In Praise of Monsterpocalypse

Monsterpocalypse by Privateer Press went non-collectible recently, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve watched this game since its release, but I was never prepared to buy into it, because I saw alot of wasteful spending involved trying to get complete armies of guys together. I have never bought into a collectible game, except Magic – but I know how unbalanced Magic can become if you’ve got a bigger wallet to play it – so collectibles turned me off for that reason alone.

My 2-player starter came with two (almost full) GUARD and Destroyer armies, 9 buildings, a fully updated rulebook, and of course all the dice and maps needed to play. I’m impressed. After setting up the map with all the buildings, monsters and units needed to play the game, you have a really aesthetically impressive game with enough complexity and options to keep you involved for many many months. And like other miniature games, if you get a little bored, changing armies will force you to reinvent your strategy, as they all play slightly differently, and its a brand new game again.

As a long time miniature gamer, here’s what I like about Monsterpocalypse:
1 – Fantastic aesthetics with pre-painted miniatures (well painted)
2 – Rules are complex enough to keep me interested for quite a while
3 – Lots of variety in monsters and units will keep you varying strategies to see what’s best
4 – Other gamers (miniature or Clix or board gamers) are also happy to try it out. Every time I play this at my FLGS it gets attention and people talking. New players are already buying in after only 2 weeks.
5 – Low price point. Relatively. The starter in Canada is about $60 after taxes. You can’t beat that for prepainted goodness.
6 – is THE website to visit for people interested in the game. These guys – Steve and Zach  – love the game so much, they’ll make you optimized army packs, have done tutorial videos and have a really intelligent forum on the go, discussing the game. Watch the 8 part tutorials on their YouTube channel to get a really good feel for how the game plays before you spend your money. Look for “The Definitive Monsterpocalypse Tutorial” parts 1-8.

I love this game. It checks all the boxes for a good, strategic time, playing with friends. Watch the videos I’ve linked to above. Buy a starter. See if you don’t fall in love with this game. Seriously.


Going on a GW Diet in 2011 – a Rant

There was a very sinister revealing of Games Workshop, in 2010, that I really didn’t like. It compels me to write.

I’ve been a long time GW fan – played almost everything they’ve ever created at one time or another, and some that I still do: WHFB, 40K, Mordheim, Epic, Space Hulk, Warmaster, BFG, LotR, Necromunda – blah blah blah – you get the picture. And in those 20+ years I’ve been getting more and more cynical – prices have been raised far beyond comparable products, (to the point where, no matter how much money I make, GW minis just aren’t value for dollar anymore). I’ve seen many, many rulesets come and go – exciting stuff! I’ve always been a fan of rules in all miniature genres and scales – it’s really neat to see how developers want to organize our simulated warfare. Well, at least until 8th ed WHFB came along.

Warhammer 8th ed. at first glance, is a serious rules improvement – better writing, better tactics, etc. But here’s the sinister part – even though I had 3 complete armies, they all became sub-standard in the new edition. They all needed more models in some way or another – certain troop choices were optimized and should now be collected, or already usable troops were still effective, but in larger numbers! It was then that I realized I had been deliberately manipulated. And now, after a few months of pondering, I’ve decided I’m not going to take it.

Why, when I have display shelves crammed, crammed with models for 2 or 3 specific GW gaming systems, should I have to go out and get more to remain competitive? And we’re not even talking tournies here – which I don’t do. “BUT”, says Games Workshop, “our games are designed for friendly basement matchups between mates on the weekend! If you’re not playing nice, you’re not playing in the spirit of our games.” – Bullshit. At first glance this seems like an honest and caring corporate statement – why can’t we all just get along and play like Christ would if he had a High Elf army? Because every kid or adult I’ve ever played in WHFB wants to win more games than they lose. In fact, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t – they owe me their best game, and so do I in reciprocation. But what I find other people’s best games to be, has been fucked up by Games Workshop in one way or another. Here’s how (and see how many of these apply to your gaming group):
1 – $100 rule book – It’s big, it’s finally all colour, and it’s beyond the reach of many younger players. WHFB play is down in my area because of the new rules alone.
2 – The multi-hundred dollar buy in. It’s ok – just buy the Island of Blood starter set. Noobs soon realize that the unequal miniature forces in the set are the tip of the outlay iceberg – hundreds and hundreds of more dollars will be needed to meet the standard 2000pt lists on tabletops today. And everyone wants to play at the 2K standard.
3 – The extreme time required. Just try and get a friend to temporally buy into Warhammer these days. You’ll have to explain why you paid $50 for the privilege of buying 10 plastic guys you had to flash, assemble, prime, paint and base yourself. Seriously. Then tell him it’s only part of your Phoenix Guard unit, and you need to do it again – maybe twice.
4 – Low standards in a demanding hobby. How many times have you showed up for a pickup game at your FLGS, only to be facing an army of unpainted, semi-assembled, semi-primed, night goblins, dwarves, lego pieces and skinks proxying as the new army on the block. And oh yeah – they haven’t fully read the new army book, which was bit-torrented off the web last night. And no, they don’t have their army list written out, but they have most of the units memorized anyway. Really? Never happened to you? Just wait. It looks like fun kids, but don’t fool yourself how many hundreds of hours you’re going to have to invest. Hundreds.
5 – Out dated army books. The absolute rock-solid foundation of every army, is its ARMY BOOK. But some of these are now so horribly out of date, either points-wise, or functionally, or magically, that they can’t be played without a huge handicap. Why why why why didn’t GW, after a major revamp of their ruleset, not revamp the points cost and magic of every unit in every army book in the game? They paid attention to the rules, but my Tomb Kings are shit-on-a-stick compared to Skaven played by a competent opponent. Years will pass before TK, Ogres and WE are up to date. Years. Unacceptable.     

And there you have it with GW in a nutshell. Excessive cost, combined with excessive time, divided by conflicting army balance = well… umm… disappointment. You can forgive or excuse many tactical things in a “fantasy” game. But in the “real” world of miniature gaming, Games Workshop, for me, has just reached the cost/time/rules tipping point – the combined return just isn’t worth the combined investment anymore. And it pains me to say it, but I’m going on a GW diet in 2011, hell – maybe forever, and will only pay attention to their paints, washes and scenery pieces.

The argument “I’ve invested too much to not keep going” is really, really fucked up. I think it’s ok to say no, finally, after 25 years of gaming.

HE Phoenix Guard – Not a Big Fan

GW's new Phoenix Guard don't cut it.So I’ve just purchased a unit of HE Phoenix Guard – $50CAD – before taxes – and I’ve assembled the front rank. I don’t like them, and here’s why:

First – Price. $50 for 10 plastic models is ludicrous. There’s no more plastic in here than any other box of GW troops, so that’s not the reason they’re so expensive. The sprue is complicated to be sure, but so what? Making your money back on moulds is not an argument GW, or anyone else, can make anymore. No folks, these guys are $50/ten because they’re High Elf elite troops, and GW is happy to gouge you because you want the functionality of the unit. But seriously, GW, do you think I’m going to buy 2 boxes at over $110 (after taxes) for a unit of 20? Fuck off. I’m going to get one, and fill the rear ranks with spearmen. The irony is, I probably would have bought 2 boxes, eventually, at the $40CAD price point.

Second – Assembly. These models are appallingly awkward to put together. Each guy is a minimum of 7 pieces to put together. 7!!
2 pieces – Torso and cape
1 piece – lower body
1 piece – right arm cape extension (a must for every model)
2 pieces – left and right arms
1 piece – head
The right arm cape extension is a must for every model – not an option. Why? The upper body is made of 2 parts – a cape, which contains the rear torso – and a front torso piece. In order for the right arm to hold anything properly outside the cape, the modellers had to add a right side cape extension to protrude the arm. This is a fussy little piece, and must be matched up exactly with its forearm counterpart – no choices here. Part D upper arm must be used with part D forearm or you’re fucked.

And good luck matching some of the 2 handed halberds together. I’m an experienced plastic modeller, but I can’t make good clean connections with left and right arm alignments on one halberd shaft. Hey GW, if you had control over only using part A1 with part A2, why couldn’t you make these easier? And what’s with the heads? They don’t fit well at all on the necks? Let me guess, you didn’t want people using the extra heads on other models did you?

In short – I’ve really disliked assembling these guys. Hated it actually, considering I paid so much for them.

Third – Helmets. These new Phoenix Guard helmet designs suck. If I was an elite HE trooper, I would never want to be in a Phoenix Guard regiment for this reason alone. Yuck.

So for you folks who’ve read this far, let me summarize the new High Elf Phoenix Guard models in a succinct takeaway excerpt: waaaaay too expensive, awkwardly assembling models that aesthetically suck. Simple. A trio of bad.

I’m already sitting on the fence with your games GW, many more kits like this and I’m going to cut you loose – at these prices I deserve perfection, and probably a reach-around.

Got the last 5 done. They don’t rank up well either. Awesome.

Whither, Warmachine?

OK, so here’s my problem with Warmachine at the moment – yes I’ve played alot of games, and I’m probably burned out on it. Yes, I fell into a painting hiatus-hole (thank-you Skaven for getting me out of that). The real problem is that I don’t know what Warmachine actually is these days, so it’s on hold until that gets well and truly sorted out.

Here’s what I mean – the Warmachine MkII testing rules came out, and my fellow gaming buddies and I embraced it. I even printed and bound this thing because I knew I’d be using it alot. I printed the cards, I made the lists, and in the end the games were good. Pretty much the same, but better; and I liked the new army list assembly procedure. But then, we were all pretty much torn as to which version we’d be playing when we got together, because some of us wanted to use our Horde armies, now incompatible with MkII, and although the rules were now better, the illustration-less, index-less rulebook was sometimes a pain to use.

Then there was a MkII update. And I refused to reprint or disassemble my “bound” copy, or use the “final” stat cards, which weren’t cards at all now, but bloody great big 8.5 x 11″ sheets of ugly layout. And the real rules weren’t that far away – January it seems? I can wait. With so many choices of rules to play now (3), and without everyone in the group up to date on all of them, Warmachine took a back seat; where it will probably remain until January.

Until then though, my interest in Fantasy has resurfaced (thanks to Skaven), and the club activity at my FLGS is way ahead of Warmachine. We’ll see what January brings – but I’m interested – is anyone else feeling the same way about this great game? Does Warmachine feel like it’s in purgatory?

Now the same thing will happen with Hordes. The new MkII Rules for Hordes are online at Privateer, but there are no cards! Just 8.5 x 11″ pages! Hey PP, I know that takes time, but come on – way more convenient than 167 pages of stats.

Yes… I’m busy

gillian_anderson_in_a_thongI hate not being able to update this blog, and keep my friends and fellow gamers up to date about what I’m doing to forward my tabletop pursuits.

But the fact of the matter is – I’m too busy with work! Business is booming, and I haven’t been able to put 2 hours together to get any minis painted or games played.

So, in order to distract you from my total lack of recent tabletop accomplishments, here’s a photo of Gillian Anderson in a thong.


Ten Gaming Resolutions for 2009

avatar_dovadI hate resolutions. But it wasn’t always this way.

I used to make lifestyle resolutions every New Years – lofty but well-meaning resolutions that would change my life for the better. And whether they were accomplished or not didn’t matter – the serendipitous point was to reflect… and make change. Most of my resolutions go by the wayside because I forget them, not because I give up on them.

So here’s a digital entry for Ten Gaming Resolutions for 2009 – changes to my gaming lifestyle, that should make things better in the year to come. And I won’t forget!

  1. No new miniature systems. None. Nadda. I have serious/worthwhile collections of a handful of games already: WHFB, 40K, FoW, DBA, Warmachine, Hordes and LotR. These genres cover everything from mass combat ancients to science fiction – enough for any man. New miniature systems come out every year. I’ve had my eye on a couple of them – AT-43 in particular – but I’m going to look and not touch. Promise.
  2. Less overlap in miniature genres. Here’s an example – I like WWII gaming, so I ownFlames of War. But I also want to play WWII skirmish games – you know, 1:1 scale in 28mm or some such. No. No no no. Really, when I split a genre, I usually end up with 2 incomplete systems – usable but not full. This is already the case with 40K. I’ve been collecting 40K minis for over 5 years, but my heart was really not in the game – it seemed too simple, and ultimately, was unfulfilling. Warmachine came along, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Then 40K 5th ed. came out, and it made 40K worth playing again. Now I’m torn between collecting the 2 systems, that are both scratching the same science fiction itch. No more overlapping. I’ll keep what I have, but I’m not going to start playing Confrontation when I already have Hordes for fantasy skirmishing.
  3. Paint what you’ve got. Get more minis when you’re done assembling/flashing/painting what you have. I have boxes of unopened minis in storage – finding them amidst the collection of others is almost as satisfying as buying them was in the first place. Which is why I ended up with so many anyway. I’ve been toying with building a Dark Elf army for years, so I have a few choice units – unopened and ready to go. If I paint what I already have, I’ll know I’m actually interested in putting them on the table, and not just the idea of the army. One way or another those boxed collections are going to disappear – either by their use or their trade. Paint what you have – and acquire more when you’re done. I’m following this rule with my Trollblood Hordes army already.
  4. Paint more. I already paint more minis per year than anyone I game with, but that shouldn’t stop me from wanting to paint even more! The trick is to find a painting style that looks good and is still reasonably fast. If it looks good at arms length, then it’s done. I’ve pretty much found this style, now I have to perfect it.
  5. Play more board games. For the last 10 years I’ve been so obsessed with miniature gaming, that I’ve been overlooking the truly fantastic innovations that board games have been making recently. Dust, Carcasonne, Conflict of Heroes, Battlelore and Command & Colors: Ancients to name a few. There are more I’d like to try, but because I thoroughly research all my new board game acquisitions before I buy ’em, I haven’t bought a dud. The next-gen board games can be very satisfying to play – Battlelore is the perfect example of a board game that uses miniatures with incredible effect.  Which leads me to my next point…
  6. Paint my Battlelore miniatures. Great game – play it more, paint ’em all – even the expansion minis. They’re so simple to do – I bet I could do the basic set in a weekend.
  7. Opponents opponents opponents. Ever buy a game that really interests you, only to realize that no one else is as interested as you are in it? I used to do this all the time 10 years ago. But hell, I had money 10 years ago too. If I’m interested in a game of any kind, I resolve to not only research the game, but to research who wants to play it as well. If I can’t guarantee an opponent or two who’ll give it a go, then it’s not worth picking up. No exceptions. And constantly network for new opponents and friends. (Well, unless I really just want to read new rules). Which brings me to my next point…
  8. Write a set of rules and sell them. Seriously. When you’ve been playing games for decades like I have, you know a thing or two about rules and their presentation. There are so many esoteric rulesets out there, and I’ve bought some of them, why shouldn’t I write my own? I’ve had so many ideas for games I’d like to play that I’ve actually started writing 3, but never finished them. I’d really like to play a true skirmish game of 40K, with say… a dozen guys a side. But the rules would be more detailed and goal oriented than 40K currently is – even assymetrical forces! – good lord – a game where the sides aren’t always equal, points wise?!? It can be done.And selling rules over the ‘net has never been easier. There are so many places already setup to sell e-publications, you’re spoiled for choice. Not counting the ability to sell using PayPal. So why not?
  9. Focus. Focus – what do I mean exactly? Stick with getting something meaningful done in one system, before moving on to another. I have several gaming interests on the go, but there’s no worth in painting up one regiment of Saurus warriors. What the hell are you going to do with that? Paint up at least enough LM models to make a 500pt warband force, even if it’s not the perfect, final force you want to play with (see res. #3), but it’s usable in a my WHFB gaming circle. Awesome. Then I can paint up another Trollblood unit. (Which is one of the really good things about skirmish games – sometimes a unit is 1 model.)
  10. Assemble the Samurai armies! I looked so hard for Samurai minis I could do mass combat games with. Then when I found them, I painted up a couple of prototype stands right away – and they sat. Dammit Dave, finish your Samurai… they’re freakin’ cool! (Good lord there’s alot of painting in this list.)

Well, there it is – my list of 10 gaming resolutions for 2009. Maybe I’ll add some more as the weeks go on. Maybe I’ll delete some out of embarassment. But that’s not the point is it? The point is to to reflect… and make change. Be better.

Holiday Food Goodness

Holiday Froot Loops keep you awake.

Holiday Froot Loops keep you awake.

Do you like Froot Loops? I do.

Know what’s better than plain ‘ol Froot Loops? HOLIDAY FROOT LOOPS!!! Like the regular kind, but with barbs of encrusted sugar that rip into the top of your mouth and make it bleed. Yum.

And like a wolf that tastes its own blood while licking a razor-baited carcass, you won’t stop eating ’em either.
1 – Always on sale – you can get a monster box cheap – say $3.99
2 – Holiday Froot Loops only come in a monster box – that means at least 4 Dave-sized servings. Yay.
3 – Cheaper after the holidays.
4 – You get yummy, holiday, froot  infused milk left in the bowl when you’re done. Don’t worry – the blood swirls are yours.

1 – Will hasten your inherited, onset, type-2 diabetes.
2 – Wakefulness and alertness ’til 3AM if eaten as a late night snack.
3 – Bloody diahhrea.
4 – Shredded skin in the upper mouth, also known as “car-wash mouth”.
4 – Should not be eaten if you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant. That would make you a bad mom.

I can’t say enough good things about this cereal. Thanks goes out to Kelloggs for making the already near-perfect cereal – Froot Loops – even better, with road salt sized “snow flake” sugar bits. I encourage you to buy a box and let me know what you think!