Monday, October 17, 2016

Review and Pics of The Chicago Way

Based on the very successful Dead Man’s Hand ruleset Great Escape Games transferred their Wild West rules to another wild period in US history: Chicago in the Prohibition Era.

For those who do not know this period: in the 1920ies the US made an enormous effort to ban the drinking of alcohol altogether through drastic legislation and government  control. It became the most spectacular failure in the history of anti-drug legislation until the start of the War On Drugs in the late 20th century. It cost the US government a fortune in missed taxes and costs of crime-fighting. But most of all the wave of liquor-related crime following the Prohibition laid the foundation for organized crime in the US for the century to come. When the US government finally repealed the Prohibition in the early 30ies numerous powerful gangs had become rich on the liquor trade and were ready to transfer their business to other, more durable crimes like the drug trade, gambling and prostitution. 

However, The Chicago Way takes place before this, replaying the dawn of organized crime in Chicago in the 1920ies where the likes of Al Capone and Bugsey Malone carved out their criminal empires with bribe money and tommyguns.

TCW is –of course – a skirmish game. Players will need between 6 to 8 figures to represent an average gang or police unit. Teams may represent urban gangsters, moonshiners, policemen or federal agents. Besides these a handful of civilians may be used when the game calls for it and of course a lot of 1920ies terrain like urban buildings, lantern poles, fire hydrants and the glorious cars of the era is needed.

TCW is card-driven and comes with its own set of cards; a colour for each of the factions. Bad guys are black, good guys are red. Cards have multiple functions. At the start of each turn each figure on the table is awarded a card. The rank of the card determines Initiative in Activation and each figure gets three Actions at that point. Actions are treated quite realistically. You can shoot a lot if you remain stationary, but shooting gets more difficult or even impossible if you do it more or if you combine it with walking or running.
On top of all this, when being attacked or shot at, a figure card may also be used as a Reaction to shoot or Move.

Besides this you also hold a “hand” of cards. Held in hand, they can provide ad hoc advantages or actions throughout the game, often out of turn, like stealing your opponent’s card, avoiding mortal wounds and the like.

TCW uses D20s to determine hits and D10s for Nerve and Skill Tests, like Driving a car. The car rules are suitably spectacular in that a 2+ Drive test is required for every action, which gets more difficult as the car is hit more often. Cars are no so much destroyed by gunfire as being made uncontrollable and will eventually crash if you continue driving a damaged car long enough. This brings us to the hit system. Figures are hampered by hits as long as they stay alive and will “die” when a certain number of hits is reached or instantly when being hit with a 19-20 result. They may however ward off death by spending Actions to lose hits.

The rulebook is a pleasant full-colour A4-format 42 page paperback containing complete rules, scenarios, counter- and driving templates, team rosters and a campaign system (as yet untried by me) which comes with a pleasant surprise as it contains an underdog rule. Which is essential to any campaign, as structural unbalance between players will ruin any campaign pretty quickly!

TCW results in fast, cinematographic games (between 1 and 2 hours) that emulate the many gangster movies, comics and novels. 


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Vacation 2016: Burgundy, Veenhuizen, painting and Rijswijk

This year, we thought we had deserved some serious vacation! So we kicked it off with a week in one of the most beautiful regions of France: the Morvan, a part of Bourgogne. After a brisk 9-hour drive we arrived in the land of sun, milk and honey that is the Bourgogne and chambre d'hote Les Hirondelles. I won't wax on how nicely it is situated and will let the picture below speak for itself!

On our first day trip we visited Guedelon, a fascinating place where a medieval castle is being built using medieval methods and materials.

Below the model of how the castle should eventually look when finished.

 The building site is situated in an oak forest near a quarry. Walking through the forest you come upon the open spot where the castle is being built, surrounded by workplaces.

The quarry

This machine is driven by one person and can lift up to 300 kilos. Two-person versions may lift up to half a ton!

The entire terrain is riddled with fascinating examples of how the medieval craftsmen worked. Like their way to cut stone for a vault roof beforehand, using a wooden model.

Here mrs Pijlie briskly strides into the courtyard.

The central keep, reminding me very much of the bastlehouses and Pele towers I saw in the border regions of Scotland an England a few years back.

Building the walls...

Note the massive bolt sliding into the wall used to bolt the main door of the keep. 

There were a lot of workplaces built around the castle in medieval style, like this paintshop. All the paints used in the castle were made here, using materials and herbs mostly grown or found on site. 

The pottery

The spinnery. 

The herbal garden.  

The smithy.

The following day was to be scorching hot, so we remained in the shades with a classy hat and a good book. "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" definitely is not a book to miss! Beautiful, beautifully written. Thank you Eveline for giving me this for a present!

Some nice details from a visit to Vezelay, the quintessential medieval town. Go there if you ever want for inspiration for building terrain.

We even wound up in the exact middle of the European Union, or more precise, the Euro Zone, Montreuillon's one claim to fame. Fortunately for them, the UK isn't part of the Euro zone so the pole can remain standing even after Brexit!

Scorching hot again, so I got some painting done.

Because of mrs Pijlie's birthday we visited a piano concert on a lake. Music and landscape really made some great compositions together.

The next day we visited Chateau Bazoches, home to the great late marechal De Vauban. Besides being a lovely chateau with a breathtaking view it holds a wonderful collection of Vauban's work, life and legacies, which were even more numerous than I knew. He wrote, for example, a thesis on wealth-related relative tax laws and books about social unequality in France.

His sedan chair, meant to be carried by mules. 

In this spacious hall, Vauban's building projects were prepared and coordinated and it still contains many remnants of his professional life.

His personal armour. As you can see by the dents, being marechal of France wasn't a very safe profession. He nevertheless died of old age.

A courier tube and riding stirrups. 

Models of his fortifications

Mrs Pijlie exploring the winding stairs. 

The great man's bed. The great man wasn't very tall by the way. My feet would stick out if I had tried to sleep in that thing!

One of his descendants fought in the battle of Chesapeake Bay.

And he had a badass library! 

Here he is looking sternly down at the Place de Vauban in Avallon. We ate at Les Marechaux and had a Grand Salade Marechale, so we stayed in theme.

This beautiful statue of a nun reading a bible stood in the church square in Autun.

Back in the Netherlands we took off to Veenhuizen to visit the former 19th century penal colony there, now housing the Prison Museum. Great Britain sent its criminals to the colonies. The Netherlands just sent them to the north of the country and that must have felt just as far away then....

Looking at the things human beings did to each other as a deterrent for criminal behaviour, one starts to seriously doubt the deterrent effect of punishment, given the amount of crime that happened then despite the horrendous punishments that criminals risked.....

We stayed at a lovely hotel there with an EXCELLENT cuisine: Bitter en Zoet (Bitter and Sweet) housed in the former apothecary of the colony.

We visited the Kathe Kollwitz exposition in Heerenveen and I was very impressed by her bronze statues, which survived the Nazi regime because the Nazis fortunately failed to destroy the molds. 

On the final day of my vacation, we visited the bi-annual Paper Art Expo in Rijswijk to view some intriguing artworks and as it turned out: some great classic cars!

The last lunch on a terrace of this vacation. That day, life was good :)

Mrs Pijlie looking just like I must look at a wargames convention....

And we end with my daughter's favourite car. Those were some great three weeks. Duty calls!