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!