Hurraku Space Phraints – the Bad Bugs you never knew, but wish you did

Back in early 2016, I found an interesting miniature on eBay that I had never seen before.  It was from the Archive Star Rovers line.  It was a large bug-like creature with a large blaster and a huge sword on its back.  It reminded me of a deadly grasshopper.  Doing a little research, I learned that the figure was made around 1979-1981, and was designated as Archive #2318, “Hurraku Space Phraint”.

0000 Catalog (2)_LI
From the Archive Catalog in my Star Rovers game from 1981

I immediately thought that a group of these figures would make a great platoon for a retro-sci-fi game of Combat Patrol™.  However, like many Star Rovers figures they proved to be very scarce.  Eventually I decided that I would need to cast my own to make such a unit (you can read about that effort here).

I made a mold, and recast a bunch of these, and shared some with my good friend Buck Surdu.  Buck called them “Space Bugs” (which of course they are), and painted up a unit himself – you can see his work on these here.   I really liked what Buck had done with his and his use of glitter paint.  His work inspired me to seek a way to get a shine on mine without being, well, overly shiny.  Meanwhile, my Space Phraints waited as other projects and personal stuff got in the way (as it always does!).

Over time I researched and dug deeper.  I found that there is quite an interesting back story to these bugs.  I discovered that Phraints were originally in the Arduin Grimoire RPG system, which was a contemporary competitor to TSR’s Dungeons and Dragons system in the mid-to-late 1970’s.  It was written and marketed by David Hargrave and his company, Grimoire Games.  Phraints played a major role in Arduin, and were prominently shown on their rules systems covers (see below).  One of the main differences from D&D was that Arduin went from fantasy to futuristic sci-fi all in the same universe.

Arduin Grimoire (2)
Cover of Arduin Grimoire Volume 1, circa 1976, from http://www.jonathantweet.com/jotgamearduin.html.  Note the Phraint on the cover.

Apparently (and unsurprisingly) there were a series of lawsuits by TSR against Hargrave, and his company, alleging trademark infringement, etc.  It’s history at this point, but truly a fascinating (and drama-filled) chapter in the early era of fantasy and sci-fi gaming.  If you would like to learn more about that kerfuffle, here is a good link.

So where did Archive come in?  Archive Miniatures had the license for the Arduin line.  According to Archive founder Nevile Stocken, the original Phraint figure was a Steve Lortz sculpt in their Arduin figure line (#783).  Nevile adapted the original Phraint figure and created the Hurraku Space Phraint.  He did this by removing the hive the front foot was resting on, as well as the quiver on the back.  This leaned the figure forward.  The large sword on the front was removed and replaced the quiver on the back.  The Hurraku was then given what Nevile described as a BFG (“big f’ing gun”).  The Phraints are truly interesting, and this is another great link on their characteristics.  I like that they are emotionless – and incapable of lying.

Ad_Phraint
Archive advertisement with original Phraint from http://greybeardgamer.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-better-way-to-start-than-with_25.html

OK, enough Phraint back story (hope it was interesting anyways).  Back to the platoon making!

Originally, I had 39 Space Phraints.  It was time to clean and file the metal miniatures, which are large for the ranges 25mm scale (the Space Phraints are about 1¾”  or 44 cm tall). Overall, I found it difficult at most times during the project to discern the difference between my recasts and the originals, except during this phase.  However, upon better inspection, I found 3 figures out of 39 that were not of acceptable quality, so I went to 36 figures for the unit, with the unfortunate three going to the remelt pile.

I ended up with 36 Space Phraints (1 original, and 35 recasts), for the platoon.  It would consist of 3 squads composed of 2 teams of 5, each led by a squad leader, making each squad having 11 figures.  Additionally, there would be a Platoon Leader, a Platoon Sergeant, and a Sith Knight.  The Sith Phraint would be great fun to game with when I use Greg Priebe’s Star Wars supplement for Combat Patrol™.  I decided to make the figures look the same so as to reinforce the “hive” effect.  In other words, they would look to unfortunate opponents as a swarm of huge humanoid insects.  To us they all look alike, while to the Space Phraints, they do not.

Cleaning and filing of the figures took some time.  I use a high tin content when I cast, so this was not quickly accomplished.  I also needed to repair some swords that were too short, some blaster stocks that did not cast well, and some foot talons with green stuff (kneadatite).  I’m not the greatest (or worst I imagine) with green stuff, but I think that it worked out well (you be the judge dear reader!).  I also used a small pin vise bit to round out the blaster ends.  The figures are very much in line with those of the era of the late 1970’s.  This is not to say that they are not good, but they are much less crisp than today’s plastic and resin models.  Plus, 35/36 were obviously my recasts, and some details are lost in that process.  For me, all this meant was that I needed to really work with my painting to realize my vision for them.

0 Phraints start
After cleaning and filing – the one darker figure is the original Space Phraint.   Three of these 39 were not good enough and are in my future remelt pile.

I mounted the figures with gorilla glue to 1¼” steel washers, and the washers to specimen bottles with poster tack.  Simultaneously, I also began to search for a suitable base color, and I wanted to have something green that was not too glossy – I wanted subtle iridescence.  This would mimic the sheen you see on some grasshoppers as their chitin reflects the sunlight.  As I have an airbrush and compressor now, I decided upon a novel approach (for me anyway).  I would use a pearlized airbrush paint with Createx Airbrush Colors “Pearl Green”.

This airbrush paint is designed for model hot rods and muscle cars.  I thought that this would work and that I could shade and highlight later as needed.  So, I airbrush-primed all of the figures with Vallejo Gray Surface Primer, and let that harden for 24 -48 hours.  Then I broke out the “Pearl Green”.  I needed a higher pressure to use this paint (40 vs 20-25 psi for the primer).  I also did thin it a bit, and I was able to get good coverage of the figures with my airbrush.  The Createx line is made for airbrushing, which is a plus.

2 Phraint base coated close up
After base coat of “Pearl Green”
1 Phraints base coated
Unit after “Pearl Green” application

After that, I grabbed my regular brushes as I wanted to shade the figures for ease of painting, which I accomplished with Citadel “Nuln Oil GLOSS”.  The pearlized paints are very smooth, especially after airbrushing, and I found that the gloss version of Nuln Oil worked better on this base coat of green than the plain one.  It really got into the nooks and crannies and stayed there.

2a Phraint base coated close up
After initial shading

For the antennae, I wanted something that would be closer to what a bug would have and not be like a bunny’s ear.  For this I used Vallejo “Dark Blue” and washed it with Secret Weapons Washes “Purple”.  The eyes, to me, needed to be special.  I built up the eyes with serial light coats of Vallejo “Gloss Black”, followed by a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Mecha Color “Yellow Fluorescent” and “Green Fluorescent”.  Lastly, I topped the eyes off with a small drop of “Yellow Fluorescent”.  This approach really gave the eyes character, and gave the impression of a compound eye structure.

5 phraint eyes
Close up of the eyes (sorry for the blurry image but this head is only 1/2″ long including antennae)

 

On the bandoleer, I went with Vallejo “Game Air Black”.  I decided not to try to highlight them at all as I had too much variability among casts with regards to their details.  I also thought that the contrast from the black would be greater with the green chitin which was what I wanted.  For the blaster, I went with the last of my 1987 West German Deka Lack “Weiss”, followed by highlighting with Vallejo “Gloss White”.

Moving to the rear of the figures, I painted the swords’ pommels and hilts with Vallejo “Steel” and the grip with a mix of Vallejo “Gunmetal” and “Game Air Black”.  Each sword’s scabbard had an inlay and a jewel.  The inlay and jewel got Vallejo “Chrome”.  After the “Chrome” had dried, I lightly applied Citadel “Waystone Green” on the jewel to achieve a crystalline appearance.  For the scabbard and the straps, I stayed with “Game Air Black” to continue the contrasting effect with the chitinous green.

I then went to the front of the figure and dealt with the blaster.  For a further contrast, I painted the bulb at the end gold with Citadel “Retributor Armor” .  The blaster rings got a covering of “Chrome” followed by an application of Citadel “Soulstone Blue”.  To highlight the lobster-like claw structures on the arms and calves and the mandibles, I used Vallejo “Yellow-Green”.

As I earlier said, the upside of the “Pearl Green” is its effect – and the downside is that for subsequent paint applications adhesion is less than other paints.   To address the need for both shading and for paint protection on the tabletop, I brushed Army Painter “Quickshade-Soft Tone” over all of the models.  I tried my best to sop up any extra pooling shade.  I then let these dry and harden for 48 hours.  A couple of figures picked up some paper towel fibers at some point, but that was remedied easily with a wet brush once everything was dry.

During this drying period, I sculpted placards for the bases out of Apoxie Sculpt.  I wanted the Space Phraints to look the same, but for gaming purposes, there needs to be  some differentiation for the players (especially those of a certain age).  Apoxie Sculpt is much better than green stuff for this purpose.  I mixed this two-piece material, and spread it thinly over my cutting board.  Using rubber stamps, I made placards for each figure, and some more for future projects.  These I allowed to dry and harden for 24 hours.  At that point, I removed and trimmed them, and applied them to the bases with gorilla glue.  I primed them with Citadel “Imperium Primer”.  For a placard painting scheme, I brush painted:

  • Vallejo “Signal Red” and “Retributor Armor” for the platoon leader (PL)
  • Createx “Pearl Blue” and “Retributor Armor” for the platoon sergeant (PSG)
  • Vallejo’s “Metallic Black” and “Red” for the Sith (SITH)
  • Createx “Pearl Green” and “Retributor Armor” for the 1st squad leader (1)
  • Createx “Pearl Green” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 1st squad team leaders (A and B)
  • Createx “Pearl Green” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 1st squad troopers (A and B)
  • Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and “Retributor Armor” for the 2nd squad leader (2)
  • Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 2nd squad team leaders (A and B)
  • Martha Stewart Crafts “Duckling” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 2nd squad troopers (A and B)
  • Createx “Pearl Plum” and “Retributor Armor” for the 3rd squad leader (3)
  • Createx “Pearl Plum” and Vallejo “Silver” for the 3rd squad team leaders (A and B)
  • Createx “Pearl Plum” and Vallejo “Game Air Black” for the 3rd squad troopers (A and B)
8 placards
Placards
9 placards on phraints
Placards mounted awaiting paint

Once my shade had dried, I highlighted chitinous areas with the “Pearl Green” that may have been overly darkened.  I also used Vallejo “Game Air Dead White” and “Retributor Armor” to highlight on the blasters as the Quickshade needed some adjustments here.

I then moved on to the bases, and used a combination of Citadel “Martian Ironcrust” and Army Painter “Black Battlefield” flocking to cover the bases.  I learned at this point that I should have trimmed the poster tack from the edge of the bases at an earlier stage in the project.  This would have made addressing the edges easier.  As it was, I removed the edges, and used Citadel “Martian Ironearth” on the edges to cover any unpainted parts of the bases.  I also dry brushed the Space Phraints’ feet with “Martian Ironearth” to replicate their walking on the red planet and catching its dust.

When using either “Martian Ironcrust” or “Martian Ironearth”, I always use a hand-held blow dryer after to dry and crack the paint for a better effect.  Now it was time to apply a matte varnish and remove the shine from the models.

17 Phraint after highlights prevarnish, back
After the Army Painter Quickshade and highlighting…I need varnish!

I applied two coats of Vallejo “Matte Varnish” with my airbrush, allowing for 4 hours between coats.  I was really happy with the results – the iridescent effect that I wanted was achieved!

cover photo collage
After the matte varnish, achieved green iridescence!!

I detached the Space Phraints from the bottles, and retouched their bases, but finally they were done.  I decided to take some formation shots and some action shots below.  For Combat Patrol™ games, I plan to have them be able to climb walls without penalty, and to be able to use two cards for movement.  Additionally, to replicate their emotional state, I will have them use the Japanese deck for morale results.

I am very proud of these – it was a very large and long project.

As always will appreciate any feedback in the comments section.

Thanks for looking and as promised, here are some more photos below – enjoy!

27 Command group in front of formation
Command Group out front
28 1st squad
1st Squad
29 2nd squad
2nd Squad
30 3rd squad
3rd Squad
31a rear of formation
Platoon formation
33 top of command group
Top view of command group
34 rear of 2nd squad
2nd squad view from the rear
35 moving through refinery
2nd squad moves through a refinery of Armorcast terrain
36 defending bunkers
3rd squad defends a bunker
37 building
1st squad in the ruins

 

 

Armorcast Grenade Blasts for Combat Patrol

When I have wanted to demonstrate the effects of a grenade or a small explosion on a tabletop war game, I have been using cotton balls or other similar things, and this has not been a satisfactory practice for me.  I wanted to have some better effects for grenade use in Combat Patrol™ games.

I saw some nice resin ones (ACFX034 Grenade Blasts) from Armorcast in their cinematic effects line.  These were reasonably priced and looked good.  I picked up 4 packs of two from their website.

1 package
As delivered

I washed them and let them dry, and then mounted them to 1″ steel washers that I had previously primed with Gorilla glue.  I left the pyramid-like under-sprues attached as I thought that this would help with painting the blasts near the bases.

This approach did help, but I wish that I had cut them prior to painting them as this would have made removal easier later.   I also tried my best to catch any areas that needed to be cleaned up in the way of excess resin.  I mounted the washers with poster tack to the tops of specimen and old aspirin bottles for painting.

Using my airbrush, I primed them with Vallejo “Gray Surface Primer”.  Once this was dry, I gave the blasts an airbrush coat of Vallejo “Game Air Black”.

2 primed
After priming and first base coat of black paint

After this, I switched to the brush and gave the blasts a generous application of Citadel “Nuln Oil”.  Then it was just a process of using series of dry brushings on the blasts working from bottom to top in varying degrees of color:

  • Polly -S “Demon Deep Red” (a survivor paint from 1984)
  • Americana “Primary Red”
  • Citadel “Fire Dragon Bright”
  • P3 “Sulfuric Yellow”

I then gave the entire surface a wash with Secret Weapons Washes “Sunshine Wash”.  Lastly, I painted the blast rocks/ejecta with Vallejo “Gray Black”.  At this point, I needed to remove the sprues and remount on  the washers.  I did this with a sprue cutter to minimize paint damage, but if I had done this earlier by sawing almost through the sprue I would have been better off and had less to fix!

Using gorilla glue, I reattached the blasts to the washers, and pushed the washers into the poster tack on the bottles.

4 before adding shade
Fully base-coated

I used Citadel “Imperial Primer” to cover up the unpainted parts of the metal bases, and then applied Army Painter “Quickshade” (Strong Tone) with an old brush.  I let this sit for a couple of days to harden and to dry.  I then followed up on this with an airbrush application of Army Painter “Anti-Shine” varnish (just one coat).  This suitably dulled the shine from the Quickshade.

I plan to use these blasts to both designate where grenades or small explosions occur, but and to leave on the board as temporary impediments to line of sight.  They are close enough to the Combat Patrol™ small explosion template in my view for that use (see below).

5 finished vignette
Star Ducks throw a couple of grenades at the Red Mark III Warbots and their Khang Robot leader
6 finished vignette
The attacking Purple Warbot Squad and Juggerbot are bracketed by a flurry of small explosions
7 with template
The small explosion template and the Grenade Blast
8 close up
BOOM!  First painting project of 2018 done! 

I have to say that I like these, and am looking forward to using them in a game soon!

Thanks for looking – please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Barrage January 2018

This gaming convention was held January 19-20 in Havre de Grace, MD, which is close to Aberdeen.  It was a blast and well-run by the HAWKS gaming club.

I played many games over many time periods and genres.  Mostly I played a lot of Combat Patrol™ games!

  • Second Boer War (modified Combat Patrol™)
  • Poland 1939 (Combat Patrol™)
  • Napoleonic Era -Bridge at Vittoria (Fate of Battle)
  • Civil War skirmish (Brother vs. Brother)
  • Star Wars (modified Combat Patrol™)
  • Moro Insurrection (modified Combat Patrol™)
  • Tavern LARP (Blood and Swash)

You can see many more photos here of all the games, including the LARP that concluded the 1.5 days of gaming.  I’m here wearing a Boston Bruins sweater or a West Point sweatshirt in these photos.

The first game I played was a Second Boer War scenario where the British were attacking the Boers defending a hill and farmstead.  I played the Boers.  The Brits needed to kill or capture the Boer leader, which they failed to do, so this was a good start for my day.

Boer War 1
The British advance
Boer War 2
The British advance on the Boers.  Their objective was the Boer leader in the farmhouse at the rear of the hill.
Boer War 3
Boers defending a wall
Boer War 4
The Boers defending the wall in front of the farmhouse.  These were fairly shot up by the Brits, but the Brits failed to capitalize on their marksmanship
Boer War 5
Dave Wood runs the game
Boer War 6
Boers on the left flank get shot up in a field
Boer War 7
The Brits halt
Boer War 8
The Boer leader survives

The second game that I played in was a scenario involving a German attack on the Poles in 1939, run by Buck Surdu.  I was on the Polish side with two other players.  The Germans had 4 Panzer 38(t)’s, and several squads of infantry, including some antitank rifles.  The Poles had about the equivalent amount of infantry, but fewer machine guns.  For armor, they had two TKS tankettes, one with a 20mm gun, and one with a machine gun.  They also had 2 Wz. 28 armored cars.  The surprise of the game was that German armor was decimated by the TKS with the 20mm (killed 3/4 of the panzers before being knocked out by the last panzer).  In the end the game was called a German victory, but I felt we acquitted ourselves well.

Poland 1939 1
Polish infantry moves through the woods
Poland 1939 2
A Polish armored car is knocked out on the first turn
Poland 1939 3
The TKS tankette that could…
Poland 1939 4
TKS tankette that knocked out 3 Pz 38t
Poland 1939 5
Polish infantry advance behind the armor.  They were to be decimated by German machine guns in the woods to the left.
Poland 1939 6
The last stand of the TKS tankette

The next day I first played a Napoleonic scenario run by Dave Wood.  I played on the French/Swiss side against a Portuguese and British attacking force.  Their objective was the Vittoria Bridge.  Eventually we were routed.

Vittoria 1

Vittoria 2
British and Portuguese attack from the right
Vittoria 3
Initial French defenses on the hill – bridge is on right.
Vittoria 4
British advance
Vittoria 5
French troops hold the town, but were bypassed
Vittoria 6
French cavalry charges to no avail
Vittoria 7
The tide of battle turns
Vittoria 8
The bridge is lost after the Swiss are dispatched
Vittoria 9
The French survivors are surrounded

I then played in a Civil War skirmish for a short time between games using the Brother vs. Brother rules.  It ended up being a draw.

I then moved on to a Star Wars Combat Patrol/Frostgrave mash up scenario, where I was on the side of the Droids vs. Clones of the Republic.  We were supposed to grab crates of goods and move them off the battlefield.  Our sides leader was killed on turn 1, and later the game had to be halted due to GM Greg Priebe’s refrigerator blowing up at home…sorry Greg!

The last game was a Moro Insurrection scenario involving US and Moro troops trying to seize cattle from a pen.  We had about 6 players.  Buck Surdu ran this game using the Combat Patrol™  rules.  I had a squad of US infantry that got caught in the open by the Moros, and got pretty shot up.  It was a very bloody affair, with the Moros winning by getting the cattle.

Moros 1
Both sides head for the steak dinners…
Moros 2
My squad before getting shot up and failing morale
Moros 3
The Moros assault my squad
Moros 4
Another squad shoots up the Moros and helps mine, but too late
Moros 5
Moros head off to a feast

The last event was a LARP using the Blood and Swash rules.  Three teams competed for a treasure chest.  I was a Man-at-Arms, and got involved in a pretty close battle with Buck Surdu, another Man-at Arms.  I nearly killed Buck, but he managed to kill me first.  The good news for Buck was that his side won.

I had a great time, and want to thank all the HAWKS for a great gaming convention!!

Casualty cards for Combat Patrol

I have been getting ready for Christmas, but I wanted to get at least a few things done hobby-wise before 2018 rings in.  Last month, we had a rousing sci-fi game using Buck Surdu’s Combat Patrol™ card-based rules (you can read about that game here).

We were able to use the new Japanese South Pacific decks for robot morale checks, and incorporated many of the rules from Greg Priebe’s superb Star Wars supplement.  We also used some of my rule additions for Mark III Warbot casualties, special weapons, and a few other nuances.

One of the issues came in the way of finding an easier way of denoting casualties on the table and making play a little easier.  As you can see below, we just tipped over the figures, and that became crowded!  I do like to see the casualties on the table as it gives a nice account of what occurred in the game, but perhaps there is a better way?  Also, given that the Warbots take many wounds, I also am making some play aids specifically for them and their weapons (and I will cover this work in a future blog entry).

8 Ma'kcon
Casualties litter the field/table last month

As for the casualties, Buck suggested that I could create some cards for the casualties that would take the place of the “dead” miniature on the table.  This would allow for showing the results of the battle, and enable an easier playing experience.

For this project, I bought a Fiskars® paper cutter from Michael’s.  I had a 40% off coupon so I got it pretty cheaply.  I used white 65-lb. card stock from Staples for the cards.

8 Star ducks card
Fiskars paper cutter

6 Star ducks card

I started out last week with the Aphid platoon.  My goal was to make the card sizes as close to the actual miniature sizes as possible.  The Aphids are really small, so their cards were small.  I experimented with Microsoft PowerPoint, using the grid lines tool, and comparing what I printed with the actual miniatures.  I ended up making the Aphids cards about ¾” – 3/8″ high by  ¾” wide.  I had a lot of variability as I got used to using the paper cutter.  The pictures that I inserted into PowerPoint had different aspect ratios, and I remedied this when I moved on to the Star Ducks.

I do recommend using the aspect ratio tool when cropping pictures for this type of work.  Additionally, the grid line tool in PowerPoint allowed me to make exact front and back cards by making sure that the sizes were the same and aligned.   The easiest way to do this is to import your photos first, and then copy that slide.  Then, you replace the photos on the second slide with the written cards.  By printing these on both sides of the paper (use regular paper first, not card stock to check), they will line up perfectly.  The only caveat I need to add is that you need to pay attention to the cards as you will need to reverse the text in the blocks so as to match the pictures – see below.

Aphid Dead Cards 1
My PowerPoint page of 39 Aphid photos – note the reversing of texts below on the text portion 
Aphid Dead Cards 2
The text section – I numbered these text box blocks and put up to the light to see which text went where – each is an individual text box

I printed these on card stock with a “thick paper” setting on my printer, and used two-side printing.  I then cut them out using the Fiskars tool.  There is a learning curve to the tool, and it worked out fine.  The Aphids on Grav-Cycles were not sized to the miniatures, but I wanted all of the Aphids cards in their deck to be the same size, so I can live with that discrepancy.  I did however want to improve for the next group of cards – which was for the Star Ducks.

Here, I needed to make bigger cards, and went with 1½” by 1½”.  I made a few important changes in my processes.  First, I used the “aspect ratio” function when I cropped the photos – in this case using the “square” aspect.  I also added a 2-point thick line on the pictures and the text boxes, which really made cutting easier.  Lastly, I colored the cards text-printed side with light orange hue, to match their bills!  I plan on having future unit casualty cards with different colors on the printed sides.

1 Star ducks card 1
Page 1 of my cards (photo side).  These when printed on a standard sheet of paper approximated the true sizes of the miniatures.
2 Star ducks card 2
The text block side of the PowerPoint, with adjustments so that the two-sided printing would line up properly.  These were then colored orange as below.
5 Star ducks card
The photo sides of the cards after cutting – they are 1.5″ square

 

3 Star ducks card 2
The printed sides of the cards with the orange backgrounds
4 Star ducks card 2
Close up of the cards

These were much better – and I feel confident that I can finish off cards for the Frinx and Mark III Warbots soon.  My goal is that when I next run a game that these aids will make play even easier than Combat Patrol already is!  These are not perfect, but are close enough and stiff enough to avoid becoming paper canoes!

7 Star ducks card
Casualty cards, Death cards, whats the difference!

Please let me know what you think in the comments section – thanks for looking!

 

FYI on BARRAGE!

Buck Barrage planning and preparations continue. Barrage 2017 will be held 19-20 January 2018. (Yes, Barrage 2017 will be held in January 2018.) Our inclement weather day will be the following weekend. Take a look at http://www.hawks-barrage.org to see all the great games on offer. While the schedule is filling up, there is room for […]

via Barrage is Getting Closer; the Event List is Filling Up — H.A.W.K.S.

Mark Con 2017 (aka Ma’k Con 2017)

I have been accused of having a Boston accent, but this is not really true – I have a Worcester accent, or properly a Worcester County accent.  Throughout my military and civilian career, my pronunciation of my name, Mark, sounds to others like Ma’k.  My good buddy Buck Surdu has often shortened it to “Ma’k” on his blog posts.  Last weekend (right before Thanksgiving) he and my other good buddy, Dave Wood, made the drive up from Maryland on a traffic-filled Friday afternoon for a Saturday full of gaming – and it was called “Ma’k Con”.  My wife Lynn really helped out as well with her keeping us well fed.  This blog post is about the gaming we crammed into that Saturday.

Buck and Dave got me into tabletop wargaming when we were back at West Point.  Since then, Buck has published a myriad of rules for gaming, and Dave has contributed to many of those rule sets.  The most recent rules that Buck published is a fantastically easy to play and streamlined card-based system for skirmish-level combat in WWII called Combat Patrol™.  It is truly flexible, and has had optional rules and supplements written to cover different possible scenarios, to include the South Pacific theater, the Winter War, the Falklands War, the Napoleonic era, and even the Star Wars universe.  These can be downloaded for free from his website, and the cards are available in the US from Drive Thru Cards and in the EU from Sally Forth. The rules are also available in book form from both On Military Matters and Sally Forth.

Buck recently added a new set of cards for the South Pacific, which have different morale results for Japanese troops.  Readers of this blog know that I have been collecting and assembling units from the old Archive Miniatures Star Rovers line of figures, specifically Star Ducks, Power-Armored Frinx, Aphids, and Mark III Warbots.  Additionally, I have been supplementing these forces with Khang Robots, weapons, Robo-Sentry Guns from War Games Supply Dump, and my own sculpt of a sphere tank.  I also used some weapons from Bombshell Miniatures.

I decided that I would combine aspects from different Combat Patrol™ rules for a fun retro sci-fi game.  Specifically, I would use the new South Pacific deck for morale results for robots, the new vehicle-mounted flame thrower template for my sphere tanks’ death rays, and the Sith rules from the Star Wars supplement.  Also, I added in several rules from the optional rules.  Lastly, I added my own special rules for the Mark III Warbots and their leader, Juggerbot, to account for possible effects that weapons fire could cause on their behaviors and capabilities.

Upon arrival in Massachusetts, Buck surprised Dave and I with uniform t-shirts from West Point that we would have worn to gym or when we played sports.  It was called Gym-A (Gym-Alpha) and we wore it for Saturday’s game marathon.  Admittedly, both Buck and Dave wore it better than I did.  We were also joined by my daughter Ellen Morin and her fiancé Chris Smedile.

0 Ma'kcon
Buck Surdu, me, and Dave Wood (US version for you UK followers) in our Gym-A shirts

The scenario was one where the Star Ducks, Aphids, and Frinx were allied against the cybernetic horde of attacking robots.  The non-metallic forces had captured a robot Mark 1 Sphere tank.  The Frinx were attempting to repair it so it could be used against the robots, who were to have two Mark I Sphere tanks of their own in the assault.  The tanks have two side mounted laser cannons, and a Death Ray (think 1953 War of the Worlds movie).  Dave and Ellen had the robots, while Buck, Chris and I defended.

1 Ma'kcon
Dave and Ellen prepare to attack.  The Aphids are in the ruined building to the front, and there are the Robo-Sentry Guns acting as speed bumps to their front.

The Robo-Sentry guns slowed the attacking robots slightly, but allowed Aphid and Star Duck mortar fire to hit the Warbots near Juggerbot, damaging the robot leader, and causing some of his robots to go rogue, or blow up.  When they went rogue, they would attack the nearest figure.  Juggerbot ended up dealing with such a problem.

2 Ma'kcon
The battle begins with the Warbots clearing the Robo-Sentry gun defenses.

Normally, in Combat Patrol™ games, figures can take a certain number of hits, usually three wounds, before they die or are incapacitated.  In this game Frinx had 4 wounds (because of their power-armor), most line Star Ducks had 3, and Warbots had 6.  However, I allowed for critical hits as outlined below.  This had a nice balancing effect on the game.

Warbot critical hit
Warbot Critical Hit Chart – lots of 4’s and 5’s happened!

The Warbots also had some devastating energy weapons.  The opposing forces had two “Sith Lords” (Duck Wader from the Star Ducks and Lt. Ma’k from the Frinx) with special powers from the Star Wars supplement.  Early in the game, Buck moved Duck Wader up to engage the Warbots, only to get vaporized along with some Aphids by an arc weapon blast.

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Duck Wader (center) near the corner where he was shortly vaporized thereafter
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The Frinx AT section moves up – only to never make an impact

The other Sith, Lt. Ma’k, used his Force powers to fly into the middle of a group of 8 immobilized Warbots (they had drawn a “Hold until Death” morale result due to Frinx fire, but the robots could still fire).

Lt. Ma’k (a Frinx) then tried a Sith power – Force Blast – which damaged some robots’ weapons and caused them to explode.  Additionally, friendly mortar rounds landed there (Lt. Ma’k did not care) and eventually he succumbed, as did several Warbots. Simultaneously, Juggerbot finally was destroyed by Aphids on Grav-Cycles.  As he was the platoon leader, his destruction led to his unit becoming pinned – and only activating on black cards.  This really had the effect of reducing the entire robot platoon’s combat effectiveness.

5 Ma'kcon
Lt. Ma’k (by the purple die) makes his last stand.  Note the black die for the Warbot Green Team 2 due to a “Hold until Death” morale role.  Later the entire Warbot platoon would get black dice (“pinned”) when Juggerbot was destroyed.
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The death (destruction) of Juggerbot
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Aphids an Grav-Cycles make a desperate charge before dying to the last bug – but they sealed Juggerbot’s fate
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Frinx on Glyptodon cavalry move up before being taking heavy fire and being routed

At this point, the carbon-based living got very lucky and fixed their captured Sphere tank earlier than would have been expected due to Chris pulling some great cards.  However, the robots got reinforcements in the form of two of their own Sphere tanks, a squad of Warbots, plus 2 self-propelled robot guns.   Chris and Buck were able to immobilize one tank with some very lucky shots.  The other annihilated a squad of Buck’s Star Ducks with a Death Ray Blast.

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Buck’s Star Ducks are hit by Death Ray fire
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Some of Buck’s Star Ducks jet pack onto the immobilized Mark I Sphere tank.  Their satchel charges (6) attacks all failed to destroy the tank.

By now it was dinnertime and pizza called, plus we wanted to move to the next game.  It looked like a slight victory for the living forces, but casualties were high!  The game turned out well and I may redo this scenario at Barrage in Maryland in January.  Buck’s account of the battle is the next entry in this blog.

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Surveying the carnage
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Great Game!

Then we moved onto a play test of Dave’s micro-armor game of “The Battle of Nikolayevka (Nikitowka)” using the Look Sarge No Charts rules.  This was a breakout of Italian forces on the Eastern Front in 1943 as part of the Battle of Stalingrad.  So we had Italians and some Germans attacking a small town held by the Russians.  The link above describes the historical battle well.

Buck attacked with a combined German/Italian force on the right half of the battlefield and I attacked along the left half.  Dave defended.  It was a tough slog, with the Russian artillery (they had no armor) making progress difficult.  Later in the game Dave had us command reinforcements in the form of the Italian stragglers from an earlier phase in the battle.  It was a good scenario, and interesting to see a primarily Italian versus Russian scenario.

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Initial set up – Italians and Germans (on left) fight into the town to the right of the railway crossing (in light orange)
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Another view showing the town in the upper right.  The attackers needed to get into the town so as not to freeze to death.
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Assaulting the rail line defenses
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Buck tries to get into the town

I think Dave will have a very good scenario for an upcoming convention!

The day flew by, and I am so appreciative that we West Point Old Grads had the chance to game together.  Thanks to Buck and Dave, and Chris and Ellen!  And of course, Lynn for her logistical support!!