Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Christmas Blitz

It happens every year about this time. I'm talking about the Christmas Blitz. We are inundated by a frenzy of home decorating, shopping, fighting through crowds & traffic, wrapping, party planning and attending, cooking & baking, and all the other myriad of things associated with the biggest holiday season of the year. For those of us who live in the Northeast, we also get to deal with periodic snowstorms and ice storms. It's enough to drive a brother bonkers!

All this craziness hasn't left me much spare time to post to this blog. There are tons of things I could write about, but trying to assemble some coherent thoughts from my jumbled mind isn't the easiest thing to do right now. Of course, I could do a stream of consciousness piece. Oh what the hell, let's do that!

I'm going to make it a point that 2008 will be a year in which I play lots & lots of board games and miniature wargames with my friends during my free time. Trying to organize regular gaming sessions during the last quarter of 2007 was a nightmare, but I can do better, I just know it!

I'm sure that a good chunk of time will be filled with games of Sword of Severnia, the computer-moderated fantasy wargame I'm currently developing. I'm writing a Quick Reference Guide to the core paper rules as we speak, and once that's done and the guys get their model basing ready to go, we should be scheduling battle sessions on a regular basis. I just got a whole slew of 80x60 masonite and metal bases from The Last Square, as well as 80x120 bases and peel & stick magnetic figure bases from Litko. I don't know if I have enough stuff to handle 500 models or more, but we'll see how my little basing project works out. One great thing about SoS is that you only need 50-65 models (scattered across 9-12 stands) to form an army. So I'll have multiple armies to play with. Very cool. Software development on SoS should start very soon. I've spent the past 2 years crafting the written rules, so I'm getting antsy to start playtesting them in detail with the guys and get the Troop Builder and Army Builder modules written.

I'm also hoping that I can get a HeroScape campaign going in 2008 using the rough draft campaign rules I've created for SoS. And I also want to try AT-43 on for size for the occasional sci-fi skirmish game, and Gnome Wars for pure silly fun.

On the board wargame side, I'm itching to play Battlelore, Tide of Iron, Wings of War, Hammer of the Scots, and hopefully Wizard Kings (if Santa Anna comes through for me!).

Wally and I played a great game of Hammer of the Scots a few weeks ago. The game was close at one point, but his slimey English scum (led by Edward I) eventually defeated my brave Scots, eliminating William Wallace in the final year of the "Braveheart" scenario. I was much too aggressive in the game. The Scots need to build up some forces, hit fast and grab enemy nobles at every chance, run away from big fights, and do their best to get the Scottish King and French Knights onto the map, something I failed to do.

Also looking to get some miniature planes for Wings of War (again, maybe a Christmas or Birthday present to me?). Who wants to play with cards when you can play with toy planes!!! Fokker Fokker Fokker...

By the way did I mention Battlelore? This is an awesome game and it looks to be something that will be ever-expanding over time. Gimme more monsters, and maybe some undead and mercenary forces!!

On the non-wargaming side of the fence, several board games are on my BUY ME & PLAY ME radar for 2008. These include Prophecy, LOTR Confrontation, Mr Jack, Condottiere, Hive, Colossal Arena, Manhattan, Through the Desert, Fury of Dracula, Tikal, El Grande (Decennial Edition), Fearsome Floors, Cutthroat Caverns, and Fairy Tale. I could go on and on. My personal wishlist that I keep in an Excel spreadsheet goes 105 games deep. If I got 10 new games between now and Christmas 2008, that would be more than enough, at least until regular weekly gaming sessions become the norm.

Two revamped board games that I have my eye squarely on for 2008 are Cosmic Encounter and Titan. I'm also looking forward to the Fantasy version of Piquet. Ya know, maybe I like games TOO DAMN MUCH?

Will 2008 be the year of Pre-Paints? Between Rackham's AT-43 and Confrontation games, Reaper's new Legendary Encounters range, more HeroScape stuff, Privateer's Monsterpocalypse game, Wings of War airplanes, the Mutant Chronicles CMG, and a growing range of quality 90mm toy soldiers from Schleich and Papo, it will certainly be a telling year whether the influence of pre-paints continues to rise or peter out. I'm predicting pre-paints will be on the rise. Our "I want it now, with little fuss" society is geared towards pre-paints more than traditional do-it yourself minis. DIY ain't going away, but the more pre-paints that come into the marketplace, the bigger miniature gaming will grow. Just look at all the new board games that include minis! People love the visual impact and tactile feel of playing with cool looking toys -- and no, it doesn't go away even when you're over 40!!

By the way, some idiot on BGG speculated that HeroScape may be dying simply because they couldn't find Wave 7 easily and there were delays in some upcoming expansion sets. Oh Bullshit!! This happens all the time with game companies, even the big ones. Delays are part & parcel to the game business. Hasbro came out with a new master set (Swarm of the Marro) and a new spinoff game (Marvel Heroes), plus new figure expansions. Cut them some slack for pete's sake! More goodness will arrive in 2008. It would be pure stupidity to kill off a game that's had as much positive buzz as HeroScape and which actually appeals to the adult community (something that few Hasbro products can boast).

Hey Black Industries... umm... how about Talisman (version 5) with pre-painted minis?

I may travel to Essen next year. I'm not totally sure right now. Would Anna really enjoy it? She's only a casual gamer. But she does love to travel and we've never been to Germany. Hmmm... If Essen doesn't happen, then I'm damn well sure to be going to Origins in 2008.

Once January rolls around I'll start thinking about changes I'm going to make to the 2008 edition of my venerable Rhino Baseball program. I have a few things leftover from my 2007 planned-to-do list that I could add. But to be honest, this program is so chock full of functions that there isn't much to add to the beast. I do have one or two "cool factor" things I could do, but lack of time may prevent me from doing them. We shall see.

I had visions of integrating some web tools with Rhino Baseball, but two things are holding me back. First, my ongoing design work on Sword of Severnia is eating up all my time, as it should since I desperately need new, non-sports products to help expand my business. Secondly, Rhino Baseball has always been a robust desktop program. Revamping the workings of a 10-year old desktop app is dicey from a technical perspective. Plus, if someone just wants a web-based league manager, there are other decent alternatives available. Rhino Baseball rocks because it's much more than a simple league manager. It does lots of different things that those web-apps don't do functionally (especially from a draft prep, in-season stats analysis, and custom reporting perspective). And it does those things in a desktop environment that's more graphically appealing, runs faster, and gives the user more hands-on control. Why mess with a good thing?

Four books I'm currently reading or in my to-read pile: Hobby Games: Top 100 (various authors); The Master & Margarita (Bulgakov), Ancient and Medieval Wargaming (Neil Thomas), and Fantasy Gaming (Martin Hackett).

In the reading queue for 2008: Dark Tower series (Stephen King), The Winter King (Cornwell), and assorted Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. I'm also considering Achtung Schweinhund! but don't know if an American gamer can really relate to a British author's childhood wargaming memories.

Resolution for 2008... PAINT MORE MINIATURES!

The #1 Cool Toy I got in 2007 was a video iPod. I wish I could use the video part more, but still, I have been listening to more podcasts than ever before. I think I've got about 150-200 different episodes of various shows on that darn thing. They're most gaming shows, but I'll be exploring some fantasy baseball podcasts come this Spring.

I'm not sure that I can pick one favorite overall podcast. Here are some I listen to regularly:
  • I love the detailed yet easily digestable game reviews done by Pulp Gamer.
  • The Dice Tower is simply a classic with its Top 10 Lists, sheer breadth of topics, and friendly co-hosts. Tom Vasel seems to have similar taste in games as me and I've picked up several new games based on his recommendations.
  • Mark Johnson's down-to-earth Boardgames to Go podcast is often very entertaining and I can relate to him well. He's all substance and no fluff. His recent look at light wargames was great, and his 10 year retrospective was fascinating.
  • I'm also quite fond of Neil Schuck's Meeples & Miniatures podcast because Neil goes into great depth on his subjects and is never afraid to share his honest opinion. This has become my favorite podcast for miniatures related stuff.
  • For sheer board gaming enthusiasm and inspiration (with The List, Truckloads of Goober, Game Sommelier), you won't find anything better than The Spiel. Steve and Dave, you guys rock!
  • I've always liked the All About Miniatures podcast, but the guys have gone on hiatus and I wonder if they'll return.
  • I wish the guys at Roll 2D6 did more shows because they're always fun to listen to, especially when they talk about board games.
  • The stoplight review system used by On Board Games is great, and there's no better evangelist for gaming right now than Scott Nicholson -- okay, maybe it's a tie with Tom Vasel.
  • There are other podcasts I listen to as well (Metagamers, Little Wooden Cubist, Boardgame Babylon, Point-to-Point, and Paul Tevis's show when he talks about board games -- I'm not into RPGs anymore). Maybe I should do a whole post about this...

Has anyone subscribed to MagWeb? Is it worth it?

If Games Workshop ever came out with pre-painted minis for Blood Bowl, I would start playing that game in a heartbeat. I just don't have the time to paint minis for that game, and teams are pretty expensive to buy on eBay -- especially considering all the other games and minis I'm trying to squeeze into my budget!

My personal wargame design Holy Grail: a workable solution to designing a robust Fantasy wargame (with lots of different creatures & races) without the need for a Point Cost system. Anyone with any great ideas, please respond to this post!

Is the Ragnarok fantasy/sci-fi magazine defunct? It seems like it has been stuck on issue 52 forever.... Speaking of magazines, I can't wait for Bayonets, Spears, and Blasters to come out (new mag by Polymancer). I will subscribe to it, just tell me how!!!

It's amazing how much my NHL and Flyers hockey viewing has declined now that I'm not running and playing in a fantasy hockey pool. I wish there were 48 hours in each day! Perhaps if I can start playing STIGA table hockey next year the hockey bug will return? At least I've got my Hershey Bears to watch -- even though they're very up & down this season.

I still don't have a Christmas Tree.... YIKES!!! I better get one today or else the house just isn't going to feel right. I've really been struggling with the whole Christmas spirit thing this holiday season. Since my Dad died in February, it's been harder to find the passion in several things that I used to get really excited about. Not having Pop around at Christmas is extremely sad. I miss him... every day.

What do you get your Cats for Christmas? Both Jinx and Sammy have their own stockings. Now I just need something to put in them. New cat toys? Catnip? A new blanket to curl up in? Pictures of sexy girl cats (PlayCat). I dunno...

Gotta go... I'm rambling... Until next time MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!


Sigmar said...

Hi Steve,

I like your blog, loads of interesting content.

I'm with you on the paint more figures in 2008 resolution.

Please check out my blog and let me know if you'd like to swap links (just leave a post somewhere and I'll pop your site on my blog)

Happy Holidays,

Warhammer Battle Reporter

Sigmar said...

Hi Steve,

I'm impressed with your site and I've added it under my friends link list as:-

"six sided rhino (great game blog)"

I hope that's ok with you and you're happy with my description. Email me or leave a post of my blog and let me know.

All the best and happy holidays,