Painting Progress: week 8

Week Eight of hobby progress is upon us, people! And to continue the theme established in recent weeks, this is going to be another pretty short update, unfortunately! That said, it is also a pretty important one, as it features the first properly finished models I’ve painted all year!

hobby progress 8

It’s the White Scars again – the models that I was painting for a competition at my local GW, but which, in the event, I didn’t get finished in time. Oh, the annoyance! I mentioned a couple of posts ago how much I’ve come to really dislike painting white, and I think this is what has made me so apathetic to getting them done. However, they’re now as complete as I think my skills can get them, so voilà! The first finished miniatures of 2016! I am such a slow painter, and I also take a long time to get motivated into doing anything. I don’t think I’ll be doing any other White Scars in my life, though you never know what I might do!

The next painting competition is apparently going to be paint it black, though purple has also been mentioned. I’ve been thinking about doing some Stormcast Eternals as Anvils of the Heldenhammer, but also have a lot of purple ogres in varying stages of completion, so I hope I’ll have something completed in time for that one, anyway!

hobby progress 8

The only other thing I’ve done this week is to paint the fifth dwarf hammerer to go along with the other four that featured in the very first hobby progress blog – so now, at least, they can be fielded as a unit on the tabletop! I still want to do some bits to this one such as the face and maybe hair, and I’m also thinking about doing something fancy with the hammer, but for now, he’s done as much as the others have been!

We’re at the end of month 2, and while I’ve made some progress so far this year, it’s perhaps not as much as I’d have liked! I still have far too many kits in varying stages of completion, so I want to really get some kind of plan of action together here and tackle them.

By the end of March, I think I’m going to aim to have finished the Deathwing Terminators and Venerable Dreadnought, as those are models that I really love the look of, and feel that I should be okay to try picking up the details now, having done those of the White Scars. I also want to paint my Stormcast Eternal Protectors, if not the Lord-Castellant as well, because I want to try them out in the game. So while I still have loads of other space marines and Necrons and whatnot hanging around, I feel that if I concentrate on those two groups – one because I can then play games with them, and one because they should be really pretty (and can later play games with them, as well) – then I should have things a little more manageable. Well, that’s my theory, at least!!

hobby progress 8

Upcoming Games!

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day extra, as I decided to catch up with some of the news around upcoming games over the weekend. So sit back and enjoy a look at three games that I’m really intrigued by, due out in the coming months!

Deathwatch: Overkill

Deathwatch: Overkill

Of course I’m going to start with something from Games Workshop! There have been rumours of a Deathwatch/Genestealer Cult boxed game coming out from GW for months now, but we finally have enough confirmation that I’m going to talk about it here! I am a huge fan of the Deathwatch – one of the first 40k novels I read was the short story collection, and I’ve always enjoyed the RPG from Fantasy Flight. I think the idea of a whole bunch of really great warriors from different chapters working together to purge the xenos just really captures my imagination! The pictures floating around of the Genestealer Cult are a little, erm, odd, but if it gets me some Deathwatch, then I’m in! It’ll be up for pre-order on Saturday, and released on 5 March, so I’ll no doubt have something to say about it then!

I’ve bought all of these boxed games they’ve released over the last few years, but this is the first one I feel that I really want to build up and paint to play the actual game, even though the details of it are still unknown. I simply want Deathwatch marines!

Star Wars: Rebellion

Star Wars: Rebellion

This has been the next big thing from Fantasy Flight for a while now, and a few weeks back they essentially had a publicity week where the only news published on their site was a series of previews for this.

When it was first announced, I wasn’t particularly chomping at the bit for it, I have to say. It looked a bit too messy, and I was worried it might be a huge time sink, the sort of game that you spend all night playing, only to feel like you would have been better off playing a lot of smaller games. At any rate, I wasn’t exactly going to drop £80 or whatever it turns out costing me on day one. However, the more I’ve seen of it, the more I’m beginning to revise that opinion somewhat.

The game looks like a juggernaut, there’s no denying this, but it looks like the kind of game that I would really enjoy sitting down for a few hours to pit myself against my opponent. There are actually very few games that I like that are both long and competitive. So while I still might not actually buy it on day one, I’m nevertheless changing my entire viewpoint on this one now, and may well be investing later this year!

Tyrants of the Underdark

Tyrants of the Underdark

A deck-building game coming in May, Tyrants of the Underdark pits players together as the drow houses of Menzoberranzan! This sounds really cool, as you play members of the ruling houses trying to control the most of the Underdark by the game end. I really like this idea, and while I’m not quite sure how it would work as a deck-builder – I think I’d prefer to see a more traditional CCG/LCG style of game, where each house feels different rather than just all being able to use the same cards – it’s still very exciting, I’ve got to say!

So those are three of the most-anticipated games, for me, that are due out in the coming weeks and months!

Games Night!

Hey everybody!
It’s Tuesday, so it’s game day here on spalanz.com – and today is a very exciting game day blog indeed, because I got to play an awesome game at the weekend, and really can’t wait to talk about it! Let’s get going!

After something of a hiatus, my longtime gaming buddy Tony came round at the weekend and we basically had a day of gaming, trying out a couple of new games he has bought. I haven’t been buying all that many games lately – indeed, I’ve actually been downsizing my collection in the wake of all the plastic I’ve been investing in! – but in the couple of months since we last played anything, he’s gotten quite a few new ones.

The Hobbit deck-building game

We started out with The Hobbit deck-building game from Cryptozoic. This follows the same basic premise of all the other Cerberus-engine games from them, such as DC and Street Fighter, and the only real difference that I could see came in the form of the One Ring card. The “super villains” this time are three arch-enemy cards that form a stack, each separated by loot cards – powerful artifacts such as Glamdring and Sting, as well as “manoeuvres” that act much like superpowers. When you defeat an arch-enemy, you take a treasure card then everyone suffers an attack, discarding cards. There’s the One Ring card that can also be found in this manner, and is initially placed to the side of the line-up – cards such as Bilbo and Gollum will let players take control of this card, which functions as a sort of ongoing-effect. It’s actually really nice, especially if you happen to have a Bilbo card to take it, then your opponent takes it back with a Gollum card (screaming “My precious!” is mandatory in this instance).

I lost this one, 86 to 96.

But let’s move on to the main event!

The Witcher adventure game

Released late last year, Tony has been eagerly awaiting this game for what feels like ever, as he’s a big fan of both the video game and the novels. He’s often talked to me about them, and they do sound intriguing, but I can’t say I’ve ever shared his enthusiasm for it. Until now, of course!

This game is just awesome. You play one of four (presumably) iconic heroes from the world, and you go about the board trying to complete quests in order to score victory points, and the winner is the person with the most who has completed three quests.

The Witcher adventure game

I have recently come to realise just how much I love games like this. The sort of games that take up at least two tables, that feature massive boards, and allow you to truly immerse yourself in the world as you go through. Even knowing nothing about the lore, I felt like I was able to track a story of my own here, which is a mark of just how successful the game works I suppose. This in itself is a new experience for me, as I usually have some idea of what I’m doing in thematic games like this! So that’s definitely in its favour!

The quest cards are really cool, as they have your main objective, as well as two side quests you can complete for additional VPs, and a support quest that another player can complete for you, both of you then scoring. This adds a degree of co-op to the game that I thought was really interesting – it’s still a race, but you’re not trying to outright screw each other over, as you might want to complete a quest for them, or get them to complete one of yours. We were only playing two player of course, but I can see how this support mechanic could lead to forming brief alliances as you try to get ahead of other players.

The Witcher adventure game

On your turn, you can take two actions from a small menu of such things – move, investigate, develop, prepare, and rest. While you can never actually die in the game, taking wounds reduces what you can actually do during your turn, and can force you to rest to heal up. Developing yourself allows you to draw cards from a small deck of personalized skills, customizing your hero for what you want to do. Preparing then allows you to potentially buff those skills, or at least make them playable in future rounds.

I really love the investigation action, though, because of its variety. When you move, you travel along the dotted line between locations, and pick one ‘lead’ token of a colour available at that location – red, blue or purple. These can be traded in later for tokens that will allow you to complete your main quest, and each hero has a different ratio of leads to quest tokens, so some might have an easier time converting blue tokens, for instance. Investigation will sometimes give you even more leads, but can also provide tasks that provide greater benefits when you accomplish them, or setbacks, such as combat or just delaying you.

As I said before, it’s super thematic and even with no prior knowledge of the game, I had a great time playing as I began to spin this tale of my character travelling through the land for whatever reasons…

At the end of your turn, you have the obstacle part. Each location of the board is part of one of six regions, each colour-coded. There’s a track down the side of the board where you can amass both enemy tokens and skull tokens – at the end of your turn, you must then face whatever is in that part of the track. The skulls are Foul Fate tokens that cause you to draw from that deck, and usually awful things will happen. Enemies (the token in the bottom-right of the above picture) have two attributes, swords and shields. To defeat them, you must roll the three battle dice as well as your hero dice, and equal or exceed both stats – to symbolize both defeating the monster and escaping unharmed. If you fail on the swords, the monster remains in the region, and you suffer any penalties listed on the token. If you defeat it, but fail to equal the shields, you can still claim the successful combat but you may find yourself wounded or something. It’s a really interesting way of dealing with combat, making it more than just outright defeat of something.

The Foul Fate mechanic – while awful – is also really interesting, as you can take these tokens onto your hero sheet as well, causing you to draw a card if you wish to take the action you placed the token on. It really adds a lot of depth to the game, so that you aren’t just running around killing stuff and completing quests to win!

Like I said, I really enjoyed this one – I even won! – and hopefully we’ll get to play it some more over the coming weeks and months.

We rounded out our game day with six games of Magic, which I haven’t played for about five or six months, so unsurprisingly didn’t do very well. Managed to get him to 1 health in two games, and still lost, but did win two of the games. My Jeskai deck did a lot better than I thought it would with three colours involved – I even triggered Narset’s ultimate! – but my Rakdos deck was just appalling, so I need to sort out the mana in that one. Shame, because there are some really fun cards in that one. Magic is still a fun game, when I can get to play it, so I’ll no doubt feature more of that in upcoming blogs…

Anyhow, this blog post has trundled on for quite enough time now, so I’ll leave it there! Suffice it to say, though, that Witcher boardgame is amazing!

Painting Progress: Week 7

Hey everybody!
It’s week seven of my painting progress, and time for another short blog as I run through the small amount of models I’ve put any paint on! Unfortunately, a theme has developed here in recent weeks, where I’m not really getting a lot of time to do a lot here. However, as promised at the beginning of the year, I’ll be doing a blog here whether I’ve done anything or not! Onwards!

Hobby Progress 7

So first, a little progress has been made on my White Scars. Following last week’s update, where they’d basically been brushed white over a pale blue wash, they’re now looking a lot more, well, White Scars-y. Red trims and golden bits, with silver and grey on the weapons, things are starting to come together. Which is good, considering they’re being done for a painting competition at my local GW this coming Saturday! Need to really try to pull out some stops to get these done! I’m actually thinking I might have to concentrate just on the one, rather than looking at getting the whole squad finished.

Unfortunately, they’ve started to really irritate me now! I think, on reflection, I might have been a bit too careless with the drybrush, leaving a grainy texture across the minis which, when I’m now coming to add in the details, means the paint isn’t applying cleanly. Very upsetting! But I’m getting annoyed that I can’t seem to finish these quickly enough, and have a lot of stuff that I want to get painted but don’t seem to have the time. I’ve noticed this particularly in doing the eyes, which really aren’t that great, but hopefully I can tidy them up in time.

Speaking of models I’d rather be painting…

Hobby Progress 7

I’ve been building more stuff this week, including three more Retributors and the Lord-Castellant! I know that the Retributors are excellent in the game, of course, and the Lord-Castellant has a useful effect for fighting Chaos, which seems to be a popular faction down at the local store… These guys are primed, anyway, and ready for some gold – soon! I’ve also built up four more Dryad models, as I’d like to field more of these – in fact, I’d like to work on the Treeman model I’ve had since 2014, and get a real sub-faction going for my army.

I’ve also been buying a lot of Tomb Kings of course, and had been tempted to build some of those, too, but at the minute they all remain in the boxes. Soon, however!

A New Beginning

It’s post 400! To celebrate this wonderful milestone, I’m starting a series of short stories once again, something I did a while back and enjoyed, but haven’t done for over a year now. This post is going to serve as something of a prologue, and I hope to develop this character in the coming months, so that’ll be something to look forward to! So without further ado, I present: A New Beginning…


 

Ty Lorancza sat facing the setting sun of Kintan and began to meditate. Eyes closed, he focused on his breathing, feeling his chest expand with the inward breath and visualising his lungs filling with the warm night air. He held the breath for a count of five before slowly exhaling, feeling some tension leave his body as he did so.

It had been a long time since he had felt truly at peace, and even with the daily routines of meditation to clear his mind, he rarely felt the balance as he once had. While still young for a Borneck, he had nevertheless felt old since the tumultuous events of the Clone Wars and the removal of the Jedi Order from the galaxy. A committed pacifist by nature, Ty had been one of the modest number who had outright refused to lead clonetroopers into battle. As such, he had managed to escape the cull by virtue of the fact he had been stationed in a far-flung Jedi Academy at the time so many of his fellow knights had been killed.

The sun slowly crept lower in the sky, bathing the wasteland in front of him in a burnished copper glow. Despite the lateness of the hour, the frequent breezes that blew across the plains were still warm against his pale yellow skin. He inhaled again, attempting to focus his thoughts on the Force alone, yet the past continued to intrude.

Since the war, he had quietly slipped away into the galactic periphery. His student charges had been taken from him by Loran San, the charismatic Weequay Jedi Master who had often visited the academy to instruct the students in lightsaber defense. Loran San had tried to bring Ty with him, to bring the fight back to the nascent Empire, but Ty had refused, as he always had.

“You’re letting down our sisters and brothers, good women and men who have already given their lives that we might yet live!” he had insisted. “Is their sacrifice to have been in vain?”

Ty could still see the look in Loran San’s eyes before he went to sleep at night. It was a look of anguish, to be sure, but as the years had passed, Ty’s imagination had added in a look of betrayal, too.

He inhaled for five, and slowly let his breath out once again.

The galaxy had been torn apart during those dark times. Good people had been branded as traitors, and a madness seemed to overcome the senate. Paranoia reigned supreme in the heart of the galaxy, and Ty was glad to be away from it. But, at the back of his mind, a nagging doubt had taken root. Had he really betrayed his comrades? Were his own principles and beliefs to be compromised, that he might exact some small sense of justice for their loss?

He inhaled again, filling his lungs with the warm, dry air once more, before slowly exhaling, willing his doubts to follow his breath into the ether.

He had never seen Loran San, or the two apprentices, again. He had abandoned the academy, feeling a profound sense of loss of self in the wake of the news the Weequay Master had brought with him. The Jedi were being hunted like dogs across the stars, and while some were attempting to mount a resistance, Ty knew he could never conscience such a course of action. He had always been a scholar, a seeker of knowledge, not a warrior. In a galaxy torn apart by war, there was no place for Ty Lorancza, and so he had just – disappeared.

He inhaled again, counted to five, and slowly released the breath, willing more of his unease to leave him. But it never did. In the fifteen years since he had left the small academy and wound his way to Kintan, the sense of loss had been with him. Feeling he would not achieve peace this night, he slowly got to his feet, took one last look across the rusty mesa before him, then returned to the modest dwelling he had made in the hope that he would find some measure of peace at least in sleep.


 

 

Tomb Kings extravaganza!

Tomb Kings

So this went up over the weekend, and it seems all hell broke lose across the internet, between long-time Tomb King players feeling like Games Workshop had given them the hard end of the stick, and folks pretty much like myself, who had always wanted to start a Tomb Kings army but had never quite gotten round to it. Within hours, things started selling out completely on the website, and at the time of this writing, there are just a few bulk-type things left for sale.

As I said, I’ve always wanted to start a Tomb Kings army, but a combination of being distracted by other models, and a little nervousness over so many fragile-looking skeletons has always put me off. Seeing them go has prompted a bit of nostalgia in me, so I thought I’d take some time today to write a bit of a rambling blog about all of this.

A Warhammer Story

I’m not sure if I’ve talked much about this on my blog in the past, but I still think of myself as pretty new to this Warhammer lark. It’s an IP that I’ve always had some sort of awareness of, but have always been a bit reluctant to delve into properly – having always been a huge Star Wars fan, I have felt there isn’t enough room in my head for two big IPs! So for a long time, I was on the outside looking in, always fleetingly.

Then in 2010 or 2011 I bought into a card game called Warhammer: Invasion. It’s a Fantasy Flight LCG that was discontinued back in 2014, set in the Old World and featuring the usual dwarves, orcs and elves. I’d recently gotten heavily into the Lord of the Rings game, and bought this as a bit of light relief, but enjoyed it so much that I snapped everything up, and started devouring everything I could get for it.

The reason why my eye had been drawn to it was this artwork:

Warhammer Invasion

There was something about that Slann Mage Priest that really intrigued me! This art adorns the box for a deluxe expansion called March of the Damned, which introduced new factions to the game, Vampire Counts and Lizardmen. Around this time, there was a thread on the official forums asking what other factions people would like to see, and Tomb Kings really stood out to me as an intriguing name. I mean, I knew what to expect from Ogres and the like, but was interested to see what these things could be.

I’ve long been interested in Ancient Egypt, and Tomb Kings draw heavily on that aesthetic. Or, more the kind of Hammer Horror-esque The Mummy and that ilk. While there are of course legions of skeletons that wield weapons, the characters were all bandage-wrapped horrors, though the overall look is really very appealing to me. I think the idea of the undead with all that gold on them is what really drew me in!

But I never bought them.

As a kid, I remember one Christmas having a model spitfire as a present, and my older brother had a model messerschmitt. While he managed to put it together, and I seem to remember him painting it and adding transfers and all sorts, I was deeply dissatisfied because it wouldn’t go together like a Lego set. I was about 5 at the time, I should add! But I always remember the failure with this airplane, so when I was one those fringes of Warhammer, I was forever thinking of my lack of modelling skills.

When I eventually got into Warhammer models themselves, back in the summer of 2014, I moved almost instantly to 40k, a game I never thought I’d play, and went through a series of Necron kits – Necrons being space Tomb Kings in all but name, of course. When it came to collecting models for Fantasy (as it was still called then), I actually bought Ogres (and Lizardmen, but we won’t talk about them…) Tomb Kings were still not on my radar.

Throughout all this time, which saw me collecting space skeletons, Tomb Kings still somehow scared me. In writing this blog, I think I’ve finally realised why: rank and file. Looking at the pictures on the website of all those models ranked up with their bows and their spears and their goodness-knows what else, I think a little bit of 5-year-old me resurfaced, and I lacked the patience to put something together that looked just far too fiddly.

Age of Sigmar came out and I was bowled over by the Sigmarines, and it’s taken the withdrawal of the entire range to finally get me to invest in the models!

So I’ve finally taken the leap and have bought a decent amount of models – by my rough estimate, 202 wounds of the buggers – that I really can’t wait to turn into my next army! I’m still hoping I can get myself a Battalion box, another, what, 61 wounds right there! I guess we’ll see how the rest of the month progresses.

As a postscript, this is my 399th post on this here blog, and the 400th is right around the corner! It’s a little something that I’m looking forward to starting, anyway, so stay tuned!

Of Bats and Owls

Batman New 52

Continuing the theme of discovering new books and such, I’ve been investigating some of the comics from DC’s New 52 series and, since enjoying those involving The Flash, I’ve moved on to the caped crusader himself: Batman!

A little history. I’ve been a Batman fan for a very long time – I adored the Tim Burton films growing up, and will be getting around to featuring those on this blog soon, in fact. Indeed, I actually learnt to read from the book of the movie, my mum feeling I’d pay more attention to a book I was interested in. Growing up, Batman Returns was one of my all-time favourite films – however, over all these years, I never once thought to read an actual Batman comic…

Well that has changed!

I’ve been buying all my graphic novels from my local Waterstone’s, and had been eyeing up the Batman Court of Owls book as a potential for the list, as I love a story that features a secret society, and finally snapped it up a couple of weeks back.

Let me tell you, I was really impressed with this book. It took some time for me to get into – indeed, I actually read it in single-issues for a couple of nights. However, once I’d gotten into it, I really, really enjoyed it, and quickly snaffled the second book, also!

The New 52 was a soft-reboot from 2011, where DC wiped most of the slate clean, leaving the basic premises of their heroes in place but building new stories around them. So Batman is still Bruce Wayne (oh, spoiler alert…) and is still a billionaire industrialist orphan, etc. The first arc deals with the Court of Owls, a new enemy created for this story as a secret society that has effectively ruled Gotham City for decades through fear, helped by their cadre of assassins called Talons. We follow Batman as he discovers links with the Court and his own family, in the wake of an attack by a man dressed in an Owl suit (it’s actually better than it sounds!) The story is really good, and as the sense of intrigue builds, I got really involved and interested in how the story would develop. I had hoped to enjoy the story, of course, but I hadn’t considered the idea that I might actually become so invested!

The first book ends as Batman is captured by the Court, fights his way out of their labyrinth and escapes, and is pursued by the Court’s Talons. Volume 2 then picks up with the Night of the Owls, as the Talons are unleashed on the city. While most of them head to Wayne Manor, some are dispatched to other movers and shakers within the city’s civic life. Alfred calls in the help of the Bat-allies, from whence a series of tie-in comics were spun into a crossover event during 2012. Volume 2 continues with Batman overcoming the main Talon, before some odd issues added in at the end that explore some more of the history, such as the Court being responsible for Alfred’s father Jarvis’ death, as well as a tie-in with Mr Freeze.

Night of the Owls is a collection of the crossovers, so features a number of the issues that have already been collected in Volume 2, alongside issues from Nightwing, Batwing, Batgirl and Red Hood, among others. I mention these four specifically because they are the ones that stick out the most for me. The formula for each is quite similar – each superhero tangles with a Talon in defense of an important person – yet for folks like myself, who don’t read these other comics, crossover events like these give a handy sampler of the other books, and offer something of an easy-access point. While Nightwing has made multiple appearances in the first two volumes of Batman’s comic, I’m now super-interested in learning more about Batwing, and have ordered the first volume in that ongoing series to see what I’ve been missing! I’d also never heard of Red Hood before, but found myself really enjoying that story – though the placement within the book felt a little odd. Red Hood and his Outlaws get tangled up with a rampaging Mr Freeze before the story that shows his escape from Arkham Asylum. But anyway, it’s a small point.

While the storytelling is really great, the artwork can be a bit hit and miss – and not just in the crossover book. I really liked the aesthetic of the first volume of Batman, once I’d gotten into it, but found the various different looks of the issues collected in volume 2 to be quite jarring.

A great little collection there, anyway – highly recommended to people looking to get into the Batman line, or indeed looking to see what else is on offer in the Batman family of comics!