Vir's Archive

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Moving Armies Part 4:The Results of the First Leg

A Pre-packaged Army for GenCon '11

Moving Armies Part 4: Made it to North America - now did my army as well?

So, I'm in Texas now. The trip from Africa was a bit hectic due to a family emergency making us leave about 5 days early. Still, we made it, and so did my little GenCon '11 Warmachine contingent. I've been home for a while now, played a couple games, and now know what I forgot, what I should have brought, and what I am pleased is still with me.

P3 Bag - Not Just for Paints

Due to space constraints, I used the P3 bag to transport my Khador in anticipation of our annual GenCon '11 tourney. I had to make some hard decisions on who/what I would bring since I couldnt bring my full Battlefoam Warmachine bag (which travels nicely and holds all my Warmachine figs). The P3 bag was a stopgap measure because we had very limited space (what, with a 8mo old baby and all) and adding a carry-on that was not carrying babywipes and diapers was not an option. So, the decision was to put the smaller P3 bag into the luggage and take my army that way.

Top layer of foam (standard WM inf) in the bag (pic with it removed is below)

To its credit, the P3 bag fits in a large-size suitcase like a champ. Its small enough to allow a lot of other stuff go in. This, alone, makes it a good choice for gamers who travel a lot. You can sae your carry-ons for your laptop bag and maybe a backpack full of clothes and books (what I normally do). The downside, of course, is that other people handle the luggage (colloquially called "throwers") and breakage is more likely now that it is out of your loving/obsessive hands.

Lots of infantry - only a few spaces.

I used a bunch of my custom foam from my Warmachine bag in the P3 bag to make it a bit more robust and protective for the models. I could have used the Battlefoam standard warjack trays, but I knew the P3 bag would be thrown around a lot by baggage handlers. So, I went with the big, thick tray I had made (detailed in Moving Armies Pt 3).

The top layer of foam is behind, to give you an idea of how the custom foam fits.

I used a bunch of terrycloths to protect the larger 'jacks and make sure they didnt bounce around a lot. I doubled-up a bunch of the models to maximize carrying space. Again, there is an abvous trade-off here - more models, but at the cost of more breakage or paint chipping.

Bowed, broken... but available (at least)

Surprisingly, the army made it with little breakage. Kudos to Battlefoam and their bag. The Battlefoam trays did what they were supposed to do. The only major issues were with the two Talons (merc jacks) and Fenris that I brought. The Talons were the easier of the major issues to address - both had arm issues and the tips of their spears were bent. Luckily, repairs look fairly routine.

You can see where the spears started to bend.

Fenris? Ye gods. I did everything I could to protect that model and even then he still broke in three places. I'll need to reglue him and hope for the best. The pissy think is that his horse had a bunch of black paint, especially on the mane, rub off. The model is sealed so I dont know how/why this happened. Its a fairly large repaint, and I have been holding off - but I cant avoid it.

So badass, even his pretend horse can't handle him!

The rest of the models are good, excpeting some minor paint chipping. I was concerned doubling-up a bunch of the models would lead to more paints chips, but, happily, very little occured. Of the infantry, there is no breakage that I can see. Happy day.

A Plea to PP

I love the Fenris model and his rules, so I'll keep bringing him. But jeebus kreeist, he is impossible to transport for anything longer than a mile. Privateer? If you are reading this, please think about doing a more stable resculpt, please. Please? Please!

See the wear on the tail? Ugh.

Model Choice

Lets talk a little about the models I brought. I ended up bringing a smattering of Khador (mostly focused on the stuff I know I like to play) and my new Mercs (which I have not taken to a game yet).

The Behemoth is on the right

Interesting note/

In dealing with limited model choice Warmahordes really shines. You can bring some core infantry, a handful of solos, some jacks... and a butt-load of Warcasters. The nature of Warmahordes is that each army plays different with different warcasters - meaning you can get a lot of play variation by skimping on the units, but loading on the casters. This makes Warmachine and Hordes an ideal game for traveling gamers.

Interesting note off/

Okay, here is what I brought:

Infantry and Solos:

full unit of Croes (to proxy as Kayazy as well),
two sets of Doom Reavers,
Kell (to proxy as a marksman as well),
Mechanics (4 man)
Kayazy Underboss (he is my universal solo proxy)
Great Bears
(whats left of) Fenris
The Dog


Beast 09
Magnetized Plastic Khador Jack (Destoryer, Juggernaaut, Decimator, and Marauder)
Magetized Torch (so he can play as any of the above magnetized options)
two Talons
two Renegades


Old Witch and Scrappy

Looking Back - What I Brought and Why

There were two areas I really agonized over - Alexia and her crew and the 'jack selection. To play Alexia right, you need a lots of zombies and thralls. As much as I love the unit, it simply took up too much space. I couldn't justify taking up to half my infantry slots in the bag with Alexia. I really, really wanted to... but couldn't.

A selection of infantry and casters, snug in their beds. They're all doubled-up.

The jacks were an issue because Beast and the Behemoth are so big, but so darned effective. I added Torch and the Magnetized jack because of their versatility and relative space efficiency. I also really wanted to bring Drago and a Kodiak, but could not fit them without changing the warjack tray and/or leaving out Beast and the Behemoth. Drago got dropped because he isnt versatile enough. I dont play with Berzerkers and Vlad is only one caster - meaning Drago would get limited play. The Kodiak ended up being left behind simply because it was the odd man out.

A view of the custom foam in action (I talked about the custom foam in a previous blog)

I kept Magus' smaller jacks for two reasons. First, they are small and fit in odd places in the bag - making them space efficient. Two, I really want to try my mercs out since they offer a very different playstyle than I am used to, and GenCon is the best chance to do actually play with them before we are off to Sri Lanka. So, they made it in.

Magnetized 'Jacks are the weapons of choice for the gamer-on-the-go

Additionally, I also had a Destroyer, Juggernaut and two other khador magnetized jacks I left behind. The Destroyer and Juggy are from the new Khador plastic box set and are so darned wide I am not sure where the heck they are supposed to go. Again, another argument for magnetizing - if only for more efficient storage.

What I Wish I brought:

Looking back, I wish I brought either Drago or the Kodiak. They both fill similar roles in my play style (aggressive, vanguard jack), and without them I am having to train myself in new tactics. I have an odd tourney this Tues (25 points, cage match, mangled metal) and wwant to bring either of them for the format (Kodiak for the two open fists, Drago because I want to run Vlad).

Otherwise, considering my limited space and what I plan to do, this was a solid bring.

Stuff I Forgot that You shouldn't:

See? I brought dice... but thats about it. Dumb.

I talked about this in an earlier blog post, so I want belabor the issue. That said, I forgot my core rulebook, the faction cards, and the templates. The faction cards are the ones that hurt. Templates are annoying, but everyone has a set, so I have to look sheepish and borrow a et each time I play (not fun).

Recommendation: Comics (July '11)

The Story is Where its At...

So, during my vacation I have been reading a lot of comics. Not sure why, as I have a backlog of novels to read - but I guess I am in a mood or something.

I have two tpb/graphic novels to recommend based on some great dialog and amazing storylines:

DMZ is amazingly good. Its not funny (except in a darkly humorous way, and usually unintentionally). Its not beautiful. It is haunting and a damn compelling story. Its the story of Matty Roth, a rookie photojournalist that gets dropped into the middle of a warzone. The catch? This warzone is NYC after a militia gets the jump on the good ole USA and creates a defacto secession in New Jersey.

I initally stayed away from DMZ because the character concept of a photojournalist really didnt grab me and I thought the story would be preachy. There is an element of preachiness, but its subdued and takes a backseat to the very engaging story. As many of you know, I am a military-phile and would not enjoy a story that denigrates the military. DMZ doesnt do that, but it does try to take an unflinching look at what war in a modern post-apoco U.S. might look like. DMZ walks a tightrope between depicting the realities of a warzone and telling a comic-style story we want to read - and does so with aplomb. Its an amazing feat, really, and worth picking up.

The art is solid, but not great - though the pages are on that old style comic paper so it feels a bit different than all the high-glossy comics we have grown accustomed to (its more... substantial... to pull a phrase out of the air). Its a great read, and there are a TON of TPBs so you should be flipping pages for a while.

My next recommendation is the SPAWN: Endgame collection. I've been an on-again-off-again fan of Spawn since issue three way back in the day. I've enjoyed the mature storylines and the growth of the setting as the line developed. As Spawn moved away from its superhero cousins, it became a much stronger line. Who can forget the Billy Kincaid story? That was cutting-edge for the time, and would still find an audiance were it written today.

Well, the Spawn continuity gets a major kick in the pants with Endgame. Al Simmons is out of the picture, and a new soul is selected to be bonded with the Spawn costume and prepare the legions of hell. However, due to some other major setting shifts, this Spawn is left to his own devices without any guidance from Hell. Again, its a good story carried by some great writing. A word of warning - dont expect to be spoon-fed the specifics of the characters or the situation - there are mysteries here, about the nature of the new Sapwn, about the relationships of the characters, about the status of Heaven and Hell - and they dont have neat and tidy answers (as is befitting of a plot restart). This feels a lot like when I first started reading Spawn - since I have a lot of questions about the nature of the setting (and thats a good thing, since it makes the world seem more real).

The art is snazzy too (as always). Supposedly, for the TPB, they cleaned up some of the iconic panels... which I appreciate but can't verify. I'm enjoying this story and the dialog enough to be looking forward to the next TPB, due this week or next.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First 40k Game in a Long, Long time

Its like Going Back to a Girlfriend You Know is Bad News...

As the title says, I played my first 40k game in a long time. Why go back to 40k, you ask? Because I have been in contact with a small group of gamers in Colombo, Sri Lanka - and they play 40k. No Warmahordes there yet, but when I arrive, rest assured I shall introduce them. Until then, I'm tenatatively excited about the prospect of playing with some expat Brits and local Lankans at their chosen 40k.

Just When I Think I'm Out...

To get into the swing of things again, I dusted off my love for the Deathwing and took them for an outing. I faced an IG Cadian army, heavy on the infantry, but with a respectable amount of support. 1500 points. Assault (kill the dudes, nothing fancy).

The Game went well. I was lucky that I faced an infantry-heavy army and had each of my 3 5-man squads with Assault Canons. The others had Cyclones. I also fielded two Dreads with TL AutoCannons and Missile launchers (anti-armor). Belial was in the army, under a standard configuration. That was about it. I wanted at least one Land Raider, but couldnt fit it.

Andy, my buddy and opponent, walked me through the rules and fielded a large IG force. His core was twho IG regiments, with lost of meltas. He had 3 Heavy Weapon squads with 2 Lascannons and one Autocannon. He used one Vet squad with meltas. His vehicles were one chimera (for the vets), one Valyrie, and 2 Leman Russes.


The battle wne to the Deathwing, but it was tight throughout. Those 2+ saves kept me in the game, but as expected, each loss of a single termie was devastating. The Deadnaughts were golden, being my most reliable anti-armor (each took out a Leman Russ). Late game things got dicey as the chimera came in on the side I was winning, and I suddenly found out how hard it can be to even crack relatively light armor with the Deathwing. Yeesh.

I knew going into it that Deathwing and Dark Angels have an old codex and even with the Dec 2010 Errata, arent elite like the damned Blood Angels or newer Grey Knights. Still, dropping 20+ terminators with Dread support in a 1500 point game is satisfying.

Something I learned:

If you are going to field a Deathwing army, take equal parts Assault Cannons and Cyclones. They are what is going to carry you through the game. ACs are particularly nasty. Additionally, the TL Autocannon w/ Missile Launcher on a venerable Dread is a good build. It helps make up for the anti-armor deficiencies of a small DW army.

Any Game You Walk Away From...

Overall, a good game and a nice (re)introduction into Warhammer 40k. Its been said before, but 40k plays much differently that Warmahordes and getting some time with my Khador last night accentuated the differences.

As someone once said; the GW games are made by a miniature company who attached rules to their models. The PP games are made by gamers who added good-looking minis to their game. Different philosophies - and knowing what they are and what to expect from a game makes all the difference.

"Know what you are getting into," I always... er... sometimes say.

My Viewership in Far-Flung Places

Due to the nature of my work and life, I pay attention to minutiae about countries a bit more than most, I think. In managing this little blog, I tend to watch what days get the most hits, what topics prompt the most visitors... that sort of thing. On a good day I see a spike of about 20 viewers- usually from:

- the U.S. (about 80% of my viewership),
- Canada (love you guys),
- the UK (say "hi" to Kate Middleton for me),

... and fewer but regular hits from:

- Australia (thanks NFB, I know its you),
- New Zealand (way better than old zealand),
- Germany (Koln is one of my favorite cities)
- Scandanavia (mostly Sweden)
- S. Africa (great rugby)
- China (knows how to build a hell of a wall)

.... and then there are the odd ones.

- Iran. I've seen someone(s) from Iran pop in at least a couple times a week. I really hope its a wargamer that, like me, gets stuck in odd places and has to go out of their way to get some gaming in. I cant imagine how it would be to game in Iran - I hear its actually a nice place to live and has a vibrant, if underground, young population. I like to think that Vir Triumphalis is an outlet for some 20-ish gamer who has to struggle to get a couple games. I like that image a lot better than the idea some Iranian intel dude is stuck having to read my blog and try to decipher what the hell I am talking about.

- Russia. I get a lot of viewership from Russia. Okay, not "a lot" but about 10 hits per month of so. Thats statistically significant and usually on par for places like New Zealand and South Africa. I've traced some of the origin pages and its definitely in Cyrillic - and looks to be Russian gaming forums and clubs. Thats very cool. If you are one of my Russian viewers (or the Russian viewer) I say, На здоровье!

- N. Korea. Yup, it hasn't happened recently but for a while there I would get a couple hits a month from N. Korea of all places. Huh. Maybe Kim Jong Il likes himself some Trollbloods and skypes with his buddies while playing Dark Heresy.

Or Maybe not.


If you are popping in to this post, and have the time and wherewithall, leave a comment and let me know where you are from - especially if you are from outside the U.S..

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back in Texas, Prepping for GenCon

Life Gets in the Way of Gaming. News at 11.

Its been a long, strange journey. The reason for my tardy update of this blog was simply due to the untimely death of my father. We were on our way out of Gabon when I was told about his death. Luckily, the embassy was amazingly supportive across the board and helped get me and my family out the door and home as soon as possible. From there, its been a whirlwind of training, consultations, and family stuff. Only now am I getting home to Texas to enjoy some R&R - and finalize the crap with my father's estate (anyone wanna buy a plane? No?)

What Not to Wear... err... Lose.

What has the last 3+ weeks taught me? Stuff NOT to forget if you are gaming on the go.

1) If you play Warmachine, dont, for gawd's sake, forget your faction cards! I just had to rebuy my faction cards because its damn hard to play the game without them. They are small and portable and you should have no excuse not to bring them. Faction decks are surprisingly hard to find in LGSs.

2) Rulebooks. This isn't a biggie, but having the core rulebook of your game system should be important. If you forget it or intentionally leave it behind, you can rebuy it. But seriously, who wants two core rulebooks?

3) Templates. Again, small and portable and surprisingly hard to find quickly.

You might think I would say "dice" but unless you are freaky about the hoodoo associated with your particular dice, they are easy and cheap to rebuy. Plus, having more dice is always nice.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What to Bring to GenCon?

I've got a dilemma. What Warmachine models do I bring to GenCon?

think, think, think

Of course, part of it will depend on the format we choose for our tourney. We decided to do our mini-tourney on Friday night - but now I got to think about which models I should bring. As much as I want, I cant bring them all. I am NOT going to bring my full Privateer Press bag, but do have a smaller one that will handle, at best, a third of my army.

So, I got to think which Warcasters. Always start with the Warcaster. I'm thinking Sorcha, Vlad, Strak... and one of either Karchev or the Butcher.

From there, I'll have to pick the units and 'jacks that are the most versatile. I like Doomreavers, so I am pretty sure I will bring them. I like my magnetized Khador 'jack frame, so I will probably bring at least one (I have three) as well as all its arm options. Widowmakers will come.

After that? I really want to bring Behemoth and Beast 09 - but they are heavy and irregularly shaped making it hard to fit them. Bringing Behemoth might mean I have to sacrifice other models. So, is Behemoth (and/or Beast) versatile enough to justify the space they take?

Not sure. I'm open to opinions and suggestions.

Moving Armies Part 3: A Look At Battlefoam's Custom Foam

Foam Fer Everyone!

So, lets talk about Battlefoam's custom foam-maker-thingy...

Seems ready for Indy already!

Why Do Such a Thing?

In anticipation for the upcoming move from Gabon to Sri Lanka - which will involve a stop over in Dallas and Indianapolis (for GenCon '11) - I thought I could use some specialized foam to protect the bigger and irregularly-shaped pieces of my Warmachine army. As you may or may not know, I've been very happy with Battlefoam as of late (see the other posts in this series). Battlefoam's bags and foam are top notch and exactly what I am looking for in terms of durability and portability.

A comparison of the standard and custom.

So, it was only natural I utilize their signature custom foam designer. This was precipitated largely because, while the standard Warmachine foam inserts are solid, they arent large enough to comfortably hold odd/large models. Behemoth and mounted Fenris are the too worst offenders. If I am to bring them to Dallas and Indy to play a slew of Warmachine, I thought having a special foam insert for them would be the best idea.


The Basics:

I used a 4'' deep piece of custom foam. The idea was to make sure the really odd moels would fit. Looking at the picture beblow, you can see mounted Fenris (in the fore) and the Behemoth (behind) - they fit pretty nice. Fenris will need to go on his side, but the Behemoth fits wonderfully with a topper covering that last little bit. I chose to put them all upright because I like having only the base touching the foam... its probably illogibal, but I feel better knowing that they arent rolling around on their sides. Plus, all the standard Battlefoam trays have the models lay on their sides, I wanted to see if an insert could be made that is both useful and allows the models to stand upright.

The Template I used

The template designer was easy to use. You play with their program on line, drop some geometry on some simulated foam, and you are good to go. In my case, I was looking mostly for a handful of large slots to hold a couple large figures, so the other stuff I added in was mostly just extra. That said, I could have done a better job utilizing the extra space. The little 1'' circles I thought would be a nice snug fit for tall models like the Thrall Warrior (with his big ass sword) or the Iron Fang standard bearer. Unfortunately, the little circle is too snug, and with a deep foam insert like I bought, it would literally pull the figure from the base if I put him all the way in there. So, those 1'' slots are going to be used for dice or holding magetized arms of 'jacks.

A general rule of thumb if I were to do this again (and I will) is add AT LEAST 1/2'' to the size you think would be appropriate. Another 1/2'' wouldnt be unreasonable either. The foam is cut with precision and the usual high standards are maintained on the custom foam.

If you are worried the custom foam wont be as sturdy or reliable as the standard stuff, as long as you dont go crazy and put too many slots (and degrade the integrity) - you will be fine.

Snug in their beds.

So, the above pic is my tentative layout. Upper left is Beast. Upper right is the Behemoth. The other larger circles are all magnetized plastic Khador jacks with their arms removed. Fenris, obviously, is in the middle. In the medium circle on the bottom right is a Thrall Warrior. Above him is the IFP Standard Bearer. Overall, things fit nicely (excpeting those little holes, which I note above).

I do plan to do a little cutting of my own. If I remove a little foam between the prongs of the "x" in some of the slots, I can fit other irregularly shaped jacks like Drago and Beast. The other problem children are those damned plastic Detroyers and Juggernauts in the new box set. They are very wide and wont fit in anything short of those big circles or the big square. I have access to Juggeys and Destroyers through the magnetized 'jacks, so my motivation to find room for these guys is pretty low.

Another pic of the foam compared to a normal Warmachine troop tray.

I am happy with the X-circles. That extra room fits some of the weapons that hang akwardly off some of the larger models and 'jacks, and will provide a useful spot to start when I make my own cuts. The X-circles also come filled with their own foam, adding to their utility (and the overall stability of the insert). I can cut those fillers as I see fit as well us use them to provide a more base (for foam stacked on top) when not in use.

Lessons Learned:

- When you plan out the foam with the designer, always add at least 1/4'' for each model that is standing upright.

- Those little 1'' circles are pretty much useless.

- Dont be afraid to cut the foam you just customized to accomodate the really odd models.

- 4'' deep foam is deep enough for everyone but mounted Fenris standing upright and Behemoth.

- Really, just because its driving my nuts, the plastic Destroyer and Juggernaut from the battleforce box set are annoyingly large and wide. If you want to find them a nice home using the custom foam designer, go with the really largle slots. Ugh.


Oh! If you look closely at the pics in this Blog you will get a hint of the topic of "Moving Armies Part 4: Bigger Than a Breadbasket" (any guesses?)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GenCon '11: Event Reg

Event registration for GenCon '11 has come and gone. Now, the real planning begins.

What to say about registration? It could have gone better - but it wasn't a complete waste. GenCon LLC has instituted a new "wishlist" system which I am still on the fence about. basically, you go through all the various events, rank them, and then when reg begins, you submit your list and hope that you beat out all comers. There were three of us that I know from my group that submitted our wish lists within half a second of event registration opening and we all ended up with more than 1,000 people "in line" before us. Really? 1/2 a second and I'm 1322? My buddy, Brad, was right behind me at 1350 and Eric, my other buddy in Europe was 990-something.

On one hand, this new system makes it a lot less stressful and allows for some planning ahead of time. In this case, my buddies and I worked on getting one of the TerrorWerks live action games thinking it would be great fun to do as a group. Alas, it was not to be. We had two of us working in coordination (across Skype) and still couldn't come up with an opportunity to get us all in the same slot. Within two minutes almost all of the blocks for TerrorWerks were sold out. Dammit.

Worse yet, even one of the seminars was sold out. I've never, ever seen a seminar sold out on the first day... much less the first five minutes. I've been to seminars by the same group and while they are popular - they have never been that popular. The only real change is the new wishlist system, so I blame it for me losing out on a bunch of events.

In the past, when registration opened, you logged on and we all raced to get each event one-at-a-time. maybe because I had better success with that system is the reason I like it better. This new wishlist system left me incapable of prioritizing on the fly. It got even more complicated when I was trying to buy tickets for multiple people - if even one had a conflicting event then you couldn't get tickets for all of them. Suck. So, all those extra events I signed up for because they simply looked interesting made it so the few opportunities I had to nab the TerrorWerks events. Boo!

In the past, if you had a a buddy with a conflicting event, it took a couple seconds (as long as a page reload) to drop that particular event and look for another or drop your buddy from the event. Now? With the new system you had to put it into your wishlist, reload, and wait in line for the computer to tell you that one of your buddies had a conflicting event - and in the mean time someone else grabbed the last good spot.

I dislike this new system for a couple reasons:

1) The guy that gets lucky and has his wishlist in first gets ALL of his games. In the other format, that (fictional) guy and me were competing at the same time, so he got some and I got some. In this case, because I was milliseconds late I got left in the cold.

2) Its nigh impossible to buy tickets for a group due to the mutual block-outs that occur due to scheduling conflicts. The added wait time of the wish-list aggravates an already existing problem.

3) I really dislike picking an event after registration has opened just to have to wait a minute or more for the computer to tell me there is a conflict. Event registration is a competitive environment, and having to sit on my hands sucks.


So, this year it looks like I am foregoing gaming in official events and focusing on the auction, loot room, seminars, and gaming with my buddies. Honestly, thats the way it usually ends up... so its not a total loss.

92 days to go (or so the countdown times on the GenCon page tells me).

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Rifles Win the Cup!

Its a Statistical Fact: I rule!

Long story short - I won my fantasy Hockey League for the first time since I joined the league four years ago. Go me. This reunites the regular season trophy and the overall championship trophy under my sage stewardship. I'm really quite please with this result - not only for the trophies - but because I really like the guys that play in this league and consider them good opponents.

A little piece of advice for you budding fantasy players out there. Dont sweat the draft. If your team looks exactly the same coming out of the regular season as it did going in, you did something wrong. No matter what fantasy sport you play, its all about the Waiver Wire. Play your hunches on the waiver wire, not the draft, and you should do just fine.

Did I mention, "Go me?" Yeah, Go Me!

Now, if the Stars could win out and actually make the playoffs...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Terrible Gas

Let me just tell you, I hate farts. I used to love 'em. I have yet to meet a fart joke I dont think is at least chuckle-worthy, and possibly downright hilarious. However, once you become a parent, farting is suddenly deadly serious. You see, farts are the harbingers of bad things with babies. They may herald the coming of a heavy diaper. They may simply just smell like, well, like a fart. Or, in the worst scenario, they wake your baby up. Thats the kicker for me. I dont mind diapers. I dont even really mind dirty diapers. What I do hate is when my daughter is sleeping soundly, and then at 3am has to pass gas... and because she is a baby it doesnt come naturally. So, flailing commences. Legs are kicked. Grunts start. And, horrifyingly, she wakes up as her cute little intestines work the gas through her system. To a baby, even minor discomfort is usually a crying matter.

There have been nights, where I hear her little cry, knowing that she isnt fully awake. She begins to roll back and forth, kicking her legs. I know she has a fart coming. I dread it. I stay deathly still, hoping that if I am perfectly still that it will somehow make the fart pass and my daughter fall back asleep. Eyes wide open, breathing slowed, I pray that things (ahem) work themselves out. Sometimes they do, sometimes they dont and I have to get up and help put her back to sleep.

Waking at 3am hearing that your baby has a fart coming is a special sort of dread I never knew about until a few months ago. Its terrifying and demoralizing at the same time.

Farts. They wake my daughter up at night. For that, they hold my eternal enmity.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fantasy Hockey; The Finals! Finally.

So Begins My Mighty Tale of Woe and Victory!

I shall be the Pope of Hockeytown! All kneel before your master!

Okay, so I finally made it to the finals in my fantasy hockey league. The league, called "Diplomatic Immunity Hockey League (DIHL)" has been a part of my fantasy sports life for the better part of four years now. The players/managers are all associated with the State Dept. in one way or the other and have served overseas as Foreign Service Officers (again, at some point or another). Its a good league, with a couple very knowledgeable and active managers. There are a couple homers in the league too - of which I am one (go Stars!).

In DIHL I routinely make it to the postseason in our league, and (frustratingly) routinely get bounced in the first round. Looking at my record, since joining the league, I have placed 7th three years in a row as a result of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Its like clockwork. Last year was especially disappointing. I led my squad to a near-victory in the regular season standing (which wins a trophy). I missed winning the regular season by one point. Yup, one point. I was cruising for the better part of the 2nd half of the season then went on holiday/medical leave to S. Africa for a week. There, I didnt have access to the Internet and, stupidly, felt confident my team could do their thing on autopilot for one measly week. Yeah, right. I get back, to see me lose in a heartbreaker. Then I get to the post-season ranked 2nd, and get creamed by 7th place. That, naturally, left me in my traditional 7th overall hole. Great. My choke is going down in DIHL lore as the greatest (worst) stumble of all time. Great. Worse, we draft the following year based on regular season standings, so while I finished 7th overall due to my crap-ass performance in the postseason, I finished 2nd in the regular season and drafted 2nd to last. Great.


My post-season perfomance in DIHL is the fantasy equivilent of this.

This year has been different. I dominated, again, in the regular season, with 30+ points between me and 2nd place (who, by the by, is the guy that beat me our for #1 last year). Fearing the worst, I prepared to get pwned in the first round of the playoffs. Miraculously, I did not. In the 2nd round, it was amazingly tight, but I won by a razor-thin score of 7-6.

Let me talk a bit about the 2nd round of the playoffs. I faced a team that plays a lot like I do. Together we probably accounted for 75% of the waiver wire moves for the entire league. We both have no compunctions about dropping slackers and picking up the most obscure hot-hands. So, we go into this past Sunday (the final day for the matchup) basically neck-and-neck (him 6 points, me 5 [which means he leads in 6 categories, I lead in 5 categories, and the others were tied]).

Sunday had him starting a goalie and probably taking the lead on a number of the goalie stats since I didnt have a goalie on my roster with a start that day. It sucked, but I figured I could make up those points because I had a couple extra offensive players starting on that day. I wake up on Sunday, check the score, and see my opponent craftily dropped a bunch of scrubs and picked up some hot-hands that specifically played that Sunday. I suddenly went to having a slight advantage in starting players, to a major disadvantage.

As luck would have it, my daughter woke up early on Sunday so I had a little time to see what was going on. With literally 15 minutes left before any additions would not be applied for the games on Sunday, I did some mad-crazy research, grabbed my own offensive ringers to play... and then divine providence encouraged me to also pick up Chris Mason, the backup goalie in Atlanta. Every place I checked said Mason was unlikely to start, but I desperately needed a goalie to start on Sunday and he was the only option on the waiver wire with even a prayer to start.

I got lucky. Mason started. Not only did he start, he won his game. Up 4-2 he gave up two painfully late goals and the teams went into overtime. Then they went to a shootout. It came down to a single goal... and my DIHL opponent had the guy facing Mason on the other end of the ice. I get the win, get an extra point in the hockey league - and that made all the difference.

Picking up Mason was the fantasy hockey equivalent of pulling my goalie with 5 minutes left. It was a desperation play - born of necessity and trading my possible future performance in the finals for a short-term gain to actually make it to the finals.

So, here I am. My team is gutted due to the need to pick up a bunch of ringers and I am facing the guy who took 2nd in the regular season (in other words, he didnt get lucky and got to the finals on the back of a very good team). However, I did what I had to in order to make it to the finals. No crappy 7th place for me this year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pithy Analysis: In Defense of the Destroyer

The Destroyer is Your Bestest Friend (after me, that is)


With this blog I am going to try something new - analysis of some Warmachine units/minis. I like to think I have a bit of a different perspective than other Warmachine players (dont we all?). I enjoy taking minis and units that are normally poo-poo'd by the greater Warmachine community and see if I can find the context to make those models useful. I enjoy this doubly so when I have a theme I am working on and slavishly keep a model in the list despite its supposed ineffectiveness. Naturally, the Destroyer, which kicked so much butt in 1e and is now considered obsolete in 2e by many Warmachine players, is the 'Jack I field most often and have the best results with. I think I am going to call this series of Blogs "Pithy Analysis."

Pithy Analysis: The Destroyer

Even now, they cannot escape the shadow of "the Big guy."

The Destroyer gets unfairly maligned by pretty much every Khador player because it isnt the Behemoth. The Destroyer is nine points, gets you good ARM, a great ranged weapon (the bombard), and a solid (if unexciting) melee weapon. The Behemoth is 13 points, gets you two bombards, has great melee, has an extra point of armor, and looks sweet. So, for a measly four points more you get a lot more return on your investment, right? Right? Wrong. The reality is that the Destroyer continues to fill a useful role in Khador's arsenal - and is not supplanted in all instances by the Behemoth. Its All About the Gun.

Business end of the bombard.

Lets get the basics of the bombard out of the way-- long range; great POW (for a gun); 3'' AOE (to force good placement by your opponent and to still hit even when you miss); arcing fire (to ignore annoying screens); and because of that AOE, the ability to hit stealthed solos (I'm looking at you Eiyrss). Thats quite a set of abilities.

Fool'd ya! Its actually all About the Mission.

Two of my three beloved Destroyers 073 and 063 (named after Aircraft Carriers I worked on while in Tokyo)

What the Destroyer does is give a Khador player a mobile and amazingly survivable gun platform that can also defend itself in melee -- for 9 points. That's the key right there, when you have a role to fill, you should fill it as efficiently as possible. Yeah, yeah, the Behemoth is better in many ways, but its also four more points. If you dont have to spend four more points to get the job done - then dont. Simply upgrading to the Behemoth in all cases is wasting a large percentage of your available army list.

To put it another way, if you are trying to save money, and you can buy a nice Mazda for $20,000 to get to work or you can buy a nice BMW for $70,000 - which should you buy? Yes, the Mazda isnt as sexy as the BMW, but for utility, it does the same thing. Drawing the analogy out, you can do the same for making lists. You can choose fluff over substance (which is totally okay by me, heck, I encourage it), or you can choose to streamline your list. Since we are talking about relative utility of the Destroyer and I am (vainly) trying to convince you, dear reader, that the Behemoth isnt always the better choice, lets just put aside fluff and aesthetics for the time being. Phew.

The Behemoth, Focus, and You!

One! Two! Two bombards! Ah, ha, ha!

Amazingly enough, there is something that the Destroyer does better than the Behemoth - focus management with the gun. The Destroyer only has one gun and it can take a full allocation of focus. Thus, there is no issue boosting both to-hit and damage, maximizing the utility of the bombard. Because the Behemoth has two bombards (yay!) but can only have three focus allocated to both those bombards (boo!) you cant put two focus on each shot (boost hit/boost damage). The result is that you are paying for two bombards, but only one of which cant be used optimally (this is, of course, excepting 'jack bond characters - we will just ignore them). Because both the Destroyer and Behemoth have crappy RATs, getting two focus on each shot is a big deal. ...and lets be honest, you are buying the Behemoth and Destroyer for their guns. The other stuff they bring to the table is gravy, but its the guns that make these guys useful.

Ask yourself, whens the last time you took the Behemoth for its melee ability? Right. Never. Khador has better, more points-efficient options for beat-down. So, if the role of the Behemoth in your list is to be the ranged threat not only are you not getting maximum focus use, you are also wasting four precious points on AP fists you dont intend to use. Blech. (Note, if the role you have for the Behemoth is to be your utility jack and do both ranged and melee shenanigans, then yeah, its probably a better choice than the Destroyer - its all about knowing what role you want your jack to play).

In the Destroyer you got a very versatile weapon, and for a modest amount of focus, you can devastate just about any target -- at what amounts to extreme range (in Warmachine, at least). Thats really good. Better yet, if the Destroyer's target survives the hit, its going to have a hard time eliminating the Destroyer in response - since the 'jack is (naturally) heavily armored and mobile (not "fast" - "mobile"). Thats a nasty combo. There is nothing else in our lists that has the hitting power, focus efficiency, mobility and sheer survivability that the Destroyer brings to the table. Even heavily armored targets and warcasters have to steer clear of a Destroyer because of its hitting power and arcing fire. Lots of other models do one or maybe two of those things... but not all of them (mortar moves like crap, Widowmakers can have problems with multi-wound models, most other Khadorian jack guns are much shorter range). The exception to this rule, and one other jack that can do everything the Destroyer does, is the Behemoth -- but it has its own pitfalls as I note above. Indeed, if played correctly, the Destroyer should strike fear in your opponent so much so that they leave a nice big halo of empty space around your jack out of the fear or well-placed bombard shots.

I Love me Some Axe.

One unexciting melee weapon, coming right up!

Lets talk about the axe a little bit. No one loves the axe. Its solid, but unimpressive in a faction known for having so very impressive melee options. However, I love the axe. Lurv. It. Why? because its crappy, and you dont pay a premium for crappy melee weapons. Every stat, ability or advantage in Warmachine comes with a cost in points. Its the reason great options cost more points. When I build an army a lot of my selection process is based around paying the least amount of points for the stats/abilities I want to use. Everybody does this even if they dont think about it - why pay for Croe's Cutthroats (and all their special abilities) if all you want is a cheap tarpit unit? So, being happy with a crappy axe is due to using the Destroyer for the right role - a mobile gun platform. I dont want to have to pay for great melee in the Destroyer simply because I dont ever plan for it to be my primary melee jack. If the Destroyer were designed with a kick butt axe, its points cost would go up. I dont want that. I dont want to pay a premium on an ability or item I dont plan on using.

I have the same problem paying for solos that modify other units like the Marksman or Fenris... if I take one of those solos without the unit it modifies, I better have a very good reason. I hate choosing units with abilities I dont plan on using. What I do want out of that axe is reasonable hitting power, nothing more. The crit is nice, but nothing spectacular and is of such middling utility didnt drive up the cost of the Destroyer appreciably. So, I get what I want. A melee weapon that i can use and buff with focus if I really need to, but that doesnt waste points forcing up the price on the jack to add abilities or crit effects that aren't going to be used.

Take it! Its Yours!

Waitasec! I used this pic already. Boo.

Dont overlook the fact that the Destroyer is arguably our best model for taking and holding objectives. If you play games as something other than run-run-melee (which many Khador players seem to think is the only option - more power to them I guess), then the Destroyer is extremely valuable. It can advance to a spot, and with its armor absorbing hit after hit, hold that point for a couple rounds (at least). Better yet, since its bombard has great range and amazing hitting power, the Destroyer can camp that spot and still participate in the battle -- hitting challengers and severely weakening them before they ever get close to the objective point. When/if your opponent gets something to the point to try to push the Destroyer off, it has that handy axe for defending itself. There are other ways to take and hold an objective, but none so menacing and hard for your opponent to deal with than the (wrongfully-maligned) Destroyer. ...oh, and the Destroyer can hit stealthed targets at range. I've seen my opponent bring Eiryss to the table, just to see her wiped off the map by a nicely deviated bombard shot -- and then the Destroyer (in subsequent turns) deals ranged death to my opponent's most valuable models. Great armor + strong gun + great range = ideal unit to take and hold objectives.

Destroyers! Magetize and attack!

Pithy Analysis Conclusion: Use the Destroyer when you need:

1) A powerful shooty unit in your army (one of the best Khador has to offer).

2) To hold an objective (the best Khador has to offer).

3) When the Behemoth is too expensive.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Drago and Karchev

Nothing Fancy...

Just two of my favorite minis from my army:

Axe(s) to face(s)!

Red Khador is for wussies.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recommendation: Comics (March '11)

Funny Pages that Arent Funny...

I read a reasonable amount of comics in TPB or Graphic Novel format. Usually, these are easy and quick reads, perfect for long days when I am sitting in bed getting sleepy. I like to think I am pretty discerning when it comes to comics -- I'm an adult and want good plots supported by interesting characters. So, with that said, I wholeheartedly suggest...

Locke and Key:

Its really, really good. The art is amazing and the plot is genuinely creepy and suspenseful. Its the story of a family, ripped apart by tragedy, and beset by all sorts of (inter-related) supernatural events. This is very much an adult comic with blood, violence and adult themes laced throughout the panels.

Whats really nice about Locke and Key is the art nicely supports the complex story-telling. If havent seen attention to detail in the art like this since the old Image series The Maxx. Many panels have little hints and foreshadowing buried in the crisp art, encouraging you to linger on each panel for a couple seconds to make sure you catch everything. Good stuff...

My other hotness lately is Powers:

Powers is not new (there are, like, 13 collections out already -- with more to come), and a lot of great reviews already exist (so i am not the only one crowing about its quality). Its a little like the Wire meets Heroes. Powers is the, hands-down, best super heroes comic I have ever read. Its also the best crime drama/noir comic I have ever read. Funny how it can be both... but thats what good writing will get 'ya. Again, adult situations and themes carry these books, so they are not for the wee ones.

There you go. Go buy 'em!

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Every Gamer Needs

Connecting People...

This is one of those posts that isnt revolutionary or anything, but deals with a topic I have to discuss if I am going to talk about gaming and overseas life. Bear with me.

This is a map of online connectivity in Africa. See that dark spot in the middle - the void of crappy internet? Yeah, I live there.

In this digital world the necessities for gamers has changed. Previously, we all needed a copy of some sort rules-set (usually D&D), a full set of polyhedral dice, a pencil, some paper, and a comfortable place to play. For much of my gaming career (the better part of 15 years now), those were the necessities.

Now? Now things are very different. Computers and the internet have changed a good deal - most of it for the better. From the above list the only absolute necessity that remains are friends and a copy of whatever rules you are using. You can get rid of everything else -- even the dice.

The reality of living overseas, mostly in the developing world, is that I am often the only gamer in thousands of miles. Take, for instance, my situation right now. I live in Central Africa (most of you likely cant find Gabon on a map). The closest large community of gamers is a 5 hour flight south into Pretoria/Jo'berg. Thus, if I want to game - either roleplaying or wargaming - I either have to find a way to stay in contact with other gamers from different parts or the world, or build my own gaming group.

For this blog, we are going to focus on staying in contact with other gamers. To that end, I come back to the title of this entry: What Every Gamer Needs is Skype.

This little "S" means "gg."

I'm going to try to avoid becoming a shill for Skype, but understand that it is invaluable for the transforming nature of gaming in the digital age. I am a big fan. Alongside Skype are Ventrillo and other comm protocols that are also easily available (and often free!). I firmly believe that Skype (and communications programs like Skype) are quickly becoming the norm for us as gamers. In ten years? I expect Skype gaming and the use of Virtual Table Tops (VTTs) will overtake traditional face-to-face games in terms of popularity.

More pressing for me, without Skype, I probably wouldn't be gaming. I currently play in a weekly game with my college buddies. We bounce between systems and campaigns every couple months, but it is so wonderfully regular. We figure out a time that works for us despite the time changes (I am seven hours ahead of CST, which are where my buddies mostly live) so there is a need to schedule ahead of time. But assuming we have a little foresight, we can game with little problem.

Alongside Skype we use Google Wave. Now, Wave probably isnt the best choice for everyone since it will cease to be directly supported by Google in the coming months, but some sort of program that allows for common editing and an online dice roller are all you need. Wave, for us, allows the group to share character sheets and game summary information as well as see the results of (virtual) dice rolls in real-time. Besides Wave, there are a whole host of virtual table tops coming on the market - some free, some not -- but most are useful. many VTTs have VOIP capabilities making Skype redundant (for my money though, Skype is still the way to go - cheap and very reliable).

Hey! Wrong VASSAL!

My buddies and I also use VASSAL. Its a program that is specifically designed to facilitate online play of board - and wargames. Readers of my older posts will know that this is pretty much the old may I can play Warmachine with any regularity outside of my yearly pilgrimage to GenCon. Skype with VASSAL allows me to spend an evening with my buddies practicing new army compositions and tactics. VASSAL is great not just for isolated gamers like me, its a good place to try the really wonky stuff you want to do on a wargaming table (8 bombards FTW!), but in an environment that is a tad less competitive. By its very nature, VASSAL creates an environment a little less intense than a standard table top.

Nope, not that Vassal, either.

Now, admittedly, pushing pixels of minis is not as fun as pushing lead around a table, but its something. Actually, VASSAL is a little like methadone for a heroine addict. Not as good as the real need, but it can tide you over.

Yeah, that Vassal.

Its amazing, really. In the span of 10 years or so, the gaming community has moved from being dependant on basements and brick-and-mortars, to playing virtually. Its been a boon for me, allowing me to keep my old gaming group going through the last 10+ years.

This, people, is the way of the future. Cosmonaut ho!