What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Weekend R&R: Spelljammer - AD&D Aventures in Space

With Second Edition came an never ending expansion of settings, supplements, and other types of cash grabs in TSR's ongoing attempt to grow and make increasing amounts of money.  Ravenloft, which was initially a couple of modules became it's own setting, and other settings like Darksun, and Al-Qadim were also introduced.  And then there was Spelljammer.

I never liked Dark Sun probably because of psionics.  My attitude with Ravenloft was pretty much neutral and failed to capture my attention the way that either of the first edition modules did. I never needed an expansion of the planes that Planescape brought about ... I was already fine with the established nature of the planes, my devils, demons, and angelic beings as set about in First Edition through books like the Manual of the Planes and other tidbits of information I came across in the game up to that point.  Spelljammer was just different and had a special kind of appeal to me.

It's hard to explain.  I mean, on the one side, some of it... no.... A LOT of it is silly.  Forget notions of physics as we know it because it won't work.  At best, it had it's own peculiar logic about things.  However, the world could be spherical, flat, of hell... it could be a cube.  It could be on the back of some sort of space turtle or just be a sphere fixed in space.  This 'space' surrounded a world and, when you left the atmosphere, a bubble of atmosphere came along with you.  This world and space around it was encased in a bubble of it's own or, rather, a crystal sphere.  There were many crystal spheres and each had their own worlds withing them.  These crystal spheres 'floating' in some sort of sea of 'phlogistum' which, if memory serves, was also very flammable.  If it wasn't, I ran it that way because I guess I was also sadistic back then.

It was also a convenient excuse to have setting crossovers.  Someone from the Forgotten Realms could adventure in Dragonlance and then take a trip to where ever your imagination takes you.  It was an easy way for a DM to run a completely different campaign with the same characters.  Spelljammer could be anything and everything PLUS the kitchen sink.  Perhaps this was the biggest problem.  When I started playing AD&D, the new Second Edition books were among my first book purchases for AD&D.  I had plenty of First Edition material and as TSR kept on publishing, my gaming collection also grew.  In many ways, I was fortunate because we had a large enough pool of players to warrant three full time DMs.  As DMs, we also all specialized: one of us ran his own setting which was, at least, partially inspired from Greyhawk, another ran Dragonlance, and I ran the Forgotten Realms (I loved the original grey box set! and the first in a series of accessories that began with Waterdeep)..  We all ran and played in each others games along with a bunch of other players that played in all those other games as well.  I was new enough to the game that I really liked all of it so when Spelljammer came out, I was immediately drawn to it because it was also different.  It retained what I liked about AD&D and just put it... 'out there'.  Others seemed to genuinely dislike the potential for crossovers and there was perhaps too much reliance on the established settings in TSR's portfolio instead of strengthening the idea of a new setting.  For me, I didn't care at the time and I knew I had to have it.

When I picked up the box set and checked out the components and books, I pretty much fell in love with it because it had fun with a few AD&D concepts... Mind Flayers in space just makes so much bloody sense!  Tinker Gnomes possibly creating explosive havoc? HELL YES!  But having cards of really cool looking vessels with deck plans on the reverse... a tactical map and fold up miniatures of the ships to do ship-to-ship battles made it that much more awesome.  I was also 14 at the time.

It's interesting that up to that point and for years afterwards, I never used any sort of miniatures or battle map (aside from maybe a quick sketch of the area prior to the start of a fight), except when it came to the ship battles in Spelljammer.  I think that just 'elevated' the game somehow to another level of play.  Or maybe my love for things like Star Trek crossing over into my love of fantasy game was clearly coloring my judgement.

The set also contained a couple of books describing rules of play in this fantasy version of space along with equipment, ships, and combat between them.  Races and the like are also covered and the concepts introduced are explained in detail but not to a point where a reader coming to this box set with an AD&D background would be lost.  The book layout was also quite  nice and delivered much information in sidebars in the books as a quick way to deliver bits of relevant information.  It was a good box set that delivered a lot of value for the price at the time.

I ran a brief but very successful campaign in the Spelljammer universe and collected much when I could.  Then it got discontinued and things became a lot harder to find for me.  I eventually sold my lot of Spelljammer material to a friend who promised to start up a campaign.  He never did.  Selling that stuff off became something of a regret so, I did go and track down a couple of key things about 4 or 5 years back.  Notably the original Spelljammer boxed set, the 'Lost Ships' accessory, and the 'Complete Spacefarer's Handbook'.  It is still a nice setting, and it came at a time when TSR had almost stopped putting out original and creative material.  Maybe if it was a bit more creative and not chained to established settings, it might have thrived a bit more.  Or perhaps not.  There retains a following... there were some Third Edition conversions for it and some fan stuff for Fourth Edition as well.  It's probably that we will never see the like of Spelljammer in Fifth Edition and I think it's because Spelljammer was always niche within a niche hobby..

Of course, it always nice to pull out Spelljammer on an unsuspecting group of players.  They won't know what hit them.  While out-of-print, the Spelljammer boxed set is available on RPGNow over HERE for a very reasonable price of $9.95 and I do recommend it very much.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sea Familiars (Octopus et al) Painting Guide

The Sea Familiars I painted and finished there week are from Eastern Front Studios and add-ons to their Midgard RPG Kickstarter.  I picked up these since I wanted some sort of octopus that wasn't necessarily a large one.  Not sure when it would come in handy but I'm sure I'd find some use for it sooner or later.

Much like the Giant Tick I did last week, these two small miniatures were relatively simple to complete.  Both were primed in my usual fashion: a thin coat of acrylic gesso and paints used were primarily from the Citadel line of paints.

The shells on both models were done in the exact same manner -- a base coat of 'Ceramite White', followed by a wash of 'Seraphim Sepia', and a drybrushing of the 'Praxeti White' dry compound.

The Octopus itself was done in a base coat of 'Screamer Pink'.  I used a wash of 'Nuln Oil' for the shading and followed up with some drybrushing.  Using the 'Lucius Lilac' Dry compound to start, I applied another layer of the 'Changeling Pink' dry compound as well.  I wanted pools of 'black' for the eyes so I opted for another store brand black paint that has a glossy finish as opposed to a matte one.

The other creature actually had more paint to content with.  I had to do the ground, rock, as well as the creature.  The ground received a base coat of 'Death World Forest', a wash of 'Agrax Earthshade', and I used the 'Tyrant Skull' dry compound for my drybrushing.  The rock was done in a base of 'Celestra Grey', a wash of 'Agrax Earthshade', and I used 'Praxeti White' dry compound for the drybrushing.  The creature itself was done in 'Stegadron Scale Green', a wash of 'Nuln Oil', and I drybushed both 'Hellion Green' and 'Skink Blue' dry compounds on it.

Really, that was it.  I like how both turned out.  I think the shells look great and the octopus is just awesome.  It just goes to show that a minimal amount of work can get you some great results to look great on the table top.

Happy painting!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Trapped by Grimtooth

Despite being out for years, I have had very little exposure to the Grimtooth books.  When I first got into the hobby, I supposed I wasn't aware of the books because of lack of access to gaming material in general (military brat in Germany) and, subsequently, I probably was overly supportive of just a select few games and companies with TSR getting the bulk of my financial backing when it came to gaming.  By the time I met up with ol' Grimtooth, it was through Necromancer Games' book, "The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps".

When I saw it at my local game store a few years back, I flipped through it and thought it was cute.  I put it back though since I just didn't think I'd get that much use of it.  I already had a couple of trap books from a different series (Legends & Lairs from Fantasy Flight Games) and, aside from rarely looking through them, they just sit on the shelf.  I looked at this book as just another d20 product and I already had plenty of those books.

In the time since, maybe I missed the point.  I did eventually see an older copy of one of the Grimtooth Traps books and, having more time, it was both clever and funny.  I knew that maybe I'd never use the material in a game but, just reading through the stuff was kind of fun.  Maybe I was too hasty with that first book I spotted knowing little about the original series.

In the end, sometimes these things just end up working out.

Goodman Games who has started a crusade of sorts to restore / protect / and revive some of this older material is doing it with the Grimtooth series of trap books.  They did a great job with Metamorphosis Alpha and have announced steps to do more of this kind of worth with some of the old Judge's Guild stuff, so it makes sense that they licensed this material from Flying Buffalo to bring to us a collected works type of volume for Grimtooth Traps.

This book will be huge and thanks to busted stretch goals, even bigger for those backing a Gold Foil or Leatherbound copy.  A regular softcover or hardcover includes the first five trap books: Traps! Traps Too! Traps Fore! Traps Ate! and Traps Lite!  The gold foil hardback and leather will also get Traps Bazaar! and Dungeon of Doom! crammed in the book too (backers of regular books will get the PDF with the two extra books).  Plus there's a few extra things along with that.

Prices seems to be on the reasonable side for what is essentially a collector's edition of sorts.  Now that all stretch goals have been busted, only 12 hours remains if you want in on this.

You can check out the Kickstarter campaign and pledge HERE.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekend R&R: Death Frost Doom

Death Frost Doom isn't new but the version I'm looking at is.  While my many of my fellow gamers were eager to delve into Zak's "A Red & Pleasant Land" and offer their two coppers and what they thought of the work despite (or because of) some of the bullshit that hit the 'net earlier this year, I was really eager to put my hands on the new edition of this adventure.  Originally penned by James Edward Raggi IV five years or so ago, a lot has changed for Raggi and Lamentations of the Flame Princess that got its start in 2009.  I've commented on my admiration for LotFP on more than one occasion and how their products are a great example of a premium product put out by a small publisher.

The original edition of Death Frost Doom is nothing fancy in terms of presentation but, like the Millenium Falcon, "she's got it where it counts, kid."  It was a scenario which was just shy of 30 pages and played as a great, atmospheric, dungeon crawl.  It essentially starts off with an encounter with an old man which sets the stage.  Beyond that, a lot is dependent on what the characters end up doing.  The more they do, the more they will get out of the adventure.  The adventure is really more open ended than not and is easy enough to insert in an existing campaign or, given the likely outcome of the adventure, just as useful for a very memorable one-shot.

The new edition is gorgeous and I knew it was going to be.  I had seen some pictures including the 'misprints' which caused a delay in this new title and others that fans had been waiting on to order from the webstore.  In large part, this is why I waited on this particular review -- I wanted to hold the book in my hands.  Sadly, it's on the slow boat and I'm still waiting for a physical copy of the book.  However, since I'm gearing up with a new campaign, this might end up being the perfect scenario to kick things off with.  First off all, regarding the size -- I'm a complete convert.  It's a bit bigger than one would consider 'digest size' and the closest would be the 6x9" format like you see in the Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds or FATE Core books.  It's a good size and, while Arcana Creations hasn't yet managed to sneak out a print release in some time, 6x9" is the size we will be releasing in when we do.  The reason for this is convenience in a world were people love their electronic devices as well as their books; the smaller format will display great on 7" - 10" tablets.  If my print edition doesn't show up before I start the game, the trusty PDF will get me by and be perfect on my 7" tablet.  Frankly, this is how it should be and while print will never die, making it as easy and friendly as possible to use beyond print is the way to go.  Death Frost Doom and the rest of LotFP product line all look great on my tablet which is ideal for a GM on the go on the odd time they have to travel light.

The cover is fantastic but retains the styling of the original and the art within this new edition is by far some of the best art I've seen in a gaming product in recent memory.  That's not to say there isn't some great art out there but few gaming books, be it a supplement, rulebook, or adventure module use it as well as this book does.  As you flip through the book, the art you see just draws you in further and really sets the stage in the mind of the reader which, as a GM is nothing but a good thing.  If the pictures and text make you uncomfortable, maybe the entire line from LotFP is best avoided.  The reason the art works in here is also the start black and white nature of the images... not grey scale -- black and white.  Those who own the original will also notice the maps in this version have had a serious update and upgrade.  The whole package is slick and professional putting to rest notions that a small press can't make nice things.

As to the contents of the adventure itself, experienced GMs and newcomers alike will find many things to assist them in running the scenario.  The adventure does this in a manner by supplying a lot of 'what if' scenarios and results that follow based on what the players decide to go... What if they party does this... what if it does that instead.  Even the most experienced GM might be momentarily caught off guard by what the crazy players think up next.  Naturally, reading a published scenario before putting the players through its paces is always sound advice.  The same goes here really but it's nice to see that an attempt has been made to 'head the unruly party off at the pass'.  Scattered throughout the text are various random tables to add a bit of 'fun' to the adventure and, by doing so, saves a creative GM a bit of work.  Of course, all of these tables and bits can easily be minded to use elsewhere if (for whatever reason) the scenario itself isn't a good 'fit' for the group.

I suppose, since the original version was released a few years back, that this has been a bit of a complaint though by no fault of the material.  Death Frost Doom relies on pacing, an inquisitive group of players, and atmosphere.  It isn't your standard, 'heroes defeat an evil wizard in order to save the day' kind of trope.  The adventure and results are dark and you'll be quite at home if your usual game is something more like 'Call of Cthulhu'.  I think this is why there is so much in the book to help sort out details to keep the GM relatively on track.

That isn't to say there isn't some laughs to be had here either.  More than a couple pages is devoted to an organ and what happens when you play a variety of songs on it.  My favorite being what happens if someone plays the notes that Peter Venkman plays at Dana's apartment.

Beyond that, there are options that will give a reader a glimpse at how the original adventure was written with some alternatives added to this version giving a greater flexibility as to how the GM would prefer this adventure play out.  As James says it himself, this edition is somewhere between a revision and a complete rewrite and it's interesting to see mention of what Zak did when he originally ran the adventure.  The effort on this new edition really shows as the page count has pretty much doubled from the original.  The only complaint I have is that some of the text is a bit too 'conversational'.  By this I mean that, while insights are certainly nice, they are nice up to a point.  Celtic Frost's song "Dying God Coming into Human Flesh" is certainly a great song but I was surprised to see this mentioned as great thing to play during a certain part of the adventure.  It's just not integral to the adventure.  In my opinion, such insights might be better dealt with at the end of the section or module -- or maybe a sidebar.  Include those insights there as well as other tips from past experiences to better make the adventure, 'your own'.  You don't see that kind of thing too often in a gaming product but, both the D&D 'Rules Compendium' for 3.5 and the d20 sourcebook, 'The Collected Book of Experimental Might' by Monte Cook both do this sort of thing: provide insights but keep them separate from the integral text.

But, as a said, that's my opinion.  Others reading Death From Doom will certainly think the work flows and works very well as-is.  I do think it's nearly perfect and, aside from a couple miniscule hiccups with editing and layout, other works will have difficulties stacking up against it.

If you don't have Death Frost Doom but where thinking about it, take the climb up that frigid mountain, for it is well worth the effort.  If looking for just a PDF version, it is available at RPGNow! (OBS services) over HERE.  Naturally, you can go to the source and get a dead-tree version along with the PDF HERE.


Friday, January 23, 2015

GenCon 2015 Badge Registration Now Open

For those thinking about GenCon this year (July 30 - August 2), Badge Registration is now open.

I was lucky enough to go to last year's GenCon and had a blast.  So did my fiancĂ©e.  We had so much fun that we decided early on to do it again, learning from last year's mistakes, to make this trip even better.

Best part about this years trip?

Our trip to GenCon is also our honeymoon.  We'll be making the trip down just a couple of days after the wedding.  Better still?  She had no second thoughts about GenCon being our honeymoon destination.  :)

Between the wedding and GenCon... there is a lot of planning to do in the next six months.  I think it might be time to do another round of sales and 'culling' from my gaming collection to help fund the trip.

More to come soon enough (plus another edition of Weekend R&R).


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giant Tick Painting Guide

If ticks are nasty little buggers, then giant ticks are the stuff of nightmares.  I don't see them used often in gaming but I have seen them.  Of course, there's the Village of Hommlet (module T1 by Gary Gygax) and, 'The Secret of Ronan Skerry' which was published a few years ago.  It was high time that I got one of these miniatures and I was happy to see that Reaper Miniatures had one.

The base coat for this critter were very simple.  I chose 'Khorne Red' and 'Dryad Bark' for the critter itself and I used 'Zandri Dust' for the ground it was on.  I noticed on one side of the model what looked to be bones it was laying on so a base of 'Ceramite White' was used on these.

With the base coat largely done, I touched it up here and there and then applied a generous amount of wash on it.  I could have opted for 'Nuln Oil' but instead I chose 'Agrax Earthshade' which is a brown wash which I applied all over the model -- both tick and ground.  It gave the ground a darker color, helped create the shading I needed around the legs, and transformed the dark red to a reddish-brown.  I brought out some of the details on the legs with a dry compound, 'Underhive Ash' but then muted it a touch with a wash of 'Carroburg Crimson'.

The bones which started off as a pure white ended on off white thanks to the Agrax Earthshade.  I then applied an edge of 'Krieg Khaki' along the surface.  I was debating whether or not to do the eyes though, truth to tell, I wasn't sure what the eyes were when looking at the model close up.  Depending on the Tick, some have eyes (two) and others have none.  If I did eyes, I would have good a 'Moot Green' to give it almost a toxic look.

All in all, the model was a quick and easy project to do.  More than enough to meet the necessities of a tabletop standard without the headaches that go along to make the model really stand out when you put it on the battlemap.

Happy painting!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Misgivings about Mythoard

First off, let me preface this by saying that Mythoard is an awesome idea and what is being done is great and I do think they are off to a good start.

You see, like many who have already signed on to Mythoard, I like Lootcrate.  Lootcrate is awesome.  But, I already have so much stuff that more clutter in the form of fun collectibles will surely get a disapproving look from my other half.  The other problem with Lootcrate is that, it is themed.  This means that, on any given month, you might have a theme that kicks ass with some great swag but other months may leave you disinterested given how much you feel you invested in the package.  Mythoard, on the other hand, is a bit more 'specific' and, as a gamer of a variety of pen and paper RPGs, the majority of the content could be of use and value.  For me personally, I won't get the same disapproving looks as my gaming hobby is not only an accepted vice, but a valued pursuit.

BETA Mythoard - Photo Credit: http://thegruenextdoor.blogspot.com/

If you have no idea what Mythoard or Lootcrate is... you need to check out Mythoard's site HERE.  In short, it's a monthly, RPG-themed subscription service where you get selections of RPG gaming product delivered to your door.  Modules, minis, dice, and so on...  Lootcrate does the same sort of thing for other 'geeky' interests.
Lootcrate from September, 2014

When I first heard about Mythoard, it was in its BETA phase and I looked at signing on.  I was disappointed to see that there were no options for Canada; it was US only.  When I found out that there was a Lesser Gnome Mini to be included in January's kit, I looked again.  Canada and International had a payment option!  It took about 3 seconds for the price to sink in.

I wanted to get on board and perhaps review a package as I continued to wrestle with the price.  As a Canadian, I have a problem justifying the price.  Maybe some of my misgivings is seeing the price of shipping is more than what the contents of the box is costing me.  Ok... it's a $1 difference but if you are buying something for $17 and paying $18 to ship, it starts to get a bit hard to swallow.  Generally speaking it does cost LESS to ship to Canada than it does to Europe so that also presents the question of why both cost the same?

Well, the truth of the matter is that it will generally cost more to ship to Europe and anyone from Europe who signs up for Mythoard is getting a slightly better break on shipping than Canada is.  I'm not sure how these will ship -- a bubble mailer or a other prepaid box but prices are a bit more if looking at a pre-paid International 'Small Rate Flat Box' to the UK versus one to Canada (about a $4 difference).  Maybe $18 isn't so bad after all.

Lets compare with Lootcrate for a moment while acknowledging this is comparing apples to oranges:

In the States, it costs about $20 for a 1-month subscription to Lootcrate.  In Canada and Europe it's $30.  The cost before shipping?  The reality is your package is costing you just a bit more than $13.  Generally speaking, the retail value is easily twice the what you paid for the crate itself.  It is also important to notice that the shipping here is also on the expensive side if you are outside the States ($16 and some change).  In that sense, you might be getting a better bang for your buck with Mythoard than Lootcrate -- especially if you are a gamer.  ;)

Look... none of this is Mythoard's doing.  It just sucks that, once again, we see prices for shipping things abroad is out of control.  Sadly, there isn't much you can do if looking at a month-to-month subscription package and services like Mythoard will just need to do the best they can if they want to draw in international customers.  Providing excellent value for the cost of the package is the best way they can do this and it will also serve to draw in more domestic subscribers.  Of course, they are just starting out and I think there is plenty of potential.

While I am having a problem to justify signing up now, I will be keeping an eye on them.  I can only suggest that they reveal a couple of the key items going in the package to entice those, like myself, that will be watching.  Who knows, there may very well come a time in the near future that some of us will feel that the heightened cost of shipping will be worth the added expense.

Nonetheless, thank you for at least including Canada and Europe and giving us the option to sign up. 

And, if you are in the States, I wouldn't hesitate to subscribe to Mythoard.  Do it now!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weekend R&R: Horror on the Orient Express (CoC)

My first taste of Chaosium's 'Call of Cthulhu' game came about in 1992.  At the time, I was just a military brat living in Germany and a week long trip in High School had me and my classmates visiting the city of Berlin.  It was just a couple of years after the reunification of Germany which followed the fall of the Berlin Wall and there were still very noticeable differences with in the Eastern and Western parts of the city.  When traveling throughout Europe, my friends and I were always on the lookout for Comic Book and Gaming stores and Berlin was no exception.

Up to then, I hadn't really been aware of the Call of Cthulhu RPG -- I was still happily picking up whatever TSR was shoveling out at that point.  I was only vaguely aware of who H.P. Lovecraft was at that point only really only started reading him about a year later.  I was, nonetheless very curious about the game, when my friend picked up the 5th Edition copy of the rulebook in a hobby shop we were visiting while in Berlin.  It has such an evocative cover and, is still one of my favorites.  Along with this purchase though was Chaosium's original 'Horror on the Orient Express' adventure campaign.

My introduction to Call of Cthulhu was a brief one... it was a starter adventure which my friend ran close to Halloween.  I loved it... but it wasn't for everyone.  Shortly thereafter, I made a couple of investigators for the 'mega-adventure' and began playing.  In hindsight, I have no idea how close or far was strayed from the plot but I suspect it was pretty far.  I technically was running 'solo' through it -- the secondary character was in case something happened to the first (meaning insanity or worse).  I clearly remember that character and I remember quite a few situations when I was playing where I was VERY lucky when it came to some of the die rolls.  He was a 'shutter-bug' and I modeled him after Joe Pesci after seeing the movie, 'The Public Eye'.

Sadly, we didn't play many sessions of the game.  My friend who was running it moved and my own time in Germany was also coming to an end.  My father had received his new orders and the military base itself was being shut down in '93.  Call of Cthulhu and Horror on the Orient Express certainly made their impressions upon me though and within the year, I picked up my own copy of the rulebook.  Horror on the Orient Express remained elusive though and, having never picked up my own copy, over the years I still occasionally found the printed passport and character sheet from that campaign.

Just over a couple of years ago though, Chaosium decided to Kickstart a 're-imaging of the iconic' campaign.  Launching in mid-August of 2012, it quickly funded and beat a bunch of stretch goals by the completion of the Kickstarter at the end of September.  They were asking $20,000 and got over $200,000.  Did they deliver this on time?  Of course not.  Very early on, they were hopeful for a August 2013 release... and then August 2014 rolled around.  At least I was able to touchthe sealed box they were showcasing at Gen Con that year.  Finally, towards the end of 2014 -- packages began to roll out and I got mine on January 5th.  The package made good time as far as shipping was concerned.  Looking at the customs declaration form, it would have been mailed out on December 31st.  It was a heavy box and unpacking it was awesome.

Despite the fact that I saw the box at Gen Con in the past year, I somehow forgot how massive this thing was.  The original, from what I remember was the size of a small box set at best.  This new, and appropriately termed luxury campaign, is a beast in terms of size and weight ... the box is crammed with material and, backers of course got a little (or a lot depending on their pledge level) more.  I kept things very simple and backed at one of the lower levels as money was tight at the time (though, when isn't it).  I opted for the Campaign Deluxe level and, somewhere along the way, I added a bit more to get the Keeper Screens and the miniatures.  The Campaign Deluxe came with the boxed set, tote-bag, T-Shirt, and dice and, thanks to extra stretch goals, I ended up with a couple extra goodies like another T-Shirt.   The basic pledge level for the boxed set was at $60, and for $10 more your got T-Shirt, Dice, and a Tote-Bag.  At $70, this was incredible value and the miniatures add-on was $25 where as the Screens was another $11.  I was asked to add $10 for shipping bringing my total to $116.

What is the retail price on this sucker since it can now be bought on Chaosium's online store?  It retails for $119.95.  In other words, with the add-ons and all the swag that accompanied the box set, I really came out ahead -- especially if you consider that the majority of the shipping was waived for Canada (it's was already factored in for US residents).  Shipping would have been a fortune in comparison and, seeing that they still need to send out the miniatures, dice, screens, and a higher quality component for the box set, the costs to Chaosium isn't over.  Despite the successful Kickstarter, I suspect they are taking quite a hit when shipping to destinations outside the US.  However, as long as their costs to produce the set were low enough, I expect they will be just fine and the end results of this project are astounding.

The contents of this leviathan-esque boxed set includes five books plus the book of handouts and an additional "Traveler's Companion', a map showcasing the route across Europe, postcards, luggage stickers, a 'matchbox', passports, train plans / maps for miniatures, and die-cut fragments of the simulacrum and ceremonial knife.  Excluding the companion and handbook books, were still looking at 800 pages of campaign material though some of it is optional and separate from the main story-arc.

Book 1 provides a great overview of the origins and history of the Orient Express and serves as a great overview for the entire campaign.  Information of staffing, train components and car arrangement, and prices as well as an assortment of 1920's information is presented in a clear, concise, and very readable manner.  By illustration and photos, the book is handsomely presented.  Given how large and complex this campaign could be, there are several pages devoted to running the campaign breaking down cores scenarios and optional scenarios along with locations and timeline.  The main story does take place in 1923 but some scenarios will take you as far back as the year 320 (albeit an optional one).  A full history of the Sedefkar Simulacrum is provided along with the scrolls with advise on how to run the campaign.  At 74 pages, this makes it the smallest book (not counting the Traveller's Companion) but perhaps one of the most indispensable.

Books 2 - 4 represents the adventure campaign itself.  Given the size and complexity, it is already broken up into 19 different scenarios -- 15 of which are part of the 1923 campaign and 11 of these are part of the 'core' adventure.  How long each scenario will take to play will depend on the scenario and players but all have sufficient information and handouts  to make the journey through this campaign fun and intriguing.  All books have an array of photos, illustrations, and maps and carry through the look introduced in the first book throughout the rest of the set.  Because it is broken up, it really serves to make the campaign more digestible to read through and prepare for the game master.  It really makes this campaign 'less daunting' to run as well.

Book 5 is a great addition and is a book of NPCs.  There are forty in all and they represent persons the characters may bump into and converse with while traveling on the Orient Express.  Five of these are staff characters on the train.  They all have just enough background and information to provide a 'feel' for the character and, more importantly, they could end up being a player character in a pinch.  Death and insanity is not uncommon in a Call of Cthulhu game.

Finally, there isn't much to say about Book 6 of the boxed set.  It's collects all the maps and handouts shown in the previous books together in one place.  The pages are perforated for easy detachment which will make photocopying them that much easier.  Unless you were seriously thinking of detaching them and using them which, I suppose is an option.  They do sell copies of Book 6 separately as well.  Fortunately, I have a PDF version along with my physical box set so I can print up the hand outs I need without having to touch the book.

Is $120 too much to ask for?  That's a fair question... I was lucky to get in on the Kickstarter so I got a great price for it.  You do get a lot in the set and there is tremendous value with it like some of the 'props' which always help to add flair to a game.  Given the page count, the asking price certainly isn't unreasonable.  If you consider some of the mega-dungeons and campaigns that have come out recently, it is evident that most are charging a higher price point than many would be comfortable with.  Rappan Athuk from Frog God Games sells for $100 as does the Tome of Horrors Complete.  Each of those book are under 700 pages (Rappan Athuk is about 500 pages).  You've got over 800 pages plus the handouts and maps in this set so I think the price is just about right.  If it is too much, then the $60 for the PDF is certainly more 'reasonable'.  With a printer and running this campaign off a laptop or tablet, it would be very manageable to do and certainly worth the consideration.  Both are available to order from the Chaosium site.

It's a great set and I do love it and I want to run the campaign so much more. The year looks to be a busy year for me with my own wedding coming up, my ramped up miniature painting schedule, the gaming I am fortunate enough to currently do, and Gen Con.  However, I think that 2015 will finally be the year I also start a Call of Cthulhu campaign and I think that I will do so with this magnificent boxed set.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Miniature Painting Guide Preview 1

This year, I really want to get on top of my painting hobby.  I have so many miniatures that I need to paint and, with Reaper delivering my goodies from the second Bones Kickstarter, it looks like I'll have even more to worry about.  But painting more minis means me posting more painting guides and pics.

I generally want to do about one a week -- excluding bigger projects or batches (I've got a batches of zombies, orcs, and goblins I'll also want to tackle).  Here is what's coming up next:

There are three pieces from Eastern Front Studios ... the Mermaid and the pair of 'Sea Familiars' which I picked up as add-ons from the Midgard RPG Miniatures Kickstarter.  There is a Giant Tick from Reaper (part of their Savage Worlds miniatures line) which they name a 'Prarie Tick Queen'.  Lastly, and also from Reaper is Halmar, the Young Wizard.  Halmar was part of the Haunted Highlands Kickstarter and came with a few other figures.

They are all primed and ready to go!  ;)


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mr. Graves Painting Guide

A few months back, I was fortunate enough to go to Gen Con -- it was my first one.  I talk a bit about it HERE and one of the things I did was participate in a Speed Painting contest.  The contests was also the first one I did of that sort.  I didn't quite do so well but there were a lot of 'firsts' for me when it came to participating.  It was a first time working under some pressure (45 minutes), the first time I worked with Reaper paints (much more fluid than I am used to out of a bottle), and the first time I worked on a model produced by Wyrd Miniatures.  It was the first time that I set eyes on the miniature and, having never seen an artist rendering or this model painted, the sort of details you pick up and interpret compared to what might have been the intent can be interesting sometimes.

Here is a drawn rendering:

Here is the work in progress as of the end of the competition:

Obviously a bit different and obviously a way to go.  One big 'mistake' was interpreting the bands on the arm as some sort of arm bands and thinking the shirt under the vest was short sleeved.  The model was starting come along by the end of the contest and... well... even if I didn't do so well, I still got a miniature and a brush out of it!

However, the model has been sitting on my work table long enough.  I thought it high time to fix it up and finish it off!  The colors at play at the start of the project were from Reaper and I have none of those.  I do have a full range of Citadel and have done some color matching in order to continue.  I have opted to make a few changes though.

I didn't have to do the usual bit of priming for the competition... the Reaper paints we were using were the high pigmentation 'HD' paints -- the same they recommend painting straight onto bones.  I'm not a fan of this but I decided to make do with what I had and continue were I left off.  I Liked the brown I had for the paints and decided that the vest needed to match it and offset this with a light brown shirt underneath.  Using Citadel paints, I used 'Dryad Bark' to touch up the paints and redo the vest.  It was a almost a perfect match to what I used from the Reaper line of paints.  For the shirt it self, I used a layer of 'Karak Stone'.

I also needed to touch up the skin and found that 'Kislev Flesh' was the closest but it was a tad darker than the flesh tone I used during the competition.  I just added a touch of white paint to mix in to achieve the color range I wanted.  Obviously I kept the shoes black but had a slightly glossier black which I used instead.  I did the belt and straps in black as well.

When it came to shading, I used four different washes.  'Seaphim Sepia' for the shirt, 'Nuln Oil' for the suit, 'Reikland Fleshshade' for the skin' and 'Agrax Earthshade' for the wood.  A curious thing I noticed when applying the wash to the wood though... it was flowing properly.  When it came to the rest of the model I had applied a wash to, I had already applied and touched those areas up with some paint.  I didn't do this for the wood.  To get around this, I simply painted over the wood with a light coat of 'Zamesi Desert' and reapplied the wash when the new coat of paint was dry.

I drybrushed some 'Eldar Flesh' -- part of the series of dry compounds that Citadel puts out on the skin afterwards.

Aside from that, 'Khorne Red' was used for the bow tie because, as the good doctor has told us, 'bow ties are cool'.  All in all, that's it.  I plan on finishing the base with some sort of quick, granite-like, texture and the apply a matte varnish.  Here is the finished product:

I have to say that I'm not overly fond of the oversized base compared to other miniatures this size but, otherwise, the model is quite nice.  I'm sure I'll find a use for it one one of my games.

Happy painting!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Special Dice or Cash Grab?

When Dungeons & Dragons came about, it greatly popularized polyhedral dice in gaming.  Wargames prior to 1974 had used a variety of different dice when the rules called for it but it is safe to say that D&D created the 'demand'.  Today, we have a variety of dice manufacturers selling dice and gamers seem to just keep on collecting sets to suit their mood, taste, or even games they play.  I love my dice and recently had to buy a larger 'chest' to hold them all.

Yes... I prefer to keep my dice in a chest and I have a lot.  I'm certain I'm not the only one.

Over the years, I've played many different RPGs with each system having particular dice needs.  When I need to, I pull some dice that I'll be using and drop them into my dice pouch and, with those and books in hand, I'm ready for adventure.  This could be as simple as a d6 dice pools where I'll need 'buckets full of dice', a standard 'D&D type array', or a bunch of d10's.  I never leave home without a trusty d30 because, d30's are cool.

However, going back a few years ago, I have noticed by time to time a game decides to put in or use some 'special dice'. That isn't to say different polyhedral dice as opposed to the common d6, but rather dice which are numbered differently or use symbols and/or are color coded.  This makes those dice (in the majority of those cases) unique to the game and, much more difficult to replace.  I grudgingly accepted this fact being a gamer with a love of many different games.  The game, Nin-Gonost which failed to take off, had 25 different types of d6's with many ranging from -1 to 10 (some higher).  Obviously the dice had different ranges and served different functions.  Well, maybe not obvious -- a knowledge of the rules is required.

That particular game came out about ten years ago and, it didn't seem to be a huge issue when I look at all the other games I've acquired in the past decade.  Then Fantasy Flight Games acquired the license to publish a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  The game seemed to use a collection of d6's, d8's, and d10's but they weren't your standard variety.

Different symbols for different things and colors also had an importance.  I played the game once but frankly, between the different dice, the counters, and other 'fiddly' bits, I just didn't care for it.  I also didn't pay too much mind to it either since, other games were doing it too.  In the past year, I also got into X-Wing Miniatures which is also produced by Fantasy Flight Games.  There again, special dice.  You get six dice in total in the Starter Box for the game but more dice will come in handy in play.

It should be no surprise that, when they put out the Star Wars RPG books like 'Edge of the Empire' and 'Age of Rebellion', they decided to do some special dice for those too.  What annoyed me further was that, despite being in the same fictional universe, they still opted for completely different dice for the role playing game compared to the miniatures game.

And converting them doesn't help much either:

But, there is an app for that, and between all the extra dice the sell for their games that are already selling quite well, some might even think the app to be overly expensive at $5.

I was happy to skip the Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and I did pick up an extra set of dice for Star Wars miniatures.  And, although I am enjoying this newest Star Wars RPG, the dice app was a cheaper alternative and is what I decided to go with for the game I am playing in.  At $5, the app at least has both types of dice and can even be used as a roller for regular polyhedral dice.  However, one of the reasons I have not bought the actual books myself (a friend has the starter sets and books), is because of the 'special dice'.  I have enough dice and I'm sure I'll buy more but I am getting weary of dice for the use of one game system and one game system only.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Car Wars A Disappointment?

First off, this isn't exactly a review of the newly released printing of Car Wars, 4th Edition.  Rather, these are my thoughts to some of the criticisms of the game that I've seen. This printing of the game was released towards the end of 2014 and, I just got my copy of the game.  I was excited when I found out about it when I first saw some people comment on picking up their copies and so very happy when I saw it at a game store right next to where I work.  I never owned a copy of any version of the game but I remember seeing ads for it in early gaming publications and catalogs shortly after being introduced to AD&D.

I have been a huge fan of Steve Jackson Games products in one way or the other... their biggest cash cow in recent years is the Munchkin phenomenon which isn't something I care about over all.  Sure, I've played it and it's OK but it's just not something I'd buy into.  On the other hand, things like Car Wars and OGRE has always been an object of fascination for me.

When Steve Jackson Games did the OGRE: Designer's Edition Kickstarter, it was something I was very tempted to back.  However, initially it wasn't shipping outside the US and when this changed, I guess I must have thought it was too cost-prohibitive considering the minimum amount for the physical game was $100.  However, even back towards the end of 2012, there were whispers of the return of the original OGRE Pocket edition and I remained hopeful.  Others since the launch of the Kickstarter have wondered about Car Wars -- which was a fair question.

Sometime in 2013, a pocket version of Ogre was available at the exact same price that the original version retailed for back in 1977 -- a mere $2.95!  However, it wasn't till a few months ago that we go a full fledged version of Car Wars.  At $19.95, this latest printing of the game includes some dice, game map, rule-book (64 pages), and a bunch of counters and 'Turning Key'.  Pretty awesome stuff albeit nothing fancy in any of it.

And this is what people are complaining about.

One review I've seen called it a 'missed opportunity for SJG' and lamented the cheap quality of the rules booklet, dice, turning key, and so on.  If you want to check that review out, you can do so HERE.  Other comments have been mixed and all tied to expectations and desire to possess the game.  The reviewer does get one thing right though... if you already have a complete copy, you probably don't need this one.

However, calling this a missed opportunity is a bit much.  Nor is this a case where SJG was just lazy about it.  It's a just a reprint and they decided turn around and make it very affordable.  The 4 dice (d6's) are simple 12mm dice and I have no issue of using this kind of dice for the game.  Their great in this digest sized box and don't take up too much space.  For me I was content... I had enough room for my OGRE Pocket edition in this awesome digest box.  The rulebook?  The only think I would have liked more would have been a cardboard cover but since it's in the box, it's really no biggie.  The importance is the text -- it's a pretty dense read as far as rules are concerned even though it's considered a 'basic rule set'.  The Turning Key and cardboard counters are perfectly fine (albeit being small counters).  On the other hand, the map folds out to something huge so just having it printed on a slightly thicker paper and folding it up works.  The bottom line that can't be forgotten, is that this thing is ONLY $20!

The cheapest digest gaming box sets tend to go for $30 retailing so, if we just go and compare, Troll Lord Game's latest 'Black Box' I talk about HERE, consider that this includes three digest booklets whose page count totals 112 pages plus a set of gaming dice (10 piece).  Their White Box that TLG put out ten years ago also had a retail price of $30 with three digest booklets totaling 92 pages plus 6 gaming dice (and a wax crayon).  Given the size of the double-sided foldout map, the cardboard tokens, and rule book in a nice quality digest box, I think the price of $19.95 is pretty fantastic and does what intends to do -- have a solid game of Car Wars in print which is a reprint of the classic game.

As to a Designer's Edition of Car Wars?  I'm sure that's coming too and I don't think they missed the boat.  I think the 'classic' edition Car Wars is to open the way for a successful launch of the new edition of the game.  Will they Kickstart it?  Will they go 'big'?  Who knows.  However, I'm certain that when this new version is announced, it will lay to rest any idea that SJG are resting on their laurels on this one.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Picking Up A Good Book: 2014 in Review

In continuing a tradition I started a couple of years ago, I decided to look upon my reading in 2014.  A year ago, I wrote that I had read 21 books which wasn't bad and certainly better than I had been reading lately in the couple of years before that.  Still, it wasn't quite the level I used to read over a decade ago.  The hustle and bustle of my day to day routine takes its toll more so now than it once did and I don't always get the time to read as much as I would like.  I had hoped to have read another 20+ books in 2014 but found myself just shy of that number with 19 titles read.  I did read a couple of graphic novels but I didn't count them towards that number nor do I even consider the gaming material I read.

My reading list in 2014 was largely devoted to sci-fi and fantasy with one autobiography in the pile and another, entitled 'Roll Away the Stone' which is towards the esoteric end of the spectrum.  The majority of my reading took place between the months of January and August though.  The 'Sword & Sorcery' anthology which I started before GenCon was a book I picked up on and off in the remaining months of the year but is one I really enjoyed reading which included some classics as well as some newer tales in the genre.

In 2014, I continued reading various tales in the Warhammer 40K Universe -- the Horus Heresy series (which technically Warhammer 30K) and finished reading 'A Storm of Swords' very early in the year.  I had planned on reading 'A Feast of Crows' but, having heard that nothing much happens in that book and having it been described as a chore, I have kept putting it off.  Maybe I should pick it up and get it over with and tackle 'A Dance with Dragons' before the new season of Game of Thrones airs on HBO in about 3 months.

So far in 2015, I picked up and read Ewalt's 'Of Dice And Men' which was an enjoyable, light read on the subject of D&D.  It is certainly a lot lighter than Jon Peterson's 'Playing at the World' that I finally got around to picking up and look to read in the near future.

Reading, in many ways, recharges me as far as inspiration is concerned and, while many of my leisure activities kind of fell flat in the last months of 2014, the new year seems to be off to a great start as far as gaming, writing, and reading is concerned.  I didn't quite hit the goal of books read last year that I wanted but wasn't far off.  Hopefully 2015 will be a bit better.

Time to hit the books.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Weekend R&R: Castles & Crusades 'Black Box'

The Castles & Crusades Black Box is neat little collector's item.  In 2004, Troll Lord Games released a similar collector's item, a white box set to celebrate the 30th anniversary of D&D and a nod the the OD&D white box set.  A thousand copies were printed and the first 300 of those were numbered and signed.  Ten years later, D&D is celebrating it's 40th and C&C is celebrating its 10th.

The set has three booklets and a few cards inside the box along with some sharp looking black dice (orange number on black dice).  The cards include various test logo designs for TLG and a note regarding the box itself.  Like the white box, a thousand were printed and the first 300 are numbered and signed.  Steve and Davis Chenault along with Mac Golden have all signed the cards and, in my case, I have box number 15 of 300.

The booklets in the box are the Adventurer's Backpack, Of Gods & Monsters of Aihrde, and The Golden Familiar.

Most fans of C&C are likely to want to dive into the Adventurer's Backpack and not because it is the first volume of the three booklets.  Years ago, there was rumors of a supplement to help 'hack' the C&C classes and create your own.  This is not that supplement but it wouldn't surprise me if some of that material didn't shape what is in this booklet.  Four interesting and new classes are introduced for your C&C game: the Archer, the Avatar, the Thief, and the Magic-User.

At first glance some people might think, 'What?  Don't we already have the Thief and Magic-User in the Player's Handbook?  What kind of rip-off is this!?'

No, they are not the same though they are similar.

The Archer, as the name implies, is a warrior which specializes in archery with specialized skills and abilities to back up that claim.  If you have a player who still thinks Legolas is the best or has a particular obsession with bows after watching 'Arrow', then maybe this is the class for them.

The Avatar is an embodiment of a deity in the mortal realm -- a being which has been imbued in part by the deity they are representing.  It's an interesting concept and the closest equivalent would be a Cleric or Paladin.  They cast spells through the use of mana points which regenerates but need not prepare any spells in order to cast them.  They also have abilities of Deific Voice and Presence on top of the Spells they can cast.

The Thief in many ways is similar to to Rogue but the class is certainly more fitted to an urban setting.  They can Case targets, are great at Close Quarter Fighting, Blending withing a crowd, and has a gift in the art of Distraction and Spinning a tale.  This is in addition to being to pick a pocket or picking a lock and other useful skills for this unlawful profession.

The Magic-User is not, as some would assume by the name, a spell caster.  They have natural abilities to Detect, Read, Use, Locate, Identify, and Create all type of magic items but not actually cast spells.  They can also transfer magical properties from one object to another.  A very interesting class.

The rest of the booklet gives several 'backpacks' of gear... essentially pregenerated inventory lists for characters and some new spells.

Volume 2 of the set details more of the gods and monsters in the Aihrde setting which gives us a glance at some of the stuff to be found in the new Codex of Aihrde due out in 2015.  Hardly any stat-related material -- most is 'fluff' and system neutral.  A nice read overall.

Volume 3 is an adventure and this was previously made available as part of the original set of CK Screens that TLG published a few years back and is currently available from RPGNow!  I don't think the text has changed any but the layout is improved in the sense that localized maps are included throughout the booklet relevant to the section in addition to the overall map.

The boxed set is a nice addition but hardly a necessary one.  It's a great little collector's item that looks good on the shelf as a digest sized boxed set.  However, with the release of the Codex and the with the Golden Familiar having been available for a few years, the allure for some just won't be enough.  If the Adventurer's Backpack ever sees the light of day, we may see some of the contents in the first booklet re-purposed as well which really makes this a great preview of some of the things to come.  But, given the price, I still say it's a worthwhile purchase.  The original printing of the Golden Familiar is no longer in print and the four new classes introduced are interesting enough in their own right.  At $30, it's not a bad deal and the box set looks great in black.

If interested, you can find it HERE.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Unicorn & Ranger Painting Guide

Partway 2014, my sister-in-law commented on some of the new Brushes I had talked about and mentioned it would be nice if I could maybe starting paint some miniatures for my niece who was born in late 2013.  She sold the idea as a having a piece done a year and once a year there after would be a nice thing to have while growing (while remaining out of reach).  It wasn't a bad idea and the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

In a few years, it might also be a very good way to see my skills have advanced given increased experience.

So, here is the first one for Christmas 2014 and how I went about doing it (as in the past, I tend to use Citadel paints):

I originally wanted to do another 'Pathfinder Dragon' from Reaper's Bones line but, alas, it read as out of stock.  I decided to do a Unicorn accompanied with a Ranger and I figured it wouldn't be too complex and give me the freedom to otherwise cope during the hustle and bustle of the lead up to the holidays.

I prepared the miniatures with a coat of acrylic gesso as a primer.  While these are part of the Reaper Bones line which can take high pigment / base paints straight on with no dilution, I prefer working with slightly thinned paints.  Acrylic Gesso is a great primer when applied thinly as it tightens as it dries and can be applied by brush.

The Unicorn itself was a done with a coat of white (similar to a 'Ceramite White') which I airbrushed on.  I used 'Abaddon Black' for the hooves and 'Caledor Sky' for the eyes.

I followed up with layers of 'Warpfield Grey' and 'Slaanesh Grey' for the, mane, tail and hair at the hooves.  The legs and hooves consisted of me using a wet blending technique to 'transition' from the white legs to the lilac colored hooves.  I used a Wash of 'Druchii Violet' for all the same areas that got these purplish colors.  I then drybrushed these same areas with a layer of 'Lucius Lilac' and then finished the areas off with a layer of 'Praxeti White'.

I also used 'Nuln Oil' on the unicorns white coat which quickly turned the white unicorn to a very dirty white unicorn.  A necessary stage to capture and shade some of the areas where I wanted to showcase some of the details such as the horn.  A liberal drybushing of white afterwards served to 'clean it up' while preserving the details I wanted to show a bit more.  The hooves were lightly drybrushed with the same white afterwards to give it a more natural look.

The Unicorn was a great model to paint and very simple -- a great place to start for those starting to paint in my opinion.

The Ranger on the other hand requires a bit more patience since the size is smaller.  Calling it a ranger is a bit of a misnomer though as the model itself from the Bones line is 'Callie, Female Rogue'.  As an archer and given the look of the model, I think a ranger works just as well.

So, while the Unicorn was airbrushed white, the Ranger was airbrushed green... 'Caliban Green' to be precise.  The rest of the bases were fairly simple here too.  Aside from the cloak, 'Mechanicus Standard Grey' was used for the clothing.  Boots, quiver, and bow all got some brown -- I used 'Rhinox Hide', ' Dryad Bark', and some 'Mournfang Brown' to achieve the results I was going after though for the life of me, I'm not sure which brown largely went to what.  The darkest of the three was used for the bow and the lightest shade was used to drybrush the darker brown items.  The remaining brown paint was what I used for the quiver and boots.

The figure got a shade coat of 'Nuln Oil' from head to toe.

To do the face, I started with 'Rakarth Flesh' and layered with some 'Kislev Flesh'.  I used 'Reikland Fleshshade' as a wash, and used 'Flayed One Flesh' to bring out some of the highlights.  I used 'Mephiston Red' for the lips.

Back to the cloak, I drybrushed some 'Kabalite Green' (a layer paint) and 'Hellion Green' to highlight some of the edges and folds better to go along with the shading the recesses of the cloak already received thanks to the 'Nuln Oil' wash.

Beyond that, it was just a couple little details. The miniatures were varnished with a mid-glossy varnish which ended up being glossier than I would have liked.

Both miniatures were affixed to a 40mm base and it all got painted over using 'Lustrian Undergrowth' which is a texture for bases that is part of the Citadel line.  Basically, it's a shade of green paint with some 'grit' which makes it possible to shape it a bit which allowed a better transition from the larger base to the smaller bases on the two miniatures.  When dried, using some PVA glue to coat the base, I opted to use some basing supplies from Gale Force 9 -- the Meadow Blend Flock.

All in all, I think it turned out pretty well and it was fun to do.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I Dream of Demons and 5-Headed Dragons...

With my most recent post about 2014's Kickstarters that caught my eye, I decided to look back some of the longer and outstanding project.  In particular, the problem that Center Stage Miniatures has run into with the both of the Tome of Horrors miniature Kickstarters and the completion of the Demons & Devils Kicktarter.  Somehow, Torn World appears to have been largely fulfilled and completed though it was a much small Kickstarter having raised $4,085 compared to the $66,569 it raised for the first Kickstarter it held being the Devils & Demons.

So, what went wrong?

There's a lot of speculation and only the project creators are familiar with all the details. In October of last year, they announced that CSM was experiencing some administrative and organization issues.  In November, it was made clear that it wouldn't be able to fulfill all its obligations dues to budget miscalculations and cost overruns.  And then the bankruptcy news hit.

It's really sad to see these Kickstarter projects go down in flames and CSM with them.  There is, naturally a lot of resentment against CSM at this point and who can blame them.  You see the same sort of thing in a lot of other Kickstarters that fail to materialize what was promised.

So, without going into too much details, what happened here?

Obviously there was a budgetary miscalculation somewhere along the way and there are certainly theories been put forth that the month raised in subsequent Kickstarters helped pay for earlier ones.  How true that happens to be is irrelevant.  Some of the biggest mistakes though was even doing those two Tome of Horrors Kickstarters in the first place.  What likely happened is that there was a strong desire to grow CSM faster than it could safely handle.  Add a few missteps and some bad financial planning, and you run out of money really quick.

Center Stage Miniatures was not committing fraud.  I was one of the lucky ones and have about $300 worth of largely metal miniatures to prove it.  It's a damn shame because these are really awesome models.  I haven't had a chance to paint any of them yet but I look forward to painting a lot of them.  The only model outstanding for me is the 'King of Dragons' and it looks like I will never see it.  I certainly won't complain because, in hindsight, I really am one of the lucky ones.  You see, originally I selected Resin but when the offer went out to switch to Metal, I took that option though the shipping implications made me a bit nervous being in Canada.  Matt was kind enough to oblige though it did take a couple months before I saw anything let alone a bill for the shipping.  After waiting awhile, I reached out to Matt again and he responded:
Hi, Pat. Your box has already gone out, and you should be receiving it shortly. I didn't charge you for shipping because, let's face it, I promised you a box quite some time ago.
Please accept "free shipping" as my apology for your delay.
Your tracking/customs # is XXXXXXXX

Please let me know what you think of the figures when they arrive! As an aside, these will be available in our online store shortly, so whatever you missed, we'd welcome your purchase!
Thanks for your support!
Matt S.
When I got the response, I was pleasantly surprised and even more surprised when I looked up the tracking number to see it was already in Canada.  I got my package the next day.

I was really lucky and had a nagging feeling that the problem getting the resins could be linked to money or even a company doing a bad job in producing the resins for CSM.  This is the reason I switched when the posted that they had extra metal on hand if anyone getting resin models wanted to switch.  And while the free shipping was certainly appreciated, if there was a lot of that going around, the great customer service could really have bit CSM in the ass when all of this was done.  That said, the shipping is much less than the money I put towards that awesome looking 5-headed dragon.

In my dealings with Matt and CSM, I got the sentiment that Matt was a good guy and the way this ended up turning out is unfortunate.  It's bad for the backers and bad for CSM which clearly was a labor of love and not just a cash grab.

There was talk about 'saving' CSM and a possible buy-out and investor to salvage the Tome of Horror Kickstarters but it was outright rejected.  With the challenges with completing fulfillment of the Demons & Devils Kicktarter, I think doing a couple more Kickstarters and agreeing to licensing to do so was probably a bad idea.  I heard that CSM was also buying up other models / molds such as the older Goodman Games ones which is another nod towards the idea that CSM was trying to grow faster than it could financially support.

At this stage, I would have liked to see someone come in and 'save' CSM and the various projects but seeing that there are stories of some of the sculptors still being unpaid, and the money we are talking about, this is less and less likely.  I think all the backers who have yet to receive something are acknowledging the final stages here and are hoping for a little piece back of their initial investments.