Wednesday 28 January 2015

Game Review: Xia - Legends of a Drift System

Hi folks,

My mate Wade picked this game up a few weeks ago and we have had the chance to play a few games so far. It is a hard game to describe, mainly because it has so many different playable aspects. It can quite literally be a different game for each player, with some necessary commonalities. It is a swashbuckling exploration and adventure game, where players take on one or more roles during the game (smuggler, thief, bounty hunter, space taxi driver, trader, researcher etc) with the aim of becoming famous.

You start the game by choosing a Level 1 space ship. The ships are lovably dorky, reminding me a lot of the shuttles in the Sci-Fi comedy Red Dwarf (I am this close to pursuing a custom 3D printed Star Bug for the purposes of playing this game. Seriously!). Apparently, a lot of the templates for the ship cards are free to download, so you can make your own custom ships. We had a little wistful chat about using some appropriate X-wing ships and turning it into a Star Wars scum game. More on that sometime later...

Lovable, but dorky. The paint job on these prototypes does not match the ones in the box...

My ship of choice, the Easy Tiger. Full leather interior (slightly stained).

You can spend credits to upgrade your ships with shields, engines, cannons or missiles, which take up cargo space. Obviously, limiting cargo space reduces your ability to win fame through trading, so ship customisation reflects the kind of role you want to play. The upgrades themselves are different shapes that you have to fit on your ship like Tetris blocks, which is a great mechanic. Sometimes you have to buy a bigger ship to fit the stuff that you want. Damage that you receive is taken onto your cargo spaces as well and can render upgrades inactive.

Upgrades. Cue the Tetris music.

To activate your upgrades you need to spend tokens, which must be bought back at the end of the turn with energy points. Running out of energy leaves you slow and defenseless; meat for thieves and bounty hunters.

When you explore new areas you randomly place space tiles down which contain planets, asteroid fields, rubble fields, nebula and stars. You can spend energy to scan a new tile before you place it and fly into it... or you can just fly in blind like my wife did every turn. Her tactic works just fine until you fly into a star, which ends your trip real quick. You can score fame points by destroying other ships, buying and selling goods, transporting people from planet to planet, performing heroic deeds and conducting research in far flung locations. I chose the research route and geared my little ship up with a powerful engine and shield system. I spent an awful lot of time disabled inside Nebula I was trying to research! My wifey took MOAR GUNZ and used them ruthlessly, eventually winning the heroic title of "Viking" for her skills at ramming. The eventually winner of the game, KuriboGoomba, took a bit of everything and won most of his fame transporting wedding parties from one planet to another.

I'm pretty sure Kuribo is cheating right here.

Easy Tiger wins a fame point for being the first to use a gate to travel through space more rapidly. One of the gates is faulty and transports you randomly, which is great for escaping Bounty Hunters.

Your fame points are recorded on a Fame Point Track, which includes such inspiring levels of achievement as "Space Scum", "Rubbish Runner", "Courageous Corsair", "Renowned Starfarer" and ultimately, "Legendary Legend".

We only played to 10 fame points, which was a shorter game, but if you play it to twenty points you have a good chance to upgrade your ship and try out a few different routes to fame. This is a four star game in my opinion, with plenty of room for improvement and customisation.

See you across the table,


Tuesday 27 January 2015

Game Review: TMNT (1987!)

Hi folks,

A couple of weeks ago my wife discovered this gem in her parents garage, in fantastic condition. It is her copy of the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Pizza Power board game and our collective hearts did flip-flops when we found it. Both of us were big TMNT fans "back in the day" and have even imparted some of this half-shell love onto our children. After finally tucking them away for the night we cracked open the box for a gaming hit of nostalgia.

The point of the game is to collect four different "good guy" cards and beat four different "bad guys", then make your way to the Technodrome for a final showdown. You spend good guy cards to get a chance to fight bad guys, and use a "flipper" to determine the outcome of the battle. This final gaming mechanic is a supposed to "inject an element of skill" for "fast paced action." In reality, it is as frustrating as balls. Honestly, we had to laugh because otherwise we would cry.

Wifey takes a krak at the "Battle Flipper". It is a gaming torture device.

Early on we found it almost impossible to beat any bad guys, until we started to get the hang of the flipper. You need to catapult the dice into the correct section of the flipper, which corresponds with the level of the enemy, in order to beat them. Getting a three was easy, one was hard and two was utterly beyond me until later in the game. Then all I could get was twos and I sat in the middle of the board for half an hour unable to close out the match.

My nemesis, Krang, required a two to beat. Looks like it's punks for breakfast again...

Eventually, though, my bodacity won out. In the final battle I had to flip one of each number on the flipper consecutively, which took me ages to do. It gave wifey plenty of time to catch up and we were both in terrible pain from laughing at my ineptitude. By shear luck I managed to flip what I needed to win, and we packed the game away for another 20 years. Let's hope the kids never find it...

Raphael is victorious... eventually, due to no skill of his own and with many tears of frustration/hilarity.

Next post I'll do a short review of a cool little game we have been playing called Xia, which I think has a lot of potential. It is dorky in a very charming way, with a dash of resource management, character progression and space combat.

See you across the table,


Saturday 17 January 2015

Iron Snakes: Storm Eagle Build Complete

Hi folks,

For Christmas my mates got me a Storm Eagle transport (thanks guys, you're the best!), which I have decided to assign to my Iron Snakes detachment. It arrived in a nicely wrapped box, 99% assembled and reeking of super glue. Somewhat ominously, the box also contained some very nice sand paper. Sgt Waz put in a massive effort to get the thing built but it still required a couple of hours of fiddling and customisation, which I have been plugging away at today.

The Vengeance launcher was assembled further forward than you would usually expect, as the guys questioned the safety of launching missiles across such a length of fuselage. I ran a few beads of greenstuff around the hull to close up the most offensive gaps and added some details. Tomorrow I am going to file and cut back any excess greenstuff, then give it a spray undercoat.

The Storm Eagle has a combat shield for every Sternguard marine it will transport: "come back with your shield, or on it." They stand out like barnacles on a whale at the moment, but that will change when they are painted. The missiles in the magazine come from a 3rd Ed. terrain kit that I scrounged from the lower depths of my bitz box. They are a little smaller than the Vengeance missiles, but at a glance you can't tell. Nothing says "death by glancing hits" like an exposed magazine of Vengeance missiles! The targeter is from an Icarus pattern lascannon emplacement.

I have been saving those Rhino doors for an awfully long time, so I was stoked to realise they fit this model. I had always assumed they were Landraider doors on the Storm Eagle.

The cockpit was pretty badly bent as well, so I heated it for a few seconds (literally) and bent it back so that it would fit flush with the hull.

So, that is all of the modelling work done for now. After I have painted the interior I will assemble the cockpit, but that won't be for a little while, my painting schedule is very full at the moment. Still, it is something to look forward to.

See you across the table,


Wednesday 14 January 2015

X-wing Shenanigans

Hi folks,

I have been off on a family holiday this week, so I haven't had a chance to wield a paintbrush. It was fun surfing everyone else's blogs from my phone though, whilst I watched sharks cruise past my breakfast table. I have been staying on Daydream Island on the Great Barrier Reef, which is some kind of food for the soul:

Seriously; a shark cruising past my breakfast table.

Feeding stingrays with my little one. They were like hungry puppy dogs.

Before I took off I squeezed in a couple of games of X-wing that were great fun. The first game provided me with a chance to use some of my new ships, including a TIE Phantom and, on the Rebel side, an E-wing. It was an experiment in more ways than one as, out of 5 games that I know have been played in my gaming group, the Rebels have never won, regardless of who was using them (feel free to correct me on this one guys). With a larger, more diverse, fleet and multiple players, I really wanted to see if there was something broken about the Rebels...

Three TIE Starfighters, a TIE Phantom, Interceptor and Defender square off against two X-wings, a B-wing, A-wing and E-wing.

As an Imperial player in control of the Defender, Interceptor and Starfighter, I was planning to cruise down the left flank and focus my attentions on Luke Skywalker's X-wing. KuriboGoomba was my partner in crime and was tasked with holding the right flank with two ace TIE Starfighters and a Phantom equipped with an Advanced Cloaking Device.

KuriboGoomba sweeps through the right flank and pours a huge amount of firepower into an A-wing, to no avail.

The return fire,  a proton rocket, was brutal. Despite being cloaked, the Phantom was left with 1 hull point.

On the opposite flank I dealt some heavy damage to Luke, then evaded most of the return fire; my Defender absorbed a hit with its shields.  KuriboGoomba had less luck, flying his Phantom into an asteroid (bottom right) and losing his last hull point. 

Traffic jam! My TIE defender has no viable targets, but Luke and Biggs combine to take down the TIE Interceptor and Starfighter in order of piloting skill, preventing any return fire.  The next turn my Defender finished off Biggs. On the other flank, KuriboGoomba crashes another starship into an asteroid, destroying it.

The B-wing and E-wing manoeuvre and trap the overstressed TIE Starfighter. It erupts into a glittering ball of sparkly stuff.  

Having disabled Luke with an ion blast at close range,  I realised I couldn't keep him in my sights next turn. I jammed my Defender into him so that he couldn't fire at me and annihilated the A-wing instead. Caught between Luke, the E-wing and B-wing, I spent a few turns evading a causing light damage before someone could finally line me up and take me out.

So... there's nothing wrong with the Rebels; they bring the pain just like anyone else! The second game was an introductory session for my mate and old school gamer, BennyW. Like KuriboGoomba, BennyW and I go back 20 years. There are very few games that I have played without him across the other side of the table. In fact, even when he is not there, he kinda is. So, no tutorial for this guy: 150 no-holds-barred. Against him was KuriboGoomba and I had a finger in both pies, taking a B-wing on one side and the TIE Phantom on the other (weird, I know, but I was careful to avoid conflicts of interest). Ben cut straight to the competitive meta, instinctively taking an augmented TIE swarm list and we cut loose.

BennyW learns the challenges of manoeuvring a TIE swarm, whilst the Defender and Interceptor sprint for the right flank. A very tired looking M4cr0Dutch is sitting on the right there; I really do need to fix those vertical blinds behind the TV...[sigh]. The TIE Phantom cloaks and proceeds to haunt the trench, destroying a B-wing. KuriboGoomba sends a lone A-wing against the swarm but misses with everything repeatedly and gets vaped in return.

I take advantage of a target lock to nail that Interceptor with my B-wing before it can cause any harm. The E-wing destroys a TIE Starfighter whilst evading fire from the TIE Defender. The B-wing went on to destroy a TIE Starfighter before falling apart in the face of massed firepower. 

The endgame. The E-wing manoeuvred desperately for several turns, avoiding the four firing arcs set against it. Taking a stress token in an attempt to line it up, the TIE Defender flies too close to the board edge and, with limited options available, is lost in the preceding turn. Having turned the TIE Phantom over to BennyW, he ghosted it around the dogfight, finally trapping the E-wing and ripping it to shreds. 

So the Rebels lost another hard-fought game. Things were looking bad right from the start, as the A-wing was very poorly equipped to take on all of those TIE Starfighters. It would have been more appropriately matched against the Defender with its proton rockets. The pair of B-wings, on the other hand, would have had a much better chance, with one sporting 360 degree fire with its secondary weapons and another trading stress tokens for extra hits. Ahhh well, you live and you learn...

Thanks for the great games guys (you know who you are), I look forward to playing some more games soon with extra players and even bigger ships.

See you across the table,


Wednesday 7 January 2015

Iron Snakes: Sternguard Progress (extra pictures added)

Hi folks,

For those who have been following my blog during the last year, you will know I have been working very hard on a squad of Iron Snakes Sternguard. I don't think I had any idea of just how intricate this project would be, or how time consuming.

But now I can feel it in my bones...

I'm getting close.

As I take this short break in painting to blog (and watch the cricket), I have 6 combi-plasma guns  and two plasma guns drying with block colours completed.

A poor man's wet pallet. Works a charm, though.

The past couple of nights I have been adding the verdigris detail to the torso. I start off with a 3:1 Scorched Brown (goodness know what they call this now, it is a warm dark brown): Kabalite Green which I paint on half the area of each armour piece. I then ramp it up to a 1:1 then 1:3 mix which I apply by drybrushing consecutively. I then mix Kabalite Green and White in a 1:1 and 1:3 ratio and pick out the extreme edges. A careful Kabalite Green glaze at this stage keeps the highlights neat and knocks them back a little. The armour piece is finished off with an Auric Armour Gold highlight. I am not too happy with this gold; I prefer the old Shining Gold which was a touch more red/warm. So, here is what 6 hours of drybrushing verdigris buys you:

Here are some extra shots of the Veteran Sergeant and the verdigris I have painted on his shield. It probably provides the clearest representation of the technique I am using, it is such a nice large space. I am hoping the other blank shields can turn out the same.

Oooh, missed a bit on that purity seal; thanks high resolution camera! 

To finish this squad off I need to black wash and highlight the weapons with Auric Armour Gold, add some verdigris and blue OSL to the plasma coils. I also need to paint the front facing of those four plain Siege Mantles you can see in the photos. There is one other thing I need to fix up, which may just be me being a bit of a pain. The shield I have painted with a bull image has a very large white space on it that just looks too flat/empty. I am going to add some purity seals there to add some contrast to colour and texture. Of course, then I have to assemble all of those many pieces I have been slaving over!

Spot the offending blank spot...

See you across the table,


Thursday 1 January 2015

Hive Fleet Numereji: Flyrant Build Complete

Hi folks,

Happy new year! I was all set to do a massive gaming session today, including the final battle of the Battletech campaign I have been playing with my mate Wade, but instead I am at home sick (a "daycare special"). I hope wherever you are you are having a much better start to the year than I am.

I have managed to complete the building stage of my flying Hive Tyrant. The last couple of steps involved cleaning up the second set of wings and modelling custom ball joints that would allow them to fit with the standard pair on the same model. The second set is actually from an old Forest Dragon kit I bought many, many moons ago. I also added some short scything talons from the Tyrant Guard sprues.

I also assembled the abdomen and legs, which I affixed to the base with some extra green stuff for support. I scrounged through my bitz boxes and found an old school Genestealer Magus that I new I had lying around somewhere. I'm using him to pay homage to the imagery of Cloudjumper with his rider Valka.

Cloudjumper, looking a little less like a psychic overlord, and Valka

I obviously didn't want the Magus riding the Tyrant, that seemed a bit like putting the cart before the horse. I could imagine that if a Magus was a particularly gifted psyker a Tyrant may string him around as a psychic amplifier before finally giving him up to the digestion pools.

Here is a final dry fit of the torso pieces; the wings are not stable enough to photograph using Blutac alone.

The next stage, painting the Magus, will have to wait for a while as I make a last push to finish off my Iron Snakes Sternguard. By that time I should have my new digital camera up and running so I can stop using my mobile phone!

See you across the table,