Sunday, October 14, 2012

On My Radar: Kickstarter, Descent 2, and Fall In 2012

You know what's hard? Working a full-time IT job, doing the various and sundry things related to owning a house and keeping sanity with a spouse, grabbing big chunks of your free-time (mostly on weekends) to design your complex wargame, and squeezing in reading time wherever you can. It leaves scant time for blogging. Such is life.  

The gaming world hasn't stopped spitting out chunks of news just because I've neglected to write about it. Nope, it just keeps expanding so fast, it's getting damn hard to keep up with it all. So what's cropped up on my gaming radar of late?


Kickstarter has become something of an addiction for me. I bought in to 3 different Kickstarter campaigns over the past few months: Mantic's Kings of War fantasy battle wargame and new miniatures, the Goal System: Delves dungeon skirmish role-playing game and some neat-looking pre-painted dungeon terrain, and the unbelievably successful Reaper Bones plastic miniatures campaign which raised close to 3.5 million dollars. I'm excited about all 3 of them, and I'm confident that they'll all turn out to be great.

Opinions vary on whether Kickstarter is a temporary fad or the wave of the future. I believe it's the future, and I think it's a fantastic way for the little-guy to gauge interest in a creative idea and fund it without going broke. It's also beneficial for the more established companies looking to expand their offerings, while limiting their initial financial risk.

Kickstarter has opened up the world to a flood of more good ideas, more innovative products, and simply more viewpoints. Just like the millions of writers and broadcasters that now have a voice thanks to the ease of blogging and podcasting, Kickstarter is making small business more accessible to the masses. I do not doubt that there will be some lame ideas and some failures along the way; that's the nature of business. But in the big scheme of things, more choices and more chances at success is a WIN for society.

My only problem with Kickstarter is that it's so darn addicting. I find myself wanting to fund lots of things, but my wallet usually grabs me by the collar and shouts into my ear "What the hell are you doing Steve, if you donate to that game we might be eating dirt all next week!" You need to be choosy. After shelling out $500 on the aforementioned games/minis, I had to cool my jets. I ended up passing on Dreadball (which looks superb by the way), new miniature ranges by Red Box Games and Center Stage Miniatures, the Gauntlet of Fools and DungeonCraft board games, and the Fantacide skirmish miniatures game. All looked great, and they were all funded, so at least there was a happy ending.

I haven't jumped in yet, but the miniatures for Dominion of the Gods (by Comfy Chair) look absolutely fantastic, so my non-spending resolve is teetering as we speak. The Storm the Castle board game also looks pretty cool. Ah Kickstarter, you sultry temptress!


Despite being a big fan of dungeon crawls and fantasy adventure games, I have never played the much-loved classic board game, Descent, by Fantasy Flight Games. Time has always been the deciding factor with that game. Most people claim that a typical game of Descent takes 3 or 4 hours to play to conclusion, and frankly when I have that much time to game I'll opt to fill it by playing a mass-battle miniatures wargame such as Sword of Severnia, or several skirmish battles using Song of Blades & Heroes, SAGA, Gnome Wars, or something along those lines.

So it is with much curiosity that I read about the new 2nd Edition of Descent. There's a really nice review of Descent 2nd Edition over at the Game Informer web-site, which I recommend checking out. The thing that most excites me about the new version is that it has been streamlined and plays much faster. Being able to finish an adventure in 90 minutes to 2 hours has greatly increased my enthusiasm for trying this game out.

I'm not buying Descent just yet. I have to see how Goal System: Delves works out for my group. I like playing with my own 28mm painted minis and dungeon terrain, and the role-playing feel of that game, at least from what I've previewed so far. And with my limited time for gaming, I cannot really justify owning BOTH games, since Descent isn't exactly a drop in the bucket price-wise. But still, the new version of Descent really intrigues me. If you've played the new version, I would love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment on this blog.

FALL IN 2012

I recently pre-registered for Fall In 2012, the autumn miniature wargames convention held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that's hosted by HMGS East. Of the 3 conventions that HMGS East runs, this one has the smallest crowds and is the most laid back, but I always enjoy it. For me, it's the last major game convention of the calendar year, and last chance to go buy some toys in person before the inevitable holiday crush.

At this point, I'm still not sure which of my buddies are officially going to attend, so I'm keeping my plans loose and flexible for now. The only thing I'm doing for sure is some shopping. But what should I buy? When you've been involved in the wargaming hobby for as long as I have, it's no longer a question of NEED, but rather a matter of WANT.

I'm swimming in unpainted figures, so that's never a big focus of mine at these shows, but dammit if there aren't some fantastic new ranges that have caught my eye. Those Fireforge plastic knights are stunning! And the goodies from Otherworld, Gripping Beast, Eureka, and Brigade (Gnome Wars) are always tempting. But what I really want is... hmmm... that's a darn, good question. What do I want?

Well, let's see... SAGA dice... Secrets of Wargame Design book (by Wally Simon)... Dux Bellorum (dark age rules) is a no-brainer must-buy.... and the Dux Brittaniarum rules by Too Fat Lardies are very tempting as well... I could really use a nice wide bridge and church, or maybe some dark age houses/huts, and will be checking out Miniature Building Authority and Architects of War for possible options... very tempted to take the plunge on some yetis (wendigo) from Crocodile Games, as my norse-style fantasy army could use them...

Though I probably won't find it at a wargames show, the King of Tokyo giant monster battle game is high on my list.

And last but not least, nicely painted fantasy or dark age / medieval minis are always #1 priority for me, since my painting time is very limited (gotta work on improving that in 2013).

Anyway, stay tuned for my FALL IN report in mid-November, and hopefully I'll take more pictures this time!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reaper Bones Kickstarter -- Wow!

The insanity that is the Reaper Bones Kickstarter campaign continues unabated.

They're now at a whopping $792,000 worth of funding. And the highly popular VAMPIRE level pledge currently nets you a massive 154 plastic Bones miniatures and 1 metal Sophie the Succubus. Unreal.

There are also oodles of spectacular looking Options you can add to your pledge, from Giants to Dragons to Demons and more.

This is the best deal I have ever seen in all my years of being a miniatures enthusiast. If you're a wargamer, role-player, skirmish gamer, or painter, this Kickstarter campaign is not to be missed. Check it out today!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Finding the Time to Play Games - Part 2

Back in January 2012, I wrote about my deep desire to play more tabletop games, even though the ever-present bugbear of limited free-time was keeping me from doing just that. I came to the conclusion that I needed to focus my attention on the 3 Fun Things that I enjoy doing more than anything else, and spend my time on those things. I even went as far as suggesting the scheduling of regular fun-time events on my social calendar. So how did I do? Read on dear blog-readers...  

It's now late-summer and I'm a bit better off than I was in January 2012. But truth be told, I still have a long way to go until I reach a satisfactory level of gaming nirvana. The 3 things I chose were:
  1. Designing and playtesting my miniatures wargame rules (Sword of Severnia) and its associated campaign system (Crown of Severnia).   
  2. Participating in the Wars of the Third Age wargame campaign with my friends Wally, Kevin, and Geoff (which use the Crown of Severnia rules, and Sword of Severnia for tactical battles). 
  3. Painting Miniatures.
So why did I choose those 3 things?

Number 1 was a no-brainer. I've been seriously developing my miniatures wargame rules since 2006. Progress has been somewhat spotty the last 3 years, due in large part to the demands of my job. I simply have a lot less time to work on the game than I did in previous years.

That said, I've made damn good progress on the rules (both tactical and campaign sets) in 2012. I'm starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel and hope springs eternal that I will (God willing) eventually get these wargame rules published within the next 1 or 2 years. I admit to being a bit of a design perfectionist at times, and continue to hone these game rules into something that I can be proud of, and which don't feel like every other set of fantasy mass-battle rules currently on the market. But bottom-line, I enjoy the creative process of designing these games immensely, so it's something that I desperately WANT to spend my time on.

Number 2 was also a shoe-in for my top-3 list. I had a goal of getting this grand fantasy war campaign going in 2012, and by God, we did it! The Crown of Severnia campaign kicked off in May 2012, and it's going strong as we speak. We're still in early stages of the campaign (middle of Season 2 out of 8 total seasons) and not only are the four of us enjoying the hell out of our roles as Warlords of Severnia, but it's proving to be a great way to fully test out my campaign and tactical battle rules. Truth be told, it's the ONLY game that I'm currently playing right now.

Number 3 ties into the first two things on my list, but it stands on its own merits as something unique. I've always enjoyed doing hands-on art projects. In fact, I was very close to entering college as an art major. Ultimately, I fell in love with computers in 1981, majored in Computer Science, and the rest is history.

But art is still dear to my heart. Painting miniatures serves as my "art release" and fills a definite happiness niche for me. I don't do it nearly enough. And I will NEVER paint all the unpainted tiny tin-men and plastic soldiers that I own! But by putting this as Number 3 on my list, I'm going to MAKE THE TIME for it now. Eight months into 2012, I have failed on this goal, but I fully intend to get back into it as soon as I complete some pending work on my wargame rules and things calm down a bit there.      

Picking ONLY 3 fun things was truly excruciating. So settling on Number 3 was a gut-wrenching decision for me; as much as choosing to do something FUN can actually be considered gut-wrenching!
I love playing strategy board games, and I've got a pile of new games sitting on the shelves of my bedroom closet just begging to be played. But the truth is, despite repeated attempts, it has been extremely difficult finding a group of committed players who want to play board games on a regular basis. And with the time that I'm spending on miniatures gaming & designing, I simply don't have the time to organize a board-game club or host games at my house on a weekly/bi-weekly basis.

While I haven't given up on the board gaming hobby, it has become painfully obvious that I only have so much free-time to spend on gaming. So board games have taken a back-seat to minis gaming. I'm even planning to start selling off part of my board games collection, with the sad realization that I have more games than I'll ever have time to learn and play in my life-time. Such is life.

In the end, I've come to understand that TIME IS IN SHORT SUPPLY once you're a middle aged man. You'll never be able to do all the things you wish you could do. So the key to finding happiness, and not being overwhelmed by it all, is to FOCUS. Find your favorites and throw all your energy into those things.

You may not be able to do everything you want, but at least you'll have a blast doing a few things that you truly love.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Great News from Wargames Foundry

I've always been a massive fan of the wonderfully characterful fantasy figures that Foundry produces. They also make some damn fine historical minis as well, across a variety of periods.

But the biggest problem with UK-based Foundry has always been their ridiculously high prices and scarce availability in the United States.

Not being able to find what I really want at US shows, I've visited their website to peruse their collections. But buying these figures directly from their website has stopped me dead in my tracks. The prices were just too steep for my pockets.

But not anymore.

Foundry has made, at least in my humble opinion, a brilliant move of late. They've reduced the prices on their miniatures to much more affordable levels and have completely eliminated the enormous expense of shipping models overseas to the USA. Shipping is now really affordable. Hooray!

Yes, there are still some pricey figures to be sure, but there are also some excellent deals as well. The 16 figure War Orc regiment pictured above is now only $42.57. These are gorgeous, chunky, metal models. At less than $3 per figure, I think they're a terrific buy. 

So do yourself a favor and check out the NEW Foundry. They're trying hard to get back in the game by adjusting their prices, bringing back old popular ranges, and offering more options for buying their minis (more single packs, regiments, big collections). Massive kudos to them.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

An Explosion of Fantasy Battle Games

Some interesting news from the world of minis recently caught my attention. I'm a huge fan of fantasy miniature gaming. In fact, I've been developing my own set of card/chip driven fantasy battle and campaign rules for a few years now, which I'm continuing to play-test as we speak. Recently, 3 different sets of fantasy mass-battle rules have been announced, each of which looks pretty cool.

The first game, and the one that has me the most excited, is the new Kings of War fantasy battle game by Mantic and designed by Alessio Cavatore. Longtime miniatures gamers will know Alessio from his involvement in the development of GW's Warhammer Fantasy Battle rules.

For those who haven't heard of Mantic, they produce some truly excellent plastic miniatures sets at affordable prices. And their work is improving with each release. I bought a set of fantastic looking Orc axe-men a few months back (have yet to put them together) and really like the unique, characterful look of their Dwarves. Some of the upcoming figures look utterly irresistable (the Goblins are awesome!).

Fresh off their enormously successful Kickstarter campaign, in which they raised an astounding $354, 997, Mantic is set to release their new game in July 2012. It's supposedly chock full of gorgeous  eye candy and I'm curious in seeing the rules Alessio created.

I contributed $100 to their Kickstarter campaign, and I'm simply amazed at the quality of the rewards they offered contributors. Hats off to Ronnie Renton and company for supercharging their business! Ronnie seems like a genuinely nice chap and true gamer. You want to see people like that succeed, and it's good for the rest of our beloved hobby. Mantic is starting to become a real competitor to GW in the marketplace, thanks to their combination of high-quality, affordable miniatures and a much friendlier customer-centric approach to business. Much success guys!

In other news, the second edition of Pride of Lions has been published. These fantasy mass-battle rules were written by John "Doc" McBride and are produced by Splintered Light Miniatures, makers of the best 15mm fantasy minis on the market today (in my humble opinion).

I never played the 1st edition of the game, so I cannot speak knowledgeably about the game mechanics. But I have seen the game played at HMGS East conventions. It struck me as a bit of a cross between 15mm Hordes of the Things and Mighty Armies, but not having actually played this game, I cannot say if that's truly a fair comparison.

The 2nd edition weighs in at a whopping 122 pages, and I think the cover artwork on this is terrific. Well done guys!

The guys at Splintered Light are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet in the hobby, so I wish them all the best with their new game. Although 15mm is not my scale of choice (I'm a 28mm minis devotee), I'm very tempted to buy a copy of these rules to support David and Doc and see what good ideas they contain.

You can buy Pride of Lions from Splintered Light or get a PDF from their publishing partner Ganesha Games.

Lastly, we come to the announcement of an upcoming fantasy battle game from Foundry entitled God of Battles.

This is another mass-battle game which promises to be easy to learn and quick to play. According to the marketing blurb, "If you have played tabletop battle games before, you will find some new ideas and a few unusual concepts in this one." Let's see if Foundry puts their money where their mouth is.

Foundry makes some really great metal minis (their War Orcs and Renaissance Ogres are brilliant), but their prices are quite steep; almost prohibitively so for USA gamers. Plus, the availability of their non-historical ranges is virtually non-existent here in the States. I've purchased packs of Foundry minis (dark-age vikings, hoplites, and medieval knights) from Age of Glory at HMGS East shows, and they're great minis. But I can never find any fantasy figures at the shows which is extremely disappointing, and I haven't found a US stockist of those ranges.

Recently, there's been word that Foundry is going to undergo some business changes, with an eye on making their figures more affordable to overseas (non-UK) customers. I hope this proves true. I also hope they find a USA stockist of their fantasy stuff. In this current world of miniatures gaming, where there is a such a wealth of excellent choices (from metals to plastics), Foundry needs to give me a compelling reason to buy their stuff.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Medieval Wargaming Inspiration

Found some very cool pictures of a medieval skirmish battle from issue number 104 of Vae Victis, the french wargames magazine.

Check these pictures out, they're very inspirational.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

6 Board Games Worth Your Time

Are you a video gamer, card player, or casual family gamer who has never really delved all that deeply into the realm of board games? If so, this blog post is for you.

Last week, I found a very interesting and informative article on KOTAKU by Quintin Smith, one of the guys who talks about board games for the Shut Up & Sit Down show.

In the article, Quintin discusses 6 Board Games that Video Gamers Should Play. He makes some excellent points and I must say that he made me very eager to try out the games he mentioned. I only own one of them (Cyclades, which I haven't played yet); and that's amazing coming from someone who owns in excess of 200 games.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Convention Season is upon us

Summer is right around the corner, and that means game convention season is almost here in all it's geeky glory.

As a central Pennsylvania gamer, here are a few conventions that are on my radar:

ORIGINS = May 30 - June 3 at Greater Columbus Convention Center (Columbus, Ohio).
One of the largest tabletop gaming conventions in the USA. A heavy emphasis on board games and card games (with an absolutely superb Board Game Room), but with a solid dose of miniatures as well. Definitely worth a visit if you've never had the "big con" experience. Over 300 exhibitor booths makes this a shopping mecca for gamers.

NJ Con = June 8 - June 9 at New Jersey Convention & Expo Center (Edison, New Jersey).
With Historicon moving outside of relatively close driving range for me (45-90 mins), this small miniatures convention has caught my attention and might be worth a visit this summer. I love the fact that it includes both historical and fantasy/sci-fi gaming, and has a handful of terrific vendors slated to attend (including The Warstore, Eureka Miniatures, Miniature Building Authority, On Military Matters, and Age of Glory).

Historicon = July 19 - July 22 at Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center (Fredericksburg, Virginia).
I'm really bummed that summer's biggest miniature wargaming convention has moved away from the Lancaster/Philly area down south to Virginia. Instead of day-tripping to the con, now I must decide if I want to make a weekend vacation of it, with associated hotel costs for me and my buddies. This is definitely a great con, with the best Vendor Hall and Flea Market for miniatures gaming enthusiasts anywhere. And Fredericksburg is a great little town to visit, especially if you're a Civil War buff (very nice battlefield to visit, fun Ghost Tours, quaint little town to explore on foot or by taking the trolley). So I'm still debating this one!      

Sunday, April 29, 2012

It's Stanley Cup Time -- time to play Slapshot

Ah yes, fond childhood memories come creeping back with this one. Of what am I speaking you ask? Slapshot, that simple yet surprisingly addictive hockey-themed card game.

Originally an Avalon Hill title from the early 1980's, this Tom Dalgliesh designed card game was recently re-published in an updated edition by Columbia Games.

If you're looking for a brain-burning strategy game, Slapshot definitely isn't it. But if you enjoy a fast, light-hearted beer & pretzels game with similarities to "War" and cartoon artwork of players with tongue-in-cheek names like Puck Rogers, Antoni Zamboni, Ice Capone, and Slash Gordon, then Slapshot will light your red lamp.  

With the Stanley Cup playoffs in full-tilt mode, why not break out the Molson or Labbatt's, talk a little smack, and try out this great little game. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ravage - French Wargame Magazine now available in USA

Some exciting news to share...

Previously only available to French speaking wargamers, the colorful tabletop gaming magazine RAVAGE is now available in the USA in a new English language edition. Ooh la la!

Ravage is an independent wargaming and table top games magazine that covers fantasy and science fiction games. It's available from CoolMiniOrNot for $6.99 per issue.

The contents of each issue focuses on game previews & reviews, convention coverage, and painting how-to tips.

Being a fantasy gamer and fan of dead-tree reading materials that I can absorb while sitting comfortably on my couch, this is definitely something I want to check out.