Saturday, January 26, 2013

Plotting Against The Plot-less-ness...

Who remembers the original Rogue Trader? Who actually owns a copy of the original Rogue Trader? I recently broke out my copy to show to my friend Pat and I gotta say it's amazing how much Warhammer 40,000 has changed since those early days. Is it for the better? For the worse? Not really either but also a little bit of both. Sound confusing yet?

The original 40k was not a tactical miniatures game in my opinion, not at its heart. While they did eventually come up with specific army lists (the ancient predecessors to today's Codexes) the forces in the actual book were filled with charts with random d100 lists of equipment. Yeah, that's right. You could just roll randomly for EVERYTHING. Weapons, equipment, psychic powers... the whole kit and cabooddle. It added a whole layer to the force creation process. "Man, I only have one roll for grenades. I hope I get the virus bomb! Come oooooon virus bomb!" **rattle, rattle, rattle** "Anti-plant grenades?!?!? Aw man!"

Dig further into the book at you find page after page of alien creatures. Not Eldar and Orks (though they're in there too...); we are talking things like Ambulls and Ptera-squirrels! Just random critters that you could have wandering around the board to spice things up. One of the early issues of White Dwarf even introduced the Ambull miniature and had a scenario idea set in an abandoned Ambull warren. Well, you thought they were abandoned...

Dig still deeper in the book and you'll find pages of random plot lines that you can use to create scenarios, along with a whole set of sub plots to mix things up even more. This is one that still cracks me up but at the same time sounds like a lot of fun.

"Abdul Goldberg stole your ship off you - the poker game was rigged and you're sure he put something in your drink. Your crew are unhappy - having been turfed from their ship together with their possessions. The ship and it's new crew leaves tonight - unless you can steal it back!"

How exactly are you supposed to play that out with Space Marines vs. Eldar I'll be damned if I know but it sure sounds like it would be fun to try!

What exactly does this somewhat random rant have to do with anything?  Some people might like the idea of lining up their guys on one side with mine on the other and lets see who wins.  There's nothing wrong with that but personally I'd rather have some kind of reason or flavor behind the battle. After all, which sounds more interesting?

1) Let's play a meeting engagement between my marines and your orks!

2) A few squads of Crimson Fist marines are stuck behind enemy lines and are trying to fight their way to the enemy's headquarters while Warboss Dakkagrub has sent out troops to gather parts for a stompa that his big mek is trying to repair for the next big push against the Imperial forces.

For me number two is the definite winner even though technically they are identical from a game mechanics point of view.  If adding this kind of flavor isn't something that you normally do give it a try next time you play, and if you already do I'd love to hear about it!  Go ahead and post in the comments the most memorable scenario you've ever played in a miniature game.

Thanks for reading and I looking forward to hearing about your own epic adventures on the table top!  Until next time...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Movie Review: The World Is Sick And We Are The Doctors

And how true that quote seems to be at the end of this movie when one world burns while humanity is forced to rise from the ashes of another.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  A year or so ago I first heard this movie was coming out and I was really excited.  The concept just sounded so over the top I couldn't wait to see...

I mean come on, Nazis from the moon returning to invade the Earth?  It just screams over the top pulpy goodness!  Unfortunately it was not slated for widespread release so I figured I'd just have to wait and see if I could get it on DVD.  As too often happens, time passed and it slipped my mind until I happened to stumble across it while looking to see if Iron Man was on Netflix streaming.  "Sweet!" I thought.  "Now I finally have a chance to see it!"

So how was it?

Overall I liked it but it wasn't quite what I expected.  Of course I'm not really sure what exactly I did expect but this wasn't quite it.  The effects were well done in my opinion and the story was interesting as well with a couple of little twists thrown in for good measure.

So what is it ultimately?  It's story about revenge.  And like the movie says, it never really works out the way you want it to.  Until next time...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Board Game Review: Why Do I Have That Sinking Feeling?

The first game that we dug out of the recesses of the gaming closet is an oldie from the behemoth of the board game world, Fantasy Flight Games.  Surprisingly enough, this one doesn't come in one of their legendary coffin boxes which is a good thing since this game would leave a lot of wasted space in there.  But enough banter!  Its time to tread carefully as we keep an eye out for Quicksand.

In Quicksand, the players each take the role of one of six explorers all vying to reach the ancient temple before the others.  But don't be too obvious!  If your opponents figure out who you really are they could sink you up to your neck in quicksand while they run past you and grab the ancient treasure.

What's In The Box?
Unlike today's Fantasy Flight, apparently back in the day their components weren't always quite so mind bogglingly high quality.  This isn't to say that the components are cheap compared to others you might find out there, merely average which still says a lot for FFG's overall level of quality.  The game comes with six different colored wooden discs and counters each representing the different explorers in the game, a set of cards, and a two piece board that locks together like a jigsaw.

There is also a generic liner tray which is nothing special but is good enough to keep all the pieces from sliding all around inside the box.

How Do You Win?
The object of Quicksand is pretty simple; you are trying to get through the jungle to the temple before the other players.  Piece of cake, right?

How Do You Play?
Once the board is set up and the cards shuffled, the first thing you do is choose an explorer.  This is done by choosing a random counter to see which one they will play.  Exactly who you are playing is kept secret from the other players until the end of the game, adding a bluffing element to what would otherwise be a straightforward racing game.

During your turn you play cards from your hand to either move an explorer or sink them into the quicksand!  To move an explorer, you play any number of matching cards and move that explorer that many spaces.  Playing three white cards will move the archeologist three spaces, four red will move the hunter four spaces.  In addition to the regular explorer cards, there are also mask cards which work as wild cards to give a little more flexibility to your move.

Depending on where you end your move there could be addition effects.  Some of the spaces are colored which let you discard a card if the corresponding explorer ends their turn there while others have masks which let you discard with any explorer.  And of course there's also the quicksand (can't have a game called Quicksand without it!).  Any explorer that ends their move on a quicksand space is flipped over to show that they are stuck.  This is no where near as bad as it might sound but it does make the game more interesting as only one explorer can occupy a space so you have to play more cards to jump over anyone in your way.

To rescue an explorer from the quicksand you just need to play one additional card of their color and then off they go.  There are also quicksand cards that you can play from your hand which have the same effect on explorers as the spaces except you can play them anywhere you want.

At the end of the turn you draw back up to six cards and you move on to the next player. 

How Does It Measure Up?
Quicksand is not bad for filler game and we definitely had fun with it but there really isn't much too it.  If you happen to find it for cheap it might be worth picking up (I bought our copy for $5 on clearance) but its not one that I'd devote a lot of time to tracking down.

The Parting Shot...
I hope you've enjoyed this look at Quicksand.  If you have any comments or questions about the game I'd love to here them so go ahead and post them right in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.  Until next time...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Plan Part Deux: ...And While That's Happening We'll Do This.

I already touched on part of my plan for this year but that was strictly focused on the miniatures and there is much more to gaming than just that, namely board games!  I enjoy miniature gaming but my wife and the Munchkin aren't into those so board games are a great way for us to sit down and do something as a family.  Unfortunately our collection tends to grow in fits and spurts but this year I want to focus on picking up some of the more interesting titles that have come out in addition to dusting off some of our old games.  I figure I'll write up reviews of the older games as we play them (so more on them later...) but I figure this is a good place to look at some of the newer games that I've got my eyes on.

1) Small World by Days of Wonder

Yeah, I know that I'm a few years behind the curve on this one but like I said, growth on the board game front has been a little erratic.  I've actually been thinking about this one ever since it first came out but I've just never plunked down the cash for it.  Having watched some reviews of it though I've decided I need to bite the bullet and plan on picking this one up very soon.

2) Sentinels Of The Multiverse by Greater Than Games

This one is a slightly more recent release that's I've been thinking about for a while now but superhero games just leave me a little leery.  Don't get me wrong; I love the genre but finding a game that can both capture the comic book feel and interest the family seemed like it might be a tall order.  After checking out some reviews (and watching Ultimate Spider-Man on Netflix with the family...), I feel pretty confident that this game will be well received.

3) X-Wing by Fantasy Flight Games

It's Star Wars.  By Fantasy Flight.  Just don't see what's not to love.  I'm not sure how much interest there will be for this one from the family as they've never really shown an interest in miniature games but this just looks too cool not to pick up.  As an added bonus, there are a number of expansions already out or on the way that give you lots of options for scenarios, not to mention that the figures look really sweet!

4) Summoner Wars by Plaid Hat Games

Yeah, I already own this one but I don't own all the expansions yet!  The Munchkin and I really enjoyed this game so I'm excited to pick up more of the factions to give us some more options, plus I might pick up a second board so we can play some larger games as well.

5) Forbidden Desert by Gamewright

We already own and love Forbidden Island so when I found out that they were reimplementing the mechanics with Forbidden Desert it sold itself immediately.  Now we just have to wait for it to actually get released.

Of course this isn't all that I've been looking at but between these and the games that I want to haul out of the closet I figure this is a good start for the beginning of the year.  That's all for now but we've already dug up one game from our collection and I'll have a review of it soon.  Until next time...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sharp Practice Battle Report: Listen To The Drums, My Fellows. The Hunt Has Begun!

For the past few years I've heard about a game called the Big Hunt which is hosted by one of the local gaming groups.  From what I'd heard, this game is usually a bizarre little affair as hunters from various countries try to take down a vast array of big game along with the other hunters and anything else that might happen to wonder through.  One year there were dinosaurs, another predators... you get the idea.  Unfortunately I've never been able to make it to any of the previous games but this year finally proved to be different!  I quickly assembled my troops (quite literally) and downloaded the rules so I'd at least have a vague idea what I was getting into.

The day of the hunt, I arrived at Avatar Games and Comics where my friend Sky Captain was planning on running the game and I managed to catch the tail end of the Battletech game his was playing in.  Oddly enough, the most dramatic kill went not to a battlemech but to a squad of militia aircraft that dropped bombs right on the enemy commander's head.

Go figure, right?  The game ran a little long which gave me a chance to check out the store and found this really sweet statue of Deadpool... on a Vespa... with a cannon.

Once the Battletech game finally broke I helped a few of the other players roll up the Big Men for their forces (though what purpose this serves in the game beyond flavor was not readily apparent) and we gather around the table eager to begin!

About forty five minutes later, my troops had moved a massive 7 inches and were still waiting to activate again in the hopes of being able to get off at least one shot.  Thirty minutes after that... well, they got tired of waiting and headed off to get some tea.

So the question that comes to my mind is what went wrong?  There were a few things that immediately spring to mind.

1) New rules that no one really knew that were also for the wrong era: It seems that there are many different sets of rules out there covering all different time periods and combat styles when it comes to historical games.  The one that we were using, Sharp Practice, was not only new to most of the group members but it is also meant for Napoleonic era combat with muskets and cannons while the Colonial era featured bolt action rifles and carbines which caused much consternation for the resident Sharp expert.  Which leads to point number two...

2) Being an expert on the actual rules doesn't necessarily help with house rules: This is one that is really a double edged sword.  Having someone who is familiar with the ins and outs of the rules can help you adjust things to fit new and unique situations but only if they are open to the idea of modifying the rules as written.  In our case the expert was a little to focused on the actual rules and seemed to have a hard time adjusting which really made things grind along as we tried to figure things out, which leads into point number three...

3) If you are going to house rules things, make sure you playtest before the actual session: While this was on the gaming club calendar as a scheduled event there was little or no work done to see just what needed to be changed to make the game run smoothly which further contributed to the grind.

As for how the game ended I unfortunately have no idea.  After almost an hour and a half with only one turn I decided I should just pack up and head for work.  Sky Captain told me the next day that things did run a little smoother as the session went along but it still leaves me a little leery about the upcoming Colonial games which are supposed to use the same rules.

The whole experience has also left me with a few ideas brewing in my melon that I'm going to have to look into, including doing a post-apocalyptic Big Hunt using the Mutant and Death Ray Guns rules.  In fact I've already got ideas for some of the critters that would be wandering around those desolate wastes.  I've also gotten to thinking about other systems that could be used for the traditional Big Hunt scenario (including other Song of Blades systems of course...) but more on that later.  Until next time...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Miniature Review: Hold The Line My Good Fellows!

The first project that I listed for this quarter was putting together and painting my British Colonials and that one is already underway!  So far a massive five troops have been painted up, including the leader of my troops, Sir Reginald Wadsworth Smythe the III (told ya they'd be pretty tongue in cheek...).

His Lordship Sir Reginald Wadsworth Smythe the Third and his band of jolly good chaps!

All in all, I really happy with how these figures turned out.  In fact my wife has even said that these are some of the best that she's seen me paint which is quite the compliment considering how much trouble flesh tones usually give me.  I did some minor modifications to the three figures in the center by adding a blanket roll across their chests (plus the custom elephant gun of course...) but other than that these figures are just as they come out of the box from Wargames Factory Miniatures.

It should be noted that this is an old image; the current sets hold 25 miniatures, not 20.

 For those of you that might not have heard of them, they make a number of historical lines along with a few sci-fi and modern sets as well.  With most of the sets running a mere $20 a box the real question is can you get quality figures for less than a dollar a piece?  At least in the case of the British Colonials I think you can.

The box comes with a total of five sprues each with five bodies on them.  There is not a lot variation as far as the poses go but I think there's enough so they won't look too cookie cutter by the time I'm done.  They also have seperate arms and heads to give you a little more wiggle room which is always helpful.

The one place that these figures a little weak is on the details but even then its not a deal breaker.  When I first started painting my figures I was concerned that some of them would not be crisp enough to really pick out but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised.  This set also comes with no bases so be prepared to either go the washer base route like I did with these or pick up some of the bases that Wargames Factory sells from their online store (at a pretty good price I might add!).

Overall these are some figures that I'd definitely recommend checking out if you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to give you a core to an army of this era or just fill out the ranks.  Unfortunately they only make this set so if you want any cavalry or artillery pieces you'll need to look elsewhere but these will definitely give you a solid starting point.

That's about it for now but be sure to come back as we take a look at the annual Big Hunt!  Was it as epic as I'd thought it would be?  You'll have to come back to find out!  Until next time...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alright Guys, This Is The First Part Of The Plan...

So rather than my random meandering from one project to the next that I usually do with my hobby, I decided this year to get a plan!  Well, more of an overview but you get the idea, plus I'm thinking that maybe putting it up here in writing it might give me more of an impetus to actually start and even complete some of the projects I have in mind.  Even so I don't want to plan too far in advance since who knows what I'll be interested in later in the year so for now I'm going to organize it by quarters to give me more manageable chunks.  Now the question is... what's first?

1) British Colonials: This my first dive into historical gaming ever.  I have always steered clear of all the historical stuff but a friend of mine is running a number of Colonial games this year using the Sharps Practice rules from and I've decided to take the plunge.  Of course these will be pretty tongue in cheek but still it does have it roots in something historical so that counts, right?

These minis will also dovetail conveniently into the Victorian Sci-Fi games so that's two for one which is even better!  I'm not sure the exact number of minis that I'm looking at for this but I'm starting out with a set of twenty five from the Wargames Factory line of plastics so I'll be doing a review of those soon.  On top of this, I am actually playing in the first of these games tonight entitled the Big Hunt!  This is an annual game that my friend Jason runs but you never know quite what you're going to run into.  One year there were dinosaurs, another Predators... just all depends what minis he grabs so it will definitely be interesting!

As for expanding my force beyond the first box, I've had some suggestions but I want to get my head around the Sharps rules before I commit to anything.  Once I've done that I want to round out the force and finish them up in the first quarter so I have my army done for the year.  Kind of ambitious since it means I'm looking at possibly painting between 50 to 100 minis just in the first three months of the year but I think with a definite direction in mind it won't be quite as daunting as it sounds.

2) Space 1889 aerial gunship: For those of you who don't know, Space 1889 is the Victorian Sci-fi setting I mentioned above.  In this alternate history humanity has sailed into space and established colonies on Mars.  I don't know much else about it beyond what I've seen but it looks really cool.  One of the things that particularly caught my eye are the aerial vessels that are featured in the setting.  The Martians use vessels that are reminiscent of traditional sailing vessels (except for the fact that they are flying through the air of course) while the British vessels remind me of flying ironclads.  Since I'm already working on my Colonial Brits it just seems right to try to put together an aerial gunship or two to accompany them.  This is the first time that I've tried to build something like this so I have no idea how it will turn out but it seems like it'll be an interesting challenge so we'll have to see what I can cobble together.

3) Malifaux Guild: So far I've painted about half of the Guild minis that I've bought so finishing off the rest of them shouldn't be too difficult.  This might start to run a little long if I pick up some more minis but as it stands right now I'm pretty happy with what I have for the game so getting the last of them painted in the first quarter shouldn't be too difficult.

4) Bones: Last but not least my massive selection of Reaper Bones Miniatures should be coming by the end of the first quarter.  I should be able to start working on them but I'm not going to commit to anything specific.  Given the massive number and selection of figures in the Vampire pledge level I kind of figure I'll be using these to break up other projects throughout the year.

On top of this I also want to get in more gaming in general which should be a lot easier to do now that I have more time available during my work week.  Nothing particular in mind at this point other than spending some quality time with the family which is the best reason in the world in my book.

And that about rounds it out for now!  Until next time...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Snowman's 2012 Year In Review!

Another year has come to a close and its time for the year in review!  Which games where the big hits in Snowman's Land this year?  Just how out of control was my miniature spending this year?  Read on to find out!

The Wee People Were Rampant!
Total miniatures bought: 128
Total miniatures painted: 80
Terrain built: 3 pieces

Compared to last year, 2012 was a banner year for miniatures here in Snowman's Land.  I more than doubled the number of miniatures that I bought and painted last year though surprisingly enough it wasn't due to miniature gaming.  A vast majority of it was actually for role playing as I pounded out a good number of figures for our Dungeons and Dragons game.  Since this was the Munchkin's first game I really wanted to make the most of the visual aspect of it which really kept me busy as I churned out all the players and most of the monsters for the adventure as well.

It also has to be said that the total bought does not include the minis for either the Bones Kickstarter or the Relic Knights Kickstarter.  I did pay for them this year but I've only been recording them once I actually receive them which means I'm already looking at 300+ minis bought for 2013 once those both come in.  Then I just have to paint them all...

But Where Did All The Games Go?
Total games played in 2012: 77

In stark contrast to the miniatures front, this was definitely not the year of gaming that I'd hoped it would be.  Coming in with a whooping 54 fewer games than last year which leads to the question "What happened?"

Unfortunately we were without a car for most of this year and while we live in a major metropolitan area its not one with a solid public transportation system meaning lots of time spent on the bus.  Or walking to the bus.  Or waiting for the bus.  You get the idea.  Thankfully that has changed now so 2013 will be very different but what about the games that actually got to the table in 2012.

Leading the way with seven plays was the Pok√©mon CCG which isn't too surprising.  The Munchkin really enjoys playing this one and its usually good for a quick game as well which made it perfect.  We still need to get some more decks so we can mix things up more but I think that is a common thought with all CCGs.

Next up is the Summoner Wars with six plays.  The Munchkin and I really dove into this one when we first got it and even though its been a while since we got it to the table I'm looking forward to getting in some more games of this soon.

Coming in with five games each there was a tie between Carcassonne and Dungeons and Dragons 4e.  Carcasonne has always been a favorite for us and now that the Munchkin plays as well it has even more appeal.  The same can actually be said for D&D 4e since she's playing in that as well!  Unfortunately that one is on hold right now as Spacer and Dreamer haven't been available but we're about to wrap up our first adventure so I'm really hoping to get it back to the table once we get past the holidays.

Next we go from a two way tie to a three way tie between Galaxy Trucker, Hey That's My Fish, Perfect Stride all with four plays each.  Yes we finally got Galaxy Trucker to the table and man was it fun!  I think every game ended with our freighters just barely limping into the destination.  Heck, I think that one of the games ended with at least one of us just coasting in!  If it hadn't been for limited free time I think that both Hey That's My Fish and Perfect Stride would both have more plays as these are two really fun games which I'll try to get some reviews of up soon.

And fifth place... well, fifth place is a massive traffic jam of gaming with Babylon 5 A Call To Arms, Chateau Roquefort, Chez Cthulhu, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, Crazy Old Fish War, Forbidden Island, Gulo Gulo, Heroica: Draida Bay, Pathfinder, Red Dragon Inn 3, Sitting Ducks Gallery, Sorry Sliders, Super Dungeon Explore, Ticket To Ride, and Unspeakable Words all coming in with a mere two plays each.  Kind of disappointing to be honest as these are all good games but again time just wasn't on my side this past year.

Thankfully we now have our own transportation again so I'm really hoping to get the family around the table much more this year.  Beyond the fun factor there is the family time which I'm really looking forward to having more of.  I also want to really expand our board game catalog as well since there are a number of great games out there that I'd love to try out... but more on that soon.  Until next time...