December 17, 2012

Pre-Christmas Gaming

Since I returned last weekend I haven't really done much hobby stuff, as my time has been occupied by holiday preparations, band rehearsals, work, and being sick. I haven't let that icky 'real world' stuff keep me completely away from the realm of geekdom however.

On Thursday night I made the trek down to Trilogy to play some games with Uncle Mike and James. It was their regular monthly night for Strange Aeons. Rather than just play a straight up game of Strange Aeons though, James and I ended up doing a play test game of Kulten instead. I was going to pit my lowly snake man cult up against his mighty Cobra army...but after looking at the massive point difference, we decided to try one of the Alert the Authorities options instead. So I opted for having my cult sit  out, and an elite Threshold team worth a whopping 60 points took their place.

Long story short James was able to achieve victory with minimal damages. We found a possible rule that needs some tweaking in the scenario setup phase, and I offered some input for text advice to go into that section of the book. The game was fun of course, and I certainly made some mistakes. The biggest one being a lack of Command for my army. If I'd had just one more command model I could have swung the balance I think...

I also found out that some models I'd ordered previously were in. Looks like some Ori troops for my Stargate projects can get underway immediately after I finish my Jaffa. The Ori army should actually be pretty easy to put together. I'm only planning on having two small squads of actual troops, as I'll make the two or three Priors quite powerful. They'll be led by Adria the Orici, who will be ridiculously powerful, and if I can find an appropriate model that I can tweak to look right, I'll also put the head Prior, the Doci. Now that I have my troopers, it shouldn't take too long to find the 4 or 5 other models I need to complete them.

Sunday I returned to the shop to play a few more demo games of DreadBall. There was a Warmachine tournament going on, so any of my demo candidates were already occupied. Seb had taken the store's two demo armies home over the weekend and gotten a lot of painting done on the Ork team. The game looked a lot better with two nearly-painted teams on the pitch.

The first game was a landslide victory by the Corporation under Coach Fontaine. They outscored the Orks under my command 7-0 on their fifth rush, forcing me to forfeit the match (thems da rulez). For our second game we decided to try out the stats for the Forgefathers and Veer-myn teams instead. Not having the models we used the Ork and Human team models as stand-ins, with the Veer-myn under my control.

It didn't look good for me as the Dwarves crushed and killed one of my two guards on the first action of the game! I was able to nab the ball shortly after with one of my speedy (but not that skilled) strikers. Amazingly I was able to put in a 4-pointer to open the scoring. The Forgefathers continued moving up the pitch and were able to reduce my lead to a mere two points at the halfway point.

With my opponent's slower movement I decided not to try bringing out my remaining guard and played several rounds with a full six strikers on the pitch. I did lose another one to a brutal seven-success slam...of which I saved exactly ZERO on my dodge and armour checks. After another three point strike the dwarves were hard pressed to keep up with my speed and I finished the game off on my fifth turn with another 3-pointer, forcing Seb to forfeit.

I actually quite enjoyed playing the Veer-myn team, but they are very fragile. On the whole after playing several games I think DreadBall is quite fun as a pick-up game, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how it stands up to league play.  I think that's where it will really shine!

December 11, 2012

Saltwater, Suntans, Pirates and...Futuristic Sports?!

Just returned home from a 4-day conference for work. Tons of information and lots to do now that I'm back, both at home and at the office. I'm actually glad to be back home, even if it is snowy, cold and nothing at all like Honolulu. Yes that's right feel sorry for me damn it!

Actually I wouldn't mind a little sympathy. Less than two hours off the plane and some infernal plague attacked my immune system and I'm now sick. I'm actually going to blame the air conditioning at the conference for that though... It was really cold in the meeting rooms, but 32 C or more outside on average. So I was alternating between sweating or freezing my ass off for those four days. Top if off with a lengthy dunk in the Pacific for some snorkeling, and then not sleeping on the flights home...I'm not really surprised that I'm sick!

Even under the weather I still soldiered on and went to Trilogy as I had promised, to run some demo games of DreadBall. The reception was positive from all the players and I think at least two of them have placed orders for teams of their own. Not to mention that I probably pulled off the greatest play ever: final rush, my ball, down by four points with two action tokens left.

I was able to pick up the ball in my own end zone with a human striker on my previous action, scoring a double and getting a free move. I couldn't play my last two tokens on him as well, which was what I needed to do in order to score. Gambling, I used a token to buy a card, and got "Striker: Any Action." I played the card to sprint straight up the pitch, getting me just within distance to use my final action token to move into the bonus hex of the 3-point scoring area. With one die I rolled...and scored a 4-pointer! The crowd went wild and the game went into sudden death. Which I had to concede anyway due to time constraints.


Right. So, now that I'm back I'm looking forward to the winter holiday season, putting up my Christmas tree, wrapping some presents and spending some time on my hobbies in the evenings. I see that I have a half painted batch of figures on my painting table, impatiently waiting for some attention. I started the Lycaon faction starter box for Empire of the Dead before I left, in hopes of getting them done but only got around 75% of the base colours done. If my cold cooperates I'm hoping to achieve 100% tonight after work.

I was pleasantly surprised to have a parcel card awaiting my return. Part of my reward from one of the more recent crowd-funding campaigns (the second one I've supported on IndieGoGo) actually arrived while I was away. Inside the deceptively small box was my starter stuff for Freebooter's Fate! What I received is essentially the starter deal from the freebooter website, but packed flat. It included the core rulebook, the cards required to play, and the Brotherhood of Assassins starter crew box. Nicely enough, the box, foam and cover sleeve for the starter box were all included, just packed flat to save space.

I haven't really had the time to do much other than flip through everything, but the book looks gorgeous. Very nicely put together, and from my brief scan, expertly translated from the native German. Another crew will have to be picked up so that I can actually try the game out but I'm looking forward to it.

Now if only the big boxes of Carnevale and DreadBall stuff would hurry and get here...

November 29, 2012

So...Does This Violate Your Privacy?

Canada Prepares For Crackdown on BitTorrent Movie Pirates -

Have a read over the article and see what you think. I'll wait.

Right, welcome back...I promise I'll be brief.

While I agree that downloading music and movies is illegal, what I don't agree with is ISPs being essentially forced to provide their clients personal information to seemingly whoever asks for it. I don't know the legality of it, but it seems to me that the whole policy could be abused should it be overseen by the wrong people, or perhaps seen just as a way to prop up sagging revenues.

Does the whole thing violate any of the service providers own privacy policies? What about any constitutional rights or laws? What constitutes 'downloading'? Is streaming OK? Is an IP address alone enough to convict someone on?

Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!

November 28, 2012

Just a Progress Post

For the last few weeks I've been trying to decrease the number of items on my painting table, without a lot of success. That's probably because I keep adding more stuff to the backlog than I actually clear off! I've got several pieces of scenery and markers, a 'hero' model for SuperSystem which will also serve in my Nazi Death Cult for Kulten, plus the Lycaon and Vampire starter boxes for Empire of the Dead sitting up there. There are also a ton of primed figures-in-waiting up on top of the fridge (to keep them out of reach from both the cat and curious little-people fingers).

Sunday turned out to be a lazy sleep-in-then-stay-home day, which was pretty nice as they don't seem to happen terribly often. I did a few things around the house that required doing, watched some TV and then continued work on a few things from the miniature projects to-do list.

As you may have seen in my previous post I also received a large batch of stuff for a Stargate project that I've recently got into my head, so first up was a clean-up session for all the Jaffa guards. I sat in the kitchen trying to enjoy what little sunshine we would get for the day while working on these. There wasn't a lot of clean up work required on most of them, which was actually pretty nice as model cleanup is one part of the hobby I don't particularly enjoy. I do fear a little bit about some of the staff weapons, as many of them were bent quite badly while in the package. Bending them back into shape, some of them felt pretty soft, so at some point I expect that a few of them will break. However, with a little over 90 minutes of time I had everything glued to their bases (except for the cannons) and ready for priming. I think I'll try out some Army Painter metal primer to save myself a ton of brush time.

The stargate itself only required a little bit of filing along the inside of the ring. I don't think I'll be able to get it completely smooth and seamless without a little bit of green stuff though. The DHD took less than a minute to construct. All that's left now to clean up are SG-1 and SG-9 squads. I don't expect that to take more than a half hour and will likely do that after rehearsal this evening.

I also spent a little bit of time in and out of my painting chair during the day on Sunday. I'm not sure why, but I just haven't been feeling very inspired when it comes to painting up the Empire of the Dead starters. The figures are top-notch, one-piece sculpts and the game is a lot of fun, but I feel like I'm forcing it a bit. I did get started on the Lycaon faction box though, and they're coming along decently enough. I expect I'll need another two or three hours to complete the base coats. I decided not to stray too much from the reference pictures in the books, going mostly with grey and white clothing and leather shades for boots and belts. I won't finish them this week or next, as I've a conference to attend starting on Sunday.

I stopped in at a game shop after doing some shopping at the mall Monday evening. I had hopes of picking up a can of metallic primer spray. They were out of stock but I was able to pick up a can of Quickshade Soft Tone, which I'm looking forward to trying out and do hope to have better results than what I've had with the inks. I have two ideas for test models; one will be a tactical space marine from my Obsidian Fists chapter for Warhammer 40k who are predominantly painted in GW Mithril Silver  with black and glossy blue trim. The other is an odd color combination I've had in mind for my Necron army for quite a while that I haven't tried out yet. I won't be getting into those projects until mid-December, so stay tuned for that. Although now that I think of it, between work and holiday stuff December might be a difficult month to get much hobby stuff worked through.

And lastly, a few more ork boyz have their first coat of snot green applied. The significant other was working on those while I applied some decals to my latest squad of tactical marines.

November 23, 2012

"Sergeant, Begin Dialling Sequence"

Another box full of unpainted metal goodness showed up at the post office for me yesterday. After getting it home and dumping it all on the table (then cleaning up the resultant mess of green packing peanuts) here's what I found.

What you see there is an assortment of the officially-produced 28mm Stargate miniatures by Phoenix Icons in (or around) 2007 or 2008. I ordered them from Cold War Miniatures in the UK and they arrived two weeks to the day after. They had quick service, nicely packed and shipped, and there was also a friendly little handwritten note inside saying thanks.

In case you can't tell by looking at the full-size image here's a run down of what I picked up:

  • 2x Stargate & DHD
  • 1x Jaffa First Prime
  • 2x Skull-capped Jaffa 4-pack
  • 2x Serpent Guard Jaffa 4-pack
  • 2x Hawk Guard Jaffa 4-pack
  • 2x Jaffa Heavy Cannon w/ gunner
  • 1x SG-1 Team (O'Neill, Teal'c, Jackson, Carter and Mitchell)
  • 1x SG-9 Team (5 generic SGC dudes armed w/ P90s)
In addition, a very kind fellow over on Lead Adventure has sent me a figure to use for my Go'a'uld system lord, which I'm eagerly awaiting. So what the heck am I going to do with all of these you might ask? It's a longish story that I'll try to shorten up a bit in the interest of well, typing less.

Stargate SG-1 was a show that I enjoyed when it was on TV but didn't watch religiously or even regularly. I had enjoyed the original movie a lot, and would catch the show when I could. I knew it ran for a long time and I enjoyed the overall concept, but passing interest was about all I really gave it. Fast forward from 1997~1998 to autumn 2012...the show popped up in my list of recommendations on Netflix, so I thought "what the hell, let's give it another look."

While there are some pretty goofy episodes (what sci-fi series doesn't have those?) overall I've really enjoyed it. I'm down to the last half-dozen episodes of the original series and am over halfway through the first season of Stargate Atlantis. Now, why the gaming/figures?

Since April or May of this year I have been madly working away at various miniature projects. Everything from 1920s pulp horror to superheroes to gothic sci-fi, pretty much whatever catches my fancy. Looking around a short while back for some rules to play 'weird' WW2 stuff someone suggested Ganesha Games fantasy rules. I bought those, liked them, and ended up grabbing a few more of their of which was Flying Lead.

Near the back of that book there are two pages of ideas for doing a "Star Portal" near-future sci-fi series of games. It's very obviously Stargate-without-the-license and just sounded like a ton of fun. I mean, that's part of the beauty of the Stargate, almost anything could be on the other side of that event horizon.

As for the gates/DHDs, I bought two thinking that I could do one in red like the one at Stargate command in the SG-1 series, and another in blue like the Atlantis gate. Even though they were a little pricey I think that plan will work out well. After seeing the figures I do feel it's a bit of a shame that Phoenix Icons didn't continue producing them. The only complaint I had with them was that a lot of the staff weapons were pretty seriously bent from being in the package...but that was easily solved with some hot water and a little bit of careful patience.

Bringing things back around to the actual purchase decision, I think it was simply a confluence of mostly-unrelated events leading up to an idea that sounded like fun. Initially I'll be doing up the Jaffa and planning some games or even a campaign around them getting pummelled by SG-1 and their friends. I'll also be using the Jaffa as cultists in games of Strange Aeons and Kulten; maybe James and I can have a Jaffa vs. Cobra battle royale!

If inspiration stays with me, I can find the models, and people are interested in playing further, I will put together similar armies of figures to represent the Ori and the Wraith. If possible I'd also like to find figures to do up an Atlantis team with McKay, Ronen etc. 

It should be fun, so stay tuned!

November 22, 2012

Hey, You There...

Spent some time this week out and about...gittin' me sum culture! Well, CULTURE depends on your opinion on the matter I suppose.

Sunday night Wes and I headed down to the Palomino Smokehouse to catch Jim Byrnes play some old-time blues and country tunes. I've had the good fortune of seeing Jim play a few times before (which I believe I wrote about on this very blog). The crowd was pretty thin, which was disappointing to me, but didn't seem to phase Jim at all. His regular partner Steve Dawson wasn't able to join him, but the fellow he brought along to help out was no slouch either!

In between sets I made sure to go pick up a copy of Jim's new CD, I Hear The Wind in the Wires, chat with him for a few minutes and get a signature. The show was really entertaining and both Wes and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You can easily see just how much Jim loves what he does when he's on stage, because he's smiling the whole time. I haven't had a chance to sit down with the album and give it a thorough listen, so a review will have to wait.

After the show we went up to chat with him again for a few minutes. He was incredibly gracious and I was able to get a photo with him this time. We really need more people like this guy out there, not just in the music biz, but just in general!

On Tuesday night the gf and I headed out to the the-ay-tah. (Yes you have to say theatre just like that, with the lock-jaw accent, or it just isn't snooty sounding enough...) Anyway, I've had season tickets to Vertigo Mystery Theatre for several years now. They perform five different plays each season, and It Could Any One Of Us was the second show of this season.

I've seen some really excellent plays over the years there such as The Woman in Black and Sweeny Todd, but I will admit to being rather disappointed by their opening show this year (Double Indemnity). However, I was very pleased with It Could Any One Of Us by Alan Ayckbourn. It had some laughs, a good twist and great acting as always. I would actually love to go see this one again, as the ending can change and the killer might be different next time!

If you're looking for an entertaining night out give Vertigo a try. It's cheaper than dinner and a movie, and you'll probably have a lot more fun!

November 15, 2012

Are They Projects or Just...Whatever?

I've always been the kind of person who has too many things on the go. Or at least that's what people often tell me, wondering how I can ever keep it all straight, or finish anything. The truth is that, for me, I need to have all those things happening so that I can keep myself entertained. I almost wrote focused instead of entertained, but even I'm not so self-deluded to think that I possess much in the way of focus when it comes to my hobbies. Obsessive perhaps, but not focused.

You see, I know I have too many hobbies and the reality is that I don't have time for all of them. Nowhere near really, but that's part of the appeal. For some reason, the way my brain is wired, I will zero in on some activity or concept for a length of time, produce some interesting or cool stuff (yep, aren't I modest), and then move on to something else. For the past 6~7 months I've been pretty firmly rooted in working on miniatures and terrain building. However, I regularly spend time each week doing some of the following things in addition to my miniatures: practicing and performing magic, writing music and performing with my band, traditional drawing or 3d modeling/animation, singing and playing drums or piano, practicing Japanese (used to live there), organizing gaming groups at local game shops, going to live events like plays or concerts and writing the odd piece of creative fiction.

I also work a full time job, spend time with my friends and family, serve on several boards, and organize weekly board game nights. So yeah, I'm a busy guy. But really, aren't we all busy these days? We all have a phone / computer in our pocket and are more reachable than ever, so I think that it's important to work on creative endeavours. Even if it keeps me interested for a week or two before I rotate on to something else, I think it's a worthwhile effort.

Now that I've provided some context, let me focus a little bit (at least for a few seconds). I would say that this 'bouncing around' shows itself even within a particular hobby for let's take a look at miniature gaming as an example. I'm currently working on, or have recently finished the following:

- painted another tactical squad for my 40k space marine army (I haven't posted these on the blog yet)
- painted the hero and villain starter boxes for Pulp City
- painted a brand new Snake Worshipper cult for Strange Aeons and Kulten
- built 4 card stock modern city buildings, with another 3 or 4 to do for my planned city board
- primed and based the Werewolf and Vampire starter boxes for Empire of the Dead (they're next up on my painting table)
- ordered a pile of lead and wrote up a full 12-scenario campaign for some Stargate skirmish gaming
- pinning The Lost and Immortals starter boxes for Hell Dorado
- started working on a new (unofficial) scenario campaign for Strange Aeons
- created a 15pt Circle Orboros army list (already primed and based) for Hordes
- worked with manager of my local shop to plan out demos and schedule for two weekly DreadBall league nights

And honestly, that hardly scratches the surface if you consider all the other stuff that I already have waiting on my miniature shelf, have sketched out plans for, or have ordered in the last little while. Most of my other hobbies are similar (which reminds me that I need to sit down for an evening and finish mixing the last three songs of the EP we recorded last winter).

I hold no illusions about it, I know that I'll never finish every idea that pops into my head. That doesn't mean that I won't give it a shot though. So I'll continue being busy, bouncing around from project to project (because that's what I call them), and generally enjoying myself. I don't have deadlines, at least outside of work, so it's on my time, whenever the mood strikes me. Which is what hobbies should be all about.

November 13, 2012

Serpent Worshippers for Strange Aeons and Kulten

Last week Uncle Mike and James made their regular monthly visit to Trilogy, despite the awful weather we were having. I was the only player to show up (which is not unusual), so we ran through a few play test games of Kulten. I was playing with an unpainted army, and these are play test games, so there are no photos...sorry folks.

The first game was a "chance encounter" between my Nazi Death Cult and James' Cobra troopers. I rolled five of my cultists onto the table and James got a measly three. A few bad moves by me allowed James to take out three of my figures, dropping me to below 50% of my starting members and won him the game. In the post-game phase I was able to roll up skills on both of my surviving cultists, which worked out really well for me, and I didn't end up with any lasting or terrible injuries to worry about.

Just a note however, that James' Cobra army/cult is really cool looking. He's done a great job converting all kinds of stuff, and the most recent additions were Destro and the Crimson twins. Great looking stuff. In retrospect I should have at least taken a few good photos of that stuff...

The second game was against Uncle Mike's dudes and we rolled up a fight scenario. My mad scientist created a Blasphemous Construct on my very first roll of the game, which actually isn't as great sounding as one would think. Due to the way the board was laid out, I couldn't really move him into combat without risking him causing fear among my own ranks. Mike misplayed moving one of his two command models into the fight though, and I was able to tie it up with my remaining normal zombie long enough to allow my Dr. Kroene to charge in and take it down. Once that had happened we played a few more rounds before Mike capitulated. He didn't have anything that would be able to take down the construct, and I would be spending move after move trying to chase his guys down.

It's always fun playing against those guys, so thanks again for coming out, and of you folks reading this, don't forget to go pick up the latest expansion for Strange Aeons that came out last month!

After playing a few games of Kulten I got it in my head that I needed another cult list to play with. I'm getting a little tired of playing games with my red and gold garbed guys, even though I think they look great. I thought about finishing off my Nazi Death Cult, but for some reason decided to plough through something entirely different: Serpent Worshippers!

I took a pack of Pulp Figures cultists & altar (sculpted by the amazing and friendly Bob Murch), and a pack of Uncle Mike's serpent men, using them to put together a nice 37 point cult list. I can also run them as a 15 point cult for Strange Aeons if I only use the snake priest. Even though the pictures (as per usual) are not that good, I think the figures turned out great. Here's what I ended up with.

Pointy Sam

Stabby Sam

Hallelujah Sam

Bookish Sam

The Altar of Evil Prayers

Happy Snakeman

Smiley Snakeman

Snakeman Demagogue

(Snake)Men at Work

There are a bunch more photos available on Photobucket here:

Please drop me a comment and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear from you.

November 12, 2012

Eaten By Zombies On Level 7

I recently picked up two new additions for my gaming shelf and had a chance to try both games out yesterday. The first one is Eaten By Zombies: In Cahoots!. This is a stand-alone box with enough cards to be played as a two-player game, or added in to the core game to expand it up to six players. We played it on its own with two players.

The artwork and card design is the same level and quality as the base game. Thematic, lots of colours and nicely done overall. Unfortunately, also like the base game, In Cahoots! still suffers from rampant spelling, grammar and general editing errors; both in the card text and the included rule sheet. In fact, there is one error on the rule sheet that is SO bad that a new player to the game would end up playing a fight scenario completely wrong. There is also one instance in the rule sheet where the name of the game itself is spelled incorrectly. This kind of poor quality control really shows a lack of care and I personally find it extremely annoying.

The game itself plays exactly the same as the base game, although there are several references to card that don't yet exist (promises of features in upcoming expansions). While I appreciate the forward thinking, I'd have preferred the game cards to reference things only in the current box and the base game. I don't want to look at the FAQ in the rule sheet to find out that half the text on my card doesn't mean anything, for now.

Game play is pretty fast, and everyone has the chance to screw over their opponents by adding zombies to the growing horde. Players must either fight the horde, or escape them in order to scavenge for swag. Once things starts going bad however, it goes very bad very fast. When a player starts losing cards due to attrition they'll likely continue doing so, and quickly end up dead, often through no misplays of their own.

Eaten By Zombies is a game I want to like, and had purchased In Cahoots! in hopes that it might fix some of the things I felt were negatives in the base game. I'm disappointed to say that it doesn't. The rampant typos are a big no-no in any product, and the gameplay is generally disappointing rather than fun. I can only recommend it to the most die-hard of zombie game fans.

Thankfully the second game we played was much more fun!

Level 7 [Escape] is, I believe, the first board game produced by Privateer Press. We read through the rules and set everything up for scenario 1 in the scenario book and played through that scenario a total of four times learning all of the various rules for spawning enemies, conflicts, using skills and playing adrenalin cards. Even though we played the same scenario multiple times we had good fun and enjoyed the experience.

Starting out and getting new players up to speed can be a bit of a slog for this game initially. There are a lot of rules to sift through, and which ones you'll be using changes depending on the scenario being played. However, the game itself is very good. The components are great with top notch art, the theme is baked right into the game and each scenario feels like a different part of a larger story without feeling incomplete.

One thing that may surprise people who are familiar with Privateer Press is that there are no miniatures in this box. All the components are card standees, but the artwork on them is so good that I didn't care. If I had to complain about anything components-wise it's that the main character sheets are a little thin. I'd have preferred to see them made of the same heavy card that all the other pieces are made of, but this is a minor complaint.

A single scenario in Level 7 [Escape] also plays quickly enough that the game can be played multiple times in a session and still remain fresh. I recommend this one for groups that like their co-op games with a dose of stab-you-in-the-back. You will have to work together, but in the end, it's every person for themselves!

I'm looking forward to playing this game again, preferably with a full group of four players, and go through the scenario book from the beginning. I think that it'll make for a great gaming session.

November 05, 2012

Pulp City Starter Boxes Complete

Now I do have to admit that I've strayed a little bit (fine...a LOT) since I put out my "What Should I Paint Next?" survey a few months ago, but I haven't forgotten about the Pulp City starter boxes that were chosen by my readers. Yep, that's right...thanks to all three of you out there that voted!

When I received all my Pulp City figures (and rule book) I was really excited. It was a huge box of toys and the price had been a really, really good deal from a fellow over on Lead Adventure Forums. Unfortunately after going through all the figures I found an even dozen of the models that were supposed to be included were not. The cards for the figures were evidence of that. I was told several times that they had been shipped but as of my last inquiry, over a month ago now, I haven't received anything, nor a response to my email. It's a real shame because Nate seemed like a nice guy. However at this point I feel like something not-quite-right went on and that I'll never receive the rest of the figures I paid for. 

As a result I suggest extreme caution when dealing with Nate (his user name is Napar on LAF). The dozen figures I didn't receive will cost me over $100 to replace, which truly stinks. It makes the deal go from a great one to only a good one, but accompanied with a very large dose of disappointment, and of course a lot of wariness should I be looking to trade online in the future. More than likely I won't be now, simply because of the risk involved.

One of those missing figures is Solar from the heroes starter box. I have plans to order one directly from the Pulp City guys but haven't done so yet. In the meantime however, I was able to finish work on all of the other great sculpts from both the Heroes Starter Box and the Villains Starter Box. Check them out!

Ace of Wraiths

Red Riding Hoodoo & Loup Garou




Overall I'm really happy with how they turned out, although the 'burnt / dead grass' thing I was trying for on Nuke's base didn't turn out. I could probably get it to look right with a quick dry brush of brown now though. I know the pictures aren't that great. I'll have to start using my camera instead of my phone to do this...Oh, and I also took a few pictures of the teams for those of you who are interested! Also there a lot more pictures on my photobucket account here.

Heroes Starter (minus Solar as mentioned above)

Villains Starter

November 02, 2012

Field Report: SA-121031-tDD

Nov 2,  1922

From: Carl Selinger, Commanding Field Agent
To: Director Silver, Calgary Field Office

RE: Case File SA-121031-tDD


All Hallows' Eve conjures up image of ghouls and demons, or dark supernatural forces for most folk. While they are right to be afraid of those things, I'm happy to say that the world is safe little while longer.

Threshold intelligence reports proved correct. As we had suspected a leak from our recent difficulty in keeping our ciphers secure, the false report that we tendered paid off and my team was able to follow the trail. The artifacts that were stolen during our operation on case file SA-120816-RtA were indeed being used to power a nefarious doomsday device.

Our adversaries were obviously hoping to go unnoticed, but vague reports of heavy vehicles and strange sounds from the locals helped us pinpoint a forested area west of Calgary near the hamlet of Cremona, Alta. As twilight began to take hold my team found this device and took action to ensure its destruction.

I sent Mr. Daniels ahead to see to its deactivation while Mr. MacIntyre and I provide cover on his right flank. Mr. McDermott and the Professor went around to the left side. The device was guarded primarily of lower cult members, and proved little challenge when we engaged them.

Armitage proved a handy shot, dispatching one minion with his .45. It also appears the fellow is not so old as he might appear, as he quickly moved in to dispatch another cultist by slitting his throat up close. As I had suspected, he's made of stern stuff and I'm glad to have him. Mr. McDermott fell behind when clipped by errant gunfire, but I'm happy to report that he remains unharmed.

We caught a glimpse of the cult leader hiding behind their supply shed, but he was beyond the range of our weaponry. Mr. Daniels was occupied in disarming the device, which had already been activated and was counting down rapidly. However it seems the cultists were not alone. I spied a fellow wearing a white skull mask dressed in dark clothes sneaking up on Agent Daniels, which spurred me into action! I'm uncertain how I managed it with my injuries, but perhaps the lucky idol I've been carrying helped my heroics. Running out from behind my vantage point I gained a clear shot and unloaded both barrels into the skull-mask and he crashed to the forest floor without a sound.

With the loss of the cultist's leader it was a simple matter of clearing the area and deactivating the device. However, Daniels tells me that we hadn't much time to spare as the countdown was into its final minute. We averted disaster on a grand scale, but only narrowly!

We've notified the research division of the location so that they might start analyzing the device and see if there's anything we can use to our advantage.

I'm uncertain how but it seems that the skull-masked man survived and has escaped. I also believe that he may be the source of our leaked information, as the bootprints we found match those of standard Threshold issue. Director, we have a traitor in our midst; we simply must find out who it is, and soon! Be wary.


Carl Selinger

October 26, 2012

What Actually Makes The Game "Fun"?

Recently I scaled back my weekly VS System stuff to once a month, and yet people still didn't bother to show up for that. I organize (or try to) near-weekly game nights at my house, and again most of the time the folks I invite can't seem bothered to reply, or don't always show up even if they do reply. I've got board games, card games and miniatures all over the place, most of which I know to be great fun, and yet I can't seem to convince many people to actually sit down and play games with me.

Now to be clear, I'm not painting everyone I know with this brush as there are a few exceptions. However, I wanted to set the stage for what I'm talking about here with some context for you folks that are not local to me.

So these sort of things have gotten me thinking about what makes games actually fun. Is it the rules, the components, the theme, the gameplay, the other players, or some other nebulous concept? Obviously in some cases such as a card game like VS System or Warlord: Saga of the Storm, creating decks and researching cards combinations can provide a great deal of fun and satisfaction. For miniature gaming...constructing and customizing models, creating teams or force lists, and painting your figures and table top terrain can all provide some measure of fun as well. And yes, there are some solo board games available out there.

On the other hand these are games we're talking about here, and a vast majority of them are designed with multiple players in mind. So without those other players, can one actually play a game and obtain a fun experience out of it?

While I can and would argue the answer is "yes," I think I would have to qualify that statement as "yes, but only to a degree." I have had fun playing through some games on my own. In fact, usually the first time that I play a game is by myself. I find it easier to set up all the components and read through the instructions 'playing' through the game and looking up the relevant rules as various situations arise. This is more akin to a simulation as opposed to an actual game however. In addition, the real memorable or shocking moments that can occur in a game when your opponent does something amazing, unforeseen or just plain nuts will never arise in this situation. You see, I always know what I'm going to do before I actually do it, which negates any possibility of surprise. Funny that...

Granted, without opponents I think that most people would say that games really aren't much fun, and I'd be inclined to agree. Do you? Whether in accord or not, what makes a game fun for you?

a) The rules / the way the game works
b) The components (figures, cards, board, dice etc)
c) The theme or story told during play
d) The interaction with other players
e) Something else

Drop me a comment and share your opinion, I'd really love to hear it!

October 25, 2012

More Stuff on the Way

So things have been pretty exciting on the miniature gaming front for me recently. First off the DreadBall campaign recently finished and the survey was sent out by Mantic shortly afterward. I had already pledged for all the extras I thought I'd need and filled my survey out quickly. I did end up adding a few more things but missed two of the MVP figures because I didn't realize they weren't included in the Striker package. I'm sure I can pick them up at a later time easily enough should I desperately decide I need them.

There have been some preliminary conversations between myself and the folks of my gaming shop of choice (Trilogy Gaming Club) about DreadBall as well. We've made some plans for demoing the game at an upcoming Blood Bowl tournament; to be followed up by two different league nights. Originally I had thought there would just be one event weekly. After talking about it however, it looks like we'll try doing two events per week. The one I'll be running will be aimed at new and casual players who want to play in a fun league. The other event will be store-run, and intended for those looking for more competitive league play. I'll post more details about that later on.

During the final week of that campaign I had also been watching Mongoose Publishing's Judge Dredd Miniature Game campaign on Kickstarter. Although it was labelled as a supportive effort for the upcoming Block War expansion, the main focus of the project seemed to be expanding the Judge Dredd figure range. Mongoose's campaign was definitely not as slick as Mantic's but they refined it as things went along and I think they did a good job of being accommodating to most requests.

The one thing that impressed me most about the game is that the rules and expansion book are free to download, so one could use old Games Workshop figures, converted Heroclix, or whatever other figures they had available to play without ever giving Mongoose a dime. Of course the Mongoose-produced figure looked pretty good so I decided to support their efforts with a Council of Judges level pledge. The basic pledge cost was essentially retail price for 10 of their box sets. However, by the time the campaign finished there were somewhere around 18 or 19 sets included at that pledge level, plus some other goodies. I think that'll end up being 115 or 120 figures from the world of Mega-City One!

I opted to swap out the Fatty Stampede box set for a second Zombie Horde set (everyone loves zombies right!?), and the Pat Wagon for two Judges on Lawmaster bikes. Hopefully Mongoose is able to fulfill their initial promise and get most of the stuff people pledged for sent out by end of November. A huge pile of Judge Dredd Miniature Game figures arriving on my doorstep in time for Christmas would be awesome!

IndieGoGo is a similar concept to Kickstarter, but one I've not looked at too much. In all honesty, Kickstarter has gotten a lot of my money, far more than I had intended. However, when I heard Vesper-On, that the guys who make Carnevale, were doing a campaign I had to go check it out. Initially I wasn't really interested, because it was focused very specifically on making a very big beastie for their Rashaar faction. While the Rashaar are very cool, essentially fishmen and Dagon cultists (ala Lovecraft), it wasn't enough to make me want to add my money. But things do change...

Based on feedback they received, Vesper-On added other perk levels to let people who wanted to support them get some starter boxes and models for other factions as well. They also added a sort of everything-and-the-kitchen-sink level perk which included their full Carnevale catalogue AND the big beastie AND a rule book. I've been drooling over the figures for this game for a while now, but had avoided getting in on it because the figures were quite expensive, and I'd have to pay shipping from Spain on top of that. Now however, I can get the whole line at a discount, and not have to pay any shipping fees. Consider me in!

With all this new plastic and lead winging its way to my doorstep, I know that I will soon have an exponentially larger mountain to climb, er...paint. While more than a little bit daunting I'm still very excited about all of the new stuff coming, and that's helped keep me moving along with my painting and terrain building.

I'll have some stuff from my paint station to show off in short order, so do stop by again very soon.

October 23, 2012

How Can I Play "Weird" World War II Games?

When I started testing the Kulten beta rules I thought it would be fun to put together a "Weird War" style list using some Nazi troopers, a mad scientist and some zombies. I had already picked up a really cool squad of Nazi Gestapo troopers and a leader from Bob Murch's Pulp Figures line. The leader came in a pack with a scientist figure, and I had dozens of zombie miniatures floating around so in reality I was already all set to go.

I used the Strange Aeons rules for human cultists to equip my troopers and their leader. The resulting six profiles were a nice even 25 points. The mad scientist and his batch of test zombies worked out perfectly at 15 points to round out the 40 points starting cult size. Since these models weren't properly painted, I only used them once in a test game. They won that game and the list was a lot of fun to play, so I've been itching to use them again ever since. I do hope to finish painting them shortly after Halloween, which is the main reason they haven't seen any further action yet.

There are lots of rule sets out there that cover WW2 combat, and many of those also contain or have supplements to add the "weird" element like zombies, vampires, mummies, magical powers and all that great stuff. So I set about looking at a bunch of them with the helpful suggestions of many of the folks over at the LAF forums. Secrets of the Third Reich, AE: WWII, Savage Worlds Weird War and others were all lobbied for. One of the first posters suggested the Song of Blades and Heroes system sets (Flying Lead, Fear and Faith and Mutants and Death Ray Guns) by Ganesha Games, which I had never heard of before. Their products do look really interesting and I have already posted up a review of the revised edition of SoBH..

Everyone was quick to make suggestions and comments about the different rules and figures available, but none of the rule sets immediately jumped out at me as something I just needed to buy, although I am very temped to pick up more of the Ganesha Games books. For most of the different books I'd have to drop even more money on rules, in some cases (such as Secrets of the Third Reich) quite a bit of it in order to get the requisite books and expansions being recommended as best-case. I've already spent a substantial sum on little soldiers and rule books this year, so I'd really like to stop the bleeding from my bank account if at all possible.

Then it hit me: why not just use the Strange Aeons / Kulten rule sets to do what I wanted?! I'm comfortable with the rules and they cover off most of what I want in terms of equipment, magic and monsters already! Using Threshold vs Lurkers isn't quite what I want though, since the number of points I wanted to run would be higher than most Threshold lists could ever really achieve. So that essentially brings me to cult-vs-cult. I could just play the Kulten rules. I'll have to make another list to suit my other 'cult': Canadian/British soldiers and see if will prove a satisfying experience. There are dozens of manufacturers that produce lines of British WW2 soldiers so I'll be taking my time trying to find figures that are exactly what I want...and quite likely I won't do so before year's end.

I'd eventually like to add some more thematic zombies to my Nazi squad, perhaps using some of WestWind Productions cool Nazi zombie figures, or other items from a similar range. If I don't end up with something that scratches the itch in the right spot, I will revisit my list here and maybe make an investment in yet another book.

One thing I haven't quite figured out how to handle out yet are vehicles. It'd be spiffy to have a tank or some kind of steam (or magic) powered battle suit on the field with my little toy soldiers. Maybe I'll have to talk to Uncle Mike and see what he can come up with for vehicle rules...

October 19, 2012

Song of Blades and Heroes: A Review

I've been asking around for a set of rules to play Weird War type scenario skirmish games with lately, and one of the suggestions I received was to try Flying Lead, which is based on the Song of Blades and Heroes engine by Ganesha Games. I had never heard of the system or the publisher so I dug around a bit and found that there was a new edition of Song of Blades and Heroes released in September. A few moments, and $8 later, I was reading through the PDF book and wondering why I'd never heard of it before. The reason I decided on this book, rather than one of the themed books was pretty simple: other than Hordes, I don't own any skirmish rules for fantasy I wanted that one.

The book isn't very long but provides detailed, yet simple, rules for movement, melee and ranged combat, morale tests, larger scale battles, scenarios and campaign play. At the end of the book are several pages containing a very comprehensive list of profiles for all kinds of fantasy creatures and characters. It is also usable for both 15mm and 28mm figures which allows players to use whatever toy soldiers and monsters they might have lying around.

One item that is not contained in the book that I found very useful in my test games was a player template. It's a simple one-page template that has all three measurement lengths on it, as well as all kind of helpful facts about the rules on it. I highly recommend downloading it from their website and using it if you plan to use any of the SoBH rule sets. There are also some nice character building spreadsheets available in their free downloads section.

So what do I mean about the "three measurement lengths"? Well, Song of Blades and Heroes does away with the idea of using a measure tape for movement and checking range, in a sense. There are only three measurements needed in the game: short, medium and long. That might sound confusing, but it's really not and once you play a round or two you won't even be thinking about it.

The other, insane sounding, but utterly cool thing about this game is that every figure has only two stats. Yes you read that right: TWO. OK well actually three, if you count the points cost for each figure, which I don't. The two in-game stats for your figures are Quality and Combat.
  • Quality is an "overall indication of the model’s willingness to fight, reaction speed, initiative and morale."
  • Combat is "how well the model fights. In a fight, this value is added to the roll of a die and compared to the opponent’s Combat plus the roll of a die."
When you want to activate a figure you roll one, two or three dice and compare the dice against its Quality. The number of dice equal to or higher than the Quality value is the number of actions it gets to take. For combat, those of you who are paying attention will note that yes, it means individual rounds between two figures are resolved by rolling a single die each.

"But wait Mr. Obsidian3d-guy, if I only have two stats on my figures, doesn't this game suck all over the place then?" you ask. No, not at all would be my answer. The ingenious thing here is that characters can buy Special Rules. Special rules would be things like Flying, Shooter (which allows a figure to make ranged attacks), Tough, Terror, Undead and so on. These special rules increase the point cost of your figures and let them do additional things. It's really quite ingenious and works far, far better than I would have anticipated.

Finally, I gave the Song of Blades and Heroes rules a try through two short games last night. I grabbed some Heroscape figures and put together two different lists of characters for each game, trying to pick profiles with a good range of points and special rules. The rules worked surprisingly well, far better than I had expected but naturally there was a lot of flipping about in the rule book to look up the special rules, as well as the core game rules. The one downside, and this is personal preference more than anything else, is that it seems a little unsatisfying to roll only a single die to resolve figure combat.

However, I would certainly use this system in a convention setting or with players who want a lighter war-gaming experience. I think it would also work very well mixing and matching special rules from other books and expansions to create a custom system you like. There are several expansions to the Song of Blades and Heroes core rules, as well as other standalone books using the engine for other settings. Some that I'll certainly be looking into will be Flying Lead: modern war combat, Fear and Faith: horror scenarios and monster profiles, and Mutants and Death Ray Guns: post-apocalyptic near-future stuff...and that doesn't cover everything they've got!

October 15, 2012

Stuff That Doesn't Exist Yet

Did a little previewing last week. First up was our monthly Strange Aeons night at Trilogy. Uncle Mike and James were there with some newly made terrain pieces when I arrived. As soon as I sat down Uncle Mike nudged a binder at me, "check in there and make sure I spelled your name right" he said. Opening it up I found the printer-proof of Shocking Tales of Madness & Mayhem, cool!

Inside the upcoming book are three different Black Dossier adventures, the conclusion the "The Council of Thirteen" and tons of new Lurker profiles. Plus the book looks excellent. I can't wait to receive my copy as soon as it arrives.

Mike and I also had time to play a game. I ran a Lurker list comprised of a Winged Nightmare, Cult Leader and two measly .22 pistol-armed cultists. I ended up losing, but was able to drag one Agent off the board and kill another. Mike's character survived but will be in pretty tough shape after this adventure. I'm sure I'll get paid back for the damage I've caused in full soon enough...I still have three new Agents that haven't seen any field action yet.

Also, big thanks to James and Mike for modifying their schedule to come to a different day to accommodate me. I really appreciate it!

Second up was more preview gaming on Sunday evening. I played two basic games of Dreadball between Orx and Corporation this weekend using the available rules and team stats from the designer's blog, and a pitch I made out of Heroscape tiles. Both games were really close. The first game was just me, trying to sort out the rules while running both teams. The result was a three point win for the Orx, with each team losing a player through unlucky armor checks.

The second game was against William, who was kind enough to sit down with me to test out the rules in a more realistic fashion. I played Orx, William the Corporation. He took an early 2-point lead, which I cut down to 1 shortly after. A little after the halfway point, he scored another single to once again make it a 2 point lead...and again I was able to quickly cut that lead to one.

During my second-last rush I was able to kill one of his guards and take possession of the ball, retaining it as the rush ended and protecting my jack with two guards. William's players converged on that spot and tried in vain to slam the jack. As a last play on his final rush he moved a striker in to even up the numbers a little bit. At the start of the final rush of the game two Orx guards cleared the way to the strike zone but that lone human striker was threatening my jack. Needing to make a desperate two point throw I tried to evade the striker and move away. Unfortunately, the clumsy jack tripped...losing the ball, and the game.

Even though I didn't successfully make the play at the end it was still a riveting conclusion to the game, as it could easily have gone my way with a better die roll. Had I then also been able to pull off the shot (I'd saved a coaching die in hopes of getting to take a shot), it would have been a spectacular upset!

All in all I think the basic Dreadball rules are a lot of fun. There is a lot of room for daring plays and good strategy, even without any fouls, a referee or fan checks. I liked it quite a bit and am now awaiting my season 1 package in December  more eagerly than before!

October 10, 2012

Sentinels of...Blackwater Gulch?!

Last Thursday was supposed to be our VS System night but it ended up being only William and I. Neither of us seemed too concerned about playing so we chatted while he sorted through a newly arrived package from Greater Than Games. Seems he had gotten in on the Kickstarter campaign they had a while back to help with the enhanced edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Last year I introduced Sentinels to my group to pretty much universal acclaim. I believe it was some time in August that I was trying to track down a local Canadian retailer that could get it for me. I met with zero success and ended up ordering directly from the publisher. Shipping ended up costing me half again what the game did, but I was the first person around to have it. Shortly after making my enquiries at a few shops, the game started popping up with quite a bit of I guess my asking around did have an effect.

While going through the box William put a few things on the table and said that I was to take them home.

An empty box from the enhanced version, with deck dividers and enough space to hold all the cards! The box from the original game barely held the cards, and once they were sleeved I was stuck without a place to store them. The new box has enough room for them all, and will likely fit the second expansion as well. On the downside however, sleeved cards do not fit well in here as the sleeves make them too long. It's still an improvement though.

He had also ordered a copy of the two promo decks: Unity, a new hero...and Ambuscade, a new villain. There was also a set of over-size villain and some nice tokens. I've punched all the tokens and added them to my dice and rule book in the original game box. My Rook City expansion box is essentially useless, so it'll be getting tossed out. Anyway, these are nice additions to a good game...thanks William!

I had brought my Strange Aeons figures with me as well, on the off chance that there would be someone around to play a game with. Sadly there was not, but I had planned ahead and also bought my newly based cowboy figures and the rules for Blackwater Gulch that I'd printed out last week. We grabbed a table and set up some terrain to give the rules a go.

There are no pictures of the game because I relatively busy flipping through the rules while we tried to figure out the various skills, modifiers and other crunchy bits. Those kind of things always come up during a first play. Our table was a little bit too big, so the game ended up being mostly shooting, but I did make a few attempts at melee.

William's long-range henchman made short work of three of my figures, but with the help of my doctor I was able to revive two of them and was able to pull out a win. The doctor profession can be really strong. I'm sure if we'd realized just how good it was earlier on she wouldn't have survived past the first few rounds.

My initial impression of Blackwater Gulch is a good one. The rules are relatively simple, but there is space for good tactical play, and cover is really important. The leader's luck dice, and the various professions and skills add some good depth to what would otherwise be a very vanilla game. I'm looking forward to finding some more Western themed figures and adding to my gangs.

Next thing on my painting table will be finishing up the starter box figures for Pulp City.

October 01, 2012

Field Operative Update

October 1, 1922

Attn: Director Silver
RE: Field Operative Roster Update


After a short break to allow myself and Mr. MacIntyre to recover from our recent injuries I've chosen some Agents from those listed on file as available. As per your previous communication, I've issued recall notices to their last known field offices and await their arrival. We'll be ready to deploy immediately upon their assembly.

Please have the files for the following personnel updated to reflect their status as active members of my field team.

Dr. John McDermott

Doctor McDermott's experience in ancient architecture, language and culture will prove invaluable in our efforts to retrieve the artifacts lost in pursuit of case file SA-120816-RtA. He has also proven a steady hand in the face of the assorted...creatures we're likely to face.

Walter Daniels
Former Occupation Unknown

I realize that Agent Daniels has spent the last few months under observation in the Pittsburgh office, but his former commander Agent Henkel has assured me that despite his habit (Daniels claims that damned flask is lucky!) he is a good man, and is actually one hell of a shot. Per Agent Henkel's recommendation, I'll take him, even though it seems no one else wants him.

Professor Henry Armitage
Librarian / Linguist / Chemist

After much discussion I was able to convince the professor that his knowledge would serve us better in the field than hiding among towers of tomes and test tubes. After taking his measure, I'm willing to bet that there's a backbone of  steel in that man. In fact I am betting exactly that, with my own life.

I'll contact you again as soon as possible.

Carl Selinger
Commanding Field Agent


I spent a few hours on Saturday painting up a few new models for my Threshold team. All three models, and the obelisk started their morning wearing black primer only. I do apologize for the photos, they're not very good this time around.

John McDermott is a figure from the Reaper Chronoscope line that I really liked the look of. I used the same color for his outfit as I did on the UMW Alicia/Patricia figure I painted up a little while back. The torch turned out alright, although I'm sure it doesn't look like what real fire would. I didn't bother trying to capture the lighting it would have on the figure, that's beyond what I want to do for my minis.

Walter Daniels I bought at the same time as another figure from the RAFM Call of Cthulhu line. I gave him a new name because I couldn't find the card that he came on, which is a shame because I remember liking it when I bought it. I really love the rakish look he this figure has, with the runaway tie and flask in hand. I used greens and greys for something a little bit different. I'm not a big fan of the colour green, but I think it looks really good in this instance.

Professor Armitage is also a RAFM figure; this one is from the Lovecraft Country box-set. Very characterful, and was extremely easy to paint. He's a great looking model.

The stone obelisk is from Uncle Mike's Strange Aeons line of course. Super easy to paint and only took a few minutes, but I love how it turned out.

The flesh tone on the professor and Daniels is a little darker than I'd have liked, but I'll know for next time to use something lighter than Tallarn Flesh. As with all my figures I painted them in three steps: simple block colours as a base, various ink washes to add depth, and a final series of dry brushing to bring out some highlights and details. It won't win me any awards, but it looks good enough for me!

September 28, 2012

Strange Aeons at Fallcon

The fine folks from Uncle Mike's Worldwide and Trilogy Gaming Club will be co-hosting a tournament of Strange Aeons on Saturday night at Fallcon 2012. There will be four or five boards set up for demos and tournament play; some of which, if the rumors are true, are brand-spanking-new custom creations of the diabolical Uncle Mike himself.

I'll be there representing the congregants of the Cult of the Black Goat, providing demos for new players and death, destruction and mayhem to all those pesky Threshold Agents.

If you'll be in the Calgary on Saturday September 29th, 2012 drop by the convention (see the Fallcon link for venue details) any time between 8 pm and 12 midnight to join in the dark deeds!

Links for you inquisitive types:

September 27, 2012

Wild West Wanderings

Over the weekend I took a fairly lengthy road trip and ended up having a little bit of time to stop in at a game shop on the way. I won't go into my experience at the shop or say what shop it was, because my impressions were mediocre at best. However, I did pick up a few things while I was there.

I had never been able to find the original The Adventurers: Temple of Chac, board game, and so when I saw a decently priced copy I grabbed it. Having read through the rules, set it up and tried a few basic turns I'm not sure how well it will get received in my regular group, but we'll give a go sometime soon and I'll post up my thoughts then.

What I was really looking for when I walked into the shop were some reasonably priced western-themed figures. When I asked for something like that I was told, without hesitation, to "go check a dollar store, I don't have anything like that here," but upon looking around a little I found two packs of nicely pre-painted 28mm figures by em4: Old West Heroes packs 1 and 2.

Each of the boxes contains five fully painted figures, five d20s (each with a skull in face of the 1) and bases for the figures. If you calculate that out with the local taxes, and assuming the dice would cost approximately $1 each, you end up with a cost of about $4.15 per fully painted figure. Now that isn't great, but it's not bad at all when you consider that an unpainted figure in the same scale can frequently cost you $6 or more! Factor in the time savings from not having to paint the figures myself, and I'd easily say that I got a fine deal.

One thing I will mention is that the packaging for the two sets was a little bit misleading, but not actually in a bad way. You see, when I opened each of the boxes I was greeted with more than just the figures and (bonus) dice promised on the packages. After cutting the tape and opening the flap I was greeted by bases (square bases in one box, hex bases in the other), a batch of tokens (10 each of blue, red, yellow and green), and a mini CD advertising full skirmish rules for a game called Old West Shootout. Now I'm no marketing major, but if I was selling a product and it came with extra stuff, and complete rules for a game, I'd damn sure be putting that information on my packaging! So in the end I feel like I got a very good deal. Oddly enough though, the game rules included use d6s, not d20s...but the skull-marked d20s will make great dice for games of Dark Age: Apocalypse so another win there too.

I read through the rules for Old West Shootout and thought it sounded like a fast little gun-fight game. There are full color files that you can print out to create a western town map to play on, and some scenario ideas included in the CD. Sadly there are no close combat rules in the rule book, but I found a sheet of house rules on the game's yahoo group website. I looked through them and they seemed pretty solid, so I thought I'd give them a try. In addition to the brawling rules there were also some rules for fan-firing pistols as well as cheap citizen level characters. I chose only to use the fan-fire and brawling rules in my test game.

Using the point values in the house rules I created two heroes (9 pts each), two characters (7 pts each) and the rest as gunmen (3 or 4 pts each). I set up half of the town map and tried out a quick 5 on 5 gunfight and made sure to try as many of the rules as I could. The only two I didn't get around to trying in my quick game were the fan-fire and held-fire rules. The figures ended up with some wounds, getting shaken through gunfire and fisticuffs, and some flat out "bang you're dead!" results. It is definitely a light game but one that could provide a good experience for people who aren't really the miniature gaming types. Hmm...maybe I can take the game when I go to visit my family on holidays. My dad always did like western movies, and it'd be fun if I could talk him into rolling some dice with me.

Now the main reason I was looking for old west figures in the first place was so that I could try out the rules for Blackwater Gulch; currently available as a free download from Gangfight Games. I decided on those rules in particular after searching around a fair bit. They looked smooth, well-written and seemed to cover off all the beats that I was looking for in a western-themed game, including having campaign rules. The figures in the Old West Heroes sets turned out to be perfectly suited for it as well. They're already painted and there are ten figures total and the minimum size for a gang in games of Blackwater Gulch is five, which gives me a perfect number of figures for two starting gangs.

I based all of my new toys on 30mm round bases, glued some rocks and sand onto them, did some quick dry-brushing and added a little flocking. Now my gunfighters and townsfolk are ready to go! Reading through the book I finally decided on which figures to make into the leaders and professionals for a hero and villain groups. Once I had that sorted I was able to split up the remaining figures into gangs as basic henchman and come up with some lists that I think will be fun and characterful. (One thing I will mention about the BWG rule book is that creating statistics and selecting weapons for your figures will require a lot of flipping back and forth.) However, without further delay, here are the stats for my new western heroes and villains!

Citizens of Blackwater Gulch
Fame: 354
Sheriff Matthias (Leader)
Profession: Gambler
Weapons: Cooper Navy Revolver, Small Knife
Skills: Run & Gun, Really Tough, Bravery, Charge!
Str: 4 Qui: 6 Sta: 5
Int: 4 RC: 4 MC: 4
XP: 105 HP: 4 DP: 3

Robert Howling Feather (Professional)
Profession: Bounty Hunter
Weapons: Tomahawk, Henry Repeater
Skills: Brute Strength, Hearty, Really Tough
Str: 5 Qui: 4 Sta: 3
Int: 3 RC: 3 MC: 4
XP: 82 HP: 3 DP: 2

Deputy Henkel (Henchman)
Weapons: Remington Army Revolver, Bowie Knife
Str: 3 Qui: 3 Sta: 2
Int: 2 RC: 3 MC: 3
XP: 56 HP: 1 DP: 1

Madame Camilla (Henchman)
Weapons: Remington Army Revolver, Throwing Knives
Str: 2 Qui: 4 Sta: 2
Int: 4 RC: 3 MC: 1
XP: 54 HP: 1 DP: 1

One-Tooth Webber (Henchman)
Weapons: Sharps Standard Long Range Rifle, Bowie Knife
Str: 3 Qui: 2 Sta: 2
Int: 2 RC: 4 MC: 3
XP: 57 HP: 1 DP: 1

Dust Hills Desperadoes
Fame: 356
Carlos Sangre (Leader)
Profession: Gunslinger
Weapons: Colt Peacemaker, Small Knife
Skills: Duck & Cover, Run & Gun, Really Tough, Deadeye
Str: 4 Qui: 5 Sta: 4
Int: 4 RC: 6 MC: 4
XP: 107 HP: 4 DP: 4

Pedro Silvera (Professional)
Profession: Gunslinger
Weapons: Cooper Navy Revolver x2, Knuckleduster
Skills: Quickdraw, Strong Arms, Really Tough
Str: 4 Qui: 3 Sta: 4
Int: 3 RC: 4 MC: 4
XP: 85 HP: 3 DP: 2

Jorge Sanchez (Henchman)
Weapons: Parker Short Barrel Shotgun, Small Knife
Str: 3 Qui: 2 Sta: 2
Int: 1 RC: 4 MC: 4
XP: 55 HP: 1 DP: 1

Turncoat Kevin (Henchman)
Weapons: Remington Army Revolver
Str: 2 Qui: 3 Sta: 3
Int: 2 RC: 3 MC: 3
XP: 53 HP: 1 DP: 1

William Wildbeard (Henchman)
Weapons: Remington Rolling Block Rifle
Str: 2 Qui: 2 Sta: 2
Int: 2 RC: 6 MC: 2
XP: 56 HP: 1 DP: 1

I'm really happy with them overall and they feel like characters to me now that I've been able to put together these lists. After I have a few trial runs of the Blackwater Gulch rules you can be sure I'll share my thoughts here.