Friday, July 27, 2012

Put my order in

I'm following up with something I mentioned earlier, planning to do a Ladies Auxiliary to run by Gentlemen's Club rules. Several people on one of the forums (maybe Lead Adventure, but I'm not sure) talked about the Mina Harker figure from Ironclad. I really fell in love with it, so I ordered her and Irene Adler and Constance as well. I'll be back for Ironclad Man and probably some others, but I've got to work out this warband first.

Mina will always be Mina Murray to me, after the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. I love that this figure has the prominent scarf Mina wore in that series to cover her scars. This won't represent Mina per se, but in the backstory I'm preparing, somewhere there is a central organization to all the Ladies Auxiliary chapters with Mina Murray at its head. In her honor, the Presidents of the local organizations wear the red scarf (once they've killed a vampire!). Irene will be the Vice President of the organization, acting as its spymaster. Constance, with her steampunky gear, is the Secretary, of course. Of course, the L.A. will have their own distinct titles, such as Chairwoman, which I will work out more fully later.

Another figure I ordered was from Reaper, the beautiful and mysterious Xiufang. If West Wind releases Chinese Tong rules, which I'm certain they will at some point, I'll include her there as well, but I have an inkling she's working both sides of the docks, so to speak, using her contacts in Cheapside to funnel information to the Auxiliary. Maybe she's really the spymaster, not Irene! I'll have to see.

Seeing the teaser images of the Railroad Crew that Wyrd is putting out for Malifaux, I think I'll have some use for them in EOTD. (image from Alliance Game Distributor's Facebook Page).

I know I need some regular membership, too. I have some Victorian ladies from Foundry floating around somewhere, but the only other one I'm thinking about ordering right now is a long rifle-wielding steampunk goddess from Ramshackle Games. What warband doesn't need a sniper? And that name! Fidelia St.John-Smythe. Oh, I am truly enraptured.

I promise to post some of my own pics once things arrive. Hopefully I'll have my painting and modelling area set up by then! TTFN

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hey, that's me!

This is silly, but seeing my name in print always makes me giddy. It's probably due to the fact that I work at a daily newspaper and write headlines all night long, but my name never appears in print. (I have written a smattering of pieces for the paper over the years, but it's been rare.)

So when I saw the list of Kickstarter supporters on ArmchairGeneral's Aliens vs. Hillbillies blog, I was delighted to see my name. Robert's game "It Came From Beyond the Still" is one of my new obsessions, and I'll be writing on it at length later. If you like humorous games, hillbillies, aliens, greys, blobs, Men in Black or moonshine, this is the game for you.

I was glad to be able to help support the Kickstarter for the ICFBTS factions, and when the minis from the second book, "Something's in the Sauce" come round, I'll support that one too.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Initial Impressions of Empire of the Dead

Let me just say this: "Empire of the Dead" is a beautiful book. 

The cover of "Empire of the Dead" as it sits
 on my too-cluttered desk at work.
A full-color hardcover of 150+ pages, it's a delight to the eye, it's sturdy in the hands, and it even smells good.

For those of you thinking TL;DR already, here's the summary. This book is very good. Great fluff, great art, plenty of options for creative modeling and gaming. If you like VSF or steampunk or Gothic Horror, you should buy it. You won't be sorry.

I'll have to review the games' crunchy details later, once I've got a few sessions under my belt.

I do have a couple of criticisms based on my profession as a copy editor and page designer of 15 or so years, but they're minor, and if you don't care about those, skip the next couple of paragraphs.

I didn't like the main typeface chosen for the book. Sans serif fonts are much harder on the eye when used for the main text, and it puzzles me why, when the book does so much on its front and back covers and in its interior art to evoke the late Victorian era in its art and its design, a typeface that looks so modern was chosen for the bulk of the text, especially as much of that text is ostensibly the journal entries of a gentleman's gentleman of the period. I'm not saying the whole thing should have been set in Caslon Antique, but a more appropriate serif font was surely available.

In that same vein, pages 10 and 11 of the book are supposed to be a letter from a lab assistant to his lady love about the troubles that have befallen his master's work. Much better choice here of font, a flowing italic that evokes the feeling of script, but then the letter is set with each line centered. No one is capable of writing like that, since as you're composing a letter by hand you have no idea how long each line is going to be! Even on unlined paper, most people would right flush left, leaving the right margin ragged. OK, rant over, and I know it's nitpicky. That's why I warned you up front. But this touches on what I do for a living, so I have to work to get past these things trying to immerse myself in the world the book is trying to create.

But oh, the art! Lovely, moody, evocative, compelling. I handed the book to my wife who is both a gamer and an artist and she thought the work was top-notch. There are one or two clinkers, but the art is really choice. Excellent job by everyone involved.

I approve the use of D10s as the die of choice for combat and skill usage. It looks like the target numbers and modifiers will be easy to remember. But where this game succeeds most to me is in its setting. It's taken many of the old faction types from West Wind's Vampire Wars and woven them, with new choices, into a wonderful Gothic Horror world with touches of steampunk and plenty of tropes from the horror films, novels and games we all love.

The various factions presented seem well thought out, and by giving the framework of the Gentlemen's Clubs and the Holy Orders, they leave a lot of room for gamers to do their own creating. I love it. I have in mind reviving two old efforts of mine from my earliest forays into Victorian gaming -- the Sisters of St. Lucia as a Holy Order (steampunk nuns!) and the Ladies' Auxiliary, an all-female warband using the Gentlemen's Club rules.

Two of the most fun pages in the book for me were pp. 116-117. It's a list of 10 types of ferocious plant life that could possibly be found in the location The Botanical Gardens of Professor Julius Forbes-Talbot. Just imagine your intrepid adventurers rounding a corner in a dark, humid greenhouse, stealthily hunting whatever miscreant has drawn their ire, when the come face to face with a giant, bulbous, hungry flower bulb. Though the text says it's from the Amazon, I expect to hear it sing, "Feed me, Seymour!"

One surprise was that stats for many of the characters for which we've seen minis produced, including the Cirque du Noir Man Ape, Cedric Hyde, and others, were not included in this book. I don't know if they're on the forums, or on cards packed with the minis, or if they're being saved for a future volume. I'm OK with it; it was just surprise that left me a little disappointed. (I'm in love with that Man Ape mini and can't wait to get my hands on one. OK, maybe two so I can have one with each hat.)

That said, know that I love the book and fully recommend it. If you love skirmish-level gaming, gothic horror, steampunk, or any type of Victorian fiction, you should pick it up. I was a little skittish at the MSRP of $50, but it's more than worth it. I ordered mine from FRP here in the States. If I'd been in the UK, I would've taken advantage of one of the many special deals combining the rulebook, faction minis and some limited edition releases.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's here! It's here! The new phonebook's here!

Actually I received my copy of Empire of the Dead today. Lovely, full-color hardback rulebook. I've only had a chance to leaf through it briefly, as I picked it up at the post office on my way to work, but I'm about to have my two days off this week, and I'll get into it more then.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Broad strokes

Still no pictures yet as I sort out some terrain for backgrounds, but I should give you a broad sketch of a couple of the projects I've got under way.

Modern zombies: I've got the nucleus of a zombie horde primed (a state they've been in for at least two years) and ready to paint, and I've got some Hasslefree adventurers on hand ready for some paint. I've also got the beginnings of a story ready for my zombie campaign. I'll probably use All Things Zombie and its two expansions  from Two Hour Games because of the great campaign mechanics, but I'm also thinking about giving 7ombieTV from Crooked Dice a shot, using the campaign rules from the Summer Special. The horde will grow later this year when Zombicide is released.

Victorian SF/Horror: Just ordered my copy of West Wind's Empire of the Dead rulebook from FRP. I've got some VSF figures from Eureka's Pax Limpopo line hanging around to play the heroes, but I am looking forward to acquiring some of the particular minis manufactured for this game. Everybody seems to be out of stock at the moment, especially on the Cirque du Noir Ape, which of course I MUST HAVE.

There will also be some ongoing post-singularity SF stuff using the Infinity, Reaper, old AT-43 minis and others I have. Not sure on a rule set yet though.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I won something!

I was one of the lucky recipients of a prize in in the Super 100,000 Giveaway at Tales of a Tabletop Skirmisher. Ian, aka Hendybadger, rustled up some great prize support and I won a set of Pulp City postcards.

Now I won't lie and say I wasn't hoping for one of the Pulp City sets of supers or the Ape-X from Reaper, but as the two Pulp City starter sets are already part of my lead mountain, I can't complain. Plus, I've rarely one anything in the past decade, so this was a delightful surprise. Here's a picture of what I won and my comment in Hendybadger's contest thread.

 Pulp City Postcards - set 1
Christopher Sheets
I should win this prize because there are monkeys involved. MONKEYS!!!! And Apes! I LOVE monkeys, and apes. All types of simians, from old-world, long-tailed critters to super-evolved examples sporting hats, cigars, chain-guns or cybergear. MONKEYS!!!

I love monkeys.

Yep, sure do. Monkeys and apes. Gibbons, chimps, orangutans, colobus, any and all. And Pulp City has some incredible examples.

Yep, I love me some monkeys.


I can't wait to receive them.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Here we go!

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend; come inside, come inside!

With that nod to Emerson, Lake and Palmer I kick off my blog. I haven't kept a blog with any regularity since the days when Livejournal was the big dog -- an eternity in Internet time.

This journal will detail my gaming efforts. As noted beneath the blog's title (a play on my most common nom de plume on the various gaming forums (fora?), AlienAmbassador,) I favor skirmish-level games and sci-fi settings, steampunk and modern zombie games. I'm also more of a hobbyist than a hardcore gamer, so expect more minis and terrain than battle reports, but I'll try to include some of those from time to time, too. I also hope to do some reviews as well.

I've been collecting minis for years, and since escaping the blinders that GW gaming can put on a person, I've gathered pieces and bought games from varied companies across the globe. The problem is that I've painted very, very few of my miniatures. This blog is part of an effort to change that, to make a dent in the giant lead mountain I've accumulated. 

So welcome and thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you can find something worthwhile as it develops!