Saturday, August 5, 2017

Agent Carter, Pulp Alley Historicon AAR's

For the next big game project I'm working on I really wanted to do something that had a Hollywood feel to it. And I also wanted to have a connecting story that would carry over to several different boards, so was born my Agent Carter game.

I was able to complete part one of a three part story line for Agent Carter and HRF 13 at this years Historicon convention. Parts 2 and 3 will take place at the manor and the facility hidden underneath. Basically I now have created a cliffhanger game where hopefully next year I can have players come back to continue Carter's adventure to stop the evil Red Skull.

For the game itself I wanted to have some gadgets available to each side - if you have Howard Stark in the game, you absolutely have to have some neat gadgets and the Pulp Alley Gadgets pack provided everything I wanted! Each side had two gadgets available to them to start the game.

And to make it even a bit more fun I also had two pieces of technology hidden in plot points on the table. Once a team successfully obtained the plot point they would also have the gadget available to them to use whenever they wanted. I put the experimental jetpack in the Stark crates as it just seemed appropriate :) 

I also placed the mysterious "Gadget X" in the Isodyne Energy boxes - this gadget allowed a plot point to be taken without passing a challenge, the perfect card to play when going for the major plot point, the artifact in the church.

Each side deployed at different sides of the table.

The five plot points - the map to the manor, Captain America's shield, the stolen Stark technology, the Isodyne Energy boxes, and the altar hiding the powerful artifact - were placed throughout the table.

With the major plot point, the altar, being placed at the back of the bombed out church.

The game had a total of four players, two for the SSR side (Gabriel and Jakob) and two for the Hydra side (Nelson and Francisco). Each player had four models in their league that they controlled. Below is Peggy Carter with Mr. Jarvis, Dr. Jason Wilkes, and Agent Ryan.

I had planned to have both SSR leagues in "commando" style outfits (like Peggy is wearing below bottom right) but unfortunately wasn't able to make that happen before the deadline - which is why everyone is in 1940's style civilian clothing. It did make it a bit easier to identify models that were in outfits you'd have seen them in on television or the movie though. Stark for instance, with his mustache and white jacket, was easily recognizable anywhere on the table.

Red Skull and Dr. Armin Zola.

To start the Hydra villains lined up to head across the road towards the stolen Stark technology and the church.

Perilous areas (challenges had to be passed to continue movement) were all the areas of debris from the bombings. This made getting around and across the board a bit more difficult. I also had several random and hidden perilous areas that I threw into the game just to give it a bit more flavor.

Background on part one - it is near the end of WWII in France and the SSR has been informed of Red Skulls intentions of stealing an ancient artifact hidden in a destroyed village. The artifact could bring ultimate power to Red Skull so it's a race to see who can get to the artifact first. But the SSR also have to find the map that will lead them to Red Skull's hidden manor and underground facility where he plans on using the artifact - parts 2 and 3 to the continuing story.

Both sides made their way towards plot points as turn 1 was all movement. One of the hidden perilous areas did come into play though, as the truck in the photo below started up and both Agent Thompson and Howard Stark had to pass challenges to jump out of the way of the truck, which unfortunately Stark failed and got knocked down! Thankfully he passed his recovery check at the end of the turn.

Gabriel made quick work of moving around the back of the buildings with Dr. Wilkes and Jarvis on his way to attempt to grab the map plot point.

Jakob moved his team with Agent Thompson, Agent Sousa and Howard Stark up to try to sneak through an alley way to the stolen Stark tech and the Isodyne boxes.

Gabriel was almost on the map by the end of turn two, but I couldn't let it be that easy for him :)

Another one of those hidden perilous areas that I had come into play was a wandering German patrol, complete with a dog :).  This patrol came in through the plowed field to attempt to stop Gabriel from grabbing the map that would lead him to the hidden manor.

Some unbelievable dice rolling from Gabriel ended up taking out the entire patrol! That cleared the way to the church, as well as allowing him to secure the map plot point with no opposition.

Meanwhile on the other side of the board, Francisco made quick work of getting Dr. Zola over to the stolen Stark technology.

He successfully completed his challenge for the plot point and now had Starks experimental jet pack!

What was really fun about this was the look on Francisco's face when he read the card, and then of course everyone else's reaction when he told them what he'd just got! That's the thing that is the most important to me when running a game, everyone laughing and having fun, and I think we succeeded :)

Nelson had Red Skull and his group move forward on the street towards the Isodyne Energy boxes, trading shots with Carter hiding next to the fountain.

It was here that I sprung another one of the hidden perilous areas. The bombings had disturbed some kind of beetle nest that exploded up through the ground to attack anyone within 3 inches of the crater area. To make it fun I rolled scatter dice to continue to have the beetles move on the table through the end of the game. Nelson had a bit of trouble securing the Isodyne boxes at first because of these little guys, but ultimately grabbed them with Red Skull.

I didn't want the major plot point to be taken too easily, so as a last minute addition to the game I had a figure I named "Protector of the Artifact" placed in the church.

I think it was a neat narrative addition to the game, but in hindsight I made him way too powerful - being a last minute addition I didn't have stats ready, so I used one of the leader cards from the Pulp Alley Horror Deck and that was a mistake. Those guys are incredibly tough as Francisco quickly found out as his first figure was knocked out of the game by him.

Gabriel had Peggy race past the fountain in the street, taking shots at Red Skull on the way, and onto Cap's shield for his second plot point secured.

With Carter close to getting to the church Francisco attempted to have Dr. Zola use the jet pack to try to get over to the church - to safely use the pack he had to successfully pass an extreme peril, which was passing two different challenges - and he did!

This is absolutely my favorite photo from every single one taken of the game and table! Francisco sent this to me as part of the several photos he took and honestly I think it looks like it came right out of a magazine! This was just as Peggy Carter had entered the church to attempt to grab the ancient artifact from the protector.

Dr. Zola landed just outside the church, waiting for the right moment to try to sneak in and grab the artifact while Carter was taking on the Protector. Much fighting went on with the Protector from both sides, but he was ultimately able to keep anyone from taking that final and most important plot point.

The guys absolutely blew through the Fortune Deck and it was the first time I've actually had to reshuffle! I think it was turn five where 7 or 8 cards were all played within a few minutes of each other. One sequence had all the guys cancelling each other out several times by throwing down cards which brought much laughter to the table!

Gabriel ended up having the Fortune Card that extended the game to a 7th turn and everyone made one last ditch attempt to either knock an opponent out or grab that last plot point. The game ended up as a tie - four points each -  with each side securing two plot points and both sides knocking out two figures, but ultimately I think everyone had fun playing.

I had changed how initiative worked, as I tried to make it as simple as possible (I used playing cards, each suit represented a league, and when I flipped your suit you could move a figure), but in talking with Francisco a few days later during the convention about the game he suggested going back to how Pulp Alley actually does the initiative, as it will add a whole different dimension to the game. I think he is absolutely correct and it's a great idea for next time. Maybe I'll even use a prop, a red hat like Carter wears perhaps, to help everyone know who has control of initiative :)

I had another fantastic game on Saturday night and one of the players in that game, John Sears, wrote up a really great review of the game with several fantastic photos, so I won't go into detail as you can read about here in John's excellent blog

What was absolutely crazy about Saturday nights game was that the Hydra players had the game won, done and dusted. They had more plot points and had knocked out more figures than their opponents did - until the very last two rolls of the game that is!!!! On their recovery rolls both John and Harry failed and that meant that both figures were out, and both were carrying plot points so those were lost as well! Victory to the SSR -  the reactions from everyone at the table was absolutely hilarious, and I honestly couldn't believe what I just witnessed!

In my opinion the only way that you are ever going to have a successful convention game is if you have great players - and I couldn't have asked for a better group of players in both games, so much thanks goes to those 8 guys! And extra special thanks to Gabriel and Francisco for the photos used in this report, as usual I forgot to take pictures during the game. Almost all that you see are courtesy of the two of them. And a big thanks to John as well, as mentioned above. I really hope to roll some dice with these guys again in the future.

I also want to give a tip of the hat and huge thanks to all the GM's who put on games and demos over the course of the convention. It's a Herculean task to run a game; from the idea stage, to the build, the travel to get it there, and then set up and actual play. Much thanks to all!

As always, thanks for looking!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Peggy Carter, Are You Coming Back?

Just a quick post while I'm still working through the Historicon AAR's of the Agent Carter games; as per usual the farm has been non-stop crazy, barely had enough time to even get the boxes unpacked and the boards set back up after getting home.

Anyway, you'll remember my jaw kind of hitting the floor a month ago when Warlord announced the new Defenders of the Realm pack for Operation Sea Lion that clearly has two Agent Carters front and center - I was pretty dumbfounded because I'd spent hours and hours of searching the inter webs for proxies for Carter and then, just like that, two are just thrown in my lap by Warlord Games.

Well, I grabbed this pack of figures at Historicon and can't wait to get them painted up, especially the uniformed Carter.

So last weekend I stop by TMP (only to look at the new releases and the marketplace anymore, because honestly TMP is equal to or worse than Facebook these days) and I see Gorgon Studios just released an 'Agent Deering', but again, clearly Agent Carter. Of course purchased. These just showed up yesterday but they are a bit larger than expected even though they are labeled 28mm. We'll see how they stack up against the rest when painted and put on the clear bases.

Just popped by TMP a few minutes ago and Wargames Illustrated is releasing 'Pulp Agent' as the newest figure in their Giants In Miniature line. Yeah, that's definitely Agent Carter. Again, purchased.

Now granted, her head looks too big for her body (fingers crossed it won't be that bad when I get it), and truth be told it's almost identical to my Warm Acre proxy for Carter, but anything Carter-esque is immediately being added to the shopping cart :) Here is the Warm Acre proxy with one of the objectives from the Historicon game.

So... what the heck is going on??!! This has been four different Carter figures released by three different manufactures in less than a month?!

Is my beloved British agent making a triumphant comeback to television? Or does she have a stand alone movie coming out? Of course not - I'd definitely know if something like that was happening, lol! But it still really has me scratching my head. Don't get me wrong, any Carter is good Carter, but the show has been cancelled now for almost a year and half, why all the love now?

As always, thanks for looking!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Final Fredericksburg Historicon

Despite having all my prep time basically taken away from me over the past two months, and knowing that in order to make a somewhat presentable game I had to cut a lot of neat ideas out and leave stuff I really wanted to do out of the both the table and game - and all the stress that those things brought! - finally getting down to this years Historicon convention was by far and away my most enjoyable one I've had since I've been going. And it was all because of the people!

I wrecked my knee pretty bad last fall playing soccer and among other things it makes driving over long periods extremely painful, so now that Jakob has his license he got to experience turnpike driving for the first time and dad got to experience floorboard braking on several occasions.

I took a quick photo of the back of the truck while Jakob was driving

It was nice to not have to drive the whole way, as well as back and forth between the hotel and convention center. We arrived around 4 o'clock Wednesday, got checked into the hotel quickly and then made our way over to the convention center to begin setting up for Thursday mornings game.

You know it's July in Fredericksburg when it's almost 100 outside

I had table 58 and that turned out great because I was right in front of David and Kalissa Skibicki's  outstanding WWII table (I just heard they took second place for "Best In Show") and then right next to them was the Luke to my Rey, Miles Riedy who put on one of the craziest and most popular games of the convention (also won another PELA award, I think his 5th or 6th in a row). It was really great to have these guys so close to the table - they are turning into great friends even though we only see each other once a year.

David Skibicki, Jakob and I - courtesy of Miles

David's amazing table

After getting the table set up Jakob and I had the opportunity to go to dinner with Miles. It was great to be able to sit down with Miles and it not be in a noisy convention hall, and also for more than just a few minutes. Those of you who have been following for a while will know that Miles is someone I've tried to emulate since I started running my own games, he is hands down one of the most popular game masters at HMGS events evident by the number of repeat players he always has. With Jakob heading off to college in a few weeks it was great to hear experiences that Miles had with his son Sean - the similarities between the two boys was very interesting. And just getting to know Miles more on a personal level I now I also know why he had such an attachment to those Louisiana Tigers I played in his ACW game years ago :)

Miles' award winning table

I will do a separate full report on the two games I ran, but here's a quick overview. First and foremost, I had absolutely brilliant players in both my games - a convention game is really only as good as the players and I had 8 fantastic people over the course of the two games. And several of those players I continued to bump into throughout the convention. Both Gabriel and Francisco from the Thursday morning game I saw quite a bit (it was very clear we all liked the same type of games!). Francisco and I watched the entire Blood and Plunder sea battle demo Thursday night and Gabriel and I hung out quite a bit on Friday, among other things watching and playing a few turns of Studio Tomahawks new Congo game. I really hope to see them again as it was a blast! Both my games were sold out before tickets were even available which was just crazy. I think everyone had fun and there is even photographic evidence of my son smiling while playing - which is amazing because he has said on many many occasions that he doesn't like playing in my games (I made him sign up for one game because I paid for his way into the convention!). Both games went right down to the wire and lots of laughs were heard with the use of the interrupt cards as well as gadget cards. One other thing that has become very apparent while looking at photos of my tables is that a black cloth is needed to cover the wood convention tables - it really takes away from the boards and honestly is really an eye sore.

The Firelock crew were at the convention demoing Blood and Plunder - this was the demo board in the vendor hall for the sea battles. It was an absolutely amazing piece of terrain! It looked to have about four layers of resin to create the water effect and it had these brilliant coral reefs built into it - the darker green areas in the photo. I also had the opportunity to watch a full demo Thursday night of a sea battle in the main convention hall as mentioned above, but also to talk to Mike Tunez, who is the man behind Blood and Plunder. It was great to hear Mike talk about the beginnings of the journey and how crazy the last year has been. All around the entire Firelock team was just outstanding!
*and as a possible hint for next year, Miles and I are kicking around the idea of working together on a game of epic pirate-y proportions; fingers crossed we can make it happen*

Saturday morning found me playing in my one and only game for the entire convention - the other two I signed up for got cancelled ironically. As I do every year I signed up for one of Miles' games. This years was a crazy one with 8 different teams in the desert trying to find a rogue professor in some catacombs under a pyramid, all the while battling monsters of all different shapes, sizes, and weirdness! It was really one of the most popular games at the convention and for the first time ever at Miles' table I actually won - granted the rest of the team did most of the heavy lifting, but I exited the board with the objective :)

All the players from Saturday morning - courtesy of Miles

Loot. Or is it booty? Historicon is always the time of year to find lots of neat stuff to spend money I definitely don't have on. So this years haul - the big one was the brigantine for Blood and Plunder. I have two sloops from the first Kickstarter, but when I saw this being used on the demo table I had to have one. I grabbed four blisters of SAS/LRDG figures from Artizan mostly because they were buy 3 get 1 free, but they are really neat looking figures and will easily work into that pulpy/skirmish type of game I'm all about right now. I found a box of metal Woodland Indians from Warlord in the flea market, as well as a German Marder. I picked up two blisters from Warlord, one that has my two "not" Peggy Carter's in it, and the blister that has the two figures disguised as nuns - both sets are from the new Operation Sea Lion range. I also grabbed some more German armor decals and some more micro drill bits.

Overall, it felt like there were more people at this year's event than last. Of course I could be completely wrong, but all day Friday, and Saturday morning and afternoon in particular felt really busy. I think the FCC did a really good job this year too - my only complaint is that restroom near the front entrance continues to be an absolute nightmare; and it's primarily used by the ballroom people so it doesn't see nearly the same foot traffic as the restroom in the main hall. For me personally, I will miss Historicon being in Fredericksburg, especially after this year because I met so many new people that I immediately made connections with, I really hope I will see them again at another convention or event.

But... and there always has to be a but with me right?! The thing that will always frustrate me with this last Historicon is the "what could have been" with the table and the game. I got a ton of compliments on the tables, lots of photos were taken, and I got to chat with other terrain specialists who I've followed for years now, and that was absolutely fantastic! But the whole time I knew in my head that it could have been so much more - the lighting effects I had planned, the underground facility itself, as well as it being able to have pulled out from under the manor board, the commando type figures for the game as opposed to civilian attire, being a bit more prepared with Pulp Alley as a rule set, etc. etc. etc. Despite all that, I did think that the games came off really well though, but... I guess that leaves the door wide open for the next convention, right?

Until next time, which should be an Agent Carter AAR, thanks for looking!