Monday, December 10, 2012

Finishing War at Sea, the Hot Stove

Welcome back!

My apologies for a bit of a gap between posts; it’s the holiday season, and things are getting busy around the household. Professionally, I’m also up to my eyeballs in exciting new projects. Most of them are still a little too far out for me to get into specifics, but in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately, here are a few things I can hint at:
First, I’ve agreed to pitch in and help out the gang at Paizo/Goblinworks with some design work on The Emerald Spire, a megadungeon that’s planned as a Kickstarter reward for Pathfinder Online. If you’ve been following the Pathfinder Online Kickstarters, you’ve seen something about this book. (And if you think you’d like to stomp around the streets of Thornkeep yourself sometime soon, well, I encourage you to check out )

Second, I just finished designing an adventure for an upcoming D&D Encounters Season for Wizards of the Coast. I’m also engaged in revising a 20,000-word “faux history” essay tied to the upcoming Sundering storyline for the Forgotten Realms setting. You should see both of those sometime in 2013.
Third, I’m outlining and writing a comic book series. The series should kick off in 2013. Working on a comic book is a new medium for me, but I’ve always been a very “visual” writer; I look forward to seeing what I can do with a little bit of dialogue and a whole lot of artwork. Not sure how much more I can say about this right at the moment, so I’ll stop there.

Finally, I’m working on a modern-day military thriller. I wrote the first draft over the last six months or so, and now I’m discovering all the ins and outs of breaking into mainstream publishing. I’m pretty excited about this, as you might imagine, and I hope to be able to provide some more information on this front soon.     
Exciting times! We’ll see how it all works out.

Gaming: Back in May, I posted about a few Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures pieces I would have wanted for a Set 7 if it ever came around. Well, it’s been more than a year since Set 6, and I’m pretty sure Wizards has no plans for a Set 7. So, at the risk of rubbing some salt in the wounds of you AANM fans out there, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you about what I was planning before WotC told me to call it a day.
I had figured that Set 7, if we actually did it, was probably going to be the last set, and was going to be pinched for new sculpts. Reprints would have to be selected from the most efficient combination of existing tools (think mold groups) available—for example, if the molds for ship A and ship B were in the same tool, they’d be a better reprint than ship A and ship C or ship B and ship C. Under those constraints, I built a set list that would cover the most important missing pieces that were still absent after the first six sets, and pushed hard to convince the Powers That Be to let us do just one last War at Sea set to wrap things up. Alas, it didn’t pan out.

This week I’ll talk about my last-set notions for the Axis; next time I’ll talk about the Allies.
Shinano (new sculpt): Of the Japanese carriers we didn’t get to through six sets, Shinano was probably the most interesting. It would have had a low basing capacity (no more than 2 or 3 squadrons) but some sort of plane replenishment special ability, since it was intended to carry a lot of replacement aircraft. Of course, it would also have had a ton of hull points and high armor. That makes for interesting game play—Shinano would have played very differently from any other carrier available.

Kinugasa (reprint):  The Aoba was a nice-looking sculpt. Kinugasa would have been an Aoba with less flag rating, and maybe a shore bombardment or anti-airfield special ability.
Mutsu (reprint): Just about the last operational Japanese battleship left to do. I was thinking of giving her a landing special ability, since she was used to transport troops in China operations before the war. 

P1Y Francis (new sculpt): The P1Y Francis was a Japanese land-based patrol bomber like the Mitsubishi Betty; I figured the Japanese hadn’t seen an uncommon plane in several sets, and they were due for a new land-based patrol bomber.
Expert Val (reprint): Like the B5N2 Kate we did in Set 6, this was essentially a reprint of the Val dive bomber. Players needed more copies of common attack aircraft, so I was trying to get more of ‘em in circulation. I was thinking of giving this Val a search bonus for long-range engagements.

RO-41 (reprint): A reprint of the set 5 RO-51, a decent medium submarine. Less expensive than the big Japanese I-boats.
Takanami (new): This would have been a new sculpt of a Yugumo class destroyer. The Yugumos were very close to the Kageros, but the profiles were off by just enough that we would have needed a new sculpt. Takanami torpedoed a couple of US cruisers at Tassafaronga before sinking under heavy gunfire.

P-class Battlecruiser (new sculpt): The P-class was a German battlecruiser or pocket battleship design that was a lot like an enlarged Deutschland. It was one of the collection of Plan Z designs that never were built, but might have been.  
Peter Strasser (reprint): This was the hypothetical sister ship to the never-completed German Graf Zeppelin. Like the GZ, it would have been a fairly robust 2-cap carrier. Really, the point of this was to give folks more Graf Zeppelins.

Force X Stuka (reprint): The 10th Fliegerkorps was a Luftwaffe formation that was ordered to Sicily to break the Allied lines of communication through the Med in 1941, and later proved decisive in the German victory in the Dodecanese campaign of 1943. But really this was intended to provide more Stukas—common attack planes were a little constrained in the game. 
Uj202 (reprint): This was an Italian Gabbiano-class corvette that the Germans seized after the Italian surrender and recommissioned as a Kriegsmarine vessel. The Germans operated a number of small Italian escorts and subchasers in the last months of the Mediterranean war. It would be interesting as the cheapest and smallest German ship.

Pola (reprint): The Italians hadn’t gotten a front-line heavy cruiser since Set 4. And, well, we were running out of other options for the Italian rares.
Abruzzi (reprint): This repeats the Set 3 Garibaldi. Far and away the best Italian light cruiser.

Ramb I (new sculpt): The Ramb I was an Italian auxiliary cruiser that was intended for a commerce raiding cruise in the Indian Ocean, but was sunk before it could take any prizes. I wanted to do the piece because it would provide something that could pass as an Italian transport or freighter in scenario play, and have a game function similar to the German commerce raider Atlantis.
Ciclone (reprint): Close enough to the set 3 Pegaso in profile, but with a smidgen more AA.

Vesihiisi (reprint): This was a Finnish submarine that was essentially a look-alike prototype to the Type VII U-boat.  The Versailles treaty banned the Germans from building submarines, so their naval designers stayed in practice by designing subs for other countries. The Vetehinen class boats were submarine minelayers, so she would have had a mine SA, and maybe a sub-killer SA too (Vesihiisi got a Soviet sub).

I sure wish I’d gotten the chance to “finish” the War at Sea game out with just one more set. There were a couple more Axis pieces I wanted to see done—a U-boat tender, some Japanese planes, an Italian tanker or troop transport, a couple of stray Z-plan designs—but we were definitely scraping the bottom of the barrel on the Axis navies. Maybe the Team Poseidon guys at Forumini will be inspired to cook up some stats for my “almost” list.

Politics/Current Events: Eh, nothing this time. I could tell you a heck of a story about local politics and our idiotic mayor… maybe next time.

The Finer Things: Baseball’s Hot Stove season. I’m a baseball junkie, as many of you know. This time of year, I’m checking a dozen different sports news sites ten times a day to see who the Phillies and Mariners are chasing. In the spirit of armchair GMs everywhere, I’ll share a couple of thoughts about the Phillies offseason so far…

1)      Trading for Minnesota’s Ben Revere. I like this move. Ben Revere essentially brings everything to the table that Michael Bourn brings, but he’s only 24 and costs only half a million a year. It’s a clever solution to the Phillies’ centerfield vacancy, and the Phillies fixed it without overpaying. Getting a free agent CF was going to cost 15 million a year or more. The cost wasn’t cheap—Worley is a tough kid as a pitcher, and May has a great upside. But it’s sure looking easier to sign a #4 starter than a good centerfielder in this market, so it’s reasonable.

2)      Trading for Michael Young. Maybe Young is done at 36, but the guy is only one year removed from a .338 season with over 200 hits, and more importantly, the Phils didn't pay much to get him. He’s going to be rough to watch at the hot corner, and he doesn’t bring a lot of patience to a lineup that already doesn’t work enough walks out of opposing pitchers, but there weren’t many third base choices out there. Myself, I would have tried to sign Eric Chavez and set up a 3b platoon, but Chavez went off the board fast. If the Phillies are smart, they’ll put Young in between Utley and Howard in the batting order, and make it a little harder for a lefty specialist to shut down the lineup.

The Phils could still use a corner outfielder power bat, a setup man, and now a #4 pitcher. There are still options for those out there. Myself, I’d like to see Nick Swisher in Philly… but we’ll see. It turns out that GM Ruben Amaro doesn’t call me up to run his moves by me.



  1. No Hiryu....even in your what if set...really? ;)

  2. Rich, thanks for providing some insight into your thinking for Set VII. This is a really interesting post!

  3. Oh, one other thing! A couple of the guys from the ForuMini who don't have Blogspot accounts asked me to ask you to--when you have a moment--please check your Private Message folder there. I think "you've got mail" :-)

  4. Thanks for the insight Rich! So great to see what your thoughts would have been given the constraints you'd have expected to work within. I'd be remiss if I didn't echo afilter's comment "No Hiryu?" :)

    We definitely appreciate that you were still trying to get a set VII right to the end. I can't wait to see what your thoughts were for the allied side. My signed 'Big Mamie' card is still the pride of my game room.

    Wishing the best to you and yours at this wonderful time of the year.

  5. Short answer: The Japanese already had three carriers that were a lot like the Hiryu in terms of gameplay, so if I had to pick just *one* more Nihon Kaigun flattop to do, I figured it should be the one that was more different from the others. And, to be honest, I was terrified that despite all my efforts we'd somehow put the island on the wrong side of the ship.

  6. Ha ha...fair enough Rich. It's really thrilling to see you posting about WaS again.

  7. Some cool ideas there but no hiryu was and is a sore spot. The ramb in particular I would have liked to see I got one off of shapeways just need a card (TN) to use with it.

  8. Nice list for the Axis. 16 units tells me either Allies got the lion's share or there was a neutral nation you were planning for. I really believe WAS could have gone for another 2 sets with a final set of reprints, but you were the one sitting there with the product model in one hand, sales figures in the other, and WotC 'bean counters' growling over both of your shoulders... so I'll take your word for it.
    It's a shame WotC dropped the ball on this one, but I think it's quite impressive that we got the 6 sets we did, espeically when it was supposed to be a 'one set wonder'. Add the failing economy into that and it starts looking like a miracle.
    The Shinano card I'm looking at making will have cap 2, 25 points, 5/12 armor, 6 hull points, Armored Flight Deck, Torpedo Defense 1, Replenish Aircraft 3, and AA 8. Not sure about the guns yet. Basically a heavy support carrier meant to protect a more fragile one.
    Another Japanese carrier I wanted to see, besides Hiryu, was Unryu. It was a later war multi-ship class, granted most weren't finished, those that were didn't see a whole lot of action, but I think they too could have had some unique SA's for the Japanese like Fighter Umbrella and Fighter Director.

  9. Yeah, I was really waffling between Unryu, Hiryu, and Shinano. The Unryu was actually pretty close to Soryu in appearance, possibly close enough that we might have been able to call it a reprint. And I certainly liked the idea of a class of several ships, as opposed to a one-ship class like Hiryu or Shinano. But ultimately the Unryu wouldn't have been much more than a cheaper Soryu with poor Expert abilities to reflect the declining quality of air crews late in the war.

  10. Well, now that I've actually compared the two, which I'll admit I hadn't done in the past, Soryu will make an excellent proxy for Unryu, especially since Soryu is one of my favorite models. Thanks for the insight there.