Sunday, February 17, 2013

Unexpected Break at GenghisCon

So we we're all having a great final day of gaming fun at GenghisCon and then the fire alarm went off emptying the hotel.

Interesting seeing a huge crowd of gamers, geeks, and nerds standing outside the hotel, most of them smoking, half discussing their next moves, the other half worried about someone stealing their stuff they had to leave before behind when we evacuated.

And they just let us back in...someone must have pulled the fire alarm as a gag...



Saturday, February 16, 2013

Space Hulk, the opening salvo

The first game I signed up for was Space Hulk. This is a 'Specialist Game' from Games Workshop, though it's no longer published.  You could pick up a copy off ebay or some reseller on Amazon, but it's gonna cost you a couple of hundred bucks to do so.  Or you could just head to a game convention and play with someone else's, like I did.  Space Hulk is a sort of dungeon crawl where one side typically plays some Space Marine terminators and the other side plays Tyranids (there's some variations of course).  The Space Marines have to survive to get off the floating hulk in space...the 'Nids have to kill the marines.

Normally the game comes with flat cardboard sections to mimic the starship corridors, but the guy that was running the game on Friday (David) had sculpted, cast, and painted his own corridor scenery complet with bulkheads, doors, airlocks and other cool stuff.

the Space Marine Upper Level in the foreground, the Chaos Upper Level in the background.
The scenario was pretty dressed up too.  Space Marines on one side, Chaos Space Marines on another, and then David had someone playing the aliens and Tyranids.  The Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines were racing to get to a slide at the end of their corridor systems that would then take them down to the lower level.

The Space Marine Upper Level.

It was pretty tough...the Tyranids on the upper level wiped out the Chaos Space Marines before they ever made it off their upper level.  The Space Marines (whose team I was on) only had two marines survive to escape to the lower of the sergeants I was running and a marine with a storm bolter.
The heroic two Space Marines trying desperately to get to the lower level
There was some seriously amazing dice rolls that got our two marines down to the lower level (one of the other players called it 'heroic dice rolls' :) but we did manage to get down the slide.

The lower level - replete with Aliens, Colonial Marines, and the Alien Queen (yes, as in Aliens).
We survived the first two rooms and killed off a bunch of aliens (though my sergeant did suffer some acid splashback on two occasions).  But when we blew the door open to the Alien Queen, she promptly came through it and ate both remaining Space Marines, to our dismay.

Overall it was a great time, with lots of racous shouting at die rolls (always a good sign).  Thanks to David and the rest of the group for a really fun time...

One last thing seen today at GhengisCon:

Girl Scouts selling a game convention...full of geeks, most of which have really bad dietary habits.  Genius!



On Site At GenghisCon

(Apologies if some if these start coming iut of order...was trying to finish a Day 1 summary post but had to get some Zzzs to get up early today and back for another full day of gaming) But I have arrived! (had to hunt down a staff member to pick up my tickets, badge, and t-shirt as registration was closed for lunch). Space Hulk yesterday was awesome (post on that to follow later.

On tap for today... Some Savage Worlds Gunslingers of Karthador followed by Force On Force Cold War Gone Hot this afternoon...



Friday, February 15, 2013

GhengisCon Is On!

GhengisCon began yesterday, and I'm headed down the the Red Lion Hotel this afternoon...

First on tap for this afternoon...Space Hulk!

Hope to get some live blogging in from the event all weekend and definitely will have some pics posted as I get them!

Happy gaming!



Sunday, February 10, 2013

The One Ring...On Sale!

Ok...for the ultimate nerd gift...

That's right, it's the One Ring.  Ok, it's actually a gold-plated tungsten-carbide in a cobalt-free nickel binder with laser-etched elvish inscription replica of the One Ring with 7mm domed contoured comfort fit high polish mirror finish weighing in at a heavy 15 grams.  But it's pretty sweet anyway...

And right now, it's available for $29.99.  Lest you be skeptical of this tawdry price, consider that this is at 81%'s normally $159.00.  But it's on sale through SparkleCartel right now, so it's a great opportunity to grab that special gift for your special geek!  (Comes with a free gift box, so how could you go wrong?)

SparkleCartel is actually pretty's a deep discounter site for all things jewelry, modeled on the 'we sell one thing until it's gone' style of sale (ala SteepandCheap, which is responsible for many overspent months of purchases for yours truly). 

Be careful if you do purchase...know the proper ring size of whomever you are purchasing this geeky beauty for.  Tungsten carbide cannot be resized...and SparkleCartel provides a downloadable .pdf ring sizing tool.  Use it!

And yes...I bought one.  The ultimate nerd splurge. 

Hopefully it will be here in time for GhengisCon next week... :)



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Games Workshop Attempts Trademark Claim to the term Space Marine

So it's no secret that I've often been a rather ardent supporter of Games Workshop's business model, and am often vilified as a defender of their business practices.  Fans of the game company's products are quick to demonize GW's high prices, regular re-issue of updated game rulebooks, army codexes, and figure lines...the argument being that they are shamelessly raping their own customers by forcing them to constantly purchase products to stay updated to the latest game components at exorbitantly inflated retail pricing.  The other love/hate with GW is that they are known for consistently quashing any possible competitors in brutal fashion, often going after very small start up companies and grinding them under the wheels of copyright infringement through greater legal and financial resources of the their success.  A good example of this is the takedown notice GW filed against Thomas Valenty who, using a MakerBot, designed some Warhammer 40K tanks of his own based on his brother's Imperial Guard army. 

Another is the GW lawsuit against Chapterhouse, a small Texas-based company that designs models and accessories that primarily complement the Warhammer Fantasy Battles and 40K universes. 

The latest incarnation that is sure to raise the hackles of tabletop miniature wargamers and science fiction fans alike is the trademark infringement claim filed by Games Workshop against the ebook version of Spots the Space Marine claiming that GW has a common law trademark on the term "space marine," most significantly because they have a large interest in the e-book market (ala The Black Library).  
According to The Escapist, GW currently holds trademark claim to the term space marine when referred to in regard to "board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint," but now seeks to assert that the trademark extends to fiction, in this case e-book fiction, as well.  The more ominous possibility that looms on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) horizon is that GW could be looking to apply that trademark to any and all things Space Marine in the future, not just related to the gaming tabletop.  This could even push me to accuse Games Workshop of crossing the line.

Look, my stance on GW's business practices is this:  GW has done what very, very few nerds and geeks have ever been able to do...that is to take their gaming creations and create a truly serious and successful business out of them.  Oh sure, Gygax and TSR did well for some time, but eventually had to sell out to Wizards of the Coast (who made their success through Magic The Gathering), and let's be honest, Wizards ended up under the Hasbro umbrella in no small part to what most dice-rollers saw as screwing up D&D.  

(Granted there are some good things afoot for the world of D&D as the next incarnation is currently in play-testing via actual D&D players...something that not only rings of an application of video game beta-testing for pen & paper style games but of some very forward thinking on Wizard's part).

But Wizards can no longer claim to be a stand alone game company for the geek-o-sphere as they are now owned by Hasbro.  One could also point to Fantasy Flight or Paizo or Pinnacle or Battlefront and other such game companies, but Games Workshop is a juggernaut in the world of nerd games.  
No self-respecting game store worth it's gaming tables doesn't have at least a 'stockist' display of GW stuff, and the extremely deep backstory of their universes is staggering compared to any other game system...40K alone garners a towering fanbase of their fiction.  Find me another game system that has it's own fiction publishing arm that has real writers such as Dan Abnett and Graham McNeil and a pretty large library of offerings.  The Horus Heresy storyline has over 20 books in it alone and more produced every year.  GW is listed on the London Stock Exchange.  It owns the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit tabletop games.  GW reported sales revenues just under $2 million (1.23 million British Pounds) in 2011.  They have nearly 2000 employees worldwide.

Because of all that, I have rather profound respect for Games Workshop.  Success is not won easily, and GW has done a rather spectacular job since it was originally formed in the mid-70's.  So while I personally get frustrated at another hardcover version of rules or what seems to be a once or twice a year re-issue of some codex, I understand it from a business perspective.  Companies have to remain solvent...this means producing new products to keep your customers buying.  If GW never produced anything new, eventually they would run out of sales.  Gaming is a very niche market with a limited customer base.  Apple crosses over many boundaries with its products...your grandmother might very well be interested in an iPod (or at the least own an iPhone) but she very doubtfully is building an army of Tyranids.  So GW has to keep fresh and they have to keep current.  And that often doesn't come cheap.  Sure I wish a set of five High Elf Sword Masters of Hoeth that stand about two inches tall didn't cost me $33.00.

I don't like it, but I get it.  And to those I meet at my local game store that are quick to tear down GW and swear they will never buy their products, I call shenanigans.  You will buy GW products, and you will play their games, and you will get the latest codex.  Even if you buy used stuff on eBay, you're just making money for some other hobbyist to buy new stuff from GW.  As long as you keep doing so, GW pulls in $2M a year.  So bitch all you'll still buy.  If you truly are pissed off enough that you won't buy, the reality is that you'd play GW games if you could afford to do so.  In that respect...more power to Games Workshop for producing something we all want to buy. Love 'em or hate 'em, the fact of the matter is that the folks at Games Workshop are making a pretty nice living playing with plastic army men, while you're flipping burgers, selling cars, and working night shifts at the hospital (like me).  You come up with a successful career playing games and then you can talk smack about GW.

Because of all this, Games Workshop must protect itself, its products, and its brand.  That's just business.  It may seem cruel, heartless, and relentlessly evil, but it is what it is.  I get the challenge to people copying their designs on a 3D printer.  I understand to a limited extent wanting to prevent places like Chapterhouse from selling stuff that essentially takes dollars out of the GW coffers.  But this latest lawsuit claiming they may own the literary rights to the term 'Space Marine.'  Good luck on that one GW.  Space Marine was first coined in the literary world way back in 1932 by sci-fi writer Bob Olsen in Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8. 

Since then it's had many, many versions in the literary world, most notably in Robert A. Heinlein's work Starship Troopers (1959).  Aliens (1986) was about Colonial Marines battling big ass xenomorphs on LV-426 (let's be honest, Tyranids are a direct ripoff of the Aliens franchise).  Even in terms of video games, id Software's Doom was a space marine character killing demons on hell-infested moons orbiting Mars. I would hope that GW doesn't try to sue Sega with it's upcoming release of Aliens: Colonial Marines. 

This is a reach for even Games Workshop, and frankly in this case, I'm calling shenanigans on GW for a change.  You can challenge anyone that creates a game that uses Space Marines, particularly if they use the backstory for your Space Marines that you have created...I get that.  But you can't really expect to try and squash the idea of the armies of the future flinging out armored and beweaponed marines on navy spaceships to the stars and suing everyone that wants to write a story about how they think it would happen.  Because you didn't think up the idea.  The idea has been around for a much longer time than Games Workshop.   I would hope that GW doesn't try to sue Sega with it's upcoming release of Aliens: Colonial Marines. We'd laugh at you, and I'll have to write another blog post.

So GW, you need to toe the line on this one...and probably be thankful that the Heinlein estate hasn't tried to sue you.



Identifying with Movie Characters

Is it concerning when watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin that you find yourself identifying with Steve Carell's character Andy in the beginning of the movie who paints miniature war gaming figures, plays video games, reads comic books, and collects toys?

Just a thought...



Sent from my 'nobody really cares what phone or carrier this message was sent from' phone.

Friday, February 8, 2013

GhengisCon Looms

Dice bags will be plentiful at the end of next week...
GhengisCon 34 is upon us.  Bountiful board games, masses of miniatures, role-playing riches, a wealth of wargames, plethora of painting (of the masses of miniatures), and a huge roomful of vendors carrying everything from crocheted Cthulhu's to pink fairy hats to dice bags embroidered while you wait (not too mention the largest freaking dice selection you have every laid eyes on).
February 14 through 17 is the biggest game convention in the Colorado region...four days of gameapalooza (TactiCon in the fall is number two) and is put on by the Denver Gamers Association.  It's a great time...and I scored a free pass for the whole shebang this year (door prize at Thanksgaming last November at Total Escape Games).  So far I'm signed up for Space Hulk on Friday, some Savage Worlds on Saturday morning followed by Force On Force in the afternoon, and some Gloom on Sunday.  In between I'll be checking out the vendor room (and trying not to spend money I don't have).

Check it out at and I'll see you there (an maybe doing some live blogging while on the premises... :)



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spinning Off Star Wars

Disney has announced that it will put out two spin off movies from the Star Wars franchise that will be designed to be standalone films separate from the original Star Wars saga.  Both, if they happen, will come out after the planned release of Episode VII, currently scheduled for release in 2015 and directed by J.J. Abrams (ala Fringe, Lost, etc.).  Lawrence Kasdan has been tapped to write at least one of the spin offs.

Each film is reported to focus on a specific character, so we may see a Han Solo movie, or perhaps a Boba Fett film.

Let's dearly hope there are no plans for a JarJar Binks flick...



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

World of Tanks: Steel Addiction

My Russian T-26 is tucked into a bush next to a tree on a slope overlooking the inlet of the small bay below.  The green leaves of the bush combined with the broken siteline from the narrow tree form a natural camouflage that give my light tank some concealment from enemy armor that may be lurking to the north and east.  I'm below the hillock enough so my right flank is completely covered.  From my vantage point I can easily see the islands in the inlet as well as the beaches on my side of the bay and the small beach on the other side where I know the enemy base is located.  The 37mm ZiS-19 turret gun is loaded with standard armor-piercing rounds capable of penetrating up to 73mm of tank armor dealing 30 to 50 points of damage on the average impact.  Facing a similar tank as mine, that should take out my target in 3 to 4 direct hits.  I loaded up with 140 rounds before deploying...70 armor-piercing UBR-160 bis rounds...48 high-explosive UO-160A rounds...and 12 AB Composite-Rigid UBR-160A rounds.  I have the capability to take out all fifteen enemy tanks of my opponent's team if it comes to that, though sometimes just getting a hit or two on enemy armor before being blasted into a smoking carcass of blackened twisted steel is a successful battle; in over 150 battles I have had only two that I was lucky enough to score 5 kills in...making me an ace in those battles.

My tank crew for the T-26 have been with me since I began perfecting and improving this tank.  Mladshiy Serzhant Vitaliy Adamovich, my tank commander, plays the main role of spotter, peering through binoculars to spot enemy tanks at a distance and give targets to my gunner, Efreitor Yakov Stepanov.  The more experience Yakov gets peering down the sights of my turret, the quicker he can rotate and aim the turret gun.  Efreitor Fedor Golopuzov is my driver, the better he is the faster my tank can maneuver and minimize (hopefully) damage from enemy fire.  Each battle I enter, the more experience my crew getsand the better they perform their jobs.  Seconds count, and everything from spotting enemy armor to aiming my turret gun to quickly getting into and out of position can mean scoring a penetrating hit on my opponent, or feeling an enemy shell explode against my hull.

Two of my team members are on the larger island across the inlet - one in a U.S. T1E6 light tank facing west in a hull down position on a small hillock and the other in a British Vickers Mark I medium tank between a large boulder and a tree.  One of them has spotted a German PzKpfw rolling up the beach on the other side of the island and the Vickers has fired on it, scoring a direct hit which penetrates the Panzer's armor and may have either hit its engine or knocked a track out of true as its speed has slowed dramatically.  Taking advantage of the wounded tank I drop into sniper mode to get a better shot at the Panzer in the distance.  I center on the German tank's silhouette and wait as my gunner zeroes the target reticule, and then hit the trigger and a 37mm shell rips out of my turret and explodes against the hull of the Panzer.  My gunner calls out "punched right through his armor!"  The wounded Panzer seems flustered with three enemy targets to contend with and then erupts into flames as T1E6 scores the kill shot.

I grin as I start to scan from my point on the hill for the next target and notice on my map that other team members are rolling up the right flank of the enemy base.  We may be able to capture the base and score a victory we've killed five tanks vs. losing only two so far.  Suddenly I see two new targets come rolling up on the island - a Soviet Tetrach and an American t-18 tank destroyer.  Immediately my teammate in the T1E6 is in trouble and suddenly becomes pile of smoking steel as the two new enemy tanks use really effective coordinated fire.  I get off another penetration shot on the weaker side armor of the T18 but not enough for a kill.  Then my tank is rocked by a huge explosion seemingly out of nowhere, killing my driver, damaging my engine, and knocking me down to a third of my hit points.  Enemy artillery has found me, probably as I was spotted by one or both of the new enemy tanks and my position was radioed to their arty units.  My tank commander Vitaliy leaps into the driver position and I slam my tank into reverse, hoping to get out of sight to avoid another artillery hit.  The Soviet tanks gets off a shot in my direction that misses but sends dirt showering over my injured tank.  My engine has taken a beating and my tank is slowly crawling backward up the hillock.  The killing arty shot hits me and my T-26 is now a smoking wreck of twisted steel.  I'm out of this, do I hang out to see how this battle goes, then repair my T-26 to take her back out, or do I head back to my tank garage now and take another tank out - maybe my new T-46 I just bought?

 This is World of Tanks, an online game of one thing...tanks.  The rolling thunder of steel armor and turreted cannons hurling armor-piercing shells at each other.  In many ways it's similar to a lot of massive multiplayer online trees, experience points, hit points, guilds (platoons and clans in the case of WoT), even what could be considered crafting - as WoT allows you to customize your tanks with different turrets, guns, ammunition, radios, treads, engines, etc.  What's different playing WoT from most MMO's is that there's really no role-playing, no persistent world, and, at least as of this writing, very few 12 year olds without the slightest amount of fuzz on their scrotum and have been holed up in their suburban basements eating cheetos playing the game for the past 39 hours and telling you they had sexual relations with your mother last night after they blew up your tank during a ridiculous suicide run that had zero tactical thought to it in the first place. (Don't get me wrong, you run into one now and then, and for the most part they are the exception rather than the rule.)  In fact, every battle has a few chats between players on both sides, regular comments of "nice shot," "good game," and regularly as the timer to start a battle counts down, invariably someone sends out a "good luck and have fun" to everyone.

The closest thing I can compare WoT to is EVE Online.  You don't play a character, rather you play a tank (like a ship in EVE).  You have a tank crew, but the crew is just a element of the tank that you can customize and improve like other equipment.  That's really where the comparison ends, andwhile I love EVE's dark, gritty and often heartless gameplay, there's none of that on WoT.  You don't spend four months grinding to get that ship you wanted to only have it blown to smithereens by that pubic hairless pre-teen 5 minutes after you take it out for a spin.  In fact, you blow up your tank, and you just get it back for the next battle (granted, you have to pay to repair and reload it, but that's not a problem).

In my opinion the coolest aspect of WoT (other than tank customization) is that battles have a timer of 15 minutes with 15 tanks on each side.  In very many ways the game is reminiscent of a game of paintball...just using fact the basic game is Capture the Flag.  Few games go the full 15 minutes, most are settled either by one side being completely wiped out, or one team capturing the other team's flag.  And you can have any tank of any available nationality you wish to play with; it's not uncommon for you to be driving a Soviet tank and have a German, American, Chinese, and British tank on your team at the same time.  Keep in mind too that the enemy tank you just talked smack to may very well end up on your team the next battle (which again IMHO keeps the trolls in line).  You also get to choose a rather large variety of tanks to customize to your liking as you make your way up the various tech trees.  For instance, my current tank of choice is the Soviet T-26 light tank, which I had to work up the tech tree from the T-18 to get to.  Since then I've chosen to max out my T-26 tree, which gives 'Elite' status to that tank when you do so allowing you to direct battle experience directly to your tank crew, and primarily use my T-26 in most battles.  The better my tank became, the quicker my gunner aims, the faster my turret turns, the better my tank handles, the faster my shells load, etc.  I can also start adding things like better camouflage, specific crew skills, and so on.

World of Tanks is free to play, and it really is.  I played for a gadzillion hours completely free and have had a ball.  You truly don't have to ever pay a dime if you don't want to, and you'll get a great experience out of the game if you never do.  There are a few reasons you might choose to plunk down real world money if you wish, but even that isn't much.  I paid like $6 so I could accelerate some crew training and trick out my T-26 by adding some exterior customization like camo paint and some inscriptions ('Merciless Hunter' in Russian :)  Most stuff however can be purchased with in-game money earned through gameplay.

My current U.S.S.R. T-26 'Merciless Hunter' with 149 kills to date

You can also spend in game money (or real world money) on consumable things like better ammo, repair kits, removing speed governors, crew rations, camouflage netting, spall liners, better ventilation, coated optics, and so on, all of which have beneficial effects on your tank.

There's also the ability to platoon up with buddies and play together on the same side, as well as joining a clan to participate in Clan Wars, a more campaign style of play I have yet to experience.'s one of the best, most enjoyable, and most addicting MMO I've played in a very long time, and right now I can't get enough.  I love that I can pop in and play a quick game in 10 minutes, or stay and get in 10 games in and hour and a half.  And whether you score an ace with 5 kills or more in a game (which I've done twice now) or get blown to scrap in the first 30 seconds, you learn to be a better tanker with everytime you drop the hatch.

So dowload the client, hop into your first tank and roll some steel.  There's something satisfying about firing off a shell and raining thunder down on your opponent.  Just watch your flank...I prefer to play sniper.