Friday, September 7, 2018

Product Reviews: Mongoose Publications' Traveller, 2nd Edition


Several months ago, I stumbled across the Traveller Starter Set at The Game Matrix.

I can't claim I've been a Traveller fan since it's initial release, but I can say I purchased the little black box...



...containing the three little booklets...


...within three years after it's debut publication.

Since then, I've collected most of the subsequent editions, ending with the GURPS and "T-20" versions.



I've seen Mongoose Publishing's version of Traveller for the past decade, flipped through some books at game stores, but nothing really motivated me to buy anything new.

So when I bought the Starter Kit on a whim, I didn't think it would lead to anything significant.

Yeah.

This turned out to be the gateway drug to reigniting my dormant interest in Traveller.

I was impressed by the production quality, because in the past, I've found Mongoose Publication's quality control to be hit-or-miss.  This is Mongoose's second edition of Traveller, and they've done a lot to bring the game up to date from "The 80s With Starships!"

Misgivings aside, and not satisfied with the Starter Set, I purchased the 2nd Edition Core Rulebook.



This in turn, triggered a buying spree of both old and new Traveller material, starting with the Game Master's Screen.




Classic Traveller (starting in the year 1105 on the Imperial Calendar) primarily focused on the Spinward Marches of the Third Imperium.  So I decided to revisit this sector by buying the The Spinward Marches Book...



...along with the map...



...the Spinward Encounters Adventures Book...



...and the Tripwire campaign.



Now here's where my misgivings about quality control became justified.  While 2008 Edition of the Spinward Marches got decent reviews, I thought a lot of readers were pulling their punches.

While the content in every Third Imperium publication I bought was good, I found there was a complete lack of editorial oversight.

Just about every page, in every book contained a grammatical or syntax error.

It's as if the material was written then sent off to Mongoose Publications without anyone bothering to edit or review it.  

The number and consistency of errors made the material hard for me to enjoy reading.  But if you're more concerned about getting material for game mastering a session than you are about the proper use of written English, then Third Imperium books won't be a waste of your money.

These mixed feelings didn't stop me from buying material on the Spinward Marches' "next door neighbor," the Deneb Sector


After reading through all the new material--and hoarding my money for new purchases--I decided to "take a look back" and buy material (now out of print) I couldn't afford to when they were initially published.

For that "big picture" look, my first purchase was the Fifth Frontier War (which erupts in the year 1107).


Since player characters, or "travellers" as they're called in the game, journey around in starships, I thought getting the games Brilliant Lances...


...and Battle Rider would add to any game session.


The rules to both games are complex and actually set in post-Imperial collapse of The New Era (starting in the year 1116)--but the counters look cool!

It's 1105 again, and Mongoose Publications continues to make products set in the Spinward Marches, like the introductory adventure High and Dry.



In this book, the travellers are given the chance to find and return an abandoned starship.

However, this is a classic case of "easier said, than done."

Most of Mongoose Publication's attention seems to be focused on The Great Rift, a vast volume of space with very few star systems--and refueling points.



There's even "rift-version" of the High and Dry adventure--Islands in the Rift.


In this case, not only will the travellers have to find and return a starship, but they'll have to contend with intrigue and skulduggery in the Old Islands and New Islands subsectors.

 Overall, I'm happy with all my out-of-print and up-to-date Traveller purchases.

Now all I need is some free time to "travel" among the tabletop stars...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Product Review: Firefly Adventures


A couple weeks ago, during my enforced "radio silence," I ventured to The Game Matrix.

I stumbled across Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats, which is the latest release of Gale Force 9's:  Firefly, The Game.

(Box art image from:  Gale Force 9)

Since I often buy games with other uses in mind, I spent a long time in the store debating on whether or not to buy the game.  I was primarily concerned if the figures were compatible with the rest of my 25-28mm sci-fi miniatures collection.

The gal at the register went on line and found a discussion about the figures' scale.  The consensus was they're taller than average 25mm, but smaller than "heroic scale," such as Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K, and Wizards of the Coasts old line of Star Wars Miniatures (which can vary between 28-32mm).

Despite my misgivings, I bought the game.

When I got home, and opened the box, I was elated at my latest purchase.

And it wasn't about the figures either.  Which by the way, the four Firefly characters included come in two poses:  casual and heroic.  Bad guy figures, representing thugs and cowboys, are also included but with in just single poses.

No, what impressed me the most were the open-top, pre-assembled cardboard buildings.

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek review)

These also double as storage bins:

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek review

Even the main box's inside cover is a building, painted both inside and out.

True, these can be something of a jigsaw puzzle to get back in the box.  However, this collection of buildings can easily represent any wretched hive of scum and villainy a gamemaster can concoct.

(Image from:  Across the Board Cafe)

My only Home Improvement suggestion would be to make roofs for each of the buildings.  This can be done simply, with matching-colored cardstock; or with more durable matboard, plastic or other material and painted appropriately.

My only quibble is that Firefly Adventures doesn't include the entire crew of Firefly, the starship.

The rest of the gang are due to be released this fall in the two supplements Wanted Fugitives (the "Tam Twins"), and Respectable Folk (Inara and Preacher Book).


Speaking of Firefly products:  In writing this post, I realized I've been remiss about posting product reviews of all the other supplements since I bought the original game over four years ago.

During these intervening years, I've purchased just about everything Firefly-related listed in the GF9 Store, except for:  The promo cards, the customisable ship models (I & II), the "Vera Edition" of the map, and the Crime & Punishment cards.

I like everything I bought.  I wish I could tell you how the game, or any of the supplements play.  Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity.

While I plan on getting the Crime & Punishment cards, I'm not too interested in the customisable 
ships.  They're more detailed than any of the other ship models offered.  

It's just that I already have a "mountain of shame" (unpainted miniatures), which I just added to because I'd love to have my Firefly crew and villains look like this:
(Image from:  Twilight Emporium)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Technical Troubles--Continued

(Image from:  Superpages--Top 10 Common Computer Problems)

Well folks, I know it's been over a month since I posted anything.

You see, shortly after my desktop was declared Dead on Arrival (DOA) by the nearby computer repair shop, my laptop need repair.

Technically, it was a simple problem:  Replacing the power receptacle that had come loose, which was only intermittently recharging the laptop.

As it turned out though, the part needed to be ordered from a warehouse in California.  But Californians are dealing with bigger wildfires than we are in Washington State.  So shipment of the new power receptacle was delayed until some of "the smoke cleared."

I'm still in the process of setting up my laptop with the additional functions I relied on my desktop for, along with trying to utilize my iPad Pro more effectively, so I can blog remotely.

I hope to get back into my haphazard blogging schedule shortly.

Thank you for your patience!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Desktop Now Deceased

(Image from Schuyler House)

Last week, my desk top, a 10 year old HP, began locking up.  Since I was on duty, I didn't have the time to deal with it other than attempt to go through on-line tutorials to figure out what was wrong.

Then one morning when I turned it on, the screen displayed the Mircosoft icon and the words:  Preparing Automatic Repair.

And it remained in this state.

Once again, I attempted another on-line tutorial fix, but to no avail.

So I took it to a nearby computer repair shop.  A couple hours later, my desktop was declared DOA.

Two capacitors on the motherboard were fried, and since the system was originally designed for Windows Vista, it wasn't worth replacing.

I'm also having some issues with my laptop:  The media player won't play, and the power receptacle seems loose.

Meanwhile, I can't manage to get my iPad Pro to do what I've had my succession of laptops, and desktops to do.

So the long delays between blogposts will be longer I'm afraid, as I embark on a quest to obtain a new desktop.


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Product Review: Warhammer 40K 8th Edition


Shortly before 2017 came to a close, I took the plunge and bought Warhammer 40,000’s Eighth Edition (WH 40K 8E).

Prior to this, I scavenged through used book stores for earlier editions.

Not one early edition either.

As a latecomer to the “grim darkness of the far future...” I ended up with Edition 5, 6, and 7 of the core rulebooks.  (Edition 7’s three-volume set was purchased after Edition 8 hit the shelves).

I didn’t limit my dabbling in WH40K to old rulebooks.  While Edition 7 was in its heyday, I started buying just about every used Edition 6 splatbook (codexes—supplements containing the specific details of a select faction) I could find.

Since I have yet to play a single game of any edition of WH40K, I’m not in a position to make any comparisons, good, bad, or indifferent.

I have though, noticed significant changes have been made with each new edition.  And Edition 8 is no exception.  The rules seem to be the most streamlined of the lot.  The blast templates used for determining casualties caused by flame weapons or explosives have been eliminated.  Also there’s nothing in the new core rulebook to set up a “starter game.”  That is, there’s no crunch (game statistics) about any of the factions’ troops or weapon systems within the core rulebook.

So players are forced to buy at least one splatbook.

Since the bulk of my WH40K force consists of “ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances," I went ahead and bought the latest codex for the Astra Militarum, (formerly known as the Imperial Guard)



In this regard I’m one of the lucky players to have a new codex for my main force.  Other players are still waiting for theirs.

I’m still waiting for a codex for my small force of Adepta Sororitas (a.k.a. The Sisters of Battle, or “nuns with guns”).

Fortunately, in the Index: Imperium 2, consists of the basic data,without the fluff, for me to utilize for my Battle Sisters, along with the team of Inquisitors I purchased at a wargame swap meet a few months ago.


So that's three 8E books I've purchased right off the bat--and I want to buy the upcoming codex for the Adepta Sororitas, and the Inquisition.

And at the risk of implying "I can quit whenever I want to" I don't plan on buying any more 8E splatbooks.  While it's a good strategy to study the capabilities of your opponents' forces, I figure I can get the gist of things with the earlier edition splatbooks.

I'm also plan on keeping earlier edition core rulebooks, because there's still gamers out there who continue to play by the old rules.

So from what little I know about actually playing WH40K, I like the rules.

Maybe I'll even like the game--if I ever get a chance to play.

If you want an in-depth review of the good, bad and ugly of 8E, here's one review by Miniwargaming on what they love and don't love about WH40K8E.

(Image: Adepta Sororitas by Anna Steinbauer)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: Hammer & Anvil

(Image from:  Goodreads)
Sometimes all it takes is a few scenes to turn a good book into a great book.

That's the case with Hammer & Anvil, the sequel to Faith & Fire and the subject of my previous book review.

In this story, Miriya and Verity are looking for peace and closure after the events of their initial adventure.  Instead, they find anything but.  Both wind up on the barren rock known as Sanctuary_101, ten years after the massacre at an Adepta Sororitas fortress-convent, in effort to reconsecrate the site.

Or so they're told.

As with all things Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K):  Factions within the Imperium of Man, in this case the Inquisition, the Adeptus Mechanicus, have their own hidden agendas.   Even Canoness Sepherina isn't completely forthcoming about full scope of their mission.

The book starts off as something of a mystery, and on page 55 of this 410 page book, the Sisters of Battle learn it was Necrons who were the mysterious attackers that wiped out their original convent (WH40K's "robot zombies").

(Image by Nicholas Kay)
The mystery continues to unfold, and by page 194 they learned the extent of the Necron threat to the Imperium. Although for WH40K fans who've already read the Fluff, this reveal isn't so revealing. What is finally disclosed on page 259 is the item Canoness Sepharina has been searching for:  An artifact known as the Hammer and Anvil, believed to have been lost in the initial Necron attack. Which makes Hammer & Anvil something of a MacGuffinTitled book.

Even as the Second Battle of Sanctuary-101 got underway, I was about to give Hammer & Anvil a 3-star rating, like it's predecessor.  However, the story took off with a "Hell Yes!" Moment on page 334, where--spoiler alert--a tormented survivor of the original massacre exorcises her personal demon while fighting a Deathmark (an assassin android).

A few more "Hell Yes!" scenes followed close on the heels of the Deathmark's death:  There is something of a "Men of Harlech" scene as the Necrons silently closed-in on the beleaguered Battle Sisters; when the treacherous Techpriest Tegas finds the Hammer and Anvil, hoping it's an ultimate weapon, but turns out to be merely a Memento MacGuffin; and finally the often-overlooked Verity helps bring down the Nemesor leading the current assault.

Among these high points of the last 76 pages are split action scenes of Verity assisting in battle at the fortress-convent, first as a healer, then as a combatant; and Miriya with a commando team infiltrating the Necron lair in Sanctuary-101's moon.

What I also found amusing was how the machine logic of both the Necrons and the techpriests were constantly confounded--and ultimately thwarted--by human illogical behavior and raw emotions.

All this was enough to bump Hammer & Anvil to a 4-star read.  Average reviews on both Amazon.com and Goodreads are almost as good with 3.80 and 3.79-stars, respectively.

While Ciaphas Cain is still my favorite WH40K character, (because he's Harry FlashmanIN SPACE!), Miriya and Verity come in at #2 and #3 for me.

Sisters of Battle Omnibus is due to hit the shelves next month.  This tome will contain "... Faith & Fire and Hammer & Anvil, along with the prose version of the audio drama Red & Black and a new short story 'Heart & Soul', available in print for the first time." 


(Image from Amazon.com)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Game Review: Star Wars Armada--The Corellian Conflict Campaign Game

(Image found on:  Sterling Knight Gamers YouTube video)

What intrigues me most about military history are the campaigns that lead up to the major battles.  I'm fascinated by the hows and whys battles develop more so than the actual blood-letting of combat.

I like campaign games because they force players to think beyond a one-of battle, and inhibits them from going all-out to achieve a single victory.  However, I've experienced mixed results at running and participating in campaign games, as I'm sure many (all?) of my fellow gamers have.  The initial enthusiasm may be high, but it's hard to maintain, which often leads to the campaign fizzling-out.

Still, I love the idea of being involved in such a tabletop venture.  Hey, I can still dream, can't I?

Which is why I snatched the one copy of Star Wars Armada: The Corellian Conflict Campaign Expansion that was sitting on the shelf at The Game Matrix (TGM).

Yes, it was an impulse buy, especially since I have yet to play the core game.

I paid $30 for it at TGM, but the price can vary from $24 at The Miniature Market to a tad over $50 on Amazon.com.

Here's what you get for your money--

--1 x 20-page rulebook
--6 x Fleet Rosters
--2 x Team Rosters (Rebel & Imperial)
--10 x Main Ship ID Tokens
--10 x Ship ID Tokens
--10 x Scarred ("damaged") ID Tokens
--2 x Main Flagship Tokens
--2 x Flagship Tokens
--14 x Squadron ID Tokens
--12 x Scarred Squadron ID Tokens
18 x Veteran Tokens
3 x each Diplomat, Spynet, and Skilled Spacer Tokens
--6 x Obstacles representing asteroids (3), dust fields (2) and a space station
--16 x Squadron Disks to place on the standard fighter squadron stands
--39 x various cards for squadrons, objectives and the space station
--1 x sticker sheet, representing active or destroyed bases and outposts
--and one small, cardstock map representing the Corellian Sector...




Here's what you don't get for your money--

--additional miniatures
--a hefty, mounted map
--counters representing active and destroyed bases and outposts

 Three reviewers on Amazon.com gave The Corellian Campaign a 5-star rating.

But after scrolling through the comments section on various "Unboxing" videos, like Crabbok, YouTube viewers have been less-than kind.  Some even cancelled their pre-orders.

Most gamers have issues with the small size and flimsy map.

My biggest sticking point--is with the stickers.

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek)
The designers' justification for using stickers instead of counters or tokens was "...to create a living record of the ongoing Corellian Conflict," (page 6 sidebar).

And...then what?  Frame and hang the map up in your man-cave?

The sidebar note goes on to say that players can eschew the stickers, which will probably be impossible to remove from the map, and keep track of who controls what via the Team Rosters.

Here's a suggestion:  How about using counters to represent political influence and military control, like other board games do?

To remedy this sticky situation, I intend to paste the stickers on blank boardgame counters, or a matboard, trim the corners, and use them as control tokens for the game. One player used magnets to create re-usable playing pieces.

Arts & Crafts project recommendations aside, since I haven't played Star Wars Armada...

(Image from:  WWPD's "Most Wanted!" Battle Report)

...I've only given The Corellian Conflict rules a cursory glance.

Set-up appears to be in "tic-tac-toe" style.  That is, the Empire initially controls Corellia proper.  Then players alternate placing their base/outpost stickers on planets, keeping in mind some planets provide more resources than others...

(Image from:  The Bell of Lost Souls)
...followed by constructing 400 points worth of starships and fighters.

Despite the above-mentioned shortcomings, I don't regret buying the game.  The artwork is nice.  The cardstock map is no thinner than other non-mounted boards I've seen in larger, more expensive games.  And the actual counters are thick and durable.

So I give The Corellian Conflict Campaign Expansion a conditional 3-star rating.

"Conditional" being based on how I feel about the game after I get a chance to actually play it.

If I ever do.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Book Review: Faith & Fire


 One of the more popular factions among Warhammer 40K players, but sporadically supported by Games Workshop, are the Adepta Sororitas (a.k.a. Sisters of Battle), the actual military arm of the Ecclesiarchy.

I stumbled across a copy of Faith and Fire at Half Price Books.

Fire certainly comes into play throughout the novel.  The Sisters of Battle believe that the only good witch/mutant/heretic/traitor is one who's not only dead, but burnt to a crisp.  Meanwhile, their psyker enemies often retaliate with "witch fire."  So in just about every combat scene there's flames, screaming, smoke and burnt-flesh odors.

The story itself revolves around Miriya, a Celestian, and Hospitaller Verity, in their attempt to recapture renegade psyker Torris Vaun.  During their investigation, and the battles they're swept-up in, they uncover a plot by deluded Deacon Viktor LaHayn to restart an Artifact Of Death hoping to revive the comatose God-Emperor of Mankind.

Their Odd Couple partnership resembles the Cop And Scientist team-ups from Holmes & Watson to Scully & Mulder.

I found Faith & Fire to be a predictable, but entertaining story and give it a 3-star rating.  The finale has an element of Deus Ex Machina to it.  However, this can be justified, since the story revolves around the characters' religious zealotry for the God-Emperor.

Readers generally liked Faith & Fire, which has a 3.5-star rating on both Amazon.com and GoodreadsWarhammer 40K fans either loved it, or hated it.  The fans who disliked the book thought the characters were wooden, flat, unremarkable and even unlikable, along with sounding more like men, than women. 

I didn't pay attention to these valid observations, because the characters are members of Imperium's Church Militant.  Their lives revolve around prayers, singing hymns, and incinerating the enemies of the God-Emperor.  This doesn't leave much room for deep character development, or more feminine pursuits, beyond religious fervor.

Faith & Fire does follow the standard story lines of the Warhammer 40K 'verse--

--The heroes demonstrate insight and initiative.
--Which in turn, causes them to run-afoul of their dogmatic superiors.
--The agency the heroes are members of have a hidden agenda.
--Which in turn, runs afoul of one or more other agencies operating on their own agendas.
--There's a conspiracy afoot to take over a planet/star system/quadrant/the entire Imperium.

Despite these standard tropes, I still liked Faith & Fire enough to start reading the sequel,  Hammer & Anvil, right off the bat.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Starfleet Battles Miniatures Collection


(Image:  Title page of Taylor Hord's webcomic)
I got into Star Fleet Battles (SFB) right when it was first published in "pocket games."  I moved on to Federation Commander a few years ago, but still have a lot of SFB stuff, along with other Amarillo Design Bureau (ADB) material.

Like movies, TV shows, books, graphic novels and webcomics, like Star Trek Beta Fleet; game designers utilize tropes--storytelling shorthand--when whipping-up Fluff.

The good folks at ADB have made a great use of such tropes for SFB throughout the years, primarily Space Is An Ocean, to give players a plethora of Standard Sci-Fi Fleets.
   
Despite being a long running tabletop game, the one thing I never bought all these years were ship miniatures, for my own Standard Sci-Fi Fleet.

So when my friend Dan was preparing to move, he offered to sell me his starship collection, I found it impossible to say "no."

Every figure pictured below was painted by Dan.

My contribution to this photo-op was providing the star field mat from Monday Knight Productions.


The United Federation of Planets (the Trope Codifier for--well--The Federation)

(One of the most recognizable starships in sci-fi)
(Image:  A Federation dreadnought escorted by cruisers, a frigate and scout/destroyer)


The Romulan Star Empire (a.k.a Space Romans)
(An uncloaked Warbird/War Eagle)

(The "problem" with this figure is--all the great detail is underneath)
(Another shot of Dan's great detail work)

(A Sparrowhawk modular cruiser)

The Klingon Empire (a.k.a. Proud Warrior Race)
(A dreadnought escorted by a battlecruiser, destroyer and frigate/escort)

(A battlecruiser on patrol)

The Gorn Hegemony (a.k.a. the Reptilians)
(A cruiser on patrol)

The Orion Syndicate (a.k.a. Space Pirates and The Syndicate)
(A Salvage Cruiser trailing two Slavers)

Freighters
(Two small freighters--or maybe even Q-ships)

The Interstellar Concordium (a.k.a. Well Intentioned Extremists)
(A cruiser on a peace enforcement keeping patrol)


The Hydran Kingdom (a.k.a. Starfish Aliens)
(A Ranger Cruiser protecting the Kingdom)


The Andromedan Invaders (a.k.a. The Greys? Or maybe Little Green Men on steroids? Who knows?)
(A Mothership and her Satellite Ships)

Thanks to some comments on Facebook, when I posted this on my Stern Rake Studio, I learned this ship is a Kra'vak crusier from Full Thrust.


The Lyran Empire (a.k.a. Cat Folk)
(A Tiger-class cruiser escorted by two frigates/destroyers)

(A close up of Dan's detail work--this time on top of the ships)



The Kzinti Hegemony   (a.k.a. another breed of Cat Folk)
(Cruisers, destroyers and a frigate escort a tactical tug)

(An CVE--escort carrier being escorted by cruisers, destroyers and a frigate)

(A BCH--heavy battlecruiser, or CVS--strike carrier under escort)

a(A CVA--attack carrier, or SCS--space control ship under escort)

(A strike force launches all its attack shuttles)
In addition being able to unleash a Macross Missile Massacre against their non-feline foes with their drones (missiles), the Kzinti pioneered the use of attack shuttles to provide players with Old School Dogfights.
(A true cat fight--not the titillating kind--is about to ensue)  


Thanks to Dan, I now have at least one ship from nearly every race in the SFB 'verse.


The only vessels I don't have, for now, are Tholians (Insectoid-like Aliens) in which to ensnare trespassers...
(Image from:  Memory Beta--The Tholian Web)