Sunday, January 28, 2018

You Don't Have to Clone 40k (All the Time)

Instructing an arms dealer how to confuse an artist is obviously just as destructive for the artist as it is the arms dealer.
Inspirobot cautioned against this article.
So, there's a lot of new casting companies out there that are just super cool.  Some of the best ones out there kind of made a name for themselves by providing models folks might want to use in other games.  We're now almost a decade into the "new" industry environment where we have plenty of choice for what models we want to include in our games.  And make no mistake folks, what we want is new models.  Everyone likes new models, you like new models,  I like new models...whatever.  You already know all that.

However, I feel like I need to address some things.  Scibor, Hi-Tech, Victoria, Puppetswar, Secret Weapon Miniatures and (my new favorite) Anvil Industries make some really cool models, and I love what they make.  They have really enabled those of us who like to model to get really crazy with stuff on our tables.  They all share a similar design, and work great when mixing and matching from these manufacturers and (specifically) with Games Workshop models.  However, for good and for ill they also share other aesthetics of GW design.

The grimdark thing is cool, but what if I have already built my guard army?  Sure you can sell me squads here and there...but that's about it.  I invent excuses to buy new models, but because it's very heavily influenced by GW's design aesthetics it's hard to find a place for a lot of things.  There's a lot of eagles on a lot of stuff.  Not that it's bad, but eventually it's time to expand your horizons.  It doesn't all have to clone something in 40k, all the time.

Khurasan and Pig Iron Productions make some fantastic models that you COULD use in Warhammer 40,000...but it's not what immediately pops out at you.  These designs are a lot cleaner than some of the others, and lose some of the bulky "grimdarkness" but it's proof that smaller companies can fill a demand that exists...namely, for sci-fi models that aren't specifically made for 40k.  There is a lot of sci-fi gamers out there, and not all of them are goo-goo for the gaa-gaa that pervades a lot of the model designs.

For the established companies, it's time to wean off the teat.  Most of you can afford to now.  You don't have to limit your fantastic skills to milking someone else's IP.  For new companies, let it be known that you can make some different style models and still be successful.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Edition Wars Eventually Become Edition Purges [Part 2]

If you are the only one standing in the Empire, you must leave the Empire.
Inspirobot knows where destiny must lead.
See Part 1.

...and so began and ended the Great Wargaming Purge, where all rulesets were cast aside and the meek inherited the Earth.  So where are we today?

Osprey Wargames leads the pack with several small, affordable rulesets that work fantastic.  Other small publishers have given us fantastic offerings like Horizon Wars and Tomorrow's War, and of course the modern classic that is Frostgrave. We are spoiled for choice no matter if you like to play Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Modern or Historical.

Not everyone plays the same editions anymore.  I first encountered Edition Wars with Warhammer 40,000, not D&D.  In 1998, when 3rd Edition was released, fully half the group decided they would stay with 2nd Edition, and they did UNTIL THEY DIED.  Literally.  My homey died with his 2nd Edition book still clutched in his lumpy hands.  RIP Big Randy.  At the time I didn't understand your recalcitrance, but I'm old now like you were then.

Well, I haven't played 40k, Warhammer, Warmachine or Flames of War in a few years, and I have no desire to jump on the newest edition grind.  Surprisingly, if you put these rulesets aside the Edition Wars cleanly end.  However, one issue still remains - in our hearts, we love these games and we want to play them.  What can we do?

Looking at my collection, I have a lot of 40k rules already.  That goes for each of those systems.  I'm a competent game designer.  So now we'll do what we should have done then.  We know what's wrong on the table, in our microcosm.  Rather than let some game designer somewhere writing drivel to earn a paycheck, we can actually create our own set of rules to accomodate and quash whatever issues were plaguing the table.  Every time, we can do this.

And so I shall.

It's time to break out the old books and start playing them.  Then change what we find to be "un-fun" - especially if it's seen as "unfair" on the table.  This is just how it has to be, and it's the job of the referee to make sure this is taken care of.  As such, in the new group and the old club, that job ultimately falls to me.  I failed the old club when I didn't enforce 'house' rules on the table, and the entire group suffered as a consequence.

So we're going to play these old games again.  We're not getting the new edition, instead, Iron Seer will adapt new material to old rulesets and old rulesets to new material.  We'll probably do a slow crawl like the old club did with D&D, starting with 40k 2nd Edition.  Warmachine / Hordes will be 2nd Edition, and Flames of War will be 3rd Edition.  Warhammer Fantasy Battle is up in the air, but we might go back as far as 3rd Edition.

Going forward, I'll probably be skipping several editions of all these games.  Probably at least ten years more, at the least.  There is no reason to do so, because the promise of a "better, updated version" is just sales copy.  Honestly I don't have any more room on my shelves for useless books from yesteryear...not when I can put all kinds of other good stuff in that same space that isn't the exact same stuff I already had.  I'll probably buy new models, though...and old books.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Edition Wars Eventually Become Edition Purges [Part 1]

In the future, all that you have sodomized must become unsodomized.
Inspirobot knows when you've been naughty.
So I'm going to talk about a big change that happened a few years ago that changed the landscape for tabletop gaming in my area.  What I'm about to say might not be your experience, and your mileage may well vary.  I'm not going to go out of my way to attack anyone, but I'm going to line out the reality here.

In 2014, after many years of happy gaming, Games Workshop decided to jump editions to 7th Edition Warhammer 40,000 after a period of only two years.  This was after many long years of suffering by some players, who didn't have a codex updated in over a decade.  The change in editions came merely two years after the publication of 6th Edition, which was touted with great gusto on the old club blog.

After years of perceived abuse at the hands of GW and their favorite game brand, this simply broke the club's Warhammering - all across the board.  The club dropped all GW workshop games from the roster, and we went looking elsewhere for a game.  All the GW stuff in the vault was sold off at a discount (well, most...not all) and no one in the club would actually speak of wanting to play.  GW had made themselves pariah - except in our Texas chapter, which only two years after that had to replace everything with 7th Edition.  Three years after that, in 2017, the cycle repeated again.

Putting longtime fans through that kind of edition grind will garner you some animosity.  For proof, let's look at some other games we were playing at the time.  We had adopted both Warmachine and Flames of War a few years earlier, and these games were great.  We believed in the companies, to deliver us from GW.  However, these games got dropped pretty quickly as well.  Why is that?

Warmachine Mk2 came out in 2010.  Flames of War released the Eastern Front for 2nd Edition in 2010.  Yet after GW proved that you can make gamers buy the same thing over and over again to very little consequence, the publishers of both these games got the GREAT idea to start an edition treadmill of their own.  Flames of War 3rd Edition debuted in 2012, lasted about 4 years until 4th Edition debuted last year to very little fanfare.  Warmachine Mk 3 debuted in 2016, shortly following suit.  Let's put that in perspective for folks who play all three games, plus Warhammer Fantasy.

  • 2008 - 40k 5th Edition
  • 2010 - FoW Eastern Front
  • 2010 - Warmachine Mk2
  • 2010 - Warhammer Fantasy 8th Edition
  • 2012 - 40k 6th Edition
  • 2012 - FoW 3rd Edition
  • 2015 - Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
  • 2014 - 40k 7th Edition
  • 2016 - FoW 4th Edition
  • 2016 - Warmachine Mk3
  • 2017 - 40k 8th Edition
Now imagine you have at least four armies for each of those games.  Can you imagine how much cash that is, just in books that you can't use, in that time?  Trust me, my gaming budget was fairly large for my personal gear...usually $100-150 per month during most of that time.

This model of edition treadmilling is not only unsustainable, but terribly disrespectful to the customers.  And before you ask, YES - these companies should pay attention to what each other is doing.  Movie studios pick and choose releases so they don't compete with something similar at the box office.  2010, 2012 and 2016 were very silly years for wargamers.

I'm not saying we didn't want new releases.  The publishers probably should have taken a lateral design, and not demanded so much money for what is essentially bookshelf trash just a few years later.  Turning over the entire game every few years is getting cumbersome, and it has led to folks dropping entire game lines out of their lives where before they could co-exist and they could collect multiple lines.  Well, folks - of course that's detrimental to sales.  I'm just at a loss that changing the entire system is the answer they always come up with...but I suppose that happens when development on a publication cycle is done pretty much by the seat of one's pants.

All that has already come to pass, however.  Gamers have moved on, and Frostgrave and Star Wars have ruled the land for several years. The clang of nary a Warhammer or Warjack on the site.  Not even the Germans are stirring.  The old guard has been put to bed, a victim of their own edition wars they manufactured for themselves.  The endless repetition of buying material we already owned ground the players to the bloody nubs, and the great games of old were cast aside.

What can those of us who long for the glory of battle do against such reckless capitalism?  There is an answer...

Go to Part 2?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition [Part 4]

*Updated 02/09/2018*

Warning:  SPOILERS ahead for Storm King's Thunder.

View Campaign Page.

4.1 Silverymoon

The character's arrive in Silverymoon looking to grab a cache of magic items, working off a tip they got in Triboar.  After working the city for a day, the players eventually reach a startling conclusion that the Margaster's Magic cache probably isn't worth tangling with Silverymoon's police force.  The party leaves the city empty handed, but resupplied.

Harshnag doesn't really seem to like other giants.

Shortly after embarking toward, two frost giants approach the party shouting for Harshnag in Giantish.  Harshnag stood silently while the giants conversed with him, before striking suddenly.  The two giants are killed by Harshnag and the party, and afterwards Harshnag explains they were up to no good.

4.2 The Zymorven Axe

The party arrives at Zymorven Hold, where they speak with Lord Zymorven about his giant-killing axe.  After recounting how Urgala in Triboar suggested they come to him, he is willing to help.  He remembers Urgala fondly, but alas, the axe has been taken by his ingrate son.  Last he heard, his son had fled to Yartar with a lowly wench.

The party backtracks to Everlund and uses the Harper teleportation circle to travel to Yartar.  Once there, they immediately realize that teleportation is THE quickest way to travel.  Heading into the Wink and Kiss tavern, where after some banter with a canny barmaid they are directed to two conspicuous ladies in the back who belong to the Hands of Yartar thieves' guild.

After some gold changes hands and some time passes carousing, the Hands of Yartar deliver the information the party requested.  Harthal Zymorven, Lord Zymorven's estranged son, has been arrested for murder.  The magical giant-slayer axe was taken by a corrupt watch captain named Brenner.

Starman and Berry conclude they do not wish to partake in unlawful activities and continue to carouse into the evening.  However, Softhands and Briar break into Brenner's house, beat him senseless and take the magical weapon.  Rude.

4.3 Xantharl's Keep

The party now wishes to act on more information gleaned from Triboar, and uses the Yartar teleportation circle to travel to Mirabar.  They then head south to Xantharl's Keep, intending to capture the fugitive known as 'the Weevil' for the five-thousand gold piece bounty.  Harshnag heads for the Pass of Khedrun, and will meet the party in about a week on the trail north.

After arriving at Xantharl's keep, the party is faced with a quandary.  They are sure they have found Worvil "the Weevil" Forkbeard...but they are starting to reconsider some of their rash actions.  They 'interview' 'Larg' and his employer, Arzastra, proprietor of the Fallen Orc Inn...but aren't quite convinced they can just bag the guy and leave.  Shortly their ruminations are put to the test as the guards raise an alarm.  "Enemies to the east!"

The adventurers were standing outside, about to confront 'Larg', A.K.A. 'the Weevil' when the commotion occurs.  Apparently there are several ogres, goblins and hobgoblins outside the walls, led by a giant.  The players were standing on the steps to the inn, and shortly they hear a racket inside the inn's stable.  As goblins covered in spikes splatter on the ground and walls of Xantharl's Keep (catapulted from slingers mounted on the ogres) the players investigate the noise.

Ten bugbears slink through the shadows, attempting to grab Larg!  The adventurers rush inside, and the fighting was fierce.  In the end, Larg says he doesn't know why they were trying to grab him - which is certainly what they were doing, since they were trying to force him into a dwarf-sized sack and haul him off.

In the aftermath of the battle, the city guards are everywhere and find the players and the remnants of their battle.  Some questions are asked, and generally satisfactorily answered.  The Lord of Xantharl's Keep contacts the proper authorities in Mirabar, and the party is allowed to leave with their prize - Larg, A.K.A. Worvil Forkbeard, A.K.A. the Weevil.  The dwarf brigand is marched back to Mirabar and the adventurers claim their five-thousand gold.

Afterward, the party is two days early meeting Harshnag on the northern trail.  The way to the Valley of Khedrun is desolate and quiet.  After a long and grueling journey in the cold and silence of the Spine of the World, the party arrives at the Eye of the All-Father.

4.4 Eye of the All-Father

The adventurers approach the Eye of the All-Father.  It is a temple to the deity Annam, who is the greatest of the gods of the giants.  The doors had long been open into the mountain, and snow had blown quite far inside the tunnel leading into the mountain.  Inside, all the walls had frost and ice on them and the place seemed dead quiet.

Shortly after entering, the party runs across a group of barbarians trying to open a massive door.  When they see the adventurers, no words are exchanged - they simply attack.  The barbarians had a subdued white dragon wyrmling with them, which Harshnag takes as a personal insult.

When there wasn't much left of the barbarians but smears, everyone wonders why they were here.  Harshnag, Berry and Softhands push the massive door open, and discover a room full of statues representative of the six different races of giants, and a faceless statue depicting Annam.  Across the room is a glowing archway...which seems to be a normal alcove, aside from glowing fog and strange runes.

Harshnag knows one of the runes, but the rest are a mystery.  The giant statues in the room are all holding weapons, save one - the frost giant god, Thrym.  The party breaks the ice on one of the northern doors and goes upstairs, searching and ransacking the giant living quarters.  In a sack on a giant's bed they find some dwarf heads and a magical item known as the Shard of the Ise Rune.

In the lower level, they are taken aback by a magical trap!  A giant ball of rock rolled down the hallway, nearly crushing the adventurers.  The giant rock is then rolled back into place by a statue of a stone giant.  The only other thing of interest is a cleft of rock in the back of one of the rooms.  The party decides to rest here, in the relative safety and quiet of the cold Eye of the All-Father.

4.5 Great Worm Cavern

The party investigates the southern doors, and are surprised to find the giant's banquet hall to be warm.  Unfortunately, they also find a remorhaz.  After a brief and bloody fight with the beast, the party finds Thrym's axe and deduces how to open the portal in the main hall.

After consulting with the ghost of a cloud giant and spending two days talking to the oracle, the party now understands what is happening to the Ordning of the giants.  The oracle bids them to prove themselves by returning artifacts to the giants that were stolen by the Uthgardt.  After Harshnag draws them a map, the party decides to visit Great Worm Cavern, an Uthgardt spirit mount that was the closest to the Eye of the All-Father.

The party leaves for Great Worm Cavern, but are accosted by eight dragon cultists in a flying ship.  They claim to be sent to aid the party by the dragon Klauth, who has given them a gift - the airship.  The cultists crew the ship for the party as they continue to the Uthgardt spirit mound.

Once the cavern is found, the party descends and begins to tentatively check out the icy cave.  The Uthgardt, as it turns out, are rather unfriendly...but a few well placed sleep spells by Briar and some quick bargaining with the Uthgardt granny see the party leaving with what they came for - the broken shield of a fire giant.  Surely, the Oracle will accept this offering...

4.6 Return to the Eye of the All-Father

The party returns to the Eye, and after some meandering figure out how to offer the relic to the oracle.  They are bade to find the fortress of Ironslag, Duke Zalto's base of operations, and face the fire giant lord.  They are to find the Conch of Teleportation and enter the Maelstrom.  There, they must root out the evil in King Hekaton's court.

Return to Storm King's Thunder: Prepare to Die Edition?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Will I Ever Paint All My Models?

You are an adult individual.
Inspirobot can help you realize your responsibility.
As an adult individual, I have finally gotten to the point in my life where I have a space for all this hobby stuff.  As we all know, once you have a place to put things, you inevitably put more things in that place than that place can actually contain.  Thus, Spartan order becomes Bohemian chaos, and the next thing you know you can't find specific models or bits because they are buried under other models and bits.

Or you simply can't remember what case something was in.

While I've tried to keep up with most things, it becomes apparent that space is by far the most serious problem concerning the burgeoning of collections.  If you can't accommodate the space requirements for your cases of miniatures, terrain, hobby supplies, counters, dice, books, probably don't have a place to play with them either.  The best you can hope for, then, is to accurately track where things are so that when you need it you don't have to search for simply need to dig it out, which could be a serious operation.

No matter the condition of your hobby and gaming spaces, your storage space probably contains quite a few unpainted models, or models scheduled for other projects, or entire games that you simply don't have the time for this year.  Everyone has this issue.  It's the emergent quality of the 'lifer' - the life-long gamer who will undoubtedly spend many years curating their collection of gaming materials.  For modelers...this is exacerbated a great deal by the fact that often times you will buy a box of models and put them away.  You may forget about it entirely before you dig it out and go OH YEAH!

I was tempted to take pictures of the boxes of unpainted / unworked / old projects that have amassed, but I thought better of it.  Far better to buckle down and start producing stuff from them.  I have entire sets of models that have never seen the table.  Boxes under the table, in the closet...all stuff I just haven't gotten to yet or leftover from the club days when I had a lot more games to play.

Sure I could sell it off but that would really defeat the purpose.  Instead, I've come to a sort of understanding with my hoard - there will always be stuff I haven't gotten to yet.  If I manage to actually paint ALL my models, I might be totally done.  Then I really might sell it all (to a pretty penny, I might add)...but I'm really hoping that never happens.  It's been something like twenty-six years and my hobby fervor is still strong.  In other words - if I do ever paint my entire hoard with nothing at all to mess with in the vault...I'm probably close to death.

Now, that isn't to say that I don't want to decrease the size of my unworked hoard.  I want most of it gone...but a spot on a shelf in the closet will always contain a box of boxes.  One of my favorite things is going to the vault when a new project comes up and rediscovering tons of stuff I forgot I had.  Reaper Bones 4 is on the way as well...and there are a LOT of Bones I haven't gotten to from the previous Bones projects.

I've focused more recently on stuff I've already got, rather than new kits and such...mostly because I'm done with the edition treadmill.  I'm ready to work on models and play games, and honestly it's hard for me to feel the 'hype' about new 'editions' of games I've already put a lot of energy into.  However, I really have started picking up models from a variety of companies, along with a lot of different rulesets as I've talked about previously.  I'm sure my space for unworked models will continue to demand all the space I've allotted for quite some time - though I would like to halve that, if only to have more legroom.