jay@vanishingtowerpress.com

Thursday, December 2

Avalon Hill Napoleon Play Thru Part 1

 I’ve plopped Napoléon, the venerable wargame Avalon Hill inherited from Columbia Games, onto the kitchen table intending to bull-rush my way through a solo game. The operational goals are to experience the entire game. The strategy to be employed to reach this goal is not dwell on rules too much. Begin with the sequence of play and grind out each turn as quickly as possible. The game is going to be friendly to this approach because of the limited components. Setting up the competing armies for play can be done briskly. The rules are delightfully brief and the movement system is very understandable. It only takes a few turns to move your armies around before you get the logic of the conflict space.

This means no dwelling on optimal placement of forces during set up. I’m going to trust the game will reveal how the forces should be organized in offense and defense as I move the armies into contact.

The victory conditions are on point, destroy your opponents army. Reduce your opponent and make them unable to resist. 

Roads can handle only so many troops before it is closed for further movement for that player’s turn. The 2 types of roads are major and minor. River crossings cut this limit by half. Towns with multiple roads leading in and out of them become the key terrain feature to leverage tactically. Their radiating spokes allow mutual support of each other’s units, a key to success. You win the game by having substantial reinforcements to funnel into a battle while denying the defender the same.


I open the French with movement on the eastern flank. Cavalry units with a small contingent of infantry and aritllery. The river is crossed just north of Givet across the Belgium frontier.


On the second day of hostilities Wellington reacts to the French provocation shifting cavalry and artillery in a blocking position at Namur. These forces are supported by more Prussian units which are close enough to reinforce any battle which may erupt here. Note the defensive use of the river. This restricts the amount of forces an attacking French army can bring to bear on the first battle turn and striking with overwhelming numbers in the first battle turn is a vital way to massacring your enemy and winning the game.

The French June 16 move is spent moving the forces in the center up to engage Ligny and Quatro Bras. Namur has too large of a troop concentration to attack so the attack will be directed at a weaker point in the center which does not include a water crossing. This was basically the intent of the French initial moves. The troops occupying Conde move in support of the center’s left flank and intends to harass the allies from Soignes.


The Prussians coordinate with Wellington to set up a defense against Napoleon in the center. Napoleon moves up his forces on the left to Soignes. The French hope to pin down enough forces south of Waterloo in preparation for the main attack against Ligny. Noting the pressure Napoleon is flexing on his right flank the Allies are content to sit pat. Time is on their side and the French forces committed are not an alarming threat. Wellington sees the battle of consequence will be at Ligny.


The dice placed on the table is my marker to track how many troop counters have marched down a particular road for the turn. Mastery of the game requires mastery of the road network and moving more troops into a battle than your opponent. Here is a picture of the movement and set up around Namur and Ligny. A French strike on either of these two towns would face Allied troops streaming in from three different directions! The French cavalry on the lower right 


is positioned so to swing left and support an attack on Quatro Bras. Cavalry can move 2 towns compared to infantry and artillery at one town a turn. And forced march! Don't forget about forced march. It clearly is worth the chance of attrition loss in a forced march to get more troops into a key position before a battle erupts. 

Currently the troops in front of Napoleon are more numerous and in better position so I decide to demonstrate on the Allies right. I attack Einghiem.


Four French units vs. three Allied units. The French consist of two infantry units, and two unit of cavalry. Allied forces are an infantry unit, cavalry and artillery. One of each here. The French will need to knock out the enemy on the first battle turn, otherwise Wellington can move two additional infantry units and tip the balance in their favor. Next post we will take the units off the game board and transfer them to the battlefield and I get to see how a set-piece battle is played in this game.

Friday, November 26

OSR Treasure Island Wrapped

 I'm feeling extremely liberated today for I have submitted the second draft of my manuscript for the Treasure Island adventure book for Freebooters. I experienced nothing new that any writer would have experienced; days when I couldn't even stand to look at the manuscript and tackle the editing needs of the work. There was always a hard turn into prepping for my next supers game. I hear this what kept the Game of Thrones novels being so far apart in release because the author would spend time on his rpg campaign instead. I get this. 

Also, I get ideas for other rpg stuff and of course it feels more interesting at the time than what I am currently trying to complete, fully aware if the projects were reversed I'd feel the same way. Something about commitment makes my human soul cringe, even though it thirsts for completion and accomplishment. Fortunately I sort out all these contradictions with music and drugs and make weirdly streaky bouts of content generation. My artistic process has much "linger and wait for it" strategies which don't go so well with deadlines. But deadlines are really the only way to get creative projects done. There is no end to anything, you just have to find the right moment to pull the rip-cord. 

I think I ended up with a 35,000 word manuscript and the publisher, Night Owl Studios, is really excited about what I wrote. I'm excited to. The quality of the writing is enhanced by having an editor on board. No book is ever going to be as good as it can without an editor. Period. Folks who can't take unvarnished criticism and turn it into gold, I weep for you.


Now that my work is done (mostly) I can relax and let the publisher do the next chunk of thankless work it takes to make a book. I've said it before, I have never worked on an artistic project as demanding as writing a book.  Now I have had the experience of working for someone else, and it has been very rewarding. Learning how to write adventure content for others to use at the game table has been a very rewarding experience. 

What next? While writing Treasure Island I sent what I had done to date for Deluxe USR S&S to my editor and now it is time to look at that bunch of harsh criticism. Writing can feel like self-flagellation, here is my stuff, rip it apart, tell me how bad it is, more more hit me harder...

I'm reading Patrick Stuart and Scrap Princess' thick tome Veins of the Earth right now to decompress. Along with some jazz, hot coffee and Colorado bud. 

Tuesday, November 23

Day After DnD Anyone?

 I happen to be one of the fortunate folk who have Friday off after Thanksgiving and have had some luck over the years (I'm looking at you Eric Hoffman) organizing a pick-up game of old-school DnD this day after the holiday. SO LETS DO THIS AGAIN!

Sign up in the comments section below. The game will run 11am MST/-7GMT and it will be a 4 hour session. 2nd to 4th level characters recommended, but go ahead and bring your 1st level loser if that is all you have. The adventure will be the OSR module Purging Woth Nrld Oakwyn's Muddy Hole, the Vanishing Tower's first ever OSR game module. Made the "No Regerts" list at 10 Foot Pole, so not to shabby of thing.



Tuesday, November 16

Even Heroes Bleed Issue #15 BAM! Bash

 Even Heroes Bleed Issue #15 BAM! Bash is now up on anchor for all you supers fan's listening pleasure. 


Frustratingly enough, this is the third issue in a row that has included the new supervillain NTROBee and the third issue in a row where all the scenes with NTROBee in it the audio got corrupted or the record button didn't get pushed down. Way to bad because the scenes have had a great effect on new tensions and drama being generated in game in real time and the player's reactions have been great. Also, the meta-currency of Hero/Villain points was on full display and showed how they worked really well supporting the genre and action intent. 

Here are the three action encounters featuring NTROBee in brief;

Red Runner's dad, Andrew Meyer, is in town on business and finds his son at the Wayward Journey, a bar where Red and his band Swollen Shut are set to play. During the gig NTROBee attacks Andrew Meyer. NTROBee is an eco-terrorist and Mr. Meyer works for an aggressive development corporation gobbling up important habitat for more skyscrapers and strip malls. Red Runner confronts the attacker and drives him off but not before 12 bystanders were injured and 3 killed from bee stings. 

Later, Bug and Red figure out what the villain is about and manage to track him down. In another violent encounter, NTROBee's power over killer bees is too much for Bug and Red to overcome and NTROBee escapes. 

NTROBee is confronted one more time at the Town & Campus bookstore and a tense stand-off ensues. In exchange for letting the eco-terrorist leave the city he won't kill the innocent bystanders shopping in the bookstore. 

With NTROBee chased out of the city the heroes return to their immediate problems; the Russian mob trying to kill them and catching those who firebombed the Baltimore.