Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Chasing Cards

Head off to Worcester on evening train.

Discover, happily just before I set out, that the return fare is £6.60 from my local station but only £3.50 from the next station along, a mere five minutes down the railway line. Head off in open-topped car it being height of English summer, get mile down the road before some unfamiliar sort of water droplets start tumbling from the sky. Find pub car park to pull up in and erect lid.

Get to Stourbridge.

Discover that road to station is closed for roadworks, blatantly disregard road cones and "NO ENTRY" signs to get to station carpark.

Wait for train. Train appears.

Train goes through Kidderminster, reminisce about the longhaired sixth form days when I had a near-100% pull ratio in this town and seriously wondered what was going into the local water supply to cause this curious female anomaly. Then wonder why I never considering buying here when I left home.

Get to Worcester. Remember that I've forgotten what a dump the city centre is on an evening. Litter and tramp city.

Go to Manaleak, the CCG specialist shop that is open from 8-11 seven days a week by virtue of being a back room in a convenience store, buy a load of MTG boosters, some sleeves and a funky tin deck box. Get stared at by regulars for being an unfamiliar face.

Longish wait for train back so go to Weatherspoons pub, spend £9-odd on steak, chips and pint of Abbot Ale. Worry that steak is taking so long to arrive that next train will go and have to wait another thirty-odd minutes for next one.

Back to train, no direct train at this time of night so change at Droitwich Spa, wait ten minutes on platform in town, precise geographic position of which I have no knowledge, for next train to come along.

Get to Stourbridge.

Head home. Get there for gone ten.

Feet up on settee, kettle on for big, big mug of Hot Chocolate, open boosters.

Discover that epic evening train trip has yielded precisely two cards that appear to be immediately useful.

What finer way is there to spend a summer evening? :)

Excellent rpg.net thread

This is a great thread started by a novice to AD&D slightly bemused by it all. Some excellent posts about the style of Old School play and how it differs from more modern expectations. A good read if you like this sort of thing.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Bridge Too Far

"Wasn't Fluffy Positivity a Bond Girl?" - Scott, yesterday.

Fluffy Positivity post mentioned the new Flames of War boardgame "A Bridge Too Far", the stand alone boardgame version of their Market Garden campaign set. I have some moral qualms about FoW, mainly because the game and it's creators seem to have a puerile, morally dubious and outright embarassing mancrush on the Late War Germans and SS in particular which reached, for me at least, a nadir with their releases of SS themed d6 - complete with your choice of favourite SS Division insignia on the six face. Classy. Why don't you show the courage of your convictions and release proper swastika dice instead of wimping out with the Luftwaffe balkenkreuz?

(Oops, Fluffy Positivity's twin sister Spiky Negativity - the mardypants one who wears too much mascara - has crept in. Back to normal service right about now....)

Which makes it amusing that in both games of this last night, the SS infantry troops were complete rubbish.

ABTF is a traditional board wargame albeit with nice plastic meeples and a modern standard of presentation. The long board forces the allies to fight two seperate battles - undersupplied paras in the north and strong armoured columns entering from the south which suffer badly from easily cut lines of supply. Bridges and towns are all rated with victory points and victory is determined by totting these up at the end of the 5th and final turn.

There are a couple of neat mechanisms which impressed both Scott and myself.

The number of battles per turn is capped at a random number. The two sides dice off for initiative and the winner picks where the next battle will be - battles being zone to zone. This means that not all potential battles fire up in a turn and the initiative winner will fight where he wants, not where the enemy wants. I got stuffed badly here as the Allies on Turn 5, wanting to do nothing more than hold Arnhem and Nijmegen and pick up a few empty bridges but Scott kept winning the initiative and using the limited number of battles to both force me out of both my key objectives and prevent me from attacking the other bridges that I wanted.

Also you can attack from empty zones. It is assumed that all zones contain troops of one side or another, the little meeples only represent large or crack formations. Empty zones get no bonus on a 2d6 roll for combat, meeples do depending upon terrain being attacked into - for example Brit/American/Polish paratroops get +2 in Open terrain, Shermans +3 in Open but +1 in Town etc. This means that no zone adjacent to an enemy zone is ever really safe and the Allied supply lines are very vulnerable.

We got two games in, swopping sides and Scott won both times even if pushing me out of Arnhem and Nijmegen "at the death" was a bit fluky. Very good game, look forwards to introducing it to the rest of the Stourbridge lot and getting more play in.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Questing Knight Games

I got on the train on Saturday and went over to Questing Knight Games in Wellington, Shropshire. This isn't a new store, but is new to me since I don't know this part of the World at all well and I only recently discovered that it's virtually opposite the platform at a train station that is on the same line as Wolverhampton, so is actually quite accessible from Coop Towers.

Half an hour on a very crowded train to Shrewsbury later and I alighted in a fairly typical Salopian market town.

Questing Knight Games is a small unit with a small gaming table and two-and-a-half walls of stock. The owner was very friendly, I had a nice chat about gaming and how these independent GW stockists nearly always have better stock levels than the actual GW stores do. There was a small game of War of the Ring going on, I picked up a box of 20mm Valiant WW2 American Infantry (nice models) and some MTG cards in order to make the trip worthwhile.

Not sure I'll be back that often, it cost £6.60 on the train but with good GW stock, I may well decide to patronise that shop on weekends for future GW stuff rather than suffer the usual mix of redshirt hassle and poor stock at the local Workshops.

Recommended for a visit if you are in the Telford area.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Fluffy Positivity

I'm sitting on a large number of abandoned blog posts, all of which are bloody negative and grumbling about something. None of this is why we love gaming so let's be positive and rave about great things.


40K Kill Team (the new version in Battle Missions which is completely unrelated to the old complicated setup in 4th edition) is seriously flawed, doesn't quite work properly but is a lovely format and is getting me loads of little games in and I keep planning teeny tiny armies of only 200 points from figure range I wouldn't normally consider (such as Spacewolves and Tyranids). It's also encouraging me to think about themed terrain sets for the little 3' x 4' tabletops we play on and look for interesting plastic aquarium plants for alien jungle planets. Enthusiasm!


A friend has, for many years and certainly as long as I have known him, worked opposite Questing Knight games in Wellington, Shropshire and never thought to mention this fact to me until recently. It's sited about a minute's walk from a railway station that is on the same line as a station local to me so hopefully shortly I will make a trip up on the train and then there's the whole new world of a new gaming shop to explore and visit! Maybe even this weekend! Enthusiasm!


I don't know if I will ever play Rogue Trader the RPG (careful Coop - negativity starting to creep in) but reading the "world" background is great, takes me back to the days of hushed awe at the bloody magnificence of the WFRP world. Enthusiasm!


It's looking increasingly likely that my corrective laser eye surgery will need a second dose to "polish" the results (not literally polish since it's more a matter of intelligent lasgun application... the eyes are now 90% of good but don't seem to want to add that missing 10% of their own accord). That could be negative but will give me another excuse to catch up upon my reading, such as the two and a half Fighting Fantasy books I've got on the stack, tempting me with their promise of nostalgic 2d6 throwing, monster names IN UPPER CASE and my anal retentive love of mapping the books out looking for the perfect, "speedrun" path. Enthusiasm!


New MTG is coming out next month. I never got around to doing much with MTG2010 (has it really been eleven months?) but now that I attend the other local club where there is something of a collectible card scene so I might be able to get involved with this and enjoy the simple pleasures of periodically spending pocket money prices on little packets of hidden goodness. Enthusiasm!


I now have A Bridge Too Far, the Flames of War boardgame for Operation Market Garden. It seems a nice mix of old school "consim" rules and new school lovely artwork on the board and funky plastic figures, thus marrying the solidity of the old Avalon Hill games to modern German-style graphic design, artwork and bits quality. Looking forwards to playing this next Tuesday. The board is very glossy. Coop likes glossy. Enthusiasm!


Not-Really-A-Nephew has started collecting World Cup 2010 Match Attax cards. These actually have the World's flimsiest game attached to them but it gives me the opportunity to play something on his level and show him how to go about collecting and organising his cards. Enthusiasm!


Black Powder is a beautiful book and makes me want a drawing room and some brandy so Gentlemen friends and I can indulge in long, sunny days of pushing toy soldiers around, writing up grossly exaggerated accounts of miniature battle for our memoirs. I won't actually do any of this, but that doesn't matter. Is pleasant enough to know that, amidst all the competition wargames, malodorous individuals and social outcasts, kindred spirits exist somewhere. Enthusiasm!


I have new dice, lots of new dice, and having new dice means that I always look forwards to opportunities to use them - or games as they are more commonly known. New dice (disgusting florescent green and yellow 12mm D6s from Chessex) were thrown during Kill Team on Tuesday. Felt good. There are still more virgin dice in the tackle box demanding games in which they can be deflowered. Enthusiasm!

Right then, that's better. I feel in love in geekery again.

(This post is brought to you in association with the Brilliant kid from The Fast Show. Because everything is brilliant.)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

UK Games Expo 2010

I made a bit of a balls-up with UK Games Expo, misreading the prices of tickets such that I assumed that a two-day pass was £16 rather than £13. Single day passes were £8. (Confusion reigns in that the weekend pass lets you into a free gaming session on Friday, muggins here not realising that two-day passes and weekend passes were not the same thing). This essentially put me off a weekend-long attendance so I only went on Saturday. Still, it was a nice picnic I had at the motorsport in Worcestershire on Sunday until the rain came.

After a couple of years of enthusiasm, I'm starting to feel jaded with Expo in that I'm not sure what it stands for nor what I get from it. It's very broad church but is therefore perhaps suffering from being "jack of all trades/master of none" in that I don't find anything is done as well as it could be. A little bit of wargames, a little bit of RPG traders - unless your tastes are as catholic as the show intends to be then everything will be done well OK, but perhaps not as exhaustive as you might like. Obviously there's a trade off here against what you paid to get in, but when the price has doubled for admission pass since only 2007... it starts to become less "unmissable" and more "meh..."

There's a lot of stuff going on that doesn't seem to add to the show - Doctor Who cosplayers are there every year but their placing within the halls seem to suggest that they are a central attraction when in reality this sort of thing is highly peripheral to the show. Then there's a load of pre-booked RPG sessions going on somewhere, but of sight and therefore out of mind so you have to question what this adds to the show as a whole. It probably creates a false impression that both the show floor space and footfall is smaller than it really is, as they are all tucked away in purdah. I know it gives RPGers something to do but their lack of any visibilty suggest that they could all be playing games at home somewhere.

Having Q-Workshop, Chessex and then a stall selling Q-Workshop and Chessex (sited poorly next to Chessex pukka as well) seems to be a case of accepting any trader who puts the money up rather than thinking about a good blend of trade stands to benefit the show. (In fairness this is a very tricky thing to do. One year at the Stourbridge clubs show a trader brought along hundreds of single Heroclix figures only to discover that somebody had dumped a whole load of cheaper, single Heroclix on the Bring-And-Buy sited opposite his pitch and then he had a wasted day).

The bring-and-buy could be a huge attraction to the show but it's poorly laid out around a tiny "club" bar where you can't see anything and everything is stacked up risking imminent collapse and damage and therefore you can't find out the price of anything with gingerly dismantling a stack of half a dozen games. Change this to be a long layout along a wall so that games don't have to be piled up like the gamers closet from hell and add a "cloakroom" system so that bulky games can be left somewhere safe for collection before leaving and this could become the single best reason to go to Expo - at the moment it's something of a messy afterthought. A good bring-and-buy would grow, at present I wouldn't bother to put anything on it because I wouldn't be certain it would be seen, wouldn't be crushed and suspect people would be put off buying if they were faced with lugging a big box around all day. And then if people realised they are fully laden up at 11 o clock then they go home.

Perhaps the future for Expo is to either expand dramatically in size to allow each facet of the hobby to be large enough to have justice done to it or go more down the line of non-shopping/non-demo game events such as the Jackson/Livingstone seminar and book signing I went to. That was a good hour in the company of Giants and quite humble ones at that.

It's worth asking myself the question "were this not in Brum would I go?". And to be honest if it were outside the West Midlands conurbation I would have gone once but probably not again. I go because it's local. If it were in say, the East Midlands, Cardiff or North Staffs, places not a million miles from home I wouldn't be fussed. If a lot of attendees are basically "captive audience" then that's not a promising sign.

Anyway grumbles aside, what did I do?

I picked up a couple of big hardbacks. Black Powder was a cheap impulse purchase (it's a nice book but realistically I am never going to collect and paint large horse-and-musket era armies) and Rogue Trader (FFG RPG) was a good bargain as a trader was selling off dinged and dog-eared copies for £20. I'll happily put up with a creased cover if it saves me £25 off RRP. A Pound-O-Dice from Chessex and some Steampunk-themed dice from Q-Workshop scratched the "I Am At Show Must Buy Dice As Souvenir" itch that I suffer from. The Steampunk dice are the first ones I've ever seen Q-Workshop produce that are actually legible when rolled on the table.

I went to the seminar with Jackson/Livingstone where they gave a talk and Q&A session on the history of GW. Nothing I didn't know already but both signed my copy of Fighting Fantasy, blogged about here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Thanks Guys...

I know I said I wasn't going and I said I didn't want to sod about getting autographs but...

I've been suffering from post-LASIK (laser eye surgery) complications which had left me in a state of serious fucked-offness. This morning at 0920 hours I got taken off the hourly steroid eyedrop regime I had been put on as an emergency measure - this meant that I could now actually go places without spending ten minutes in every hour with milky eyedrops seeping from my eyelids and leaving encrusted smeg all around my eyes (which you can't rub off - since that risks agitating a surgical incision). Couple this with being told it was now OK to expose the eye to any dust meaning that I can drop the roof on Frog Jr. again and I thought "bollocks to it! I'm going to Expo!".

I went to Steve and Ian's seminar on the history of GW. There was little I didn't already know from reading the potted history in WD90 but it was a nice way to pass an hour listening to the guys themselves. Deserves a podcast if anybody recorded it.

I took the sentimental value Orange Book Fighting Fantasy. It was a toss-up between that and Citadel of Chaos in the original Emmanuel cover (the first one I owned - I had Warlock quite a bit later) and decided it was unfair on them to sign multiple books. I only really joined the queue to just say a thank you to J&L for the fun hobby, friendships and times but what was cool was their reaction to everybody who spoke to them.

They'd admitted that the necessities of running the business meant that they'd binned loads of stuff so when a host of 30-somethings turned up with battered and treasured books from their childhood, the pair looked genuinely touched that we'd all kept these books.

I guess they'd assumed that we wouldn't have kept them and that they'd be signing the new Wizard releases (I bought Eye of the Dragon from the FF stall alongside the signings as it seemed the polite thing to do) so it was a nice moment. Steve looked chuffed when I handed him my orange book. Shows the sentimental power of books and knowing you've been a part of somebody's childhood.

Glad I went, glad I got it signed.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Underwater Ice Caves

Ice caves underneath Lake Sassolo in Switzerland. More at The Daily Telegraph here. Awesome dungeon inspiration-type stuff.