Monday, January 31, 2011

Reaper Mouseling Boxed Set Review (with added Frumitty!)

I have had the mouseling boxed set for some time and despite the fact that I have yet to get a drop of paint on them, I’m very happy with their purchase.

First off, I love mouselings in general. I was a big fan of the Heritage recasts the Reaper did when they first started back in the mid-90s. I’ve already seen their use on boards and blogs by people of all ages, but the one thing that surprises me is their size.

Presentation: the ten figures were packaged in a fairly generic Reaper box advertising their mecha game CAV with front and back single page overlays. The box has four pieces of foam inside to protect the figures.

The figures themselves are sufficiently detailed with no noticeable mold lines on any of the mouselings. There was, however, an inordinate amount of flash on each figure. The flash is easily removable with no damage to the quality of figures.

The size of the figures is absolutely tiny! The mouselings are compared to a 3rd edition 40K Catachan Jungle Fighter, Legions of Steel Recee Trooper, and a Hackmaster Halfling Torch Bearer all technically 28/30mm. Without a base, the mouselings are appropriately dwarfed and I can’t imagine using a 20mm GW base without it looking ridiculous. Perhaps a dime or penny?

The assortment gives you a wide variety of character types to play with: barbarian, wizards, archers, rogue, even a musketeer and a knight. I do sort of wish that Reaper made the figures available individually. Multiple copies of the mouseling with cowl could go along way in a Mouse Guard game.

Frumitty, Hackmaster Torchbearer, three mouselings, and a Jungle Fighter

Frumitty, on the other hand is a strange anomaly. He/she/it is the large figure next to the torch bearer in the picture. The lemur cleric is a one good hunk of metal with no noticeable clean-up or flash removal needed. I am very pleased with this figure as well, just a little confused as to it’s price of $9.99. The blister pack it came in had very poor printing that mention some form of charity, so I’m assuming “proceeds from the sale of this item go towards the illegible charity.” I also couldn’t find any reference to it on the Reaper website so apparently the charity isn’t as important as when they first released the fig. C’est la vie!

Overall I’m tickled pink with theses acquisitions and am happy to add this to my “To be painted” collection. I’ll be happy to use these figs for Mouse Guard, alternative figs for dungeons crawling, or as a native resistance force for those Imperialist gnomes!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Apathy of New Releases (Feb '11)

It's that time of month...

The next issue of Game Trade Monthly is out, and despite my permanent address at the hospital watching over my little girl, I do have plenty of time for reading.

Given that Alliance/Diamond is the biggest gaming distributor of general gaming items, I am again apathetic in the selection of new releases coming out. Here's hoping Previews helps the multi-faceted store's profit margin, but I doubt it.

On viscounteric's want list? Only the Repear holiday mouseling (see pic). Like about half of the holiday figures so far, I see few applications for the fig except for decoration. $3.99

Although a unit of winged mouseling archers might look a bit imposing on the gaming table, if it wasn't so ridiculous.

My wishlist is equally pathetic:
The Impossible Machine card game by Closet Nerd. Players make overly complex machines to do simple task (think of it as the card game version of Mouse Trap.) $14.95

The store list is quirky. Going back and seeing what I recommended in previous months, I'll mention the new releases for those items again. The one thing I hate is a store that invests in couple base sets, some accessories, sells 70% through and doesn't follow through on the new items.

  • Ars Magica: The Church


  • The new Doctor Who RPG (scheduled release April)


  • A couple new units for Dust Tactics and a campaign expansion.

  • Three new books of Mongoose's Traveller


  • A new printing of Steve Jackson's Awful Green Things from Outer Space

  • WizKids will release Star Trek Expeditions, a non-collectible miniature game with figs from the original series and a couple ships. Looks like your standard landing party that goes through numerous missions.

  • WOTC ALERT: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: MORDENKAINEN’S MAGNIFICENT EMPORIUM HC. Nothing in this book will do this proud magic-user justice, but I seeth in WOTC hate, so I will kindly shut up.
The rest of the items are products that I've never heard of, never heard buzz about, and would be very cautious in ordering if my customers didn't mention it. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(LoS) Thank You eBay! Damn You eBay!

First off, my littlest girl, Amelia has been in the hospital the past week. She's slowing improving, although I will offer myself as an indentured servant if someone can invent a vacuum for the lungs to suck up this mucus-y sludge that put her there in the first place. Thoughts, good vibes, and prayers are accepted and appreciated.

That said, this post has been a work in progress for the past week and a half for that very reason. Pictures will be posted at first convenience:

Before all this medical stuff came up, I had a few moments to do a little perusing on eBay. Nothing spectacular, really, just looking for some inexpensive terrain, odd bits, and a few woefully underpriced RPG books that I was notorious for snagging years ago. I made a few forays into some CoC stuff (Really, I can justify an $8 Cthulhu book with shipping to my wife... I think), moved over into Mordheim and Necromunda territory, and finally typed in three little words on a whim.

Legions of Steel

Not many results popped up: The Advanced Rules, the Alien Sourcebook.... and a Black Empire Chariot

Now, it's not the Archfiend or the Superfortress, but it is a cool model, so my $5.00 bid goes in, then a $10, just to be safe, and finally a $14.00 one.

A few days later and I'm the proud papa of a Black Empire Chariot for $10 (S&H included). Oh Lord, grant my wife mercy so she doesn't kill me as I inch closer to another game.

Oh course, the irony is, a few hours after I payed via Paypal, the seller put up ANOTHER chariot at the same starting price. I did not tempt fate and see just how many this guys had and worked on a bulk price, although I'm sure I can put together some explanation for their appearance in Gnome Wars (German Slave Girl Barges?), but I digress.

Just a day or two later, and some fella on TMP was selling either a UNE Support Weapon Squad (5 figs) or five Fantasians. $20 bucks for either set, shipping included. I snagged the UNE Troopers:

Now the real problem has come after that. The original seller of the Black Chariot on eBay? He has a slew of items for sale now: UNE, Machine, Black Empire, Fantasians. The figs are packaged in old blisters and even the latter squad boxes. More importantly a UNE Fast Attack Vehicle for $3.00! If this posts makes me lose a fantastic buy, so much the better, cause I think I bid on a few too many items and with lack of work plus upcoming medical bills, if I ever get a moment of rest, it shouldn't be on eBay, it should be painting (there is a GW French pastry mortar still waiting to be assembled.

So I guess this is me saying my really frugal gaming plan for 2011 has been shot to hell, and I'll be looking of LoS playing soon (or indoctrinating a whole new generation).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Settlers of America has an article up reviewing Settlers of America, the latest of the Settlers series of games. It intrigues me: static resource tiles (the number tiles are still there for some randomness), game play goes between traditional Settlers development and a train game with resources moving across the board. No more civilizations getting build around, too!

A Pic from the article *drool*

The history major in me is screaming the same things the article promotes: "Awesome teaching tool!" The part of me that loves train games but can't convince others to play is looking at the $55.00 price tag and convincing the wargaming side "It's only another unit of gnomes." And the tired father of two is thinking this is a great fill in game when I do get the gang back together and the regular session runs short or lackluster.

The full review:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Masks of Nyarlathotep Hardcover Review

A Picture of Someone Else's Copy

I finally received my copy of Masks of Nyarlathotep hardcover from Chaosium over the weekend, and I am a happy man indeed.

The hardcover is every bit of classy wonder that I expect, and finally allowed me to read the whole damn thing. I've played the early parts. I've read some actual play posts from games, but I've never had the opportunity to read one of the most played and most preferred campaigns throughout Cthulhu-dom.

I'm impressed. But not by much.

The Pros: It's a limited edition CoC Hardcover. It isn't as nice as, say, the anniversary editions of the core rules, but it does look nice on shelf next to the 20th Anniversary CoC and Aces & Eights. It has beautiful, shiny pages, which should last a long time with casual reading, and are not reflective like other publishers are wont to do. The stitched binding seems solid. And of course, it's Masks. I believe only Horror on the Orient Express and Escape From Innsmouth may have been preferred limited editions, and I don't see that happening ever...

The Gist: The investigators are brought together by a mutual friend that believes a certain archeological disaster in Kenya was more than it was reported. Lovecraftian and Pulp style hi-jinks ensue, and the group finds themselves on a globe trotting journey, possibly to London, Egypt, Kenya, Australia, and Shanghai uncovering an evil they can barely understand, and learning secrets they barely want to comprehend. Outside the campaign's starting point in New York City, the campaign is free-form, with plenty of room for new investigators. Exotic locales, pulp adventure, and hideous horrors hiding the shadows.

The Cons: It's a hardcover, and with six locations and the normal set of CoC handouts, it would be torture on the book for photocopies. Luckily, Chaosium does offer the introduction, all handouts, and a few other useful references as a free pdf file on its website. Six locations could also equate to torture on the book as a constant reference source, even as fine produced as it is. A Keeper might interest themselves in a softcover or pdf copy as well. All this, the diverting plot lines and red herrings, the entire campaign may take months, if not a years for a casual group. It is an intense campaign which allows for the few minor sidetracks provided in the book, but little room (time) for other investigations. Whereas a book like Spawn of Azathoth allows a Keeper to weaves its scenarios into an existing campaign, until it nears its climax, Masks IS the campaign.

This is not a campaign for the local women's knitting society and block watch. A 1920's version of Mystery Incorporated would be wise to stick to its ghost and rubber suits. A well-balanced team of investigators needs to be assembled from the start, and as members become mental and physical casualties, proper replacements need to be developed and blended into the group. My current group, with seven scenarios under their belts might survive New York, but the four corners of the globe would do them in with barely a twitch.

That said, I am simply amazed that my friend Bob ran our novice group through it, and we only failed 70% of the time (a large woman with a Tommy gun prevented it from getting worse).

Masks is a massive investment, and the price of the hardcover, softcover, or pdf is a negligible part of that. For an experienced Keeper with good players, it's an EPIC endeavor. For a new or inexperienced Keeper, it spells certain disaster. I realized now that there are so many free scenarios available that it may be smarter to tweak them to your needs than buying any campaigns. I would consider all the scenarios in the back of the CoC Rulebook to be "free", as well as the plethora of them on the Chaosium website you have months and months of gaming. After a trans-Atlantic crossing or two, and a couple of near-TPKs, they might be ready with a fighting chance with Masks.

Heck, I might advise avoiding scenario books and sourcebooks, too. The only two published scenarios I've run were out of Secrets of New York and Dead Reckonings, and they have been great reads, but so-so in player execution (luckily they did not cause inventigator executions, but that's for a future actual play post.)

After that semi-rant I only have one selfish complaint. I have been spoiled with East Coast companies' super-fast turnaround times, and low shipping costs. I know that I don't want two-week Media Mail for my orders, but Chaosium residing in San Francisco means an insignificant difference in costs between regular shipping and Priority Mail, and that's NOT a good thing to me. I guess it's just another lament of the death of FLGS in Northeastern PA.

In short, buy this book for your shelf, and a softcover/pdf for actual play. And most importantly, make sure everyone in your group is ready, or else the campaign will either be very short, or a Lovecraftian meatgrinder with a carousel of investigators eschewing the scenic route of knowledge and madness, and jumping directly onto the express lane of death.

Exactly what the Great Old Ones want, perhaps...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

(Nostalgia) Challenge #49 Available FREE at Drivethrurpg

I discovered that one of the free promo downloads this week was issue #49 from Challenge Magazine. Unlike the B'Tech RPG rules, I immediately downloaded a copy for perusal.

Challenge was the long-standing house organ for Game Designer's Workshop (GDW), but even in the death throes of gaming mag era, GDW always included material for other games, the only criteria was that the game was roughly sci-fi or supernatural in nature.

Issue #49 fulfills my needs with just the front cover of some special ops climbing a sea cliff, with an exploding cruiser in the waters below:

The mag starts off with Twilight: 2000. Pennsylvania Crude, is a organized scavenger scenario to extract oil from the Northern Tier of PA. Given all the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling that's occuring today, I had to giggle a bit. Like most Twilight 2000, scenarios, it's pretty free-form, providing additional material for the Game Master to adapt and overcome his player's actions. The details on roads between Erie and Warren, PA are still accurate. Thanks PennDOT for keeping the roads in the same shape twenty years later, for better or for worse.
How To: Obtain Maps for Gaming is a nice pre-internet how to on where to find various types of maps. Again, it's still very valid today.
There are three MegaTraveller articles. One covering a certain sector in space, a scenario, and an article recommending special considerations when dealing with a pre-gunpowder civilization. I'll also include a 2300 AD scenario with this, as there is enough similarities despite different flavors.
There is a Space: 1889 article covering the trade city of Thymiamata, with a noticeable appearances of those pesky Yanks. Oh to have a group to play this with and an excuse for some Victorian Sci-Fi minis!
Rounding out the back end of the issue is are scenarios for Cyberpunk, GURPS: Space, Star Trek (FASA), Star Wars (d6), and freaking Renegade Legion, as well as notes for Paranoia and Morpheus!
While you would never see this level in any gaming mag (that's left) in the last ten years, the nostalgia totally kicked in looking at the ads. This was the March 1991 issue, so GDW was hawking the new Dark Conspiracy, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, heck, Vampire (no Masquerade) was scheduled for Summer release!
What truly warmed the cockles of my heart was in the convention section:
LEHICON IV, March 15-17, at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Allentown, PA,
sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Gamers Association.

The only other amusing item of note was in the Briefs section (aka New Releases of Companies not called TSR). GDW had released the Desert Shield Fact Book, which was their best-selling item of all time. Twenty years later and we're STILL flubbing around in Iraq, but that's for a different blog.
I also perused the other freebies (there's over a thousand) on the the website. There's dozens of items the seem useful to anyone who's running a consistent fantasy rpg. Free pdfs mean no buyers remorse, even if it is junk, and you can print out what pages you want and not lug around another book.
The direct link for the free issue:
You will need to register to download, but otherwise, it's pretty painless.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Painting Poll Results

Thanks for those who actually voted for my "What to paint next" poll. With a tie vote, my personal tie-breaker goes to the French Pastry Mortar. Although it's equal parts model and paint job, it's small enough that with the arrival of my newest angel today, Amelia Kathryn my personal time just disappeared. Here's to 15 minute bursts of talent!

Little Millie:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Legions of Steel Update (Perchance to dream...)

I miss the Yahoo! group boards. There was a time where that was the place to be for specific games/genres/etc... Ten years ago I would spend most of my time perusing the groups I was a member of: ERPGA, The Society of Neffs, various other gaming groups. However, over the last few years, companies have transitioned to their own message boards (Brigade Games is the latest to do this). Nowadays I might make a bi-monthly visit just to see if there's any new stuff popping up.

A pre-Christmas post on the Legions of Steel Yahoo! group from creator Clark Browning is definitely worth noting. After going over the future use of pdfs for rules, tiles, and counters (I couldn't imagine how much the LoS original box set would go for it was made today) he gets to this:

"I want to put together a designers' package and open gaming license for what I envision as the Line-Of-Sight Tabletop Warfare System. There are various legal and practical reasons for doing so, but the bottom line is that if you want Tyrranids battling Imperial Stormtroopers we should all be on the same page and not get sued in the process."

*drool* Basically we're looking at a d20 OGL for miniature wargaming using the LoS/Planetstorm rules as a base. The anti-Games Workshop approach. Let's just get some lead on the table and play. Throw in some rules for 15mm and 6mm play and there are thousands of figs to play with that aren't $45 for a mediocre vehicle.

"Meanwhile, there is so much room for new figs: Panzerdyne 9000 series,Fantasian Privateers, Infranite Shamans, Black Empire Ninjas, Omega Fiends and cyborgs, non-powered infantry, Galactics, and more. If this is going to be a business, it needs a new marketing paradigm."

*double drool* First off, I would just like some basic UNE troopers and Nightmares available with some consistency. Make the basic troop types affordable and I'll work a second job for more figs. I know the Archfiend and Super Fortress will never see the light of day again, but I would like to see the U.N.E Fast Attack Vehicle with a decent resin cast. I just hope that if this does get off the ground that they look at what "equivilant" figures are available and at what price. With the OGL, people are far more willing to look for cheaper figure if they don't get the GW Tourney scorn.

But what I am thinking of would need you guys as business associates. Think "TupperwareParty". That's all I am going to say at this point.

I am interested in subscribing to your newsletter, Mr. Browning. A good Outrider/Stryker/Demo Team program that focuses on compensation for sales vs. number of cons/stores I could drive to. The guys would be doing it for more than "the love of the game" but why shouldn't the guy who got you into the game get a little residual for the effort and enthusiasm. "LoS Parties" anyone? Let's just hope it doesn't turn into an Amway or Maleleuca scheme.

As a side play, I wanted to do "Bucket O' Death", which is stripped down LOS/Planetstorm rules for use with a bucket full of cheap, plastic army soldiers that you can play on a tabletop, with your lamp, dishes, cutlery and such as terrain, or on the floor or where ever.

I may have to offer Clark a perusal of Burning Plastic. Sounds like a good playtesting technique for yet-to-be-produced minis. I welcome all forms of kitchen table fun!

Nothing like teases to titillate a former sci-fi wargamer. I had WWI minis in my five-year plan. If this evolves beyond ideas and dreams while downing a pint, I'll become a full-fledged fanboy again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

(Nostalgia) Even as a little kid, I was a game master

With the new year upon us, a christmas with piles of presents for a little girl, and another one on the way VERY soon, I began waxing nostalgic for my own childhood. Those of you in my age group know exactly what I'm talking about: It seems that those of us who were kids in the Eighties actually "played pretend" with makeshift playsets, random boxes, and most of all, without a toybox full of "correct" props. A refridgerator box would last as a fort, a playhouse for my sister's friends, a tent hung over the clothesline when it wouldn't stand up anymore, and an island ready for invasion after it fell apart. We actually made shit up as we went along. We all had Atari (Nintendo in the later stages), and something odd occurred. Our parents actually restricted its usage to after dinner/homework or even on a snow day, they kicked us out of the house to play in the snow for a few hours before we were allowed back in to thaw out and play for a little while.

Like pre-teen Marines, we could adapt and overcome any real-life situation to accomodate our imaginary stories. I just wish we had written some of that shit down!

No, I don't believe I had the next Harry Potter story ready when I was 9, but the bits and pieces I recall weren't great, but they were better than half the RPG actual play stories I read online.

"The Train Set"
My family has always had a love of trains, so when I still a toddler, my Dad picked up some random HO trains, buildings, etc and had an L-shaped board in the basement. This was the focus of many a rainy day (or 100 degree summer day). The pickings were meager to work with, but a few issues of Model Railroader and I was reorganizing the town, setting up mayoral elections, new construction projects, etc... When the lumber mill arrived around Christmas, I begged my Dad for us to go to the big train meet in Allentown in February to get some more houses cheap. Why? Well, the influx of the lumber industry (and ten pack of pine trees in the far corner of the layout) meant more jobs and an increased demand for housing. And not all the workers could live above the hardware/general store. New Hot Wheels/Matchboxes meant new people in town. Roads were drawn up in chalk for a four lane highway out of town, ironically enough, removing some of the rail line to do it (Even back then, I understood the economic impact of subidizing one transportation method versus another.)

And oh, yeah, the lumber mill showed up when I was SIX. Perhaps I should have read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, instead of the newest issue of US News and World Report.

And before I knew of garden railroads, I had imaginary road and rail systems traversing the basement (the back of the basement was an industrial city), the kitchen (an archipelago with the linoleum as water), and the living room (same concept as the kitchen, but the red shag carpeting was LAVA!). The railway further meandered out of the house. Sidewalks were highways, patio blocks were malls, and the side of the yard that always flooded was a Mississippi River-style transportation hub.

I seriously wish I had written down that stuff, even if it was the elaborate writing style of a 6 to 10 year old boy.

*Star Wars "LARP-ing"* I had dozens of solo and group adventures as North Skywalker, the other orphaned son they don't talk about in the Star Wars movies. Armed with my trusty wiffleball bat, er lightsaber, my dim recollections of them run an odd style parallel to the prequels. Jedis, were cool, but all we had to work on the Old Republic were (non-internet) rumors and some old Flash Gordon serials that were still on TV from time to time. Perhaps the first two prequels really weren't made for the grown-up fans, most kids seem to like them innocently enough.

*Backyard Wargaming*
And, of course, there were the Green Army Men battles that made Normandy look like a panty raid. Those evolved into the Star Wars/G.I. Joe epic sagas, which transformed the backyards of my buddy Dave and I into strategic strongholds, minefields, and logistics? My parents didn't have the money to give me every guy I wanted, heck I whatever guys were left when they were on clearance, but they also snagged up a pile of generic figs, and best of all, Fisher-Price action figures. No, not the Little People, but actual Rescue Choppers with guys you could usually interchange with the "real" ones. We went from hours of setting up for a half hour of slugfest fighting until one of us had to go home to attacking convoys, running blockades, even third party weapons smuggling.

Yeah, I was a nerd even back then... but I still wish I had more than a few scant memories of childhood bliss. To be honest, even as I'm playing with my daughter, I hold back the desire to jot down how she's playing with the Fisher-Price Noah's animals, the family in the house, even a special guest spot by Mister Potato Head. She's just playing "house", and she's not even two!

I guess I've always been a gamemaster of some sort, more worried about how things happen and the after effects of the actions. We just didn't have blogging, digital cameras, and the step-by-step chronicling of one's life that we have today.

But perhaps that's why I can be nostalgic about those times. Like a writer who doesn't archive his work, I've forgotten how good or bad it was back then.

I just want to know why the hippo is in the tub of my daughter's doll house...