Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Time is but an illusion

I found out an interesting tidbit of information the other day.  Apparently I seem to be a source of information on Mantic games and products.  I'm not quite sure how I became the expert, or if it is just because I'm nosy and have a big mouth, but it seems a lot of people find out about upcoming releases, events and other stuff from me.  I put out a monthly newsletter talking about what I know and can reveal (I don't always say everything I know).

Anyway, email isn't always permanent (just look at Hillary Clinton's servers (too soon? too political?  hey, if we can't laugh at our politicians then all we have left to do is cry)).  So since they are gaming related, I figure this is a good place to echo them as well.

One fun feature of blogger is the ability to change the date of posts - so don't be surprised to see posts show up going back a year or so as I load those up.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

But I forgot to study!

One thing that I like about several modern game companies is they have realized that the fans can do more play testing of the new stuff than any in house staff, or even small set of people.  A public playtest can generate a lot of good feedback from the actual players, as well as to help reveal anything that might be abused.

Paizo did this initially with their Pathfinder RPG, which went on to eclipse Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition in sales.  (as an aside, when Mantic decided to name their volunteers who do demos and events for them Pathfinders, it was no big deal in the UK, but keeps causing confusion for me when I go to Origins and Gencon.  When I wear my shirt (because I'm running events) I invariably get asked questions about the RPG (which isn't big in the UK, but is here)).

Mantic recently did a kickstarter for Kings of War 2nd Edition.  In preparation for this new version, they put together a committee of fans to help with it, and then put up a public beta test version for everyone to play and give feedback on.

We did some playtest games yesterday, and the new rules seem to work very well.  They are generally minor changes, so switching will not be a big deal (well, all the armies have been repointed and some stats changed, so you will have to redo your lists).  The games actually went pretty smoothly, and we were able to generate some feedback that I believe they will actually listen to.

The release timing isn't what I'd like personally.  I'll be teaching the game again at Origins, which is before the scheduled release date.  However it doesn't make any sense to teach a version of the game that will soon be gone, so even if it is just a beta version, I will be teaching it.  They do want the new book released before Gencon, so of course it makes sense to teach it there.

What will be a little awkward is that the big battle and tournaments I'm running through Gencon will be using the old rules.  So I have to be careful as I'll be keeping two sets in my head.  Also the great tools I use (Easyarmy online list builder kow.easyarmy.com, and the great free unit cards Unit cards on Matic forums)won't be available yet.  I have redone my own single page reference sheet, so that is good.

One of the other things that Mantic is doing, that I do not believe there is ANY other game company that does this, is to allow other manufacturers miniatures to be used in their official events.  Not only that, they are actually going to make a book of proxy lists that will be balanced and tested for armies they don't even make, thus allowing people that play Warhammer Fantasy Battles to easily pick up Kings of War using their existing miniatures (and hopefully like it so much they will start to buy Mantic's miniatures).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Adepticon 2015

So Adepticon is over for another year.  I've been wanting to write up something, but just don't know where to start.  Maybe just the beginning and go sequentially.

Wednesday was a good drive up with Kara and my son Jon.  Very geeky in the car the whole way up talking games and movies.  We were were worried when we saw a traffic sign saying I-65 northbound would be closed for two hours, but managed to slip by before that took affect.  That evening was pizza with the Mantic folks - all the pathfinders, Joe, Pat and the man, Ronnie himself.   Had some very good conversation about the market place and what was going on, and even saw some super secret stuff that is really pretty cool.

Thursday morning I set up my gaming area for the tournament that afternoon.  One issue was obvious, and unfortunately seemed to remain an issue throughout the show - was chairs.  My area had none.  We finally got some (I had to help haul them over), but during the show they kept disappearing.  Now why they facilities management could just bring a LOT more out (there were at least a couple hundred chairs in stacks in storage) I don't know, but it was very frustrating.

The tournament went very well that afternoon.  We had 18 players, and it looks like everyone had fun.  I used the campfire tokens as objective markers for the first two scenarios, and the elfs I had made as messengers for the last one.  I'm a bit tapped out as to being able to add more than the setups for 24 that I have - so we'll see how Mantic wants to grow it next year.  Congratulations to one of my own players - Kara Brown, for winning the championship!

I took a lot of pictures, and this morning my phone suggested a video of them, so everyone can enjoy a bit of the tournament.  Clash of Kings @ Adepticon

Friday started off with a big announcement - the Kings of War 2.0 Beta rules were finally released.  So in between doing demos I was trying to read them,  That evening was the campaign I had designed.  Unfortunately I only had four players - but they all had fun.  It conflicted with the end of the Dreadball tournament - and I'm hoping that was one reason for the low turnout.  I actually had to leave the players to finish the last round on their own as I had to go up to set up a table and run another demo with the Geek Nation Tours Mantic night.  So a lot of running back and forth, but in the end everyone had fun and enjoyed it.

Saturday was more demos, then set up for the Mega Battle as part of the first ever Mantic Open Night.  We actually moved my event into the Open Night, so my five of my players kind of got in that for cheap.  There was some good Q/A going on before Ronnie had to head home.  While it was the smallest Mega-Battle, it was still fun.  This has been a very well attended event at Origins and Gencon, so maybe it is just that Adepticon is not the proper venue.  Once again the forces of Good defeated the forces of Evil however, so that now makes it 3 - 0 for good.

Sunday was the last day.  It was several more demos, though I had reduced my area down to two tables as I never had more than four people at any one time.  The open format was not as much to my liking, but it still went well.  Lots of discussions going on about the new beta rules as well.

Bill Foreman, the Terrainaholic, did YouTube interviews with both Kara for her win, and Andrew Sherman and I about Kings of War.

The weather was threatening a bit of snow, so we packed up and headed home a little early.

Overall it was a good show.   There were issues with management - they did not provide the tournament packs for my tournament as they said they would (and had I known they would not be there I would have printed copies).  Also the awards Adepticon provides did not show up until Friday afternoon - only an entire day after the tournament was over.  Then Kara's bigger plaque didn't show up until after she had already left on Saturday - but since we play Dreadball on Monday nights I was able to get it to her.  And chairs.  Also trying to do demos with all the noise and the constant loudspeaker announcements from the 40K tournament going on in the hall (opened up to one big one) next to us was a little frustrating.

The facilities were nice, and because they were so much bigger the show felt smaller, though I saw today that they had over 2500 people there!  The food was typical convention food - over priced drinks and hot dogs, but we all survived it.

I'm looking forward to a bigger tournament next year (maybe do 4 rounds) and the new rules.  I need to re-think what I want to do for demos and other events.  I find it interesting that people last year asked me for more Kings of War events, but then didn't come to the ones I added.  We'll have to see.  A good time, and now to continue to absorb the beta rules (but that is another post).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

From the other side pt 2

(In which our intrepid blogger continues his ramblings, despite the size limits imposed upon him by THE MAN!)

Now one of the problems you encounter running events at conventions is space.  While they are good about table space for games - no so much for things like your laptop, paperwork, etc.  Plus it is a bit of a challenge carting everything around when needed.

A couple of years ago, I decided to play WFB army themed around Drunk Dwarfs, and figured I'd put in a tap to a home brewed keg of beer into the display - all on a cart.  The idea came from seeing the fantastic displays created by Brandon Palmer (@GMMStudios on twitter) GMMStudios (Seriously, check out his stuff.  It is just amazing.  Ok, I did try to compete with him, but I was just kidding myself.  Even with fresh beer on tap as a gimmick I really never stood a chance), specifically his cart that he used for his Monty Python Ogres.  Go check his stuff out, I'll wait here.

hum dee dum dum.  la la la.  *scratch scratch*

oh, you'r back?  Good!  Back to my meager ramblings.

So I put together a cart out of PVC pipes, plywood, and the cool fittings from FORMUFIT to connect everything together.  After it debuted at Adepticon, I realized that just by replacing the top (the dwarven brewery with the beer tap on back) I could make a cart usable at Origins and Gencon (where I couldn't bring beer anyway).

Last year I made a frame for a Kings of War poster, and also picked up a big Post-It board / dry erase board - which is very nice to track event information during a convention / demos / tournament.
The nice thing is since the cart is made of PVC, it comes completely apart for easy transportation.
And then when I put it together, I can both transport some of my stuff, as well as have a place to set up my laptop during tournaments. (All twelve of my army boxes are in the bottom)
With the addition of a few bungie cords, I can have everything on two wheeled 'carts' so to speak.

Now the challenge comes tomorrow morning when I get to play a 'fun' game of adult tetris trying to fit all of this stuff, plus armies for two people and suitcases for all three of us, plus the three of us that are riding up in my Mercury Mariner.  When it was going to be four people I had planned on renting a van, but I'm hoping I can fit it all. (without making my son hold a crate on his lap the entire way :-) ).

From the other side

So this afternoon several people have been posting their armies they have built for Adepticon (along with some good natured smack talk).  A lot of bloggers and podcasters and youtubers will be covering the convention this weekend - but all of it will be talking about the games and the armies and the players.

I thought it would be at least mildly interesting (so you, my fair reader, are stuck with it :-) ) to show a little bit of what it is like from the other side of the games - the setup required for someone running games for everyone else to play in.

I don't actually have access to Adepticon behind the scenes, but I can show a little bit of the prep I have done in order to run a small (24 players) tournament, a campaign, a mega-battle, and four days of demos for Kings of War.

I thought it would be fun to run a lighter story based campaign at the convention, in addition to the tougher, more competitive championship.  Of course that then meant I had to make stuff for it to look cool (see my previous post).  72 campfire tokens which are objective tokens for the campaign.  I also realized that I could use these for the championship (and that I didn't have enough of my other tokens anyway).
36 scroll tokens for the campaign.  I didn't take pictures of the 60 crates - they are basically just 1" wooden cubes, also for the campaign.
I also needed 12 portals, but these I had already from previous games.

So in order to have 12 tables (24 players) for the championship, I need to have enough terrain for all of them.  Last year I had enough for 8 tables and we had 10 players.  We wanted to double that this year (and we should - we have 21 pre-registrations for the tournament), so I needed enough to make 4 more tables.  I ordered walls from armorcast - 6 brick and 2 ice walls.  I made 7 more hills (I had one in my collection I had not used yet).

In addition, I'm using the messenger scenario that I stole from a friend, who stole it from someone else.  So in order to do this, I needed to make sure I had a messenger for each player - and that they were different for each side - so 12 silver/blue and 12 gold/red elves for messengers.

With a few repairs, I had enough trees for each table (I figure 5 per table, as each as a large and small area of woods on it).  I had to get some more green felt to mark these areas.  I also am using rivers for the campaign - I had enough for 8 tables, so I bought some blue felt for the rest.

Finally, I needed some ruins.  I painted up my Dragons Don't Share ruins to use, plus a circle made of leftover parts from the GW tower kit (the two smaller middle pieces aren't being used).
All this, plus four more sheets of felt for table covers (measuring 6'x4') and I had everything I needed.  I did decide that it was time to upgrade from the cardboard banker boxes I had been using, so picked up four plastic bins.  Each of these holds enough stuff (except for trees) for four tables.

Each of these has 4 sheets of felt, 8 pieces of green felt for the forests, 4 portals (the rectangular pieces of MDF sandwiched between the large folds of felt to protect them, 8 hills, 8 pieces of walls (4 pairs) and 4 ruins or other terrain pieces (some fields, a huge boulder, some orc towers, a swamp).  These are loosely packed enough so that there is no pressure on things.  When I tried to include the trees - it was just overflowing.  So they go in the four the bin.
This actually has cardboard to split the box (since the trees are pretty messy as well).  Trees on the right, with the fires and scrolls.  On the left are the river sections, the messengers and the crates.  In them middle is a personal portable pa system.  I found that I just did not have the voice to do 6 tables of demos for four days at Gencon last year, so I'll be trying this out at Adepticon first.
So four big bins full of everything for the tables.  But I still have paperwork, rule books etc for the tournament, as well as needing tape measures, dice and reference sheets for the demos.  So I got a nice rolling collapsible file crate from Staples.  It lasted almost a year, but was cheap enough to easily replace.  It hold all my demo stuff that I take with me to the game store every week, as well as all my other events I run.
 Hmm, can anybody tell what other games I have next to the crate, as well as the ones in it?  And what is that logo on the arc of sight in the middle right?  Hmmmmmmmm.  :-)

So ready for the tournament, but for the demos I need models for people to use.  I found some great plastic bins that lock together and are pretty easy to transport.  I put a piece of steel or tin (I eventually found a roll of roofing tin that was almost the perfect size - I had to cut about 3/4" off of it to fit.  As you might have guessed, when I do this I don't fart around - so I have 12 demo armies, each at 1000 points.  Right now I have two Abyssal Dwarf armies, but that is only because there are not yet any models for the Abyssal army - but there will be this summer, and I'll have them available as soon as I can get them painted once I get them.

Abyssal Dwarfs

Kingdoms of Men

More Abyssal Dwarfs




Twilight Kin




I actually use velcro to stack sets of three bins together.  This isn't strong enough to fully protect things in a fall, but does help to prevent falls and stabilize them.  I added strips of velcro to my demo box lid as well as to the bottoms and lids of the bins.

(so apparently blogger has a size limit, so To Be Continued . . .)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Counters and Tokens and Markers, oh my!

I firmly believe that the thing which attracts people to miniature games are the miniatures.  Honestly, if you want a serious simulation of warfare, there are much better and cheaper games out there that do not require all the time to build and paint.  They can be as detailed in gameplay as you desire.  It isn't just about how they look - because if all you care about is how they look then there are also many more visually appealing video games out there with simply outstanding graphics and sound.  It also isn't just about playing games with real people where you actually sit down together and share a real world experience for a few hours, because any table top game provides that.

No, miniature games are about the tactile experience of playing with three dimensional figures.  Both the look and the feel of pushing toy soldiers around on a  tabletop.  But what surprises me sometimes is how many people, while they may spend lots of time on the figures themselves, ignore anything else.  I've already talked about terrain, but what about the other, little things.  If your powerful mage typically casts a buff spell on your units, wouldn't it look much better and enhance the gameplay if, instead of putting down a cardboard chit or a glass bead, you actually modelled the effect.  Say you cast a flame cage around a unit - why not have some flames to put around them?  And if you general takes a wound, dice are sometimes the very worst thing to use to track these.  They are easily knocked over, or can be picked up to roll during the fury of battle.  If you are battling your hated enemies over a set of objectives - shouldn't these be piles of treasure or powerful grimoires full of spells, and not just quarters laid down on the table?

So I've tried to build the little extra tokens, counters and markers for my various armies.  But not only that, I've also tried to make them for the bigger events I run.

Many years ago, I played a game called Confrontation by a french company (Rackham).   All the models had cards you used with all their stats on them, as well as cards for spells etc.  One of the nice specifications for all their scenarios is that they were always described in terms of cards for size.  So if you were facing a portal, for example, it would be the size of two cards laid end to end.  A river was as wide as a card was tall.  The bridge was the size of two cards laid side by side.  Very nice for gameplay, but these were also the specifications for building that terrain.

Adepticon is next week, and I'm running the "Clash of Kings" Kings of War championship.  I try to provide the best playing environment that I am currently capable of.  I can't, unfortunately, do full size game boards (due to both lack of storage space, as well as the lack of transportation capability for them), so I do have to use 6'x4' pieces of brown felt (because the battlefield is never green grass, it is much more mud and dirt) to represent the battlefield.  However I have built hills, walls, trees and ruins for all of these.  Yes, the trees are on green felt to mark the area of the woods, but also so the trees themselves can be moved out of the way to make it more convenient to play the game.  I'm also running a campaign in a night (where each game directly affects later games) and a big battle.

The campaign, since it is a bit different, requires some new markers.  First up are campfires.  Sure I could have used tokens - but instead I created campfire tokens out of bits of sticks, hot glue and a bit of cotton.  Just to make the game look better.
Fires burning brightly on my messy painting table
I then realized that I can use these as objective counters for the big tournament as well.  I also needed scrolls - and I found a video where someone shows an extremely simple way to make them - using some very thin (1/16") dowels and masking tape - so I made up 36 of these as well - adding in decals that I ordered off from Armorcast.
Mystical scrolls of power
In the past I've done all sorts of other markers.  One of the first armies where I really applied this idea to was my WFB Ogre Kingdoms army.  One issue there is nearly every model in that army needs to be able to track multiple wounds, and dice just wouldn't do.  So I glued magnets on the back of their bases, and magnets onto extra skulls (from previous undead armies I had made) to track their wounds, and I have been complimented on these many times (and I guess I should take it as a compliment also when at a tournament apparently someone liked the idea so much they decided to steal it - literally walking off with my set of skulls).
Wound markers in action
Set of magnetized skulls
Not only did I make wound markers, but in their first book they had spells that worked differently than other armies, and required you to mark the units that had the spells on them.  The book had paper counters in the back for them, but those just wouldn't do, so I created my own spell markers for the Bullgorger, Toothcracker, and Trollguts (the spells worked by the butcher eating the appropriate item to give a unit the buff - so Bullgorger required him to eat a bulls heart to give +1 strength, Toothcracker was rocks to give +1 Toughness, and Trollguts was, well a troll's guts, for regeneration).  Unfortunately in the next book they changed the spells to work the same way they did for anyone else, but I still like my markers for them.
Markers for BullGorger, ToothCracker and TrollGuts spells
For my Confrontation wolfen, I made scrolls to identify when certain spells or effects happened to the models (such as a Predator of Blood becoming an Ultimate Predator), as well as skulls to indicate the wound level on each model.
The force that won best painted for me in April of 2006, where you can see the various scrolls marking models
When I run our Kings of War escalation leagues to get people to build and play more games, I give out league points if the participants do things like create their own wound markers, objective tokens, turn trackers, display boards or wavering tokens.  In the first league, I did three armies and made turn trackers, wound trackers and objective markers for all three armies
Markers for my Basilean army - using the angel wing theme

Goblin markers - using their hated enemies to track wounds

Ogre markers - Beer barrels seemed to fit them
Other people also made some pretty good ones as well
Keith Ambrose's elf objective markers

Beth Hill's Oriental themed Kingdoms of Men Objective Markers

Beth Hill's oriental turn counter

Amy Stamper's Steampunk objective markers for her dwarven army

Amy Stamper's steampunk turn counter

Keith Ambrose's elven wound markers.  Each head added to the base counts as a full die (i.e. 6 more wounds)
Keith Ambrose's turn tracker

So, in conclusion - you shouldn't miss the opportunity to enhance your army and your games by doing the little things like making your own counters.  They look great, give you a little bit more personalization, and you won't regret the time spent making them.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Location, location, location

When I first started gaming back near the dawn of time, almost all of it was in our heads.  Back in the days of the original Dungeons & Dragons white box (which I picked up when I was in junior high school - it took me another two trips to the city (which was two hours away) over six weeks before I could find the weird dice you needed to play) the most visual aspect of any of our games was the hand drawn maps on graph paper to track where our characters had gone (and more importantly, how to get back out again).  Of course the maps don't help when my very first character, a barbarian fighter, gets teleported down to a small island in an underground lake - and proceeds to drown as he attempts to swim to shore.  But I digress.

It was on a family vacation the summer before my first year of high school that I found my first miniatures.  It was packaged in a simple game with some heroes and monsters - all in metal with some type of map and rulebook.  (Using some quick google-fu I was able to find that this was the Heritage Dungeon Dwellers: Caverns of Doom set). I thought they were awesome, and once we returned home, I proceeded to paint them using the included paints, and my testors model paints that I had from the various model kits.  Stinky, messy oil based paints that you had to get special even stinkier cleaner (or turpentine later) to clean, and crappy plastic brushes.  Of course I thought they were fantastic.  There was no internet back in 1978, and in my small home town there were no 'game' stores, and no place to find anything about painting, so I made due.

It was about this time that my family added on three rooms to the back of our house - and I got to move into a bigger bedroom (as my sisters each had new rooms with their own vanities in them, and they shared a half bath between them).  Since I now had a lot more room, I lofter my old train board, putting a shelf under one end and 2x4' legs under the other.  I never had the love of trains that my Dad does, but I was inspired and wanted to turn it (the board was about 5' x 3.5' (I'm guessing) - it was exactly the size to slide under my bed with casters) into a huge dungeon diorama.  I had my miniature collection that had continued to slowly grow, so I started making cut-away walls, doors (using doll house hardware for hinges and pull rings) and floors out of drywall compound that I spread out on cardboard, carved the stone shapes into and then painted.  I think I eventually got enough to fill a couple of shoe boxes if I remember correctly before the project was eventually abandoned.

I used the same miniatures, all thrown in a box getting chipped and scraped, for many years - all the way through college. I did find that some of the wear and tear was actually improving the look of them.  Now I never had any art classes beyond junior high crafts, so the idea of highlights was completely unknown to me - yet the spots that wore off first, exposing the bare metal, were providing rudimentary highlights to the miniatures.

For a brief time my first wife became interested in my minis as we started playing some games with friends.  She wanted to use them to make a chess set.  Like so many things back then, it didn't work out, and my box of miniatures was eventually lost during the Hurricane Stephanie in 1998 (or so I like to call my divorce :-) ).

A few years later, after repeatedly seeing some really cool miniatures at Origins for several years, I finally took the plunge and purchased my first Warhammer Fantasy starter set.  I started reading White Dwarf and learning a tremendous amount about painting miniatures - and my painting improved drastically.  I had bought some minis for use when playing D&D with my kids the previous few years, but nothing like armies.

One thing that I found as I started playing miniature war games, is that, much like playing D&D when I was young, location mattered.  But now it was no longer in your head - it needed to be laid out on the battlefield (my dining room table).  Very quickly I discovered that covering a pile of books with a towel to make a hill just wouldn't cut it at all.  So I began making my own terrain.  Hills first, then forests and swamps.  Eventually, after I bought my house, I built my own game table in the basement - and made more terrain to match it.  I helped out with gaming groups, making terrain for the tournaments at Gencon after it moved to Indianapolis and was only two hours away (instead of 8 or more).  I even created my own orc fortress to play siege games on.  (There are still pictures of my old terrain up (for now) at my old terrain page - though I expect these to eventually go away since I haven't been on earthlink for two years now.)

I mentioned previously that when Reaper decided to bring out a new version of their classic "Dragons Don't Share" piece in their bones kickstarter that I couldn't resist it.  (Funny, when I went looking for a picture to add here - my blog entry with a link to a picture came up as the 6th result).  However since not everyone clicks on all the links I put in here, here is that picture:
Dragons Don't Share
One (of so many) things that is cool about this piece is that it is completely modular.  The ruined castle is actually six pieces that fit together.

I started running Kings of War tournaments even before I became a pathfinder (and started to get free stuff for doing it), and one necessity of that is to have terrain.  I have played in miniature tournaments where the tables had nothing at all on them.  I've seen tournaments where all the terrain was cards printed out with pictures of walls, hills etc on them.  And I've seen fabulous terrain boards that just made playing the game on them even better.

As such, I try to make sure that when I run a tournament, the tables and terrain look as good as possible.  Now I'm not able to transport full 6'x4' terrain boards, so I am limited to using large sheets of felt to mark the battlefield, but I do try to make everything else.

For Adepticon (coming up in less than two weeks) Mantic asked me to be able to double the size that it was last year (10 players).  I had enough terrain already for 16 players, so needed to make four more tables (for a total of 24 players (12 tables)).  Hills were easy and quick - finally opened and used the foam cutter I got for half price a couple of years ago at Gencon.  I had bought some more Armorcast walls for each table (3 pairs of brick walls, 1 ice wall).  I have enough trees for more tables (once I repair some broken ones).  So all I needed was one more terrain piece per table.

So I figured I could use the ruined castle.   There are three large pieces of it, so I added a ruined piece I had put together from the leftover pieces of the GW Witchfate Tor kit that I had gotten several years ago.  While I only needed three of the pieces, it was just as quick to paint them all up at once.

Of course, these are all pieces of a single part

So the last of the new terrain is finished - and for the Clash of Kings at Adepticon the players will have some 'new' ruins to fight over.  Unfortunately I'll have to get another set or make more if I want to actually paint up the Dragon and Adventurers