What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SOS - Adventures at MTL Comic Con (2013)

Comic-Con… It’s become an important event for fans who are into movies, television, comics, and gaming. It is the present mecca of pop-culture. The San Diego convention grew out of the love of comic books to what it has become today and many similar events have popped up all over the place and model themselves after it. The Montreal Comic-Con was my first experience at one of these, and after attending the one in 2012, I resolved to go again this year and be a bit better prepared. One question that people have asked me is what do you do at something like this and how do you justify going the whole weekend?

MORE at Sound on Sight...


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

FREE S&W Adventure

Free for a limited time... the new conversion Arcana Creations did of the 'Vile Worm' for Swords & Wizardry.  This was done and released for free to celebrate S&W Appreciation Day back on April 17th earlier this year.  I have hosted the file myself for the better part of 6 months but with a recent web redesign (currently in progress at www.arcanacreations.com), I've also decided to set up the Store Front over at RPGNow! (and other One Book Shelf sites) and the file is now available there.

However, come October 17th, this file will no longer be available for free.  The price will increase to a whole $1.

So, if you think you might want to take a look or just haven't gotten around to grabbing it in the past, now is your chance before time runs out!

You can find it HERE.

Some of my readers may wonder why I am only setting this up now?  Well, the earliest products that Arcana Creations was involved with was publishing in collaboration with Brave Halfling Publishing and, to this day, these are still available through them.  However, after months (many many months), I finally have something tangible coming out for Ballista and it will be available through RPGNow!


Monday, September 23, 2013

The Day The Blog Went Silent?

It's odd and, while I know I haven't been as active here at Under Siege for the past few weeks, I have noticed a sudden trend about 2 weeks ago (give or take) where the traffic has dropped dramatically.  I'm not saying that I ever had loads of traffic but I was content at my monthly average which ranged between 2000 - 2500 views.

I know... peanuts.

Suddenly and overnight, it's dropped to half that.

A couple of referring sites don't seem to refer here anymore and, at one point, the blog got 'disconnected' from my Google+ profile (it's now reconnected), after Google did a few changes.

I may have to move from blogger and start up on Word Press.


Weekend R&R: Yarr!

In celebration of 'Talk Like A Pirate Day', Bill De Franza has released a Rules Light Pirate RPG entitled, "Yarr!".  The system that makes up Yarr! is based on the Dagger RPG system which is a set of supplemental rules for classic role-playing with children written by John Adams from Brave Halfling Publishing and Jimm Johnston.  For those of you who haven't seen Dagger, it's a great way to get a younger audience introduced to the world of pen and paper RPGs.

But we're not hear to talk about Dagger...

Yarr!  It be that pirate game we be talkin' about.

First and foremost, Yarr! is a class based system and there are five to choose from: The Atlantean, Captain, Marine, Rascal, and Sailer (they are all pirates). Each class has their own set of special abilities, but the Atlantean has access to spells and the Captain has access to special feats.

There is next to no complexity to the system though and, given the game's roots, it shouldn't be expected either.  There are, for instance, no stats to worry about.  Yarr does provide an optional skill system which encompasses eight skills such as Agility or Sneak.  By choosing to use the system, all character get all the skills but half of them are essentially things the character is good or trained at and thus have a better chance at succeeding.  These will improve as a character goes up in level.

Character advancement also increases their ability to fight (an increase in hit progression) and the number of hit points they have.  Rules for combat and gameplay are few and span a mere 7 pages or so.  Beyond that, the game provides a bestiary, rules for ship to ship combat, a variety of spells, and a glossary of pirate terms.

Of course, this game wasn't necessarily made for the typical gamer.  Being wonderfully simplistic, like Dagger, it's easy and simple enough to introduce to children.  That's not to say that older people wouldn't be able to get a kick out of the game, I think the optional skill system does well enough to add some variety to the game and something like this could be worthwhile to do a one-off for friends who don't necessarily game all that often but are open to the idea and open to some laughs.

That said, with a game as simple as this, these could be just as well suited to a Dungeon-type or Hero Quest-like board game proving once again, it doesn't have to be complicated to be fun.  As simple as it is, the book (65 page digest release) does seem to have everything you need to get set up and running.  The game is not a bunch of needless flash and polish but it gets the job done and it can be yours for $5 HERE.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Montreal Comic Con 2013

Last year was my first Comic Con and while small compared to the scale of San Diego's, there were a lot of people and the venue was packed on the biggest day of the con last year (being Saturday).  Highlights last year included Patrick Stewart, Shatner, and Wil Wheaton with Wheaton and I having a brief chat about old school gaming and C&C.  There was so much to see and do that both Mariosl (my significant other) and I decided then to do it again this year.

So... the events kick off today at noon if you are a VIP or Deluxe pass holder, and 3:00pm for everyone else.  We part of the 'everyone else' crowd this year.  We went deluxe last year and, while the earlier access is nice (really nice actually if crowds annoy you and you want to do some shopping), it was harder to justify this year.  Sure you also get a tote-bag and a limited edition comic book produced for the con (last year was a tote bag and t-shirt), but I found it harder to justify the $20 per ticket difference between regular and deluxe passes.  For that same price difference, the $40 (plus taxes) we save essentially pays for most photo-ops or autographs.  Besides, money has been tight for me (and Arcana Creations) for a few months now -- I have to tread carefully where my finances are concerned.  ;)

This year's Montreal Comic Con seems to have an interesting array of guests though there were quite a few lineup change the past 4 weeks.  The final lineup includes Gillian Anderson, George Takei, Christopher Loyd, Jason Mamoa, Sean Astin, a bunch from the Battlestar Galactica reboot/refresh, and a whole bunch more.  Honestly, there seems to be more celebrities this year than the last which is, no doubt, due to this con's continued success in the few years it's been in operation.

However, because of the many line up changes in the past few weeks, the schedule they've finally nailed down is, well, less than adequate IMO.  Like last year, it was pretty much released at the last minute.  A PDF version was released last Friday and there is an app which provides scheduling information which was released a bit earlier this week.  In the few days since the release of the PDF, there are ALREADY schedule changes and discrepancies.  Makes planning your weekend a bit more difficult.  Marisol and I took over an hour looking at the schedule, descriptions of events, and checking out movies trailers to decide what we were doing exactly to maximize our weekend.  Simply put, we haven't had a chance to do much as far as trips are concerned, so Comic Con is one of the highlights we focus on instead.

It will be great though and I'll be sure to post some pics and give a post-con report once the weekend is behind me.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Undead Giant - Painting Guide

Good evening once again tonight I have another painting guide which resulted from my latest project.  After doing the Pathfinder Red Dragon from Reaper's Bones line, I decided to tackle another big project.  I chose the Undead Giant (aka Giant Skeleton) from the same line.  I have quite a few Undead critters from the Bones line but I hadn't painted any skeletons yet.  I have a batch just waiting for me and, I could have very well started with those and get a bunch done all at once.  Let's face it, skeletal mooks are not too difficult to paint.  At the same time, I wanted to try out and get some practice with a good sized surface to try a bit more dry brushing.  A larger surface for this sort of thing is just a lot more forgiving if you haven't quite gotten used to dry brushing or if you are trying Citadel's dry compounds which tend to overload the brushes with pigment.  The Undead Giant also proved to be an interesting and fun model with lots of extra stuff to paint.  It made a good choice.

As usual, preparation involved cleaning and then priming the miniature.  Reaper says that the Bones don't need any priming and that you can paint straight on the plastic.  Some people just don't like that and I'm one of them.  No... given the type of material we painting on and given my recent fondness of gesso to get the job done, I didn't see any reason to change my routine.  If any of my readers are compelled to try painting on Bones without the benefit of a primer or sealant, go for a 'foundation' or 'base' paint, which is to say a paint that is heavy in pigmentation.

Once gesso was applied, I got to lay down a base coat (using a single-action airbrush this time) of some 'Titanium White'. I should point out that, while I do like and use the Citadel line of paints almost exclusively since they've come out with the new range, large models or large batch jobs make using up one of those little bottle of paints kind of pricey.  Instead, I have a selection of liquid, high pigmentation paints for these sorts of jobs.  While a store brand, I have it under good authority that these are manufactured by Golden for the store's chain.  I can't say whether or not this is actually true but I have found the coverage and quality of these paints to be quite exceptional and the prices much more reasonable than the prices you may spend for other 'name-brand' paints.

For the rest of the model, I used:
  • 'Khorne Red' for all the cloth / rags
  • 'Iron Breaker' for the chains, sword, and warhammer tied to arm
  • 'Gorthor Brown' for the wood on the one leg
  • 'Averland Sunset' for the ropes on the boarded leg, makeshift club, and 'trophies'
  • 'Rakarth Flesh' for the trophies
  • 'Dawnstone' for the headstone
  • 'Dryad Bark' for the belt, tied warhammer, and sword handle (the one wielded)
  • 'Ghehenna's Gold' was used for handle or pommel on both swords
  • 'Eshin Grey' for the base
Next was the fun part... the entire model used one of three washes for the shading.  The most important one was 'Seraphim Sepia' for all the bone and I used 'Nuln Oil' for all the chains, cloth, and headstone.

I then dry brushed the base with 'Longbeard Grey' and followed up with an 'Agrax Earthshade' wash.

There were a few touch-ups when all that was done here and there... a bit of shading using a wash for the eye sockets and mouth for instance.  I also had to soften up some areas that didn't have enough of a dry brush applied when looking at the bones.  When I was finally satisfied, I sealed the miniature with a coat of Liquitex Matte Varnish.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend R&R: Iron Age - Council of the Clans

It's been a while since my last review and the game I wanted to review ended up being a bit more difficult to get done than I originally anticipated.  I promised a friend, the designer of the game, to get this done sometime before the end of June and here we are, Labor Day Weekend.  Why did it take so long to do?  Well, we'll get to that...

Iron Age: Council of the Clans is presented as a 'Table-top Strategy Game of Power, Honour, and Democracy.  It was written by Dr. Brendan Myers, a professor of philosophy and author of several books.  The suggested number of players is between 3 and 8 though you could add many more players to the mix but this would certainly lengthen the play time for a game.  The game is social in nature and players have to work together to build an Iron Age community.  Through a bit of political maneuvering, strategy, and diplomacy, each players is trying to improve his or her position amongst their peers to be elected Chieftain.  If a certain player is elected as Chieftain often enough, that player wins.

Sounds simple enough right?  Well, the introductory version of the game is certainly simple but the advanced version has many more variables like buildings to build, specialists, different goods, and armies.  All go to help or hinder a player's total honor which affects the kind of voting power they have for the next round of elections.

In short, it sounds like the game has plenty of potential to spare.

The Basic Version of Iron Age

There is only one type of commodity to worry about in this version of the game, and that is food.  In Iron Age, each turn represents a year.  Through the luck of the dice, each clan will determine whether or not they produced enough food for themselves.  Every player rolls the dice in turn and if they meet the minimum number needed to feed their village they get a point of honor.  If they get a surplus, some of this can be stored and they get a point of honor.  However, if the dice come up short, they risk losing a point of honor.  Lose enough honor, and that player is eliminated.

Honor is very important in this game.  Each point of honor counts for one vote, so if a player has 10 points of honor, they can cast 10 votes when it comes to vote for a Chieftain.  These elections start happening after the second round of play and any player can call one at any point.  These elections are called Landsmoots.  When a Landsmoot is called, each player who desires to be Chieftain has a chance to give a little speech and outline why they would make a fine leader.  Once speeches are done, votes are cast.  If a player is unfortunate enough to have no honor or even less than that, they still get one vote.  What does being a Chieftain mean for the player?  Any player who is Chieftain gets to reassign any food surplus to the clans as he or she sees fit.  It's good to be king.

The winner of the game is the first player who has been Chieftain three times in a row or four times in total.

The Advanced Version of Iron Age

 The concepts introduced in the basic version of the game still remain at the core of the advanced version.  That is to say, honor determines the number of votes a player can cast and the victory conditions are the same.  However, in this version of the game, each player starts with a town hall and three buildings which produce basic commodities.  There are twelve buildings to choose from, each producing a different commodity.  Each player will need to keep track of the buildings they have, what foods and goods they have stored, etc.  Like the basic game, there is a requirement to feed your people in order to gain honor.  Each building represents a number of additional mouths to feed.  It is possible to expand the number of buildings in the village which will increase the demand for food.  However, food as well as other commodities will be required to produce other buildings for production, specialist buildings, and specialist villagers.

These specialist buildings and villagers serve different purposes, of course, and their inclusion only serves to diversify the types of strategies various players can utilize to try to win honor, and hopefully victory for themselves.  As opposed to just ensuring that your people are fed, honor can be won by winning battles, producing trade goods for all the people (wealth), giving other players a gift or hosting a feast in their honor, successful hunts, or even certain milestones.  Some of the specialists can also affect one's honor.  On the flip side, you can lose honor by having your people go hungry, wasting resources where you produce too much beyond what you can store or trade, losing a battle, being unable to reciprocate a Heroic Feast, losing milestones to another player, or having another player's poet besmirch you.

Where Iron Age Falls Short

Iron Age is a brilliant game that grew out of college classroom exercise.  It has everything a great game should have but is missing what most people expect when they think about games.  The problem with Iron Age is that it will a bit abstract for most people.  As it stands now, Iron Age is available as a book and you'll need pencils, paper, and some 6-sided dice to play.  There is no game board, there are no cards, there are no game pieces, and the dice are, as I mentioned, not included.  As such, I actually had some difficulty in getting players to try the game.  For people who know little of games beyond the standard board game, playing a game which has little in terms of tangibility may be a tough sell.

The book is well written and it does contain all the rules, and even some optional ones, to play the game.  While not required, a few examples of play might help the game appear a bit more friendly along with a few play aids in the book itself.

Play aids are not necessary for the basic version of the game but, when I played it the first time, I did notice two things.  One simply was the comfort level of some of the players to speak up and participate in the Landsmoot phase.  This is not the fault of the game but it may put those players who are a bit shy at a disadvantage.  I like to think that this kind of game can also help some people overcome their shyness but it's worth considering since it could alter everyone's experience and perception of the game.  The other is the honor system in the basic game.  Since there is only one way to gain or lose honor, a skillful player (who was equally a bit lucky) could lend themselves in a position where they gain enough honor to make voting irrelevant.  In one of the games I played, I had amassed enough honor to outvote the other three players combined.  This is not an issue with the advanced version of the game and one of the optional rules even suggest a winning condition for achieving a total number of honor even if the Chieftain winning conditions have yet to be met.

Where Iron Age Excels

There is another game which came out in 1974 which proved to be a bit more abstract and also required the use of paper, pencils, dice as well as a bit of imagination.  That game has the distinction of being the world's most popular role-playing game that we know as Dungeons & Dragons.
While it was hard to find some willing volunteers at first, those who had experience with other types of 'abstract-games' who had a chance to read through my copy of the book were quickly enthusiastic about the game and saw its potential.  As gamers who play tabletop RPG's, they also saw an opportunity to 'ham it up' so to speak and have fun playing the role of a candidate during the Landsmoot.  While the game may not come in a flashy box with a bunch of tokens, board, or cards, the most important thing is there and it is complete.  Of course, while the game works perfectly well, with some paper to keep track of things, some people who already have many other games may take this one step further.  For instance, it would be a simple matter to print up a bunch of cards to represent the various foods and resources and even cards to represent the buildings.  Easy to do and this could make keeping track of things a lot simpler.  Add some counters of sorts, and you have something that other players who need a bit more to follow and make participating in the game a lot easier.  At some point (once I secure the author's permission), I will post up material like this for others to use.

The game itself promotes collaborative play as well as the art of communication and negotiation.  While there is a luck factor inherent in the game, success or failure largely depends on how one plays the game and the decisions made.  There is one other EXCELLENT thing about the game and for this reason alone, I recommend my readers to take a closer look: the price.

While the physical copy of the book will cost you a mere $9.95, you can get a Kindle edition for  only 0.95 cents.  The Kindle edition has no art and no extras but the text for the game itself is complete.  The physical copy is a 62 page softcover that includes some art, some nice classical quotations, as well as an essay on collaborative gaming.  The point is, at only 0.95 cents, the text is inexpensive enough to check it out even if you are only curious.  Beyond either option, the author has made a tracker available for use for players of the game.  This is free and will make things a lot easier for players of the advanced version of the game.

As it stands, the game is easy to learn though mastery is a different matter entirely.

Final Words

For the Kindle version of the game, you can get HERE from Amazon.  If you are looking for a physical copy, you can order it HERE. Finally, if you get either version, you can download and print copies of the tracker HERE.

What does the future of this game look like?  Well, a lot of its success so far has been through word of mouth.  Many people have played the game and it continues to be used as an educational tool as well.  Talking to Brendan Myers, it sounds like it may only be a matter of time before we see a new incarnation of the game which may prove to be a bit more accessible to a wider audience.  Perhaps something will come through a crowd-funding campaign or maybe something entirely different.  It is a solid game and one worthy of any who has an interest in politics, diplomacy, and critical thinking.