Thursday, November 17, 2011


Vampire: the Masquerade burst onto the scene in 1991. I was 5 years old, and much too young to appreciate it.

When I first began gaming in '95, I had toyed around with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition but never "met" Vampire until D&D3 came out and I started going to game shops instead of Games Workshops or the library for my gaming. That's when I first saw White Wolf's games, and I was not impressed.

You see, at the time I was a little different than I am today. I was still a nice, and smart kid, but things that were outside the box were strange to me, and I was also the type of kid who jumped to conclusions before looking, and Vampire was "weird and gothy." I'm sure 14-year-old Carmin and 25-year-old Carmin would have some laughs if they met now.

Suffice it to say, I've never played Vampire: the Masquerade.

Fast forward to 2008, and I had already been working in an independent games shop for two years. After two years of seeing Vampire: the Requiem sitting on the role play shelf, I finally decided to take the plunge and I bought the World of Darkness (WoD or nWoD (new World of Darkness)) rulebook and the Vampire: the Requiem (VtR) add-on. I was hooked from the first chapter.

What I love about Vampire is the overwrought grimness of the whole setting, and the unapologetic intelligence with which the staff at White Wolf write. Every book they produce opens with a story, or set of stories before the credits and printing information are even displayed. VtR was also the first time I've seen (in writing) a games designer suggest a rule as opposed to offer an official ruling. Sure AD&D2 had optional rules in the blue boxes, but they were always add-ons or replacements for the basic mechanics, never was an entire mechanic merely a suggestion. To the mind of a role player who came to his formative  years during the late-'90s/early-new millennium this was revolutionary.

During the beginning of 2011 I hadn't paid much attention to the White Wolf website, so one day in May I decided to pop-by the new re-vamped (har-de-har-har) website and take a look at what was new (especially because I had heard that they were moving to a digital-first model of distribution. More on that in a later post). I saw an ad for the 20th anniversary of Vampire: the Masquerade (VtM, which is part of the classic World of Darkness (cWoD)). I was curious; here was the father to VtR, and though the two games share only superficial details, I wanted to see where my favorite RPG had come from. Though it was $100. I wavered for a month, but finally decided to buy it. I just received it today. Let's take a look shall we?

Now, before you express shock at the fact that a book I ordered in June finally arrived, take note that White Wolf only printed these books in September/October, and they were taking order for the whole summer as a "print on demand" sort of deal.

Here's the book:
That's a leatherette cover with the ankh of the Camarilla on the front.

Here's a shot of the inside:

The book is full-color, and 520 pages long. It's got silver gilded edges that are mirror-like, and it's got two (that's right, TWO) cloth bookmarks. 

Now here's what the book isn't: It's not a re-do of the game. It still has the old clans, the old mechanics, and the old storyline. The wonky die-rolling system of a combination of a die-pool and a variable target number is still there, and all the clan weaknesses and benefits are there as well. However, it's meta-plot neutral, which means that it doesn't further the meta-plot from VtM Revised (3rd edition), and is, therefore, compatible with wherever you decided to situate your campaign. There's still the Camarilla and the Sabbat, and the Anarchs, but it doesn't force the plot down your throat. 

The folks at White Wolf describe it (in their typical style, that I love) almost as a love letter to the old game that everyone loved. Their target audience was those those that played and loved the old edition, and this book is a celebration of that game. In fact, it's all you ever need to play VtM.

So why do I have it? Well, like I said, I love Vampire, and want to take part in all aspects of Vampire. I want to use the book for ideas, or perhaps even to play the old game. I also mentioned that it's all one would need to play VtM, therefore it seems like a good place to go from for a person like myself who is interested in the old Vampire system, but doesn't want to collect the hundreds of old books, or pdfs.

What started out as a "love letter" is becoming a saga, as White Wolf is releasing a bunch of products set in the classic World of Darkness (cWoD) under the "Onyx Path" line. These books will be new productions of the old systems (Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, Changeling: the Lost, etc.) along with new supplements. They just released a 50-something-page adventure that's a loose continuation of the old book "Ashes to Ashes," called "Dust to Dust." The next book to be released for the Onyx Path is the V20 Companion (a book of "hacks" for V20). Similar things will be in development for all the cWoD games.

So, what do I think of this book? I love it! It's fascinating to look at where my favorite game came from, and satisfying knowing that what I bought was not a shard of a larger work, but almost like an omnibus. If I really wanted, I could go back and collect all the old books, but I don't have to. My enjoyment of this work of art can stand alone. And a work of art it is. Some art is re-hashed from the old supplements and core books, but because it's an homage to the old system this isn't a problem. New art by Tim Bradstreet are very impressive. 

My complaints with the book, stem with some faults in the printing. There's a magenta line running horizontally in the Clan Giovanni section. It's not enough to ruin the book, but it shouldn't be there. Also, the book is bowing:
I'm going to try and put some heavier books on top of it for a couple of days, but I don't think that will actually do anything. 

Was it worth the $100 I paid for it? Yes. Barely. Would it be worth the $100 if one was a fan of VtM from the beginning, and got huge play out of it in the '90s? Very much so. However, this thing was a limited run, and if you didn't order it before the end of the summer, you're shit outta luck. White Wolf is going to put the thing on print on demand through One Book Shelf soon, but right now you can purchase the pdf. From what I hear the book will either be in one volume in black and white, or two volumes in full color. I suggest you pick it up.


P.S. As a bit of a housekeeping note, you'll notice that I tagged this as both "Vampire the Masquerade," and "V20." From now on, things that do not pertain to the V20 or Onyx Path will be labelled as "Vampire the Masquerade," while things that pertain mostly to V20 will be labelled as such. Expect to see much more "V20" labels than "Vampire the Masquerade" labels, as I'll be collecting just the V20 books. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sick Day

Calling in sick today. Gonna get some hobby work done. Right now I'm waiting for some paint to dry on my daemons. I also hope to do some work on a Kings of War review I'm working on, as well as maybe some work on that D&D Essentials review I talked about in the last post. Or I might even start work on a D&D campaign I've been working on.

The possibilities are endless!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monster Vault Review

I'd like to write a full review of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition Essentials line of products soon, but my cup already runneth over. Suffice it to say, for now, that Essentials gets two thumbs up from myself. More glowing would be to say that not only do I love it, but it's my preferred way to play D&D4. Now that's a loaded statement. 

However, today we'll concern ourselves with the D&D Essentials Monster Vault by Wizards of the Coast (or as I like to call it: "The best value for your gaming dollar on the RPG shelf"). 

Let's start off by showing you how many tokens you get in it:
Yes! That is a lot of tokens. And it's just the small ones.

Here are the big ones:
It may not look like a lot, but that's a 21.6cm X 28.6cm X 4.75cm box!

To give you a better idea, here are the frames that the tokens came from:
That's 2cm! (or ¾" for those of you that insist on using the Imperial system)

Now I know what you're thinking: "Pfft! I scoff! Miniature figurines are better than tokens, my good man!" While you are correct, beggars can't be choosers, and I like my non-randomized tokens very much, thank you! Besides, Reaper's Asylum imprint is doing a heck of a job in that department. Double besides, there's 320 tokens in the Monster Vault.

Now on to the material itself: As you'll read in my (glowing) Essentials review later on, the monsters presented in this book (10cm less wide than C5 format; 320 pages; softcover; full-color) are fully-compatible with your hardcover books. In fact, it's worth getting for someone who already has all the Monster Manuals (3 at the time of writing) because most of the monsters in here are new. Of course some are repeated, but you must remember that this is also meant to double as a player's first monster book. Some monsters are too iconic to not be reprinted. 

Let's use a few examples: The oft-used Kobold (we get it, WotC, you like the kobold. D&D players the world over must've exterminated this species by now). In the Monster Manual we have a level 1 minion (Kobold Minion), a level 1 skirmisher (Kobold Skirmisher), a level 1 Artillery (Kobold Slinger), a level 2 soldier (Kobold Dragonshield), and a level 3 artillery (leader) (Kobold Wyrmpriest). In the Monster Vault out of the four Kobold entries there, only the Slinger and Dragonshield are repeated. The book adds two new Kobolds: the Tunneler (level 1 minion skirmisher), and the Quickblade (level 1 skirmisher). Orc-wise we get 7 new orcs that aren't in the Monster Manual!

Finally, one thing that I think Wizards of the Coast also has right is the amount of modules they're producing again (I just wish they kept up the "letter-number" trend). This one comes with a level-4 adventure entitled Cairn of the Winter King™ along with a double-sided, color, poster map of  two of the large encounters in the adventure. I haven't had a chance to look over the adventure (because my DM ran a couple of elements from it, so I was told explicitly not to look at it), but I've played in a couple of the encounters and I can say that they're good. They didn't feel unbalanced, or too easy.

Overall, a good product, and well worth the $34 (Canadian) I paid for it. Like I said earlier, you'd be hard-pressed to find an item on your shop's RPG shelf that's as good a value as this. Outside of the other Essentials stuff, my next pick for value would have to go to any White Wolf product ($30 hardcover books? Yes please!), or Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hobby Health Day

So when I worked at Games Workshop all the staff loved "Hobby Health Days." These were days when we could work on our own projects at work (provided we hit the previous month's targets). Now you may think that not normally being allowed to work on your own stuff at a games shop is pretty draconian, but it got really busy there, and there were some Hobby Health Days that I didn't even take part in because I had other shit to do.

So today I have a day off, and the Mhorgoth Rising boxed set, and a ton of Flames of War Americans I need painting, so let's take today to do that. Put on the pot o' coffee, 'ma! I'ma paintin' figgurs!


P.S. I'll have some stuff for you, gentle readers, tonight.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whatcha Playin', Rabbit?

So today I had a couple games (tell us more!):

I owed a friend a game of Warhammer 40,000, much against my will. Not, of course, because of my friend (in fact were it not for him, I probably wouldn't have had a good time at all), but because I'm at odds with the game at the moment. For now, I'm content to not play the game until a new edition (which hopefully won't be that far off).

I also had a game of Dark Age. I'm play testing some stuff for the game, and while I'm not allowed to talk about what that stuff is, I can say that the game is so dialed, and entertaining, I can hardly tell that the play testing is akin to work (which, for anyone who's never play tested something, it kinda is).

I have a couple articles in the pipeline, that I hope to be able to do some justice to next week: One is an editorial on Warhammer 40,000 (I need to articulate my thoughts some more); another is a piece on Heavy Gear Blitz (followed by some project logs); a piece on Vampire: the Masquerade's 20th anniversary; an editorial on White Wolf's move to a "digital-first" format for publication; and of course, some Dark Age stuff (maybe a review).

That's a lot, no? Yes, not "no!"


Friday, September 23, 2011

Flaming Wars

So I've been away for a while, but the gaming has not stopped. Oh no, nothing could be further from the truth. To say otherwise would be heresy (of the highest order).

What I wanted to touch upon was my impressions of Flames of War. I've never played Flames of War before Wednesday, despite my working in a shop that carries it for five years. This is quite unlike me, as I'm often head-first into a game before anyone else. I don't have any reason for not getting into it sooner; the simple fact is that I didn't. But now I did. So now we have this post:

A friend and I played a 1000pt Late War game with myself using an American Rifle Company, and him using a German Grenadierkompanie (complete with looted Sherman). Between the both of us we have an accumulated Flames of War (FoW) playtime of 0 hours, so we enlisted a friend of ours to sit there and teach us how to play.

There were surprisingly few bumps. Assaults took me by surprise in their deadliness; leaving you no saving throws, and let's not get too into defensive fire or I'll slip back into my PTSD. Suffice it to say a platoon of infantry who are dug-in should not fix bayonets and charge two Grenadier platoons (no matter how low their strength). Another thing that I found hard to manage was the placement of the stands. Stands block line of sight (LoS) to other stands, so yeah...

Overall, the game was great! At one point I referred to it as "40k that works." It's very 40k-ish in its structure: Movement phase, Shooting Phase, an Assault Phase wherein you get to make another charge move to get into base contact, and so forth. This is a tried and tested turn structure if not a little boring. It also uses d6s which can be described in a similar way. What I enjoyed about the system was the back and forth nature of the combat resolution: Roll to hit, roll to save, if the target's in hard cover and fails its save the firer rolls a Firepower check to take it out. Usually I prefer the last word (er - roll) to go to the defender (like the armor saves in Warhammer/40k) but this kept both players attentions at the table and not just as spectators. The fact that the roll to hits depends not on the firer's accuracy, but on the defender's ability to not get shot. Rather unique.

The game just flowed better than 40k and feels as though the units fit perfectly into the game as opposed to finding an awkward place to stick this unit or that. I will say that the game has a lot of rules, and that our first game took three hours. I'm sure that the more we get a handle on the rules, the faster things will go, and thankfully we didn't use anything too complex. However, I can see myself getting into a game with someone who breaks out something strange and we have to sit around while we figure out how to do a bombing run or something... Planes are another story that I'm staying the hell away from right now.

The game is great! If you've ever wanted to play a WWII game but you've been intimidated by the sheer amount of differing rules sets and miniatures, and scales, and blah, blah, then give this game a shot. I'm pretty keen on getting some new platoons and fleshing out my company, and getting some more games under my belt.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dark Age Apocalypse!

Just got my sticky mitts on a copy of the Core Rules for Dark Age Apocalypse! I'll be posting a review on it next week when I've read it.

As for this blog, my involvement has been sparse. I've been thinking some things over, and I'm going to get back into it, this time with a less strict schedule. I never followed my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule much, so this time I'm just going to make an effort to publish something twice a week, whenever I've worked on something.


Friday, June 17, 2011

And Here. We. Go.

Alright folks! It's 1:07am and I have to be up at 5:00am to catch my train. Follow my Twitter feed for infos on tha gamings (hopefully there will be Wi-Fi), and see you on Wednesday.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WARMACHINE Tournament Journal: Part 4

So looks like I dropped the ball on this whole "Tournament Report" thing. It's such a shame, too because I've always wanted to chronicle my preparations for a tournament from start to finish. Next time I have to be more on top of posting. I know I say that all the time, but if I stop saying it, then you know I've given up entirely.

Anyway, things are progressing at a frantic pace here. Today I only left the house for a few hours to meet a friend for lunch, the rest of the time I spent painting. I finished five solos/warcasters. Tuesday is going to be the big one. Ideally I'd like to paint 10 Mage Hunters, 1 Mage Hunter Commander, 10 Dawnguard Sentinels, 1 Chimera, 1 Griffon, and 1 Wreck Marker. That's a tall order, even with my easy paint scheme. If I can do this, I'm set!

There's so much for me to report on! White Wolf's pre-orders for the 20th anniversary of Vampire: the Masquerade (of all things), my new obsession with Heavy Gear, Citadel Finecast, etc., etc. This will, unfortunately, all have to wait until next week when I return from Lock and Load in Seattle.

Speaking of which, I will try and be consistent with Tweets! That's right, I have a twitter account. The problem is that it will cost me dearly via roaming fees if I use 3G in the States, so I might have to sync up my phone with Twitter (something I wanted to avoid, because I'm a paranoid loon, and don't want a lot of my info getting out there). That way they'll just ding me on the 75¢ text fees.

In any event, you can view my Twitter feed here.

That's it for today. Check in on Wednesday with a report, then Friday I'll be off, so you'll have to check my Twitter feed after that.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And We're Back

Whew! I'm back. I don't know why you all put up with me sometimes.

My trip south of the border was great! Went to Portland, went to Seattle, went to a lot of brewpubs (largest concentration of 'em in Portland), and bought some sweet stuff at Powell's City of Books (Including a German Rolemaster supplement that I had to get shipped 'cause it's an international order and you can't do those in-store).

I acquired the 2nd printing of the VOID 1.1 rulebook (the first time they reference it being "1.1"), I also got my mitts on the Warhammer 4th edition Battle Magic supplement, the Warhammer 5th edition Battles Book, a copy of the MERP 2nd edition collector's rulebook (in great condition), and a damaged copy of Ratspike (John Blanche is one of my favorite artists of all time) ALL WITHOUT SALES TAX!

Alright, back to the grind. I've got some stuff to talk about this week and next, and we're gonna begin tomorrow (Wednesday, fools) with an update on my WARMACHINE tournament preparedness, and a word or two about a sweet game of Warhammer I played with my friends (aww!). On Friday I'll have some words about the Citadel Finecast stuff that may or may not surprise you (depending on what you think of me).


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Okay! I live.

Yet I'll be departing for the land of grunge and Fraser for eight days starting Monday. I'll be back posting on the 1st of June. I'll have some more WARMACHINE Tournament articles, some painting log pics, and something to say about Rolemaster and Middle-Earth Role Play.

See you Space Cowboy!


Friday, April 8, 2011

WARMACHINE Tournament Journal: Part 3

So now I've stated my intention to enter this tournament, and I've described briefly (and not very thoroughly) the nature of the Master's Tournament; what I will attend to now is my army list: The Retribution of Scyrah.

As regular readers of this blog can attest, I love elves. Therefore it was a no-brainer that when Privateer Press unleashed the Iosans onto the Iron Kingdoms I'd take up their quest to rid the world of human wizards. As soon as the army was released I knew it would be my new favorite faction. The models look cool, the Mymidons look cool (keep your damn Gundam/Tau comments to yourselves, dammit!), and the backstory is rad as well.

So for the tournament I'm called upon to make three 50-point lists each with a different warcaster. To begin I think I'll draw from my existing collection of models for this faction:
+ Chimera
+ Griffon
+ Phoenix
+ Discordia
+ Manticore
+ Full unit of Mage Hunters (with UA)
+ Full unit of Dawnguard Invictors (with UA)
+ Ghost Sniper
+ House Shyeel Magister
+ Nayl
+ Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios (No Quarter exclusive, thankyouverymuch!)
+ Arcanist
+ Mage Hunter Assassin
+ Dahlia Hallyr and Skarath
+ Kaylissa
+ Dawnlord Vyros
+ Garryth

What a list! So now I need to make three lists out of that. Well, primarily out of that; I'm not opposed to adding and subtracting things from that list.

How about this for starters:
++ Chimera
++ Griffon
++ Manticore
+Dahlia Hallyr
+ 10 Dawnguard Invictors
++ Invictor Officer & Standard
+ 10 Mage Hunter Strike Force
++ Mage Hunter Commander
+ Arcanist
+ House Shyeel Magister
+Mage Hunter Assassin
+ Eiryss, Mage Hunter of Ios

That brings us to 57pts before Kaylissa's bonus.

I've always liked Kaylissa's huge amount of focus she brings, and her feat. She's my main caster for sure, and I'll probably use this list as my fall-back dependable list. The Manticore can pack a punch with its multiple shots and its high armor (especially for the points cost), and the Griffon is also nothing to sneeze at, what with its shield, reach and ability to add to its movement with focus. The Chimera, I've always liked because of a sneaky little plan I have (which actually doesn't come into play as much as you'd think) which involves the Chimera getting into combat with a medium-based figure and using its ability at the beginning of the following turn to move to the target's rear and make back attacks!

Mage Hunters I love, but have always had gripes about the lack of a combined range attack. However, I can't complain a lot about being able to shoot through stuff and ignoring all sorts of focus-based buffs on my target. They're squishy but they are pretty stealthy and can get where I wanted to be thanks to pathfinder and advance deploy.

I'm thinking for my 2nd list I'll use Garryth as my main caster and throw either the Griffon or the Chimera in with the Invictors to be marshaled. I'm not too keen on either, as they both make use of focus pretty well, but I'm leaning towards the Griffon as it would still allow me to do my sneaky tactic with the Chimera.

I don't know what I'll do with my third caster, but I'm tempted to get some House Shyeel Battle Mages and take Rahn as my main caster. I love his eight focus, but I'm not convinced by the Battle Mages… I could always opt for another unit of Mage Hunters as redundancies are always a good thing to have in case something backfires. I've always been temped by Houseguard units but I don't know if I can paint enough of them in time for the tournament.

The key (I figure) to understanding the Retribution and using them well is to get comfortable with the fact that they're going to be outnumbered. It's a sad fact of life, that I need to maximize the opportunities I'm given and try and avoid being surrounded. Before you mention it, spreading out isn't a good idea either; it can lead to the loss of flanks super-quickly as the unit that was dutifully guarding your right flank got eaten by some dumb Skorne elephant-beast, or crushed by some Khadorian brute!

This is my initial list. I'm going to paint it and play a whack-ton of games with it, weighing any advice given me with things I learn from my games in order to hone the list. After I'm relatively comfortable with what I have I'll begin to sub out some 'casters here and there.

This is what I have for now. I have a pretty good spread of opponents over most of the factions (Cryx and Protectorate will be hard to scrounge up), so I'll let you know what's up with my gaming. Of course, any advice you folks have for me will go a long way as well!


P.S. I'm not too worried about anyone seeing my list in advance before the tournament. In fact, if you recognize me by what list I have on here at the tourney, say "hi!" It's good to know that my ramblings aren't just sailing into the void.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WARMACHINE Tournament Journal: Part 2

So I've been prepping for the tournament at Lock and Load, and part of that prep is to know what the hell I'll be walking in to. To begin, I looked up the rules for the Steamroller Tournament, and man is it intimidating.

Thirty-four pages of rules on a tournament? Interesting. I feel that I need to give as much attention to this document as I do to the other forcebooks. In all seriousness, it is a little daunting the amount of work that goes into a tournament. For instance, the tournament demands three army lists (each with a different caster) and they specify what kind of appendix list they'll use by stating that it will be "divide and conquer." Well, let's take a look at what that means:

"Divide and Conquer – The TO will announce the expected number of rounds to be played at the beginning of the tournament. Divide the number of rounds to be played by the required number of lists for each player. The result (rounded down) is the number of times each list must be played during the tournament. Such events should also use the X-Round Event variant, so players know the number of rounds they have to use each list. 

For example, if a tournament requires that each player brings two army lists and has four rounds, then each player would have to play each list twice (4 divided by 2). In this variant a player must inform the opponent if he has no choice of which warcaster or warlock he must play prior to the match." (Steam Roller 2011, pg. 29)

As you can see, I'll need the practice. Now why do I find this strange? Well, I've never been involved in a tournament that tries to balance out the odds so much. Now this is a good thing, and fits in with Privateer's ethos of creating balanced games that award the highest skill but it does feel a bit like I'm preparing for something that's way over my head. 

On the other side of the coin, Games Workshop tournaments that I've been to have been very straightforward: Warhammer 40,000 tournament. 1500pts. These are the lists you can choose from. No special characters. No Forge World. Here's the scenarios we'll be playing. Go.

Now, again, don't get me wrong, I relish the chance to compete in the Master's Tournament at Lock and Load, and I think such a detailed tournament document is fully in line with Privateer Press' style. It just means that I'll have to work harder to prep for this tournament than I've ever had to before.

Friday I'll go into my initial lists for the tournament. I'll need three of 'em, and with three different casters. Here's hoping I can get all this done by June.


Monday, April 4, 2011

WARMACHINE Tournament Journal: Part 1

It all began on Friday, when I woke up early to register for events on the Lock and Load website. I noticed that after I had selected all I wanted to do, I still had a five-hour block on the Friday to fill. "Not a problem," I thought, "I'll just spend that time shopping or gaming at the open gaming area." Then it hit me: enter the tournament.

I had been hesitant to entering a WARMACHINE or HORDES tournament because I never thought myself good enough to even bother. After all, there are people out there who play every week, and know the combos in and out, and could probably wipe the tables with the remains of my pride and my models all the while laughing and moving on to the next opponent; another of his ilk. They will slap each other on the backs at the sight of my emotional de-pantsing and get to the sort of gaming of a calibre beyond my sight.

But I had been playing for just as long as anybody when it came to WARMACHINE. And besides, it's free. If I lose, I've still had some games. It's time to push the envelope.

So here begins my Tournament Journal, something I've wanted to do on this blog for a long time. It just so happens that most tournaments in the world are on weekends, and those are the days when I work. So what will be the makeup of this ongoing journal? It will chronicle the building, painting, and testing of the army I will bring to the tournament. It will also chronicle the re-building, extra painting, and further testing of that army as I refine its make-up and structure. It will take you on a journey from the beginnings of a tournament army, to its conclusion at the tournament, itself.

My army of choice: The Retribution of Scyrah. It's no secret that I love elves, and elves with giant robots, in one of my favorite miniatures games is a no-brainer. This is but an intro to what I hope to be an insightful and interesting set of articles on tournament gaming.

Stay tuned! Wednesday and Friday will reveal the particulars of the tournament and the army.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Slow Goin'

Hobbying is still happening; everything's going at a steady pace. I've just been taking some time off of the blog for no other reason than for a chance to get my gaming affairs in order. It's been very hectic with my projects and my plans, and I needed to step back and dabble here and there to get my grounding. Too many games have popped up, and too many plans have been changed, and I don't want this blog to be a chaotic mish-mash of my fly-by-night gaming desires.

I'm not planning anything extraordinary, just a return to normalcy after this week's done. Get ready for the beginning of a clearer era of posting on Monday, April 4th.

How fitting that my 100th post is about my problems with regular posting.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And the result is:

Cross-Post from TTGN Talk.


It is with a heavy heart, and claw-like painting hand, that I admit defeat in this challenge. The answer as to why is simple: I got cocky. I leapt out the gate and got the infantry finished, then sat on my laurels for awhile and worked on some Junkers for Urban War. The completion of these Junkers caused me to sit harder on my laurels, until a mad rush to get the vehicles finished, which yielded no completion on that front.

I'm still going to finish these guys (and post the results here), but as for this contest: I'm out.


P.S. I'll post pictures soon. My models are just in two different places based on their completeness.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Just another Manic Monday

Nothing new today, folks. It looks like I wont be finishing that TTGN builder after all, but I'll make sure the army is finished before moving on.

In other news, I'm beginning a Rogue Trader RPG campaign over the Internet with a couple friends, and I'm beginning a Deathwatch (in person) campaign today. I've been prepping all day and thus haven't had much time for an update.


Friday, February 25, 2011

TTGN's Old Project Challenge Update

So, all the way back in November I decided I'd join this over at the Tabletop Gaming News forums. It sounded easy enough: Finish a project you had laying around, and take three months doing it, starting in December and finishing at the end of February. Easy enough for someone who isn't a lazy git.

Well, lazy's probably not the best adjective for this git; I did start rather quickly out the gate. The only problem with starting quickly out the gate is that you must have dillagence to keep on track. Perhaps I'm just a dilligenceless git.

I began with this:

And now, I just have the Infantry painted, the vehicles base coated, and the titan untouched.

And that's where I got stuck. See, I finished my infantry very quickly and even managed to get into some of the rhinos before I decided to take a break. After all, I still had about two months and was on a painting spree; I could afford some R&R. 

That's where the Urban War Junkers came in; and the test figure for my VOR: the Maelstrom Union army; and the test figure for my Warhammer 40,000 Dark Eldar; and the test figure for my Warmachine Retribution army, etc. At least I got a painted Urban War force out of the delay.

Now it's Friday and I have four days left in the challenge. Normally this would be no problem, as I'd be able to hermit myself in my house and paint until my hand formed a permanent claw from the strain, but my girlfriend is in town. 

Now I know what you're saying, and you're wrong. She's very supportive of my hobby, and I always roll my eyes at the endless list of domestic excuses people roll out when it comes to their lack of effort on their hobby. Some of them are understandable, but wives/husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends should let you have some time to yourself for your personal growth, and children sleep; so there should be plenty of time to get some work done (besides, kids make great base-coaters!).

The problem lies in that I'll want to spend most of my time with her when I'm not at work, and she comes all the way over from Victoria to see me (a 6-hour trek by public transit) for a weekend. I think that's a worthy excuse to not get some painting done. We'll see, though. She's a TA at her university and needs to get some marking/homework done, so I may be able to sit across the room at my painting table and still be company for her. 

I'll fill you in on Monday regarding my progress and we'll know for sure by Wednesday's post whether I've succeeded in this challenge or not. Regardless of the outcome I've done a heck of a lot of work on this army and even managed to squeeze another project in there. I'll continue to work on the army after the challenge is done, and hopefully take no longer than another week on it. After that, I think I'm going to work on my Craftworld Eldar for Warhammer 40,000 or possibly my Warmachine Retribution of Scyrah.

In the future I'll also have some big project logs regarding the process of building armies from scratch. I think the candidates will be Dark Eldar for Warhammer 40,000; Orcs & Goblins for Warhammer; and my American Infantry Company for Flames of War. Though, of course, these won't be all at once, or even one after the other. These are just the ones I have planned. The project logs will chronicle my army creating process from start to finish, and even showcase some games goin' on. So far on this blog I think I've only tackled projects that I've had laying around.

Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Urban War

Back in the early new millennium (2000-2003) miniatures games were seeing a pretty big resurgence. While favorites of mine like Warzone, and Chronopia were gone; games like VOR, Void, Chainmail, and Dark Age were making their way on the scene. With the exception of VOR (that came later) I played all these, and loved 'em. While my appreciation for Dark Age grew exponentially later on, at the time my favorites were Void and Chainmail.

Void was a game that took the Games Workshop game systems as a basis, and tweaked them somewhat to integrate alternative activation and range bands. I had a Syntha army and was working my way towards a Junkers force when i-Kore crashed. Thankfully, the ever persistent John Robertson and John Grant (of Warzone 2nd edition and Chronopia fame) reformed the company into the strangely-named Urban Mammoth, and retooled the Void universe into Urban War.

Now while I loved Void, I didn't much care for the universe behind it. One of its selling-points was the super-clean hard sci-fi that it presented, but for myself I was into the dark and gritty. I loved (and still do) the Games Workshop universes because of their grim and gothic styling and while the Void system was stellar, I thought the universe was too clean. Urban War kept that hard sci-fi edge but matured it to include imagery that better reflected the grittiness of urban combat. While these new models and the new art turned some of the old guard off, it made me take a second look at a universe I thought too sterile for my enjoyment.

Urban War is a skirmish game done by Urban Mammoth, a games company based out of Scotland. In it, you re-enact combats between forces of around 7-15 models a side. If you want larger conflicts Urban War has a sister game called Metropolis, which is a squad-based game utilizing ~40 models a side. The game has seven factions vying for control of the continent-sized city of Iskandria (on the planet Kyklops): the Junkers (Roman-esque penal legions); the Gladiators (an army of escaped gladiatorial slaves); the Syntha (an army of insidious androids, and cyborgs); VASA (a UN force based off Soviet imagery); the Triads (an army of yakuza gangsters); the Viridians (American-style army and environmental preservationists); and the Koralon (amphibious aliens that assimilate anyone).

Giving orders to my Junker Legionaries.

The points values and profiles are the same in both Urban War and Metropolis which is awesome, as it makes Urban War (UW) the perfect spring-board into Metropolis (Metro). At the beginning of an UW game you give your individual models orders, which not only tell you when they activate but which list of actions they can choose from. The Lock-Fire order will allow you to take more careful shots, but will restrict your movement, while the Snap-Fire order will allow you to move to your heart's content, but severely hinder your shooting.

The game also has an additional mechanic and characteristic that I've never seen in another game, called Calibre (CAL). A model's CAL can go from 0-3 and sometimes 4 with the special characters. CAL allows you to do a myriad of thing, from move faster, to avoid being hit, to taking additional actions. It represents the experience your soldiers acquire thus making them better fighters. While I'll let you in on my misgivings of this mechanic later, I think this is a great way to show experience beyond just increasing the statistics of your fighters like in Necromunda or GorkaMorka.

Gladiators moving up the field.

Other than CAL and the orders, the rest of the game works almost exactly like the old Void system. It's a d10 system using inches that utilizes charts to determine if you hit or damage your enemy. The charts are all reminiscent of the Warhammer/40,000 systems so if you know those it will just take you a little while to convert the d6 mechanic over to the d10 before you're comfortable. To hit you compare your Shooting characteristic (SH) on a table to see the d10 score you need to hit, then you roll damage which is a cross-reference between your weapons Strength and your target's Defence. There are no armor saves like in the Warhammer/40,000 systems mostly because with the probability spread with a d10 as opposed to a d6 you need less rolls to get an even flow.

Metropolis is my favorite of the three systems (UW, Void, and Metro) because I've always been a bigger fan of squad-based games than skirmish games (with the obvious exceptions of GorkaMorka and Chainmail). It doesn't have as detailed an order system, nor does CAL have as many applications as in UW, and this leads to a faster-flowing game which is a virtue when you're pushing 40 models around a tabletop. Metro also uses to greater effect these walkers called CLAUs (Capital Light Armo(u)red Units). CLAUs are also in an expansion to UW called CLAU-Team Actions but the use of them in such small games requires some jigging around of army construction. CLAUs give the game a bigger punch, as there aren't really vehicles to speak of in either UW or Metro. Therefore these big machines act as the heavy units you normally see being taken up by transports or assault tanks.

Now as much as I love these games I do have some misgivings. First of all, I think it's both great and not-so-great that they take a huge cue from the GW systems. While I have no problem with the charts used in Warhammer/40,000, it would've been nice if the games used their own systems. My one critique of the original Void (beyond the clean background) was that it seemed at times like Warhammer 40,000 with alternate activation. But like I said, I also think this is really nice because it's familiar, and it works.

I would also like a little clean-up of the orders and the CAL systems. I find the order system really unique and interesting, but it does feel a little clunky. I mean, a few of the orders allow the same things to happen but with different modifiers. I found myself having to look at the actions charts again and again even though I just got through giving the same order to a previous unit, in order to see just what Snap-fire did. I also found the same confusion with the CAL mechanic. CAL lets you do different things depending of what order you're on, and whether you're being shot at or shooting, or moving, or whatever! I think in terms of my CAL critique, a unifying of the rule would go a long way to making it less confusing. I have no doubt that after a few more games I'll have CAL and the orders under my belt, but for the early games it's a steeper than normal learning curve (though nowhere near as steep as Warmachine/Hordes. At least in those games the mechanics are the same throughout).

I've also noticed how hard it is to get into close combat, even when I played my Junkers against my friends Gladiators. Both the Junkers and the Gladiators are close-range troops, and the basic soldiers are equipped nearly the same. Not one close combat ensued in our game. We walked or ran to about 12" from each other then fired our shotguns until things died. Now granted, when setting up the table we put some weird terrain in the middle which we thought blocked line of sight when we were looming above them from our godly positions over the tabletop, but from a model's eye view we found that they did very little to obscure someone on the other side of it. I'm sure that had we put some more restrictive terrain in the middle our game would've danced to another tune.

All-in-all UW, and Metro are great games and more than worthy successors to the Void throne. I anticipate that any future games I have with these systems will be more than worth my time and effort. Hell, I can even see these games working their way into my top 10! And that's saying a lot.

Around April 2011, Urban Mammoth is coming out with a 2nd edition to Urban War which will come in a handy A5-sized paperback with full-color content (and hopefully some model pictures, which are sadly absent from both the UW and Metro rulebooks). And later this year, they're even announcing a 6mm wargame that will take place in the UW/Metro universe but back in the days of Void (so only the four galactic empires (Junkers, VASA, Syntha and Viridia) will be represented) called Age of Tyrants. Keep an eye out for this stuff. I know I will.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Warmaster Ancients Report

So last Sunday (not yesterday), I had the pleasure of playing Warmaster Ancients for the first time. In fact, it was the first time I've played Warmaster in any capacity outside of a demo game at my local Games Workshop way back in 2000 or 2001 when the game came out.

This battle was between myself playing Imperial Romans and my friend playing Britons. We decided to build our forces around 1,000pts because after that we just start doubling up on some choices we've already made. For instance, in my 1,000pt army I have four Legionaries, three auxiliaries, three archers, one scorpion, two heavy cavalry, one legate, and one commander with portents. If we were playing 2,000pts, I would just probably double everything I have. 1,500pts would probably be fun to play, as I'd add some more cavalry and some skirmishers (just to see what I could do with them), but 1,000 seemed to give us everything we wanted without becoming redundant.

We decided also to forgo the 10mm scale that Warmaster is usually played with, mostly because 10mm models aren't readily available to our local games shop (just because of the distributors they deal with), but 15mm was in abundance. Both my opponent and I built our armies using Corvus Belli's 15mm ancients range. We, of course, had to decide on a coherent basing scheme, for while we both had to use Warmaster's 40mmX20mm bases, we didn't want to have one person stick two models on a stand and another four. For regular infantry we decided on three to a stand, skirmishers two, and cavalry two (except for command stands which are 3). God help us if we come across skirmishing cavalry. We might have to put one horsey on a 40x20mm base.

Sorry for the blur. Cellphone pic.

This was also the first time I've ever played a historical wargame, so it was neat that it was done so with a ruleset that comes from a games company and designer that I'm comfortable with (Games Workshop and Rick Priestly). Rick Priestly's rules always emphasize ease of play and fun over any sort of accuracy or detail. So to a guy whose historical knowledge tends to fuzz-out any further back than 1900, I'm appreciative of the fact that I'm not bombarded by detail pertaining to the correct size of pilum and how this works in miniature.

Alright, so now that I've got the setup underway, how did the game go? Fantastically! Of course, like any ancient conflict, this was fueled by ample beer at the table, and keeping with our casual nature, we decided to play until one army loses half its units, causing it to break. Once that was decided, we set up our figures one unit at a time 90cm away from each other and rolled to see who went first.

Right off the bat, you have to make choices in Warmaster: which units to activate first is a common decision in wargames, but Warmaster throws an additional curve ball at you by forcing you to decide which commander to command those units with first. I immediately worried that I didn't have enough commanders to effectively command. After all, once my legate was finished ordering things, I'd only have a commander left! This also forced me to keep my forces together, which isn't a bad thing, but limited my mobility somewhat. Thankfully, the Roman command is well regarded, and so command 8 and command 9 are easy to roll under on 2d6. My troops moved rather well, and once we hit the enemy I saw that the Roman's success was not limited just to command.

Romans have a rule called Legion which gives the stands at the forefront a support bonus, in addition to the stands behind them (but only on the first round of combat). Combined with my 5+ armor save, I was starting combats pretty well off. Of course, my opponent not having as high a command as myself didn't help matters in his favor, as his troops had a hard time maneuvering into position.

While the Romans are pretty bad-ass, they lack numbers (I made the joke that they're the Space Marines of Ancients gaming, which I'm sure would cause the bearded legions of historical gamers to spasm). My opponent had me outnumbered almost two-to-one, but with commands of 6 or 7, there were stands that literally didn't move the entire game.

All-in-all it was a great game, and a great system. Being the fantasy fanatic that I am, I'm already looking at Warmaster Fantasy, or the Battle of Five Armies (both of which use the same ruleset), but I'm in no position to start any more projects just yet. However, this experience has awakened a desire to play more historical conflicts, so long as the rulesets remain as accessible. I'm already planning on getting my Flames of War Americans done up before autumn this year, but Rick Priestly's latest offerings (Black Powder, and the forthcoming Hail Caesar from Warlord Games) also have me dreaming of recreating past conflicts instead of making up new ones. I'd totally replicate my Imperial Roman Warmaster Ancients army in 28mm with Hail Caesar, or do a Napoleonic Prussian force, or even a Union American Civil War army using Black Powder. Again, these are dreams, and I'm not ready to make them a reality. Unfortunately 2011 looks already to be booked.

So, before signing off, I should say what my opponent and I concluded about our Warmaster Ancients experience. #1: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #2: We need to give the rulebook another read; #3: Maybe one less beer each next time; #4: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #5: What a great system!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So I missed Monday's post, yes. Mondays are a bit weird for me, as I tend to make up for all the sleep I don't get on the weekend and then gaming happens with friends. I usually do the posts the night before, but Sunday was Warmaster Ancients gaming and then I went out. Tuesday, I went to a metal concert and didn't have enough time to write anything.

Now, I'm off to Victoria until Friday. This is okay, as there isn't much hobbying happening at the moment. I totally slacked off last week when it came to painting my Epic figures, and this week is a write-off as well. I'm worried that I'll have to double-up my painting time in the one week I'll have left to finish them for the Tabletop Gaming News Old Project Challenge.

Here's what you can look forward to next week:
Warmaster Ancients report (half battle report, half review)
Urban War report (same deal as above)
Epic painting log

That should be a good week. See you Monday!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Top 5 Roleplaying Games: The (new) World of Darkness

An unlikely contender, I have to admit. For years, the World of Darkness, and Vampire: the Masquerade specifically, have been the butt of many of my gamer jokes. It has always had a reputation of being pretentious and overwrought, and maybe a little creepy. After all, shouldn't gaming be fun? Why should I sit at a table with four people I used to be comfortable imagining we're elves with? I say used to because there's something that dies in the fragile eco-system that is role-play when you're confronted with a morally grey encounter with a vampiric prostitute and a drunken changeling logger...

How, fucking, wrong I was.

Now, in the title I delineated that this is the new World of Darkness; this is because there was an old one before it. The Internet has distinguished these two by calling the current offering from White Wolf Publishing the NWoD, and the older one the OWoD. What's the difference? I don't really know. I never played the OWoD. But here's what I do know, thanks to the Internet:

The OWoD contained the following games: Vampire: the Masquerade; Werewolf: the Apocalypse; Mage: the Ascension; Wraith: the Oblivion; Changeling: the Dreaming; Kindred of the East (a V:tM spin-off); Hunter: the Reckoning; Mummy: the Resurrection; Demon: the Fallen; and Orpheus. Many of the games had some spin-offs like a Vampire game that took place in the same universe but in the Dark Ages, or a Werewolf game that took place in the Victorian era, etc.

Characteristics of these older games and settings were that they all had, what was called a, meta-plot. The meta-plots of the various games were all story lines that ran through the various games. in Mage: the Ascension (M:tA) for instance there was a technocratic group of people who were trying to take over the world, or in Vampire: the Masquerade (V:tM) there were two organizations: one called the Sabbat, and the other known as the Camarilla. They fought a bunch. One common thread in all their meta-plots was that the universe was going to end. In fact, one of the last products released for all the games was a book that dealt with how to bring your games to an end. For good.

The NWoD did away with these meta-plots and these apocalypses, and instead presented the worlds as a toolbox (or sandbox as they call it). This means that they present you with the way things are in this world and let you have it. They don't tell you about key organizations or players, just that there are these types of creatures and there are those types of creatures, now have at it. I think this is the reason I fell in love with this game in the first place. It's so freeing as a GM (or Storyteller as they call it), to be able to create my own affairs within the framework of the world. Like someone who heard rock and roll for the first time in the '50s my world was shaken when I saw the phrase "you might want to do this" in the rulebook. They might as well have said "or whatever" after a key part of a mechanic. I never had more fun crafting a campaign.

There, of course, were some rules differences but I can't rightly explain them, as I've never even cracked an OWoD book beyond the opening chapters of the V:tM rulebook. What I want to get at with the meat of this article is the NWoD currently supported by White Wolf Publishing.

The system is intuitive and fantastic. You have a characteristic, or a power, or a skill that is measured by a number of dots (•) that go from • to •••••. In order to succeed at an action you find the characteristic and the skill/power/trait that go together with the action you want to attempt. Then you roll your number of •s in d10s. You need 8s, 9s, or 0s to succeed with 0s giving you additional rolls. If you roll at least one of these numbers, you've succeeded. If you roll more, then you succeed harder. If you roll none, then you fail. Easy.

Combat is simplified as well. A couple of the gamers in my group who have played the OWoD have had some complaints about the combat system but I really like it. Let's say you want to shoot a guy. You'd roll your Dexterity characteristic and your Firearms skill together in d10s. Let's say my Dex is ••• and my firearms is ••. I now have five dice. If I were throwing something at him, or punching him the guy would subtract his Defence characteristic from my dice pool, but I'm shooting him so he doesn't (it's hard to dodge bullets). Instead he's got a Kevlar vest which takes 2 away from any firearms dice pool. I now roll 3d10 and look for 8s, 9s, and 0s. I roll an 8 and a 0. I pick up the 0 and re-roll it giving me a 3. I still hit twice with the 8 and the original 0 so I do two points of lethal (as opposed to bashing or aggravated) damage, and we see if the guy dies.

Beyond that each of the settings has their own special rules on how to use powers, or create supernatural characters, but I'm not going to focus much more on the rules because the game itself likes to put story before rules anyway, so let's move on.

Mage, whatever. This leads to a nicer cohesion between the various supernatural beings in the setting and can even allow for your group to contain a Vampire, a Werewolf, a Mage, and a Changeling, though this isn't very common, and all those groups have very good reasons for never wanting to hang out with each other at all.

So what is the World of Darkness? Well, it's our world, but darker. Despair runs thicker through the streets, over which loom gargoyles and other forms of Gothic architecture. Cities are more corrupt, crime and violence is everywhere, and law enforcement and heroes are few. This world is inhabited by dangerous things that lurk at the edge of light: Vampires, Werewolves, Spirits, demons, ghosts; and these dangerous things are the people you play.

Of course the game is as depressing, or as evil as you want. In my last (and first) Vampire: the Requiem (V:tR) campaign there was a creepy Nosferatu Vampire, striding the alleyways next to an amoral Kindred (Vampire) who seeks only knowledge, a lone wolf criminal, and a wealthy eccentric who was on a mission to find the killers of his father and a missing girl from his past. They actually banded together and chose the lesser of two evils threatening Vancouver.

After I really got into these games I began to see past what some people would consider pretension and overwrought drama of these games and see a very well-constructed platform from which to launch adventures taking place in the modern age (or in the past, as the Requiem for Rome book allows you to do). Not only was I intrigued by being allowed to play "serious" games in modern times, but I really liked the story emphasis that seems to seep from even the character sheets. I've played through Vampire: the Requiem, but next up a friend of mine will be running a Changeling: the Lost (C:tL) game also set in Vancouver, and just after the events of the Vampire campaign. It's a brilliant sense of continuity, and I relish the thought of being able to play on the other side of the Storyteller's screen. This is definitely one of my favorites and I can't wait to revisit the dark streets of the World of Darkness again, and hopefully regularly.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Urban War Army Builder Part 2

Now here's something interesting. Instead of posting erratically with up to a month in between posts, I post out of my new schedule a full day after a regularly-scheduled post! I amaze myself.

Yes, it's true. The first finished army of 2011! My Urban War Junkers. Bask in their red glory.

So there you have it! The first three pictures are of my 160pt Urban War force, and the last picture is of the whole squad (plus a Flame Thrower guy who goes in another squad and an extra guy) which will form the basis of my Metropolis force. I'm very excited, and I hope I get a game in either this week or next. For my 300pt force I'm adding two Sandrunners, an Exo-Suit, and a Lictor.

You'll also notice that there's some Epic Blood Angels' Rhinos in the background. They are but one color away from being finished, and then no marine shall have to hoof-it! I'm well on track with my Epic painting, but I can't relent. I need to get them done by the end of the month. Not only for the contest I'm in, but in order to keep to my (already jam-packed schedule).


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hump Day Update (but not in the way you're thinking)

So nothing terribly exciting; just an update.

I'm hoping to finish my Urban War Junkers by the end of the week (for realz!), and get a game in next week. Though, I'm off in Victoria again next week so it might be the week after that. Man! Months are short!

However, I will have a Warmaster Ancients game this Sunday. I'll provide a full report for Monday's post, however it will be woefully devoid of pictures, for my models are, sadly, still unpainted. I've tried to make a larger effort to play with painted figures this year, but my formidable opponent really wanted to get a game in soon, so I relented. It will be 1,000 points using army lists form the Warmaster Ancients rulebook. I'll be using my Imperial Romans and he'll be using his Britons (most of which are naked models, tee-hee!). We broke with the Warmaster tradition of 10mm models and opted for 15mm models based three to a stand, mainly because 15mm ancient models are easier for us to get a hold of.

In other news: Epic fever still has a grip on my group. I'm definitely going to be finished my Epic Blood Angels by the end of this month, giving me 6,000 points of space marines painted (my other 3,000 points is in Dark Angels). A friend of mine is putting together a Baneblade-heavy Imperial Guard list and another friend is doing a White Scars list. To top off the Epic madness, I've received from another friend a rather large collection of plastic Epic Squats! My god! These would be the first Squat models I've ever owned in any capacity. I'm giddy with joy! I went through them this night and I have a lot of figures in those two, tiny, boxes. Unfortunately the metal bits are hard to come by, but I'll keep my eyes open. Though as it stands now, I'm sure I'll have enough plastic figures to do 4,000 points easy.

Probably by Friday I'll have a Junker update as well as the final installment of my series on the Top 5 Roleplaying Games. Next month I'll begin my next series on the Top 10 Miniatures Games.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top 5 Role-playing Games: Dungeons & Dragons

Note: The quality of this article is not up to my usual standard. While I don't like churning out schlock, I did on this occasion for the sake of beginning a regular schedule of posting I've been meaning to do for a long time. Paradoxically, I decided to publish a sub-par article for my own good. At the very least I'll get back on a regimen. 
The reason for this sloppy posting is the heaviness in my heart for a friend who passed away February 1st, 2011. Not at all to turn this tragedy towards myself, but I just couldn't muster up the energy to give 100% on this article. Though we weren't terribly close, I've had nothing but great interactions with this man, and I'll miss his presence in the gaming community. 
Adrian Nelson was not only a fellow Vancouver gamer, but a kind and fun person who succumbed to health problems too soon. A gamer, actor, and Viking enthusiast, he will be missed by everyone in the Lower Mainland who pushes 10mm fantasy and historical soldiers around on the tabletop. My condolences go out to those who knew him better, and to his family. 

Now here’s a classic. If you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) before, then you’ve definitely heard of it. It was the first role-playing game and it’s still as great today as it was 35 years ago. Currently the game is in its 4th edition, and while it’s drawn a lot of controversy I do believe that it’s the best game to bear the D&D logo.

I began my foray into D&D during the mid-90s during its 2nd edition. Back then it was called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D2E) and it was done by a man named David “Zeb” Cook, who, as far as I know, isn’t doing any games design these days. The game represented mystery to me. I had always heard of this game, but I had never played it, and wanted to see if it was as dangerous and Satanic as the public made it out to be. It wasn’t, of course, but it was very mysterious, and seemed endless in its possibilities.

You see, the D&D books presented no particular world; it was all just generic fantasy art, and concepts. Sure they had settings like Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Dark Sun, but the idea behind D&D is that the game is a toolkit that you can use to create your own fantasy world.

Without getting too much into the mechanics of the various editions (they’re all similar in many regards, and I’m not familiar with the earliest editions of D&D), I’ll explain how the game works: It uses all of the basic polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and the ubiquitous d20). One would roll a d20 to resolve most actions, trying their best to roll as high as you could (though low rolls were sometimes desirable in the earlier editions). In D&D4 you roll a d20 and add any modifiers based on your skills, then compare to a certain defensive number of your target, or to a number set by your Dungeon Master (DM) in the case of skill checks. Then on a successful attack, you’d roll your damage dice (each weapon or attack possessed a different die).

After AD&D2E Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the owning company of D&D went bankrupt. The reason cited for this is that they overextended their novel publishing arm and during a year of very bad sales, were forced to refund the book chains the money paid for the books. Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the makers of Magic: the Gathering, bought TSR’s stuff for $1,000,000 (all of this info is courtesy of the D&D coffee table book). WotC had the foresight to keep D&D alive, despite dwindling sales of RPGs at this time (mid-to-late-90s), and in doing so save an industry.

In this gamer’s humble opinion, the d20 license saved role-playing. Many have claimed that it created a homogenous industry, but I think that’s ascribing the d20 system to the natural decline of many role-playing games at the time. In 2000, WotC re-did D&D for the 3rd edition. They dropped the “Advanced” off the title, and made the rules free for any developer to use and create their own games (called the Open Gaming License (OGL). This was the shot in the arm that created many games companies that are around today, gave us some great titles, and gave some older titles a second life. Games like Deadlands, and Cyberpunk saw reprints in d20 form, while games like WarCraft, or Conan: the Barbarian saw pen-and-paper versions for the first time. Now many games companies have sprung back from the days when everything used the D&D3 rules, and the license is not as common as it was ten years ago, but the industry is healthier because of it, and now many other companies aren’t afraid of opening their doors to other publishers to use their mechanics (Savage Worlds, FATE, etc).

In 2008 the D&D3 system had grown too big and unwieldy. What was once a clear and concise game had its boundaries blurred, so that wizards and fighters were little different than each other. What the industry needed was a shot in the arm again, and in order to break away from the homogeneity that it helped create, D&D4 was established. D&D4 is a more dynamic and cinematic game system. It definitely takes some cues from the video gaming industry, which is reaching Hollywood-ish proportions. In a form of true reciprocity, D&D borrowed from the very industry that borrowed from it. As a result D&D4 just has more for you to do! There are more options during character creation, and combats are more dynamic, with more movement, and more description. No longer do you sit there and stab the Gnoll with your sword; instead you’re taunting that Gnoll so that its attacks are directed away from your friends, whose attacks are bolstered by your other companions, all so the rogue in your party can slash at the Gnolls legs, not only causing damage, but hamstringing the poor creature as well.

Now, of course this game is critiqued as being too much like a Massively-Multiplayer Online RPG (MMORPG, or just MMO). But as I stated before, it’s only borrowing from something that it helped create. D&D is growing, and it needs to. Sure RPGs are not in the danger they were in ’97, but that’s not to say that the industry is invincible. Companies like Fantasy Flight Games are creating RPGs that are hybrids with other forms of gaming (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition), while the “Indie” role-playing market (which celebrates more esoteric game mechanics) is rather big and desired by many role-players. And if I may be so bold, I believe that D&D4 is more faithful to the original D&D than the previous two editions, which tended to bleed the various player classes into one another. In this edition, a rogue is a rogue, and a wizard is a wizard, and there’s no mistaking a cleric for a druid, or a barbarian for a fighter. Each has their own roles that they play within the party, and help to create these great synergies, which make playing this classic game all the more exciting.

In short, D&D is one of my favorite role-playing games of all time. While the newest edition is my favorite, the previous games each had their charm, and I had fun playing the previous two editions that I had. After all, I wouldn’t have played them for the twelve years before D&D4 that I had if I didn’t like them.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Urban War Army Builder

Alright, so four of us in my game group decided to work on some Urban War forces from Urban Mammoth.

I'm doing the Junkers
Another is doing Gladiators
The third is doing Viridians
And the fourth is working on Syntha

So far we've all got our figures, and two of us have our rulebooks, and two of us have started painting. Here are the photos:

From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign

Here's a Gladiator test figure
From Urban War Builder Campaign

Here are some of my Junkers:
The Test Figure
From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign

My incomplete squad
From Urban War Builder Campaign
From Urban War Builder Campaign

The Viridian player hasn't completed any figures yet.

Stay tuned for more on this exciting challenge! This week I'm going to Victoria, BC to visit my girlfriend, where I will paint my Epic Blood Angels while she's at school, and hopefully finish a vast majority (if not all) of my infantry. Next week I'll work on my Urban War figures some more, and bother the other two contestants in order to get some work and/or photos from them. Also, I got the rest of my VOR Union army in the mail today. They're all there, and they look like really good sculpts! Great quality and tons of venting, which leads me to believe that these were recent castings.

Anyway, I'll work on the VOR figures some more soon, and let the blog know about it ASAP.


Friday, January 14, 2011

An Update

Yes the "Whatcha workin' on?" widget at the bottom of the right column (right above the tags) is correct; I am currently working on all of that. And I'm sick. Hoorah!

I promised myself that I wouldn't get distracted by the next shiny object™ while working on my Dark Eldar. Well, it turns out I've been distracted by four older shiny objects.

Yes, I've been caught up in VOR fever, ever since the Kickstarter Project was announced. I have a Union army on the way, and one squad base-coated (see last post). I've also been caught up in Epic fever (more like a disease that stays with me always), and am working away at a Blood Angels army. I've been very slow in getting those pictures up. I think I'll just wait 'till the whole project's done, then snap some shots.

Finally two 28mm games that are separated by circumstance: Warzone and Urban War. I'm in an Urban War builder campaign with some friends. I'll post some pictures of my Junkers soon, I've just been waiting for the rest of my friends to catch up with me. I'm pretty quick with my figures, and since I only have seven of them in my 160pt. force, I shouldn't take too long with them. Warzone, on the other hand I've decided to spring on my boss as a challenge. When I got home and wrote up a 500pt. 2nd edition list, I noticed that I actually need to paint 16 models! Not a huge number by any means, but when you have four other projects on the go, it's a little much. Thankfully I don't think we're in a rush to get some games in. Warzone is in my top 3 TTG list, but really this game we have tentatively scheduled is a placeholder for Dark Age, which is taking its sweet time getting their book(s) out. Of course, we'll play 2nd edition Warzone, it being my favorite. I'll post more about it as it happens.

All-in-all, I'm busy. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. My Urban War shouldn't take too long to paint, and seeing as I'm in a paint challenge on Tabletop Gaming News' forums with my Epic figures, those should be done by the end of February. I still have a ways to go on them, but I can pull it off. That should take some heat off me and hopefully no new shiny objects™ will jump out at me.


P.S. Plans for the coming week: I'm going to write installment 4 of the Top 5 Role-Playing Games segment; I'll get some Junker photos up; and I'm going to Victoria to visit the girlfriend and work on some Epic figures while she's at school.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Test Figure for a VOR: the Maelstrom Army

Cross-posted from the VOR: the Maelstrom 2.0 forums. I don't know why some of the text is highlighted a whitish-grey. I've tried to fix it a million times, and it seems that every time I hit "publish post" some new line of text is highlighted. Really sorry for the inconvenience. If I figure something out I'll implement it.

"Oh. Kay. 

I did some painting this week on a test figure, which is a Union sergeant. Before I paint an army, or embark on a project of that magnitude, I find that it helps if I work on a figure to completion to see if the colors work well together or if there's any pitfalls to painting those figures. So far, I've not had to do any major re-calibrations of paint schemes in my time, but a test figure helps me work out any kinks along the way. 

Some minor details may change, but here's the test figure. The only things not finished on him is the base (I'm gonna put some static grass on him), and the green fatigues are only base-coated. The reason for this is that I used the P3 paint Ordic Olive and I don't actually own any of the recommended highlight colors (Moldy Ochre, and Sulfuric Yellow). This should be remedied by next Wednesday, but in the mean time I think I'll just go ahead and finish it tomorrow with what I have on hand (I think with a total of five different paint lines, I'm sure I'll find something to substitute). With some more work I might even enter this into the paint competition on the forums here.

The paint scheme is taken as best I could from the Matt Wilson cover art of the Union forcebook. I'm a big fan not only of Matt Wilson, but of that piece of art as well.

Before I get to the breakdown, know that when I highlight I generally mix in the highlighted color into the previous color or color mixture. For example when I highlight a dark red, I'll mix in a medium red; paint it on, then mix in a light red into that mixture, then paint that on as the final highlight. I tend not to just paint a lighter color over top. 

+The fatigues are Ordic Olive (P3).

+The metallics are Shadowed Steel (Reaper Master Series (RMS)), followed by a wash of Badab Black (Citadel). I'm actually gonna do some highlights later with Honed Steel(RMS), then perhaps Polished Silver (RMS) if it's not too bright.

+The blacks are Thamar Black (P3), then some Coal Black (P3) mixed in for a highlight, then finally some Menoth White Base (P3) mixed in for the final highlight.

+The browns are Bootstrap Leather (P3) with a Devlan Mud (Citadel) wash. This might become a Calthan Brown (Citadel) with a Dheneb Stone (Citadel) highlight, then a Devlan Mud (Citadel) wash.

+The little bedroll on his back was just Thornwood Green (P3). I'll probably just highlight it later. I don't imagine I'll wash it. It might end up too dark.

+His skin was Idrian Flesh (P3), then Khardic Flesh (P3), then Midlund Flesh (P3), then finally Ryn Flesh (P3). Doing faces and skin is my favorite part of a figure, and it's something I think I'm pretty good at. I've tried washing skin and haven't found a wash or an ink that I like for flesh. They often end up just darkening it more than I'd like. The fact that I start with something dark like Idrian Flesh and then paint right over top of it with the base skin color I want (like Khardic Flesh) gives it that definition without darkening the whole thing. 

+Finally the base is (aptly enough) Battlefield Brown (P3) with a Gun Corps Brown (P3) highlight drybrushed right over top (no mixing), and finally a Rucksack Tan (P3) done with the same method as the last highlight. The rocks are Greatcoat Grey (P3) with a Morrow White (P3) highlight that had some of the base color mixed into it. Green static grass will get added when the model's 100% done.

+I've gotten into the habit of painting the rims of my bases black (Thamar Black (P3)). My boss isn't that keen on it, but I like the way it looks. It makes the figure look less like he's on a mound of dirt/grass/rubble/etc. and more like the base is just there because he can't realistically stand on the tabletop. It's hard to explain my aesthetic rationale behind it. Hopefully you understand. 

Sorry for the crummy photography. I have a cheap-o camera that doesn't do macro very well at all. These two are the best of 20 photos. Seriously. Hopefully you get the drift. I had tons of fun painting this fig, and can't wait to get to the rest of the army (when it arrives from IWM)."