Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

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.

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.