A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

[Review Corner] Robotech/Mospeada Beta Fighter/Tread Toy

As gamers we all like toys, let's face facts.  If we can make excuses that they are to be used with gaming even better right?  Heck, miniatures really are toy soldiers anyhow.  They just cost ridiculous amounts.  Just like collector's toys.

Such as the one we are about to review!









And there we go!  I hope to have at least one more post before 2011 of some kind, but time is friggin tight on the holidays.  It took me a week to even do this one!  Obviously you really don't need something like this for your Robotech or other mecha games, but its kind of neat if you can find an excuse for one eh?  I mean.  ITS BIG.  But its really a semiposable, EXPENSIVE add on to a really cruddy toy whose only reported good version (which was made at the same factory as this one) is out of print and still might be bad.

But I have been a Robotech fan since the mid 80s and the Mospeada/Invid Invasion segment is my favorite part (even if the usually maligned second part has my favorite character.  Though that could be because Dana Sterling was the first girl I had a crush on.  No wonder I am so messed up!) with the post holocaust survival/rebels traveling the land fighting the evil oppressors style and theme just being way cool.

Its sort of the reason I love the Ravenloft setting in D&D so much as well.  The good guys being in lands controlled by darkness trying to save the people who have already mostly given up is just such a compelling setting.

And hey!  Its a giant booster rocket/bomber for a transforming jet fighter that also transforms.  Who doesn't like transforming robots?

TERRIBLE PEOPLE.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Random Boosters: Talk about DUMB Daniel!

Consider this both a minor rant and an explanation about how such blind buy bits are silly.

I have photos for many interesting reviews and unboxings but I have been lazy.

Plus Carlin the Bishop needs to be leveled up because Michele the Elf Sorceress is too fragile for level 10 in Wizardry Tale of the Forsaken Land.

(One run on Level 8 and Carlin goes from 1-10 and can now be promoted to a Bishop.  10 more levels of grinding plus many runs to the spell component store and he will be way better than any silly Elf mage girl.  Because he is GEORGE FREAKING CARLIN.  Heck he is still 4-5 levels lower than Michele since this pic was taken and he has nearly 80 more HP.  And can cast Priest AND Sorcerer spells.)

Now for those of you who don't know, random boosters, or "Blind Buy" packaging is beneficial for the manufacturer and the retailer who doesn't have to worry about multiple SKUs (Store Keeping Units) of product that may or may not sell, and can in fact cause extra sales as customers chase that one magic Rare or Super Rare that the product may have, ending up with multiples of items that probably wouldn't sell that much on their own.

And in some cases its sort of a Christmas package every time you open one of these packs up.  The feeling of "What's in this one?" can be silly addictive.

Yet in the end its a screwjob on us, the consumer.  Like those Lego and Mega Blocks minifigure packages.  I REALLY want the Lego Vampire.  But I am NOT gonna take the risk on 4 dollar a pack baggies in the hope of getting him.  (A 1 inch tall Lego minifig for 4 bucks?  BLOW ME.  That's a rip off!  Now 2 bucks?  I'd buy that action like I am Harold AND Kumar and the bags contain some "green".)  Now the Mega Bloks ones are much cheaper at 2.50 a pack.  Yet I keep getting the same damned Rare figure, the Pink Hayabusa Halo Samurai dude.  And some poor kid is gonna be hoping for one and my dumb luck means he keeps getting some lame Common rated figure.  And I am stuck with a bunch of pink samurai in powered armor.  Which is only something you want if you are an RPGnet or Scans Daily poster.  

And this is what happens.  In some cases (like the Mega Blocks Halo figures) the AMOUNT of goodies you get almost make up for looking for that one bit you want by sheer value compared to buying the same product if it was open buy.  Yet you have other cases such as Magic where the Super Rare equivalents are all but NEEDED for certain decks especially if you play competitively or you buy singles where a SINGLE IN PRINT TRADING CARD THAT COSTS PENNIES TO MAKE GOES FOR 20-100 DOLLARS OR MORE BECAUSE THEY MAGICALLY MADE LESS OF IT.

This is a hose job and a companies' way of telling you, their loyal customers that you can go "hug" yourself.

Now some games sort of have run with this for years like Magic, the collectible miniatures games that all have pretty much bombed out, and so on.  

Sadly, its starting to infect RPGs and Boardgames too.

Today we will be investigating this F A S.  (Wargame Dork tries to avoid R rated language so you can just guess for yourself what the letters stand for.)

Plus it covers some information on games I plan on reviewing fully later on anyhow.

First off is D&D Gamma World.  See in Gamma World they came up with this card based gimmick for mutant powers and "Omega Tech" which is basically Magic Items in a fantasy RPG.

The game comes with 40 card decks of these powers and magic items.  In gameplay the players draw from these decks when they find gear or random crazy events happen which change their mutant power for this fight.  

(While this is kind of weird it does sort of fit Gamma World's GONZO AS HELL setting and feel, it can be houseruled to be a little less random.)

However, players can build their own custom mini decks with card stacking limits to do more what they want and be less random.


So your players can buy multiple packs of these cards all randomly set out of the 120 available, with the nice foil packaging helping create ever bigger landfills of garbage and getting people to spend more money on RPG products as opposed to just buying a single rulesbook or box set and being done!

HOW WONDERFUL.


And that's what you get.  A logo back and a trading card of text.

But what makes this worse?

EACH 8 CARD PACK IS FOUR DOLLARS MSRP.   50 CENTS A PLAIN TEXT TRADING CARD.  

They aren't even foil or have pretty pictures on them!  

Its a SCAM.  

Oh, and online these 4 dollar packs cost 3 bucks.  A 16 card pack of Magic the Gathering with foils and super rares and other fanciness?  2.75 from the same store.  Yeah.  Same company and its not even competitive with the same product type!

And its probably the biggest thing keeping many people from investing in Gamma World.  Many folks have said they don't even like the preset 40 card decks in the main box.  This just makes things worse.  It even means some players can have an edge on the game over others by dropping silly amounts of money.

Thankfully the only place I know who has the boosters so far hasn't seemed to sell a single pack.  Sadly, it probably won't teach WOTC anything.  And it could possibly kill Gamma World again. 

What's sad is the whole card deal could have been dropped for abilities and items in a book with a random roll.  But instead its a new dumb way to create landfill clogging foil wrappers and throws off game balance.

A shame.  Also I probably wouldn't allow the boosters at all.  Unless I was bribed first.  If you are silly enough with money to buy booster packs just to be better in an RPG you can buy my coffee for the entire campaign.  And I loves me coffee.  And its gonna COST you.  Lattes from Dunkin's.  That's right.  The delicious beverage I don't buy because its stupidly expensive and mini mart coffee is usually as tasty is what you would have to do as penance for being both a powergamer and a consumer whore.

Ok.  Now let's move swiftly along to the boardgaming section.

I have discovered this neat new boardgame from Columbia Games called Wizard Kings.  It is part of their block wargame series where you have painted wooden blocks with unit stickers on one side, making for a neat "Fog of War" thing going on.  I got the first edition box with 2 complete armies for 30 dollars.  The current edition gives you 8 blocks and rules for every army for 50 MSRP (40 online).

Well in first edition days if you wanted new armies you got this for 12-15 dollars:


See?  A nice VHS type clamshell case containing the following goodness:


Your faction's army card with unit quick reference and spells on one side, fluff on the other.



And your COMPLETE army, with a carefully thought out and hopefully well playtested array of all your faction units, and 3 appropriate "Chaos Mercenary" units.  28 pretty wood blocks and stickers.  Plus there is room for a few Werebeast Mercenaries, which can be stickered on any of the faction color blocks for either shoring up your faction's weak spots, or possibly turning one faction into a Werebeast only army.    (The vagaries of how you assign and balance the Werecreatures per faction is an annoying bit in either edition.  2nd edition only makes this worse, but we will get to that!)

(Yes that weretiger has exposed nipples.  On the upside it doesn't have exposed bits described in the "Anita Blake" books.  *Shudder*)

So the 1st edition Wizard Kings gave you 28 preassigned blocks for 15 MSRP.  A little over 2 dollars a block.

Now in 2nd edition its only 10 bucks for 21 blocks, and they are all compatible with 1st edition and vice versa outside of a few bits from the 2nd edition rules.   Roughly the same core price, 2 bucks a block!  It also allows for bigger forces for monster games with expansion mapsets.

Cool huh?  

NOT SO MUCH.

(One upside in spite of my flash obscuration is better art on the box and stickers.  And of course bonus sideboob!)

They keep the same VHS clamshell case, albeit with a generic cover.  While with 7 armies this provides nice organized cases for each, as is the wont of random boosters you need way more than that to comfortably cover things:

(We get blocks colored for every faction!  And a baggie you can use to hold the contents for one HELL of a party, albeit one illegal in most states and countries.)


See that?  You get a whopping TWO random stickers for each of the 7 factions, and 7 stickers you can place on whatever faction you want, possibly breaking the game if you really want your Elves to be super bad asses, or just don't care about any sort of theme whatsoever.  Amazons with a giant werecreature army?  Whatever you want!  DAMN YOU BALANCE AND THEME.  DAMN YOU TO HELL YOU GODDAMNED DIRTY BALANCE AND THEME!

Now as we figure each 1st edition faction box contained 25 faction pure units, and the 2nd ed core set has 8 units per faction this means you need at MINIMUM ignoring rarity and the chaos of assortment 9 boosters to have 26 faction pure blocks per faction.  Even if you just want to play Orcs and get your WAAGH on or Amazons because scantily clad warrior women make you feel funny like that time you climbed the rope in gym class you have to drop close to a 100 bucks when before it was 15 bucks.

Oh sure it might be around the same price if you want to collect every army or have big massive hordes to supplement things but its really sort of hosing.

And that's the problem with blind purchase products.  It damages gameplay balances and punishes the customer, especially one on a budget, giving the people with more money than sense an extreme edge.

Yet in the long run, most people don't have unlimited funds, and losing to the WIN AT ALL COSTS guys just isn't fun, leaving the powergamers to play ever decreasingly small groups as more and more people just give up, and no new players have any desire to even try, eventually killing most games.

Remember, even Magic only survives because of its MASSIVE playerbase and the game variants which tend to bring the "Mr Suitcase" players into check.  (Blocks of legal cards, booster drafts, ect.)

How many other collectible games continue to thrive without such restrictions, or even with?

Really not many.  After Magic you have what?  Yu Gi Oh for the kids, and Heroclix on a weird form of zombie popularity.  Most everything else has either died or gone into the FFG "Living Card Game" sort of fixed release expansions.

The sad fact is though, its such a positive short but fast and easy profit setup for retailers and manufacturers that I doubt it will ever go away, even if otherwise promising games can be damaged irreparably by it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ok Kids, its Time for a Rant

Over at one of the RPG forums I frequent one game shop guy was raging out about those Storygames quasi RPGs almost nobody plays or cares about in real life, and about 4th edition.  (Which I can't criticize too much as I have sadly done quite a bit of that over the years.)

It has lead into some interesting discussion about gaming in general with one fellow making a rather good comment:

Originally Posted by John Morrow 
And when those communities disappear because all of the people have decided it's easier to play World of Warcraft or want to play a game you can't stand, instead? Role-playing is a social hobby that requires other people to play and while you may not have a problem finding or making new players and while there will always be some small number of people who keep the hobby going in some form (just as wargaming never entirely died), it's going to make things more difficult for a lot of people if they can't find people to play with and can't buy game material for the sort of games that they want to play. It's also going to impact people if their group breaks up over it.

HE IS DAMNED RIGHT.  And it lead me to my own commentary of which I shall repost here and edit/expand upon to make a nice proper blog post.

What?  This blog is supposed to be nothing more than my comic reviews of things?

I know its my gimmick and all but I can write if I want to, leaving my party members behind...

I am getting to the point where I am ready to quit buying gaming stuff and possibly give up on gaming with other people its become so hard to find a group. If it wasn't for a once yearly con and D&D Encounters I am not sure I would have done much of ANYTHING for gaming the last 6 months outside of a couple pickup games that never got a single person to play what we were playing.


People don't seem interested in finding groups at all. I mean, I even bought into D&D Essentials I was so desperate to get an RPG group going.  You know, the latest version of the most popular RPG in existence?  The one I have ranted about for most of this blog's lifetime?


Its all been an utter failure. Nobody on player finders, nobody on forums, nobody through Player's Wanted posters, nobody through store Yahoo groups or Facebook pages.  Nobody on IRC.  Nobody at work who claims to be a gamer.


Either people only want to play with a select group (which means as soon as the inevitabilities of real life take over as they did with my old group its OVER), or they only want to play one certain game in one certain style on one certain day and everyone else might as well not even EXIST.  (Battletech players in my region are the absolute WORST at this.  Though in the mid 90s the Battletech scene in Virginia was just as awful.  So its not just typical New England Douchebaggery in effect here!)



And what happens? Many people are looking for a game but can't find anyone to game with. Maybe their friends aren't gamers. In some cases people won't even MENTION being into nerdy stuff because the nature of their job and the people there would ostracize them and it would negatively impact their career! (There was a thread about this a couple seasons back at Fear the Boot's forum.) Heck, high school kids are EVIL to each other. Do something the majority says is wrong and get found out and your ass will endure a LIVING HELL for it.

So folks can't find a game so why bother buying anything new or even bothering?


A videogame is always there provided the machine works and the power/internet isn't out as needed.

And we then lose more and more people due to clannish, antisocial, and ONE WAY ONLY douchebags.


Now add in those people whose games actually run people away. You know, the guys whose campaigns all have massive amounts of Player vs Player killing, whose characters are lesbian Drow priestesses who eat eyeballs daily as a sacrifice to their god, the powergamers who look down on anyone who talks too much or too loud or whose army isn't painted and constructed to their tournament standard. Or who spent 5000 bucks on the latest Magic set so they crush every other deck by turn 5 or clearly they didn't make it good enough. The guys who yell at anyone whose arm even rests on their 8' 4' table with 4 2" long ships on it total. The guys who run off any kids and teens by saying such vulgar and horrible things. Who if they decide the kids' hygiene isn't good enough they spray them with air freshener. (These are all REAL events I have either seen or been told about.  I could easily go on.)



Why the hell would anyone want to even BOTHER?


And then if somehow you GET a good group going real life takes folks away or a new edition comes out and fragments everyone with some refusing to play the new version, and others refusing to play the OMG OOOOOLLD version that was perfectly fine until some beancounter said it was time to get a quick cash infusion.


Its sort of the same kind of reasons many people have stopped trying to find jobs or get into a meaningful romantic relationship.


You put all your heart and soul into it and get SQUAT ALL BACK for doing so. 

If nobody else seems to give a damn why should you?

Why spend money on this stuff, or time to learn the rules when nobody is interested and nobody cares?  
Why try to make new friends who have your similar interests when clearly its a waste of bloody time, and a little bit soul crushing to know what you care about nobody else does?

Why bust your hump preparing a great game and cleaning up the house and having a game table all set to go when everyone decides to cancel 30 minutes before gametime?  (And that's if they bother to inform you AT ALL?)

And that just leads to the obvious fact buying all this stuff and putting any effort in is STUPID.  One would be better off buying a videogame or a DVD or something.  Or heck, showing some REAL SMARTS and saving for a rainy day.

Some folks would say I am just angry and should take a break from it all.

I've basically been on a break. 
THATS THE BLASTED PROBLEM.


And look at many of the examples I listed. If you were either a new potential gamer or one who was trying to get a group would you want to put up with any of that nonsense?


Probably not. Its a lot faster to slap a disk into your game machine of choice and just kill some Radscorpions or Orcs in 5 minutes rather than try to go through all that work and hope someone will actually want to play and not be a freak or jerk.


Why spend hours reading rules and trying to find someone to fight Napoleon's Wars on a hex map when you can drop 30 bucks and download Commander: Napoleon at War and start playing within minutes and not have to worry about it?


Why paint dozens of Space Marines and drive to a shop in hopes of getting a game when you can grab Dawn of War 1 or 2 off Steam and watch Orks go splat for the Emperor and not have some asshole poo poo your paint job and army list?

I mean if you were a single female, especially a younger one would you even want to risk dealing with some creepy SOBs when you could just throw Valkyria Chronicles 2 in your PSP and not deal with it?   There are tons of women who are into nerd things now and who want to roleplay.  But it looks about as safe as cutting yourself and jumping into shark infested waters.  Where the sharks are creepy middle aged men and younger ones whose hygiene is only less questionable than the creepy anime they might watch.

Why would any sane person try to deal with it?

This is why gaming which is already niche as hell just gets niche cubed.

Gaming seems to be infested by a pile of freaks and antisocial jerks who just make one question why we should bother.

Thus us sane folks just start giving the Hell up.  

Its kind of soul crushing.  When I as a DM that has had two seperate groups basically gush over how much they liked my DMing, and who won Best Roleplayer at a LARP with 20 strangers in a game I had never played before can't even find a dang game something is incredibly WRONG.

So this is my challenge dear reader.  And I want you to spread this post far and wide.  Gaming needs to see this, to know this, to heed this, to think about it even if you think I am full of it.  (And I may be.)  You see someone doing some bad juju?  Link em to this.  Give them knowledge and wisdom.

Start trying to welcome new players.  Stop being creepy and mean.  Stop others from being creepy and mean.  Get the word out about games you like.  Be willing to try other games.  Respectfully change the bad attitudes of the stinky, the creepy, the elitist.  Look at Player's Wanted billboards, forums, and websites.  Get new players.  Encourage the lapsed ones to come back. 

BRING THE JOY OF GAMING BACK.

Cuz if we don't pretty soon we won't have gaming at all.

If enough people quit playing they will quit buying.  If they quit buying the stores close down, the games companies go out of business and you are left with a pile of books, games, and miniatures that will just join everyone else who gave up on Ebay, leaving a handful of insular little cliques to play till real life intrudes and they break up, never gaming again.

Extend your hand in friendship to others.  

And if they choose to spit in it?  Let em know why they suck.

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I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/