Sunday, 17 June 2018

Season Journey: The First Crusade

When I was at university, one thing I made sure I had time for was playing computer games. My genres at the time were real time strategy games and roleplaying games - as a general rule, you got a lot of play out of them, either due to skirmish modes or long storylines. As a result, I found myself playing and enjoying Diablo II quite a lot, tracking down runes and upgrading my gear, even if the story wasn't the strongest.

Fast forward to last year, and a friend of mine convinced me to pick up Diablo III during a sale. I'd resisted picking it up when it was first released, partly due to the "real money" auction house, and party because my PC at the time was not the most reliable. My current one, however, was able to run it without a problem, and we had a fun time over a number of evenings, playing through the game as a team.

Demon Hunter, looking badass
Around Easter, after taking a break for a while, I started a new Demon Hunter, and tried to complete the initial four tiers of my Season 13 journey. As it happened, this Season finished while I was at UK Games Expo, and I was one task away from getting my final bits of free gear - curse my lack of DPS!

June 15 marked the launch of Season 14, and I'm determined to do better this time. I'm going to be doing a series of semi-regular posts chronicling my progress. This time, I shall not be denied - and maybe we'll see what lies beyond tier 4 as well.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

An Interview with Oathsworn Miniatures

UK Games Expo is a great opportunity to meet the people behind your favourite games and model ranges, as well as to expand your horizons by finding companies you never knew existed and sampling their wares. This, of course, is not without risk to your wallet, but it's a risk worth taking.

This year, in addition to picking up a Kickstarter order, I thought I'd be a bit cheeky and see if Michael and Jo from Oathsworn Miniatures would be able to make a bit of time for an interview. To my surprise - and delight - they were happy to do so, so I caught up with them on Sunday afternoon, where the hope was that things would've died down a little. Compared to the Saturday it had, but that's not saying much...

If you aren't aware of who I'm talking about, Michael and Jo Lovejoy are the husband and wife team behind Oathsworn Miniatures, a UK-based miniatures company which produces the Burrows & Badgers game, alongside the Heroines in Sensible Shoes range of roleplaying game miniatures. I've spoken to them at events before, but this is the first time doing so as a "formal" interview.

Quick note - while I'm sure some of you would prefer to hear the recorded audio, there is that much background noise from the Expo that it isn't really suitable. However, what follows is the best transcription I could manage. Enjoy...

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Burrows & Badgers - Rulebook

When talking to a gaming group about a new game, it can sometimes be really hard to find the "elevator pitch" - that sound-bite which immediately gives them a mental image of what it will be about, and ideally a little idea of how it'll play. This is not a problem with Burrows & Badgers, published by Osprey Games as a new edition of the rules created by Oathsworn Miniatures. Now in a full-colour hardback, describing the game to people as "Redwall: The Skirmish Game" instantly gets the concept across1 - and that's before they've even seen the miniatures.

If you've read my posts before2 - or watched my stream on Twitch - you'll know that I'm a big fan of the miniature line which accompanies the Burrows & Badgers game, but I hadn't really gotten around to reading the rules or playing it. However, earlier this year I committed to attending a Burrows & Badgers tournament at the end of June - and then I heard that the Osprey version of the rules, which I'd heard rumblings about for a while, would be out in time for Salute.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to get a pre-order in place, and the fruits of that arrived this week - especially impressive given that I imagine Michael and Jo are still recovering from Salute, yet managed to get my order posted out on the Monday following it. So, without further ado, let's take a look at what came through, shall we?

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Unboxing: Guild Ball Mystery Box

In early August, and probably in response to how Dark Souls has been received, Steamforged Games had to move to a bigger warehouse. As a way to celebrate - and I guess to clear out some older stock - they offered up a Guild Ball Mystery Box, which would provide a variety of items at a large discount, including two random six player teams.

I'm a fan of Guild Ball, even though it is a game I haven't played often enough - for a start, it is the only game where I can say I have a 100% win record against Jamie Perkins1. I've currently got two teams, in various stages of WIP, in the form of the Mason's Guild and The Union, and had my eye on the Hunter's Guild and Farmer's Guild2 down the line.

As a result, when the Mystery Box came up I was happy to take a punt on it - with eight Guilds on the market I hadn't bought into, I was in with a decent shot at getting ones I didn't own at this stage, which would give my collection some variety. The box turned up recently, so I figured people may be interested in whether it was a good move or not...

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

L5R Honored - View from the Scorekeeper's Desk

The new logo
For those who played Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) - either the collectable card game (CCG) or the roleplaying game - September 2015 was a month that will live long in infamy. It marked the second occasion where the Alderac Entertainment Group had sold the license, this time to Fantasy Flight Games1. At the time, I described this as Jigoku achieving a victory, as the game would be on a hiatus for two years, while FFG developed their version of the game.

Outside the venue
Fast forward two years, to September 2nd 2017. I'm writing this post while at the L5R Honored2 event, an invitational tournament for 100 players from across Europe. The day is being run by FFG as the official Europe launch for their version of the game, following its debut at GenCon. A group of us from Sheffield were asked to come down and help run the event - four Judges, and myself as Scorekeeper.

While I used to play the CCG earlier in its history, I'd stopped playing well before the sale of the license. I was still involved in the tournament scene by working as Scorekeeper as part of the event team at Patriot Games, which hosted multiple Kotei3 tournaments, and the 2014 L5R World Championship. I haven't played the new game at all yet, which isn't that surprising when the game hasn't been released yet.

Still, the chance to work at something like this, and make a good impression with the new people behind the game, is a powerful incentive, so our team travelled down on the Friday, doing battle with the Tube to make it to our venue by mid-afternoon. As a result, we got roped in with helping decorate, and retired to our rooms late in the evening.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dysartes Delves Into Deathtrap Dungeon

Ian and helpers - and coffee!
UK Games Expo is always an interesting weekend for me - the variety of traders, the range of upcoming Kickstarter projects, the deals to be had. One element of it which has become a bit of a tradition for me is leaving the show with signed books, at least some of which were written by Jonathan Green. 2017 proved to be no different, and when I arrived on the Saturday I almost immediately managed to pass by the stand he was on - by accident, I assure you.

This year, there were other authors sharing the stand with him, one of which I recognised from previous years - a certain Mr Ian Livingstone, of Fighting Fantasy fame. Both he and Mr Green1 were doing rather good deals on signed books from that series, and I found my collection expanding from a lone volume up to seven - and my shopping bag getting distinctly heavier!

Fast forward a few weeks, and I had an overnight trip to London to deal with for work. As I wasn't sure who else might be around, I'd packed a little light reading to keep me occupied on the train and in my hotel room - and, on an impulse, decided to pack one of my recent Fighting Fantasy acquisitions, along with dice and some paper to make notes. In this case, I was going to be taking expedition to the depths of Deathtrap Dungeon, to see what Fate had in store for me...

Friday, 16 June 2017

Unboxing: Dark Imperium

"Dysartes here, your roving reporter in the field, alongside this unit of Primaris Marines of the *CRACKLE* Chapter for the ongoing conflict with these renegades. I've been reliably informed that the sickness spreading amongst the civilian population is still spreading, and that this may be the doing of the Death-"

[-- =][= TRANSMISSION TERMINATED BY ORDER OF THE INQUISITION =][= --]

Whoops...

All joking aside, this weekend is a big one for Warhammer 40,000, for it marks the official1 release of the 8th edition of the core rules. As I write this, I'm at one of my local game stores, where they've been doing a midnight release event, followed by an 8th edition tournament tomorrow.

Why am I at the release event? To pick up my copy of the Dark Imperium boxed set, and then take a look at it in detail2. I'm going to be looking at the box as a product, rather than looking at the rules in too much depth - I've had one demo game, so need to get more games under my belt before I can comment on whether this is the edition that saves the franchise, or dooms it...

With the preamble out of the way, let's take a look at this set:

New box, new art...

In case you've been living in a cave since Dark Imperium was announced, the set contains two monopose plastic starter forces to learn the new game - the Death Guard for Chaos Space Marines, and an expansion to the Space Marine line in the form of the Primaris Marines, a new generation of larger Space Marines.

Once you remove the sleeve from the box, there's even more new art to appreciate.

Once you remove the outer sleeve of the box, you'll find a removable upper box, with more materials below it. A careful shake gives off the rattle of plastic sprues - but we'll come back to that later.

As you can see, there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

As a bit of a change in tack from recent sets, this box contains the full hardback rulebook for this edition. In contrast, Death Masque had a small softback rulebook, which cut out most of the art and background material.

To be honest, this is a change I'm not sure about. The rulebook is a £35 purchase on its own, so makes up a significant chunk of a £95 boxed set - and that is a lot of money for the product which is meant to be the hook to get people into your system. While it is nice to get the full book, I think I'd've preferred a smaller paperback.

Wait, there's more!

Hiding under the rulebook is even more reading material, as well as a sheet of Imperial transfers - interestingly, there aren't any transfers for the Death Guard side of the box. The pack to the right of the above picture contains three smaller books - a construction guide for the figures3, and mini-Codex equivalents for the Primaris Space Marines and Death Guard units included in the starter. There's also a reference sheet for the rules, which seems to replicate in full a number of the core rules pages.

Given the rulebook is the standard one for this edition, this gives prospective players all the information they need to understand the forces they're using - and to use similar forces in normal games outside of the starter set.

Life in the bilges

Under the card insert which is holding the books in place, you'll find a variety of little bits that you'll need if you're new to the game - and some things you'll need even if you're not (namely the bases). There is also a floppy plastic ruler4, and a set of dice. Sticking them down in the base of the box makes good use of what would otherwise be wasted space.

This box is sealed by order of the Inquisition

A quick note on one design choice regarding the upper box, which I said earlier that we'd be coming back to. While you might want to dive straight in, you need to breach an Inquisitorial seal in order to do so. And those familiar with the lore know what the likely outcome of that choice will be...

All the brand-new plastic crack...

For existing players, the above picture is probably the highlight of the set - eight sprues of new models, four for each faction. All the sprues feature the inventive cutting Games Workshop have been utilising for the last several years, allowing for models in plastic that weren't really possible when 3rd edition launched, for example.

While I haven't yet started to assemble anything5, I find that I'm looking forwards to putting them together, once I decide how I'm going to base them. Having looked at the figures my LGS has assembled and painted, I'm not keen on the jump pack Primaris, but the rest of the models are pretty good. For once, I even find that I'm going to enjoy painting Chaos, and I normally loathe that faction.

Conclusion

What do I think of this set? Well, I'm divided on the issue - everything in the set is well executed6, and shows excellent design values. On the other hand, £95 is a lot for an introductory product, and will generate a lot of sticker shock on the shelf.

If you're already an active 40k player, then you're going to pick up the box anyway. And if you do, I think you're going to be happy with it. However, I don't see it working to get new blood into the game - but it might bring back some lapsed players.


1 - As opposed to all the unofficial leaking. Seriously, people, can't you lot wait for a release date?
2 - And to paint a Lizardmen Blood Bowl team, but I'm guessing you're not bothered about that.
3 - As, despite these being monopose figures, they're not Blood-Bowl-esque snap-fit figures. Ploy cement will be required.
4 - Unfortunately, it seems that the day of the red whippy stick has passed. I call upon you for a moment's silence in memory of the red whippy stick...
5 - Mainly as I've been trying to write this post since I got the box, and I'm finding it hard to concentrate...< br/> 6 - Especially the heretics...