Saturday, October 26, 2013

Apocalypse At 'Em

This afternoon's (and morning's) gaming was all about Apocalypse.  My local gaming group is putting together an event for November (Fallpocalypse in Japan on the off chance that's local to you as well).  We figured it might be a good thing to have at least one game under our belts in the new system, so we queued up around 7,500 points a side and braved the weather to chuck some dice.

Get in there.  Mix it up.
As a prelude to talking about the game itself, let me say that in the past, most of my experiences with Apocalypse have been poor.  I have sat around a lot, games have moved unbearably slow, and a variety of poor attitudes from the players have all been contributing factors.  However, this game was a complete 180 degree turnaround.  I spent quite a bit of time just after the game thinking about why that was, and I believe I've been able to suss out a few of the reasons we were successful.

Just Rolling With It
Each of our players were willing to be flexible.  When one of our guys had to decommit on Thursday due to a morning commitment, we adjusted.  I suggested we play the Meat Grinder scenario, and allow his team to take between half and all of their units in their initial wave.  This allowed them to spend the first phase of the game on equal footing.  We loaned a few units across both sides of the board.  We even had two Mephistons on one side, due to a lack of communication, but whatever.  It's Apocalypse.  We just wanted to see this thing happen.

Small Victories
In a game this size, with plenty of ridiculous things happening, "winning" can only matter so much.  The objectives really seem to be there more to provide a reason to go to various points on the board.  Go to those points, forget the larger picture for a second, and wait to see something cool.  One side went Super-heavy hunting with their Assault Terminators, and let me tell you, they found them.  And the Apocalyptic Explosion that went with it.

You can just see Kharn(right), sans-unit, charging alone upfield.
I used a special power to attempt to bring down three flyers in one move.  The environmental condition were "all ranged weapons have 'Gets Hot'", so I possessed a Storm Raven, fired its Lascannon at another Storm Raven, and its Multimelta at a Storm Talon.  To cap off the move, I fired off all the Hurricane Bolters.  My buddy kept saying, "But they're strength four, so you can't do anything," until he finally figured out the joke.  And then his flyers went down.  It was worth a pretty good laugh even if you were on the wrong side of the exchange.

Proper Perspective
All your stuff is going to die.  Accept that fact.  And it is going to go down quickly.  I lost my Keeper of Secrets to bolter fire and angry Fenrisian Wolves.  What the heck?  Oh right, it's too many dice.  This stuff is just gonna happen.  Now, time to move the two Daemon Princes and the Bloodthirster.

Ticking Timebomb
The clock had a major effect and was a huge upgrade.  The 'just plan to shoot your whole day and play until you get to the end' way of doing things was terrible by comparison.  We put a thirty minute cap on player turns.  It might seem like a short time, but of the 12 player turns, I think we got close to the cap twice.  The first turn was something of a leisurely stroll.  Once we realized, "Oh hey, we need to have a bit of a plan and move quickly through movement to get shooting and assault in," our turns were moving quick.  This had the effect of keeping everyone far more engaged as conversations and combats did not drag on like they are wont to.

Keep the Joke Going
Really, there isn't much better to this whole thing than enjoying time spent with friends truly enjoying yourself.  If you're laughing, it's all good.  Even if you're crying.  Nothing is better than rolling a one and a two on a three inch charge, commenting on how it's a good thing that you just made it, then needing a three and coming up double one on the the very next charge.  When the snake eyes are staring back at you, you gotta laugh.

So that is my time of musing.  To sum up for the TLDR crowd:  40K is a game, Apocalypse is an event.  Get out there and blow stuff up.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend Workbench

Just a few pictures to show what I've been working on.
I added some extra details to the base of the Nightbringer/Daemon.  I plan on doing this kind of thing to a lot more of my models.  Just a few small things here and there can really help an army pop.
Skarre Ravenmane has her basecoat.  More work to do, but she's coming along nicely.  I'm really not a fan of metal models, but they're still better than finecast.
And the big deal of the week, you can't beat free!  I bought a box of Hellions about a month ago, because I love the models.  One of the local guys decided to get rid of nine still shrink wrapped boxes.  I'm a pretty big guy so I came out of the scrum with three.  So twenty Hellions it is!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hobby and the Personal Finance Problem

Or should it be Personal Finance and the Hobby Problem?  It's something I've been thinking about since reading this post: HOP: Sound the Frugalhorn, which led to this one:  More Addictive?.  This brought to light two very different ways of looking at the interaction of money and hobby dollars.  Based on my occupation and my passion for both Warhammer and financial literacy (I’m a nerd, but you knew that), I thought I would weigh in on the subject.  

Maybe work on what you have already?
Responsible budgeting means keeping things in proper perspective.  I use a portion of my income to purchase small pieces of plastic that have been turned into vaguely humanoid shapes.  This is a ridiculous thing to do.  Really, there’s no way to argue with that.  But I do it.  I love it.  It makes me happy and what’s life without joy?  There’s no reason anyone shouldn't enjoy a hobby like this, as long as you’re putting the right dollars towards it.  What do I mean by that?  I mean discretionary income that has not been designated for more important needs or wants.

Let me break it down all the way for you if no one ever has.  Everyone who earns wages starts off with what we call “gross income” which is all the money you earn.  From that, we subtract taxes, which gives us “disposable income.”  Obviously, we have certain basic necessities which we require to live, such as food, shelter, and clothing, and once we subtract these expenses, we get down to “discretionary income.”  It is from this pot that we draw the money for our hobby.

Please keep in mind that Warhammer should not be the first dollars to come out of this pot either.  You’ll notice that there are a lot of things that fall into the discretionary category, and if you blow the whole thing on Space Marines, you’re going to leave yourself woefully short in other areas.  Some of those areas are extremely important.
Before you put even one dollar towards any plastic, there are some basic questions that you need to ask yourself.  Now, “Have I put money towards my retirement,” is way less interesting than, “Look at those new Vanguard Vets.  Do want.”  I understand that.  I am guilty of that all the time.  But these kinds of questions are necessary and if you have to take a deep breath and remember them, do so before any large purchase.
At a minimum, you need to make a plan for how much you’re going to spend on the different areas of discretionary income.  List them.  You play Warhammer, for goodness sake.  You should be good at making lists.  Rank them in order of precedence.  Then look at your wages, break down your other expenses, and allocate funds.  

Actually an image of a customer?
Start your allocation with things like 1) putting money into an emergency savings account so when “LIFE” happens to you, you’re prepared and 2) aggressively paying off your debts so more of your money stays yours.  If these things aren't taken care of, put off your next purchases until they are.  I’m sorry but your army may have to suffer for a while.  Maybe you won’t have the latest and greatest competitive build or the fresh off the line shiny sculpt, but you’ll become a better player using what you have anyway and you’ll be acting like a responsible adult.  

After that, you gain a little more freedom.  New questions arise.  What comes next on your list?  What do you truly value?  Do you own a home?  Do you want to?  Have you thought about retirement or kids or college?  What are you putting towards each one that is relevant to you?  “But,” I hear you cry, “That doesn't leave much leftover for my current Pre-Heresy, all Forge World, custom Mk. IV World Eaters.”  That means you have some decisions to make.  The pie you’re pulling from is only so big.  You’re going to have to pick and choose what you put money towards first.  When the money is gone, you’re done.  And you know which ones I’m going to tell you are most important.
So ask yourself this:  “What does my list look like?”  For me, I am carrying no debt and I have an emergency fund, so I am into the second set of questions.  I want to own a home.  I want to save for retirement early because I know what a huge difference ten extra years of compounding interest can make.  I have my degree, but am considering an MSF in the near future.  I also want to purchase a new car in the next few years.  Oh, and I really want a Zombie Dragon and the Master of Marches for a conversion plus some new paints.

The down payment occupies a large chunk of discretionary income, as does my retirement saving allocation.  Both of these are automated, so I don’t miss the money.  These things way outstrip my other wants in terms of priority, so that money is budgeted before even looking at more categories.  The remaining chunk of money is divvied up amongst saving for the car, the master’s program, Warhammer, and things like nights out and a future vacation.  I sacrifice some nights out to put more money towards hobby and a nicer car, but higher education is expensive.  Like, crazy expensive.  Thankfully, I have another way to pay for most of it, but it still eats another large chunk of my available funds, since I don’t want to take on a lot of debt to pay it off.  That means, my usual hobby allowance isn't big, but that’s a function of where it falls on my priorities.  By saving and shopping around, I am able stretch my dollars and make big purchases when I have the money.  I still get my fix, but not at the expense of other important things.

Ultimately, you are free to live your life how you want.  If you want to run up a huge credit debt to buy a whole company of Ultramarines, you can do so.  And with only one click!  Money is only a thing meant to be turned into different things.  However, if you do a budget, build a spending plan, and set yourself a limit (that you stick to), you should find yourself in a better long term financial situation and under a lot less stress.

Let’s end on six quick tips:
        1.  If you don’t have the money in your budget this month for all the stuff you want, save it.  If you are only able to allocate $75/month to fun money and you want a Wraithknight, you’re going to have to wait and save a month’s funds.  If you don’t, you’ll be short elsewhere.
        2.  If you can’t be trusted with a credit card, leave it at home.  I have had clients that froze theirs.  Not the accounts, but the actual cards in blocks of ice.
        3.  If you are having impulse control issues, make a list that prioritizes hobby purchases.  Stick to your list.  As new, shiny things come out, reorder your list rather than impulse buying all the new stuff.
        4.  If you know a big release is coming up, and you know you’re going to want to have all the new toys, save up for it.  If more than one big release hits in a row, prioritize.
        5.  Avoid browsing on random days.  Plan out your monthly purchase, go to the store, buy, and leave.  If you play at the store and have impulse issues, leave your cash and cards at home on game days.

        6.  Probably one of the most helpful financial practices:  Automate your savings.  Set up automatic transfers to take place on specific days after you get paid, sending money to savings and retirement accounts designated for specific goals, rather than waiting to move the money manually.  People tend to spend the money otherwise and have less left over.
Feel free to leave other tips or questions in the comments.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Event Photos

As yet unnamed inaugural Wargamers in Japan small convention photos.

A shot of the tables for the 40K Friendly
My army for the day.
Revisiting Calth?
Om nom nom nom.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Workbench

Technically it's Monday here, but it's also a typhoon day, so hey, surprise three day weekend.  Lets put up a few pictures.

First, here is a whole bunch of black primed models.  Good luck telling what most of it is.  It includes all the minis that I spent a couple weeks getting stripped all the way down.  All the regular marines got broken down to components and rebuilt.  There were also two distinct units of terminators, Skarre Ravenmane, a squad of Hellions, and a few chosen.  That's my hodge lodge of upcoming projects.
Counts as models painted, right?

After that, we have ten Cryx Bane Thralls/also counts as lesser daemons.  So far, three layers of airbrushing.  The last layer went on a little heavier than I wanted because I was having some issues with the brush.  Every time I airbrush, I remember that there is a learning curve to this.  Makes sense.  This was my first attempt at this kind of layering on a smaller set of models.
Can anyone tell me what the ads are for?
 Hopefully, much more progress to be made today.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hobby Update: On the Board

I haven't exactly been killing it so far this year when it comes to painting.  That, my friends, is what's called an understatement.

The good news is that, in the last two weeks, I've managed to focus and get some things finished.  And it only took until Fall got here.  The main project I've been trying to get to the Finished stage on my board is a squad of regular Chaos Space Marines for my Word Bearers.  After playing most of the year with an army in degrading disrepair, I'm making a push to get everything rebuilt to an appropriate specification.  In the exuberance of my youth, I glued plastic to plastic and tried to make a unit of dudes that each looked awesome individually.  Everybody is posed.  Everybody has the flashiest available bit.  Unfortunately, nobody looks particularly cohesive.  In game, it was pretty darn hard to remember who had what, where the assault weapons were positioned, and which unit had what.  That was how it felt for me, which made me feel bad for my opponent.  Heck, most of the time, I forgot to say who had what before it mattered.  It wasn't good.

So Squad One is done.  Who is squad one?  Ten Marines with bolt pistols and close combat weapons.  Everybody is armed that way, except the bros with meltaguns.  WYSIWYG.  While that's a simple change and something most veteran gamers already do, I feel like it makes a big improvement, both in terms of the way the unit looks and what that means to my games.  Cohesiveness is a wonderful thing.

I am pretty happy with the way these guys turned out.  From a distance, the red is a deep vibrant color, reminiscent of the crimson that made me want to play Word Bearers in the first place.  Up close, it's a little bit messier and a less consistent than I would like.  There are spots where I hit the highlights just right, and spots where things didn't quite come together.  On the plus side, four coats of red means the base layers are really in there, so my previous issues regarding a dark undercoat without enough pigment over top of it aren't an issue.  Despite a few flaws, I will proudly put these guys on the table.  Maybe it's not the best work I've done, but these guys are solid, if I do say so myself.

Then, surprise of surprises, the motivation kept on rolling!  The Coven Throne has been three colors of green for quite some time.  I laid down the first layers of airbrushing and haven't done anything since.  After finishing the Marines, I decided, "Hey, it's close enough to done if I feel like just a little more effort."  I laid down one more shade of green and then a really solid wash on the trailing vapors.  After that, I stared at it for a good five minutes.  It had all the colors I planned on putting on it, but it really didn't feel done, nor did it look like it belonged with other models in the same army.  When put next to the other models I have done, the green doesn't pop the same way and the contrasting colors simply weren't there.  If I wanted the models to mesh, I had a bit of work left to do.

So that meant more planning.  A friend of mine, who is an excellent painter, had previously suggested Warlock Purple would set off the greens nicely, but Red Gore would come off similarly and would help give the impression of allies when I run Daemons and Chaos together.  I also wanted some black to ensure the Throne tied in with the Manticore.  I knew that I couldn't change the colors on the spirits, so the throne section of the model was the only thing that could be altered.  Red never would have worked for all real estate, so I went heavy on the black for the whole thing and tried to catch some bits and bobs with flashes of color.  In all, it took me about two and a half hours of extra work, but it came together way better than I could have imagined.

So what's next?  I gotta keep it rolling.  I have a unit of Bane Thralls/Daemons to work on.  Then it's back to the second squad of regular Chaos Space Marines.  I've got a bunch of dudes in the drink, trying to get Simple Green to do the work of getting my stuff back to square one.  Hopefully the motivation keeps on rolling.

Hobby Accomplishments!
-Painted the first Coterie
-Painted the Coven Throne/Daemon Whatever
-Ran and played in a tournament (more to come)

To Do List!
-Get the other coteries cleaned up and new
-Paint the Bane Thralls/Lesser Daemons

Saturday, April 6, 2013

See Me Rollin

What I'm playing on.  Not too shabby.
Despite a few ups and downs (and I mean that sorta literally. Lots of earthquakes here, but little ones and it's apparently just business as usual after), I've managed to get my first few games in in Japan.  It's been a very good experience.  The local folks seem to be extremely flexible about what they're playing.  That seems to be the case for everything, so it may mean a pretty transient metagame, which makes sense with so many people rotating in and out.  Honestly, I'm kind of excited about that.  It means lots of new challenges and no must haves in my list.  Obviously, we're looking at mostly power armor, which is just about the norm everywhere, but there seems to be plenty of variety in the flavor available.

But, when hammers hammer, they totally hammer.
I've also made a drop from the typical 1850 point games I played for most of last year to 1500 points.  This is for a couple reasons.  Number one, again, runs back to new challenges.  Going in with blind lists and only having 1500 points means trying to have solutions for problems with resources that are even dearer.  Every troop unit that goes down makes the road to scoring even tougher.  Each time a hammer fails to break its target, the opponent's is free to wreak havoc.  It makes the game tougher and the board seem a little more open.  I like the challenge, though certain mismatches yield uphill battles.

Second, I don't know if you've heard, but there is a new Daemons codex out.  I don't have it.  While that really wouldn't stop me from playing at a higher points level, it feels weird to have a big Word Bearers army and not have any daemons in it.  It's kind of a shame, as I've heard some things that sound pretty cool about the book, but time and opportunity haven't met for my acquisition of the aforementioned book.

To these larger thoughts, I'd like to add three micro-level observations from each of my three games.  From my most recent game is this little nugget.  Grey Knights suck.  It's not exactly a new sentiment, but holy cow, do they try to take my fun and stomp all over it.  I'm sure they're good normally, but against an army with as many things with the "Daemon" rule as mine, it becomes a real uphill struggle.    I threw my Daemon Prince into a Paladins squad knowing he'd die, but hoping he'd take out the enemy warlord in the process.  Terminator troops make Possessed hammer units sad.  Land Raiders are tough to crack (as always).  Thankfully, everyone did there job.  While I didn't have much left, I squeaked it out, though that doesn't do anything to lessen my Grey Knight hate.

Picture preceded by: "It can't possibly happen again..."
From game two, I learned that bad luck on key rolls can only produce a shake of the head and a little laugh, cuz there's nothing else you can really do.  I played kill points against a Blood Angels army that had two serious hammer units consisting of Assault Terminators plus a Captain in a Storm Raven and Death Company with a Chaplain in a Drop Pod.  I planned on letting the Daemon Prince (with multiple boons!) go to work on the Terminators, but it was not to be.  I rolled FOUR ones on Daemon Weapon rolls.  That guy took all game trying to take out a five man assault squad and a ten man tactical squad.  It was ridiculous.  On the other hand, my Possessed popped up with AP3 weapons on the charge and totally wiped the Death Company in one go (minus the Chaplain in a challenge), so Lady Luck really does swing both ways.

Finally, from my very first game, I've begun "Playing to a Story" as I like to call it.  A few other members of the gang have made up a setting in which there games take place.  I have written up a little something to be an episode that will become a part of my army's history.  This means a little extra bookkeeping, but with the way things are in the codex, what's a little more?  I'm tracking specific events and deeds performed by various units and trying to produce certain things.  This doesn't always mean making the most tactical decision, but it adds a fun RPG element to my games.  As a general overview of what I'm talking about, my warlord is trying to secure the patronage of a minor deity, and to do that I am attempting to do things like force morale checks, headhunt HQ's, and force enemies to flee off the board (which is tough to do against all these marines).  It's actually a decent sized list, and I'm trying to come up with additional objectives, but it adds some spice to the decision making process which has been really enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Let the New Year Begin! (Finally)

The only thing in our shipment I really (secretly) cared about.
So we moved into a house. It's awesome for a lot of reasons. One of them, not gonna lie, is finally getting our (my) stuff.  In our express shipment, there resided a bag full of minis, most of them handpicked for their need of paint, as well as a selection of brushes and paints, plus a bunch of other games and books. I realize that's a heck of a run on sentence, but I think it illustrates the point.  Basically, the pallet contains methods of entertainment beyond watching reruns of soccer games, and the genesis of my gaming both for the year and in Japan. 

Last year was the first time I set goals for hobby. This year, I want to do the same thing, and this seems to be an appropriate time.  Rather than being a completionist, accomplishment driven thing though, I'd like to view this as what I'm trying to get out of playing games.  I mean, I'd love to paint 1000 models, win all the tournaments, and get a game published, but let's all just have some fun, K?

So what are these goals?  Well let's see...

Hobby Goals for 2013!
- Take more (and better) pictures of my models!
            In the past, taking pictures consisted of finding the best lit place in the house and snapping a few pics.  If you look closely, you could count how many cutting boards I was using in the background.  What I'd like to do is work up a decent background for both sci-fi and fantasy models.  Add to that some kind of lighting set up and a tripod, plus a little photo editing and I'd call that a win for the coming year.

-  Get at least a little painting in 3 nights a week.
               It doesn't have to be a lot, but I know that a little bit of consistency goes a long way in making progress.  Obviously, this can't be a super hard and fast rule, as the ball is going to get dropped every once in a while when life happens, but keeping painting at the forefront of things would be a plus.

- Model, paint, and base all my Word Bearers.
                Or at least all the ones that I have in the bag.  That's something like 3000 points.  It's a lot, but if I can be consistent and set intermediate goals, I have confidence that I can set a new painting goal before the year is out.

Not gonna lie, surprised this made it in one piece.
Gaming Goals for 2013!
- Plug into the local gaming scene.
                 So this is the same as last year.  I need to stop moving or something.  All the guys seem pretty cool, so I don't expect any problems with this one, but it's important.

- Author and play a map based campaign and a narrative campaign.
                This might sound ambitious (if it doesn't, I assure you that my vision is ambitious), but again I think this comes down to consistency and focus.  I have a vision for what I want the campaign booklets to look like and how I want the campaigns to feel, but the success of actually running it depends on cooperation from external sources.  What would I deem a success?  Enthusiasm from people.  A few months' long run.  Challenges being thrown out via email.  That would feel good.

- Diversify my gaming base.
              I played a lot of 40k last year. Like a LOT. Particularly percentage wise. I would like to move the emphasis towards playing lots of different things, particularly the huge assortment of board games.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Return/I Really Think So

The more things change, the more I am pretty much the same dude.

I am a few weeks removed from the previously mentioned hiatus.  I am many miles removed from what I began to think of as home.  Life, or at least mine, tends to have its various chapters punctuated by changes in physical location.  Based on the length of the previous plane ride, we're in for a doozy.

Yes, we are now in the Land of the Rising Sun.  We are still working on a few minor details like "finding a place to live", but we are settling in slowly but surely.  Despite all the newness, I've still managed to find the time to recon a local gaming group.  After hearing an ad on a 40K podcast (clutch timing by the The Independent Characters.  Thanks guys!) for the exact area we were moving into, I reached out via email and was invited to join the group on the following weekend.  I had a good time and have since been back one other time.

The group seems like good guys and their is a solid contingent of 40K players, so I imagine my standard gaming fare won't change so much as to be recognizable.  However, there seems to be quite a few games on offer, including Mordheim, War Machine, and various board gaming, so the dominance of 40K over the last year of dice rolling seems unlikely to continue.  Of the sixty or so tabletop games I played this year, all but two of them were 40K, so given the chance, I'd love to branch out some more in the upcoming year.

One thing I'm worried about is the general lack of focus.  It seems like many of the guys arrive and begin heading off on their own tangents, including wandering to the corner to play some MMO.  That seems an odd choice for social gaming.  I guess in this context, you need to take what you can get, but I believe a gaming group is stronger when they can be united behind a few creative ideas.  The group doesn't have to be totally homogenous, but it's a lot more fun when everyone gets behind something like a league or a campaign for a bit.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to a  bright new year and the opportunity to make some new friends.  What those will look like?  I have no idea.