Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lots of board gaming lately

Here we are, looking very confused (witness Mike's expression) as Ptom explains Steampunk Rally to us
Our Sunday evening game crew has been playing a lot of board games, lately. I think everybody is in a lull phase on having a miniatures game ready to host, so we've been falling back on board games. Last Sunday, we were at Ptom's house and he pulled out a new purchase. There were seven of us in attendance, and that tends to limit what games we can play.

So, we decided to give Ptom's "Steampunk Rally" a try. Wow, what a complex game. Ptom read us the rules, and we were all confused at several points. Several times I quipped, "So, tell me again why we're not playing Seven Wonders right now?" Seven Wonders is my favorite multiplayer boardgame right now, but Steve said he dislikes it and had nixed it. Of course, he brought Munchkin...which to my thinking, is about as limited a game as you can play. Who draws the lucky cards? Who does everybody pick on? Whoopie...! So, I nixed that one in reply...ha, ha!

Anyway, back to Steampunk Rally. Players take on the role of famous inventors or scientists -- Tesla, Marconi, Einstein, Edison, and several others were in our game. They are constructing a steampunkish contraption from the cards they draw to race around a rocky track that tends to tear apart your machine. There are three different types of energy -- steam, electricity, and heat. Your contraption will probably specialize in one of them, but need all types eventually. There are a number of strange mechanics in the game. You place colored dice on your machine to represent you powering up your machine, but then you have to pay to take them off -- "venting" them -- before you can re-power it.

There is certainly a lot of variety, and we felt a lot more confident about the game after playing several rounds. However, not my favorite new game of the ones we've played.

The previous Sunday we had also been at Ptom's. We tried another recent purchase of his -- the inaptly named "Five Tribes," which seems to be quite popular. As often is the case with Eurogames, there is a "veneer" of history or setting thrown over game mechanics. This one seemed to have the thinnest of veneers. Tribes is a terrible English word for what in the game are five different castes or guilds that you try to utilize to earn the most victory points. They even call their pieces "meeples" at one point -- the generic gamer's term for the little wooden playing pieces that appear in most Eurogames. They couldn't think of another term that fit their Middle Eastern / South Asia motif and setting?

All complaining about the veneer aside, this is an excellent game. There are so many paths to victory, so many strategies to utilize to win, that every game could be different. We played it twice and had two completely different strategies win the game. In the first game, Joel won by focusing on controlling tiles for victory points, while in the second game Ptom won ("Ptom's Winning!") by using the commodities. I look forward to playing this one again.

Finally, the previous week we got to try out a new purchase of mine. I had picked up a copy of Splendor at Barnes & Noble because they were having a sale to benefit my school's library. I run a weekly board game club at the school, and the kids were complaining I was bringing the same games over and over again. Earlier, I had posted on the Facebook page of the  Columbus Area Boardgaming Society (CABS), asking what game would be good for middle schoolers. Four or five of my 30 responses were for this game.

In Splendor, you are a gem merchant, picking up five different types of gems (or gold -- which is like a wild card). You use these gems to purchase cards, which give you a permanent bonus of one gem of a certain color. There are three tiers of cards, each costing progressively more gems. Some of the cards provide victory points, most of the lower tier ones do not. If you collect enough "bonus cards" you may acquire a noble as a customer, which provides you with more victory points.

Between the one time we played it at Joel's two Sundays ago, and the twice I've played it at the school board game club, I've yet to win this game. It is fun, fast, and a clever design. The kids loved it and picked it up quickly. So, it was a worthwhile purchase, and definitely a game I enjoy playing and look forward to trying again (and getting that elusive victory!).

Three weeks of Sundays, and three new board games!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Midway Point in the Lead Painters League: 3-3

There have been few pictures on this site of my newly-painted figures, lately. The reason for that is I have decided to once again enter the Lead Painters League. This competition on the Lead Adventure Forum website matches work by painters head-to-head each week. This year, there are 34 participants, and the competition level is very high, in my opinion. After six weeks of the league, I am a solid 3-3.

One new things this year is that matchups are done on a Swiss Chess format. It has had a humorous (for me) result that led me to calling myself the League's Whack-a-Mole. Much like the old arcade game, I am smacked on the noggin, and trounced severely in contests. However, that means I sink towards the bottom of the standings and get matched up against more equal competition. After each loss, I've been fortunate to win my next round. This rises me up in the standings, only to be -- you guessed it -- swatted back down in the next!

One reason I haven't been posting regular updates on what I'm working on is that you receive bonus points in the competition if they are "new" -- with no pictures having appeared of them before on the internet. So, as the Lead Painters League draws near, I tend to draw a veil over what I'm working on and not post updates with pictures of the figs. However, once their round is over, we're free to publicize our figs as normal.

So, without further ado, here are my first six rounds of the Lead Painters League!

Round 1 (Theme round - "Seated/Laying Poses"): Passing the Peace Pipe
These figures are 25mm Old Glory, and are actually from their Plains Indians collection. However, the styles of dress are still similar in many respects to they were in the Eastern Woodlands period. My favorite figures are the two with the wolf headdresses. As always for Lead Painters League entries, I go a bit further in my detail work. The beadwork on the center figure and the detail on the blankets came out pretty nice, I feel. These figs will be good for village raid scenarios, whether as objectives or simply eye candy. I lost this round 275-83.

Round 2: Painted for War

These are probably my favorite miniatures that I have painted for the competition, so far. They are from Bob Murch's "Flint & Feather" line of early Woodland Indians. I picked up 3 packs of them as Christmas presents this year (thank, Mom and Dad!). These are the first batch I painted up. I chose them because they have the wooden slat armor that some early Woodland Indians used. It is an option for players in my current campaign playtest of the Beaver Wars in Ohio. This is a supplement for my French & Indian War rules, Song of Drums and Tomahawks. Check out the warpaint on these guys! I am particularly proud of the three in the middle. It is interesting how my painting of warpaint on Woodland Indians is evolving. Before, I was very conservative on warpaint -- shooting for more of an occasional decoration to give the effect of a painted group. Now, I'm more willing to take risks and cover more and more of the figure with warpaint. Also note the extra detail in the leggings. Much as I love my Conquest Miniatures Indians (the manufacturer of most of my Indians), I have to admit Bob Murch's figs are simply gorgeous! I won this round 435-16.

Round 3: Hunting L'Anglais

 I had the double misfortune in round three of not only facing one of the league's more accomplished painters, but also in that they also chose to paint 28mm Indians. Sometimes I can luck out and win a matchup because my colorful Woodland Indians are a brighter, more eye-catching entry than a perhaps better-painted, but duller colored, opponent. No such chance here! This batch is a mix. The two French Coureurs de Bois (woods runners) are from my staple Conquest Miniatures line. The three Indians are "Skraelings" from Footsore Miniatures. I really like the Skraeling figures and have painted up a number of them already. In fact, having eight of them completed (but not photographed yet) was the tipping point for me entering the competition again this year. I painted up these two French to make 10, which constitutes two entries (minimum five figures). I really like how the French came out. These two are a good example of what I do when painting miniatures that are supposed to have a fairly uniform look. Coureurs de Bois tended to have red caps and white shirts. I used a tan color for the basecoat of one and a light gray for the other. Drybrushing them white makes them look similar but different. I used two different shades of red for the hats, too. Despite all this work, though, I was thoroughly crushed this round, 474-18.

Round 4: Guard the Canoes

So, a pattern was developing that would hold true for at least the first six rounds. I lose on odd numbered rounds, and win on even-numbered ones. The Whack-a-Mole effect. I get thoroughly beaten and then drop down far enough to be matched up against someone more at my skill level in the subsequent round. Were these figures better than the previous, "Hunting L'Anglais" entry? I don't think so. In fact, when you take into the account the Frenchmen, I like that entry better. To be fair, my favorite in this round is the guy in the center with the blue leggings. The color combination of red and blue stands out, and I really like his warpaint and tattoos. These five figures are more from Footsore Miniatures "Skraeling" line. The three with warclubs are my own modification. The figures come with spears, which were kind of out of fashion by the time of the French & Indian War period that I most of my games cover. They are simply a paperclip with a bead on it, covered in blue tack and glue. This was by far my closest match of the competition, so far. I barely squeaked out a win -- 254-231. My opponent was a very good painter -- one that, I generally consider superior. To check out his entry and make your own call, click here.

Round 5 (Theme Round, "High Middle Ages"): Fearsome Friars

This is the first matchup where I thought I should have won when I ended up losing. No criticism of my opponent's entry, but I was thinking my friars would pull this one out. These are Old Glory 25mm Monks. I know that Old Glory figures are not highly thought of among the Europeans that make up the bulk of the members of the Lead Adventure Forum. So, I pulled out all the stops to jazz them up. I painted them a base tan color, then applied a series of medium brown washes to give a better shading effect. I then applied a very light tan dry brush to set off the highlights that had been covered by the wash. It was actually very refreshing to paint these figures. No warpaint, no tattoos, no packs and pouches and sundry festooned all over the figures! It was fun to get out my scratch-built monastery with beehive huts to stage the photo. Alas, even the setting (and chickens and goats) could not help the doomed friars pull out this match. I lost 295-112.

Round 6: Sisters Tending 3 Sisters

 This was my least favorite of my six entries, so far. I almost went back and re-photographed it prior to the deadline for the round. However, I decided that they looked good enough and stayed with my original submission. These are more villagers from Old Glory's 25mm Plains Indians collection. However, I decided I liked the stark, black and red pattern on the central Indian woman. And I also felt the detail on the dresses of the two Indian girls was good. The faces I wasn't overly pleased with, but Old Glory does not always give you the best sculpts to work with! The "Three Sisters" corn pieces are my own scratch-built creation. For more information on how I did them, check out my entry on Three Sisters elsewhere on the blog. As I type this, I am way ahead in this matchup. Once again, are these figures better than the ones I've lost with? No, it is simply a more favorable matchup. I am winning this one 377-37 right now with just a few hours to go in voting.

So, that sums up the first half of the league (there will be 11 instead of the normal 10 rounds). My record sits at a solid 3-3. Considering the level of the competition, I am quite happy with how things are progressing...!