Archives for July 2008

What would you do with a years worth of military history

At Historicon this year I entered several contests. The one I was most interested in was the Casemate Publications “Win Military History for a Year” contest where one winner gets a book a month. Other prizes included some very nice military prints. I was surprised and happy to find out I was the winner. Casemate Publications has some extremely excellent books. My good friend Mr. English had turned me onto their books a couple of years ago with some he had purchased.

So, you are probably wondering what I chose for my first book? It was a hard decision. I love all of history. I play all periods and love military science so when a company with a broad selection of books offers me a chance to pick one… it was mind boggling hard. However I did have some help. The representative for Casemate at Historicon is the lovely Ms. Simone Drinkwater. Don’t be fooled though. This petite blond knows her sprockets from her S-Mines. In fact I heard her nickname was “Tank Girl.” So that got me thinking about armor. I searched quite a bit and came up with this gem:


It looks perfect. Pretty pictures of tanks, lots of text… heck they even have a centerfold of a Tiger Tank! Tank Porn. There, I said it. If you can’t understand getting all excited about a big book on WWII tanks then you are reading the wrong blog!

So please check out Casemate. They have a lot of really lovely books. They are a great compliment to Osprey Publishing. Many thanks to Casemate for the contest. It really has me inspired!

Historicon 2008

Historcion has come and gone. It was a great show this year. While attendence seemed to be down from my perspective the true numbers will come out later. My travels to and from the convention were among the worst in my entire life for any trip. Flights delayed a total of 12 hours, missed car rides, expensive car rental and hotel arrangements and to top it all off my rental vehicle was damaged and now I’m dealing with insurance. All in all it will probably cost me $500 to $2000 more than I planned (insurance via Visa might not cover pickup trucks it appears.)

Want to know a secret though? It was my friends who pulled me through. Sean drove out of his way to get me. Pete and Martin brought my spirits up from the gutter, Dave and Tim made me laugh, Bob and Ronnie and the folks from both Casemate and Osprey entertained my quirky sense of humor, random games I ended up playing in were just fantastic with friendly gamers and skilled GMs. I don’t think I was in one dud game. I had horrible luck in some and fantastic luck in others. The dealer hall had some incredible new stuff. The “lobby pig” was succulent and delicious (apologies to my vegan friends but like Vinny Vega says, Pig is Good!)

In all the Historicon staff pulled off a fantastic time! So of the new products I saw the most exciting to me was a non-historical one. Battlestar Galactica resin cast ships and pewter fighters. Fantastic stuff. Very crisp and highly detailed. They had all the ships from both series plus lots of extra ships including other types of Battlestar and Basestar.

There were so many miniatures and games to see. I don’t even know where to begin. I didn’t pick up any rules. I’ve been on a rules buying spree this year and I need to start consolidating on a few projects I will actually complete. There was a lot of very inspired terrain there to look at however. It was ver moving.

If you like the photos here I have many more high resolution photos on my web album. Just start up the slide show below to see them in the cronological order they were taken!

Rackham Teasers: Confrontation, Cogs and Red Blok

Well they have done it again. They have bombarded my mailbox with the lastest news and I have to say this was a direct hit. Everything looks like it will have a highly negative impact on my wallet. Lets hope my professional career will support this kind hostile environment because we all know there is no way to escape war. Ok lets start with Confrontation:

The next Army will be Lions and these figs look amazing. This is the Guards unit box. Sweet. Hopefully the Army book will be out soon. I’ve been trying to buy the all the Army books. I have a lot of the metal figures and I will eventually be getting them painted to augment the pre-painted plastic armies. I have a lot of the characters and certainly tons of the foot soldiers. In particular I already have a large Wolfen army that is just waiting for some paint. The thing I’ve got the biggest shortage of now is time. Let’s face it I should just go to France and get a job with Rackham once I am done with this whole career in intelligent systems.

Up next they sent various pictures of one of the new Cogs. Box launchers and pistols. Ok. Weird, yet, kick ass at the same time. I wonder what their vehicles will look like?

Finally we have what everyone has been waiting for – the walking house (aka Dotch Yaga!) This is the Red Blok answer to the question “how can we kill every living or constructed thing we see?” The stats on this beast are intense. Too bad Red Blok has to wait months while the Therian answer to the same question will roam free and let blood at every turn! Thank goodness for me that I collect all 4 factions.

All in all a very good set of previews from our brother’s in France. Viva la Rackham!

Talisman – yet again

The game Talisman has a rather interesting an unique history. It is an old school game where there is a track and your characters move along it, just like in Monopoly. It has inner tracks that you can enter from special spaces (and yeah, it is a bit like chutes and ladders at that point,) but don’t let that get ya down. It really is a fun game. I played 1st and 2nd edition. 2nd was my favorite. I saw a few years ago that a copy of 2nd was going for hundreds on ebay. Wow. I later saw they came out with a 3rd edition. However it was also very expensive and they made changes to the rules that weren’t popular so I passed. Then 4th edition came out and I’ve been eyeing the copy at Wargames here in Nashville but then I heard FFG bought the rights and now there is a 4th Revised Edition. Ok. Sold.

The game that replaced it for me for lo these many years was Runebound and I have to say I’m only getting this game for the nostalgia. It takes a LONG time to play. You can force things along more quickly with Runebound by giving people a series of upgrades early. Talisman, I am not sure if there is a way to keep it under 4 freaking hours long. Still though, lots of fun and mayhem. However when you are behind in that game you are really behind. Your only hope is that the poor fool who was first to get to the Crown whiffs his die roll and is slain instead. Yeah, hours of game play all to find out you rolled poorly on the last die roll and have no chance of saving. Some days you get the elevator and other days you just get the shaft.

The cover art is quite nice so I am quite curious how well this one will sell. There is allegedly a version coming for XBox Live which would really rock. I love the Carcassone and Settlers of Catan conversions very much.

Warhammer 40K

Ok, hold on to your hats. It is well known that since 1993 or there abouts I became a hard to the core Games Workshop hater. I had been using Games Workshop products for several years at that point and bought in big time with Warhammer Fantasy Battles 3rd edition. All was well in the world until the first boxed miniatures game GW was to produce came out – WFB 4th edition. Now, I was all gung ho about my Slann – a fantasy army based on Aztec culture and consisting of frogs and lizards. They dumped the entire Army from the game. Like in totality – as if they had never been. My entire hoard of dozens of figures was now obsolete. The hell you say! So that was it. Forever, it seemed, my hate would burn for the lads in Nottingham. A curse upon them.

My first set of science fiction miniatures rules were Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader – the first set of rules set in the 40K Universe. I still have my Marines and Space Orks and still recall the laugh people had the first time I laid them down on the table. I built my first Land Raider out of cardboard, an Atari Joystick and various bits and pieces from my electrical workshop. Those were heady days. We made our own terrain and most of our vehicles. My landspeeder was inspired by Rick Priestly’s deodorant applicator built one. It was a fun time hand building as much as we could back then.

After my major upset over the loss of my Slann from the official rules and the move towards stilted tournament play I moved on to other things. I used Stargrunt II for scifi games and a wide variety of other games for the fantasy side. I wrote a game called Mystic Hordes that played ok but wasn’t really very polished. Then there was a variety of other systems that were pressed from their normal duty as ancients/medieval rules for the fantasy. None of that really was all that great and while I still collected fantasy figures I was mainly using them in my Dungeon Crawl game and not in mass battles.

There was still a GW game I would play: “Space Hulk.” I think Space Hulk needs to be up there with one of the all time best games ever developed. Whether you like the 1st or 2nd edition rules best certainly doesn’t matter. Very few people can say that SH doesn’t both challenge and entertain.

Last year I got whole hog interested in Games Workshop’s Legends of the Old West. It was so very well written and such a fun game – I was able to convince myself that it wasn’t supporting the “mother ship” because it was “Warhammer Historicals” not GW that was benefiting. The fact is that the game is immensely enjoyable and the parent organization is Games Workshop. So… What happened?

This past week I started to listen to 40k Radio. It is a podcast out of Ohio that is quite well produced. The fellows game out of Gamers Haven which I’ve actually been to. I researched it when I was considering moving to Cleveland. They have produced upwards of 20 shows now and it is an enjoyable listen. They got to talking about the new edition of 40K and I have to say they pushed me over the edge into buying the rules. The improvements and the game balance sound like they are exceptionally well done. The local hobby store, Wargames, has a nice mix of historicals and non-historical gaming and you can find 40K gamers pretty much from the lost valley’s of Eastern Tennessee to the high plateaus of Afghanistan.

I haven’t bought any figures yet. The least popular army appears to be the Tau so I’ll buy those and if GW cancles them from the game well then I’ll resume my grudge! They aren’t unpopular due to their ability to fight. I think people just prefer Space Marines, Orks, Eldar and Chaos Marines over the other races (necrons and tau, others?)

Now I should point out that GW did to 40K what they did to WFB in that they cut out an entire race and made instant enemies of many former fans: they cut out the “Squats” or space dwarfs. Squats and Slann – someone should make a game up that features just those two armies! Hmmm. Now you got me thinking.

So will I build a Tau army? Let me read the rules and report on those first. I am off to Historicon this weekend with great joy. I am looking forward to the trip! More on my conversion back to 40K later. Hmm, I guess I am not converting. I was just a lapsed 40Ker all along? Hmmm may need to reboot. I need historical gaming shock therapy!

"Good Job": Hancock review

There comes a time when you get really, really jaded about the way the mass media outlets feed us information. The reviews preceeding the release of the film Hancock were incredibly bad. The movie was described as “falls flat, fizzles out” and “the trailer doesn’t have the only train wreck associated with this movie” or even “self destructs into bizzare and unsatisfying.”

Uh, what? Did these people see the same film I did? When I asked friends who saw it they all like it. I expected at least one to say something to confirm the reviews of the big media outlets. Nope. Everyone, including people who don’t like super hero films, liked it. So I went.

There are a lot of Super Hero films out this summer. The Hulk, Iron Man, The Dark Knight and Hancock. The Hulk is an attempt to forget the 2003 version done by Ang Lee in which they do intense character development for an hour before having any superhero action (what???) and I couldn’t tell you if the new Hulk is any good or not because I didn’t bother to go see this one. I’m not a big fan of Ed Norton either so that was another reason to not go.

I liked Iron Man. Mainly because Mr. Downey is such an interesting actor. The story however was pretty linear and predictable. It offered nothing new, honestly.

The Dark Knight has had an incredible amount of hype associated with it as well as the tragic connection to Heath Ledger’s death. I will go see it to see his last major motion picture performance and because I liked the previous incarnation quite a bit.

Anyway, back to Hancock. The movie was great. It has one very surprising twist in it which none of the other films that I’ve seen this year have had. The movie comes to a very good end and I think that it has a lot to say about remaking your life.

I think, and this is just speculation, but I think that the real problem is that Will Smith has come out as a Scientologist. Now I am Catholic and a scientist. Yes, those are at odds most of the time. However, I noticed that Tom Cruise has gotten a ton of negative publicity and scorn over his Scientology beliefs to the point the Germans didn’t want to cooperate at first with him to make his movie Valkarie. You know what, replace Scientology with Judaeism. I honestly believe both of these men are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Sure, people can say “oh he must believe in Xenu and all that crap.” To which I reply, is my religion any better? I believe in a Jewish Zombie who can make you live forever (if you symbolically eat his flesh), was his own father, who I telepathically call master, so he will remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. To me the true value in any religion (in fact the only value) is in the allegory from which we derive lessons to lead our lives.

So, given the film is very good (3.5 stars at least) and that Scientology is currently the most hated religeon in Hollywood (which on the other hand embraces Kaballah), shouldn’t we give Big Willy a break here?

Go see the film. If you like superheroes you will like it. If you like Will Smith you will see yet another facet of his acting. If you just want to be entertained – go see it. It is not a train wreck, it does not loose steam towards the end, the story is really interesting. Enjoy!

A Boy and his Battle Rifle

I have found out that the Butterman are as diverse a group as any. It turns out this group of old farts who play halo also has it’s share of responsible gun enthusiasts. Aaron surprised me with his knowledge of international weapons, Nuttzy with his Army NG experience and KillTheHireling with his competitive shooting experience.

Here is me, the Boy and his Battle Rifle:

Here is the lovely day here in Tennessee I had to shoot with. The threat of rain kept all but a few out there today so it was very easy. At most there were two other shooters in the rifle house today. The place I shoot at is the Stones River Hunter Education Center. It is a great rifle range. The staff in exceptionally helpful and knowledgable about arms. They are located in Antioch, TN and I highly recomment them as a good place to go practice. $5.50 gets you 2 hours on the range. I also rent sandbags though I could make my own. The money goes to support the Range Safety Officer corp they have and those guys are really what make it a safe, educational and fun place:

And here is the results on one of the targets. Note that the shots off the paper are not mine. They reuse the foam core many times before replacing it and some people don’t have tight groups as you can see.

Overall I did pretty well. I tried it out at 100 yards with iron sights. It took a few rounds before I could even hit the target but once I figured out the trajectory it was a piece of cake. Now I just have to hone in those skills on Breath – Relax – Aim – Squeeze. Some day I will upgrade my iron sights to some sort of holographic aiming system and flip out scope but for now I am enjoying steeling my skill at general riflery.

More on the AT-43 Cogs

Well this is interesting. In the fluff they are nearly at the same technological level as the Therians. It was through the help of the Karmans that the Therians prevailed. Here we some some interesting features. Are those some sort of crude chainsword? Those pistol blasters look interesting as well. Perhaps they are a close combat race or maybe this is just a close combat unit.

It is nice to see what they look like at least. Clearly similar to the Therians but at the same time quite different.

Karmans in their first fight

Well it is July 4th and it seemed nothing could go right today. I went to the rifle range and they were closed again. It’s at a state park. Its a holiday. People who are off like to go to, I dunno, parks?!? So I came home and my friend Jeff came over. He’s never played AT-43 so with ample free time we opted to try out a game using my Karmans vs. some UNA troops. They seemed diametrically opposed. We started between range band 4 and 6 apart. I was rather amazed at how expensive the Karman units are to field. I mean wow. However once they rev up those ZZ-Rifle you better be ready for your second Wow! While everything was basically dug in, the UNA lasers were doing the trick nicely. I only could afford Wendigos and K-Guns while the UNA had Star Troopers, Tacarms, Wing Troopers and a Firetoad. So already I was outnumber 2 to 1. Which meant there was never a clear lane to cover ground.

However we were close enough to utilize the various indirect options. Besides grenade launchers there is the maser strike. It is a modification of the ZZ-Rifles beam to be indirect. I haven’t checked the math on it but it seems like it is exactly what the doctor ordered for troops dug in. The Wendigos can fire 2 dice each. This is actually overkill. If you have 4 figures that can fire the maser strike you end up rolling 8 dice! The AOE is 1 so You could have up to an 8cm radius if all the dice come up as hits. We did this all wrong but if we had done it right it would have been about 4cm a turn with a 4cm deviation.

I have to play with them more but they are quite brutal. They do not like Tacarms with lasers – that much was clear. The range and damage is just hideous. A saving grace is that they are infantry and can claim cover at 3+. Overall I like them. I am missing some stuff. I have the Anakonga base unit but none of the attachments. I have the Kaptar attachments but not the base unit! I have one or two vehicles coming. So these are definitely cool. I will have to set up a 3000 point a side game and see how they work in conjunction with the Therians as allies. The UNA will of course have the Red Blok as allies. Should be fun.

Picked up some Karmans

I am on my way to have a complete AT-43 set. I picked up the Karmans at Wargames. I had to wait for my expense report at work to clear. Finally the money hit the account and off I went to pick up about 10 boxes of the wonderful, fuzzy creatures.

The Karmans are uplifted apes. As you may know the weird story line behind the AT-43 Universe all ties back into Earth. At some point humans split between cyborgs and pure strain humans. The cyborgs uplift the apes and begin a grand plan to take over the Universe and order it to their liking. The pure strain humans split into two faction and the apes, well they just manage to survive between all three.

Coming up in the AT-43 world is Operation Frostbite. I am very much looking forward to that book. It will allow to play an extended campaign. It has some new rules and one would hope a pretty interesting large scale meta campaign.