he would automatically appear at the southern end of the road. The militia were timed to enter after the Hessian (roll turn or less on d6, once the Hessian appears).

We used the 7th Voyage event deck, with the 7TV 2E Finale countdown cards once the event cards ran out.
"Search the graveyard? Wonderful idea!
I'll come with..."

Friday's session was most amusing - the witch player decided to hang back and fight for the horseman's skull using her ghoul proxies. These were paid for prior to the game start, but placed in reserve, to be summoned once the witch was in the burying ground. Since the witch/Lady van Tassel had the Infiltrator skill, she could set up and move with our two Heroes (Ichabod and Katrina).

After the first turn, Lady van T peeled off and entered the graveyard through a gap in the wall, behind the crypt. She then summoned two ghouls and set them on Ichabod and Katrina, who were getting too close to the skull pile beneath the Tree of the Dead.

The ghouls themselves were unarmed, and only strong enough to stun, as was Katrina and Ichabod - the latter did have a flintlock pistol, but was a fairly poor shot.

There was a good deal of stuns inflicted, the heroes having an advantage as each hit point they had granted an additional d6 to roll off the stun. Still, they were kept busy enough, when Katrina suddenly snapped out of it, searched the skull pile, and raised up the Horseman's head. Lady van T. made her move...
"Wicked stepmother? 
I'm the Red Queen!"

Rushing the mound, Lady van T. stunned Katrina and took possession of the skull, only to be stunned in turn by Katrina. The skull dropped to the ground.

Immediately, the Horseman charged at the stunned witch, but fell short by 3/4 of an inch. Using an event card to seize the initiative, Lady van Tassel frantically searched the base of the skull pile for the missing cranium. Her first roll was a failure, and a hush fell on the game. Second roll...success! The players cheered, booed or shook their heads, depending on their allegiances. "Not me, you fool!" shrieked the Witch and indicating Ichabod and Katrina, "Kill THEM!". The Hessian complied, though with palpable reluctance,

At this point (turn 7) the Westchester Militia, Whitson's Section (so called because they were raised at Whitson's Tavern) rounded the graveyard gate and began to fire at the Horseman. Lady van T. made a hasty run for the back of the crypt, to jump the wall, with Abram von Brunt and a single militiaman in hot pursuit. Katrina, confronted the Hessian at the Tree of the Dead: "Foul dwimmerlaik..." well, you know the rest. Katrina played an event card - +1d6 to banish the Hessian. There was a flash of pyrotechnics, and both Hessian and nightmare steed were gone.

Next turn, von Brunt won initiative. "Halt, in the name of the great Jehovah and the incorporated village of Mount Pleasant!" he demanded, as the militiaman levelled his musket and bayonet. A couple of ghouls, looking awkwardly at the ground, shuffled away to their burrows. Lady van Tassel, grasping the inevitable, surrendered.

Van Brunt took 6 VPs - three for recovering the Hessians skull, two for capturing Lady van T., and one for showing up Ichabod and impressing Katrina, who took 2 points (for banishing the Hessian) and Ichabod only 1/2 VP for shooting a ghoul.

Second Game - just the highlights:

Lady van Tassel played a more straightforward game, sticking close to the group until they all strolled into the graveyard, then she raised a ghoul. Melee around the Tree until Turn 6, when the Hessian auto-appears. Katrina gains the skull, runs off the mound, is caught by the witch/Lady T. and killed (witch had a dagger!) but drops skull. Witch loses initiative as the Hessian charges, trailing hellfire. Hessian kills witch and von Brunt, while Ichabod is paralysed in fright.

The Hessian descends from his steed, picks up his fallen skull, places it on his head, and laughs horrifically. Ichabod flees for his life...roll credits.

Post-game Thoughts

This was indeed a fast-moving, merry scenario. Lots of laughs, stumbles, and gotchas - driven in no small part by the 7th Voyage event deck. Having the 7TV 2 ed. countdown cards also insured plenty of action in the last turn or two. I might tailor them slightly to reflect the more cinematic flavour of 7th Voyage.

At 5 Hit Points, the Headless Hessian is a six-legged, two armed engine of destruction. Works quite well as a semi-allied partner to the witch, as long as she holds the horseman's skull. Impressive how speedily the Horseman players turn on her, if she loses it.

I am thinking of adding Reverend Small to the Heroes side, also an additional militiaman and another ghoul for the witch to summon. I already have the models, so simple enough. Rev. Small would also have the ability to banish the Hessian, so there's a caveat.

We don't want to short change our best character...Ω

"All around the Tree of the Dead, they fight to claim the Hessian..."

Game 2: Barricades cannot stop what Hell hath unfettered.

"You on the road! Who goes there?"

Thursday, March 14, 2019

7TV/7th Voyage Film: Creepy Hollow - Wrath of the Hessian

Final preparations for Cold Wars are underway - I'm dabbling with Gothic Horror this year. Ichabod Crane and Katrina van Tassel will be tangling with the Headless Hessian. Heads will roll...Ω

Friday, February 15, 2019

In Search of...British Pulp.

Something of a departure from my sporadic post-facto postings, a discussion over at the 7TV FB page had me on a quest to answer the mystery of "Whatever Happened to British Pulp Fiction?"

If the Golden Age of Pulp Era is defined as the 1920's to 1930's, and is deemed predominantly American, is British Pulp a chimera? If it isn't, then where are the British Pulps? The short answer is, in the 50's and 60's. The longer answer is a bit more complex.

To begin with, the development of British "Pulp" fiction was hampered by Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe. Harmsworth, "the greatest figure who ever strode down Fleet Street[1]" was owner of the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror and challenger of the Penny Dreadfuls, the immediate precursor of British Pulps. From Wikipedia:
"The popularity of penny dreadfuls was challenged in the 1890s by the rise of competing literature. Leading the challenge were popular periodicals published by Alfred Harmsworth. Priced at one half-penny, Harmsworth's story papers were cheaper and, at least initially, were more respectable than the competition. Harmsworth claimed to be motivated by a wish to challenge the pernicious influence of penny dreadfuls. In an editorial in the first number of The Half-penny Marvel in 1893 it was stated that:
"It is almost a daily occurrence with magistrates to have before them boys who, having read a number of 'dreadfuls', followed the examples set forth in such publications, robbed their employers, bought revolvers with the proceeds, and finished by running away from home, and installing themselves in the back streets as 'highwaymen'. This and many other evils the 'penny dreadful' is responsible for. It makes thieves of the coming generation, and so helps fill our gaols.[5]"
The Half-penny Marvel was soon followed by a number of other Harmsworth half-penny periodicals, such as The Union Jack and Pluck. At first the stories were high-minded moral tales, reportedly based on true experiences, but it was not long before these papers started using the same kind of material as the publications they competed against. A. A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, once said, "Harmsworth killed the penny dreadful by the simple process of producing the 'ha'penny dreadfuller'". The quality of the Harmsworth/Amalgamated Press papers began to improve throughout the early 20th century, however. By the time of the First World War, papers such as Union Jack dominated the market in the UK.[16]"

In summation, at the point where the Dreads were poised to become the Pulps, Harmsworth killed them. The Strand, The Pall Mall Magazine, etc., went on to print more cerebral, "posher" fiction, some of which could be reasonably termed "weird", but were less lurid and less sordid than the American "Pulps". Harmsworth filled the gap with Union Jack magazine, initially a "Boy's Own Adventure" mag which then developed into a broader, yet still "highly morale" publication.

Contributing to the dearth was the market. Between the world wars, Britain's market was dominated by the Story Paper, also known as the "Boy's Weekly". Thus, from the 1920's, it was financially more viable to import American Pulps, which were distributed by John Menzies in Scotland  and W.H. Smith & Son in London and throughout England. Indeed, eventually, at any train station where WHS had a kiosk, there were American pulps to be found. Adding to the challenge, WWII brought paper rationing to Britain, discouraging publishers and would-be start-ups.

Another discouragement was Scoops: a weekly pulp-paper tabloid aimed at the juvenile market. Failure after 20 issues (from Feb., 1934) led British publishers to conclude that the home market for British pulps was not sustainable.

Despite this pall, by 1937, Tales of Wonder was published (roughly quarterly) by Worlds Work publishing. Also published were Tales of Mystery and Detection and Tales of the Uncanny. Tales of Wonder would be the first sustained British pulp until 1942, when paper costs and rationing would cause it to reduce the page count, and upon the editors calling up for war service,  cease publication. During the initial period, editor Walter Gillings would rely on some American authors[2] to fill his pages, due to a lack of quality home sources. Reprinting American Pulp stories in British  format would become a hallmark of Worlds Work publishing (themselves a division of the US publisher Doubleday.

Impressed by the relative success of Tales of Wonder, Newnes LTD (publisher of The Strand magazine) decided to publish Fantasy magazine in 1938. Fantasy would combine science fiction and fantasy, and would print three editions over three years. Newnes paid better than most, and attracted better writers, such as John Wyndham, Eric Frank Russell, and John Russell Fearn. Once again, the war would intervene, and the editor, T. Stanhope Sprigg, would enlist in the RAF in 1939.

Branching off of Fantasy magazine, Worlds Work would publish Tales of the Uncanny, again, as three issues from 1934 to 1938.

It may become apparent to the reader that British Pulp, having been partially strangled in its crib, failed to gain a foothold in the British market during the 1920's; the same time the American branch was beginning to thrive. By the late 1930's, time was running out. By 1939, time had run out, and the necessities of war consumed what was left of the market, the talent, and the means of production for British Pulp to thrive.

This series of fits and starts would delay British Pulp's development to the 1950's. By then, British Pulps had followed their American cousins and had shrunk to digest formats.  New Worlds, Science Fiction Adventures, and Science Fantasy magazines were prominent, surviving into the 1960's when they would morph again, this time into A-format (i.e. mass-market) paperbacks.

It was the onset of these paperbacks, printed on cheap paper, that would produce the anthologies of Pulp stories. Rescued from obscurity, by PAN Books in the UK and DAW Books in the States, this would serve to spark a renewed interest in pulp fiction during the 1970's. 

And so, the wheel turns full circle...

[1] Lord Beaverbrook, Politicians and the War, 1914–1916 (1928) 1:93.
[2] David Keller, Murray Leinster, Jack Williamson

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Traveller: Interstellar Wars, using Dirtside II in 15mm

Megz and I decided to try a little Dirtside II while visiting the Tri-State Gamers Day of Games in Springfield, PA this past 17th November. Megz had never played before (though is familiar with StarGrunt II) and I hadn't played in some 4 years - time to knock some rust off.

We were joined by Cliff B. and Gil (?), which was a pleasant development (They were enthralled by the GEV APCs and first thought it was a Hammer's Slammers game - why disappoint them?)

Imperials Advance
I have no idea why my camera is tinting blue.

This was another "Assault on Alpha Centauri" scenario, first taken from the old boardgame Imperium and answers the statement "You should only attack with 3 to 1 odds." with "Sometimes, you only have  2 to 1 odds and you hope to get lucky...". Happens in Imperium all the time.

(Picture note: my I*Phone was fussing, so the first picture turned out rather blue-ish. We switched to the MegzCam(TM) for the rest of the game.)

The Vilani make a key mistake...they bunch up.

The Imps weren't playing very clever, we were just trying to close to range. Bit of a mistake, really. The Terran mortars took out an artillery scout sled, and then sustained heavy missile fire and high velocity rounds from the light tanks (nicknamed "Terridens") destroying the T53 Area Defense sled. Loss of the AD sled is always bad, as it protects the advance against missiles and mortar rounds. And so, the defeat begins...

The line is dressed,
and the advance may now continue...

Some good news; the artillery spotters were able to deploy a pair of mortars on the reverse of the ridge. The third mortar was still in the burning hover sled. Also, an attached Electronic Warfare sled set up jamming of the Terran communications.

Dirtside II doesn't have EW rules, so we ported them in from StarGrunt II. An active EW stand receive three chits, each can be spent to spot units, jam commo or spoof enemy guidance systems. The Imperial immediately began to jam the Terran artillery spotters requests for mortar fire. This blunted the Terran mortar fire, but did not entirely halt it.

The Terrans had very little capability to counter these EW attacks - Terran Tech lags behind Imperial, so their ECW assets aren't effective except in quantity, and there had been no room to land those expensive, and limited effective units.

The ConFed Marines would defend the giant
 drink cup facility, whatever the cost...
Terran Marine platoon, dug in on three low rises. The big building is some sort of infrastructure objective - maybe it refines and bottles water. It has to be strategically important for the Vilani to capture and not simply nuke.

The marines are supported by light, airmobile AIFVs and a pair of light tanks (with hi-velocity guns). There are mortar teams behind the crests of the rises, the squad leaders are acting as spotters - something the Vilani would never contemplate.

The near squad has lost their Chariot-class AIFV to the 44mm gun of the T53 sled. These small vehicles are light enough to drop into positions, but they have thin armour. All Terran Marine Jump Infantry vehicles are built on the same light chassis, easing logistics ever so slightly.

The view of the Vilani, humping over the ridge, from the Terran ConFed perspective. The Terran mortar teams are still being jammed, as the Command Post attempts to re-activate a mortar section to hit the Imps. This was another StarGrunt II rule we imported - a command unit may pass it's activation to a subordinate unit upon making a successful commo roll.

One thing we did not get on camera was an auto-cannon armed Chariot raced down the Vilani right flank and shot up several elements - Imperial mortar section and spotter section as well as the EW sled.  Megz is a lunatic, but the attack worked. Though the "Mad Chariot" was destroyed by the 22mm autocannons of an Imperial AIFV, with the loss of the Imperial EW team, and the supporting mortar, AND the squandered T43 ADA sled, the Vilani cancelled the assault.

The Vilani have second thoughts...

Post Game Thoughts:

Designing Interstellar Wars ground actions can be tricky, especially if you're trying to stay in Traveller Canon. The first few wars must have been a nightmare, with the Ziru Sirka/Vilani lobbing tactical nukes about like lawn darts. The Terran ConFed would need to keep very mobile, which would be somewhat difficult if they're dropping light troops from orbit - unless they're dropping directly onto targets the Imperials can't (or won't) nuke.

Ziru Sirka/Imperial scouts - these poor b@stards.  Light, open hover-sleds leaves them vulnerable to all kinds of artillery shenanigans. They might need their own Area Defence Artillery, also in a light, open hover-sled.

The Electronic Warfare sled was a lot of fun to play. Blocking unit activations makes up for a lot of a beating. In hindsight, we should have jammed both mortar sections and the command post. Live and learn.

Converting Traveller vehicle designs is, in itself, entertaining. Ken Pick has several excellent articles over at Freelance Traveller - highly recommended....Ω

Marines watch while a Chariot brews up.
Let's hope the crew got out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

7TV: DEPARTMENT X and the Mist from MARS

This past Fall-In! miniatures convention saw a "re-imagined" transmission of 7TV's 'The Mist from Mars' featuring an all-new cast: the stalwart defenders of Earth - Department X, lead by Dr. Hugo Solomon and his companion Pandora King.

The Lancaster Host is still in the process of "renovation", though it feels like for every step forward, it's two steps back. This year, the main ballroom was 50% accessible, causing many games to be relocated the old restaurant, linen cupboards, and in one case, down an old stairwell behind a door marked "Beware of the Leopard"*.

So, thus, my 4:00 PM Friday game, though sold out, was full of empty people.  Since we were testing the 7TV2 Countdown Cards, Megz and I decided to have a go.

Landrover and Infantry by Crooked Dice
Department X deploys - the lead squad, under Captain Nick Keats started on foot. On the second turn, Sgt. Tam Fraser arrived with the X-Weapon Team (a heavy "laser"), via Landrover.  The 'rover was only used as an entry point, given that in previous games, the U.N.I.T. players tended somewhat to mis-use it. Mist players countered that they ought to be allowed to knock down the earthlings with their capsule, and I saw a dangerous precedent developing. So, nix the 'rover.

The Infiltrator, Captain Jo Gray, removes her latex mask to reveal: Greg Morris!  Actually, no, she just karate-chops one of the X-Laser team whilst pretending to be a Dept. X member.

Immediately, Pandora King springs into melee, amidst delighted shouts of "Cat Fight" from the rest of the team. I had removed Pandora's "Beat Everything in Sight" skill for balance purposes, and thus she was not able to bring down Capt. Gray. In fact, this melee would grow over the next two turns, as all available models were drawn into the melee.

A result of the Countdown Cards landed Capt. Nick Keats deep in Mist-occupied territory.

He was very shortly dealt with, having been hypnotised by the alien invader, denying his Leader 2 bonus to Department X. To add insult, Keats was then sent staggering towards his own side, blazing away with his service arm.

Fortunately for Keats, Hugo Solomon had broken free of the Grand Melee once Jo Gray was knocked unconscious. (Tactically, it's more economical to knock Gray out, since she regenerates Hits. Clapper down and cuff her is the rule of the day.)

Unfortunately, Department X was being driven off the field. Without Keats, and with Pandora and the weapons team tied down in the surprise melee, the Mist's numbers were telling.

Hugo Solomon would have to come up with another Brilliant Plan...Next Week on Department X.

Post Game Thoughts:
We like the countdown cards - they keep the game moving and unpredictable. Adapting them to 1st edition is simple enough, we just give out equivalent Audience Appreciation points for Plot Points.

The sides were virtually the same as the Docter Who version, except the Pandora did the punching and Solomon broke the Mists Domination with the Photonic Spanner.  Captain Gray received Leader 1, though it didn't help much in this game since she had used her Infiltrator skill to deploy in Department X's set up zone.

Coming up...Part II - Fists of Fury....Ω

*No, not really. Sillypants.

Friday, September 14, 2018

28mm Land Rover from Crooked Dice

In preparation for running "The Mist From Mars" at Fall In!, I've decided to change the Heroic side from U.N.I.T. and the Doctor to Department X and Hugo Solomon. Reasons include becoming jaded with the predominantly same result the games were yielding (UNIT wins 3/4th the time) and an interest in painting up the 28mm Land Rover from Crooked Dice Design Studios.

As supplied, the Crooked Dice version Land Rover is hella-easier to assemble and paint, being a single resin body with four wheel pieces.

28mm Land Rover from Crooked Dice on a 1" grid
The design is crisp and nicely detailed. Almost no mould lines and the wheels fit nicely into place. It is a fairly light weight model, especially when compared to the Minifigs UK brick.

This model will be painted in Department X Livery; black with the "X" logo. It will be a welcome addition to my 7TV forces, and I might even buy another one for UNIT...Ω

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NJCon 2018, Doctor Who and 7TV

New, Improved, Prettier Board!
Landrover by MiniFigs UK, Soldiers by Crooked Dice

NJCon was held on 8 - 9 June, 2018 at the NJ Expo Center in Edison, NJ.  Attendance was good and certainly seems to be increasing in this, the convention's 10th year.
Two 7TV/Doctor Who games were scheduled - the first failed to launch as 1:00 PM Friday is still a bit early for walk ups, but the 6:00 PM slot had four participants - two, John and James, from previous games.
The new improved board looked a treat - mat by Mats by Mars and security fence (double set) by Crossover Miniatures

The Mist from Mars game started along familiar lines - UNIT, Mike Yates and the Doctor were trying to foil the plans of the three Servitors of the Mist and enslaved scientists. A team of possessed RAF airmen under Capt. Gray were assisting the Mist, while Sgt. Benton and a Landrover full of machine gun were supporting UNIT.
RAF Airmen by Copplestone Castings,
Fuel Drums by Pegasus

UNIT and Aliens advanced, while the scientists proceeded to build The Deadly Plot Device, and the Doctor nipped into the nearest lab to do likewise.

The "Longstanding Grudge" card turned up again, and true to tradition, it was assigned to Captains Gray and Mike "That's no Alien, that's my ex-wife" Yates. This meant they would get to re-roll failed hits against each other - "Hell hath no fury" and all that...

I'm considering making this a permanent effect.

Landrover by MiniFigs UK,
Soldiers by Crooked Dice
 Events started to pick up on Turn 2, when Sgt. Benton and his HMG Team arrived via Landrover. Benton conducted a bootlegger turn at the gate and backed into the compound, before going all "Russkie Teaparty" and spraying the Servitors of the Mist with .50 Cal hors d'oeuvres.

The Junior Servitor advance on Capt. Yates and stunned him with a blast of energy, before shortly thereafter going down in a hail of NATO lead.

Captain Gray continued to follow Yates, complaining about missed alimony payments, unreturned phone calls, and generally causing a -1 to all of Yates rolls, due to distraction.  Since the figure hadn't done anything overtly hostile (and nothing a married gamer isn't used to), the UNIT side couldn't shoot at her.

This detente would soon end, as sometime around Turn 4, Capt. Gray charged the Landrover, punched, stunned and pulled Benton from the driver's seat, and, jumping in, proceeded to drive away, with a startled HMG team in the back. (This actually occurred over two turns, the Mist side got lucky and won initiative twice in a row. Hilarious.)

 Driving and weaving like a Bombay Taxi, Capt Gray tried to throw the HMG team from the Landrover. Impressively, they were able to make their Agility checks, twice (with the help of the Audience Appreciation chits) and clung on for dear life (possibly they have family from Mumbai?).
The joyride ended when Capt Gray lost control and hit the security fence. Did she survive?
Tune in next time...

The Doctor Intervenes
 Almost as an afterthought, the Doctor reappeared, having discovered a weakness in the Servitors life supports (+1 melee against a Servitor). The scientists countered, and the game ended.

UNIT/Doctor had scored the most points, with Benton and Gray tied for second, with the main Servitors being wiped out.

Coming soon: The Revenge of Captain Gray.

Post Game Thoughts: Not many. Game still seems tilted in favour of UNIT/The Doctor. I might just give Capt. Gray leadership 1 for future games and have done with it. James, the player who controlled Gray, received post-game points for using her aggressively....