March 4, 2012

Magpie’s Lament: Blindsided Review

I just finished reading a short novel called Magpie’s Lament: Blindsided. I had bought this as an ebook from a web site called Lulu. The ebook was $4.64 in United States dollars. I will put a link for purchasing at the end of this paragraph. I liked this book enough that I wanted to write a review about it and then throw the review up on my blog. I will try to avoid any spoilers or giving away any surprises in the story.

Magpie’s Lament: Blindsided by Jonathan Peace

All the other posts on my blog are related somehow to miniature models that are used in fantasy and science fiction war games. That is the usual content for this blog but this post is going to be an exception. The author of the book, Jonathan Peace, also writes fluff for the company Mantic Games. I have posted enough about Mantic’s various products in the past that readers will know I love Mantic Games. I happened across a couple of different short stories that Jonathan Peace wrote for Mantic. I read these both, because they were set in the science fiction world of Warpath, which is a Mantic game. I didn’t really expect to like them very much.  I was just reading them because they were short and also they relate to my model painting hobby. I did like them quite a bit, to my surprise. I ended up buying the Magpie’s Lament novel just because I was impressed with these short stories.

Aggressive Negotiations (A Warpath Short Story by Jonathan Peace)

Hador’s Promise (A Warpath Short Story by Jonathan Peace)

Magpie’s Lament is the first part of a three part trilogy. The next book is predicted to be ready in April 2012. Then in September 2012 the last part is supposed to be ready. Since my first exposure to Jonathan Peace’s writing was with these two Warpath stories, I assumed that Magpie’s Lament was going to be more of the same. I was expecting to read a story with space ships, laser guns, alien creatures and such. It isn’t a science fiction book like that. Since that is not what it is all about, my next thought was there would be wizards, dragons, magic spells and all those types of things. It isn’t a fantasy novel either. It is hard to pick a genre for this book. If I had to pick one I would say that it is a horror story. That could also be misleading because most people when they think of horror stories, expect some kind of supernatural elements. I think that there are going to be ghosts or vampires or gory satanic rituals that create terrible magical disasters. Even if there is not any supernatural stuff then you think a horror books is going to feature some serial killing murderer with a lot of gore. I want to stop here and insert this quotation from Magpie’s Lament: Blindsided. The protagonist Nathaniel Storm is fielding questions from his fans at a book signing event. Here is the dialogue.

“Now that’s another good question,” [Nathaniel Storm] said. “but I don’t consider myself a writer of scary stories, not like early Stephen King or James Herbert anyway.”
“But White Fog has ghosts in it and Down the Darkened Path has a possessed child, all staples of the horror writer,” [the fan] replied.
“Yes, there are elements of the supernatural in my books but the story is about the dark inside each and every one of us and about the even darker places they can lead us to. You could remove the more fantastic elements of the novels and still be left with some memorable characters, people whose very nature which is shown by the choices and decisions they make with their lives and those of others, particularly those closest to them, the ones they are supposed to love, now that should scare you, rather than the more fantastical parts like the ghosts of Fog, the ghoulish acts of the doctor in Damned or the demon in Path.
“They should scare you – they certainly scared the shit out of me when I was writing them. Take White Fog for example,” [Nathaniel Storm] continued.
“The murder of anyone is horrific but that of a child . . . that’s the true horror in my book, if you’ll excuse the pun.”

I cannot help but think that this quotation reveals the author’s own mindset while writing Magpie’s Lament Blindsided. This book is a horror story with no supernatural occurrences and no gory killings. It is a horror story driven by “the dark inside each and every one of us.” Here is a picture of the author brooding over the “dark inside each and every one of us.”

So some how I ended up reading this book which has no lasers and no dragons. What is even a bit stranger than that is that I actually liked it. The protagonist Nathaniel Storm is someone that I really started to like more and more as I got to know him. He has his strengths which I admire. He has his failings with which I empathize because I share many of the same failings. I enjoyed reading this story and I was surprised by the end. I am looking forward to getting a hold of the other two parts in the trilogy. I suppose that I should warn readers that this is an unusually short book, less than half as long as most novels. I think it was about ninety pages or a little more than that. It was a great story. It was a good reminder to someone trapped in the fantasy and science fiction world that there are all kinds of great stories outside of those genres. By the end of the book, I found myself totally invested the future of my friend Nathaniel Storm. I have to find out what happens to the guy. I hope he makes it alright. Now I have to wait to find out! Nuts. Best wishes to you my readers.

Advertisements
February 14, 2012

What is the 8th Race?

Recent posts on the official Mantic Games blog have been featuring a new board game called Project Pandora: Grim Cargo.  The game is designed by Jake Thornton.  My understanding is that it is going to be similar to Jake Thornton’s Dwarf King’s Hold games but set instead in the science fiction world of Warpath.  One player in Project Pandora will control a team of corporation marines armed with their laser rifles.  The second player will control the mysterious 8th Race.  What is the 8th Race?  Mantic is not saying.  The official Mantic Blog is deliberately arousing curiosity by making continuous vague references to this 8th Race.  Fans speculate wildly about what these new models will look like.   I read one comment promising that the 8th Race would be a group of fishmen.  That  is definitely a minority opinion but it is highly entertaining.  Most people are speculating that the 8th Race will be some kind of “space bug” predatory alien creatures.  I thought of the Zerg race from Blizzard Entertainment’s series of games, “Starcraft.”  This is what the zerg look like:

That creature is called a hydralisk.  Similar creatures are found in the famous Aliens series of science fiction horror movies starring Sigourney Weaver.  Take a look at this creature from the Aliens movies.

My own opinion is that the 8th Race will likely resemble these creatures.  You may be surprised to discover that images of 8th Race creatures have already been release by Mantic to the public.  They posted this image promoting the Project Pandora game:

A close look at this image reveals a few glimpses of the 8th Race.  Take a look at this close up of the top left part of the image:

Those are 8th Race claws bursting into view!  Here is another close up of the right side of the image:

That is an 8th Race muzzle with big teeth!  I just noticed this stuff tonight.  Feel free to post your own speculations about the 8th Race.  According to the official Mantic blog we will find out what the 8th Race is on February 17th.  I don’t know about you but I am feeling the suspense.

February 7, 2012

Delving into Dwarf King’s Hold

Greetings to all of you my readers. This post is all about a new game that I have been trying really hard not to buy. I am supposed to avoid buying any more new miniature models until I paint the ones that I already have. That is my self imposed rule. I keep breaking this rule on a regular basis and I am growing a large horde of miniature models in my basement. I have this problem that I cannot paint the models as fast as I can buy them. This seems to be a widespread problem among miniature enthusiasts. I read one forum post where a hobbyist admitted to owning about 1200 unpainted models. I liked that post because it helps minimize my own compulsive problem. After all I only have a collection of about 400 unpainted models. I got a really good price on all the models I bought. That is often the motivation for an impulse purchase. I see some deal on ebay or somewhere else that is available for a limited time and I don’t want to pass it up. Since I have so many models already, the last thing I need is to go out and add to my excessive collection. On the other hand, this new board game is really cool!

I have been reading all about a Mantic Games product called Dwarf King’s Hold. Before I go much farther I have to confess to you that I am totally a Mantic fanatic. I love this company and I have purchased a ton of their miniatures. I love everything that they sell and there will not be even a semblance of unbiased objectivity in this post. I am just going to gush enthusiasm about how much I like Dwarf King’s Hold. There it is. That is the cold hard truth.

Dwarf King’s Hold is a series of board games that use miniature models. At this point in time there are two games in the series and also an expansion that is available to purchase. It has been described as a dungeon crawler game. Basically the dwarf king’s hold is an underground fortress built by dwarfs. Tolkien fans might recall the Mines of Moria. That is the sort of atmosphere that this game is intended to create. The game plays out a battle between warbands in this dungeon environment. I did call this a board game but there is no board really. The “board” is a map made up of connected tiles that represent rooms, tunnels, hallways, corridors and such. Each game comes with a set of these cardboard tiles that have art printed on them. Each time you play the game you can arrange the tiles in a different way to create novelty and new tactical situations. The map is different for each new scenario.

Game play is driven by the use of action tokens. Each player gets a pool of a certain number of tokens. Every time you take some action in the game, such as moving a model or attacking, you expend one of your tokens. I am not clear on the specifics of how this game mechanic works because I don’t own any of these games. I gather from my Internet research that tactical use of your pool of action tokens is often what decides the winner in these games.

Combat is resolved by rolling six sided dice and comparing the results to various stats that go with each model. Different models have different stats to represent their varying abilities as fighters. Undead skeletons for example are slow and easy to hit but they are highly resistant to damage. A dwarf warrior is a much more skilled fighter than a shambling skeleton.

The first Dwarf King’s Hold game that was released is called “Dead Rising.” The box comes with a set of dungeon tiles, a rulebook, dice, action counters and miniatures. The miniatures in this particular game included two types of dwarf warriors and two types of undead. There are 29 models including 7 dwarfs and 22 undead. The recommended retail price for this game is $59.99. The story line behind the conflicts played out in this game is that the dwarfs hope to reclaim their ancestral home and the undead are led by an evil necromancer who wishes to plunder the dwarf tombs and resurrect undead dwarfs with his forbidden magics.

Dead Rising is followed by a sequel named “Green Menace.” Green Menace pits orcs against elves. Each group is attempting to claim treasures in the dwarf dungeons. Just as with the first game tiles, rulebook, dice, action counters and miniatures are included in the box. The miniatures themselves are different. They have 20 elf models and 8 orc models for a total of 28 models included. The retail price for this game is also $59.99.

Most recently Mantic has released an expansion to these games called, “Ancient Grudge.” The two previous games, “Dead Rising” and “Green Menace,” are considered “stand-alone” games because if you buy either of those you get everything necessary to play in that one box. Ancient Grudge is an expansion and not a stand-alone game, which means that in order to play the game you need to possess either Dead Rising or Green Menace in addition to the Ancient Grudge expansion. There are only eleven models in the Ancient Grudge expansion including ghouls, zombies, elf scouts, dwarf crossbowmen and a Dwarf Berserker Lord. The Dwarf Berserker Lord model is made of metal while all the other models are plastic. What exactly, you ask, is a Berserker Lord? It is a huge shirtless muscled dwarf with a mean pair of axes who is prone to attacking anything that moves. That model is particularly cool looking. The retail price of the Ancient Grudge expansion set is $44.99.

 

Every time you play Dwarf King’s Hold you choose what is called a “scenario.” The scenario is a collection of special rules that are used for a particular game play session. The information contained in a typical scenario includes the size of the action token pool for each player, the map to be built with tiles, the starting positions of models and the conditions required to declare a winner. Besides this, scenarios often contain unique special rules. For example, a scenario I read in the Mantic Journal had a special rule for a hidden secret passage which could be discovered. Both the Dead Rising game and the Green Menace game each have six unique scenarios included. The Ancient Grudge expansion has four additional scenarios. Mantic encourages gamers to write their own scenarios. If you feel creative, have at it!

The Ancient Grudge expansion has a number of unique features that are not available in the other games. Ancient Grudge has rules that allow multiplayer games with three or four players total. Dead Rising and Green Menace only have rules to accommodate two player games. Ancient Grudge introduces a concept called, “warbands.” This is a system where each player buys the models they want to use for a scenario with an allotted allowance of points. This adds replay value to all your old scenarios. You can take a scenario that was originally written in Dead Rising with a dwarf warband against an undead warband and play instead with elves verses undead. You can do this because you know the point total for the scenario so it is easy to substitute an equivalent warband of elves for the original dwarfs. They have rules in Ancient Grudge for some new units which have no corresponding models at the present time. For example werewolves and troll-like bogies are mentioned. Currently Mantic does not sell any models for these creatures. It is suspected that they hope to release these models in the future. You could easily use werewolf models made by another company.

This has been my explanation of what the game is. I want to also briefly mention what I like most about these games. First of all, Dwarf King’s Hold uses the exact same Mantic Games models as another game, Kings of War. It is neat to be able to use the same models for both games. It saves me the trouble of having to assemble, paint and prepare a whole new batch of models. Since I am already painting models for the Kings of War game, playing Dwarf King’s Hold is attractive since I have the necessary models already painted. Each game uses a relatively low number of models. If you paint 25-30 models you are ready to go and play. The designer of this game is Jake Thornton. He is supposed to be some kind of game designing genius, I understand. I think this because the Mantic web store keeps dropping his name in their product descriptions. I am assuming that they believe if they drop the name, “Jake Thornton,” gamers will want to buy. Dwarf King’s Hold is touted as easy to learn but also tactically complex. I am not sure how true this is because I haven’t played it, but it sounds good to me.

If you are interested in learning more about Dwarf King’s Hold, here are some links to help that effort.

Mantic Games YouTube Channel
This channel has a lot of videos and only a few of them relate to Dwarf King’s Hold.  You may want to search the channel with the “Dwarf King’s Hold” key words.

Game Designer Jake Thornton’s Blog:  Quirkworthy
This blog discusses many things related to gaming and game design.

Purchase some Dwarf King’s Hold games from the Mantic Games Web Store
Why not add just a little more to your excessively large collection of models?

Beasts of War YouTube Videos featuring Dwarf King’s Hold
Beasts of War is a web site that has all sorts of content and news related to miniature war gaming.  They have done some videos of Dwarf King’s Hold game play.  I have had trouble getting these videos to play properly on my ancient computer.  I hope you have better luck.


January 29, 2012

Choosing a Color Scheme

I am trying to choose a color scheme for my Undead army of miniature models. I have about 250 models of skeletons, zombies, ghouls and the like from Mantic Games. I have decided to use the Army Painter method. The Army Painter method is to use a colored spray primer, paint a base coat of basic colors, dip the model in Quickshade and then spray on an anti-shine matt varnish. Quickshade is a pigmented varnish created for use on miniature models. I have some skeleton bone primer and some dark tone Quickshade to get started. I will probably be getting some other colors of primer for the zombies and ghouls but for now I am set to do skeletons. I have been looking at other people’s pics of their armies for inspiration. I thought I might use purple for the clothing and armor. That thought was inspired by the character Skeletor from an old 80’s cartoon show called “He-Man.” I’m sure many of you know that show.


I thought I might use light blue and purple together to mimic this character. Other people have suggested the blue is too bright for an evil themed army. Possibly purple and black could be an alternative.


These are some pics I found with Google. I have been searching for the best pictures of other people’s skeleton models. I have heard positive things about the black and red combination. Those were the best of what I could find looking for skeleton model pics through Google.

Searching for other sources of inspiration, I tried to think of every character that I remembered from any work of fiction who resembled a skeleton. So I made this collection of skeletal characters gathered from movies, television and comic books.


This is a somewhat obscure comic book character from Marvel. He is Skull the Slayer. I like glowing green bones, don’t you?


This character is probably recognized instantly, the killer from the Scream moves. Black and white provide striking contrast.


This is Red Skull, a villain from the Captain America comics by Marvel. Red and black work well.


This character is one of Red Skull’s henchmen. His name is Crossbones. He has a similar look with black and white colors mostly.


This is Prime Evil, a villain from an old 1980’s cartoon show called “Ghostbusters.” I don’t think I really like the red and orange.


This is Ghost Rider from Marvel Comics. Flaming skulls are always eye catching. It’s another black and red combo with some orange.


Here is another flaming skull. This comic book character is aptly named, “Blazing Skull.” I believe he is also from Marvel.

So there is my collection of images that I have gathered in hopes of finding inspiration for choosing a color scheme. I have been using purple and green colors so far in the models that I have already painted. I can’t seem to settle on a single color scheme and I may end up using multiple color schemes for different units in my army. Other painters have encouraged me to paint test models of whatever colors appeal to me. They say the way to choose a color scheme is to paint it. It is by painting that you realize what colors are best. Thus I am off to paint. Best wishes to all.

January 29, 2012

Introducing Infinity: The Game by Corvus Belli

I have a habit of searching the Internet for new and interesting miniature war game products. Recently I happened upon Infinity by Corvus Belli. This looks like a really great game. Infinity is a 28mm scale science fiction miniature war game.  The models are the same scale as the games of the industry leader, Games Workshop.  This game happens to use 20 sided dice instead of the familiar six sided dice.  If you are going to play this game, you will want to purchase at least a half dozen or so 20 sided dice.  The Infinity web site is extremely friendly to new players. All the information that you would want to decide if you want to play the game is readily available. New players will want to know: what items do I need to play and how much will they cost. You will want to decide which faction to play. You would want a competitive army list for your chosen faction. New players of Games Workshop or Privateer Press games are likely to be overwhelmed by the abundance of information with no concise answers available. Corvus Belli has done a very good job of making their web site friendly to new gamers. They have a great series of YouTube videos which summarize their rule system in an effective and memorable way. Here is a link to their YouTube videos:

Beginning Infinity YouTube Videos + Quick Start Rules

The Quick Start Rules are available on this same page for free download. You can start learning about the rule system by watching all the YouTube videos. Each video is about three minutes long and they are very straight forward and interesting. Once you have finished with the videos you could read the 12 page Quick Start Rules to further expand your understanding of the game. The full version of the rules are also available for free download. Here is the link for those:

Full Infinity Rules + Sample Army Lists

A digital copy of the full rules is completely free. If you want a hard copy, you will have to pay for a book.  I haven’t bought anything from the Corvus Belli web site. I have heard another gamer complain online that they have no currency conversion available in their web store. Corvus Belli is based in Spain and they use Euros as their currency. This may mean that you cannot buy from them with U.S. dollars. I haven’t attempted a purchase yet. In any case you could certainly buy from a third party online retailer based in the United States such as The War Store. At the moment the War Store happens to have sold out all their Infinity core rulebooks.  I guess this game is quite popular.  They should get some more rulebooks in stock soon.  Here is a link to the War Store’s Infinity offerings:

Infinity Models from The War Store

A typical game of Infinity uses approximately ten models for each side. According to the point system in the rules a standard game gives each player 300 points from which to purchase their models. You could decide on a larger or smaller point limit but 300 points is the standard. The models are all metal. For a first purchase, Corvus Belli recommends one the starter boxes for your chosen faction. There are typically six models in one of these starter boxes. A ten model army will cost you about $100 U.S. Dollars at the War Store. The recommended retail price of the 2nd edition rulebook is $47.25 U.S. Dollars. The War Store gives you a 20% discount off that price. The 2nd edition is the current and most recent addition. You can download all the rules for free but if you want a hard copy you will need to pay for it. It is handy to have the book because you can take it with you to your local game store. Of course you will need paints and hobby tools to paint the models. That is another cost of the hobby. Compared to other miniature war games that I have encountered, Infinity has a very low cost for starting out. You don’t need to buy a lot of stuff because you only need ten models compared to other games which might require hundreds of models. Because of the small number of models you do not need to spend as much time painting models. In terms of money and also in terms of painting time the cost of entering the game is low.

The Infinity web site has some great information to help you choose one of the seven factions to play. There are fluff YouTube videos available at the first link I gave you. You can watch these to help you decide which faction appeals to you. You will also want an army list that is competitive. Corvus Belli has actually provided some sample army lists for new players. This gives you something to use for your first games. It is great to have a sample army list for new players because it gives you an easy starting point. This helps you know what models to purchase to get started. The army lists are available on the same Infinity downloads page that has the full rules. I linked this page earlier.

The rule system seems to have a very realistic feel to it. One thing I like about it is that cover makes a very real difference in combat. Models are much more likely to survive attacks when they are in base contact with a solid piece of cover. I remember from my first game of Warhammer 40k, my opponent explained to me that my Space Marines didn’t gain any advantages from using cover because their power armor provided a better saving throw than the cover. I always thought it was a bit goofy that cover became irrelevant in 40k. They also have a rule for camouflage. Models with the camouflage skill can sneak by enemy troops and perform devastating surprise attacks. They have two types of camouflage. One is a typical present day camouflage that uses foliage and patterned clothing to blend in with surroundings. The second more effective type is a fictional technology that resembles the cloaking system that you saw in the Predator movies. Camouflage is a useful and relevant tactic in these games. There is also a rule for “combat jumps.” This is basically a paratrooper rule that allows certain models to appear anywhere on the game table if they roll successfully. The tactic for combat jumps is to attempt to send your paratrooper models behind the enemies and surprise them by attacking from the rear. If you can do this successfully you are going to get some easy kills attacking your opponent from behind. I haven’t read the full rules but I gather from the YouTube tutorials and the Quick Start Rules that the Infinity game is full of fascinating tactical choices. It has a very realistic and believable feel to it.

I thought that this blog post would be much longer. I was thinking that I would gather all the relevant information that a new gamer would want to decide if they were interesting in playing Infinity and buying some of the models. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Corvus Belli web site has already done an excellent job of answering all the questions that a new gamer would have. A long review of their game is not really needed because they have done such a good job of making all relevant information easily available to new gamers. Have fun exploring Infinity! Take care.

January 14, 2012

Meet Privateer Press

Introduction

I started painting miniature models four months ago. Most people when they are first introduced to this hobby buy something from the industry leader Games Workshop. For example, I picked up the Assault on Black Reach boxed set with models intended for use in the Warhammer 40k game system. Something you will rapidly learn if you do any comparison shopping is that Games Workshop products dependably have the highest prices you can find anywhere. The pricing is a source of bitter resentment among some Games Workshop customers. The Internet has no shortage of bitter angry forum posts, YouTube videos, blogs and so on. Games Workshop customers are consistently angry, unhappy and resentful toward this company. I don’t feel this way because I stopped buying stuff from Games Workshop.

Here is a positive action plan to help foster your own happiness and inner peace while shopping for models. As soon as you see the Games Workshop logo on a product you are holding, stop immediately, drop the box, raise your hands to a defensive position and carefully back away from the box toward the nearest exit. Then retreat to your car, quickly drive home and buy something online from another company at a lower price. At this point I would recommend enjoying a moment of silent reflection to meditate on how much your life has improved because your recent positive choices. That was quite a close call indeed.

As you read this you may ask yourself, “If I don’t buy from Games Workshop what other company would I buy from?” That is an excellent question to ask and it is worthy of thought and research. In order to help answer this question I hope to make several blog posts summarizing the offerings of Games Workshop’s various competitors. It is my conviction that many Games Workshop customers chose that company because they just happen to be ignorant of the many excellent products available from competitors at lower prices. Buying from Games Workshop is like suffering from a curable disease. It’s unnecessary. There is help out there. We can do this together.

This post is about a company called Privateer Press. I understand this company is fairly successful. I have the impression that they are the second most popular miniature war game company next to Games Workshop. I base this opinion on the number of people I know who play their games. I don’t have any survey data or anything so formal to back this opinion up. Anyway this blog post is to help you decide if you want to buy into their game system. I want to share with you all the information I have collected from the Internet and help you make an informed decision.

Balance in Warmachine and Hordes

Before I proceed let me just say that I haven’t either bought or played any products from this company. I am confessing to you that I am not any sort of expert on their games. I am like you a consumer and a gamer. This is my perspective. Although I can’t seem to resist poking fun at Games Workshop I promise that I am going to strive to be unbiased and objective about the offerings of Privateer Press. Here goes.

The flag ship product from Privateer Press is called Warmachine. They also have a second very similar game called Hordes. The Privateer Press web site calls Hordes the “feral twin” of Warmachine. The two games are intended to work together. Gamers sometimes refer to the two games together by the slang word “Warmahordes.” You could take your army from a Hordes game and have a battle with your friend’s army from Warmachine. While the Privateer Press web site insists that the two games are “fully compatible” I have read posts that suggest that the company has some difficulty balancing the rules between the systems.

    

What is rule balance you ask? Well war games like these have different factions. Each player chooses a faction and collects his army of models from said faction and then goes to battle against other players of different factions or in some games the same faction. There is this notion that in an ideal “balanced” game, each faction would be of equal strength and have an equal chance of winning against any opposing faction. Gamers like balance because it means that players win or lose based on their skills and knowledge and not based on arbitrary advantages gained from picking a certain overpowered faction. Games Workshop has a reputation for deliberately creating an unbalanced game. Every time Games Workshop releases new models they release a new codex (rule book) with the models. Typically the most powerful units in the game are also the newest models recently released. Cynics claim that Games Workshop deliberately skews the balance of its game to drive sales. Every time they want to sell some new models they release new rules for said models that make those models the most powerful in the game. Gamers get annoyed with this because it reduces the overall quality of the gaming experience. Knowledge and skill no longer achieve victory in the game. The way you win the game is just to plunk down your money on the newest models and then you will be unstoppable. Some gamers will switch factions constantly so that they can always be playing an army of the latest models. This is called “codex hopping.” These players tend to spend huge sums of money on the hobby and they tend to consistently beat the players that don’t switch factions. The players that don’t do codex hopping resent the ones that do. These are all the sorts of problems that arise from having an unbalanced game.

This would lead you to ask, “Are Warmachine and Hordes balanced?” The answer to that question is not a “yes” or a “no.” It is difficult to make a balanced game because you want each faction to be unique, interesting and different from all others in meaningful ways. At the same time the game designers want each faction to have an equal chance of winning. So it is hard to achieve balance. Warmachine players sometimes assert that Warmachine and Hordes are better balanced than the Games Workshop games. Warmachine and Hordes games are certainly not perfectly balanced and they do have problems where certain units seem overpowered. That said, greater balance seems to be a selling point for Privateer Press.

Warmachine and Hordes Models

Miniature models for war games are manufactured to a certain scale. Warmachine and Hordes models are described as having a 30mm scale. That is supposed to be the distance from a model’s eyes to the ground. For comparision Warhammer 40k models are in a 28mm scale. So these models are all slightly larger than what most new war gamers are familiar with.

    

Miniature models are made of various materials. They can be made of either plastic or metal. Plastic is cheaper. Metals are more expensive but I have heard it said that metal models have finer detail. Some people find the metal models to be worth the additional cost because of the greater detail. Privateer Press makes an awful lot of metal models. I think most of their stuff is metal. A disadvantage that comes with metal models is that you cannot modify metal models as easily. Some hobbyists will heavily modify their plastic models by cutting them apart and attaching pieces (bitz) from other model kits. Someone might cut off a monster’s head and replace it with an alternate head for example. Weapons are often replaced in the same way. They call this “converting” the model. You can’t really cut up a metal model this way so that is one complaint that hobbyists have about Privateer Press’ choice to use metal. A related complaint that hobbyists have about the Privateer Press models is that they can only be assembled in one way. Other companies might sell a model kit with extra pieces that provide a variety of options. For example one model might come with three head pieces that could be used. So often the hobbyist has some flexibility and choice when they assemble. Privateer Press doesn’t include many extra bitz and so their really isn’t much flexibility in the assembly of their models.

The models for Warmachine and Hordes tend to be a lot of larger models. They have a lot of these things called Warjacks and Warbeasts. Much of your army will include these large models on bases that are 30mm wide or even larger. Other games might have you making a lot of infantry units on 20mm wide square bases or 25mm wide round bases. Privateer Press likes using larger models.

When two players play Warmachine or Hordes, the first thing they need to decide about their game is the point size. Every miniature war game that I know of has some kind of points system. Each player receives the same amount of points and their models are “bought” by using points from the pool. This is supposed to ensure that each army is of approximately equal strength. Adjusting the point cost of each model is one of the main ways that game designers attempt to achieve balance. Most games of Warmachine or Hordes are 25 or 35 point games. Some times I have seen battle reports online with games of 70 points or higher. You can play with as many points as you want to. Most games though are 25 or 35 points. A 35 point army usually consists of between 20 and 25 models although you might end up with more or less based on your unit choices. Based on the army lists of other players that I have seen in online forums, I would say that a 35 point army of models will cost you between $260 and $350. It varies depending on your specific unit selections. If you opt for an army with more models then you will have to spend more. This is a rough estimate. A 35 point game between two players who are each familiar with the rules will take about 45 minutes to complete. When you haven’t yet got a good grasp of the rules your games will take longer as you have to keep looking things up in the rulebook.

Almost all the models are sold individually or in small units of six models or less. There is one product called, the “Two Player Battle Box.” This boxed set contains 17 models, dice, ruler, rulebook and some other literature. The models are divided into two forces one group of Khador and the other a group of the Protectorate of Menoth. The Two Player Battle Box sells for one hundred dollars and it is a good value. If you are interested in either the Khador or Menoth factions you should seriously consider it. If you like one of the other factions, you have fewer options. There are one player Battle Boxes for almost all the other factions. Each one sells for fifty dollars. The Battle Boxes always tend to be the best value for the money. Once you know which faction you want to play, look for a Battle Box for that faction. The Battles Boxes make ideal first purchases.

Choosing a Faction

Which faction should you choose? That is a difficult question to answer. There are six factions in Warmachine (if you count the mercenaries as a separate faction). There are another four factions in Hordes. You could choose any of these. Some people choose a faction based on the fluff or the fiction that goes with each faction. If for example you think that undead skeleton monsters are really cool, then you will likely enjoy playing the Cryx faction. You might choose a faction based on what type of models you like to paint. You can take a look at the sculpting of each model and base your decision on that. Often players will choose a faction based on the game tactics that go with each faction. Each faction lends itself to certain tactical play styles in the game. I don’t really feel that I know enough about this game to make recommendations on which faction to choose. I just recommend that you put some thought into the decision. Remember many players collect multiple armies from multiple factions. This is not a decision that you have to be married to until your death. I want to include a link to this helpful guide for choosing a faction. This is a great guide by Fireman Tim that I found on a forum. It is incomplete because it has no content about the Retribution of Scyrah faction or the Mercenaries. I believe that this guide was written before those factions were released. There is nothing at all in this guide for the Hordes game. This a Warmachine only guide. For further information and guidance on choosing a faction, I encourage you to research on your own.

Warmachine Faction Guide

Other Games and Products by Privateer Press

That is essentially all that I have to say about the Warmachine and Hordes games. I also want to also briefly mention other products sold by Privateer Press that you might consider. Privateer Press has a free iPhone app called “iBodger.” This is a great little app for tracking your collection of models. If you have an iPhone and you’re into Privateer Press then definitely download this app and make use of it. There is also an Android version of the same app.  Privateer Press has a magazine called “No Quarter.” The magazine has articles about all things related to the Warmachine and Hordes games.  Game tactics, model painting, terrain building and product previews are the magazine’s contents. They come out with six issues a year. A single issue is $5.99 and an annual subscription runs at $48. Privateer Press sells its own range of paints called, “Formula P3.” These paints come in little pots. They sell them in six pot packages intended to include all the colors needed for a specific faction. One of the six pot packages is $18. You can also buy individual pots for $3.50 each. They sell other hobby supplies including paint brushes, black and white spray primer, a wet palette, a “How to Paint” DVD, plastic clippers, a pin vice, a file set, hobby knives, supper glue and so on.

    

There are a number of other games sold by Privateer Press. They have a Role-playing Game rule system for their fantasy world. It’s called the Iron Kingdoms RPG. You can use miniature models with this RPG. They sell a good number of models for this specific purpose. The have a game that uses prepainted models called, “Monsterpocalypse.” This game is about fighting battles between creatures such as King Kong or Godzilla. Each player uses his own collection of models. The rules for this game are constantly being changed and updated as new models are continually being released. To remain competitive as a player you need to keep buying the booster packs that contain new models. They have a science fiction “sports” game called Grind. Grind is a sport played by giant steam powered robots. These robots kick around a giant spiked steel ball on a playing field suspended over molten lava. This is a board game that uses miniature models to represent the robots. It is five models to a team with two teams. They also have a few other board games and card games. I will not mention these because they don’t use miniature models.

    

Well that is my overview of all the products sold by Privateer Press. I hope that this information is helpful to you and interesting. I send my best wishes to you my readers. Take care.

December 26, 2011

Discovering Mantic Games

Salutations to you my readers wherever you are. Recently I have been comparison shopping for miniature models. I had my heart set on acquiring an army of Chaos Daemons from Games Workshop. My reason for choosing this particular army was that I hoped to save money. The Chaos Daemons are a unique army among all the Games Workshop products because, if you mount your models on square bases then many of the Chaos Daemon models can be used in both the Warhammer Fantasy Battles game and the more popular Warhammer 40,000 game. You can basically get two armies for the price of one. It sounded great to me. I was eager to save some money. Unfortunately I have discovered that saving money and buying from Games Workshop just don’t happen together.

I was researching the prices of various Chaos Daemon units that I wanted to include in my army and I came to the conclusion that an entire army would run me about $500. It might even be a bit more then that if I discovered that some of the models that I initially purchased were not tactically useful in the game. New players often make the mistake of buying models that are not useful enough to be considered cost effect for their point cost. So it might eventually come to $600 or more for my new army. I looked at all the prices I had added up in my spreadsheet and I considered. Now it seems that a popular choice at this point is to go ahead and buy the stuff from Games Workshop and then complain bitterly about the pricing online somewhere. I have to confess that this option just did not appeal to me. I decided that the price was high enough that I would either find cheaper models or abandon the hobby if I couldn’t find any such models.

This prompted me to begin searching the Internet for deals on models. I found an online retailer called the Warstore.com which typically sells all products at 80% of the recommended retail price. This is a much better deal than what is available on the Games Workshop web site. I could field my Chaos Daemons for less. However while in the midst of my web searching I discovered something that hinted at an even better deal. A company called Mantic Games makes models which could be proxy substitutes in a Games Workshop game such as Warhammer Fantasy or 40k. Proxy substitute models are frowned on by some gamers and they are usually outright forbidden in tournaments. However I had no intentions of playing in tournaments so some Mantic proxy models seemed great way to further reduce the cost of my new army. The main reason that people use Mantic models even when they really want to play a Games Workshop game is that Mantic pricing totally outclasses the competition. Mantic models sell for perhaps half of the cost of a Games Workshop model.

Mantic Games fascinated me and I began to browse their company web site to familiarize myself with all their available products. Many of their armies seem to be deliberately created to enable their use as proxy substitutes in a Games Workshop game. They encourage this at Mantic. Mantic has a Dwarf army which could easily be used to replace more expensive Games Workshop Dwarfs. Mantic has an Elf army which could be used in place of High Elves from GW. They have Orcs that wouldn’t look out of place in a Warhammer game. They have an Undead army whose units could be at home in a GW army of Vampire Counts or Tomb Kings. On the science fiction side of gaming they have a race of space faring “Orx” which would fit right in with any 40k Ork army. The other science fiction Mantic race is called the Forge Fathers. These guys are basically dwarfs in space with heat guns and power armor. They really have no counter part in the 40k universe as far as I know. Mantic could possibly be accused of creating an original product in this case. Besides the Forge Fathers Mantic sells a few other armies that cannot really be useful as proxies in one of the popular GW games. However the opportunities for building proxy armies are abundant. Mantic seems to have designed many of their products with this in mind. Enthused by these possibilities I decided to abandon all together my plans for a Chaos Daemon army. Instead I would collect an army of the Vampire Counts relying heavily on proxy models from the Mantic Undead army. I decided that whenever possible I would purchase from Mantic instead of GW. As you may have gathered I am a bargain hunter. I am obsessively concerned about pricing.

I have heard other gamers object to Mantic’s models. One claim I have heard is that the sculpting on Mantic miniatures is of a lower artistic quality. I suppose this could be true. I think it is mostly a matter of personal preference. There are significant differences between the Mantic models and what GW makes. They are basically both of a 28mm scale. The GW models are what is called Heroic scale. The miniatures by Mantic Games are called True Scale. Heroic scale uses different proportions in a human body than True Scale. In Heroic Scale you will have thicker limbs, thicker feet, smaller gut, larger chest area, larger face, larger head and larger weapons. All these proportions are slightly exaggerated or diminished to make the model look more fierce and capable. These are artistic choices. The Mantic models are called True Scale and they are more realistic in their proportions. They are basically shaped the way human bodies are in real life. These Mantic skeleton models for my Vampire Counts army are much thinner than the GW skeletons. If you think about it, you would expect skeletons to be thin after all. Some people prefer the Heroic Scale style of sculpting that is used by GW. Some people prefer Mantic’s True Scale.

Another difference between the two companies is the level of detail in the miniatures. I have heard people say that Mantic’s models have less detail. I am not sure if this is true. I have not compared very many miniature models. Some people tout the reduced detail as an advantage because it allows to you paint the model faster. With less detail you can get your army painted and ready for gaming sooner. Personally I would see this as an advantage. Others are disappointed by the reduced detail because the end result of their painting and assembly does not look as impressive.

Another objection to Mantic is that their game system is not widely used. It is difficult to find people to play a Mantic game because it is not nearly as popular as the GW games. This objection is significant to me. Mantic compensates for this problem by making models which could be used in either one of Mantic’s own rule systems or as proxy substitutes in one of the ever popular GW games. The possibility of using proxy models was one of the key factors that finally convinced me to buy from Mantic.

These are the main objections that gamers have to Mantic’s products. Some people complain that the sculpting is poor. The True Scale style is sometimes criticized. I hear it said that the models lack detail. The rule systems for the Mantic Games Kings of War and Warpath games are not popular and this can mean that you can’t find players.

One objection that I have never heard about Mantic is the price. Mantic provides the best value for the money of any miniature model company that I have ever seen. I haven’t seen that many companies but read this following price comparison and decided for yourself. Mantic customers rave about the deals they get. GW sells its plastic miniatures for about two or three dollars per model. Sometimes when a model is of special tactical usefulness in game GW will further increase the price. Two to three dollars per model is about the price you would get from the GW web site. If you go to the Warstore.com and buy at Mantic’s already competitive prices reduced to 80% of retail then you can get a unit price of about one dollar per model. That is basically better than half the GW price. It gets better. I have not fully explained the value that Mantic provides to its customers.

If you buy a Mantic Games Elf Mega-Army from the Warstore.com you get the box of 131 minis with 2 larger war machine models for about $140 plus shipping which is another six dollars. The most comparable product from GW is the High Elves Battalion which includes 40 minis plus two larger war machine models. The price on that is $105 with free shipping. The Mantic box comes with a free 52 page Kings of War rulebook. They give the rules of the game away with every large army boxed set. If you want to play a GW game you have to buy a rulebook separately. The Warhammer Fantasy rulebook is $74.25 on the GW web site. Here GW charges you an additional $74 for something that their competition is giving away free. Now the Kings of War rulebook is 52 pages and the Warhammer Fantasy rulebook is 532 pages. Some gamers prefer the longer rule systems which allow for more complexity. The philosophy behind the design of Mantic’s game system is that shorter rules make for a superior game. Long and convoluted rules create situations in games where the rules are unclear and arguments result among gamers. Mantic touts their shorter rules as superior. The Mantic rules are also made available for free download on their company web site. Free rules are an additional value that Mantic customers receive.

If you go the GW web site and search for “Figure Cases” you will find their cheapest carrying case for a little more than $57. If you are buying an army from GW you will experience the added cost of purchasing one or more of these high priced carrying cases. In some model kits, Mantic Games gives away free Figure Cases. These free cases are not included in the larger Mega-Army deals like the Elf army already mentioned. However whenever you buy an individual unit of models it will come in one of these free foam lined carrying cases. Now the free Mantic Case is not as flashy as a GW hard shell plastic deal with foam trays inside it. The free Mantic Case is obviously cheaper than the GW product. However you are getting a functional case that will protect your minis and you are getting it free! Any of the smaller one unit products will come with one of these free Mantic cases.

Recently Mantic has begun selling a new case that is much more along the lines of the GW cases. They have this special case made by BattleFoam. The BattleFoam company is widely regarded as the company that makes the world’s best miniature cases. The new case is called the “Mantic Battle Foam Bag.” It is being packaged with the larger army boxed sets while the small single unit kits still come with the free carrying cases mentioned earlier. The free cases will actually fit inside the Battle Foam Bag quite neatly. Depending on what customized foam trays you get with it the Battle Foam Bag will cost between between $60 to $125.

I am quite enthused about Mantic because I like their highly competitive pricing. They add value to their products by offering free rulebooks and free carrying cases. Even with these freebies they are still beating the competition by a substantial margin in terms of cost. They are less than half the price of GW. I also appreciate the short rulebooks. The games are simplified and more enjoyable because of the shorter rules. There is less opportunity for discouraging arguments during a game because of the shorter more elegant rule systems. While some gamers complain that the Mantic models lack detail I appreciate this as a benefit because it means you can paint the models faster. I certainly hope that Mantic will be successful as a business because I hope to enjoy purchasing their products in the future. Mantic seems to be doing an excellent job of addressing and correcting all the problems that Games Workshop creates in my hobby.

I recently purchased an Undead Mega-Army boxed set along with an Undead Battalion boxed set. The Undead Battalion boxed set was sent to me by mistake. As a way of apologizing for this error the Warstore offered to sell it to me at half price. The end result of this windfall is that I now possess a collection of 251 Undead models plus one larger War Machine model. This is essentially a complete Kings of War army. I may buy one or two additional units to fine tune it but it is an army. For all this I paid about $180 (shipping included). Compare that to the depressing $500 figure that I was looking at on my spreadsheet not long ago while I was considering that Games Workshop Chaos Daemon army. I don’t understand why anyone buys models from Games Workshop. Forget that nonsense.

December 17, 2011

Wine and Miniatures

I just finished another Evil Sunz Ork Deffkopta. I am excited because only two models from my Assault on Black Reach set remain unpainted. It will be a mile stone to complete the whole boxed set. I believe that I have more or less decided not to play armies of either Evil Sunz Orks or Ultramarines. I am painting models that I will most likely never use in a game. Well, I did play one 500 point game with the Ultramarines. I just bought the Assault on Black Reach box because I wanted to start painting and I wasn’t sure what to buy. As the months have past I have painted almost all the stuff from that box but I have lost interest in Orks and Ultramarines. Currently I am fascinated by Mantic Games. I have purchased 251 Undead models from the Mantic range. I will get into those once I finish the Orks. I really like the Mantic stuff because it is a great value for the money. The models look good to me although I must admit that I am no artist. I have no idea what makes one sculpt better than another. I just know I like the Mantic models. They say that they are faster to paint because the models have less detail than Games Workshop. That appeals to me. Although some people don’t like that. I am always excited by the prospect of finishing another model. It is the completed model that thrills me. I know that my models aren’t very good. I am not really competitive about the painting or the gaming. I just paint the models because I enjoy doing it. I am not really ever going to be a great artist. I am just satisfied if the model looks better with paint than it did with out paint. I have talked to some of the serious painters at my local game store and they can get offended by my attitude. I don’t know why. Some people are very serious about this hobby almost to the point of being grim.

Miniature painting reminds me of experiences I had with people when I attempted to learn something about wine. I really like wine. I really enjoy drinking wine. Here is the deal though. There are people interested in wine who think of drinking wine as some sort of competition. Some people can drink some wine and then tell you what kind it is and possibly even what year it was created. That is pretty impressive if you have ever seen some one do this. So when I was into wine I would read stuff online about different types of wine: Zinfandel, Chardonay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I never quite made it as a wine connoisseur. I would go into restaurants and order a specific wine and the waiter would get mad. I would pick wines that were inappropriately matched to the meal. I still don’t understand why the waiter would react with anger when my order revealed I didn’t know wine. The cool thing about wine as far as I am concerned is that it is a great way to put alcohol in your blood stream and it even tastes good. However I have never been capable of appreciating the subtle differences in types and qualities of wine.

I guess that I am the same way with miniature models. I really like the models and the painting the same way that I like wine. Here I am painting models and it becomes obvious to the serious painters that I am not perceiving subtle variations in color. I don’t have the patience for the advanced painting techniques. My painting reminds me of coloring books I used in the first grade. That is pretty much what I have been doing. I just put solid blocks of color in a defined area. Highlights confuse me because I can never decide where one color should end and another color begin. So here I am failing to appreciate miniature painting the same way that I failed to appreciate wine. But I still drink wine and I still paint models. I am just not very good but still I deeply enjoy these activities I assure you.

They will actually sell miniature models to any random person willing to pony up the cash. They never asked me to prove my abilities as an artist when I went to the game shop to buy models. Now that I have the models I am not really feeling a great desire to prove myself to anyone. I don’t really get the whole competitive side to this hobby. I don’t think that I will ever play in a tournament or enter a painting contest. I hear terrible stories about bitter arguments that arise during tournament play. I am not eager to experience that. I just plan to play with friends. Painting contests are cool. I like to look at other people’s entries. I don’t think I will ever enter a model of my own though. I can assure you that a lack of artist ability does not reduce my ability to enjoy painting. Take care.