Thursday, October 30, 2014

Strange Days

It has been pretty quiet on the blog but not so much in real life. I guess that meant that I did see a real division between blog and life, as this space here is supposed to be representative of the escape that games were for me. Not so now.

Reality makes updates (or lack thereof) as real as it gets and any division fades.

More than a week ago my mother went in for a life-saving lung transplant in New York. She was critically ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Despite a less than 7% chance of finding a donor matching her rare antibody profile, she did or I should say, the poor donor passed, and the life the donor lost gave mom a fighting chance at her own, so it found her. Relief at the news of a donor match can feel very transactional at first but the emotion sets in fast; it is humbling when a donor tries to save a life with their passing. It is a very real sacrifice. Well played, whoever you are.

Today, mom is still in critical care and has had every setback possible short of dying on the table during surgery. Before that surgery, she basically slept for 2 weeks running up to the donor's death as her O2 diffusion was so poor that breathing was only a clinical truth. Graft dysfunction, ECMO, kidney damage, organ efficacy, bypass, dialysis, hundreds of gallons of meds and blood infusions, neurological complications, MERSA... hell, even one of the doctors at the hospital where mom is residing in tested positive for Ebola but mercifully things are going well both for the doc and everybody else. See also: Give everyone a break already.

All of the above elicits feelings that range from, "what can I do to help" to "why bother?" The former isn't really a question. We're all there to support her and each other which we do. The latter takes more gumption both to ask to begin with and then, to answer. But the answer is simply that this was the only shot that she had. With less than a month or so left alive on her own, a transplant was what she wanted, it was her only hope. I remind everyone that she wanted this; technically, she could have just skipped it and passed on. But she chose to fight and did not want to just fade. She doesn't want to keep missing out on the kids growing up. She loves people and wants more time. She was an ER nurse for 30 years... she urged so many to never give up for so long, it is ingrained. So the answer to the former and the latter is the same, "she's fighting and so, we are too".

If you've read this far, I guess you get that this is the sort of free therapy that the internet is good for. Thanks. But more importantly beyond that, you are human and have a family. Given the games & hobby this blog orbits, you are probably the same-ish demographic as me in age, income and responsibilities: you are seeing how kids become the parents of the family as your family ages. When my kids were born, advice rained on our house like hail. But in the cool quiet of your elder parent's late years, that advice only patters on the pane when the wind seems to blow and the prevailing opinion changes direction like Fall gusts. So, we play the same game on many levels and it is easy to only see it as player one.

To close out this post, I just feel compelled to say that I don't want to escape too much from reality since we are what we do, but that was where it clicked. If you are blessed in life, you will have tough choices to make that almost always affect people. Games aren't really an escape, I realized, since they recharge me by the intrinsic interaction required to play or discuss them. The shared experiences games create is a nexus for interacting with just about everyone I know. Sure the settings are daydream fuel... and I daydream a lot, an escape of sorts. But my escape is really about joining others in reality. Hell, I'm taking Memoir '44 to the hospital with me so my dad and I can play and unwind. And that is my point, even in games high on "fighty" it is always a test on resolving people conflict, finishing the fight together. Games are great at empowering people to feel what closing out a conflict feels like probably when they need it most, like during a too-long lung transplant procedure. Or losing a loved one who is an organ donor. And at last, this is the reason I didn't really sweat the lack of updates as we fight for a reality that includes mom.

Life is a game and the goal is to play it. You only win when you play, when you fight. You only lose when you don't take your turn. Mom knows losing doesn't matter, only living to take a shot at the win.

Good luck on your turn.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

NOVA 2014 Open: Jake Hoffman Warmachine/Hordes Hardcore Finals

I knew Jake when he started out playing Warmachine at Roundtable Games in Conshohocken, PA, years past, when my buddy Joe owned what was the best game store ever in my area. Great community of guys that I miss a lot. Always great to see somebody start out, then blow way past you in ability and enjoy the game the way you want. Great guy and good game play ahead!Don't look back, Jake!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strange Aeons: Swimming Fishman

Ok, first attempt at the swimming fishman for Strange Aeons is passable but really shows what rendering water in resin does for you when you try and fool the eye. By cutting up the Bones Tiik warrior and gluing it to blister plastic the size of an average base, I thought the illusion would be made with clear latex caulk... and it does look cool. The problem is all of my water features are deep tinted resin so the illusion of a swimming Deep One is sorta ruined as the eye sees below the surface and there isn't anything there. The effect will look fine on darkly painted water features that have no depth to them, like paint and polyurethane covered board.

That said, I was happy with the improv of putting caulk into a small medical syringe to aid laying down small ropes. It took more than a day to dry but overall it is an effect I'll develop more.

The real issue in this was the water based polyurethane I used on the painted fishman itself. I wanted a deep wet look on him and when I applied the polyurethane, ANY backbrushing tore the paintlayers right from the figure, leaving just the spray primer. So I imperfectly re-covered a few layers of paint and just moved on.

I'll be heading back to this idea of sculpting waves and swimming, as I add some more fishmen to the mix.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Strange Aeons/Pre-Paint Repaint: "Puma shirt... panther shirt. Puma shirt? Panther shirt."

Alright, here's another cheap pre-paint repaint of a... well, I don't really know what the hell this is supposed to be. The base said, "undead panther" but it really looks like a bobcat or baby bear or something. No idea how a panther becomes undead. Guess I should look for undead koalas, narwhals, pigeons and sloths.

But this thing looks undead enough (and small enough) as a counts-as Swarm for Strange Aeons and cost 2 bucks so I took it home, cleaned up mold lines, primed it, rebased it and repainted it in about 20 minutes. Nothing fancy. Just an undead panther-thing. No big deal.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strange Aeons: Fishman

Here's a $3.00 model that sorta puts minis twice as expensive to shame. I'm using a Reaper Bones Tiik Warrior as a Fishman for Strange Aeons. Fun to paint, looks good and scary... what's not to like?

He originally had that latern-thingy on his head and I rather liked that as a detail but I wanted to keep this jerk closer to the Innsmouth look than farther from it. As it was, I added more color than I had planned but glad I did in the end.

I based it in black, with layers of Sage Greens over greys with a purple/brown wash to pull detail out of the scales after layers. Color accents on arms and legs are scrubbed in with a short brush and some aqua, ice blue and GW green layers adorn the claws, horns and snarly bits. Most of the purples go up to pink which is why I did the eyes pink and rheumy.

Don't touch my Daaarrrrt

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Forge World: Mechanicum Myrmidon Secutor = Enginseer

So, I bought the 7th BRB and the new IG codex (Astra Militarum). I stripped a ton of Valhalla IG models over the last 2 weeks, readying them for paint.

I also ordered some Forge World, the first in probably 10 years I think. I converted the Adeptus Mechanicus Myrmidon Secutor  a bit, relocating his axe arms into a higher position on his frame and holding the large power axe upright. It looks cooler, is more sturdy and less likely to get hung up on other models. I also mag-mounted the arms and weapons… he’s my new Enginseer, as pictured above. Yeah, I see some flash I still have to manage on his power axe... damn it.

So, off to the paint line for some coatings to protect his vital systems from the miasma of war in the dark future of 40k.

Here's hoping he lives long enough to repair something.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Star Wars X Wing Miniatures: TIE Phantom First Build

A cloaked TIE Phantom right out of the box.
I picked up my first ship of Wave 4, opting for the most interesting (Cloaking mechanic) vs the coolest looking (Headhunter or TIE Defender). The E Wing is really nice, according to her girlfriends, and has a great personality. She's also sitting home alone on Friday nights, watching The Middle with her Mom and little brother. Well, in my mind anyway.

Let's just start off with how I'm probably running this ship my first few games. The Phantom comes with a Cloak Action and Decloak. Notice that Decloak is NOT an Action. When you use a Cloak Action it gives you a Cloak Token, which goes on the ship and is not removed at the end of the turn. It remains until you spend it to Decloak. Cloaked ships add 2 Defense dice, bringing the base Phantom up to 4 Defense while cloaked. You can't attack while cloaked but that is made up for with base 4 Attack dice. Like the other Small ships that can take Crew (HWK) it can take 1 Crew. Upon decloaking before you reveal your dial, you take a 2 Straight or 2 Barrel Roll (also not an Action). It's easy to imagine that this is the ship not reappearing exactly where the enemy expects. This sets up some interesting ambush or dogging tactics. The dial is workable, it feels like it is cruising at 2 and 3 and has a sprint of straight 4. You are shedding Stress with a complete set of 2 moves, all Green, which I like. She has a red 3 and 4 Kiogran which I was surprised by too.

It comes boxed with 2 Modifications specifically intended for the Phantom, though only one is named Phantom-only. These make sense on the Sigma and Shadow pilots below without other upgrades. But I left these alone for now... Stealh Device was calling my name.
Some neat ability and options are on these cards. Being the compulsive shopper I am, I opted for psychological warfare instead of hitting power and doubled-down on the Cloaking ability. To do that I needed an Elite Pilot Skill and so, Echo.

That's 36 points... a tad pricy but probably frustrating to fight. I hope.
 I took the named pilot, "Echo" along with Stealth Device to give him 3 Defense dice uncloaked and 5 Cloaked. Push the Limit allows for an Evade or Focus to pad out a Cloak ability or Evade and Focus while cloaked. Echo's ability to use the 2 Turn templates instead of a 2 Straight upon decloaking is ok but I really took Echo for PTL via Elite Pilot Skill. You are looking at 36 points for everything you see here. Interesting, no?

If I were rolling this ship build against a Rebel Transport or Tantive list I'd probably opt to add Recon Specialist to help with Focus, which makes defense more annoying or shooting better when decloaking. 39 points is A LOT for a Small ship but again, a few hundred points of a large game can soak the gimmick up easily.

Look, 5 Defense dice is nothing to sneeze at, inconsistent as that may be. Decloaking behind some Rebel ship and throwing 5 Attack dice at Range 1 on an Ambush is pretty damn fine as well. To follow an old paint-makers saying, "you can make it nice but can you make it twice?" I don't know yet. It may be that the build above doesn't do much after you unzip your fly and take a shot. I guess it comes down to how much of the game you want to spend cloaked to begin with. For now, I like the odds it has to close against Rebel turrets and not bleed-out en route to Range1 or going stealth as the lines cross, head-on.  PTL is awesome on almost everything but if I find it's possibly overkill for the role this ship trends towards then I'll gladly take Determination.

I gotta say, I think the Cloak action is pretty elegant as a mechanic and it will be interesting to see if anything else ends up with it. While not FFG-legal I will definitely be removing the ship from the base when Cloaked for the visual gag during friendly games. Becuase why not.

The above is not a deep analysis of what you can do with the Phantom, more like a first blush response. I've found that my dream builds of newly released ships usually equates to going to the gym and just working the vanity muscles. Looks good in a pic but living it may be very different than anticipated when there is heavy lifting to be done on the job.

Well, I'm off to my sister's this weekend where I will face my Rebel-Scum-in-Law Mike. I'll share out how the Phantom worked in a (ulp) 100 point list.