Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Re: Your Brains"

" Re: Your Brains "

Heya Tom, it's Bob from the office down the hall.
Good to see you buddy, how've you been?
Things have been okay for me except that I'm a zombie now.
I really wish you'd let us in.
I think I speak for all of us when I say I understand why you folks might hesitate to submit to our demand.
But here's an FYI: you're all gonna die screaming.

All we want to do is eat your brains.
We're not unreasonable. I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes.
All we want to do is eat your brains.
We're at an impasse here -maybe we should compromise:
if you open up the door, we'll all come inside and eat your brains.

I don't want to nitpick, Tom, but is this really your plan?
-spend your whole life locked inside a mall?
Maybe that's okay for now but someday you'll be out of food and guns,
and then you'll have to make the call.
I'm not surprised to see you haven't thought it through enough.
You never had the head for all that bigger picture stuff,
But Tom, that's what I do and I plan on eating you


I'd like to help you, Tom, in any way I can.
I sure appreciate the way you're working with me.
I'm not a monster Tom ...well, technically I am.
I guess I am.

I've got another meeting Tom, maybe we could wrap it up.
I know we'll get to common ground somehow
-meanwhile I'll report back to my colleagues who were chewing on the doors-
I guess we'll table this for now.
I'm glad to see you take constructive criticism well.
Thank you for your time I know we're all busy as hell.
And we'll put this thing to bed ...when I bash your head


Jonathan Coulton "Re: Your Brains"

Happy Halloween, one and all. Be safe out there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

For the Love: The Emperor

…yes. well. Not that Emperor.

I believe this fine figure is meant to be the Emperor Claudius, whose legendary frailty might begin at least to account for the bent knee, though one might simply attribute this to a bend of another kind entirely; I see, for example, some very distinct “Carry On” references in his facial caricature. ohhh. errr. Of course, that might just be me.

No matter. He is a wonderful sculpt and, a tremendously expressive character. To my mind, he is (is/was?) meant to be a Senator or other noble personage responsible for the Cohort that I never. quite. pulled. together.

Not yet, at least.

I painted this fellow after my first AdeptiCon 2010 –over a year and a half ago. I came away from that initial AdeptiCon experience wildly energized (also freshly back in the States after two years in, well, Rome) and strongly motivated to create a grand, ambitious Roman project. I had no ruleset in mind. I have yet to find any genuine use for the first 20 legionnaires that I painted at the same time. They are just sitting there.

This sad turn of events places the miniature firmly in the “painted for the love” shelf, but I still have very, very high hopes that this will change in the reasonably near future. The aforementioned ruleset might help me find direction; certainly, a list would at least point me toward a tangible goal.

Until then, I have 25 more legionnaires assembled and based… waiting… alongside some very exciting Celtic mercenaries or conscripts or whathaveyou. We shall see.

Thanks again Pappa JJ.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blood Bowl: FF Fields

A while back, I mentioned that FrozenJoe and Skarvald the Vlad-faced were starting up an extremely ambitious Blood Bowl league. In my excitement for that league, I positively devoured the internet in search of all thing bowl-shaped and blooded.
This field is the very fine work of Alex (oppure Alessandro se vuoi), whom you can find over at FF Fields. His work is stunning, and he's an all-round fine fellow -really, genuinely quite pleasant. The goods arrived in a timely manner from a decent way around the planet, and I really could not be happier with the product. Moreover, I encourage you to take a long, hard look at the options for customization. Tremendous.
The man. The work. Epic.
Alas, after my initial enthusiasm, my participation in said league has been wildly hamstrung by the sale of our car, the (staggeringly wip) purchase of a new house, and the standard but uncompromising burden of raising two boys under two. Oh, and I have a job. The wicked combination above has made it very difficult for me to travel out to the suburbs for a proper romp.
Still, the pitch is ready, and the Geddy Fooks are keen.

... and patient. They'll get theirs.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Warmachine: First Impressions (3)

The Miniatures:
The figures are generally quite stunning. A significant number of sculpts are dynamic and compelling, Even more are undeniably beautiful. just beautiful. I could not tell you why exactly, but I adore the Gun Mages and have contemplated Cygnar on their merit alone. Unlikely, I admit, but then there is a strong chance that they will find space in my “for the love” category all the same. A scroll through the PP website is often an exercise in shocking waves of “ohh shiny” compulsion, which must be wrestled with and mastered.

It's alarming.
There are, of course, some notable exceptions to the above.

Here is the most obvious example from Menoth that catches me flatfooted every time I see him: these grenade fellas are pretty mashed. Put plainly, the sculpt is not entirely inspired nor equivalent to the other tremendous examples from the range. More's the pity.
Quite a few other examples are a mess to put together. I am thinking specifically of either those that are delicate but not cast in one-piece (skeleton pirates) so their assembly requires faith in the thinnest of metal connections, or those that are hopelessly top-heavy (just about all metal jacks), which requires a similar kind of faith in fragility. The models practically scream, break me into many pieces, in shrill lifeless voices.

Moreover, I have moaned about this already, but PP plastic isn’t plastic, and requires that understanding to use properly. My first efforts with the stuff were calamitous, though that has improved since. Still, the stuff is odd to work with and a mare to clean.

Having said that, the PP plastic improves demonstrably upon some of the top-heavy and delicate models mentioned above. I prefer it to metal and positively leapt at these Bastions the moment I saw they were plastic.

...but again, ambivalence.
Two of the Bastions that came in this PP plastic kit were mangled beyond hope or reason I will only field three instead.

[in different circumstances, the above would likely make the average GW detractor positively spray the internet with bile and spleen. I’m not so bothered. Perhaps my standards are conditioned to be low. Still, I will take GW real plastic (and even finecast, with which I am lucky enough to yet have any problems) most days of the week.]

The Cost:
Direct comparison is difficult for me because I have established my hobby limits and stick to them. From what I can tell, it’s a wash; I would not start Warmachine under the misguided notion that one might “save” money. In my opinion, that is quite improbable reasoning, if not just silly. I will say this, if one is compelled to spend more than he/she is able in any given month, then the problem is with that individual’s sense of self-control, and not with the product he/she buys and, in the end, I see every ounce of the “ooh shiny” compulsion in the Warmaworld as I do elsewhere.
I feel quite strongly that the previous posts and the above combine splendidly to a net positive, even though the un-shuttered glare might be pure torment on a personal level. I think we are currently spoiled for choices, both within any given system and/or range as well as across the different systems and/or ranges currently at our collective hobby disposal.

The sum of my opinion: Warmachine is a wondrous and compelling game, a decent but stuttering world, and a tremendous but human hobby space.

Oh to be burdened with such beauty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Warmachine: First Impressions (2)

The Universe:
I am hopelessly ambivalent here.
The Warmachine world is interesting, but I must confess that I am using that word in the same way that I sometimes use it to describe a meal when I am being polite. I like what they have done, but there are a few aspects of the fluff haven’t quite congealed for me and, thus far, the specific beauty of the models (which I will discuss next post) has superseded any interest in the world they are meant to inhabit. It's a strange sensation, to be more attracted to the models than to what they are designed to represent, but one that hasn't really been an obstacle as yet -which is a testament to the simple strength of the models themselves. 
I should mention that I stumbled a bit on that word …“world” above. Instinctively, I have bristled that the Warma-universe resides upon a single planet; to be fair, I feel the same level of room-temperature affection for the Warhammer Fantasy world, which is perhaps a suitably accurate or legitimate comparison. I would suggest that, with the notable exception of the “Storm of Chaos Campaign,” I have felt for some time the same way about WFB as I do about Warma …that is, I enjoy the game most when working through rather than directly in the fluff (see: unconventional painting choices). The borders are just a little too solid and clear for my taste. I have been concerned that this was somehow too stringent an imaginative space; however, this concern has dissipated considerably as I have warmed to Warmachine. Instead, I have tried to let the skirmish-level nature of the game offer ample room in which to explore the surface of the world in very small, digestible chunks.
Now. I feel that certain archetypes have become almost compulsory in any contemporary fantasy/sci-fi creation (not just the one in question here): for example, lofty chivalrous ambition and radical religious zealotry, to name the obvious two. I recently heard Cygnar described (astutely, I think) as post WWII US apple-pie-do-gooders-in-the-sky. That seems a fairly solid source. Without doubt then, soviet Khador makes the most compelling counterpoint to the above. Throw in the aforementioned zealotry (Menoth), perhaps some undead (Cryx) and/or elves (don’t love them), and behold the fundamental form of the Warmaverse. This is not necessarily a criticism (let’s not forget that 40K began with the simple premise of fantasy knights in space), but rather a comment on inspiration.
And herein lies the point that I have only come to circuitously. Warmachine feels (and is, to be sure) younger than 40K. The world has some lovely bits of inspiration and a tremendous foundation, but the doesn’t all hang together in my opinion. Not yet, at least.
In sum, I enjoy the inspiration (even though it seems a bit rote at times), and admire the components that they are trying to hang together; however, I’m not yet convinced that it all does so seamlessly. Instead, quite a lot feels whimsical and indulgent (the cold war and pirates, for example), both great fun and solid ideas, but not entirely cohesive when sitting across the table from one another.
Please understand that the above commentary is merely designed to describe the difference between “like” and “love,” rather than act as a specific detraction.
My taste is my taste.
…which leads me to a point of praise. I really, genuinely enjoy that the grand narrative is ongoing –that the characters develop and continue in the fluff and in the game. Besides creating an elegant way to resolve problems within the game mechanism itself, this creates the sense that the players actually participate in a story that is mobile. It is a really refreshing way to break open new chapters, to move the game into a new dimension (quite literally).
And now for another dose of that ambivalence: Unfortunately, I am not sure that this dimension has been treated in a manner worth the opportunity.
I suppose that one of my largest concerns when entering into the Warmachine game has been my reflexive dissatisfaction with proscription. As I have stated previously, Kreoss will always be Kreoss, even when he is eKreoss (I remain undecided on the matter, but might argue that the entire “e” phenomenon is a symptom of the world’s restrictive nature rather than the game’s ability to imagine new frontiers). I still find this fact rather stunting, but also feel just as strongly that the game adequately rewards attention in its other fundamental attributes as a means of compensation.
Perhaps this will undermine all that I have said above, but in a game that requires so much imagination already, it is an easy task to circumvent the above with just a little bit more of the same. 

See you next time for the final thoughts on this topic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Warmachine: First Impressions (1)

[roughly one million years ago, Marhsall Wilhelm kindly asked for my unbiased impressions of Warmachine... at last, those impressions:]

The Game Dynamic:

- perhaps I am alone here, but I often have difficulty visualizing a game (any game, mind you) from the sterile, abstract descriptions in the rulebook. On this end, Warmachine has been no exception. I had a nose through the rules and felt a bit baffled at the end of it all; however, after an extremely practical half-hour of demonstration with the faithful and instructive FrozenJoe, I felt that I had the basics absolutely sorted. I suppose that I simply needed to see the game happen, with some practical, visual guidance, for the abstract to become practical. Joe himself suggested that to properly learn the game, one should read the quickstart rules, start playing immediately, and put the big rulebook aside for when it matters some point down the road. Certainly, I would recommend Joe’s approach. 

All this is to say, I think it indicative of a well-structured game that it function intuitively enough that a simple explanation and an example game or two should give the novice a basic ability to play the system. That’s what we’re here for after all. It is a testament to Warmachine that I was able to push through the fog of rules and on the tabletop so quickly once the matter was demonstrated clearly (I have, as an aside, only picked up the rulebook once since). All this, I believe make Warmachine a really clear and useful game dynamic.

[- While on the topic of rules, I have noted with interest that many commentators feel PP rules are more crystallized than those of other systems. I am not really capable of saying one way or the other, except that in my experience the “problem” that PP supposedly improves upon stems from the players rather than the rules. I have yet to meet a system (not just games here) that people will not abuse in some manner –which makes for fertile ground for blogs and the like that either rotate around the tournament scene or have adopted the disposition and specific vernacular of competitive players. I feel quite strongly that this is a “problem” of the player’s own creation, and is best left for those working hardest to finesse various rule systems for peculiar competitive reasons. Though my experience is modest, I have yet to find PP rules less ambiguous or more lawerly and precise than the next ruleset, but also believe that I am unlikely to encounter said “problems” because I do not play against waacs or other sundry scoundrels. ]

- the Warmachine system is cool: compelling and straightforward but complex and rewarding.

- Focus: for me, the most interesting aspect of the Warmachine game system is the allocation of Focus points at the beginning of each turn. Even on the smaller scale games that I have played (between 16-26 points), games in which there is usually just about enough Focus to accomplish all the actions I would like, if I play wisely (ahem), those opening moments of each turn are simply fraught with second-guessing and enjoyable tension. I suspect the decision process will get easier as I grow in familiarity with my faction and with my tactical disposition but, even so, the strategic opportunities of this dynamic are wonderfully intriguing (so much so, that I feel they compensate for one small reservation that I address in the “universe” section in the next post).

- one bit of concern. There is one quirk that I can see in the game mechanism itself, and that is the entirely one-sided aspect of the turn sequence. Perhaps this stems from my familiarity with 40K and specifically the fact that my little fellows get to hit back in the phase they are assaulted. The Warmachine system seems to make one player feel like a punching bag for the opposition’s turn, only absorbing and not reacting to punishment (unless dying is a reaction), who then passes that dubious honor back in the next player turn. As I said, it’s quirky and has taken some getting used to. Mercifully, the turns are usually quite short.

- the skirmish: for nearly two years now, I have been drawn toward skirmish-level games. Even in other game systems, I have wanted to play a bit more quickly, a bit less epically (see: Special Operations: Killzone). Warmachine obviously slips under that cover quite nicely. The world seems positively awash in skirmish-level confrontations. For my part, I have yet to play a game that required more than 10 models, or one that lasted more than an hour and a half. Once I have actually “learned” the game properly, I expect that to accelerate significantly even with the addition of points/models.

- on that note, every time that I have played one game, I have played two. With two babies and plans for more, that makes Warmachine an ideal “go-to” to fill a gaming gap when the limited time appears.

- apart from that, I am still familiarizing myself with the way in which units and/or models interact. I do like the word “synergy” quite a lot, and have particular interest in the way this applies to various combinations in the game. I can already sense that this particular topic will have been “netted” moreorless to exhaustion, but I am fortunate in that I am mostly oblivious to Warmablogs and have been spared the tedious exercises in mental masturbation that are most net lists. I intend to proceed by purchasing the units and models that I think are cool, then discovering how well they work (or do not work) together. To me, that is the simple pleasure of the game.

See you next time for part 2.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

For the Love: A New Series

For the Love: Dr McMourning
With this post, I would like to inaugurate a new series/tag in which I discuss the whole, neglected breadth of my hobby intere... ohhhh look. Shiny.

Well, it’s a bit like that.

I currently have at least three different projects at various stages of completion: Grey Knights, Bretonnians, with some Ogre commission work still in the pipeline, as well as a unit or two left straggling from my other armies. Let me be candid. I am not even slightly bothered by the fact that this situation will never improve -ever; there are several more projects waiting patiently on deck, and GW, PP, FF, Mantic, Malifaux, et al show no sign of letting up on their collective onslaught of brilliant games and stunning miniatures. I mean seriously. Dark Eldar. Ogres. It's too much. I am fighting desperately to stay on the happy side of Dreadfleet... but... I don't know. 

So it goes.

To be sure, it’s a great time to be interested in our hobby.

There point here is a simple one: in the midst of all this serious hobbying (ahem), I wanted to find a space for those random odds and ends that I feel compelled to paint purely for the love –hence the title. These are not my greatest efforts, nor my most worthwhile. Often, they are springboards from which I find new recipes, revise old recipes, blunder shamefully, or refine a technique or two, and/or simply indulge myself.

They are fun. They are isolated. They are accomplished in those moments between the flow of those other, bigger, hobby tides.

These random assortments invariably represent the purest, simplest form of my hobby compulsion. Rarely do any of these figures see proper action on the tabletop, remaining instead permanent fixtures in the margins of my hobby world. Some have even gathered their own corner on the bookshelf.

Solidarity, I suppose.

This series, then, is designed to celebrate those lovely waifs. The miniatures that I felt utterly compelled to paint regardless of their use, or their role, or their system, or general greater purpose.

Dr McMourning here fell into my lap after I saw a post on Dark Templar’s site –a fellow whose entire line of posts on Malifaux deserves a proper look if you have not done so already. Moreover, have a gander at his "Malcontent" homemade bases. Glorious stuff. If I weren’t already up to my gullet, Dark Templar would have certainly convinced me.

Well, after just a single glance, McMourning appeared so wonderfully menacing that I couldn’t help but take a crack at him. Even now, when I look at the figure I can almost hear the --snap-- of that glove. And that grin. oh, that grin. Of interest from the painting end here, to me at least, is the revision of my blood recipe, and the new flesh tone that I mixed up in this attempt (I’m not sold on it yet, but if I find it working out well, I’ll be sure to post the recipe itself).

And thus, we begin the occasional look at the odder ends of my hobby odds and ends –some more of which you can see loitering in the background …

More soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recipe: Bronze (ish)

Some months ago (lost amidst the fog of Heroes of Armageddon and Games Day), a very kind and interested reader asked about my bronze(ish) metallic recipe. If you are still reading, thank you for your patience. 

Black: with mostly metallic-colored models, I will always begin with a black spray. I have been having some modest success with PP’s brand of late.

Tin Bitz: because so much of this model will be metal at the end of the day, I am quite aggressive with this layer. I thin the paint considerably, which is reasonable advice for all metallic paints as they tend to get gummy rather quickly. As there will be several layers here, I try to keep it all as thin as the step will allow.

Tin Bitz + Dwarf Bronze: this step is here only because I feel the jump straight from Bitz to Bronze is too severe. By adding this intermediate step, the edges between the two becomes more manageable. Again, I work quickly here in a very, very sloppy over-brush mode with a large, flat brush. All non-metallic items will be cleaned up at a later stage.

Dwarf Bronze: this is more along the lines of where I hope to be with the coloring. Again, I over-brush sloppily, but try where I am able to keep the paint most notable in areas like the front of the helmet and tips of the shoulder pads where the highlighting will be most visible and pronounced.

Washes: I have mentioned elsewhere (and specifically in this post on rust) that I never shade/wash my metallics with black ink (or wash, whatever). Instead, I have created a mix of Purple and Green inks –which will appear oily black when mixed evenly (I have two jars, actually, one batch that favors green slightly and one that favors purple). For this step, I dug out the slightly green mixture and further mixed this with Flesh wash at a ratio of 3 Flesh to 1 Purple/Green blend and applied it liberally.

Dwarf Bronze + Shinning Gold: once the above step and well-and-truly dried (must be dry!), I work toward the lighter areas with a bit of gold in a mostly bronze mix. The danger here is always that too much gold will ruin the bronze effect in favor of soiled gold. If you find this happening, I recommend either mixing more bronze into the equation or one other trick with a final wash that comes at the end of this step-by-step. For this layer, I retrieved a thick but more delicate brush than the one used above. From this point forward, each step becomes increasingly more dry-brush and less over-brush, and I try to focus on those raise areas of importance exclusively.

Burnished Gold: much more like a dry-brush here, and very sparingly.

Burnished Gold + Mithril Silver: be careful here. The smallest drop of Mithril in a relatively large amount of any other color will always do the trick. I am uncertain about the exact ratio, but if I had to estimate, I would say nothing greater than 1 Mithril to 15 Burnished. This step is genuinely a dry-brush with only modest attention to areas that are significantly raised and that deserve proper, relatively intense highlighting.

Flesh Wash: I thin the wash considerably, and usually include it only if I feel that model is drifting too far away from bronze coloring. This step will also help cover any recesses in which the over- or dry-brushing has overstepped into the shaded areas, in which case, I apply it only to those recesses rather than the whole area.

Scaly Green / Turquoise: as mentioned above, this step is designed to push back the recesses, add some age to the metal, and retrieve the metallic coloring if it begins to feel too gold. As I clean the rest of the model’s robbed area with green/turquoise layers, I pull some of that color into the extreme shades of the model. This is not a wash, but rather a gentle application of very, very thin paint into those specific areas that want attention. I feel the treatment here is a little heavy, to be candid, but illustrative all the same. The complementary nature of the green to bronze helps, I believe, create the illusion of worn and aged bronze. Fingers crossed.

And lo, the Protectorate has three new Bastions. Unfortunately, these fellows have yet to really produce for me on the table. Quite the contrary, Deneghra has made muppets of them on two at least two different occasions now, in which she convinced them to tickle either each other or, worse, humble Kreoss with those lengthy, pointy halberds… ah well.