Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Phil Left Infantry

So we had another evening in the desert, left set up from last week. As it was the French turn, we, as the Italians, shouted "Opportunity Fire" and opened up with everything we had.


I hit that bren carrier thing with the big gun on it. Major damage, but not knocked out.


Over on the other side of the board the French were massing. The Italian Company Commander was looking a bit exposed, and we really didn't have much to bail him out with.


Especially when the enemy closest get enough APs to close assault. It doesn't take long for the defenders to be overwhelmed. Ignore the "Dug In" marker. It's a reminder the defenders were pinned.


Two turns in and we FINALLY hit that bl**dy Crusader.


We had a big turnout for the game. There were 7 of us. Steve, Patrick and I took the Italians. Dave, Richard and Tim had the French. Phil was umpiring.


We finally got some proper reinforcements on, but the French were so far across the board we didn't have a lot of options. My pairs of trucks on the right kept up a steady fire, but never generated enough APs to dismount safely.


Then two of them had the crew killed, and were taken off.


Then Steve got his infantry on, including a flamethrower. Despite his best efforts, and a spectacular acrylic game aid he did no damage with it.


There were a lot of bases in the dead pile.


Then the French got even more stuff on.


And my last truck ran away as the other one blew up.

We had failed to make much head way elsewhere. We did blow the Chasseurs D'Afrique out of the central building with HE, but too little, too late. We never really recovered from some mistakes in the first turn several weeks ago

Even with that said, it was a nice enough way to spends three evenings gaming. It all went a bit slower than expected, partly because there was a lot of kit flying about, but mainly as most people were learning the system, and with either two or three people aside things slow down.

A final note: Phil has been making amendments to PBI in small ways as he's gone along over the years. Each PC gets an automatic activation, and any activated unit gets +1APs, so it is less inclined to bog down and units can then do things too. He's toying with other ideas as well, as the vehicle HE v infantry rules are a bit poor too. I also like the idea that vehicles get a free 45 degree turn if they are moving.

Monday, 28 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 6)

Stop the Presses! "To Ur is Human" makes Top 10 sales on Amazon in the "Ancient Middle Eastern History" Category.

This is great news for me, but possibly not for the other authors here. After all, I know my sales figures...


If you find the page and scroll down you'll see I'm outselling Xenophon.

And I've got better reviews too.

And one of the books ahead of me is priced as £0, so is basically free. Some I'm THIRD of books for which you need to part with money.

My head is spinning.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 5)

First couple of reviews are in for "To Ur is Human". My chum, Bob Cordery, over at "Wargaming Miscellany" has written one. He's been quite kind, and he's thinking of nicking the Fear Test mechanism already.

Also a 5* review on Amazon, which is a good start too.

Spoke to one of the play testers yesterday, and he was quite taken by the design and layout, so I'm ticking the boxes I was aiming at. Sales have ticked up slightly. Based on my other book on the Battle of Edgcote that should be expected, - people seem to order around the weekends, presumably when they have time to catch up on blog posts and so on.

Looking at taking out a short run of banner ads on TMP, so I can get the cover posted on Hobby News. I'll need to look at the minimum spend and the format for the banner as well.

I'm at the Society of Ancients Conference next weekend, running a "To Ur..." game, and also giving a talk on Edgcote. Not seen the full programme yet, so don't know what impact the Rugby World Cup final will have on it all, but I will have copies for sale, if anyone wants a set. There's a comment on Bob's blog post, linked above, which reckons that at £5 the rules are a bargain, so fingers crossed and hopeful for sales in the flesh.


Friday, 25 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 4)

My supply of "To Ur Is Human" arrived today. It is a slim volume, no thicker than an old WAB supplement, so did not come in a large box, but a simple wrap-round box.


I had chosen a matte finish for the cover, as my experience with the glossy type is that the lamination peels away too readily if you thumb the book a lot, as you might do with wargames rules.


It looks quite professional, to my eyes, and not at all self-published from the outside. The Photo-Lab cut outs make a good central illustration. I cheated a bit by multi-layering the cutout of the phalanx from the "Stele of the Vultures" to make it look bigger.

Whilst I was a bit annoyed at first at not being able to use A4, the choice of a different size adds to the professional look and feel. The interior is pretty good too. The paper is nice quality and feels good. The only slight downside is that the B&W photos could have been a bit clearer. That's something I can probably sort in future by improving the lighting when I take the shot, or using a B&W setting on the camera, rather than applying a filter afterwards. On the other hand the diagrams I drew myself look just fine.

For the text I went with Bookman Old Style in 12pt. Bookman is a big font anyway, so the text is really readable. I'm a bit fed up with small text these days in rules sets, with paragraphs closely packed so I can't see the words for the blocks when I'm looking something up.

The final thought on the production is that the playsheet on the back cover has come out really clearly, which is a relief as I had to set it up as a photo/jpeg rather than text.

Anyhow, I have a dozen (well, 11 once my copy is taken out) for the Society of Ancients conference. As the game is for 6 players I can't see that I'll sell that many, even tho' at £5 it's the price of a pint of conference hotel beer.

All I need now is to think about how I do anymore marketing. I'm never going to sell thousands, so it'll be mainly word of mouth or social media. I put a post on the TMP Ancients Discussion forum, but it got taken down within an hour, - possibly because it had an Amazon link in it. Or perhaps because it looked like a blatant plug and an attempt to get free advertising. No doubt if any one else was to comment on them, that'd be fine.

So, in a happy space at the moment. And I revised my holding blurb over at Amazon, where the rules are still for sale. It is odd writing about yourself in the third person. All very Caesar's Gallic Wars.

Now, to go and stick price labels on the back of these beauties.


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Phil Brought Infantry Again

After a brief hiatus we returned to the modified PBI game we started a couple of weeks back. We had three new players, Steve (who joined me with the Italians) and Richard & Tim who took over the Free French. As none of them had played PBI recently, if at all, we didn't get through as much of the scenario as we'd have liked whilst players familiarised themselves with what was going on.


Phil brightened up my evening by showing me the box of infantry reinforcements I might get on.


That Crusader was still dominating the centre of the table .Steve got his anti-tank rifle up on a ridge nearby and took several pot shots at it, all to no effect.


On my side of the table Tim was pressing me hard with his infantry. We both took casualties. I threw mine out of my truck.


The anti-tank rifle and LMG support got close assaulted whilst I was boiling a kettle. The LMG motorbike combo skulked out of the way, and avoided the fight.


Wise move. Everybody died.


Then Richard brought up infantry to put pressure on our company commander and the field kitchen.


He also commandeered an old tractor and mounted and anti-tank rifle on it.


My last act of this round of the game was to plaster this square with HE. I actually hit something.

Back for more next week, when hopefully some of our reinforcements will turn up.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 3)

Huzzah! Evidence that I have indeed sold more than one copy of "To Ur is Human".

All in the UK so far. That worldwide distribution better kick in soon. I spent a whole day re-formatting so that people outside Europe could order it.


I hope I haven't peaked too early.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 2)

Sooner than expected "To Ur is Human" is up on Amazon. I spent most of yesterday in frantic reading & re-reading the text and working on the page layout so everything appeared on the pages I wanted. I've placed an order for some author copies, so I'll have them at the Society of Ancients Conference if anyone is going. It was the lead time for printing that made yesterday the sort of final cut-off for finishing the edit.

It's not an enormous set of rules, - it's just over 30 pages, and the price has come in at a very reasonable £5. In a hark-back to the good old days the back cover doubles as a QRS.

You would not believe how awkward that was to do with Amazon's "Cover Creator". In the end I just did the whole damn lot as a single piece of artwork and dumped it over everything.


By the way, this version of the cover has at least one typo in the playsheet, - getting the tables in the book and those in the QRS in sync was a little bit trying.

I also had fun and games with the layout as I originally wrote and set it all up as A4, then discovered that wasn't one of Amazon's approved trim sizes for all of its market places, so it comes in as slightly smaller. Can't let deny Japanese and mid-Western American fan base access to my work, can I?

So, there it is, available now. I'm more nervous about releasing this into the wild than most other things I've published as they were only ever intended to be used in Shedquarters with a bunch of chums. Other things were mostly written with the intention of publication. In terms of style and content they are a half way house between rules that try to cover everything a player might do and the Neil Thomas style of what won't fit on 4 sides of paper won't bother us and leaving players to guess what is needed..

Wish me luck and place your order now. With the speed that author copies are shipped you'll probably get yours first.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Some Ur-gent playtesting

Having committed myself to publishing and taking the rules to the SoA Conference, I really needed to nail down the most recent changes with a bit of playtesting.


Dave and Richard turned up for the start. Dave took the army to the right. You can see on the white board, just about, the points values of the armies from my new points scheme.


Both players were a bit cagey at the start, sending forwards their light infantry to skirmish with their opponents. Dave was very successful at this.


Dave moved his battle carts up


Richard held back, unwilling to chance a 50/50 outcome.


Dave's heavy men tromped through the fields of crops.


In the far distance the light troops played tag with each other. This bit of the rules, which I had tweaked, worked really well.


Richard was trying to hunt down one of Dave's skirmisher units, but they kept evading out of the way.


Both sides are attempting to bring some missile power to bear on their heavy opponents.


Finally charge and counter charge occurred.


It was a close run thing, each side inflicting 3 hits.


At the other end of the table Dave fared less well, losing a base and becoming Fright-ened.


Finally the heavy infantry got stuck into it. Phil was here by this point and gee'd things up a bit.


My last picture sees Richard's  battle carts break Dave's opposing unit, then turn and break a unit of heavy infantry. Quite a creditable performance.

It got so exciting I didn't take many pictures. Plus as it was my last playtest before going to print I went through everything thoroughly, and the players helped by pushing the edges as much as they could.

It gave us an evening's entertainment before Richard chalked up a points win, so that thing worked as well.

So off to make last changes and produce a proof pdf. I've had to resize my original work as the Amazon publishing process doesn't like A4 books all that much.

Still, should be ready for the SoA Conference, at a very reasonable £5.

Monday, 14 October 2019

The Vanity Project (part 1)

As regular followers will know I write a set of wargames rules most years. Sometimes I go back and revisit earlier efforts and make changes. There's nothing like a 5 year break to realise what rubbish you wrote previously. I learnt that from Stephen King.

Many of my sets are available as free downloads, over top right. People who end up playing my games at COW will usually be handed a printed set, together with a playsheet in the desperate hope they might then write up the game for The Nugget magazine or otherwise provide me with feedback. Occasionally (very occasionally) I get asked if I intend to publish.

Generally my feeling has been not to bother, and just post the files here. But then, I did that book earlier in the year, and it seemed that it wasn't that much of a faff to self publish. So why not?

The main "Why not" is that it takes time to get things right, and I don't really want the thing to cost me money. Well, not a lot of money. And suffering the humiliation of no one at all buying a set of rules from a generally unknown wargames writer.

Still, vanity is a terrible thing.

And then I was asked to run a session at the Society of Ancients conference. So I dragged out "To Ur is Human" and decided that it might be suitable. Of course, as previously covered on this blog, I felt I needed to make some changes to the combat system. And tighten up some of the wording. Oh, what the hell. Why not just work them up for publication? After all I'm going to end up printing out a half dozen copies or so and collate them at home. Why not get Amazon to do that. And then I can charge people £5 for a souvenir.

So that's what I'm doing.

Wish me luck.

Or go to Amazon and buy a copy, when it's released.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Phil Brought Infantry

We did a bit of PBI this week. Phil brought along his Desert War Italians and French. Dave was learning the game, and Chris K was there, in need of a bit of a refresher.

CK & I were the Italians. Dave got the French. Phil's forces are always nicely themed with a lot of interesting stuff, often scratch built or heavily converted. I don't know where he finds the patience.

I didn't really take a lot of pictures or follow a narrative. This is what I got:


Phil is steadily modifying PBI 2006 to make it more acceptable both to himself and his audience. The pre-game has gone and there are changes to activation and some of the weapon effectiveness. And the winner points system. For this game CK and I had to attack, and all players had to build up a story of what they were trying to achievce so they could win a matrix argument at the end


My Italians occupied a cactus field and rescued two maidens.


Chris drove up and parked next to the Radio Station. He got out but couldn't occupy it in the same turn. That enabled Dave to rush in and take control amidst a hail of mostly ineffective fire.


Our "iron fist" looked quite impressive. Not quite the same when in action.


We then had a supply drop that fell both near the French and mostly in impassable terrain.


The firefight round the Radio Station got quite fruity. It was steadily sucking Dave's troops into a killing ground (like Blenheim nearly 250 years earlier). At least that's what we're claiming.


Boom! A hit on our armoured car from an HMG disables it.


The French then got some air support. It missed.


But I did manage to blow up a bren carrier thingy with an anti-tank gun on it.

And loads of other stuff happened. All very confusing, but quite a bit of fun.

We're having another go in a fortnight.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Making some Err-Urs

After the last game of "To Ur" I decided to make some changes. I wanted to get away from saving rolls, if I could, and make some other minor changes to areas where the game had some loose ends and illogicalities. As it turned out I hadn't exactly broken the system, but I did blunt the effectiveness of some units to produce fewer casualties in combat. This isn't necessarily a problem for the overall game design concept, as the central mechanism is the "Fear Test", in which it is determined which unit is gaining the moral ascendancy. However, it does make things slightly less interesting for the players, so I will need to look at that again.


I had two players. Steve took the aggressors...


... and Phil took the defenders. The scenery was quite open so I could see the main mechanisms work. It was a mistake to put the trees on the flanks, and the deployments should have had the light troops screening the heavier ones.


As it was I loaded the flanks with light troops, and Phil didn't disappoint by pushing them forwards to provoke an encounter.


Steve took up the challenge and closed to javelin range.


The battle carts engaged. In response to Phil's charge Steve's lead battle cart unit came off badly from its Fear Test, and dropped back behind its supports. That meant the Support unit was slightly "mushed up", but counter-attacked none the less. Steve lost the combat, and was slightly pushed back. This wasn't too bad, however...


...his General was killed as a result, which was a less than optimal outcome for him.


He fared better in the light infantry encounter in the woods.


With the loss of his General Steve's remaining battle cart unit retired as well, leaving quite a hole in his centre.


He was able to throw a lot of light troops at the village, however, in an attempt to evict the defenders.


Phil turned his remaining cart and attacked the flank of one of Steve's units already engaged in combat. It failed a Fear Test and broke.


Steve has taken the village, and is pushing on through the woods/orchards


He has also managed to rally back one of his broken battle cart units to shore up his centre.

The game stopped there. The new modifications weren't a complete success and a number of things came up that I hadn't dealt with in in my original rules, - either that or I forgot how I'd resolved these issues in the past. Going to need to make a few changes.

I learnt a lot from this game, and I still like the way it works. The Fear Test does what I want, much to the frustration and occasional annoyance of the players. It is possible to win the combat and have your morale go down. What this represents to me is a unit becoming downhearted because although they think they're winning their opponents refuse to break. Alas for the game this happened several times, with outcomes looking a bit perverse due to the equivalent of a double 6 being rolled quite frequently. Sometimes, to paraphrase, 1 in 36 chances come up 9 times out of 10.

Still, not as bad as one of our other MNG's who lost a game recently on a dice rolling chance of 1 in about 47,000. That's tough.