Thursday, 13 September 2012

Mongoose Publishing - Judge Dredd Miniatures Game Block War expansion

There are 3 things that should keep me from posting this.

First, I'm a bit disappointed by what little I've seen of the new Judge Dredd film... it so very much doesn't look like Mega-City One, and any film with 3D in its title turns me off just a little before I've even started watching.

Secondly, I'm starting to form some very strong opinions about established companies using Kickstarter, which, to my mind, is a bit against its original purpose.  This might explain why I've covered DreadBall quite a bit but haven't posted the link to its Kickstarter... I'm pretty sure Mantic Games could and would have financed this without taking your money early.  It could be argued that it's being used as a promotional vehicle.

Last, the Kickstarter I'm about to post a link to has already been funded, in its first day no less.

However, seeing the Judge Dredd Miniatures Game succeed is really gratifying, even extending to a personal level.  It helped get the ThoughtonBOT and myself back into miniature gaming with its low-commitment entry (a few inexpensive models, and you can get started... perfect!) and wide scope for creativity... the background fluff is already immense and allows for some really interesting stories and conflicts.  Plus, material discussed and written by myself and my gaming group (read: friends) has actually made it into the game itself.  What could be more personal than that?

In fact, it's astounding that I haven't mentioned it on this blog yet.  Hmm, have to see to that in the near future.

So, this link is a Kickstarter for the Block War supplement.  Matthew Sprange explains more on the video linked.  And today, dear readers, I found out that last name rhymes with "strange"... who knew?

Stained Glass Windows of Lord of the Rings Scenes

Bilbo the Hobbit shows off in front of Gandalf, Frodo and Gimli
There's a lot of talent out there, and the internet being what it is, it's very easy for a lot of that to go overlooked.  Thankfully, I managed to stumble upon this gallery by Jian Guo, depicting key scenes from J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, rendered as stained glass windows.

I think they're beautiful and that everyone should go have an intense looksie.  Should anyone ever get enough crazy on to make them into real-life stained glass windows, I'd be first in the line to go and see them.

Lord of the Rings stained glass window illustration

Well, okay, maybe not first.  Someone would probably get there before me.  But I'd envy that person.

Makes me kinda excited about the upcoming Hobbit movie.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review: Puppets War Football Orc Heads

Blood Bowl orc heads by Puppets War

One of the fantastic things we've seen develop in the last decade or so in the world of miniatures is the emergence of companies that provide conversion pieces (AKA bitz), often designed to seamlessly replace a component from another company's line of miniatures.  Puppets War is one such provider who hail from sunny Poland, and I just took delivery of an order of their orc football team heads.

It's pretty obvious what these heads are for, but care has to be taken in their advertising.  After all, Games Workshop so fervently pursue retention of their intellectual property that it even resulted in Talk Blood Bowl -- a popular site that you might think GW would be happy to see providing so much free advertising and enthusiasm for one of their products -- being forced to rename itself to Talk Fantasy Football.  Suffice to say, I personally will be using the heads to convert GW orc/ork miniatures for Blood Bowl.

Onto the bitz themselves.

Lots of Bloodbowl bits and bitzThe heads are made from a non-metal resin which holds a very crisp level of detail.  For those already familiar with good quality miniature resin, it won't surprise you to learn that these heads utterly put plastic to shame.  As I look at an open-mouthed plastic GW ork boy's top row of teeth (teef), I can count 4; the Puppets War orc head, by comparison, has 8.  There is some flash, and, as is always expected, some mold lines.  Though, it must be said, they are well positioned and nothing looks too challenging to be cleaned.  I feel as though the material has perfectly captured exactly what the sculptor (Adrian GaweĊ‚) was aiming for, with no compromises.

And, sadly, that brings me to a flaw in this material.  I didn't know before ordering that the jaw-protector of the helmets was actually cast as a separate piece.  For making each member of my team unique, this is fantastic.  However, resin is brittle -- infamously so -- and straight out of the packet you can probably see from the photos that there are lots of breakages on these delicate parts.  Lots.

Orky jaw-protectors on a sprue

It has also meant that in many cases the jaw-protectors have come loose from the much heavier sprue, as have some of the heads.  Where things have stayed on the sprue, there are occasional breakages also.  Keep in mind, I haven't touched these things, other than to remove them from their packaging.

And I've ended up with a pile of very orky-looking bitz indeed.

A pile of bitz dat cost losta teef
The ork in me likes seeing big piles of smashed up fings dat looks well orky.
The sane person in me is a bit disappointed, though.

So, is this the fault of the packaging itself?  Hard to say.  I had the forethought to take a photo of the box these pieces were sent in before opening it, and it looked sufficient from the outside.  It's a solid cardboard box, within which all the pieces were placed in a single zip-lock style baggie, with a small bag full of air to cushion one end.  So, I'm not sure if the taxing journey from Poland to the UK was the cause of the breakages or not.
A package sent to me from Poland via Royal Mail

What I am sure of, though, is that the website advertised 12 heads and 2 balls per set.  Most unfortunately, I've ended up with just one ball (fnar?).  I'm going to contact the company about that shortly, but didn't want to keep you, dear readers, without something to read first.  Many people are happy to make their own Blood Bowl balls from greenstuff and similar, and since I'm presently in need I'll give that a go too, but alas it's not the most convenient solution and greenstuff certainly isn't free.  The inclusion of the footballs was a big selling point for me.

When I start actually making use of the heads, I'll post up some comparison pictures between these and GW heads for scale, and show how well they fit onto the bodies.  But since this initial review is about the products themselves, not what I want to do with them, that can wait for another post.

To finish this, though, I'll conclude that Puppets War have a fantastic sculptor in their employ, who makes characterful and detailed orc heads that I predict will look amazing on the table.  However, the company needs to be a lot more vigilant, and check packages before sending things out.  After all, this is my first impression as it's my first order with them.

I hope I can sort things out with them and it won't have to be my last.

Update 13th September 2012: For those interested, I contacted Puppets War shortly after posting this on the 10th.  I received an initial reply on the 11th requesting pictures of the received package (just as well I documented everything for this here blog, eh?) and sent that, getting only one more communication yesterday to say that the photos were being passed on to "the guys" and "let them tell us what they do with it".  I'll update this post again if/when I hear something more.

Update 27th September 2012: I finally saw resolution of this yesterday when, unannounced, a package arrived from Puppets War containing a new set of heads, and every item accounted for correctly.  It seems the jaw-protectors are most definitely cast in an unsuitable material, since once again they were in pieces.  Since I have sufficient from this and the last pack (and can make do with fuse wire anyway) I'm happy to call it a day and get on with (finally) building my team.  Puppets War dealt with my problems in a reasonable fashion (though more communication would have been welcomed) so I'll likely be ordering from them again when I simply can't resist any more.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mantic Games - Female DreadBall Team

It seems many of you, dear readers, are interested in hearing about the Mantic Games upcoming Definitely-Not-Blood-Bowl game DreadBall.  So, it's my duty to keep you informed, and here's the latest: there could be a female Corporation DreadBall team.

Mantic Games DreadBall Female Corporation team concept art

This early concept work is by Roberto Cirillo.  Mantic have responded by immediately suggesting less armour, which is a shame, frankly, because as it stands I think this might be the most progressive move the fantasy sports tabletop gaming niche has yet seen.

Mantic Games DreadBall Wildcard MVP
Wildcard MVP
One of the things that turns me off some of the third-party (i.e. not GW) Blood Bowl teams is that there's some seriously degrading female stuff in there.  I'm no prude, I like naked breasts on a woman as much as the next guy, but in my opinion that's for the bedroom not the pitch or the battlefield.  At least, not any pitch or battlefield where all the guys are clad in as much metal as they can get away with.

Mantic's thoughts are presently that they'd prefer something a little closer to Wildcard, the human MVP who represents the only creature with ovaries amongst the sausage-fest of the remainder of the DreadBall universe.  Honestly, that's not so very terrible, Wildcard is far from the most sexualised representation that's ever been pushed for, well, anything that's part of this wonderful world of nerd.  But she's still distinctively different, as though her being female somehow marks her as unequal, and that's the feeling I'd prefer to not see come to the forefront if, indeed, we do get to see female human teams in DreadBall.

Maybe you feel differently.  Comments are open and welcomed.

Random Roleplay Table - Character Secrets

Secrets.  We all keep them, sometimes for years, sometimes even from ourselves.  Whether big or small, they're an intimate part of the structure of how a given society functions, and play an important role in everyday life.

So, shouldn't our characters have secrets too?  GM's often give a secret to an NPC that's important to the plot -- the man in the library was really the PC's long-lost father, the elemental was summoned by the cult harboured by the villagers, the expensive antidote is actually a placebo.  But what about those everyday secrets?  Here's a table of minor secrets that won't impact the plot in a huge way, but give shape to characters, making them more realistic and interesting.  It's suitable for PCs (especially backgrounds) and NPCs alike.

Random roleplay table - character secrets
D8 SecretExamples
1. The character was careless some time in the recent past, and it meant they killed or lost a plant or pet.  They might have been looking after it for another character (who?), or it might impact a larger group (their family or community?).  How has the character thus far gone undetected?  Did the plant or pet get replaced by a near-identical one?  Did someone else harbour the blame? Billy forgot to feed the class hamster all summer.  Margaret over-watered the African violets she was looking after for Dr. Shaefer.  CyberShark accidentally targeted L1th1Um's rare tame in the MMORPG and killed it.  Laerian of the Shadowtrees offended the harvest idol when she tried to pluck one of its hairs for a spell; there were no orcs that scared it off, and now the harvest will be paltry indeed.
2. Romantic indiscretions have complicated things.  A given character might have been involved directly, or maybe just knows about it happening between others.  What impact would revealing this secret have on those involved?  On the holder of the secret?  Of everyone else who would come to know of it? Naeth Goldsand accidentally saw the prince's bride-to-be kissing her bodyguard.  Jack Singlebrow, PI, found out about the widow's secret affair before she became a widow, casting doubt on her motives -- now he can make a tidy sum in blackmail.  The sailor keeps a girl in every port, which will eventually lead on to having a family or two; what happens when one sweet gal finds out about another?
3. The character has, or knows about, a secret addiction or vice.  Be it alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, or something else, almost all addictions left untethered eventually become serious.  What stage of addiction is the addict in?  Is there an easy cure?  What will the addict do to keep the addiction secret, and what will he or she do to keep partaking in the addiction? Jagga the half-orc is finding himself really enjoying the kill, more than is healthy... is it a problem?  The vampire calling herself Origin accidentally fed upon one of her own kind, now she can't get enough.  Gostan knows the cortex-nodes are addictive, but the fantasies are so compelling, even if he is down to his last cred.
4. The family tree does not run the way it is widely thought to.  Perhaps as a result of another secret (romantic indiscretions), the fatherhood of a child is incorrectly assumed, or one or both of the assumed parents are wrong due to other factors.  Who knows about this, and why?  When will it come to light, if ever?  Is this a secret for the now, or did it happen in the past, meaning someone is of a different descent, ethnicity or race than they assumed? Miss Salloway gave away her child to the orphanage to keep her job in the manor house; the lord is known for his ways with the servants.  It turns out Galx's mother is actually his grandmother... so what happened to his actual mother?  Faen has never really paid any attention to the pointedness of her ears, but it's certainly a distinctive feature given that both her parents are human.
5. A character stole something.  It's possible someone else lost their job or standing in the community as a result of it -- the other party was unfairly blamed for the theft, or lost face because something like this was allowed to happen or went unsolved.  Maybe nobody has noticed... yet.  Does the character harbour guilt?  Did someone else see it happen? Jennifer stole a panini, and let Jerome take the fall; she knows he's never going to work in this town's coffee shops again after something like that, but the same fate would befall her if she came clean.  The prince's sergeant-at-arms would love to get his hands on whoever took that sword the prince had his eye on out of the armoury; the cost came directly out of the sergeant's annual stipend.  Whoever took that flash drive could not know the value of what was on it -- time to run the tracer program.
6. The character saw something unusual that breaks the wider beliefs of the society they're within, and can't tell anyone at risk of not being taken seriously, being ridiculed or even being ostracised.  How many people share this secret, and do they know there are others who have seen it too? If there's no such thing as unicorns, then why did woodsman Garren see a mating pair that summer in the hidden glade?  Jerry-Rae knows that even if that were a weather balloon, the green-skinned whatchamacallits sticking their tentacles out the sides weren't no weathermen.  Unit 230X knows there's no logical rational behind magic, but that biological creature is making the bot question its programming.
7. Membership in a subversive group or conspiracy can be dangerous for all of those who dare risk it, even if their collective intent is benign.  A character is either part of one such group, or knows of another (or others) who are.  How long can something like this stay secret, and what are the consequences?  What led to the formation of this group, and why does it have adherents?  Is this something in the character's past, or is membership for life? Patrick still believes in the ideals of the IRA, even if not their methods; now he's got a decent job on the mainland, it'd ruin him if anyone from his past showed up.  The king makes unpopular decisions, and has many executions; it's only logical that some of the peasants might get ideas about democracy.  These aren't the droids you're looking for.
8. The character did things to make money that he or she isn't proud of.  That might still be the case.  It might be petty theft, prostitution, dealing in illicit substances, or working for or with someone involved in these or more serious things. Suzie's only clue of her wild past is that tattoo on her thigh; nobody can ever guess what those initials stand for, especially her husband.  Langstrom is the best archer in town, and holds his position of Regent's Marshall very seriously; this would all be ruined if anyone ever linked him to those cat-burglaries a decade ago.  As a neurosurgeon, it's essential Dr. Shaefer has a clean past, and that his side business of selling painkillers and unwanted organs is never discovered.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

LEGO Lord of the Rings Orcs

Sometimes, the old trope is true -- our orcs are different.  And if you need any proof that this is the case for the Lord of the Rings LEGO orcs, look no further than this sweet video by the Brotherhood Workshop.

It really reminds me that maybe, just maybe, orcs are people too.

Also, to buy more LEGO.

Mantic Games - DreadBall vs Blood Bowl

Just a quickie.

In my first post when DreadBall was announced/teased I incautiously criticised Mantic Games for stealing the idea directly from GW's Blood Bowl.

Mantic Games DreadBall RefBot
The RefBot cautions me that any further unfounded accusations will not be looked upon lightly
To be fair, it really did look like Blood Bowl In Space.

But Jake Thornton on his Quirkworthy blog has said the differences are numerous, and DreadBall isn't designed to copy Blood Bowl.  And I can respect that.  And he makes a good case, to boot.

So, I formally retract my accusations of thematic theft*, and I won't speculate further until I've played the game.  And some more Blood Bowl.

* And quietly apologise to Jake, too.  He was always my favourite White Dwarf editor, y'know.