Thursday, January 26, 2012

My 2012 Resolution - Prioritizing

The next step in accomplishing my 2012 resolutions - prioritizing!

Prioritizing my gaming "to-do" list is, for me, an important part of being more organized, and thus getting more gaming stuff done, in 2012. I've broken it down by priority and gaming system to give it some structure. I know, for many of you this will seem way too obsessive-compulsive. But I need to try it this way for it to work, for me. I keep a spreadsheet on Google docs. Here's a screenshot:

Projects Spreadsheet  

The priority level for each task, with the exception of the highest priority, are more suggestions to myself, based on what I want to do next at this moment. They are subject to change as I move from game to game during the year, or as I get bored (which will happen) and want to try a new challenge. The highest priority I am leaving for things that are non-negotiable, for example organizing my workspace, or things that I want to do regularly around my other activities, such as painting figures with the kids.

The status field for each project is to motivate me to get them to the 100% complete level. By the end of the year, I'd like to see nearly every entry here (or at least a good chunk of them), at 100%.

My hope is that this system keeps me focused on a project long enough to get it done before I move on. At the same time, I think having the whole list available will enable me to look forward to what I might want to do next... Of course, I will share my progress (or lack thereof) on the blog.

'Til next time!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lord of the Desert!

My son (10 y.o.) invented  a new game - Lord of the Desert! We played today after lunch.

We used mummies and dwarfs from Lego .

The dwarfs (me) began by advancing against their implacable undead foes - the mummies (my son)! 

But the mummies struck first, killing a brave dwarf warrior...

The dwarfs retaliated, clearing a path for their leader to escape...

A dwarf victory was all but assured...

But in the end, the dwarfs fall one by one to the last mummy warrior (thanks to my usual miserable dice-rolling luck!), leaving their lord to fight on alone! Who will win?

A tie! The dwarf couldn't risk losing in combat, and the mummy didn't want to risk dying in a dwarf trap. So they both danced around their side of the board until a draw was declared. They will live to fight again!

It's a fun game, kind of a cross between chess and Stratego with a die-rolling mechanic added. Fairly basic - three kinds of troops: leaders, bodyguards and warriors. Leaders are not that good in combat (roll a d4 but can re-roll), bodyguards are better (roll a d6, but can die in place of losing your leader), and warriors are the best fighters (roll a d6+1 in combat) but have no special abilities.

I can't wait to see what else my son comes up with!

'Til next time!

My 2012 Resolution - Organizing

A second part of my New Year's resolution involves organization. As you can see, my work area is well, sort of a mess! (OK, not "sort of," it IS a mess!)

One of my main tasks is to go through and clean out the clutter. I want to have my work area cleared off so that I can actually paint or model when I want to.

The first, but most painful, step towards that goal is to simply to go through what I have and decide what needs to be kept and what can be gotten rid of. Once that decision is made, I need to figure out a way to store what I am keeping that allows me to find it when needed, and have a place to put it away when I am done. I want to get rid of the clutter that magically accumulates on every single flat surface of my gaming area.

To that end I have already taken some small steps:  

Paint Station - I see a lot of buzz on the net about painting stations to keep your painting supplies organized and neat. I like the idea, but I didn't want to shell out the bucks for someone else's product. So I took some scrap wood and board I had lying around the basement, made some measurements, and slapped together my own painting station. It is 24 inches wide by 18 inches deep.

It has a section for Vallejo type paints and brushes and tools, as well as spots for water pots. There's a central workspace in which I put an old cutting mat, and two other sections for paint pots that don't fit in the holes, as well as clippers and other tools. I will also add a wet palette, based on PaintPig's excellent tutorial.

My hope is that this will serve two main purposes. First, I want to keep my most-used painting supplies handy so that when I have time to paint I do not waste it trying to find what I need. Second, the fact that it is portable (I put felt pads on the bottom so it will not scratch the coffee or dinner table) means that I don't have to go to the basement to paint. I can paint in the family room, for example, while my kids watch a movie and my wife reads.

Larger game table -  A while back I built a small 3' x 3' gaming table, which is great for skirmish games. I built it with a shelf, and wings to hold rules, cards, figures, and a place to roll dice. I like it so much, that I am building myself a larger version, with a 4' x 6' gaming area, and a 1' wing on the short side. This one also has a shelf on the bottom that can be used to store games, figures and stuff that I use frequently. The shelves on the two tables will allow me to better organize and clear out my gaming area in the basement, and have better access to what I own.

Auctions and trades - I have started to box the items that I no longer want to keep. I am trying to catalog them as I box them, with the ultimate goal being to trade them off or sell them. I will advertise them locally first, on the Giga-Bites bitz trading forum. If nobody is interested there, then I guess I will list them on ebay or Bartertown. My plan is to use some of the money from the sale of my excess gaming stuff to fund the expansion of the games I will continue to play. We'll see how that plan goes...

'Til next time!

Friday, January 13, 2012

My 2012 Resolution - Simplifying - Part 1

My first resolution, to post at least twice per month on this blog, is already off to a good start as this is my fourth post this month (fifth if you count my New Year's Eve post on resolutions)... the key will be to keep it up.

But now, onto resolution Number Two...

As posted earlier, one of the steps I need to take in order to make the most of my gaming is to simplify - concentrate more time on fewer games! I have been giving a lot of thought to the games I am interested in and I've come to the conclusion that there are just way too many. (I am sure I am the only gamer ever to have this problem...) So I did something I am not very good at: I gave up!

I surrendered and admitted to myself the reality that my time, talents and treasure have limits - and my gaming desires do not. So I need to discipline myself and concentrate on the games that appeal to me the most.

There is a reason I titled this post "Simplifying - Part 1." This will be an ongoing process, and changes in focus are inevitable. There will be updates as I refine and change my list. I know myself well enough to know that my interests are varied. Simplifying is meant to be a way to be able to enjoy more gaming, not a strait-jacket that will restrict me from anything not on my list. But since adding anything to my gaming repertoire will necessarily take time and money away from something else, I want to be sure I am adding games that will add value to my gaming. It does me no good to devote myself to a ton of great new rules if I never get to actually play them.

The games or companies that I will initially concentrate on (or re-concentrate in most cases), and why:

Song of Blades and Heroes (Ganesha Games) - This is a terrific set of fantasy skirmish rules, and Andrea has translated the basic mechanics into a host of other genres and historical periods. The beauty of SoBH is that, like Force on Force, it is not dependent on any one manufacturer's figures - they'll all work, and you can mix and match to your heart's desire. In fact, one of our favorite ways to play SoBH involves using Lego minifigures for the warbands. Stay tuned for several upcoming posts on Lego and gaming.
     In particular, I plan to concentrate on creating Lego and 28mm warbands and terrain for basic fantasy battles (dwarves, elves, humans, undead, etc.). I also want to model some small Napoleonic units to use with Song of Drums and Shakos. Skirmish-level games are about all I have the patience for when it comes to Napoleonics - painting 500+ figures to field an army is not my cup of tea. And, I will work on modern-day and/or post-apocalyptic warbands and zombie hordes to use with Fear and Faith and Flying Lead. Andrea has many additional settings and genres under development right now, all using the same elegant mechanics, and I am looking forward to seeing them as they become available. 

Dystopian Wars (Spartan Games) - this is a beautiful game, and has very elegant mechanics in my opinion. It is not overly complicated, which means that I can play with the kids. The miniatures for Dystopian Wars are beautiful! I am very much looking forward to getting some painted and on the table, as I already have a good start on an FSA fleet for myself and a Blazing Sun fleet for my son. And, as Spartan Games has shown with month after month of new releases, the game is expanding and they are continually adding new models to it.
     I also love the new look of the models Spartan is re-releasing for Uncharted Seas. From what I understand, the mechanics of the two games are similar, so sliding into Uncharted Seas should not require learning a totally new set of rules. But that is for the future - first I will concentrate on painting up the models I have for Dystopian Wars, and getting in enough games to feel comfortable with the rules. 

Flames of War (Battlefront Miniatures) - I've long been a student of World War II and its engagements, and the few times I have played FoW I have really enjoyed it. I think the scale is perfect for WWII gaming that includes armored forces as well as infantry. I already have the Second Edition rules (yes, I know they just announced Third Edition!) and many of the supplements, and I have a ton of models that need painting. I may need to add some small units here and there as I build my force, but for the most part I don't think I'll have to sink a ton of (more) money into this game right away (sorry Battlefront!).

Force on Force (Ambush Alley Games) - This is the latest ruleset I've bought, and I am very eager to try it out with some real games to see how it all goes together. My goal is to try this with 20mm figures. I don't have any yet, but I have started putting together a typical Middle Eastern-style building to see how the scale compares to 28mm and see how much actual terrain I'll need to fill a gaming table. 

Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game (Games Workshop) - As a long-time fan of the Tolkien books, as well as the movies, this is a must for me. Especially as Peter Jackson is releasing the Hobbit films in December 2012 and 2013, which I hope will spur new releases and expansions for this game. I already have most of the rulebooks I need, and a ton of models to get me started painting, so I can get stuck in without a huge investment of additional gaming capital. Since Games Workshop prices are generally quite high, this is a very important point.
     The LotR gaming system has been exported to pirates (Legends of the High Seas) and cowboys (Legends of the Wild West), so once again, I can play several themes by learning one basic system. Besides, as you can tell from the title of my blog, I have a thing for pirates, and modeling ships is one of my favorite things to do. I've got LotHS and all the LotOW books, as well as bunches of models to paint up already in addition to some ships that just need painting and detailing to be complete.

That should be more than enough miniature wargaming goodness to keep me busy in 2012 (and beyond). Just before Christmas I picked up the Pathfinder Beginner Box, so I'm also planning to do some more role-playing gaming with the kids. I'm also hoping to play more board games ranging from Survive! Escape from Atlantis, to Lego Heroica, to the Dungeons and Dragons games Legend of Drizzt and Wrath of Ashardalon (we don't yet own Castle Ravenloft).

As you can see from the list, I tend to prefer systems rather than games - learning lots of different rules can be time-consuming, complicated and confusing. I like learning a system once, then apply the basics of that system to different themes and genres. Also, I tend towards skirmish level games, rather than army games. While I love the visual appeal of having hundreds of minis on the table, the reality is that at this stage of my gaming life that is just not feasible. 

What games do I own that didn't make the cut? (Please keep in mind that none of the statements below are intended as a knock against any of the games mentioned. They are purely my opinions in relation to my particular gaming situation. And since my opinions and my situation are subject to change, I may revisit any or all of them in the future.)

Warhammer and Warhammer 40K - first of all, I think Games Workshop prices are too high. The overall consensus of the reviews I have read for their new Finecast line of resin models has been negative. Also, I find that their world is too dark for my current tastes. This may be because my views have changed, or because their fluff has changed, or because now I am more interested in games I can share with my kids. But I do know that I am no longer comfortable with a lot of the backstory to their games.
     I have a ton of Warhammer and Warhammer 40k rulebooks (going back to the original Rogue Trader) which I will likely sell off or trade. I will likely hang on to many of the models, since I can use them with several other game systems.

Malifaux (Wyrd) - This is a tough one, but it boils down to the fact that I do not want to invest the time to master a new gaming system, coupled with the fact that the world of Malifaux is very dark as well. First the system - the use of cards rather than dice is a fantastic innovation, and I like it a lot. But in addition, every model has special abilities and triggers that play off of other models. At this stage of my gaming life, I don't have the desire or time to invest in learning all of the possible combinations and maximizing them to my advantage. Second - as I mentioned above when talking about Games Workshop, the world in which Malifaux is set is quite dark, and while that is not necessarily bad in and of itself (a zombie-pocalypse is dark too, and can be quite fun to game), it is too much for my kids and me. All of the characters cater to their dark, evil side in some way, with some being outright serial killers.
     However, I do love the look of the models, in particular the Guild guardsmen and some of the Outcast figures, and I plan on using them in other gaming systems rather than as their intended Malifaux characters.

Now that I have begun the process of simplifying my gaming, I can turn to the next step - organizing!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lucas' Egyptian Undead Horde for SoBH

My son, with the intent of kicking my butt in Song of Blades and Heroes, has slowly but surely been collecting an unstoppable horde of Lego undead Egyptian mummies (Tomb Kings minifigures, basically). They are from the Pharaoh's Quest theme of Lego sets. Like me, he puts as much importance on the background story for an army as he does on the composition - fluff rules!

So, without further ado, I present:

The Undead Legions of Amset-Ra!

(Lucas used Ray Forsythe's awesome SoBH warband builder to create his characters, and he wrote the descriptions himself.)

Pharaoh Amset-Ra is the cruelest, most powerful mummy of them all. With his animated jackal statues, he will stop at nothing to rule the world of the living.

Amset-Ra - 120 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 3
Special rules: Evil, Leader, Magic-User, Undead, Unique

Jackal Guardian - 39 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 4
Special rules: Artificial, Evil, Stealth

Amset-Ra's armies are led by his general, Ramses. His impressive scorpion statue, his swarms of scorpions, and his incredibly loyal mummy underlings are a force to be reckoned with. Though not the brightest mummy in the graveyard, Ramses will stop at nothing to impress the Pharaoh by murdering scores of his enemies.

Ramses - 103 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 4
Special rules: Evil, Hero, Savage, Undead, Unique

Scorpion Horde Mummy - 27 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 3
Special rules: Evil, Undead

Stone Scorpion - 136 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 5
Special rules: Artificial, Huge, Long Move, Slow, Terror, Tough

Golden Scorpion Swarm - 12 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 1
Special rules: Animal, Clinging, Poison, Short Move, Swarm

Scorpion Swarm - 5 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 0
Special rules: Animal, Clinging, Poison, Short Move, Swarm

Lord Hotep the snake charmer is feared amongst the citizens of Egypt. With two deadly minions, he wreaks havoc among the living. Rumor has it that he has recently awoken a fearsome cobra statue.

Hotep - 90 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 3
Special rules: Evil, Hero, Poison, Undead, Unique

Serpent Guard Mummy - 27 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 3
Special rules: Evil, Undead

Heqet is the aerial master of the pharaoh's mummy warriors. Highly intelligent, he devises many techniques and strategies. No mortal man has ever seen him and lived to tell the almost indubitably gruesome and horrific tale.

Heqet - 96 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special rules: Evil, Flying, Hero, Undead, Unique

Flying Mummy - 42 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 3
Special rules: Evil, Flying, Undead

Fresh from the grave, the Pharaoh animated them and now they are his slaves. The lowest of the low, the mummies of the Osiris Horde take comfort in messily and violently killing anything that comes their way. When set upon their prey, they never give up until it is no longer living.

Osiris Horde Mummy - 12 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 2
Special rules: Evil, Slow, Undead

Secondary Egyptian citizens turned undead, no one ever bothered to mummify them. But do not sell them short, for any reason. They are quick to shoot, and when they do, they almost never miss.

Skeletal Archer - 26 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 2
Special rules: Evil, Shooter: Medium, Undead

Riding ahead before the initial force, these heartless horrors are harbingers of imminent doom. Their main task is to bring down the opponent's defenses, if not the opponent himself...

Scarab Rider - 59 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 4
Special rules: Evil, Long Move, Mounted, Undead

My dwarves have issued, and Lucas' mummies have accepted, a challenge to combat! I'll try and get the battle report posted soon.

'Til next time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Lego dungeon crawl!

My 10-year-old son Lucas is a certified Lego-maniac (wonder where he gets it from?) and was very excited to see the latest additions to Lego's line of games based on their building toys.

The four games, along with a special Lego case to hold the components.
Among the recent offerings is a set of four games (available individually) under the Heroica name. They are: Draida Bay, Waldurk Forest, Caverns of Nathuz and Castle Fortaan. They can be played as stand-alone games, but the nice thing is that they can also be combined into one large game.

My son has combined all four sets into a giant custom dungeon!
The games come with different heroes that you can play (there are a total of six different ones) in their quest to free the land of Heroica from the evil monsters. The theme is pretty standard fantasy role-playing fare, and anyone familiar with Dungeons & Dragons will recognize the different classes of heroes (wizard, barbarian, druid, ranger, knight and rogue).

The heroes prepare to enter the dungeon.
The throne room of the evil Goblin King awaits them at the end!
The game components themselves are Lego pieces that can be assembled into several configurations to form the game board. The characters are represented by "microfigs," that are smaller than the usual Lego minifigs. In my opinion, that was a mistake, as the figures can really only be used as game pieces. They lack the size and articulation that make Lego minifigs so awesome.

All the figures from the four games.
As far as game play itself, well, that is where my son and I have differing opinions. I felt it was entirely too dependent on luck, with the roll of the dice determining everything from movement to combat. And the combat itself is very simplified. My son liked it, though he too admits there is a "tiny bit" too much luck.

There is a small amount of strategy involved, as characters have the opportunity to take different paths to the goal, or to gain weapons and equipment along the way, but a bad (or good) run of dice rolls can determine the outcome of the whole game.

I think the idea of a Lego dungeon crawl is terrific, and the ability to combine the games into one larger adventure is sweet. I think that using these components, it would not be terribly difficult to cobble together some nice rules to make the game more strategic and less random. I am certain there are already Lego fans doing that very thing. And, these games with their simpler rules can serve as an introduction to gaming for younger players.

My son says it is an excellent game, despite the luck factor. And after first buying the Caverns of Nathuz he has put his money where his mouth is and gotten the rest as well, either with his own money or as presents (the last one came as a Christmas gift). I think it says something when a kid wants to spend his allowance on a game. So, from that standpoint, the game is a success for Lego.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate Heroica a 4 on gameplay, but a 7 on components. My son gives it an 8. After playing it a couple of times, I was honestly pretty bored. But the game has a ton of great Lego dungeon components, and I can see us coming up with our own homebrew dungeon rules to make it much more playable.

Now, what I'd really LOVE to see is for Lego to release the characters and monsters from Heroica as full minifigures - that would be enough to get me to spend my allowance too!

Imagine these guys as full-blown minifigs!
'Til next time!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Song of Bricks and Minifigs

I've already written about Ganesha Games' Song of Blades and Heroes, and what a terrific set of all-purpose skirmish games rules Andrea has put together. In addition there are now versions for modern combat, horror, science fiction, Arthurian mythos, swashbuckling and piracy, and more are coming out every month.

Since the game is designed to be used with any and all miniature lines and scales, there really is no limit to what figures you can use. Since my painting and modelling time is somewhat limited, one of the ways I play SoBH is with Lego minifigures.

I've been a Lego fan for a long time, and the variety, quality and just plain "coolness" factor of their figures has been increasing year after year. Minifigures are totally customizable. Want to give your fighter an axe instead of a sword? Go right ahead. Don't like his expression? Change his head! The possibilities are endless. The one downside is that after Lego retires a theme or a set, the prices can skyrocket on the secondary market. My suggestion is if you see a set with cool figures, buy it. You won't regret it.

Recently, Lego began releasing sets of individually bagged minifigures, priced at $3 each. They are currently about to release series 6. These come in a polybag, and you don't know which of the 12 in the series you are getting... unless you get to be an expert at feeling for particular components through the bag. My kids and I are now experts at identifying what makes each figure unique, and feeling for it. Lizardman - feel for the tail. Cavewoman - the club. Dwarf - short legs and winged helmet. We can go through a bin of these guys in record time and pick out exactly what we want.

I've gone ahead and created a couple of SoBH warbands, using some of Lego's recent releases and the stats in the Ganesha books. I have plans for many more, and I will share them here as I get them done.

For now, we have Lizardmen, Elves and Dwarves.

First up: the Lizardmen, evil minions of the Dark Elves. I envision these guys as supporting Dark Elf warbands, while at the same time being able to field a small band of raiders on their own.

We start with the grunts - they're armed with clubs and shields, as well as some missile troops with javelins and shields.

Lizardman Warrior (w/hand weapon & shield) - 52 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special: Amphibious, Tailslap

Lizardman Skirmisher (w/javelins & shield) - 46 points
Quality: 3+
Special: Amphibious, Shooter: Short, Tailslap

We've also got a guy who can act as leader (if the raiding party is on its own) or as a champion if they are part of a larger Dark Elf force. They're both personalities, and they cost the same. The only difference is one has the leader ability and one has the tough ability.

Lizardman Leader (w/hand weapon & shield) - 82 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special: Amphibious, Leader, Tailslap

Lizardman Champion (w/hand weapon & shield) - 82 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special: Amphibious, Tailslap, Tough

With either a leader or a champion, the full warband of six models comes in at  330 points, with 25% personality points.

Next we have some Elves. These figures came out in series 3, and my regret is that I was not able to find more of them. Initially, Walmart was the only place we found them. With each succeeding series, they've been in more and more stores, and new we can get them at the grocery store, the drugstore, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, and more...

Elf Warrior (w/spear & shield) - 38 points
Quality 2+
Combat 3

Elf Archer (w/longbow & dagger) - 55 points
Quality 2+
Combat 3
Special: Shooter: Long

Elf Mage (dagger) - 63 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 2
Special rules: Magic-user

Elf King: (sword and shield, chainmail) - 100 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 5
Special rules: Leader

The Elf King is a customized minifigure my son made for me. Thanks Lucas!

Elf Swordmaster (twin duelling swords) - 88 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 5
Special: Combat Master

I am still working on getting the components to put together a full warband of Elves.

This brings us to my personal favorites - the Dwarves! I was lucky enough to get a bunch of the earlier, and now discontinued, Lego Dwarves at a decent price, plus the last batch of minifigures, Series 5, had a Dwarf character, and I was able to get a lot of those as well.

Dwarf Warrior (w/hand weapon & shield) - 34 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special: Short Move

Dwarf Lord (w/two-handed weapon) - 88 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 4
Special: Fearless, Leader, Short Move

Dwarf Elite Warrior w/two-handed weapon)- 50 points
Quality: 2+
Combat: 4
Special: Short Move, Steadfast

Dwarf Gunsmith (w/two handguns) - 40 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 3
Special: Sharpshooter, Shooter: Medium, Short Move

Dwarf ThunderGunner (w/blunderbuss) - 41 points
Quality: 4+
Combat: 3
Special: Blast,Short Move

Dwarf Berserker (w/hand axes) - 48 points
Quality: 3+
Combat: 4
Special: Berserk, Fearless, Short Move

I am still working on equipping some with crossbows (I'll name them Quarrellers because I love the pun!), as well as a bear-drawn chariot for my noble.

My son has put together quite a force of undead Egyptian mummies, including flying mummies, scarab-riding mummies and more. I will dedicate a whole post to his army in the near future!

As for me, I will be working on adding more variety to my current warbands, as well as putting together my Dark Elves. I am especially eager to see if I can use some of the raptors from the new Lego Dinosaurs theme to make lizard-mounted Dark Elf cavalry!

'Til next time!