Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gamus Interruptus

We were supposed to have our first LotR game tonight, but I got there just in time for my opponent to pass me on the way out saying he had a family emergency. These things happen, and it's no fault of his, but it still sucks. I could have still gotten into the D&D game, but all my D&D stuff was at home, and I wasn't really in the right mindset for roleplaying, so I decided to earn some brownie points with the wife by heading home early instead.

As for my painting, I got the Knights of Minas Tirith done a few days ago and have been working slowly on my Warg Riders. As I predicted, ceasing the daily updates has made it a lot easier for me to slack off on getting things painted, so I'll probably return to that eventually. Probably after I do the Warg Riders. I should be getting some character models pretty soon, and those should make a nice break from the rank and file. After they're done, I'll probably take a break from LotR for a while, unless we're actually playing regularly at that point.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Green Stuff

Putting together the wargs for my warg riders I quickly realized I needed to do more green stuff work. With the horses I just needed to do down the back, but with these guys there's a big gap down one side of the neck too. On the horses, that gap blends in with the harness, so isn't necessary to fill, but on these guys it really shows. I've started painting these guys now, and I regret that I didn't go to the extra effort of filling in the short gap that exists parallel to the body between the shoulder blades. It's not as noticeable as the gap on the side was, but it's still visible. Hopefully it won't be too visible once the riders are on.

By the way, in case you are wondering, the warg rider kit can be used to build six wargs without riders. It includes pieces to fill the gap in the back where the rider sits. Unlike the Knights of Minas Tirith, it also includes pieces to fill the extra hole in the base that's left after you mount the figure, but I'll probably just do the same think I did with the knights and fill it with a little green stuff before finishing the base.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


One of my new distractions from painting is the computer game Demigod. There's been a good deal of controversy over this game due to the low ratings it's been getting from reviewers. The controversy is because it's generally felt by a lot of people that the ratings are undeservedly low as a result of problems that the developers had no control over, and which are rapidly being fixed.

Specifically, Gamestop screwed up and released the game early. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that the game is designed to primarily be an online multiplayer game, and the servers weren't quite ready yet when Gamestop began to release the game. The result is that the servers got hit hard and weren't able to handle the load. This was multiplied by the piracy issue, but I'll get into that later. So, game reviewers are panning the game for the poor server experience, but the poor server experience wasn't the fault of the developers, and is already much improved. Unfortunately, those low scores will stay on the websites and the averages will stay on the aggregators regardless of how irrelevant they become, which is bound to hurt sales of the game.

That's a shame, because the game is actually pretty good. The easiest way to sum up the game is to describe it as DotA-like. DotA (Defense of the Ancients) is an extremely popular mod for the RTS game Warcraft III where each player controls a single powerful character instead of a whole army. That character levels up during the game, and players also have the opportunity to buy equipment in the game that further enhances their character.

The game can be a lot of fun, but also has a freaking huge learning curve before you stop getting your ass handed to you in random pickup matches. The result can be very un-fun for beginners.

Demigod has fewer character options than DotA, making it a lot easier to learn. Otherwise, it shares a lot of the same gameplay elements. Each game has two sides (light and dark), and the goal is to work together to defeat the other side. Depending on the type of match, that can be by destroying their citadel, destroying all their forts, earning enough points from capturing and holding flags, or killing enough opposing characters. The characters earn cash and experience by defeating other characters, capturing flags, killing "creeps" (weak characters controlled by the computer), and destroying buildings belonging to the opposing side. Whenever a character gains a level they get to choose either a new ability or an upgrade to an existing ability. The maximum level is 20, but each character has more than 20 options, so there are multiple ways you can build each character.

In addition to levelling, you can also improve your character by spending the cash they earn. They can buy items that increase their abilities, or they can purchase upgrades to their citadel which helps the whole team by buffing your side's creeps or buildings or some other team-wide effect.

There's a bit more to it than that, but I don't want to get into too much detail. Hopefully that's enough to give a good idea of how it plays.

So far I've only played one vs. game and it was against a friend, the rest of the times have been solo or coop against the computer. All these experience have been fun, and I suggest ignoring the negative reviews and giving it a try if the gameplay sounds appealing.

Fair warning, there are still some server issues. For the most part we've had minor delays, but there was one point where we had a lot of trouble getting a game going, and it ended up taking around ten minutes from the point we started setting it up to the point we actually started playing. This only happened once though, and after you're in the game things run smoothly as long as no one has their game settings too high for their computer.

Now, about the piracy. At one point Stardock (the game's publisher) calculated that they had many times the number of illegitimate copies hitting their servers as they did legitimate copies. This is bad. Stardock is one of the few major companies that offers minimal copy protection (actually they have no copy protection on the disc itself, but require a CD key in order to patch or access certain online functions). I don't have to keep the CD in the drive when playing a Stardock game, and I would like it to stay that way. To all the asshats who pirated the game simply because they were too cheap to buy it, a big middle finger from me to you.

That said, I think there was probably a significant portion of the "pirates" that were actually people who had pre-ordered, or intended to buy the game, from somewhere other than Gamestop. When they heard about the fact that Gamestop had broke the street date and that there were already people playing the game, they went ahead and torrented a copy, figuring that it wasn't really pirating since they still planned to buy the game.

Unfortunately, this did two things. The first is that it probably inflated the number of actual "pirates," making it more likely that Stardock might review its policy on DRM in the future, the second is that the poor online experience due to the early and unexpected load on the servers probably caused some to reconsider their purchase of the game despite the good gameplay.

In any case, the whole fiasco between the unfairly poor reviews, the Gamestop idiocy and the torrenting freeloaders is what inspired me to write about what is in reality a pretty fun game, despite the bad publicity.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My New Toy

I've been taking a lot of pictures over the past couple of years and I've finally outgrown the little Sony Cybershot DSC-T7 point and shoot camera that I bought back when I first met my wife-to-be. It's a wonderful little camera that fits in the pocket and has been very reliable, but factors such as shutter lag and a lack of image stabilization finally caused me to start looking to upgrade. After doing some research online I came to the conclusion that I could either get an OK solution by upgrading to a newer point and shoot digital camera in the $200 range, or pretty much solve all my problems by going for a low-end digital SRL camera in the $500 range. I was leaning towards the cheaper option, but when I discussed it with my wife she thought we should go ahead and look at the SRLs.

The result is my new Olympus E-520 Digital SRL camera that my wife just got me for my birthday, and I've been playing around with it a bit. All the pictures in this post were taken with it. My initial impressions are very favorable. It performs as I'd hoped it would in terms of shutter lag (which is nonexistent) and image stabilization. The macro setting seems far superior to that of any of my previous cameras, although the lens casts a shadow from the built-in flash when you get too close to the subject, so I may have to get an external flash eventually, although careful setting up of the shot, or a run through GIMP to edit out the shadow, will probably do for now.

If you can't tell the difference between these pics and the ones I've been posting, please realize that most of the pics taken with the Sony Cybershot either used a tripod or some other means for me to physically stabilize the camera before taking the picture, whereas the ones in this post I took while simply holding the camera in my hands and shooting from whatever angle I felt like.

Note that in the picture of my Knights of Minas Tirith, the knights have yet to be glued to the horses, which is why at least one of them is leaning in the saddle a bit.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Priming the Riders

I stumbled across a fairly easy way to prime the Knights of Minas Tirith. Part of the problem with painting mount and rider separately is that you don't have an easy handle to hold the rider with when you paint it. I happened to have a package of cheap ball point pens lying around for another project (some are destined to become part of flying stands for my Eldar Wave Serpents), and it turns out that they are the perfect size to mount a Knight on. A little bit of double sided tape and they fit perfectly for priming. I'm not going to try to paint them this way, but it makes it a lot easier to prime. I do recommend wearing some disposable gloves if you don't want to spraypaint your hand though.

Heroic Death

My character died in his second adventure. Who knew that a low constitution, ranged striker that always finds himself in the front line would be vulnerable? It wasn't the healers' fault, I simply ran out of healing surges followed by an attack that took me to exactly my negative bloodied level.

Fortunately, the style of campaign we're running is very forgiving. The Knights of the Arasen Vale (the organization our characters belong to) offer free raise dead rituals to those who fall in the line of duty. My only "death penalty" being the loss of half the xp and cash I would have earned in the encounter I died in.

I still like my character, and I'm 90% sure I'll continue to play him, but there are a couple of concerns both in my build and in the way the game plays. I probably should have dumped at least a couple more points into constitution at the expense of strength. I'm really not using my strength score, and I simply took the recommended defaults that the character builder gave me since I had never played before.

The problem with the way the game plays is that the character really isn't supposed to be in the front line. He ends up there because everyone else is even more squishy than he is, even the other striker in the group (who is also ranged). It also doesn't help that he's designed to move, but we inevitably start encounters in a 2x2 square area that's only open to the front. This is a result of the encounter based setup of the campaign. Each encounter is basically restricted to an 8.5x11 sheet of paper for convenience, but it makes for some very constricted battlefields. That's OK for some encounters, but it really hurts my character when every encounter is like that.

The result is that I inevitably get pounded on even in the easier lead-in encounters, where I have to take opportunity attacks in order to attack simply because there's no place for me to shift to. For now I'll just deal, but I may have to say something if we continue with the "elevator" approach to each encounter (we're effectively entering each encounter in a small elevator car where we can only go forward).

If I do have to roll a new character to better account for the encounter based style of play it will be a real shame because I've been looking forward to playing an effective archer in an RPG since I first picked up the purple box basic D&D. These two sessions have proven to me that the archer is effective, he's simply limited by the current play situation, as well as some mistakes in my build.

As for my character's death, I knew it was coming so I was able to get my daily power off and do a bit of damage the turn before it arrived. The remaining members of the party were able to dispatch the surviving foes in just a few more turns, with only the warlock leader, the one who killed me, managing to make his escape.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The next part of my Lord of the Rings project is to build and paint a box of Knights of Minas Tirith. It's been a long time since I've tried to paint a miniature of a horse, so I decided I'd start with those. I explained in an earlier post how I decided that I needed to do some green stuff on the backs of the horses. I'm glad I did because the finished product is much better as a result.

Painting the horses was a little more difficult than I'd hoped, but less so than I had feared. I started by block painting in the bodys, tails and manes. I decided to use two different color schemes for the bodies. This should result in the unit looking a bit more "natural" in that not all the horses are identical, but still keeps things easy for painting. I stayed away from doing any socks or other markings in order to keep things simple. I'll probably save those kinds of details for my character models in order to better distinguish them.

Before the wash, the lighter scheme looked like crap, but after the wash I think it's the better of the two, although I'm pleased with both. It's harder to distinguish the two schemes in the picture than it is in real life. The darker scheme is on the three horses to the right.

The rest of the scheme was pretty much dictated by the scheme I used on my Warriors of Minas Tirith. The saddle blankets were the same gray as the uniforms, and the leather accessories the same black as that on the armor straps. Finally, the small piece of armor on the heads of the horses was the same metallic color as the armor on the warriors.

The most difficult part of the process was the wash. On my smaller miniatures, this is the easiest part of the process, but there are two issued on the horses. The first is that I worked with two separate washes, brown for the bodys and black for the metal and cloth. I had to take reasonable care to keep the wash in the area it was intended for. The second, and bigger, problem was that with the larger flatter areas on the horses flanks and shoulders I had to take care that there wasn't pooling of the wash. One shoulder in particular was prone to a circular pooling that resulted in a very un-natural looking circular spot when the wash dried. It took me three tries to finally get it right. The upside to this was that I learned how to just paint over a portion of a washed miniature in order to re-wash just that portion.

It took two to three coats of wash to get to the final result, but I'm very pleased with that result, and am now looking forward to assembling and painting the riders.

Color Scheme #1
Body: Game Color 43 Beasty Brown
Mane & Tail: Game Color 45 Charred Brown

Color Scheme #2
Body: Game Color 42 Parasite Brown
Mane & Tail: Game Color 43 Beasty Brown

Saddle Blanket: Citadel Foundation Adeptus Battlegray
Armor: Game Color 53 Chainmail Silver
Leather touchups: Game Color 51 Chaos Black
Eyes: Game Color 51 Chaos Black
Grass: Citadel Foundation Orkhide Shade
Body Wash: Citadel Wash Devlan Mud cut with magic wash mix
Armor and Cloth Wash: Citadel Wash Bedab Black cut with magic wash mix

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First LotR Test Battle

I like to play through a new game by myself for at least a few turns to get the hang of the rules. Now that I've finished painting my starting forces for Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, I decided to go ahead and play through a scenario.

Since the forces are built using the Legions of Middle-Earth lists, I decided to use the scenario generator from that book to run my first test game. Using the random generator I came up with the Reconnoitre scenario. The goal of the scenario is to move more models off the opponent's table edge than they move off yours. I set up the forces with this goal in mind, but then promptly forgot about it as soon as I began playing.

I used the random terrain generator to help set up the board, and ended up with a river running down the middle. I decided the river itself was difficult terrain.

You can check out my Flickr photos to see a turn by turn progress of the first half of the game. The end result was a draw, because I didn't pay attention to the victory conditions until about halfway through, and by then it was too late for either side to achieve them. The forces of Good had better luck with the dice rolls, and achieved a moral victory by killing more than they lost, despite the Uruk Hai being better models man for man, and the Minas Tirith archers being near worthless against them (only one kill the entire game). The only thing those archers were good for was making a run for the edge of the table, and even then they were too little, too late.

I enjoyed the test game and am looking forward to possibly getting in another test, but even more so to playing the game against an actual opponent. I have someone in the area that wants to give it a try, but we have to manage to actually schedule a time to do it.

A few comments on the models. I'm pleased with the way they all turned out; however, I was surprised to find that I like the Minas Tirith force better on the tabletop in terms of appearance. Model for model I prefer the Uruk Hai, but when arrayed on the tabletop, the Warriors of Minas Tirith just gave a better overall impression. Partly because all the shades of brown on the Uruk Hai tend to blend together when looking down on them from a distance. I suspect they may look a bit better on a higher table. My table for gaming at home is relatively low for a miniatures table.

Using the different shades of static grass for the two sides did make it very easy to visually distinguish the two sides while still giving a nice overall appearance. I think it's just as effective as painting the edges of the bases different colors, but not as jarring visually. Of course, if I don't want my home games to be visually jarring, then I need to finish up some more terrain, but given that I expect to play most of my games using the FLGS's terrain, that's rather low on the priority list for now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Seven


OK, the project will actually continue on, but my original goal of two 250 point forces for Lord of the Rings is completed. I got all the remaining painted models sealed today, as well as getting some horses primed. I'll try to get some pictures posted tomorrow.

I'm now ready to get them on the table and actually play a game.

This daily blog update has been a big help in keeping me going, but I'm not sure if I'll continue to do it or not as it comes off a bit spammy. I might try out some other format, just posting major landmarks here, and putting the daily updates somewhere else. Maybe I'll start twittering :-P

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Six

Working with green stuff isn't exactly part of a routine designed to get an army put together in a hurry, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave a big crack running down the back of the horses for my Minas Tirith cavalry. Like the rest of the range, the plastic horses are simpler to assemble than their Warhammer counterparts. Rather than the four pieces for a Warhammer horse, these horses only have two pieces, with the complete head and tail attached to one half. This avoids having a join running down the center of the head, but still leaves one down the middle of the hindquarter, which is going to be a little too obvious without something to cover it up.

So, I broke out the green stuff, and worked it into the join. While I was at it, I did one of the three threes I've been assembling as well. I'll probably try to work on the other two over the next few days.

Back on the Uruk Hai and command teams, I managed to reach my goals by getting static grass on all the bases, and the edges of the bases painted. It's not as obvious in the picture as it is in person, but I used a different grass for the Uruk Hai. For the Warriors of Minas Tirith I used Citadel Grass, but I thought it was a bit too bright for the Uruk Hai, who are usually considered to be great despoilers of nature. Instead, I used Citadel Scorched Grass, and I'm really pleased with the results. It blends better with the more neutral colors of the miniatures, and helps set them apart from the forces of Good.

I'm hoping that the weather will be good enough for me to seal the models tomorrow, because if I don't get it done then it could be a few days before I get another chance according to the weather forcast.

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Five

As can be seen in the photos, I finished up putting sand on the bases, and washing them. I also got the Uruk Hai captain and banner washed. I'm hoping to get the static grass and the edges of the bases painted tomorrow.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Four

Finished! Or at least, finished with all but the basing and the sealer for the rank and file troops. I still have to put a wash on the command team, but otherwise the Uruk Hai are done.

I got all the hair and weapons done this morning, as well as the last of the leather. This evening I washed all the models. Then I started working on the captain and standard bearer. Saving these to do at the end seemed to work out as I was able to finish them up quickly, even though I was taking a bit more care with them than I did with the rank and file. Tomorrow I'll give them a wash and start on the basing.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Three

I didn't get much done today on the project (see my previous post for why). I did get the leather painted on a few more miniatures. Only two left, and then on to the hair and weapons.


I finally got to sit down and play a game face to face with someone, and it was 4th Edition D&D, which I have been itching to try out since its release.

My initial impression is that I understand the naysayers, but still respectfully disagree. It's true, the game does not encourage roleplaying in the way a game like Burning Wheel might. It encourages tactical thinking and teamwork, but it still allows for roleplaying. It's simply up to the DM and the players.

I want to start by saying that the game tonight was well run, and was delivered as advertised: three encounters in three hours using 4th edition D&D. I had a great deal of fun and really got to see the rules in action.

Now, the game tonight was also a perfect example of what the naysayers have been complaining about. The game started in media res, with the players having already accepted the mission, and finding themselves outside the gate of their destination. There was no debate or negotiation. No investigation or exploration. We were there to do a job and we proceeded to do it.

The rules make this kind of game very easy to set up and run, but it's still the DM's choice to run it that way. If we had had more time than the three hour slot we were given, we could have started the game at the beginning. We could have played out being recruited into the Guard in order to investigate a case of missing Dwarves. We could have questioned those with knowledge of the situation to better prepare ourselves, and then gone out and explored the area where the Dwarves were last seen. Instead, all of this was made part of the introduction, either implicitly or explicitly, and we began the actual game with the first combat encounter.

In many ways, this is a return to the roots of D&D as an outgrowth of a tactical miniatures wargame, and I guess it's going to take some players a while to realize the potential for roleplaying within the system.

Of course, some players may simply get tired of the system itself and move on before they realize that potential, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that either. There are systems that encourage roleplaying more than 4th Edition D&D, and here's where I tend to disagree with most of the naysayers: 3rd Edition D&D isn't one of those games. It's still a system centered around tactical combat.

All that aside, I'm looking forward to the next session.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty Two

Didn't have quite as productive a day today as yesterday, but still got the leather painted on seven more miniatures. Hopefully, I'll be able to finish up the leather tomorrow. I also picked up the War of the Ring book today, so I can start thinking about what I'm going to do after I get these finished.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty One

Another very productive day. Finished the metal armor on all the minis (although I can see I may have to touch up a few spots looking at the pic), and did the leather on a half dozen minis as well. The desire to get these on the table in a fully painted condition is really pushing me... I hope it holds :-P

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Twenty

Got the flesh done on the rest of the Uruk Hai plastics. Plus, I got a start on the armor. I'm really liking these miniatures so far. For one and two piece plastics they are very dynamic and quite different from the miniatures I'm used to painting. Part of that is from design elements carried over from the movies (the shield and pike designs are brutally efficient in a way not seen in Warhammer Fantasy), but part is from the posing of the sculps.

I'm looking forward to getting these guys done and on the table.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Nineteen

After my post last night I ended up working a bit more and got the Minas Tirith banner bearer finished except for the wash. I didn't want to use black for the banner, but the gray I've been using for the clothes seemed a bit too light, so I tried Model Color 995 German Grey, and I think it works pretty good. I'll try to get a picture tomorrow.

I got the captain and banner bearer washed today. I also started working on the rest of the Uruk Hai, starting with the flesh. I'm doing these a bit differently than I did the Warriors of Minas Tirith. Rather than the extreme production line method of just doing one small area on each miniature in turn, I'm doing all the flesh on one model before moving on to the next.

A couple reasons for this. The first is that I simply like to change things up. I've found that while some speed painting methods are better than others for me, none of them work for extended periods. I simply get bored with them, so I need to change things up a bit. The second is that the paint I'm using for the flesh takes two or three coats to get decent coverage. When I'm working on one miniatures I can just keep going over it until it's done, moving from one part to another on the same model. With the extreme assembly line method I have to go through the whole assembly line process two or three times just to do one part, and that would drive me crazy.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Eighteen

I finally have a new picture. Below, you can see my Uruk Hai test model. In addition to getting it done, I also got my Minas Tirith Captain blocked out, and got a start on the banner bearer. I also manged to get a matte coat on my finished Warriors of Minas Tirith, so they are completely done now (although I may still hit them with a second matte coat when it's not quite so humid).

I tried to keep things very simple with the Uruk Hai. There's only five colors and a wash on the test model. The result is less true to the movies than the "official" paint scheme, but I think it works well on its own, and is easy to paint. I could get a lot closer to the look of the movies if I was willing to do a bit of drybrushing, but I don't really like drybrushing, especially when I'm going for speed painting. I know it's supposed to be a method for speed painting, but it always seems to take me longer than anything else. Instead, I'm just using a wash.

Armor: Game Color 60 Tinny Tin
Weapon: Game Color 54 Gunmetal Metal
Leather: Game Color 43 Beasty Brown
Skin: Game Color 44 Dark Fleshtone
Hair: Game Color 45 Charred Brown
Wash: Citadel Wash Badab Black (with a bit of "magic wash")

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lord of the Rings Project: Day Seventeen

Today, I got all of my assembled minis primed, and my painted minis covered with a gloss coat, and it's a good thing, because it doesn't look like the weather is going to be good for spraying outside tomorrow. I may try to put the matte coat on the painted minis in the garage tomorrow, but I'll have to see just what the conditions are.

In any case, I hope to work on my Uruk Hai test model tomorrow.

In semi related news, my FLGS finally got its website and forum up and running and my wife has started working a 7 to 3 schedule, so I should finally be able to organize some actual games. I'm hoping to talk someone into trying out the LotR game with me sometime soon.

Podcast Update

Although I no longer have the long commute I used to have to take my wife to work, I continue to listen to podcasts on a regular basis, mostly while working on miniatures. World's End Radio has now become my favorite podcast, moving ahead of the Order 66 largely because I'm more actively interested in the games covered by World's End than I am in the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG covered by Order 66. In fact, I'm way behind on Order 66, because of that.

My second favorite is now the d6 Generation. It's a good general gaming podcast. Also on my regular listening list is 40K Radio, which has recently undergone a bit of a shakeup in its cast which I think is turning out to be an improvement, and This Week In Wargaming. TWiW is the most expensive podcast I listen to. Its weekly coverage of new products being released in miniatures gaming, largely from the smaller publishers, has already caused me to spend at least a couple of hundred dollars I wouldn't have otherwise spent.

Sadly, Podhammer is not on my list anymore. It would be, but for undisclosed personal reasons Jeff Carroll, the host, has had to put it on indefinite hiatus. I hope he's able to bring it back eventually. About the same time Podhammer went on hiatus, 40K Warcasting returned. This is a good supplemental podcast if you don't already get your fill of 40K coverage from 40K Radio, or a replacement if you prefer a more laid back style to the sometimes "flamboyant" approach of the guys at 40K Radio. I like both, especially since they both do codex overviews, and it's just that many more opinions from guys who regularly play the game. I've found that the consensus opinion often varies dramatically between gaming groups, so it's good to compare and contrast.

I've been dablling with some other podcasts as well, but don't want to discuss them until I've had a chance to listen to more than an episode or two.