Interview about the Ravenloft

ravenloft STUFF
Look at all the shit you get in the box!

A rather bland, but telling interview about the upcoming D&D board game series.  I really do not believe the R&D story about just ‘wanting to do it.’   I think it came down to marketing saying “we must compete with Descent.”  Regardless, I’m stoked these are coming out as the last good D&D-Heroscapesque board game released in the USA was…never?

Getting in on a good shootin'

And the (going insane from having a second kid) western obsession continues unabated.  While I have GW’s Legends of the Old West, I’ve been hunting around for another set of gunslinging rules to check out that had a bit more detail to the stat line.  Having checked out Savage Worlds and found it fairly muddy in the rules department, it was time to look elsewhere.   Many moons back, Wargames Foundry founder Bryan Ansell wrote a set of free rules called the Rules With No Name, but they were in such an ‘alpha’ version that I didn’t bother taking them seriously.  Foundry has revised, completed and put them all into a beautiful hardback book that I just accidentally ordered.  Members of my erstwhile gaming group– prepare yourselves for some miniature mayhem.  With paint being slapped on pewter between changing diapers and cleaning up milksplosions, the entire ERTL cow town 1/64 scale building set coming in the mail, and a new sandy-beige bolt of felt slapped across the 4′ X 4′ gaming table– high noon is coming for all of us.

Anyone get up inside the Starcraft yet?

I’m going with a co-worker to watch him pick up the collector’s edition over lunch.  It’s an exciting day for a lot of gamers.  While I’m not concerned that Starcraft will be another high watermark in the RTS genre–I would be very concerned whether or not the gamers of today care about RTS much at all.  The last really good RTS that pushed the envelope for me was Company of Heroes, with Dawn of War being a lesser but moderately OK version.  Both of these games stood on the shoulders of the amazing Warcraft 3, for which I have no limit to the amount of adoration or praise: for it’s gamplay, single player as well as single-handedly moving the genre away from the domination of the defense (like Total Annihilation or Age of Empires) other than that?  The genre has been rather meh.

The question is, will Starcraft 2 be big just because it’s Blizzard or will it be able to sustain the casual gamers?  Warcraft 3 had Ancients and the Hero mods for players that didn’t just want to go online and get their ass slapped aside in multiplayer, but due to the lack of heroes, Starcraft may not have the branches for modification Warcraft 3 does.

For me, sadly, having very little time to commit to learning another RTS to the level I feel comfortable with, Starcraft 2 is all about the single player which, if Warcraft 3 was any indication, will be absolutely brilliant on all fronts.

Gratuitous Space Battles getting a campaign

What we’ve all been waiting for since playing the demo of Gratuitous Space Battles (or longer if you played Strange Adventures in Infinite Space) is a campaign wrapper– and it’s coming according to the developers blog!  Though it doesn’t look like it’s currently planned, the best thing about it is that GSB could work multiplayer.  Unlike Master of Orion 2 and the like, the campaign wrapper for GSB would be playable as a multiplayer game because you don’t control the battles themselves: only the set up.

The main issue with all turn-based strategy games is that battles (even CIV) take so long that players that are not involved are off playing some other game by the time it gets back to their turn.  Dominions and Ultracorps (and many other games) solved this by having tick based turns, i.e.: you put your orders in and at a set time, all player’s orders are executed and the new turn begins.   Without this, multiplayer turn-based strategy games with battles simply doesn’t work due to time constraints.  The way GSB has been developed, players can execute their turns, submit and after the next turn starts, they can watch each of their battles unfold.  I may be getting ahead of myself here, as a large grain of salty skepticism needs to be applied to any Space 4X game since MOO3’s cascade of space pysse into my open mouth– the GSB campaign could suck a giant turd straight from the ass of Prosthetic Vogon Jeltz.  That said, I’m going to get the full version of GSB to push some cash to the developers who may have our best interest in mind–and you should too.

Upping the nerd level

Having a second kid is not quite the mega-shock as the first one, but it doesn’t leave any time for anything at all.  Given my 2 hours per day during my paternity that I’m not chasing after a 2 year old,  I didn’t have  a lot of time at all to read or do anything but sleep, and basically went insane about 4 days ago, pretty much right according to plan.    That said, I busted out some Foundry Old West miniatures that had been sitting on my painting table for well over a year as a means, in half hour stints, to do something other than housework and child-care.  As frustrating and tedious the hobby of painting small toy soldiers is, it really is a relaxing way to span productive time.  You sit, look out a window for a little while, lay some paint, look at it, mix up some blends, look out the window, etc.  Most of my work life is collaborative work, essentially getting other people to actually talk to each other to collaborate, and so working on a project all alone with a tangible, physical result (not a UT3 level or web page) is a bonus to the relaxation.  Oh, yeah, now with 16 Old West miniatures complete as of today, I might actually be able to rope some people in to playing–that is if I can find some terrain.

Here are some shots of the figs.  For my true 28 and 25mm miniatures, I have been entirely influenced by Kevin Dallimore’s 3-color layering method.  I don’t recommend this on the giant 32mm (Games Workshop/ Rackham) at all, but for 25-28MM it is an awesome and effective approach as well as being forgiving if your eyes are not what they used to be.

The Town Drunk
With every batch of miniatures (I usually work on 3-5 at a time) there is one that I don’t spend much time on– just throw paint on and see what happens.  I thought the town drunk would be the one in this group, but it undoubtably was not– I love this model– the face has oodles of Marx bro’s character to it and the stance is just plain silly.  I made the suit all one color– I wanted him to seem very dirty but with some fine clothes on–turned out fairly well.

The Kid
This one is another great stance and face.  I made the mistake of making his hat and cravat green, and his suspenders red at first–and then I dubbed him the Xmas kid–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made the mistake of combining those two colors.  I changed the hat to black and that solved it.

The Apache
This dude is the badass of the set and I spent the most time on him for sure.  Worked on the pearl handle for his pistol and really worked the flesh in the face to get that scar to show.  All and all a great model to paint.

The Whore
This was a fixed up paint job as I fucking DROPPED the model a few years ago and haven’t really painted since. Getting this one to look nice and get the base redone was key.  I think she turned out pretty well.  Proportionally though, 25-28mm scale doesn’t do well with the female form…

My wife mentioned that she would put miniature gamers lower on the nerd scale than even LARP’ers.

And more Talisman – The Sacred Pool!

Right after our first play of Talisman 4th edition with the new Highland expansion comes the announcement of The Sacred Pool, another small expansion with no board and 4 characters (none of which I could tell by the cover of the box).  Looks like it adds  some more alternate ending cards to throw in the mix, quest rewards (instead of using the Dungeon reward cards when you complete a warlock’s quest) and a few more characters and a new twist: being able to become neutral rather than just good and evil.

As for Highlands– the board is a lot like the Dungeon, and while the creatures are weaker, the Highland deck has a lot of zany movement cards that make a run to the end of board a bit trickier than the Dungeon.  It’s a good expansion but it’s not the City board I’ve been waiting for.  What’s more, trinkets are a great addition to the game, and I hope they incorporate them into the other decks as soon as they can.  The alternate endings are the best and now we have 5 randoms and the Warlock’s Quest as the sixth.  Though the ‘Boss’ ones are boring (fight a 12/12 creature), the rest of them are good fun.  We drew the Battle Royal card to end our game and it was a hoot. The Vampiress, easily the weakest of the three characters left in the fight, had a spell that would have allowed her to win if any of the other characters rolled a 1, but it didn’t happen.*

One thing Highland’s does not solve is that there’s still no use for gold– once you have 4-5 you’ll never find anything to spend it on unless you are really down on your luck with losing lives.  Having a stack of 15-20 is ridiculous but happens quite often.

As for the new characters–we had almost all of them out during our first play.  The Valkyrie isn’t all that great (as well as being weaker than the 2nd edition version), and the Highlander himself is laughable, but the Alchemist, Sprite and Vampiress are powerhouses to be sure.  We didn’t get out the Rogue (who’s 4th edition incarnation now has boobs!).  The sizes of the miniatures seem even SMALLER than the Dungeon expansion– though these were fairly cool sculpts if you can look past that they are less than 25mm and made of some shitty soft un-paintable plastic.  As Talisman is a Games Workshop game at it’s core, it’s sad to see them not putting out a set of miniatures– even if they were cast offs from their other lines.

*Our first Highland game was played with our dear friend John, who Talisman, the entire staff at Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop, as well as the gods of luck at Talisman all hate with a passion that is astonishing to watch– he had 3 characters killed during the game and quite remorselessly at that.

It all seems so unwholesome

Though I knew of Ellis’s writings in high school and college as some random drama books the girls liked, he wasn’t on my radar at all until Glamorama which, being a big William S. Burroughs fan, was right in my wheelhouse and I have gobbled up everything he’s written since (except Lunar Park).   That said, I ripped through the 165 page Imperial Bedrooms over the last couple nights, not even realizing until 20 pages in that it was a sequel and while I don’t remember the Less than Zero movie, I remember even less if I read the book or not.   I think you could get away easily with knowing of the old movie and book and that’s quite enough.  I’m certainly no modern literary critic, but I would compare the writing to McCarthy’s The Road (both are essentially a series of journalistic vignettes) and After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson.  For all the weight of  ‘automatically’ being literature anything Ellis puts out, I found it just a really solid pulp noir mystery novel– with the obligatory scenes of violence, torture and murder all thoroughly described rather than implied as Ellis’s M.O. demands.  Ellis is awesome at creating and maintaining the creeping dread until always delivering with a crescendo of horrific violence and while his characters are people who rarely feel anything at all, he’s greatly aware that his readers have feelings and are both dreading and greatly looking forward to the decent into madness his plotlines roll into.    It was a little short, and since not all of the main characters have been tortured to death yet, I bet there’s another one with this same group– but if he waits 25 years again they’ll all be flaccidly in the old folks home. Good Stuff!

Torchlight MMO info of note

“I will never, ever buy a microtransaction item,” he reassures. “I’m that kind of player. And the game has to be enjoyable for me, too. We don’t want our monetisation stuff to offer ways to skip the game because the game is boring.”