Sunday, July 31, 2016

#RPGaDay Pre-Gaming with Judge John

#RPGaDay starts tomorrow, but I figured this topic was big enough that I could encroach on the rules for the hashtag and start the celebration a day early. 

If you take issue with this, blame Apple's marketing... or Microsoft's incompetence.

Remember the "I'm a PC.  I'm a Mac" commercials from a decade ago?   Justin Long (Dodgeball) played the sometimes pretentious Mac and the affably nerdy PC character was comedian John Hodgman. 

While Long has used his fame to star in such masterpieces as Tusk, the Alvin and the Chimpmunks trilogy and Britney Spears' masterpiece, Crossroads, Hodgman has kept a lower profile, writing books, working as a correspondent for The Daily Show, and popping up on random shows from time to time. 

I recently discovered that he has a podcast, Judge John Hodgman where he "acts like a judge, adjudicating real-life disputes within a fictional courtroom setting."

He also has an advice/humor column by the same name in the New York Times Magazine, it's all extremely light-hearted, but one thing got me motivated.

In an earlier column this month,  a reader wrote in inquiring about another parent's questioning D&D as appropriate for a five year old, plus the social stigma attached to it. 

Hodgson agreed that the other parents were snobs, but honed in on the dad's desire to play D&D with his son, perhaps a geek version of "playing catch" that is far more important to him than it is to his son. 

Per the column:
"Five-year-olds don’t need a lot of hex paper and dice to imagine that they are warriors or elves (or cyborg mermen with rainbow breath)... ....but for now I order you to simply let the children play."

While I understand the advice, and similarly sense the motive of the writer, I must heartily disagree with parts of his thinking.   

Introducing D&D, and role-playing games in general, to your kids can easily be done, if you meet their expectations, rather than your own.

I have been actively playing organized (rules and dice) games with my kids for the last five years. 

They are currently 5 and 7 years old.

At this point they have active "normal" imaginations expected of them, fed by a healthy diet of books, television, and an uncanny ability to sneak downstairs and bingewatch Disney shows on Netflix.    Dad's games are just something special, and a little different.

We didn't start with D&D.   All but the most basic of characters are too complicated, math and organization-wise for most children.   Kids at a young age don't want to map out a dungeon and inventory 1,269 copper pieces, 2 small gems, and backpack full of furs on their character sheet.  They want to move a lot of stuff, stay active, and roll a LOT of dice.

So we told stories via wargames....

When I got back into wargaming, I decided on an era to focus my grown-up energy (19th Century Colonial), but I had also picked up Gnome Wars, a quick, fun rule set with figures that had great figures to paint up and simple rules to play.  My wife was seven months pregnant with our first daughter, Maja, when I came to this realization, and over the next two years I slowly accumulated forces...
Counter-Attack on Longido Mountain, 1914 - Using Gnome Wars
It didn't always need to be an elaborate production.  Only showing her the latest purchase usually ignited an impromptu game.  Figures, dice, and her input on the story was all we needed.

Rescuing the Princess - Using Gnome Wars
Ultimately, we started into collaborative stories at bedtime and soon I sketched out T.I.A.R.A. (Toddler Interactive Adventure Resolution.... ADVENTURE!!!) to run smaller games.
Rescuing the Ruby Princess using T.I.A.R.A.
The original incarnation of TIARA used some odd "stop light" d6s  and dice pools.    The dice disappeared (I blame the dogs, they were wooden.  The dice, not the dogs) and I started using polyhedral dice and three stats: Muscle, Agility, and Heart.  It was a princess game, and all princesses had big hearts!
Gaming terrain changes when you have little girls.
We still kept the wargaming side of the Gnomes going, but always had to mix in new bad guys/good guys, all the while keeping it fast and frantic.

And usually historical....
Maja commanding the Chicka Zulu at Rorke's Drift - Gnome Wars
All the while we've made every part of my gaming hobby a series of normal and fun activities....   When I left to visit with my friends to game, they told me I was going on a "playdates",  arts and crafts time was an excuse for Daddy to break out his paints, and maybe some old cowboys and Indians.  I had a captive audience, if I could keep up with their energy. 
Painting the "No-Nos" and a few houses for them to live. 
But back to the role-playing.  Funny thing about kids.  While some want to wade into a crowd cute crowd of Penguin pirates with a katana thirsty for blood, a good number of kids I've played with want to avoid fatal combat. Oh, they'll get their characters into a tussle to help a friend, or recover a stolen basket of strawberries, but they only wanted to hurt the bad guys if they were really bad.

Or a Stinky Kangaroo... I may have raised Odoriferously Bigotted Children.
Belle's Birthday Brawl - Using TIARA

The role-played dance party after the brawl... using TIARA

Princesses survive the angry chicks, but their entourage is not so lucky

Attack of the 50-Foot Princess - Using Steve Jackson's OGRE

The Battle for the Hair
I certainly can't forget my youngest daughter, Millie.  She may have been trapped by a high chair for the first few games, but she's been a willing participant, and sometime instigator of the games.  Even where I can play a little more "sophisticated" with Maja, Millie needs a lot of stuff, a lot of action, and a lot of dice to keep herself interested.
Field Marshall Millie and her Invasion of the North Pole
Maja has become my navigator and sidekick to some of the cons.  The good news is that Mepacon in Scranton (the closest con) has a fantastic kid's activity track.  I know I can leave her in safe hands, she'll have a great time, and come back to the table where I'm running my game.  I may try and go for broke by taking both Maja and Millie to the next one in November.  My wife is definitely overdue for a well-deserved spa day...

Kobolds Ate My Baby:  The Preferred Game of Four-Year Olds Nationwide

Millie's intense game of Pony Diplomacy with my friends.

We recreate the Battle of Hook's Farm from HG Well's Little Wars

If a mouse and pony can't fall in love and get married, then this is a world I don't want to live in!
Now, to go back and lend some credence of Hodgman's opinion, we have played 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  We ran four games out of the introductory boxed set when the girls were three and five.  It ran... okay.   I did draw out and color the maps, and we decided upon using ponies as characters. 
Hasbro Love - D&D using My Little Ponies!
The visual appeal was there, the ponies were exciting, but the mechanics left the girls bored, even with their penchant to add or subtract by shouting at the top of their lungs.   Despite Princess Twilight Sparkle's eventual kidnapping by goblins, neither wanted to continue the game. 

And I can't blame them.  Apple Jack as a cleric was getting her Cutie Mark handed to her in every combat.

We even tried the D&D for Kids scenarios, but outside of the badge of honor, the action was pretty stale to them.

We fell back into more gnomes, with a few jungle safaris mixed in for good measure.

Catch and Release Hunting Parties
One role-playing game we did have immediate success in The Village on a Hill.  It encourages cooperative storytelling, the mechanics to determine if things work/fail is d6 high good/low bad, and the kids are encouraged to draw their characters.  It doesn't matter if it's Kami or spirits in the rules, the girls now know it as "The Helpful Fairy" game and we're overdue with another round of helping villagers.

Millie and her Gnomes at Isandlwana
Between growing tired of my ever changing nature of TIARA, and Maja's fascination with all things Egyptian, I looked for an alternative, and was shocked when I discovered Savage Showdown, the minis rules for Savage Worlds.  Lo' and behold the latter versions of TIARA were simply a stripped down version of Savage Worlds! 
A scorpion battles "The Mexican" during a treasure hunt. Using Savage Showdown
The "Egypt Game" has a rotating cast of characters that revolve around our heroine, Maja Millie, two-fisted archaeologist.  As each session advanced, we've added a few more stats, then a few more rules, until the characters have come to life on the road of treasure hunting.  After our last session, we officially transferred the main heroes to Savage Worlds character sheets, added some hindrances that were developed in play, and spent experience.  Maja Millie is nearly a veteran character!

Millie with Nils Lingonberry, Swedish Adventurer
Oh, and that kind and gentle play style I mentioned before?  It's still there... in a way.  As the heroes fell to the predatory and dishonest practices of a crooked sea captain and his crew. Maja (the player) coolly said, "Daddy, I stab Captain Skippy in the heart," and after a series of exploding dice, the Captain lay motionless in the town square. 

However, as zombies descended upon the town, she still showed mercy towards his crew.  "Daddy, only Captain Skippy was a bad man.  His crew deserve a second chance." 

And thanks to that revelation, the escape by our heroes played out a little differently than I had planned.
"Daddy, I stab Captain Skippy in the heart!"

The Rescue of Nils Lingonberry on Easter at Kisi Rushwa turned strange
The summer schedule of swimming, activities, mixed with oppressive heat has slowed down our games.  I've done some strictly wargaming sessions with the girls, teaching them when and where to use the wonderful world of cover (even in a Pulp game, it's a wise thing to know) and we did play a fun animal rescue scenario going back to TIARA.
I Noah guy....
Savage Worlds is delayed as the next few adventures require me to complete a shoebox city of Middle Eastern buildings that I haven't quite finished.   Hopefully over this weekend, I can get another game of Village on the Hill done, if for no other reason I love to hang the character drawings on my walls at work. 

I do have a some Reaper mouslings that need adventure, and two girls that love the Mouse Guard books.

As soon as they can speak and count pips on Monopoly dice, kids can be introduced to role-playing games.  It's not going to be the start off as the beginning of Stranger Things (especially when you need a 14 to cast a fireball *sheesh*) but it can be an ever-evolving activity that your kids will enjoy, and if your nice to them, might let you play too. 
...and they lived happily ever after.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

(Kickstarter) Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla - The Savage Worlds TTRPG

Ravendesk Games has launched a Kickstarter for Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla - The Savage Worlds RPG

H.P. Lovecraft teams up with Nikola Tesla, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Harry Houdini, Sonia Greene, Marie Curie, Babe Ruth, Josephine Baker, Jack Dempsey, Charlie Chaplin,Clara Bow, Kandinsky, Trilussa, Keaton, the list goes on and on. So many joined the fight against the Cthulhu Mythos creatures who invaded our world in the 1920's. But this is no ordinary Call-back to Cthulhu style TTRPG, this is as much about the history and personalities of the notable figures alive in this exciting era.

This is goes so over the top so much it's infinitely spinning!


 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Long Term Pulp Planning and Painting

The dog days of Summer are upon us, and I, for one, welcome the implementation of #RPGaDay for the month.   Wanna know a little secret? All but two of them have already been written. As we ramp up next month for our busy season, I'll be happy to casually check TMP and Kickstarter for news and other tidbits, confident that I already have 31 posts for August. 

That doesn't mean I won't be posting painting updates or action reports from games, but there's no guarantee that I'm going to get around to them in a timely manner.  With general family chaos and the heat wave gripping the East Coast, we couldn't get quick game of Dungeon Roll in to half-heartily celebrate #GygaxDay.  At least last year we got in one of the D&D Kids scenarios.

To complicate things at work, I'm getting all the keys to the kingdom while everyone desperately uses up their maxed out vacation time.  I anticipate waking up early, tagging my posts on Facebook, Twitter (@viscounteric) and Google Plus, and not checking anything until a late lunch.  I do anticipate using my newfound power and earlier schedule to check out Suicide Squad at a late matinee.   I give myself a 20% chance of that actually happening.

The best gaming-related work I've been able to do this week is (a) send out another pbem update for the Call of Cthulhu campaign.  Time is against me getting the players up to speed with certain details and NPC interactions necessary to start the finale with about 30-45 of bookkeeping and double checking, before we drop them near the start of the finale already in progress. 

I've also decided to do the novel idea to review all my blog drafts and see what figures I need to finish for the next dozen or so games I want to play.   The Savage Saga of Maja Millie is in an unfortunate holding pattern as I simply need to construct some inexpensive Middle Eastern Buildings for the next six or seven sessions.  Shoeboxes, cardstock, and balsa are at the ready.   I just need two full nights down at the bench to take care of them.  Miniatures Building Authority they will not be, but they'll be generic enough for other games/settings as well. 

While I still have a good pile of Pulp Figures to paint up, most notably sailors and female heroines, the next few games look to require a number of different figures I don't yet own.  The bad news is that Arab civilians, marketplace stalls, and some new pre-made terrain pieces all require me using different companies and paying shipping on small orders to each one.  The good news?   Like the buildings, they will be used extensively over many sessions.  I don't want to buy a one-shot miniature, unless of course, it's a fabulous sculpt.

As I reviewed each future scenario and noted what figures and terrain I needed, I set up separate list for each company and the items I needed.  Like I mentioned above, I'm disappointed that the next few sessions will require tiny orders from Old Glory, Iron Wind, an eBay vendor, and a small order from Brigade Games before I unleash my wish list for them to my wife for Christmas (Amazon worked well last year, although I haven't gotten to play with most of them.  This time I hope to get these based, primed, and into the queue before New Years.) 

The nice thing about this review was it finally documented to me the expansion or evolution I want from my gaming.  Don't get me wrong, we've got some renewed interest from the group in Gnome Wars again, and I still intend to run the Mous-ageddon/Ratnakrok game at Cold Wars this year,   Upon reviewing my notes, I actually have eight "Pulp Egypt City" games, including a Christmas one, then the games split off in three different directions. 

The Pulp Egypt game expands out into the desert with Arab Irregulars and a leader that looks like a very tanned Peter O'Toole harassing the heroes.  Second is an African jungle/lost world game appears to evolve which may involve a lot of Askaris and Polynesian natives to fit the roles. Finally, once those storylines play themselves out, I see I'm hitting the Back of Beyond stuff I've accumulated. 

Rather than work on accumulating Russians and Chinese, I've decided to tweak the storylines and only collect one additional army on the cheap, and a few choice models. 

In an alternate pulp history, the White Russians score a literal coup over the Bolsheviks and rule Russian with a certainly non-democratic iron fist.   Instead of Chinese warlords and Mongol horseman, the Russians look south into the splintered Ottoman lands.  A great opportunity to mix up the Arabs I already own with the British and French figures I have slated to buy, plus pad an order from Brigade with some of their cool new Ottoman figs. 

For the Russians, I'm going cheap, converting Mexican Federal Troops from Reviresco as generic soldiers in service caps. 

It might be the paint job or the sculpts, but a buck a fig is the right price.
 
If I stop there, I'm looking at a big game every month for the next year, plus whatever short or side projects pop up. 

I've recited the same list for my painting queue ad nauseum since Memorial Day.
  • Mouslings
  • Gnomes
  • "Blue Martians"
  • Pulp
  • Terrain (Trees and the aforementioned Middle East buildings)
The pulp and the mouslings are going to be permanent mainstays, even more so when the Bones 3 arrives this Fall. If we continue with the Gnome Wars Tanga campaign, the Germans will get finished in small batches, but otherwise we'll treat them as an occasional palette cleanser.  Blue Martians aren't going to get any use with Kings of War anytime soon, and I doubt the girls will take up the chance to go to Mars (yet) when the opportunity presents itself.  We'll finish those and make way for something different.

Hopefully I can slide in a few Battlemechs and other miscellaneous work in before I need to dedicate what little time I have to painting dozens of Arabs and "White" Russians.  The queue is never ending..

Thursday, July 28, 2016

(Kickstarter) Prince Valiant Storytelling Game

There are pleasant surprises in the gaming world, but few come close to the Kickstarter to put the Prince Valiant Storytelling Game back in print. 

This new edition will be a full-color hardcover, with as much classic Hal Foster art plastered inside as they can, which makes the book+pdf pledge level of $30 (+$12 S&H) far more palatable.

Prince Valiant® The Storytelling Game is set in the same Arthurian era as the Prince Valiant® comic strip. It’s roughly around the time of the fall of Rome and the Saxon invasions of Britain, though castles and armor are depicted as they appeared at the height of the Middle Ages. While the game is grounded in an historical time when a morality different than ours was prevalent, Hal Foster’s characters are more modern than medieval. So while the world is violent and lawless, many of the inhabitants are more enlightened and possess modern sensibilities, just as your characters might.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hackmaster Miniatures to Be OFFICIALLY Produced by Iron Wind Metals

Last month I mentioned some pretty solid rumors that Iron Wind Metals would be producing the Hackmaster minis of old. 

Today the news became official:



The selection of minis that will be made available at GenCon and afterwards:

KC-4060
Great Horned Owlbear
$13.95
KC-4062
Yeti
$8.95
KC-4083
Kobolds (set of 4) spear, sword, sword, axe
$11.95
KC-4084
Horned Simian Bush Grappler
$6.25
KC-4085
Greater Satyr
$4.95
KC-4097
Grevan
$5.50
KC-4101
Hoardling II
$6.75
KC-4102
Pixie Fairies    (Set of 2)    male & Female
$7.95
KC-4109
Elvariel Necromancer
$6.95
KC-4110
Elvariel Priestess
$6.75
KC-4114
Hobgoblins  (set of 4) axe, sword, mace, flail
$14.95
KC-4116
Human Ranger female
$4.95
KC-4119
Orcs  (set of 4)  sword & shield, sword, axes, spear
$13.95
KC-4121
Human Cleric male
$6.50
KC-4122
Human Thief male
$6.50
KC-4123
Ogre
$15.95
KC-4124
Elf Fighter male
$4.95
KC-4127
Gargoyle 2 Pack  (set of 2) male & female
$12.95
KC-4128
Half-Orc Berserker male
$5.50
KC-4130
Human Fighter female
$4.95
KC-4132
Hireling Pack 1   (Set of 2) Pack Ape & Lamp Fairy
$10.95
KC-4133
Hireling Pack 2    (Set of 2) Scroll Caddy & Halfling Torch Bearer w/ shield
$9.95
KC-4135
Dwarf Fighter male
$4.95
KC-4140
Human Fighter male
$5.95


The sad news: I don't see Gnome Titans on the list
The better news: The Kenzer post mentions the first  24 miniatures.  Hopefully the first batch is quickly successful and the missing figures are added as well.

Price-wise, it's to be expected.   When 30mm Reapers are $7.00, oversized character figures for $5-6 are a bargain.  Must acquire a Great Horned Owlbear and 3 Yetis (2 abominable snowmen, 1 sasquatch) when I get the chance. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

(Kickstarter) Walking Dead: No Sanctuary Boardgame

I've been wondering where all the big Kickstarters have been this summer, and in at least one case, I missed them entirely.

There are five days left to Cryptozoic Entertainment's Walking Dead: No Sanctuary Boardgame Kickstarter.

Unlike the Mantic: Walking Dead All Out War wargame, which uses sculpts based off the comic book, this is a self-contained boardgame using 35mm figures sculpted to the AMC television show. 

A few professional samples painted up by Anne Cooper:

Michonne
 
Rick

Dale

Carol

(Hackmaster) Burning Trogs Rule! #48: Fonzy Schlepprock's Wandering Watch

From the Journal of General Fonzie Schlepprock, Ambassador Plenipetory of the Barthey Empire.

14th of NonDec, 1135, Inside the Trophy Room of the Hill Giant Captain, Evar, Republic of Danaan

Sitting in the trophy room, I decide to check the room on the right.  No noise, but more cool trophies all over the room, except for.... NOOOOOOOOO!  Stuffed Gnome Titans!

The bastards!  What did they ever do to deserve this!!!  I'll kill them and burn this place to the ground!

Of course, I should be thankful it's not me on the shelf.  

I decide to go through the only other exit out of this room.  Finally, a room worthy of a General's stature... everything is super-sized.  I decide to let the rest of the room be except for a treasure chest full of dirty laundry and some loot... oh... what Happy Days!

There's also a map which I think is important should be studied further.  I decide that a door the behind is important, so I orchestrate a brilliant plan to quietly move the bed and investigate the door.  Behind the door are some stairs which lead down to a large room.  A giant portable stove with spikes seems to be attacking me...

mmmm... icing... stars.... icing... hey now, I feel better.

I find a few chests, couple of things of interest, coins, tusks, etc.  I take what I can carry and move on. 

Back up at the trophy room, I decide to check out the room on the other side.  I find a pet bear then I decide to kill it myself.    Nothing of value in that room to suit my purposes is found.  Proceeding randomly, I decide to open various doors and kill anything that moves. 

I found some scrolls that appear to be important.

I came across some female giants.  I single-handedly took them all out, after which I ventured upstairs.

I went downstairs to discover a senile old man, another giant, and an ape.  I decided to kill the ape and giant, I let the old man go, after much begging on his knees.

Oh yeah, I had to kill another ape before I needed to return to the trophy room and wake up the next person to take watch.

GM Notes:  Fonzy NEVER wrote in the journal normally, so it makes sense for him to take over as he's wandering the Hill Giant Steading when he's supposed to be taking watch for the Trogs in the trophy room. 



NEXT:  #49  Against ALL the Giants!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Apathy of New Releases (Aug '16)

This month's Game Trade Magazine is just chock full of new board and card games, too many to experiment with .  Perhaps all the GenCon releases hit the distribution channels, but it's a lot of product to judge and order.

Must -Have Want List
Osprey Publishing
Nile River Gunboats 1882-1918 .................................................................................. $18.00
(OSP NVG239)

Money-Is-No-Object Want List
Osprey Publishing
Rogue Stars:  Skirmish Wargaming in a Science Fiction Underworld .......................  $19.00
(OSP OWG017)

Imaginary Store List
AAW Games
Pathfinder:  Snow White ...............................................................................................  $49.99

The Army Painter
Battlefields XP:  Lowland Shrubs ................................................................................. $ 5.99
Hobby Starter Assembly Kits (Metal/Resin) ................................................................. $11.99
Hobby Starter Assembly Kits (Plastic) .......................................................................... $14.99

Catalyst Game Labs
Shadowrun RPG:  Shadows Down Under PB ............................................................... $12.95

Cubicle 7
D&D RPG:  Adventures in Middle Earth Players Guide ...............................................  PI

Days of Wonder
Ticket to Ride:  Rails and Sails ....................................................................................... $79.99

Fantasy Flight Games
The End of the World RPG:  Revolt of the Machines HC ............................................. $39.95
Star Wars X-Wing  ARC-170 ........................................................................................  $19.95
Star Wars X-Wing Protectorate Starfighter ...................................................................  $14.95
Star Wars X-Wing Shadow Caster ................................................................................. $39.95

Far Future Enterprises
Traveller RPG:  Starships and Spacecraft Deck Plans ................................................... $20.00

Frog God Games
D&D RPG:  Quests of Doom 2 ...................................................................................... $25.00

Games Workshop
Skipping my monthly rant.  After starting off with a price for  50 scatter dice, it went even further downhill.  I just don't have heart.

Goodman Games
Dungeon Crawl Classics: #91  Journey to the Center of the Aereth .............................. $ 9.99

Green Ronin Publishing
Blue Rose RPG:  The Age of Romantic Fantasy ........................................................... $49.95

Hasbro
Acquire ........................................................................................................................... PI

Iello
King of Tokyo 2016 Edition ...........................................................................................  $39.99

Konami Digital Entertainment
Yu-Gi-Oh!  Legendary Deck II Box Set ......................................................................... $29.99
Yu-Gi-Oh! Rivals of the Pharaoh Boosters

Mantic Games
The Walking Dead All Out War Core Set ....................................................................... $49.99

Mongoose Publishing
Traveller:  Reach Adventure 2:  Theories of Everything ................................................. $14.99

Osprey Publishing
Malaya and Singapore 1941-42:  The Fall of Britain's Empire in the East ...................... $24.00

Paizo Publishing
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game:  Mummy's Mask Character Add-On Deck ............... $19.99
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game:  Summoner Class Deck ............................................  $19.99
Pathfinder RPG:  Campaign Setting - Horror Realms ...................................................... $22.99
Pathfinder RPG Flip Mat Bigger Forest ........................................................................... $19.99
Pathfinder RPG Map Pack - Bridges ................................................................................ $14.99
Pathfinder RPG Module - Seers of the Drowned City ..................................................... $24.99
Pathfinder RPG Player Companion - Blood of the Beast ................................................ $14.99

Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Savage World RPG:  Weird War I Player's Guide (HC) ................................................. $24.99
Savage World RPG:  Weird War I War Master's Guide (HC) ........................................ $24.99
Savage World RPG:  Weird War I GM Screen ................................................................ $19.99
Savage World RPG:  Weird War I Map Sets ............................................................... $14.99 each
Bridge/Trench  or No Man's Land/Village

Pokémon USA
Pokémon TCG:  Generations Elite Trainer Box
Pokémon TCG:  Mythical Pokémon Victini Collection Box
Pokémon TCG:  Red & Blue Pikachu Ex Collection Box

Random House
D&D Dungeonology (HC) ............................................................................................ $24.99
D&D Coloring Book:  Monsters & Heroes of the Realms ............................................ $14.99

Steve Jackson Games
Munchkin: Yule Log ..................................................................................................... $19.95
Munchkin Zombies Guest Artist Edition (Greg Hyland) .............................................. $29.95

USAopoly
Munchkin Marvel Edition 3 - Cosmic Chaos ................................................................ $19.95

Wizards of the Coast
D&D RPG:  Storm King's Thunder ............................................................................... $49.95
Magic the Gathering: Commander 2016
Magic the Gathering: Planechase Anthology ................................................................. $149.99

Wizkids
DC Heroclix:  Batman and His Greatest Foes. ............................................................... $16.99
DC Heroclix:  Harley Quinn Dice and Token Pack ........................................................ $ 9.99
DC Heroclix:  Joker Dice and Token Pack ..................................................................... $ 9.99
DC Heroclix:  The Joker's Wild Booster Bricks
Marvel Dice Master: Iron Man and War Machine
Marvel Dice Master:  Deadpool and X-Force
TMNT Dice Master:  Heroes in a Half Shell






 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gnome Wars Pics from Historicon Via Other Blogs

Historicon has come and gone, and my complaints of Fredericksburg match those of Lancaster.  Attendees just post pics of the same three events!
 
Only a few snaps of the Gnome Wars events.  Here's three cool ones and links to the blogs. 


Jungle Jaunt by Erin Crouch Mad Mac's Attic
 
Jungle Jaunt by Erin Crouch  Little Wars VA

Jim "The Gnome Guy" Stanton on the MBA Middle East board.  Originally posted by #paintedarmies to the HMGS Facebook page

Friday, July 22, 2016

(Review) Pop's Culture Shoppe, 25 Main St, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania

This Monday, with the summer babysitter under the weather and back-up daycamp at capacity, we took the day off, packed up the kids in the van, and took a day trip up to Wellsboro. 

I used to live in Wellsboro before I got married.  In fact we got married there ten years ago this October (reception at the world-famous Fred's Lobster Garden in Tioga.)  Despite a constant push to cater to the tourists, it does a great job at keeping its small town charm that I fell in love with years ago.

For an unscheduled day trip, we catered to the kids, starting a trip to the Arcadia Theatre for The Secret Life of Pets (worth the matinee tickets and snacks).  We then moseyed up Main St to check out the new courthouse construction, the Presbyterian Church where we got married (by a Methodist minister using an Augustana Lutheran Service circa 1919), and finally stopped by the Green to visit the fountain with Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

A wander down the opposite side of Main St, with a quick detour across the street to Peggy's for ice cream, and a longer than anticipated time in the toy department of Dunham's Department Store, we ended the walk at the front door of my destination location, Pop's Culture Shoppe.

A half hour before they closed.
 


It's been awhile since I've been to the shop, previously visiting soon after they opened in 2012, as well as 2013.  They moved since my last visit, more of a forward expansion if you will.  Their original East Ave address took up the back of the first floor of building they were renting.  They've since had the opportunity to occupy the entire first floor of the building, and now are at 25 Main St.

With the new square footage, they have expanded.  Tremendously. 
 
Before I gush over the Nirvanna of stock that one never sees anymore, let's go over the store using the same points as the last reviews.

Magic/CCG behind the counter
Four years later.  This store appears to thriving in a small town.  Four years is veritably middle-aged in the gaming industry and with the rapid expansion, owners Julian and Anja Stam have essentially gotten married, had triplets, bought a house, and perhaps survived the mid-life crisis Corvette in that short time.  To keep the family analogy going, they also hired a live-in nanny.  I met Ryan "Doctor Magic" Oswald, their in-house Magic: The Gathering employee.  His primary focus is all thing Magic, from singles to tournaments, so the Stams can focus all the other facets of the business.   Magic is a huge part of any store's income, so a dedicated employee is a wise move.

They're still busy.  Walking into a small town store at 5:30 on a Monday is not the time to catch the a busy store like the Saturdays we previously visited.  However, by following their Facebook page, I've seen hold numerous demos and tournaments with very healthy attendances that other stores would drool over.  Just this past weekend they had over 80 players participate in the most recent Magic Pre-Release Tournament! 

The store is still immaculate.  The Demo Library in the gaming space might have a few well-loved copies of games with worn boxes, but the rest of the store is phenomenally clean and organized. 
 
Stock has gone supernova.  Opportunities to quickly expands a store's footprint has been the death knell to many a store, but Pop's has adapted well.
 

This is a store with a selection....

Seriously folks, look at this corner of the store.   This is more stock than the last five stores I've visited combined.  Sure, they have a great selection of modern board and card games, but they also have a wide variety of traditional and family games.  Remember the tourist traffic I begrudgingly mentioned as a former Wellsboro civilian?  They most certainly buy stuff too, and since they're met with pleasant staff and a front area full of familiar and whimsical games instead of posters of D&D Demons and 40K Chainswords, they'll feel comfortable to do just that.  It's called basic friendly Marketing 101, that's a rare commodity within most retail stores, let alone the gaming sector.
 

...and more selection after that.

The seeds for the art supply/project section from years past has flourished into its own department in the front of the store (sorry no pictures).  The RPG selection has expanded slowly but it has a noticeable presence.  There's certainly prominent spots for Heroclix (even a few on sale!) and Star Wars X-Wing.   Collectible Card Games?  Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon, of course, but my girls also discovered the My Little Pony CCG. 

The board/card game section is the piece de resistance. To steal a phrase used by the comic book shop I once worked at, they have an "immense and diverse selection" of games for people from toddlers to 115 years old. 

I've often wondered who ordered the vast catalog of new games solicited by the game distributors each month, and now I have half-joking confirmation that Anja Stam might be one of those people.  But unlike numerous stores that seem to buy one(or more) of everything, only to let them let them sit on them on the shelf until they have a desperation blowout sale, the staff at Pop's does do research on what they're ordering and have an active demonstration schedule to promote new games and old favorites. 

Oh yeah, puzzles.  These guys love their puzzles.  It is Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  It snows.  And nothing beats a puzzle during a Northern Tier snowstorm.

They are a part fixture in the community:  In the crazy world we live in, a game store is a great place to put your troubles aside, play some games, and make new friends, and the opportunity for that Pop's is certainly there.  The old storefront has now become "Pop's Playroom, with plenty of space for large tournaments or multiple games going at the same time.. 


Open Gaming Area Part 1


Open Gaming Area Part 2 (with the Demo Library)

Most importantly, Pop's is active outside of the traditional gamer niche.  Their schedule still has well-attended Tuesday morning, Mah-Jong game and they host the Wellsboro Chess Club.  Even beyond that, they are part of community at large. 

They've even been a past sponsor and participant in a local wine and art festival.  Even my non-gamer wife can get behind that!



The website, a bane of most new businesses is up, operational, and actively updated, so I'll let you gentle readers explore the details about their  board game rentals or hosting a party there.

After everything I've mentioned, it's no surprise that Pop's Culture Shoppe has earned its third FIVE GNOME RATING on the famous Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome Rating System. 

2012, 2013, 2016
 
The Stams are still the same lovable, yet extremely professional couple that I originally met four years ago.  (In fact they haven't aged at all, so I decided against new pictures).  While I'm certain particular gamers could find issue with the store, the business model is as phenomenal as the friendly service, as the vast inventory, especially after such a fantastic expansion.  You will find something that you will like love, I'm quite certain of it. 

We'll be returning to Wellsboro for the weekend, sometime in September, sans children.  I will not leave Pop's as my last stop in town ever again.  Julian owes me a demo, after all, when we have more than twenty minutes to enjoy the game.

Pop's Culture Shoppe
25 Main St.
Wellsboro, PA 16901
www.popscultureshoppe.com

Thursday, July 21, 2016

(Review) The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos

When I review the recent gaming solicitations from Alliance in my monthly post,  The Apathy of New Releases, I repeatedly state that I'm no longer the demographic that any but the most peculiar of gaming companies shoot for.  While there are a few items that reach my "Money is no object" list, the list of items I actively pre-order with the FLGS is quite small.  By comparison, the number of RPG-related books that I order is minute. 

Osprey Publishing's The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos by Kenneth Hite and Kennon Bauman is one of those rare books. 

DISCLAIMER: I've been waiting seventeen months for this book to come out.   Kenneth Hite likes to put more on his plate than an offensive lineman football camp at a Golden Corral,  but everything sees the light day... eventually.

 

Hite and Bauman collaborate on the American government's involvement with the Mythos, starting with pre-Colonial megaliths, moving in Early American History, the World Wars and all the way to modern War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many stops in between.

Each of the five chapters address multiple Mythos threats of that era, from the traditional Lovecraftian stories of Joseph Curwen and Innsmouth to the modern Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green style involvement of MAJIC, to post-modern Delta Green interpretations of actions in Vietnam in the 20th and Western Asia in the 21st Centuries. 

The mere aside of a Harry Houdini-Teddy Roosevelt collaboration made me giggle.  There must have been some team-up of the two figure in book or comic form before, but it has alluded me (or left my memory).  In a section know as the The R'lyeh Upheaval the authors successfully weave numerous works of history and fiction(?)  into the increased human and Mythos activity, first in the Pacific, then spreading worldwide.

It was to my great delight that they managed to put a  Mythos angle on the fiasco between Western naval powers during the First Samoan Civil War, a pet project of mine.

As in comes to this book and other titles written by Kenneth Hite, be forewarned that the facts may not all align properly. Mr Hite himself has said there would be discrepancies, specifically between actions in Southeast Asia and his The Fall of Delta Green for Trail of Cthulhu.  Or perhaps they're simply the same story from two horrifically different points of view. 

Single page Threat Reports, covering Ghouls, Deep Ones, Mi-Go, NRE (Neconomicon Related Entities), Elder Things, and Pre-Humans (Serpent Men, Tcho-Tcho, etc) dot each chapter, covering some base government knowledge on the creatures and how the threat is being (mis)handled.  The idea of a Cold War Shoggoth arms race with the Soviets might be the only thing more frightening than nuclear escalation itself. 

The book is well illustrated, with Darren's Tang's solid depictions of Human-Mythos interactions, including the raid of Joseph Curwen's farm, a Civil War encounter with ghouls, and even an encounter in a certain building in Innsmouth, circa 1928.    There are also tons of pictures connecting the reader to the actual locations.  Although some may claim these pictures Photoshopped, I say ask the reader to consider that these may be, in fact, the original un-doctored photos. 

The great thing about most effective tin-foil hats?  They fit both ways.

On the ever-popular Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome scale, it's my pleasure to give The Cthulhu Wars: The United States' Battle Against the Mythos, Five out of Five Gnomes.

Are there problems?  Certainly.  For starters, it's the traditional size of an Osprey Military book, at 80 pages at a traditional Osprey price point ($18.95).  Much too small for even the general overviews of events.  I certainly don't want Mr Hite to go all The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted on us with 476 pages of gooey goodness , but I wouldn't mind paying more for 20 or 40 more pages of material. 

Despite the broad strokes needed to cover all the material there's plenty of  new and exciting seeds for scenarios.  There's enough to work with to allow a GM/Keeper lots of rooms to customize things to fit their own needs.