Monthly Archives: March 2013

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Review

X-Wing Minis

Once upon a time there was a tabletop skirmish game called Wings of War X-Wing Miniatures. Ha! Only joking, but I bet that’s what you were thinking!

X-Wing Miniatures has superficial similarities to the much-loved Wings of War – you have a little craft and you fly it around the table. And that’s where the similarity ends. If you’re familiar with WoW, some of the key differences are:

  • The pilot you pair with your ship makes a huge difference to what that ship is capable of
  • Combat is made more complex with various upgrades and options
  • Moves are planned one turn at a time, and templates are used to execute the moves
  • Squads are built on point values, and planning your squad can take quite some time

It’s easy to play a quick skirmish that takes less than 15 minutes, but there is a lot of inbuilt flexibility that will allow the game to scale upwards as more miniatures are released.

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As for all the bits in the box? Well, Fantasy Flight, so excellent quality. Cardboard is rugged and thick, dice are included, the rule booklet is nicely written and illustrated, and the miniatures are awfully cute.

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When later reviews come, they will have more models, and less of the shed and television. Hopefully.

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Verdict: 7/10.

This could be my new go-to filler game. We’ll need more minis available before it becomes something you can spend 2-3 hours at, though.

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Kromlech Orc Juggernaut Mecha-Armour

Today’s post is a collaboration with a good friend of mine, Stephen Hurley. Steve’s been playing Dem Orksies in 40K ever since dey was just Space Orks, and has been pestering Arthur over at Kromlech.eu for a heavier version of his Clanking Destroyer for customers to use as Mega Armoured Nobz. Apparently Arthur has endured said pestering for about three years now, but no more will he need to, because Kromlech have released the “Orc Juggernaut Mecha-Armour”.

And, oh, what a thing of beauty it is.

Naturally Steve had to order some, and plumped for the squad deal: three minis for $54.99USD. Ordering them on day of release, they arrived five days later.

Straight out of the box, the minis look stunning. The quality of the sculpt is outstanding, and the casting is near-flawless. In total there were only five tiny bubbles from the moulding across all parts. Considering how many little details are in the sculpts, this is far superior to Games Workshop’s record with Finecast.

Orcs

The models fit together seamlessly, although poseability is somewhat limited. If you want these Orcs in any poses other than you see in the video you’ll need to be comfortable with minor conversion work. There are also only enough components to make one set of three models. While the pieces are interchangeable, it would have been nice to have a few additional arms or weapon options available.

Still, they are considerably larger and more detailed than the Citadel Mega Armour Nob models. Their heavy and crude appearance fits the Orkish mentality perfectly.

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We love these models, and I can’t wait for Steve to get on and paint them!

Overall: 9/10! A few options would have been ideal, but other than that, these are brilliant, and well worth the money!

Kromlech’s website has recently endured a Hacker attack, so if you want to get your hands on these, use their eBay store instead.

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An Open Letter to Hasbro

Discord

Dear Hasbro,

You own companies which make some fantastic games, as do you yourself. You have fingers in multiple entertainment pies, and some people are perhaps unaware of exactly how versatile your portfolio of revenue streams actually is. And I realise that you are a business, and as such it is your job to generate profit.

I’m forced to ask, then, whether shutting down your own fans is contributing to that profit.

Let’s talk about Shards of Equestria. This was, for those who don’t know, a Magic: the Gathering / My Little Pony fan project which had a significant amount of time invested into it. It was fun. People love MLP! People love Magic! Combining the two actually took a great deal of thought and playtesting, but eventually the work was done, and the cards made available for people to download and print.

What’s that, you say? A Cease and Desist letter?

I’m not going to rail and whine. Both MtG and My Little Pony are Hasbro’s copyrights. But nobody was making money from Shards of Equestria, and no funds were being diverted away from Hasbro products – in fact, many Pony fans here went so far as to say that Shards of Equestria got them into Magic: the Gathering.

That’s right. This fan project brought you new customers. Perhaps not many, but those people have friends, and we know how Magic spreads. And those new customers weren’t all in one place, so that’s several new customers with several non-intersecting groups of friends who discovered your games through the love and hard work of fans. Quick. Better shut it down.

And so the world turns, and we come on to Cockatrice. From cockatrice.de:

I have received a letter from a law firm representing Hasbro Germany, expressing a strong feeling of dislike for our project, backed up with legal claims. Regardless of whether the claims they are making are factually correct or not, I have agreed to shut down the project in its current form. As soon as this is completely sorted out, development work will be put into keeping alive the code base in such a way that it can be used for other purposes.

I deeply appreciate all the support from the community and hope to see all of you again soon. I will keep you posted if there are any news.

2013/02/27
Max-Wilhelm Bruker <brukie@gmx.net>

Forum thread

If readers weren’t aware, Cockatrice was a fan-made, free product which – in a rudimentary fashion – allowed them to play Magic online with anyone, anywhere, without paying a penny for either the platform or the cards. This is a little more touchy: I would say there’s a very valid argument that this poses a genuine risk to profit, as if people can play for free why would they pay?

Let’s face it, this is about MtG Online, a platform which is barely above Cockatrice in any technological sense – oh, other than the back-end for handling the money, of course. That part’s extremely robust. But the part where MTGO actually works? Not so much! Let’s check out MTGO’s top recent bugs:

  • Gloom Surgeon cannot be removed. It will mill its controller because the game refuses to take it off the Battlefield.
  • Pillar of Flame and Annihilating Fire kill creatures, but do not exile them.
  • Sculpting Steel copying an artifact which is not in play and isn’t the target.
  • “Commander Removed from Play” – and staying there!

I have no doubt that there are people who play Magic on Cockatrice and don’t spend money on cards. I also have very little doubt that with Cockatrice unavailable, they won’t suddenly be rushing forth to spend money on either MTGO or booster packs: they will simply stop playing and find something else that’s free.

I have no doubt that some people on Cockatrice spend a great deal of money on cards, and will continue to do so with or without Cockatrice, but that Cockatrice enabled them to test their decks against friends and strangers alike without needing to drive an hour to get to their nearest game store / clum / FNM. Those people are the players who don’t grasp – quite rightly – why they should be forced to pay twice to own the same cards.

Perhaps some small percentage of Cockatrice players will shrug and think to themselves “Well, all right. I better subscribe to MTGO!” But I genuinely doubt this.

Most people I know – both personally and virtually – used Cockatrice to test deck ideas before investing in the cards. Will we rush forth and buy a booster crate or complete playsets for every set now so that we can experiment at home? No, that isn’t going to happen. If we could afford to drop four thousand dollars a year into a card game, we’d also be playing MTGO already. I myself have to drive at least half an hour to get to other MtG players, and while Americans might wonder what the deal is with that, for us Brits an hour out of our day lost to driving is a waste of time. Being able to play with those same people while I dink around with deck-building ideas saves me:

  • An hour
  • A quarter of a tank of fuel (that would be about $25 – I’ve seen your fuel costs, America, and I don’t share them)
  • However much it would cost to buy my latest crazy deck only to realise how bad it is after three matches

It’s no idle threat when I say that the removal of Cockatrice may well mean that I cannot play Magic any more. I can’t afford it. I’m a writer, and I need to eat, so while until now I’ve been ready to place eBay bids on cards which I have tried, tested, and know that I want to have, I am not in a position to buy endless boosters in the hope of a playset, and I am not in a position to buy playsets only to find they don’t quite interact with other cards in the way that I had envisioned.

And let’s look at this from yet another perspective: Cockatrice wasn’t only for Magic. It supported a variety of CCGs, of which Magic was only one, and yet you, Hasbro, are the only company to issue a Cease and Desist. Perhaps it’s because those companies do not have comparable online offerings, and perhaps it’s because those companies do not see Cockatrice as a threat. It is, after all, free marketing; a tool your existing customer base can use to draw new customers toward your product. “Try it online for free, and if you like it, let’s go to a Friday Night Magic!”

So, we come to the crux of this letter: Yes, these properties are legally yours. That was never in dispute. Yes, you are well within your rights to defend your properties. And, yes, I doubt that losing one Magic player who never attended a PTQ let alone a GP is hardly going to make you lose any sleep.

All I can really do is ask you, please, to consider whether what you do attracts customers, or turns them away. What you do to retain short-term profitability may be harming your brand’s image in the long run.

It may not, of course. Grand Prix and Pro-Tour events are getting larger by the year. The money is certainly there. Perhaps one lone customer having to step away from a game she not only enjoys but is actually getting quite good at just doesn’t matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Troo.

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Elemental: Fallen Enchantress

Poor Stardock had a hell of a time after releasing Elemental. The game was rushed out the door before it was ready, and the premature infant died wailing merely hours after plopping onto customers’ hard drives. Rather than kicking the rotting carcass under a rug and pretending nothing had happened, they did the far braver thing: They rebuilt it. Made it stronger, better, faster.

Fallen Enchantress is iteration 2.0, and is a mixture of turn-based strategy and RPG. While you are struggling to build a civilisation from grass and twigs, your heroes are rampaging around the landscape looting wagons and completing quests.

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The trick which I have yet to master (or even apprentice) is balancing building with research. You see, certain types of cities are good at particular things, and attempting to have a war-focussed city pop out some research buildings is arduous at best, impossible at worst. You set the nature of your fledgeling cities very early on in their lives, so an early mis-step can leave you with your Fortress city in the butt-end of nowhere, and your University towns on the border with very militant neighbours.

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After my third attempt (two failed civilisations, dead so fast it was breathtaking) I managed to build a small empire. And I mean small.

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Look at that. I haven’t even explored the entire world, and I occupy that blue bit on the right. I don’t even know where the guy who’s winning is located!

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My only saving grace is that while they all hate me, they all hate each other too, and I’m too small to squash. Still, this is hardly what I’d call winning.

A tutorial teaches the basics of building, training units, and casting spells. It shows you how the turn-based combat works if you want to control battles blow-by-blow instead of allowing them to auto-resolve. It doesn’t spend a great deal of time on the research trees, how to generate resources and income, or how to grow your cities. In short, Fallen Enchantress waves training wheels at you, then tosses them into a deep, dark chasm while cackling.

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Once you start losing, the puppy-kicking begins as your more powerful neighbours’ protection rackets kick in. But here’s the thing: I know what I did wrong. And I can avoid it in future.

Fallen Enchantress doesn’t forgive mistakes, but at least your mistakes are clear once you make them. Here, for example, I got excited at the idea of expending my Influence to take over a neighbouring city. The mistake? It cost so much Influence that I struggled to regain it. Whereas I’d been a political powerhouse with a small nation beforehand, I suddenly became overextended and with negligible political power. And to cap it all off I lost the city a few turns later anyway. The rest of the game was a scrabble to bribe nations into war with one-another and leave me in peace.

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There are plenty of pages of information in-game to show you what’s going on in your Kingdom. Mine largely says “Well, we’re buggered, sire” in a variety of ways.

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There are three research trees: Civilization, Warfare and Magic. I get the feeling that the NPC players have insider knowledge here while I’m researching anything and everything. Even on “easy” those other Kingdoms are throwing up one-of-a-kind buildings and monuments while I’m struggling to grow enough grain to feed my cities.

And yet with the repeated beatings, it’s a phenomenally addictive game. The determination to figure it out and improve is strong, and I don’t often bother with games which have a steep learning curve. I think the turn-based nature means that you have time to learn. You are never rushed into a decision or a mis-step; every one you make is entirely your own.

Overall: 8/10. I absolutely recommend this, if strategy is your thing.

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Tick Tock Men: A plot device for New World of Darkness

automaton

Another Freebie today. Initially conceived as an Abyssal plague, feel free to adapt this to your game as you see fit.

Tick Tock Men

The Tick Tock Men are, in themselves, the remnants of human beings transformed into clockwork automata via an injury sustained from contact with another Tick Tock Man. Trapped within their bodies as they slowly change, mind and soul slowly go insane. The soul weakens, losing its grasp until it has but the slenderest hold on its final, unfeeling form. Trapped and unable to move on, drawn on to sustain the Tick Tock Man’s existence, the soul withers and atrophies over the next decade or so until, finally, it becomes hollow – nothing more than a means for filtering and drawing down Essence, Mana, or whatever other kind of esoteric power it can.

The mind tends to be unable to weather this kind of treatment. Fixed first in the horror of a body slowly becoming inhuman, then in an impossible, clockwork form with no biological imperatives, no sensation or vocal chords, sooner or later every single one goes insane. Sleeper minds simply can’t take it, and even the minds of the Awakened can eventually fold under such conditions.

The Tick Tock Men cannot speak. Once the transformation is complete they are voiceless, and the only senses left to them are sight and sound. They cannot eat. They cannot feel. They have, initially, a burning need to find help, to make others understand their situation, but over time this becomes simply a need to be understood (or, at least, feel understood) on some level. They are thus prone to the command of anyone who displays some kind of sympathy for their condition. And, of course, as so few have a clue that the Tick Tock Men even exist, let alone the nature of their suffering, it’s rare they find such sympathy.

All Tick Tock Men in the final stage are to all purposes identical. They have the appearance of the body they infect, and retain a modicum of the mind’s knowledge, but in physical and supernatural abilities they don’t deviate one iota from each other.

Tick Tock Man: Final Stage

Virtue: Hope, Vice: Wrath

Willpower: 3, Humanity: 1, Essence: 10

Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2

Strength 4, Dexterity 2, Stamina 5

Presence 1, Manipulation 1, Composure 1

Athletics 5, Brawl 3, Stealth 4, Weaponry 3

*If a Tick-Tock Man retains any Mental or Social Skill from its human existence, it may not be higher than 1.

Size: 5, Speed: 9

Initiative Mod: 3, Defence: 2, Armour: 2

Health: 10

Merits

Ambidextrous: A Tick Tock Man’s brain no longer prioritises one side of the body.

Numina

Clasp: A Tick Tock Man’s mechanical grasp is so tight that it inflicts Lethal rather than Bashing damage. Str + Brawl.

Drain: Tick Tock Men can only refuel by taking power from other beings or locations which have it. They can steal Essence, Willpower and Mana. All gets converted to Essence on a 1-for-1 basis. Intelligence + Resolve vs. target’s Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance (e.g. Gnosis).  Requires physical contact.

Infect: Should a Tick Tock Man break an opponent’s skin with its nails or teeth, it will infect the wound. This is a reflexive action, not one under the Tick Tock Man’s control. Roll Essence + 3 (for Savant) vs. Stamina + Resolve + Supernatural Tolerance.

Savant: +3 dice to Infect.

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