Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zen Again: The Unpainted Minis Pile

I've been collecting miniatures wargames figures for over 30 years. During that time, I've amassed quite a collection of little men, be they plastic, pewter, or white metal. I've never taken the time to count them, but I easily have a few thousand of the tiny buggers.

Roughly half of the minis I own are painted. While I've painted my share of figures over the years and really enjoy the artistic process, a simple lack of time has resulted in my purchasing the majority of my painted minis off of eBay or from vendors & flea market traders at HMGS East conventions.

Lately, I've been trying to make more time to paint miniatures. I've done more painting in the last few months than I've done in a very long time, although my output is still extremely low in comparison to those highly devoted mini hobbyists out there. Anyway, at least I'm trying.

Recently, I finished a pretty cool piece of terrain; a Viking long-house (Acheson Creations). It came out well. I'm currently painting 2 regiments of Swiss Gnome arquebusiers (12 minis in all) and they're about 70% complete. I'm also 95% done on a trio of Troll spearmen (Privateer) and a River Troll (Citadel), with just some final detailing work to do. I'm also 85% done touching up a large group of Reptilian Cavalry (GW), and 35% done with a huge Dire Troll (Privateer). So real progress is being made, and it feels good.

That leaves the "other half" of my collection, the unpainted masses who have yet to see action on the fictional battlefields arrayed across my dining room, and whom have never been shown off on a shelf or in a display case. Poor bastards. This afternoon I took a look into the large tub of blister packs that I had. It amazed me as to what was in there, so I took a few pics. Check this out...

Within this tub of figures there are minis from Crocodile Games, Eureka, Bronze Age, GW / Citadel, Reaper, Black Orc, Foundry, Mirliton, West Wind, Otherworld, Alternative Armies, Fenryl, Privateer, RAFM, Irregular, Brigade Games, Marauder, DragonRune, Heartbreaker, Grenadier, Kenzer & Co, and Ral Partha.

Wow... So many cool figures! What should I paint next?

Perhaps Wargods Sebeki (gator-men) or those nifty Eureka frogs? Maybe some Barbarians from Bronze Age, DragonRune Orcs, or Sidhe celtic elves from Alternative Armies?

How about that classic limited edition Thrud the Barbarian from Citadel circa early 1980's? Or what about those awesome pig-faced orcs from Otherworld?

The list seems endless. And what's even scarier; I have another large box of unpainted boxed-sets to boot (Warhammer stuff, Dwarf Wars, Ral Partha Gnolls, Front Rank medievals, etc.).

Ah, the life of a veteran wargamer; so many unpainted figures, so little time to paint them all!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall In 2010 -- Quick Convention Recap

Last weekend (OCT 29th and 30th), I travelled down to Lancaster, PA for Fall In 2010, the third and smallest of the three annual miniatures wargaming conventions run by HMGS East. This year's event was held at the Lancaster Host Resort on Route 30 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I had an absolute blast spending 2 consecutive days shopping for figures/terrain/paints/rules at the large Vendor Hall, hunting for bargain finds in the Flea Market, and observing some massive wargames in progress. I didn't play in any wargames this time around or spend any time at the painting workshops, but that didn't dampen my enthusiasm. Tiring as it is to spend 6+ hours on your feet shopping for toy soldiers and other geeky treasures, it sure beats the hell out of working!

My good friend Kevin and I carpooled down to the convention on Friday. Compared to the past fall conventions over the last 5 years, it seemed as if attendance was appreciably down this year and fewer games were being played. Part of that may actually be a mirage, and can probably be attributed to the move from the cozy confines of the Gettysburg venue to the more spacious Lancaster Host. But the fact that the con conflicted with many people's plans for the Halloween weekend definitely hurt attendance, and resulted in a few regular vendors (Splintered Light, Wargames LLC, the Last Square, etc.) not appearing at the convention. That wasn't a big deal to us; we had more room to maneuever through the flea market and shopping hall. 

I didn't leave the Vendor Hall empty handed. I scooped up 3 blister packs of Gripping Beast Viking hirdmen and 4 sets of LBM shield decals from the Architects of War booth.    

I also purchased a very nicely painted and reasonably priced undead warband (about 16 figures) which included a really cool dark necromancer, a skeleton jester, and ogre-like demonic hero.

Added to that was a McFarlane Dragon for $10, and 6 new pots of paint (some Privateer P3 and some Vallejo acrylics). All things considered, it was a nice little haul for about $100 total. 

I didn't find anything that tickled my fancy in the Flea Market, although Kev got some truly great deals on near-mint board games ($5 for Pirate's Cove, and $20 for Knizia's Lord of the Rings co-op game + first expansion) that I would have scarfed up had he not discovered them first!   

On Saturday, I took a 14-year old boy named Landon down to Fall In. It was his first exposure to miniatures wargames on a massive scale and it seemed like he had a really fun time. He mentioned that he would be interested in going again (perhaps to the March convention), so maybe I just brought another young-gamer into the fold. Let's hope so! 

We flitted from table to table, watching a bunch of games that were being played and soaking in the wargaming atmosphere. Just seeing the beautiful terrain, massive array of painted minis, and wide variety of games across every period imaginable is exciting. I know that's what really drew me into wargaming, and I wanted Landon to get a good taste of it. All of the pictures in this blog-post are from ancients games going on in the main-hall next to the Flea Market, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, and there were numerous games with much prettier terrain and larger hordes of well-painted minis. 

Landon's interests are focused mainly on World War II and sci-fi games (Warhammer 40K in particular), but he seems open to just about anything which is kinda cool for a young guy. After thoroughly scouring the flea market, he decided that the best way to spend his limited funds was to buy a unit of nicely painted space marines and a late 60's era plastic model kit of a Walther P38 pistol. Well played kiddo, well played.  

I snagged a lovely, expertly painted,  whip-wielding demon in the Flea Market for $10 (sort of a small-sized Balrog). But other than that, my flea market take-home was non-existant. Kind of a disappointment there to be honest.

I returned to the Vendor Hall and snagged 2 really well-painted Orc Chariots for $40 total, and was quite pleased with that pickup. I also visited the friendly folks at the Cavalcade Wargames booth and purchased some of their Samurai Orcs (freakin' awesome figs!) and a Minotaur that's not yet available in their online store. Not only do I like the range of figures that Cavalcade is releasing, but I'm always willing to support nice people in the hobby. So I'll surely be visiting them again at future cons. 

All in all, it was a great weekend. Hopefully, I will take some pictures of the new acquisitions and share them on the blog when I get a chance. Stay tuned.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Butterfly Attention Span

Sheesh! Too many things are going on in my frazzled life right now. I'm totally swamped at work. My boss is on vacation in the Caribbean and I'm juggling the work that he usually does along with my own day-to-day stuff (which includes starting the design on a brand new project). Overtime is foisting itself upon me like an unwanted guest.

In the little spare time I do have, I'm utterly unfocused. I had been watching the Fightin' Phillies in the MLB playoffs, but to my grave disappointment, they blew it thanks to a complete lack of clutch-hitting and lost the NLCS to the underdog Giants. Blech! At least I now have some extra time in the evenings to do...

Painting perhaps? I've started a miniature painting project, doing 2 regiments of Swiss Gnome arquebusiers, but it has been interrupted by constant starts and stops. It's hard finding a 3-hour chunk of time to break out the pots and slap some paint. Gotta get back to it, because these minis are KEWL with a capital K. But Halloween is upon us and that means holiday prep...

I setup a giant, inflatable 8-foot spider in my front garden for Halloween, which will hopefully scare the bejesus out of any little kids who come to my house on Trick or Treat Night.

Also.... I'm in the middle of reading a hilarious book called Achtung Schweinhund about one man's obsession with miniatures wargaming (a.k.a. toy soldiers). I'm lucky if I get to read 2 chapters a week, primarily because...

I'm trying to find time to squeeze in revisions to the latest edition of my core playtest rulebook for Sword of Severnia, the miniature wargame that I'm designing. I've spent 20 hours on that over the past 4-5 weekends, but it still isn't near done. So instead...

I'm planning a trip to the Fall In convention in Lancaster, PA over the OCT 29 thru OCT 31 weekend to get my miniature wargaming juices flowing full throttle again. I'm really looking forward to it and hope to buy some shiny new toys. More stuff to paint? Maybe. Some cool pro-painted minis from Evil Bob's or the Toy Soldier Gallery? Perhaps, although don't tell my wife. Digging thru the wares in the hopes of finding super-cool treasure in the Flea Market? Definitely.

Oh and Hershey Bears Hockey has started. Anna and I went to our first game last Saturday (OCT 23). The Bears pasted the Phantoms 5 to 1. Niiiice.

And there's also..... well more stuff. I won't bore you. Suffice it to say that my attention span is that of a butterfly right now. Make that a drunken butterfly in a field full of flowers.

It happens. I just hope I can recover soon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Favorite Gaming Podcasts

I'm a very odd bird. Why? Well it's not because I squawk and peck at my dinner. No, no, no. Rather, it's because unlike most people, my iPod Touch contains very little in the way of actual music. Instead, it's bursting at its electronic seams with podcasts. More specifically, it's loaded with podcasts about gaming (board games and miniature wargaming). Yeah, go ahead and think it. I suppose that I'm truly a geek.

Over the last 5+ years, I've listened to more gaming-related podcasts than I care to count. Heck, I have well over 500 gaming podcasts currently stored in my iTunes library. There's such a wide selection of shows to listen to. 

The vast majority of the podcasts that I listen to cater to hobby board game enthusiasts. There are also a couple of good shows geared towards miniatures wargames. As mini-gaming is my favorite hobby of the moment, I wish there were more podcasts on this subject. But since wargaming with miniatures is such a visual hobby, that probably goes a long way towards explaining the lack of audio-shows that discuss this form of gaming.  

You might be wondering, which podcasts have become my absolute favorites? Well, let's start with the cream of the crop. These shows have stood the test of time, and are still as interesting and informative today as they were when I first started listening to them several years ago. 

The Dice Tower -- I listen to a dozen different podcasts on a fairly regular basis. When faced with the inevitable question of "what shall I listen to tonight?" as I scroll through my iPod playlist, my first choice is always the Dice Tower. This well-produced, 60-90 minute variety show is chock full of interesting segments that never drag on too long. In addition to the weekly insights provided by co-hosts Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer, there are a host of other contributors (Moritz, Geoff, Mark, Sam, Joe, Giles, Mary, Ryan, Dexter & The Chief, etc.) so you're guaranteed to get a smattering of opinions on just about every type of board game imaginable. The Top-10 Lists, a staple of the podcast, are always fun and have caused me to buy more board games over the past few years than I care to admit! But the Dice Tower truly shines because Tom Vasel, tireless game evangelist, is the Energizer Bunny of gamers. He just keeps going and going, enthusiastically playing and reviewing games, and sharing his vast knowledge of board games with anyone that crosses his path. I find that my tastes in board games often mirror Tom's more closely than any other podcaster out there, so I'm always keen on hearing about new games that he adores. 

Meeples & Miniatures -- Without a doubt, Meeples & Miniatures is simply the best podcast about miniature wargaming in existence. As an American wargamer, it took me a few espisodes to get used to the thick British accent emanating from the mouth of host Neil Shuck. I've grown to love it now, and Neil seems like an affable chap and TRUE wargamer. What I mean by TRUE is that his interests lie all over the map. Neil enjoys exploring new rules and checking out the latest shiny figures, and he owns more minis than he'll ever actually have the time to paint. Plus, he's not just focused on the mainstream games and models (e.g. Warhammer and DBA) that every wargamer already knows about. He explores the true depth of this great hobby with an honest and thought-provoking perspective. And his "View from the Veranda" chats with Henry Hyde of Battlegames magazine are always highly entertaining.  

The Spiel -- Interestingly enough, I first discovered this podcast by way of The Dice Tower, as Tom Vasel said it was one of his favorites to listen to. Co-hosts Stephen Conway and Dave Coleson have a love of games that's truly infectious. Their exhaustive game reviews are the best in the business, but their varied segments (Back-shelf Spotlight, Truckloads of Goober, and Game Sommelier) are really what makes this podcast shine. They also do a superb job breaking their podcast into easily searchable segments, so you can skip around if desired. Recently, the show lengths are creeping up and over the 2-hour mark, which is overly long in my opinion, but that hasn't stopped me from listening. Spiel on guys!

Game On! with Cody & John -- This podcast hasn't been around as long as the previous three, but recently reached the 50-episode mark and shows no signs of slowing down. Self-proclaimed "regular guys" Cody Jones and John Richard pull you into their conversations as if you were a friend sitting in their living-room chatting about games. Amazingly, Cody sounds eerily like my childhood next-door neighbor (Mike Rajnik) and even tosses out similar witty remarks. It's kinda freaky, but it also pulled me in to listen to the show more closely from the beginning. One great thing about the show is that it's an easy listen, and never drones on too long, falling into that 60-90 minute listening sweet-spot more often than not. I really like the new, free-wheeling conversation format that Cody & John have switched to, and I hope they stick with that as it helps differentiate them from my other favorite gaming podcasts.  

There are also several gaming-related shows that haven't been on the podcast scene for 5 years, but are definitely worth your listening time. If I had to choose a "best of the rest", it would include these podcasts:

Gameopolis -- Episode #1 of this podcast got me hooked because these guys went "old school" and listed several old classics among their favorite games of all time. It's refreshing to see gamers who aren't purely smitten by "the cult of the new" when it comes to tabletop games. Their regular "dusty old box" segment is a real treat. Another big plus is that Mark and Jeff don't take themselves too seriously and come across as down-to-earth guys who would be fun to game with. I also love that they keep their main shows around 60 minutes in length, and supplement those with shorter "game session reports". The session reports give you the feel of how a particular game plays without the hosts needing to spend 30 minutes on a boring, blow-by-blow rules regurgitation. Well done guys; looking forward to future episodes.  

D6 Generation -- I'm torn between loving this show and hating it. Why? On the one hand, it's really well-produced, colorful, often hilarious and thought-provoking, and nobody does in-depth game reviews any better than the D6G gang (Russ, Craig, and Raef). Craig Gallant really cracks me up. I admire the fact that these guys are unabashed mini-gamers and lovers of Ameritrash games; they speak to my tastes more often than not. What bugs me about the D6G is the length of the shows. They're too friggin long. Who has the time to sit down and listen to a 3 or 4 hour show? Not me. So far too often, the podcast sits on my playlist untouched, until I can miraculously find a free night to hide from my wife and listen to a whole show. Less is sometimes more guys.  

Noisemaker -- Of all the gaming podcasts that I regularly listen to, this one is the most "home-spun labor of love" of the batch. While the show lacks the production values of the Dice Tower or Spiel or D6G, it makes up for that with truly interesting content. Bert's love of miniature wargaming shines through. He's a do-it yourselfer and willingly shares his ideas about rules design, particularly his own home-made rules. I really enjoy when Bert voices his likes/dislikes about various mass-market rules systems. Always insightful, enlightening, and never boring, Noisemaker is highly recommended if you're a wargamer who likes to dabble in all aspects of the hobby. 

So tabletop gamers, why not do yourself a favor and take some time to check out these great podcasts? I'm sure you'll learn a thing or two about games that you never knew before, and will gather some great tips on games worth playing and adding to your collection.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Did Ya Miss Me?

After a long hiatus from blogging, I'm back. Honestly, I kinda miss it. 

I really doubt that anyone missed me, because let's face it folks, I don't exactly have a long and storied history of faithfully writing to this blog every day, week, or even every month (GULP). Blogging takes dedication. I suppose there are too many other things that I'm more dedicated to, and my postings take a back seat to them. 

But anyway, I'm feeling the urge to blog again. Perhaps a break was all that I needed. It's not like I've run out of fun and cool stuff to chat about. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get into a much more regular routine and this blog won't fade into obscurity. At least it's time to give it the old college try. 

So what's been on my Fun Radar of late? Well... 

Several weeks ago I got to play some board games with my friend Kevin. I finally got to play CAVE TROLL. It's one of Fantasy Flight Games' board games in their Silver Line series, and was designed by the very talented Tom Jolly.

Players expecting to find a wild and wooly dungeon-crawler will be disappointed because Cave Troll isn't that type of game. Rather, it's a strategic area-control game with a light fantasy theme. Kev and I played a 2-player game. Neither of us had ever played Cave Troll before, but found it pretty easy to grasp the rules. I found it to be highly entertaining and thought-provoking for a game that plays in just 45-60 minutes. It would definitely be a lot more chaotic with 4 players, and you probably wouldn't be able to plan ahead as much, but it's nice when a game provides different flavors depending on how many people play. Bottomline, I loved the game and it will be seeing a lot more play in the future. 

We also got to play a game of DUNGEON TWISTER 2: PRISON. Without a shadow of doubt, Dungeon Twister is one of my Top-10 games of all time. The best way to think of it is a marriage of Chess and a fantasy dungeon crawl. It's colorful, highly replayable, and a very strategic thinker. In fact, this is a game you should definitely play with a 2-3 minute sand timer, otherwise some players will succumb to Analysis-Paralysis trying to evaluate every possible option. The DT2 version adds some really nice plastic playing pieces which just beg to be painted.

One thing that crossed my mind after our game was this: "wouldn't it be awesome to play Dungeon Twister with a 3D-dungeon and painted minis?" After some hunting online, I came across this article explaining how to build a 3D Dungeon Twister game board. I must admit, building this isn't for the "modelling challenged". Heck, I'm not sure I really have the time to make all that, though it certainly looks extremely cool. Another option that's probably cheaper and definitely less time-intensive might be to purchase some of those Bendy Dungeon Walls from Z-Man Games. I'm thinking about it. Heck, being a miniatures wargamer, I already have tons of proxy figures that would work great in a Dungeon Twister setting. We shall see. 

Anyway, it was great to be gaming again. Thanks Kev!

At the end of October, I'll be off to FALL IN 2010 at the Lancaster Host for more miniature wargaming goodness. I'm sure that I'll have something to report from that convention, and perhaps I'll have some pictures to share from this go around. I hope you'll visit again and see!

Until next time.....  PEACE!  

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Middle 20 -- Part 1

Back in early February 2010, I listed my Top 15 favorite board games. That was the start of my effort to cull my board games collection down to 50 total games.

Well now it's time to pick out "The Middle 20". Since I'm feeling quite a bit under the weather today, I'll save my brief game-by-game comments until next time. For now, I'm just going to list 20 games (10 that I've played, plus 10 more in my collection that I haven't played yet but which I'm really hoping to get to the table over the next 12 months). So without further adieu, let's see the Middle 20 list!

10 Games I've Played
  1. Through the Desert -- Strategy (Abstract, Caravan Building)
  2. Colossal Arena -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Monster Gladiator Battles)
  3. Talisman -- Adventure (Quest, Fantasy)
  4. Cosmic Encounter -- Strategy (Negotiation, Aliens)
  5. Battle Cry -- Wargame (Tactical, Civil War)
  6. Dragon's Gold -- Strategy (Negotiation, Dividing Treasure)
  7. Cash 'N Guns -- Party (Negotiation, Mafia / Criminals)
  8. No Thanks -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Cards)
  9. Slapshot -- Sports (Strategy, Fantasy Hockey)
  10. Fearsome Floors -- Adventure (Head-to-Head, Escape from Monster)

10 Games I Haven't Played Yet

  1. Age of Conan -- Wargame (Campaign, Conan in Hyboria)
  2. El Grande -- Strategy (Area Control, Spanish Knights)
  3. Fire & Axe -- Strategy (Area Control, Viking Conquest)
  4. Nexus Ops -- Wargame (Campaign, Sci-Fi)
  5. Wallenstein -- Wargame (Campaign, 30 Years War)
  6. Blood Bowl -- Sports (Strategy, Fantasy Football/Rugby)
  7. Cave Troll -- Adventure (Head-to-Head, Escape from Troll)
  8. Big City -- Strategy (Area Control, City Building)
  9. Aladdin's Dragons -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Arabian Fantasy)
  10. Condottiere -- Strategy (Area Control, Italian Renaissance Wars)

More details about each game next time!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pictures from Sultans Wargame Day

Just felt like posting a few pictures from last Sunday's (FEB 21, 2010) Sultans Wargames Day held at my house in Enola, PA.

The guys (Wally, Geoff, and Kevin) came over to my place for another playtest of the Sword of Severnia miniatures wargame that I've been in the process of designing for 3+ years now.

Sunday's battle was between a Goblins/Orcs/Broog force and a mixed Elves/Barbarians army.

As it turned out, the Gobbos squeaked out a narrow victory, thanks in large part to some terrific Artillery shooting, a potent & timely spell, and an enemy Wulfen regiment which turned coat and defected from their army in an act of treachery. We had a blast. Can't wait for our March wargames day!

Below, Jarl Udu's Krone Barbarian warband faces off against the Thud Brothers (Mountain Trolls), while the Tiger Claws (Galenite barbarians) defend against a vicious charge from General Brindle's Great Orc battalion.

Here's a long shot of the battlefield from the left-flank perspective.

A contingent of Sylvan Elf Cavalry, Falernian Knights, and two warbands of Krone Barbarians find themselves stuck in ultra-slow going thanks to a "Druid's Revenge" spell cast by Brayzar Binch, an enemy Broog Shaman which entangled their legs with hundreds of creeping vines.

Stonebark, the lone Tree Man next to the boulder, stands ready to unleash some rocks towards enemy wolfriders and Duke Scuzzar, their Raptor-riding Goblin Lord.

Hopefully I can get my mini-tripod setup and get some better, more close-up shots next time.

Until then.... ATTACK!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Back on the Radar -- Miniature Wargaming

Switching jobs last Summer and winding down my software business didn't do any favors to my extracurricular life. My frequency of boardgaming and wargaming suffered, and the work I had been doing on my miniature wargame dropped off a cliff.

Well, it seems that finally things are beginning to turn around, albeit slowly. Baby steps... baby steps. I still need to actually make a SCHEDULE of my non-work activities so I can better focus on accomplishing those things I really enjoy doing (like painting, gaming, reading, etc.). Having too many interests can be a curse!

One of my favorite things is pushing it's way back into my life: miniature wargaming.

I finally got around to opening that package of nicely painted Nurgle plague bearers that I purchased on eBay back around Thanksgiving. I can't believe I ignored them for so long. They're actually really neat figures too, and I'm extremely tempted to stick some magnetic bases on these guys, build 3 stands of these twisted one-eyed guys, and create some stats for them so I can test them out in my Sword of Severnia wargame playtests. In SoS, these freakish demons are called Noxiks. I'll have to shoot some pics of them and post them on the blog soon.

Speaking of Sword of Severnia, after a several month hiatus, the gang is finally getting back together on FEB 21 for a Sunday Afternoon playtesting session. I'm hoping to test out some tweaked combat mechanics, a new variation of my WarChips mechanics relating to performing special in-game actions, and the use of magic items carried by Heroes/Leaders/Mages. It should be fun and enlightening to me as the game designer. I can see the game mechanics really taking on their final shape as I make a final push to refine & simplify as much as I can without losing the flavor of this deep game system.

I also recently pre-registered for Cold Wars 2010, the HMGS East winter miniatures wargaming convention being held at the Lancaster Host (PA) from March 11 thru 14. I can't wait to go, and will probably take off a day of work so that I can get down there for 2 days of action and shopping. There's nothing quite like an HMGS East convention to get your mini-gaming juices flowing in full force.

Gotta keep the good wargaming karma going, and maybe just maybe, I'll share a post-session report of our Sunday Sword of Severnia playtesting. It's going to be Geoff's Barbarian/Elf army facing off against my Goblin/Broog/Orc hordes again. Eventually, I'm hoping to create some stat cards for Wally's reptilian army, and pull together a Norse style Dwarf/Gnomes/Ice Trolls/Krones (Viking) army to complement my Undead army and Falernian Knights forces.

Talk to ya later!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Games Mag -- Thru the Portal

It's a fact that there aren't many worthwhile magazines on the market that are devoted to providing a "broad brush" overview of hobby games (board games, card games, miniature wargames, and RPGs). Being a longtime hobby gamer myself, this really saddens me.

One of my old printed favorites, Knucklebones, ceased being published well over a year ago, although there are faint rumors of it coming back into print in a small, digest format. Several excellent mags geared towards miniature wargaming lovers have died as well (rest in printed peace Wargames Journal, Harbinger, and HMG Magazine).

There are still some very good printed magazines out there for miniature wargamers, including Battlegames, Dadi & Piombo, Miniature Wargames, Wargames Illustrated, and the venerable GW house rag - White Dwarf. Of the lot, Battlegames is my clear-cut favorite and a highly recommended read for any serious miniature wargaming enthusiast.

Unfortunately, things aren't so robust on the board-gaming side of the fence. But one new entry on the gaming e-zine scene is thru-the-portal, a new quarterly games magazine from Neil Meyer in the UK. Neil and some guest writers promise to do their best covering board games, card games, RPGs, miniature wargames, MMO's and the occasional computer game. You can download the e-zine for free from Issue #1 shows promise. It includes reviews of Pandemic, Small World, Bombay, Through the Desert, Dragon Age rpg, and an interview with the cover artist amongst other things. Check it out!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Culling My Game Collection -- Part 2 (Top 15 Games)

So how do I reduce my overgrown board games collection down to just 50 games? This isn't going to be easy! I have to start somewhere, so I'm going to lay down a few basic ground rules at the start.


#1 = Don't count expansions to a base-game. If I'm going to keep a game, I want to retain all of its expansions as well. After all, that's why we buy expansions in the first place; to enhance the fun of the base game and expand its replayability.

#2 = Don't count miniatures wargames. In my mind, miniature wargaming is really a separate hobby from board-gaming. Miniature gaming requires a greater time investment, since it encompasses collecting, painting, army construction, scenario design, playing games, and sometimes even campaigning. It's definitely a more CREATIVE hobby. In reality, it's probably the bigger love of the two gaming hobbies to me, so I'm going to exclude it here and discuss it on its own merits at a later time.

#3 = Focus on games that you're still interested in playing, and not those that you're keeping around purely for nostalgic reasons.

#4 = Not all games serve the same purpose. Light strategy board games and card games often work well with family members and casual gamers. Adventure games are great for fantasy & sci-fi buffs. Co-operative games are perfect for less competitive folks. Wargames and head-to-head strategy games satisfy the tastes of many hardcore gamers. Party games and tongue-in-check "take that" games are crowd pleasers and laughter inducers. There are several niches that a game collection needs to fill, and your game collection should be diverse enough to cover them.

Trying to condense the wide variety of board games into a small number of categories is a highly tricky task at best. Here's a swipe at categorizing the types of games in my collection. I've lumped my games into 5 basic categories, and narrowed down each category into 2-6 subcategories. Agree or disagree all you want, but this is what I'm going with:

<> Adventure (Co-Op, Head-to-Head, Quest)

<> Strategy (Area Control, Abstract, Deduction, Economic, Negotiation, Set Collection)

<> Wargame (Abstract, Campaign, Tactical)

<> Sports (Simulation, Strategy)

<> Party (Dice, Negotiation, Trivia, Word)

With these key points in mind, let's brainstorm and eventually try to whittle my board games collection down to 50 games. By the way, for those of you who are interested, you can see what games I own by checking out user SultanSevy on BoardGameGeek.

The NO BRAINER LIST (Top 15 Games)

Everyone has their favorite games; their personal No Brainer List of games they love to play and wouldn't think of getting rid of (at least at the moment!). For me, those games are as follows (grouped by basic category):

Adventure games:

  1. Drakon = although not a true adventure game in the RPG sense, this Tom Jolly classic is perhaps my favorite 30-45 minute race-to-escape the dungeon game. The simple decision of whether to move your hero, or build a pathway to escape the dungeon, or screw your enemy is a truly delicious one. This has been a winner with my group of gaming buddies.
  2. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe) = think of a Lord of the Rings version of Stratego, but ten times better. A fast playing, thinky, and elegant head-to-head strategy adventure game from Reiner Knizia. Get Frodo safely to Mordor, or play Sauron's minions and try to eat him alive. LOVE IT!
  3. Dungeon Twister = this could also go in the Strategy games section, but I classify it as a head-to-head adventure game. It pits 2 players trying to get their team of fantasy adventurers to escape an ever-changing dungeon before getting killed by the other team. The rules are fairly simple, but the decisions on how best to plan your escape are numerous. Plenty of expansions make this an infinitely replayable game. Not everyone's cup of tea because it can lead some players into analysis-paralysis. My suggestion is to play with a sand-timer to limit that problem.
  4. Cutthroat Caverns = a much under-appreciated gem on BGG (at least from my perspective), this card-based adventure game is an interesting hybrid of co-op game and backstab-your-neighbor-to-win style of game. With a crowd of fun-loving gamers who don't take themselves too seriously, this game is a guaranteed blast. The back-&-forth TAKE THAT aspect of this game is second to none, and the creature card-art is gorgeous.
  5. Shadows Over Camelot = my favorite pure co-operative adventure game of the bunch. I love the King Arthur theme and it's wonderfully brought to life by Days of Wonder with top-notch game components. The game has the right level of challenge, the Traitor element keeps you guessing, and the Merlin expansion adds even more fun. Superb.

Sports games:

  1. Statis-Pro Baseball = this Avalon Hill classic is sadly out-of-print, but it was far and away my favorite baseball simulation game, and perhaps my most played game ever. Although I haven't played it for decades, I recently discovered an eBay store that sells new full-color player cards for the game. That really piques my interest!

Strategy games:

  1. Domaine = currently my favorite area-control strategy game, although I haven't gotten to play El Grande yet. This is one of those easy-to-learn strategy games that features tough decisions and excellent strategic depth, but doesn't lend itself to over-analysis. Klaus Teuber is to be lauded for a truly superb game design here.
  2. Ticket to Ride = collect sets of colored train-cards and place them on the board to build railway lines across America. The more railway connections and longer lines you build, the more points you score. This simple strategy set-collection game appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike, and should be in every true gamer's collection.
  3. Kingsburg = a euro-style economic strategy game of building up your kingdom with an innovative dice-placing mechanic and a slight dose of fantasy (defending against hordes of monsters). The board is really pretty, there's a neat "block your opponent" factor and plenty of decisions, but it's not an overwrought brain-burner. Highly recommended.
  4. Acquire = I have the classic 3M version from the late 1960's. This is probably my favorite pure economic strategy game. This Sid Sackson classic about hotel mergers and acquisitions sounds dry, but it's fun with competitive strategy gamers and still holds up really well today.


  1. HeroScape = easily the best light, tactical wargame in my collection. The pre-painted miniatures and hex terrain are terrific, making this game a beauty to behold. And despite very simple rules, there's surprising tactical depth here and enormous replayability when you factor in the wide variety of expansion sets. Great fun for all ages.
  2. Feudal = another classic from my youth, this abstract wargame from 3M is basically a medieval Chess-variant. It features beautiful medieval soldier pieces, which are still great by today's standards. Terrain plays a nice role in the game, as do archers, and you can vary the size of the armies and even play multi-player games. Elegant simplicity.
  3. Battlelore = Richard Borg's "Command & Colors" series of card-driven tactical wargames provide a very playable and interesting twist on land-based warfare across several different periods. Since fantasy is my favorite genre, this is the game in his series that I instantly gravitated towards. The minis are cool, the card-driven play is fun and introduces the chaos of battlefield command & control, battles play quickly, the war-council mechanic is neat, and the expansions are seemingly endless. What's not to love?
  4. Wizard Kings = the best fantasy campaign-style wargame I've played to date, although I'm hoping to be able to try out Runewars and Age of Conan sometime this year. I really love Columbia's block wargames. They provide a very cool fog-of-war element and an easy to understand attrition-based combat system. WK also leads the way here in a wide variety of terrain effects, a bevy of different armies and creatures, and a nice variety of campaign maps. It also lends itself nicely to creating custom game scenarios. This is probably CG's most replayable game and one I won't tire of anytime soon.
  5. Hammer of the Scots = Braveheart in a board game. Another Columbia block wargame (this one by Jerry Taylor), with easy to learn rules, nice chunky blocks, a fun card-driven events mechanic, and truly challenging game play (especially when playing the Scots).

You may have noticed that I didn't include any PARTY games here. Sorry, but none of them made my Top 15 Games list. That's not a genre that really captivates me as much as the others.

Fifteen down and 35 more games to go. Stay tuned for the next 20 games in my next blog installment. That list will include some games in my collection that I haven't even played yet.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts on Culling My Game Collection -- Part 1

There comes a point in every grown-up gamer's life when reality rears up and bites you squarely in the ass. With that chomp on your tush comes the sudden searing awareness: "holy crap, I own way too many games that I'm never going to get to play."

At first, you deny this painful and sad realization and think, "well I'll just make it a point to play my games more often." But life gets in the way, and your best intentions never really pan out. There's only so much time in the day. And if you're like me and have several hobbies, none of them really get lavished with as much attention as you might hope for. So while "regular gaming" is a noble pursuit, only the most single-minded stalwarts among the gamerati can really pull it off.

My reality is that while I love to play boardgames and card games, getting to play them once or twice a month is about the best I can hope for under current circumstances. And even that low frequency of play is a real stretch to achieve at times.

So with over 180+ games in my game collection (according to my BoardGameGeek stats, which includes expansions and many miniatures wargames that I own solely as reference/inspiration material), it's high time to admit that my collection is just TOO DAMN BIG. I need to start unloading some of those games which I'm no longer interested in, or don't forsee playing anytime soon (or perhaps ever).

So I'm thinking that I should reduce my collection of board games to around 50 games (just the base games -- excluding expansions, and ignoring miniatures games which are a special case for me). It might not sound so tough; after all, 50 games is still a lot of games to most folks. But I'll bet there will be 15 games sitting right on the CUSP of the cutoff-line pleading their little cardboard hearts out not to have the executioner's axe fall upon them.

I smell a Top-50 games list in Steve's collection coming soon.... Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I'll try my darndest to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A New Approach

Sheesh on a leash and a bag of hashish. This whole blogging thing is a real learning experience. It's not that I've struggled with the technological end of things. Blogger is certainly easy enough to use. If you can write an email, you can blog. The real trick is finding the TIME to post to your blog on a regular basis. And that's the part I'm really struggling with.

I've learned that my previous blogging approach, which was to write lengthier posts, often covering an assortment of related topics, just doesn't work all that well for me anymore. Sure, it's great fun to write and read the meatier stuff. But it's extremely hard to find the time and personal motivation to create those longer blog-posts.

Let's face it, people are butterflies when it comes to reading stuff on the web. They flit about, fluttering to one web-site and drinking a little online nectar, and then they fly to another site for another quick slurp of digital juice. From my perspective, blogs aren't really meant to contain exhaustive posts detailing everything you always wanted to know about X-Y-Z topic. They're meant to appeal to the butterfly in all of us; just give me that quick little drink of goodness and then I'm off to the next site to read something else.

So I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try to write SHORT blog-posts, and write them MORE FREQUENTLY. You know, small little doses of coolness. My plan is that these suckers won't take me too long to write, and nobody will get bored wading through a long post. Plus, I can keep the blog fresh, rather than posting once or twice a month (or even longer as has been the case of late!).

Let's see how it goes. It's a new year; time for something new right?