Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ronin Review: Judge Dredd Skirmish Game

Recently I took a look at Mongoose Games Judge Dredd miniatures skirmish game.  The rules are free and available here.  I was expecting good things, as I am a big fan of Mongoose’s D20 system Conan role-playing game.  I think it really captured the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s world, as presented in the Conan stories.  This is something which the movies, while they have their good points, failed to consistently do.  But that is a discussion for another time.  I’m talking about Dredd today.  And by the way, how great was the recent Dredd movie?  The answer is very.

Anyway.

I wasn’t disappointed.  This game really captures the manic and satirical feel of the Dredd universe, and is an excellent – if simple – little game.  I was particularly pleased with the experience system for campaign play, which was one of the great things about Games Workshop’s now-defunct Necromunda and Mordheim games.

Speaking of Necromunda, after I read through the Dredd PDF, I couldn’t help but think that it would be a more modern and elegant ruleset for playing Necromunda than Necromunda itself.  But then this raises a question: why would you play in a knock-off universe when you can play in the original?  Judge Dredd had a huge influence on the Warhammer 40,000 universe and particularly on Necromunda.  It would be a bit strange to use rules designed for Dredd to play a game that is itself an imitation of Dredd.  If you did wish to do so however, or even just wanted to play a generic dystopian gang warfare game using these rules, the tools are all there: judges, mutants, punks, psychics and more.

The game is a simple D10-based I-go-you-go system where you succeed or fail at an action by meeting or exceeding a target number.  And that’s pretty much all there is to it.  Until your gang starts to survive a few battles and gain experience.  Then there is a good array of skills and special abilities to learn; a lot, but not too many.  The rules are well-written and clear, although there are an inordinate number of exclamation marks, making it feel as though the designers are very excited! about Judge Dredd! and robots! and apes! (and stump guns!)

A word of caution. Mongoose are historically an excellent provider of third party role playing products.  The writers of this game have designed a system that due to it’s simplicity seems fairly immune to game-breaking on first inspection, but they definitely wrote it with the idea that players are going to bring a certain role-playing element to the table.  For example, the campaign system provides in-game rewards for naming your minions.  If a minion-level model with a name survives three games, then he or she (or it) can become a hero and gain skills and experience from then on.  This instantly gave me visions of a certain sort of player cautiously huddling their minions in safe-houses for the first three games of a league, and then dropping five hero bombs on everyone else’s more balanced gangs.  This is always a danger with games that try to reward immersion with in-game bonuses I think, and I’m not certain how to overcome it.  People will either play to the spirit of the game or they won’t.  This is certainly not a deal-breaker for me though.

Oh and the models are nice too: charmingly disproportionate and comical in the way old Citadel models were.  In fact, it made we wonder if the style of the original Warhammer 40,000 models had less to do with unpolished 1980s sculpting methods, and more to do with 2000AD comics . . .

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Painted Shang Ji

Here is a Shang Ji heavy infantryman from the game Infinity.  I think the rear of this model is almost as interesting as the front, which is unusual.

Questions and comments welcome as always,

James

Aces High

My friend Von (who has a blog called GAME OVER and also writes at the House of Paincakes network) has written what I think is a very exciting role-playing game system.  It’s only a few pages long and I think it blows the whole concept wide open and shows us exactly what is necessary in terms of the rules required for role-playing.  Turns out the answer is “very little to nothing.”

It’s still in a formative stage, but I urge you to have a look if you’re at all interested in RPGs.  It might change the way you look at them.  It certainly did for me.

Cancon Without 40k?

There’s been an interesting development in the local Warhammer 40,000 tournament scene recently.  Apparently no-one is willing to organize the yearly event at Cancon in 2014.  This is possibly the largest Warhammer 40,000 event in Australia.  It certainly was until recently – I believe Mother of All Battles may have overtaken it in recent years.  At any rate there are easily over a hundred players normally, and it is the largest single event at Cancon, which is itself Australia’s largest traditional gaming event.

The fellow who ran it last year has not so gracefully bowed out, citing the excessive amount of bitching and rage he was subjected to before, during and after the event.  No-one else seems brave (or perhaps stupid) enough to step up at this stage.  The man who has run it for many years in the past is currently living overseas, and the Canberra Games Society is even reportedly considering flying him home to be the tournament organiser!  Cancon without standard 40k seems almost unimaginable.  To give international readers some context, it’s comparable to the organisers of 40k at Adepticon throwing up their hands and saying “you guys are jerks, we quit” . . . and then no-one volunteering to take their place.  It will be interesting to see what happens as the event looms closer.

So there’s some local gossip for you.  But what does it say in a wider context?  I’ve seen it claimed on the internet that the advent of 6th edition Warhammer 40,000 has driven away many competitive players, and that those who remain are mainly of the toxic variety; their egos can’t function without 40k tournament wins.  Naturally, this drives away casual tournament attendees, many of whom seem to be shifting to the growing Apocalypse scene in these parts.  At Wintercon this year there was a very successful Apocalypse event, and Good Games is starting to run them semi-regularly as team events so anyone with a 1500 point army can join in.  It feels as though hardly anyone can be bothered with standard competitive 40k any more, let alone willingly taking on the grief of organizing the events.

If that’s a fair assessment – and I’m not sure it is, I’m just reporting what I’ve heard – then I can finally understand the real anger that many competitive players felt over 6th edition.  The game was rendered unplayable for them, and that game is expensive, in time and money.  Not to mention that something they enjoyed had been arbitrarily taken away.  I admit I was a little uncaring when it happened, not being a competitive player myself, but now I really do feel that their anger might have been justified.

Interesting times continue for the Games Workshop gaming scene in Australia.  I can’t lie, I feel a little tingle of schadenfreude given that I no longer play or collect Games Workshop products.  Their decline is terrible for the many people who are Games Workshop hobbyists as opposed to simply hobbyists.  But it’s exciting too.  Will Australia be the first miniature gaming community to truly break free of Games Workshop’s stranglehold en masse?

Infinity Storage Unit and Abandoned Shop

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Fang Qu, the most famous Gui Jia in the world,* is stalked by Japanese Separatists.

Here are some buildings I made for the game Infinity using simple materials and the posters I created a while ago: a closed-down import/export business and a storage unit.  Rather than realistic, I wanted them to look stylized and anime-esque.  I also wanted to use easy painting and weathering to give the impression of a city at night.  These are my first attempts, so I’m keen to perfect the idea in the future.

Here are the steps I followed if you’re interested:

  • Spray the buildings dark blue all over and then lighter blue from above.
  • Soak cut-up pieces of a Chinese language newspaper ($1.20 at my local newsagent) in water mixed with a little PVA and stick them all over the buildings.
  • Stick the posters over the top of the newspaper with PVA glue.  Colour them in grey with a copic marker (to reduce the saturation and make them look as though they are in the dark).
  • Use ground-up brown and orange and black artist’s pastels to draw filth on the buildings, especially the edges.
  • Spray the whole lot with a water bottle full of water tainted with brown and black ink.  Smear the powders around a bit.  Let it dry.
  • Use metallic pens and various other markers to write graffiti.
  • Seal with a matt sealer.

The neon sign was made by simply sticking the sign as-printed (i.e. not coloured in grey with the marker) on some foamcore.

I hope to improve the look with future buildings but I think it’s a good start, was easy to do, and has only cost about ten dollars so far not including the paints, markers and other supplies which I already owned.  I think it would be great to perfect the method and use it on commercially produced model buildings, maybe with LEDs to light them up.

Questions and comments welcomed,

James

*I’m not joking.  Do a Google Image search for “Infinity Gui Jia.”  Never seen action and she’s already internet famous.  That says something about internet fame I think…

Collecting Infinity the Smart Way

This is getting ridiculous, I’ve only ever played what, three games of Infinity, and my model collection is starting to overwhelm me.

Many of the models are works of art that anyone could appreciate. This O-Yoroi pilot is painted by Angel Giraldez.

Today I’m going to share something that may be useful if you’re just starting to collect models and play Infinity. Behold, my amazing three step-guide to not making the same mistakes I’ve made. Or, as I like to call it: Collecting Infinity the Smart Way.

  • Step One: Only buy models that you really want to paint.

In other words, buy for looks, not for stats. I know this sounds counter-intuitive when what you’re trying to do is control your collecting, but bear with me. Pretty much all Corvus Belli’s Infinity range looks kind of cool, and if you go around buying models because they look cool and might be fun to try out, you’re going to buy models every time your mood changes or you think of some new synergy.  And pretty soon you’re going to be swamped. Buying to paint also means you can get whatever you like.  So what if you’ve decided to play Yu Jing but you want the ALEPH Asura? Just buy her! Now you have a beautiful model in your collection to use as a proxy, and a leg-up on an ALEPH force later. Why not buy your favourite model from each faction?  You’re just buying them to paint, right?

  • Step two: Paint them.

This will not be a problem because you’ve only bought models you wanted to paint, not models you kind of wanted to try out and who are now staring at you accusingly from their blister packs with their cold metal eyes.

  • Step Three: Play games with the models you have, and proxy the rest.

When you find things that work well for you, then go back and buy them. Return to step two.

If I had followed this plan I would now have a dozen models I really love painted up, including a viable gaming army.  Instead I have a viable army of eight painted models, and a bunch of unpainted Celestial Guard, Remotes, doctors, Shaolin Monks, and Nomads. If the constant attempts to sell and swap still-packaged models on the Infinity Australia facebook page is anything to go by, I am definitely not alone.

You’ll notice I didn’t suggest buying a starter pack. This is because I have bought three, and each one had mostly models I liked, and one or two that are still in their packaging. The money I might have saved on a starter was outweighed by the money I spent trying make the starter into a force that was interesting to me. I would have spent less and had fewer unpainted models lying about if I’d bought what I liked piece-meal and proxied from the beginning.

So there you have it. If this helps even one person, I’ve done what I set out to do. Infinity is fun and the models are some of the best out there, so get to it.

All the best,

James

Scrabble to the Death

I read a post by my friend SinSynn at the House of Paincakes network last night.  It was about online trolls, but he mentioned in passing that he doesn’t play miniatures games primarily to win.  Neither do I, and it brought to mind a personal revelation I had a little while ago.  I was chatting to my partner about a game I was playing, the mobile scrabble clone Words with Friends.  I’m in a few continuous matches with people when I ride the bus in the morning, and one of my friends, let’s just call him Roland, is a guy I had a friendly rivalry with as an undergrad.  We were both top of our respective high schools in English and we actually became friends when I helped him with a crossword he was doing in the bar.  That sounds pretty uncool, I know.  But we were drinking beer at least, and hey, we were wagging a lecture!

So I play Words with Friends casually, and Roland keeps beating me.  He’s top of the leaderboard out of everyone I know who has the game, and that’s a lot of people.  I find myself trying really hard to defeat him, to play as well as I can, and I was complaining to my partner that when it’s my turn I usually knock out a word in two to five minutes, but against Roland it takes me days to make a move, because “I’m actually trying to beat him.”

She laughed at me and when I asked what was so funny she said “that’s so you.  I think most people are always actually trying to beat everyone they play.  I bet Roland always tries his best.”  And you know, she’s right.  So I started actually trying to get the highest points I possibly could from every word in every game.  My game dramatically improved in a couple of weeks.  One person I was playing with resigned when my score doubled theirs and did not challenge me to a rematch.  Everyone else I was playing either lost to me or mysteriously improved as well, and scraped a victory.  But the list of friends I’ve never beaten is now down to one, when before the number of friends I had beaten was er . . . one.

I’m trying to figure out why I’m like this, and why I don’t play games seriously as a rule.  I now play a total of two games in this way: Words with Friends and Street Fighter.  It’s an enjoyable way to play, and seductive; it gives you a feeling of accomplishment and it’s simple.  You don’t have to deal with any social grey areas involving such things as sportsmanship, or taking responsibility for your opponent enoying themselves.  You just focus, and you assume that they’re doing the same, and you get down to it.

Why do we play some games in this way and not others?  Are all games even suited to playing seriously?  I doubt it. 

I know that many people today play all games this way, and I’m fairly certain that this is a new development.  In the 19th and early 20th century even sports were played in what is sometimes still called a “gentlemanly” manner.  Now people play Scrabble like they’re dicing with death.  What happened?  I could take a few stabs at it, but I’d be much more interested to hear what other people think first.

Till next time,

James