Ewoks!

Back in September 1985, the Ewoks cartoon began, and it was a glorious time to be a child! Of course, I was a bit young at the time – I wasn’t yet one year old – but this cartoon was so much a part of my childhood that I couldn’t help celebrate it as my 500th blog!

The show deals with the adventures of Wicket and his friends and their adventures around the Endor forest, some time before the events of Return of the Jedi. Despite the fact that Wicket really steals the show in pretty much every episode, there’s a really nice ensemble feel with the rest of the characters we’re introduced to, a couple of whom do have prominent places in one or two episodes…

Ewoks cartoon

First of all, I only really liked the first series of 13 episodes, so I’ll only be rambling incoherently on them. The feel of the cartoon is much more, I dunno, cartoony than the second season, and it has that amazing bluesy theme song! There are a number of threats that the Ewoks have to overcome over the course of the series, primarily their cousins the Duloks, but also the more serious threat of Morag, the Tulgah Witch. The Duloks are a little silly at times, especially the O and X-marked pair, but this is pitched at little children, after all! If I’m honest, I don’t even find their capering all that goofy anymore, as it’s just all so nostalgic!

One of my favourite of the kind of story arcs in the season involves the travelling Jindas, who travel throughout Endor performing for the various inhabitants of the forest. I always had a soft spot for Latara, and as the episode kinda focused more on her, I suppose it was inevitable that I would like this episode best!

When I was little, I had recorded some of the episodes off the TV, but I was eternally sad that the VHS tape had run out before the end of The Curse of the Jindas, and from about the age of 5 or 6 until about three years ago, I had no idea how it actually ended! It clearly didn’t bother me too much as I hadn’t thought to look it up online, but still!

Ewoks cartoon

When I rewatched the series after scouring youtube during 2013, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and so many wonderful memories of watching (and re-watching) these episodes came flooding back, it really was great!

The episode Sunstar vs Shadowstone was another all-time favourite – while having a soft spot for Latara, Teebo was my favourite, as I felt something of a kinship for his goofy attempts to fit in and impress the others. Well, anyway!

The cartoon is an amazing nostalgia trip, and is definitely worth checking out – not just for Star Wars fans, but I do feel it still holds up as a cartoon for kids of all ages!

500 posts

Star Wars Miniatures

It’s not-quite May the Fourth! So in celebration, I wanted to showcase an old favourite of mine, Star Wars Miniatures!

Star Wars Miniatures

This tabletop miniature wargame was produced by Wizards of the Coast back between 2004 and 2010, partly in support of their RPG. The game featured 34mm miniatures, and was a collectible game that was distributed through blind-buy booster packs of little plastic minis. Sixteen sets were produced over the six years, featuring miniatures from right across the Star Wars universe, from Knights of the Old Republic to Legacy-era.

The game itself was fairly straightforward. Miniatures come with a stats card, which shows the abilities of each mini, along with the Hit Points, Attack and Defense ratings, and how much damage they deal in combat. Each mini also has a points cost, with which you can build squads for the skirmish game in something approaching a balanced manner.

Star Wars Miniatures

So, you assemble your guys, and pitch battle to your foes – the goal of the game is to wipe out your opponent’s entire squad, though three Ultimate Missions books were published for the game, along with a couple of scenario sets for Endor and Hoth that give some element of thematic gaming.

To wipe out your enemies, you need to attack them, obviously. I seem to remember that ranged fighters can shoot across the entire map at you, while melee characters need to be much closer, base-to-base. When attacking, you roll a d20 and add your character’s attack value. If it is higher than your opponent’s defense value, you deal damage to the figure based on your damage rating. If you roll a natural 20 you deal double damage no matter what the defense rating, but if you roll a natural 1 then you miss no matter what. If a model’s HP is ever 0, it is removed from the game.

Now, that’s combat at it’s most basic. The game ran for 6 years, producing almost three sets a year on average, so there are a ton of mechanics for the game that alter the ebb and flow of battle, and some of the combos I’ve come across in my time are just insanity made manifest:

Arica (Mara Jade’s alter-ego) has Blaster Barrage, which allows her to attack each legal target once in her activation. She also has Twin Attack, which allows her to attack each opponent twice. She also has Cunning Attack, which gives her +4 attack and +10 damage against targets who have yet to activate. She also has Sniper, which means other characters do not provide cover for any of her attacks. I was once on the receiving end of this, and had seven miniatures wiped out in one attack frenzy.

That’s a pretty standard operating procedure, however! Consider, Maris Brood vs Darth Vader, Scourge of the Jedi:

Maris, who has 80HP remaining, moves adjacent to Vader (40HP left) and spends a Force Point to make a Lightsaber Assault, giving her two attacks. She has Twin Attack anyway, so she’ll be making four attacks. She hits him twice on the first attack, but his ability Dark Armor reduces damage received by 10 if he makes a saving roll of 11, which he does, so is left with 10HP. Vader has the Lightsaber Riposte ability that allows him to spend 1 Force Point to immediately counter-attack, so he successfully attacks and reduces Maris to 60HP. He also has the Djem So Style ability, which allows him to make an immediate counter-attack when hit with a melee attack. He successfully makes this, and reduces her further to 40HP. But Maris still has two attacks left, which she makes successfully – ordinarily, Vader would be dead at this point, but due to the order of attacks in the rules, Djem So Style will trigger before damage is applied, twice, which means Vader kills Maris as Maris kills him. That was an awesome little aristeia on the battlefield when it happened – I don’t even remember who I was controlling now, I just remember it’s awesome!

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful interactions like this, and it’s part of what kept me playing the game for so long, I think! Another part, of course, are the awesome miniatures!

Star Wars Miniatures

Over the course of the game, things changed of course. The first ten sets came in sets of 60 miniatures, and featured a number of scenario packs and intro packs as a way of allowing entry into the game. Universe, the third set, introduced huge miniatures into the game, such as the Rancor above, and this trend continued in two further sets – Bounty Hunters and The Force Unleashed. Scenario Packs continued after the Clone Wars set shifted distribution to 40 miniatures per set and redesigned the stat card, however the quality seemed to drop off a little, with some truly horrific sculpts and paint jobs featuring in the last six sets. However, both Imperial Entanglements (the new set when I eventually went all-in on the game) and Dark Times do have some really wonderful miniatures, and the final set, Masters of the Force, is noteworthy for including the Dejarik holomonsters which, I’m firmly convinced, would have formed a side-game if Wizards hadn’t announced dropping the Star Wars license a couple of months prior to the set’s release.

Star Wars Miniatures

Of course, it’s not all figures – over the course of the game, there were vehicles and bigger droids produced, the massive Rancor figure from up there, and also the biggest “miniature” I’ve ever seen – the AT-AT walker!

Star Wars Miniatures

I remember having to import this from Australia, as I couldn’t find one anywhere for sale in the UK. This thing is huge, and I think it’s pretty much in-scale with the rest of these things – the AT-AT Driver mini above certainly looks about right, anyway! This was a really special event upon release, and I remember it advertised with annoying frequency in comics and the like. I’ve never actually used it in the game, as it just seems too cumbersome, but by god, what an amazing addition to the collection!

Star Wars Miniatures

I’ve talked before about Wizards and the way they went from fully supporting their game lines to almost-dropping the Star Wars licence overnight, so I won’t labour that point again here. Suffice it to say, it was a similar story to the Saga Edition RPG, where we had scenarios and map tiles produced that you could download from the site, then suddenly all of that just stopped. My favourite tiles include the Sarlacc pit, which is tremendous fun to use as a terrain feature!

Star Wars Miniatures

I absolutely love this game. For the longest time, it was the only tabletop game I played. I invested so much effort and time into tracking down chase pieces, importing the blighters from the US at exorbitant costs in order to have Darth Revan, or Quinlan Vos, and it’s been a cause of no end of frustration to me that I actually owned every single thing for this game officially produced – except for the fabled Taris Undercity map:

Christopher West is the cartographer for most of the maps and tiles available in the game, and once Wizards stopped producing the game, he continued to produce maps – albeit more generic maps with the sci-fi theme – via Kickstarter, and buying the first five of these map bundles was actually my first foray into the crowdfunding website! Many of the pictures in this blog – that with the Rancor, for instance – are games being played on these fantastic maps. The reason I’m harping on about them is they’re still available via his website, and are of awesome quality, and really useful not just for this game, but if you like running RPGs with maps and minis.

It’s not just Christopher West who provides maps, of course. There are plenty of fan-made map tiles and full-size maps available to download and get printed up. One of my prized possessions is the Jabba’s Palace map, which is just spectacular, so much fun to play on. It has all of the locations from the movie, leading to so much thematic play!

After all these years, Star Wars miniatures are still fairly available on the open market, which continues to surprise me. The minis are pretty well compatible with FFG’s Imperial Assault, which I recall drove demand up for the older, pre-painted figures for a time. Having so many of these things, I’ve often considered down-sizing my collection, though in doing the prep for this blog, and checking out all of those photos once again, it’s brought back so many awesome memories that I feel this game is something I never want not to have.

So much of this game is bound up with my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe at large, I will freely admit that I’m probably looking back on most of this far too fondly. As I mentioned, the adverts for the new sets were in every new Star Wars comic that month, and whenever a new thing happened in the universe, such as the Legacy era being opened up, a line of miniatures wouldn’t be too far behind to support it. They may be kept in boxes on top of the wardrobe under an inch-thick layer of dust, but one day I might get them down again and put a squad together, and re-live those early days of my gaming life… That would be awesome!

Star Wars Miniatures

All of the photos in this blog have been shared on boardgamegeek over the years – you can check out the full range of my contributions here.

The Real Ghostbusters!

It’s time for some more Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia!

Back in the late 1980s, Columbia made a cartoon series based on the original film that ran to 140 episodes across two seasons, which always sounds a huge amount, but then something like He-Man had roughly the same number, so I guess it was something of a standard. As a fun fact, the cartoon was called “The Real Ghostbusters” because of a dispute with Filmation, the company behind He-Man, Brave Starr, and many others – Columbia actually had to license the name for the film in 1984, and it led to the storyline of the first episode (shown in the youtube video above) that shows a rival group of ghost hunters trying to steal the work of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston.

Anyhow!

As much as I love the franchise, I have to say, I’ve never really found the same kind of love for the cartoon as I have for the film(s), even given my previously-mentioned toy obsession, the toys of course being directly made from the cartoon and not the movie.

Looking back, I don’t really remember any particular episode from the cartoon series, though I do have vague memories of watching the show as a child. For some odd reason, the clearest memory of the Real Ghostbusters was a book/audio tape combo called The Cabinet of Calamari, based off episode 63:

The cartoons are pretty goofy to watch them today, and while I’m a great apologist for a lot of this sort of stuff (check out my Ring Raiders, D&D and Visionaries blogs in this category!) I just can’t bring myself to watch these things without cringing a little! I mean, Slimer is the Ghostbusters’ pet, for heaven’s sake!!

It is worth mentioning that a few of the ghosts from the new Cryptozoic game have their origin in this cartoon series, including the Boogeyman and Samhain. There is a definite nostalgia value here, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing off to buy these on DVD any time soon…

Birthday Week Game Day Extra!

It’s birthday week here on spalanz.com, and time for a bit of game day extra, as I take a look at some more nostalgia from my childhood: The Real Ghostbusters: The Game!

Ghostbusters retro games

Oh, this one’s hilarious! Dating from 1989, the game is a tie-in to the cartoon series of the same name (more on that tomorrow!) You play one of the four Ghostbusters, or Janine or Slimer, and travel around the board trying to trap ghosts – once all the ghosts are trapped, the winner is the person who had the most.

Ghostbusters retro games

Along the way, there are mechanics for player interaction where you can attempt to “spook” your opponents – basically by playing rock/paper/scissors – to take their kit cards. Without all three pieces of kit (proton pack, proton gun, trap), you can’t trap ghosts and so cannot win the game. When you come to trap ghosts, the “bust-o-meter” is spun to determine the strength of your stream: if it’s higher than the ghost’s slime value (listed on the side of the board), you trap it. That’s pretty much all there is to it, though Action cards do allow you to interact with the game a little more, such as moving to ghosts to trap them etc.

I had this game from new, and seem to remember trying to get my brother to play it with me back in the day. I found it in the attic when I moved a few years ago, along with another awesome retro game that will be featured here no doubt eventually, and convinced my regular gaming buddy Tony to play, but it didn’t really stand up to the test of time.

Something I wasn’t all that impressed by was just how easy it is to knock somebody out of the game entirely, by winning just one round of rock/paper/scissors. Given your ability in the game is based entirely on something so arbitrary is just bizarre, I thought – it feels more luck-based than any kind of dice game, somehow! Maybe I’m just not good at rock/paper/scissors, though?

At any rate, it was fun to revisit the past, but I can’t say I’d recommend hunting down a copy on ebay anytime soon!

Ghostbusters!

Aw, yeah! You love it!

It’s birthday week here at spalanz.com, and I’m reliving another of my all-time favourite franchises: Ghostbusters! I’m almost as old as the original film, which is a bit of trivia that is partly meaningless, but grew up surrounded by it thanks to the sequel coming out at a time when all I wanted was to have lots and lots of toys. And my god, did this franchise deliver on that front!

I’m going to ramble inanely for a while now…

Ghostbusters retro toys

Ghostbusters is one of those films, like Beetlejuice and Masters of the Universe, that I used to love to watch repeatedly (driving the folks mental, no doubt), before then recreating the story with a vast horde of action figures. Between us, my brother and I must have had everything going for the range – which makes the above photo a sad memory in some respects, as it’s not the entire collection we had! Taking a look through all of those I still have in order to write this, however, has brought a lot of memories back, I have to say! Still upset my mum never let us have the goo that came with the fire station…

Ghostbusters

I love the first Ghostbusters movie, largely because, as a kid, I loved Slimer and thought he was the best. Not entirely sure why, but I just remember this as being a fact. I somehow never really registered this film as a comedy back in the day, I just remember all of the awesome action scenes as being amazing, and the “Saving the Day” sequence always used to excite me like nothing you’d know. I’m often surprised when I re-watch movies that were a big part of my childhood, as I find it hard to date them, as the quality or whatever is deeply ingrained so I gloss over any imperfections, much like I still don’t see Jabba the Hutt as a puppet. However, the special effects in this movie, considering it’s almost 32 years old, are still pretty great when you watch it now. Sure, some bits might be clunky, but that sequence with the paranormal energy zooming over the New York cityscape? Forget about it, that is just cinema at its finest!

Ghostbusters

The second film came out five years later, (a move that parallels Indiana Jones 2 and 3, just thought I’d point that out), and seemed somehow more subdued than the first one. While Gozer the Gozerian (still makes me laugh) is out to destroy the world, and would be a very serious threat if its chosen form hadn’t been a huge marshmallow, Vigo the Carpathian spends almost all of the film stuck in a painting, and barely manifests as a real person before his defeat. There’s a greater element of supernatural terror that comes from this, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel quite the same, I guess.

Ghostbusters II

The story still manages to have some wonderful moments – I love all the underground stuff, as I’m semi-fascinated with stuff like the history of disused underground systems like that. The walking Statue of Liberty is also a fantastic sequence that I find really exciting in the course of the movie. A lot of movie sequels are bad attempts to cash-in on the success of the first, but this one is definitely not that!

I love these films immeasurably, as they’re just enjoyable action adventure stories with a whole ton of comedy, not to mention the enormous nostalgia factor. That’s pretty much the entire substance of this blog, anyway, and makes me realise I don’t really have a point that I’m trying to make here.

So I’ll leave you with this picture of my original Ghostbusters toys…

Ghostbusters retro toys

Who ya gonna call?

It’s birthday week again at spalanz.com, as my blog turns two on Thursday – aww! To celebrate, I’m having another theme-week, though not quite as expansive as last year’s Indiana Jones week unfortunately. But it’s still amazing, as we once again return to a beloved franchise from the 1980s – it’s Ghostbusters!

I’ve got a couple of blogs coming later in the week that will be waxing lyrical on the movies and such, so you can definitely look forward to those, but it’s Tuesday, so it’s time for a game day blog – and one that I’ve been really looking forward to sharing with you guys: it’s the new board game from Cryptozoic!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Well, it was new back last November, but anyway. This was a kickstarter game that was funded in March 2015, and eventually found its way to me later that year. It’s a relatively straightforward game, where you play one of the iconic four Ghostbusters – Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, or Winston Zeddemore:

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

(Other Ghostbusters are available…)

During the game, you get the opportunity to level up your character by busting ghosts, which gives your character additional skills – it’s a simplified RPG-style system, and one that I am pretty impressed by!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Ghosts come in different classes, which roughly denotes how difficult they are to deal with, and feature the mechanics used to both move and trap them (more on this shortly). The ghost miniatures are all this clear-blue plastic, with the exception of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (white, obviously) and Slimer (in green). Something I think is really cool is that whenever a ghost moves into another ghost, they become a bigger threat, turning into a ghost of the next class up! Wonderful!

The game is played according to different scenarios, outlined on their own cards:

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

These cards show how to set up the map tiles, where to place ghost miniatures, etc, and feature the win conditions.

So let’s talk gameplay.

The game round is split between the Ghostbusters’ movement, any “end of round” effects, then the Event die is rolled. On a Ghostbuster’s turn, you have two actions to choose from, such as moving, aiding others, and combat. The main focus is of course combat, as you try to rid the streets of New York of all the paranormal manifestations!

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Importantly, to hit a ghost, you must have line of sight to it – so any terrain features outlined on the map can potentially block you. You also need to be no more than 3 spaces away from it. Each ghost has a to hit and to trap value on its card – when you’re fighting it, you roll a d6 and try to equal or exceed the hit value. If you’re successful, you’ll get to put a proton stream marker underneath that ghost (as shown above, Egon has hit the Boogaloo Manifestation once, so he gets to put one stream token under it). Class 1 ghosts only require one stream token to trap them, so if you hit them, you get to remove them from the board and place them on your character sheet; otherwise, the ghosts will continue to move around with that stream token under them until they are trapped – hit enough times to have stream tokens under them equal to their to trap value. When this happens, the Ghostbuster who put the final stream token on the ghost gets it, but anyone else who had stream tokens under the ghost gets 1XP. Ghostbusters also have some abilities to gain additional XP from their abilities.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

Once each Ghostbuster has had their allotted two actions, if the scenario card shows any end-of-round actions, they’ll happen, then the event die is rolled. This is a custom d6 with the Zener Card symbols (from Venkman’s test at the beginning of the movie?) – the scenario card tells you how many gates there are open on the map, represented by cardboard tokens as seen in the above photo. These gates also have the symbols on them, and if the symbol rolled matches an open gate, a new ghost will come out of it.

The way these ghosts come out is pretty nice, as well – there is another cardboard tile that represents a PKE meter, with numbers 1-8 around a central square. You roll a d8 to determine which square the ghost will emerge onto, imagining the gate tile as being the central square. The event die also has an eight-pointed Chaos star (if you’re familiar with Warhammer, you’ll know this one). This represents Chaos and each ghost on the map will move according to its reference card.

Ghostbusters board game Cryptozoic

This is a really fun game, I like it a lot! The rulebook isn’t particularly great, which made my very first game a bit confusing as I tried to make sense of what I was doing in terms of the round structure or whatever, but once I got past that, I think it went pretty smoothly and I quickly got into it – after which, I quickly discovered that I really loved it!

The basic game that you can get at retail has a lot of fun, but the kickstarter version has got a whole ton of extras, and it would be remiss of me to not mention this. To be blunt, the kickstarter campaign was a bit of a mess. Almost all of the classic movie stuff was kickstarter exclusive, including the librarian, Gozer and the dogs, etc, which was something of a bizarre move from such an established game company. As of the time of this writing, there is a second game up on kickstarter, which has a lot of this kickstarter loot available in add-ons, and anyone who picked up this game at retail should definitely look into that. It’s not all of the content, unfortunately, but it’s a lot of it.

The scenarios are where the game shines of course, and there are plenty of them to keep you going through so much gaming, and they are a whole ton of fun.

Pick up a copy today!

Visionaries!

Hey everybody!
It’s Saturday morning, so it’s got to be time to remember another classic cartoon of the 80s! I started looking at some of these last year, with the D&D cartoon and the short series Ring Raiders. Today, it’s time for another of my all-time favourites – it’s Visionaries!

“Whispered secrets of a shattered age…”

The Visionaries cartoon was first shown towards the end of 1987, and features the ongoing conflicts between the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords. Set on the world of Prysmos, a formerly technologically-advanced world that suffered a near-apocalypse that set the world back into a dark age, the series begins as the wizard Merklynn instigates a heroic quest to imbue several champions with magical powers, seemingly so that he can make use of them when he feels the need. Several folks show up, and run the gauntlet of traps set up inside the Iron Mountain, though only fourteen survive. Merklynn rewards all those who survived with totem animals based on their personalities, as well as eight having magical staffs.

The champions split into those loyal to Leoric, the Spectral Knights, and those loyal to Darkstorm, the Darkling Lords. Most of the remaining twelve episodes deal with the Darkling Lords attempting to be generally evil, oppressing the population and trying to steal the powers of the Spectral Knights. Some of them also involve both factions doing some sort of strange work for Merklynn against his rival wizards.

visionaries

The cartoon was supported by a whole toy line, twelve of the fourteeen Visionaries were released, along with several vehicles. I remember having a lot of these as a child – well, my brother and I had quite the collection between us, anyway. One of my earliest childhood traumas actually involves a Visionaries figure. I think it was Cravex, I had the figure as a present when going on holiday to Barmouth in mid-Wales. Cravex’s totem animal was some kind of flying lizard thing (a phylot, in case you were wondering), and so it was crucial for whatever I was playing out for him to be thrown into the air. Well, he flew too high, and ended up on the roof of a caravan, and could well still be there to this day. Needless to say, it ruined both the holiday and my childhood, especially as I had his accoutrements to remind me of the debacle.

visionaries

The series is a lot of fun, when looked at from a nostalgic perspective. They’re by no means brilliant – indeed, pretty much everything here is a little hackneyed and whatnot, but for people like myself, having grown up on them and playing with the toys and whatnot, there’s still a lot to be enjoyed from these sorts of shows.

visionaries

“May the light shine forever!”