Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Gaming Autobiography Phase IV: The Long And Winding Road

And now for the final installment of my gaming autobiography. After playing a variety of GW games for about 2 years I was beginning to get a little bored. I tried mixing things up by trying skirmish rules (which I liked in theory) different armies, scenarios you name it. One particularly boring day at work, having read everything of interest on the GW website, I decided on a whim to look at another game company just to pass the time. I remember hearing about these games WARMACHINE and HORDES somwhere and decided to check them out.

I found the Privateer Press website and spent the rest of the day looking at models. I downloaded the quickstart rules and slowly started to get the hang of it. There were things I absolutely loved about this game right away: the low cost of entry thanks to battleboxes, all the stats on cards instead of hidden in codexes, only one way you build a model (no more stressing out about whether to put a melta on that tank or a lascannon), feats, no codex creep, the list goes on. I read an article on someone’s blog about the merits of WM/Hordes over GW games and I was thoroughly convinced that it was a better fit for me*.

*I really want to emphasize that part, PP is a better fit for me. I know the PP community rags on GW games a lot and while I would probably never play a mainstream GW game again if it’s fun for you then by all means carry on!

My choice in factions when starting a game usually revolve around how I can get my friends to hop onboard too. I decided to start with Warmachine as most of my friends played 40k not fantasy and I was tired of painting orcs anyway. I knew I could get Jon to play Cryx, but he had just bought one of the big Tyranid army boxes so I thought it may take a little time to ease things over. I had another friend who I knew would go for Cygnar so that left me with Khador or the Protectorate. Deep in my soul I knew I wanted to play Protectorate, I was a Religious Studies major in college and the fanatical factions always appeal to me. But against my better judgment I convinced myself to try something different. I had an army of witch hunter themed IG and adding another red and white religiously motivated army seemed too much. So Khador it was. I really do like the aesthetic of a lot of the Khador stuff. I loved the warcasters and the backround, the big hulking warjacks, the whole Russian theme is pretty awesome, and the lack of light warjacks (they’re called infantry in Khador) and arc nodes (well there are lots of axe shaped ones and they only channel one spell: pain**).

**I wish I could claim credit for that one, but I stole it from the PP forums

And so I started my foray into Warmachine with the Khador Battlebox (and convinced my friend to order the Cygnar box). I had never dealt with metal models larger than a 32mm base so that was intimidating but I really enjoyed the heft of a warjack. The warjacks and Sorscha were beautiful models, I would spend hours just looking at them sitting there on my desk. I got the whole box painted in about a week (I was very excited) and got ready for my first game.

My first painted WM Minis:

My friend and I stumbled through our first game (Sorscha’s feat +Windrush FTW!) and had a blast. I had more fun with a three model army than I had with my games with hundreds of models. After that game I knew I would never play 40k or Fantasy again (and that is true to this day). And so the reign of WARMACHINE and HORDES began. Jon hopped on board with Cryx, I added a few models to my Khador army, then jumped ship to Trollbloods. I bought some PoM on e-bay for a friend who was interested in playing. I handed over the goods and he never even opened the box so a few months later I had them back and was considering putting them up for sale. At that time Jon started mercilessly destroying my Trollbloods and I remembered that PoM was my first calling. I came up with a scheme and tried them out and fell in love with the playstyle (at that time it was indestructible Vilmon and zealots of doom). My Khador and Trollbloods took a back seat to the Protectorate and have stayed there ever since. The MKII field test came and went and now the game is better than ever.

I finally have found a game and a gaming community to be involved in. From the initial fear of painting I’ve found that I’m pretty decent at it and it’s now my favorite part of the hobby. I used to be afraid to expose my nerdy secrets and now I can walk into a store and find a game with a stranger and have a great time. I went to Kingdom-Con last April and am headed to Socal Smackdown this weekend and nothing gets me more excited about gaming than meeting tons of people who are just as passionate about this game as I am.

So there you have it, my very long and rambling gaming autobiography. If you’ve made it this far thank you, and you must have been very bored. Also, I’d love to hear other people’s stories so post them on the IABN!

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Gaming Autobiography Phase II: The GW Years

*Disclaimer: If you are nauseated by all things GW then this segment may not be for you. For those who are not faint of heart read on there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I went to college in Santa Barbara CA (so did Jon) which is where the title of the blog comes from. There were all kinds of clubs that somehow played off of being Santa Barbarians, my favorite being the homebrew organization the Santa Beerbarians. Anyway, I went off to college hoping to have lots of time with people my own age that might possibly be interested in the same nerdy stuff as I was. This was true for the most part, but most of the nerdy activities revolved around playing video games and watching MXC. Every time I would go home for a break I would usually dig through my closet and find either my mage knight stuff or some old CCG cards and think I should bring them back with me to college and see if anyone is interested. Alas, I always chickened out and left them at home.

The summer before my Junior year I spent my evenings after work either playing WoW (Ding 60 n00bs time for some 10 man Strath runs!) or IMing with my then girlfriend now wife. When I was IMing I would browse around online trying to find something to entertain myself (besides listening attentively and lovingly to the detail’s of my girlfriend’s day). I looked up Mage Knight one night and for some reason wasn’t too interested in starting up again (I forget if it had been discontinued by then or not). Instead I found myself looking at the Games Workshop website and I realized that these must be the little metal figures that I had always looked at longingly and furtively in the game shop of my youth. I was still intimidated by the entry price and the thought of painting them but they just looked so cool. I also browsed around video game review sites and remembered hearing good things about this game Dawn of War. I made the connection that the video game was based on the 40k miniatures and decided I would go pick it up the next day.

For anyone who hasn’t played it, Dawn of War I is one of the best RTS games I have had the pleasure of playing. It’s strongly up there with Starcraft, Warcraft III, Red Alert and Age of Empires in my mind. Anyway, I had a lot of fun playing Dawn of War and back at college I got some of my friends in to it as well. I secretly hoped that by doing so I would be able to help them make a gradual transition to the minis game. I would still go to the GW site and look at minis and read articles, I even ordered some used Necrons and a codex on E-bay but never had the courage to paint them or tell anyone about them.

One night I found a series of articles on GW’s Lord of the Rings game. The articles were battle reports of a series of scenarios following the storyline of Fellowship of the Ring. There were scenarios where you could play as the Nazgul hunting down hobbits or the fellowship killing scores of goblins in Moria. The whole thing looked epic with amazing scenery, beautiful miniatures and a strong narrative backbone. Also, for some reason I figured the price of a Lord of the Rings army was much smaller than any other game so I figured I would give it a go. I went on ebay and found the original fellowship starter set with rules that were now defunct and a bunch of goblins, elves and gondorian miniatures and some scenery. I knew the rules were no good and most of the minis weren’t the best for an army but it was super cheap and I figured I could at least check it out without too much of an investment. The shipping was delayed and by the time the package came I was in the middle of finals and ready to head home. I opened the box and peeked at the minis then stuck them in my closet and headed home.

Over Christmas break I found out that GW was releasing a new starter set based on the Mines of Moria. It had the fellowship, goblins and a troll with a bunch of scenery and an updated rulebook. I went down to the game store of my youth and found they had it in stock. I also picked up some cheap paints, brushes and primer. I had so much fun with that starter set I couldn’t believe I hadn’t started with miniatures before. I remember the first goblin I ever painted. I was so proud that I had all the colors in the right spots and that it didn’t look like crap (It probably did, but what did I know). Getting over that initial hurdle was such a big deal. I could assemble and paint an army and rather than being a chore, I really enjoyed painting. I soon had the whole set painted up and was ready to go back to school, this time with my minis in hand ready to play with anyone who was interested.

Some of the first minis I ever painted:

I ended up playing a few games with some of my friends. One of them even picked up some Gondorians and another some Riders of Rohan while I went with Mordor. We played a bit and assembled and painted together but never got into it very heavily. Over lunch one day I found out that a casual friend had actually played a lot of 40k and fantasy in high school. He offered to run me through a game and I gladly accepted. I went down to his room later that afternoon and sat there for about an hour while he made up two lists one catachan and his space wolves. I had no idea what I was doing and the armies were huge but the minis were cool and I enjoyed rolling dice and getting pwnd by him. I could tell right away that there was a lot more depth to this game than the LoTR one and I decided to finally get involved. Rather than going with a standard starter army I decided that I wanted to do Witch Hunters with conscripted Imperial Guard, mostly because of this figure that I had converted to have a double barreled shotgun (My first conversion!)

Over the summer before my senior year I hung out with this friend a lot since we were both staying in Santa Barbara. We played a lot of Magic (also new to me) and I slowly built up my IG army. When school started again we got a couple more friends involved. I sold those Necrons I bought on ebay to Jon, another friend started Chaos and another Daemon Hunters. We had a great time figuring out the rules and playing when we could. I graduated in December and moved back home. My girlfriend and all my friends were still in school until May so I would drive up every weekend to hang out. (Yeah that’s right a 3 hour trip each way every weekend I was an awesome boyfriend like that). Around this time I also started looking at Warhammer Fantasy. The tactics seemed deeper and I liked the rank and file armies more than the squad based laz0rs of 40k. I picked up the skull pass set and some Orcs and Goblins and maybe played 2 games total. What’s odd is I think my fantasy army was larger and more fully painted than my 40k, but I hardly ever played it. I also dabbled in Battlefleet Gothic, which I still think is an awesome game if you ever get a chance to play it.

My Games Workshop Stuff:

This trend continued after college. Jon lived in Riverside and I was up visiting my then fiancĂ©e now wife in Corona every weekend. Jon would come out from Riverside and we would throw down on a table and play 4 hour games of 40k. I think I had more fun talking about the game, painting and seeing the models laid out than actually playing. By this time I was starting to get a little bored of 40k games. I knew I loved miniatures but I wasn’t having as much fun playing as I thought I should. It was then that fickle fate and her consort Google showed me a new way to game...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Gaming Autobiography Phase II: The Dark Ages

When we last saw our dashing young hero (ok maybe not dashing per se...) I was entering High School with all my friends having outgrown our RPGs and TCGs. Even though no one around me seemed interested in gaming of any sort I still had a primal need to roll dice or draw cards. Around this time the Fellowship of the Ring film came out and being a huge Tolkien fan in my youth I was very pumped. In fact, it’s just coming back to me but when I was first reading through the Silmarillion in 8th grade I had tried to develop my own CCG based on Middle Earth. That idea never got far but I at least came up with a couple cards for it. I remember that I had a ridiculous number of different stats on each card and the goal of the game wasn’t so much to kill your opponent’s creatures but to complete the story driven objectives of characters in your deck. Soon after that failed attempt to create I game I learned that it had already been done.

The Middle Earth CCG by Iron Crown was out of print but I bought a lot of the cards on ebay (my first ever e-bay purchase if I recall) and got to work. Oh, and for those of you wondering for some reason monsters and wizards were okay with my parents if it was Lord of the Rings, I’m still not sure how that one works. Anyway, the game was very complex and exciting but the cards were out of print and I had no one to play with so I just played a few games with myself and lost interest. (Playing with myself will be a common theme for the next few years. Err...you know what I mean.)

Anyway, back to freshman year. With the release of the Fellowship of the Ring movie Decipher released a LoTR TCG. I was very excited for it to come out and even preordered a special collector’s edition starter set. I remember spending many nights on my computer listening to the Beatles and playing cribbage while waiting for my dial up internet to load image previews of new cards for the TCG. (Yeah I was a weird kid...) It took a good 2-3 minutes to load what was probably a 50kb JPEG so I would get very excited to see each card once it loaded, an excitement I wish I still had today. I got a few starter decks and plenty of boosters so that I could play with myself but with no community support I lost interest.

A few more bleak and gameless years passed until one fateful day I discovered a game called Mage Knight by WizKids (again now out of production, what is it with me?) It was a game very similar to Hero Clix (which I think is still around). They were pre-painted minis sold like a CCG with starters and boosters. Each mini had all its stats on the base and you would just click the base one direction when it took damage and the stats would change to indicate that. This was my first miniatures game and I fell in love. It had the strategy and collectability of a CCG, but a bit of the narrative feel of an RPG. My imagination was kicked in gear when I was playing a minis game, I would get down to each guy’s point of view and survey the battlefield planning my next move. They were pre-painted and pretty cheap, which overcame both my hurdles to miniatures gaming at a younger age. Once again, I only played with myself but I still had fun and was very entertained by my little shoebox full of plastic dudes.

By this time I was ready to graduate high school. I still had a casual interest in mage knight and the LoTR TCG and hoped that going to college I would find a suitable pool of nerds to pull from. I never told any of my friends about my geeky hobbies but I hoped that in a new environment I could test the waters and maybe feel out some people that would be interested in gaming with me. I had dreams of weekly gaming sessions and a new openness about my interests in the arcane arts of gaming. And so off I went to College and my storied history in gaming will continue next time...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Gaming Autobiography Phase I: In which Doris gets her oats

I’m always interested in people’s stories about how they started gaming. What games they played at the beginning, what types of games caught their attention, the wax and wane of their geek factor. Well if anyone else out there is interested in that sort of thing here’s part I one my longwinded gaming autobiography.

I have always been a gamer geek. I remember when I was about 7 years old my parents bought me a subscription to some animal magazine (Zooboks perhaps?) and every month I would get a new pack of 5”x5” cards of different animals. By the time the subscription had run its course I had a plastic case with hundreds of cards. Each card had a picture of the animal and a series of icons indicating whether it was some microbial organism, plant, mammal, reptile, bird etc as well as icons to indicate its habitat, food requirements and other information like that. I was fascinated with animals so I spent hours upon hours categorizing the cards a million different ways.

One day I decided that rather than just look at the cards I should make a game using them. Players would be able to build ecosystems based on cards they draw, needing to match habitats and food requirements to build their world while tossing the occasional panther into their opponent’s world to mess them up. My 7 year old brain was very creative but the game never made it to through play testing stage (I think it was mostly due to cries of “Ocelots are OP” and “Add moar anemones!”).

Fast forward to age 11 when I discovered my first RPG. Along with animals I was also captivated by anything Star Wars. I was one of those odd kids that was born too late to be caught up in the original trilogy’s release but too young to be defiled by the prequels (in fact my Star Wars obsession pretty much died the night I saw Phantom Menace) But for my friends and I Star Wars was retro chic and we would scrounge around our older sibling’s toyboxes and antique stores hoping to find a lunchbox or action figure from the Golden Age. Anyway, years before that fateful night when my innocence was taken from me by a Gungan in a dark movie theater I stumbled upon the Star Wars RPG produced by West End Games (R.I.P.). Growing up in a pretty sheltered home I had never heard of a roleplaying game before. I was shocked that there was a game you could play where you could try to do anything you wanted, literally anything! Always having been one to follow the rules I was equally impressed that there were rules to govern this world. No more “I shot you!” “Nuh-uh you missed!” “uh-huh I did!” and so on. I scrimped and saved and sold an old terrarium and finally bought the introductory adventure game for the Star Wars RPG. When I opened that box it rocked my world. There were two books chocked full of rules and a story to go through with my friends, character sheets and maps, dice and little paper cutouts of Storm Troopers. I had found the promised land and it was made of paper.

I read through the materials voraciously and talked one of my friends into playing with me. We didn’t really understand the rules and I acted as DM and one of the players but boy did we have fun. We rolled dice, filled out our character sheets, bought the core rulebook and encounter books and spent hours immersed in this world. We played for a year or two by which time our characters owned entire sectors of the Galaxy and could shoot a Star Destroyer out of the sky with a blaster (like I said, we didn’t really understand the rules).

Every time I would go to the game store to buy a model rocket or drool over a new Star Wars RPG book would always see stacks of miniatures. I now know that it was Warhammer Fantasy, but at the time I had no clue what it was. I was fascinated by them but it looked violent with monsters and wizards and stuff and I knew my parents would never let me buy any. They also had a rulebook for the Star Wars Miniatures Battles game (also by West End) and some blisters of minis for that.

Every time I went in I would look at the blisters, see the bare metal and the whopping price tag of $10 for a few tiny guys and I would sigh and think that I could never manage to have a game as cool as the one on the cover of that book. If only someone had taken the time to show me their army in the flesh or to let me paint a mini of my own I’m sure I would have been hooked and had many happy years of gaming. Keep that in mind next time you see an awkward young kid standing shyly by some product in your LGS. It could only take a few minutes of showing a kid the ropes (even if they don’t understand most of it) to get them passionate about gaming for the rest of their lives.

By the time we were entering middle school and using your imagination wasn’t as acceptable anymore our Star Wars RPG times petered out. Luckily a group of us started collecting and playing the Star Wars CCG put out by Decipher. Again, we didn’t really understand the rules, but we played a game roughly based on the official rules using the cards we collected. This lasted another year or two but as the hormones kicked in my friends lost interest in our nerdy pastime and instead spent their energies watching our female classmates grow boobs (no offense intended towards boobs, as my wife will attest I have only the utmost respect for mammary glands).

And so began High School, the dark night of my gaming soul. But we’ll save that for next time...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I hold this truth to be self evident, that Kromac is a complete and total grade-A badass. There are a lot of characters in the iron kingdoms that I think are cool, interesting, powerful you name it, but no one screams badass to me quite like Kromac. With that said, through some savvy trading I've managed to piece together about 35 points worth of Circle goodness and who better to lead my army than the Warlock that (insert Chuck Norris comment here). In sticking with the Native American theme I added some feathers to Kromac's bone hat to make it more like a headdress. Besides that there wasn't much that needed to be done to make this model say, "I'm a total badass Native American chief."

In other news, I'm painting up Jon's Seamus crew for Malifaux. I got my first game in this weekend and I must say it is a blast. Also I have a 35 point eKreoss list I'd like to get painted, but there are so many delicious projects to be working on.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Small Painting Update

So in my quest to have a strong pair of Steamroller lists for tournaments, I decided that Terminus would be a good second to my epic Deneghra list. For that list, I decided to get two new mercs, Orrin Midwinter and Madelyn Corbeau... well, that and I really like Orrin Midwinter's sculpt. So I started painting them last night (did some cleanup work and made the bases earlier this week), and finished both of them tonight.

So I'm very happy with the robes on both models. Orrin's robes were my test piece that took me probably 5 hours, but that allowed me to get Madelyn's done in 2. I'm also happy with the skin tone on both models (basecoat GW bleached bone, Wash with GW Ogryn Flesh, highlight as needed with bleached bone), but the faces on both are lacking. That's probably something that I will go back and correct at some other time (once I get better at actual living model faces). Also, I'd like to go back and add in more blue to Orrin, fixing his eyes and staff, as well as possibly adding a blue OSL to his left hand. Another positive note is the basing. It may not be perfect, but I just like how them. Plus it was new and fun.

Overall, I'm very happy with how these two models have turned out. As usual, more pics can be found at flickr (here).

C&C welcome.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Gang's All Here

My Lady Justice Death Marshals crew is finally done. This a momentous occasion because it is the first time in my life that I have every model I own for a particular game fully painted. We'll see how long that lasts. Painting Malifaux figures is a refreshing break from painting Warmachine models, the style is totally different and I can sit down and spend as long as I want on a single figure and not feel like I'm wasting my time because it will get lost in the huge mass of infantry come game time. So yeah, here they are.

The next Malifaux figures I'll be painting will be Jon's Seamus crew + bette noir. If you couldn't tell already I really enjoy painting Wyrd's models so I'm looking forward to that.