Friday, October 14, 2016

William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life

Nicely colorized version of the famous Mathew Brady photograph
Wednesday I finished reading William Tecumseh Sherman: In the Service of My Country: A Life, by James Lee McDonough.  This is a quite readable biography of Sherman, which draws substantially from the prolific correspondence that Sherman conducted with his wife, family, and others.  Through this book I learned several new things about Sherman's life, particularly the period during which he lived in California, first as an army office, and then as a banker in boom-town San Francisco.  I was also unaware of the political connections of his family, his father-in-law serving as a Senator, and then Secretary of the Interior, and his brother as Senator from Ohio.

As is usual with this sort of book, it would have been nice to have more and better maps of campaigns and battles, and this book also uses the frankly antiquated practice of putting photos together in the middle of the book, rather than interspersed chronologically.  Another drawback was the lack of information from Confederate correspondence, of which I assume there is a large volume.

These few complaints outstanding, I quite enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone interested in American Civil War personalities.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

White Dwarf Monthly

Like many in the blogging world I picked up a copy of the "new" White Dwarf Monthly Magazine.  This issue was released on September 2, 2016, and since I was out of town (playing Risk legacy), I picked it up the following Monday from my FLGS.  Many of you have no doubt read all you need to about the magazine by now (or have a copy), but if not, read on.

White Dwarf Monthly Cover #1
As the bottom of the magazine states, it is in fact "Bigger, Better, Brand New"... well, at least the first two.  The magazine is fairly long, even by the standards of prior monthly White Dwarfs, and certainly in comparison to the weekly issues. The paper quality is very high, and as you can see from the picture above, it retains the weekly White Dwarf gloss/matte printing for the cover, which can really enhance the picture.  Photography is likewise excellent, with none of the muddy backgrounds that sometimes were an issue at the end of the prior monthly era.  You will also note that "Games Workshop" does not appear at the top, but rather "Warhmmer", in keeping with recent branding efforts I think. 

Another feature is that with more text there is more space for "British-isms", something that this Anglophile appreciates. The White Dwarf of the Paul Sawyer era was full of various references to local culture and turns of phrase, which added to the allure for me.  Letters to the editor return as well, including one by a former White Dwarf editor by the name of Guy Haley... 

This particular issue has a very large section on adding rules to the boxed games released in the last few years (including Space Hulk 2009/2014).  As I have none of the boxed games mentioned, this was interesting but of little use; however I am sure that it would be very interesting to anyone who had one or more of those.  
Lost Patrol White Dwarf Advertisement
 One of the unfortunate aspects of the magazine returning to a monthly format is that advertisements returned as well. As you can see in the picture above the right page is an advertisement for various Warhammer digital products.  To be fair, you could call most of the magazine an "advertisement", but new product announcements and the like have at least some use (and more so now that they are more "secret" until the magazine is released.)  By my rough count there are 12 pages in this magazine that are solely advertisements for existing products, and therefore have little added value. Certainly not much compared to a non-hobby magazine, but still a bit annoying.

Another feature that I missed was the lack of new rules.  With the weekly format, miniatures often released before the codex/rulebook to which they belonged, and White Dwarf would fill the gap with the necessary rules.  I really enjoyed this feature, as I am unlikely to buy any new codexes, but may buy some of the miniatures for other purposes and games (mostly older GW games anyway). Hopefully this feature comes back (for the rumored Genestealers?) in future issues.
Inq 28 Blanchitsu
Blanchitsu - Inq28
One of the most exciting features, to me anyway, is that Blanchistu returns to White Dwarf!  In the era of the weekly White Dwarf, this "article" series was relegated to Visions instead, so seeing it return to an accessible location is quite nice. I am certainly looking forward to seeing some of the figures from various games and blogs in high resolution photography soon.

Anyway, enjoying the magazine very much, and unlike the last few monthly magazines (to say nothing of the weekly pamphlets), I am still reading it. I expect to pick up the next few from my local store, and if things keep up at this level, I will resubscribe for the first time in quite a few years now.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Ghoul King

Last week I finished reading Star Wars: Bloodline, and was finally able to move on to the second book of the Dreaming Cities, The Ghoul King, by Guy Haley.
I read the first book at the beginning of August, and quite liked it.  Like the proceeding book, this was more of a novella, but this time it felt like the story was more complete in the pages presented.  Following directly on from the prior book, the knight Quinn is dragooned into exploring the ruins of the Dreaming City of Columbus Ohio, which was nuked by the other Angels roughly 20 years prior.  In this story we learn a bit more about how much Quinn differs from the baseline of humanity, and to what lengths the Angels will go to prevent the spread of forbidden knowledge.

As with the first book I really enjoyed the setting, and would like to read more about it.  I did not have quite as much of a "ooh, D&D" response to this one, and instead was thinking about how to game ghouls vs. plucky lower tech survivors (possibly played by cowboy types). I expect that most of the post apocalyptic miniatures games could easily handle a couple of scenarios about having to guard horses, or withstand waves of ghouls departing the city like bats at sunset.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Risk Legacy

This past weekend, I visited my wife's cousins and as is customary after the children were abed, we broke out some board games.  This time we got out Risk Legacy , a version of the classic game where you change the board as you play.  Released in 2011, the game is best thought of as a "Risk overlay", that is it starts as a slightly quicker version of Risk played as a campaign.  Players select a faction, and a starting position, and then expand to rule the world (through collection of star tokens/bases).
Then you start "scaring" the board with stickers which change the value of territories, making them harder to defend, or easier.  Then after someone wins, they sign the board, and gets to add a major city to the board, or rename a continent, or add some other change.  Those that did not win the game, but were not eliminated also get to change the board, so that after a few games, the board is heavily marked up, with cities spread out all over.  Cards get marked up and destroyed.

Board after three games
In later games, or even in the middle of a game, players open additional rule packages when the conditions are met (eliminate a faction, use up the minor city stickers, three missiles used in a single combat etc.).  And the game changes again. Heady stuff, and the constant changing conditions make each game a little different.  When I left Sunday one of the cousins was carefully adding in new
rule stickers to the rule book, and now I am wondering what the new rules say...

Risk was never "my" game, and yet this variant is the game I most want to play next, and we are already talking about buying Pandemic Legacy when we "Finish" this one.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Song of Achilles

Last night I finished reading The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller.  A fairly good retelling of  the Patroclus/Achilles relationship, and how their lives intersect with the Trojan war (mostly as told by the Iliad). The story is told from the point of view of Patroclus, and starts from before his meeting with Helen and ends somewhat after the death of Achilles.  I particularly liked how Odysseus is characterized, and how the gods are more like creepy alien beings with alien goals, rather than glowing heroic humans.

Now of course what a book like this is really good at is making one want to wargame the conflicts in it... which in this case means the siege of Troy, particularly the "heroic" actions relating to that.  It seems like a larger skirmish game would be the way to handle these battles, something that has a hero emphasis like LotR, which happily has pretty much all of the elements needed already, including chariots and rules for mounting/dismounting, which could be applied to the chariots.

As far as I know, there are two sources of miniatures for this period, Wargames Foundry, and Eureka. Both companies have various supporting lines of ancient civilians and allied states that could prove useful as well, particularly if you are more interested in the fantastic aspects of the battle than in the strictly historical.

Foundry Classical Heroes - TW015

Forthcoming Eureka Dark age Greeks

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Workbench Late August

Blurry late night cellphone picture
The family was out of town with my mother-in-law on Monday, and I got a little bit of hobby time after getting all the necessary chores done.

I got some sculpting done, which moved a number of Inq28 figures into the "ready to paint" category, which if you see the tray at the left of the picture is a bit large.  Center are those that need more work, and lower right as another six or so figures that need to have various sculpting and filling done.

Honestly, while I love building these figures, I have grown tired of having my work space dominated by their half completed bodies and the thousand little bits of guns, hands, arms, heads and so on you can see to the right.  I think that after a few more figures are completed, the remainder, and all the bits will be tidied away for a while. Working at the kitchen table just to have enough space is not very sensible when I have a whole desk that should be used in that way, rather than as a large bits box.

Also, with the renewed interest in Xwing, and the forthcoming release of Killteam (and discussion with my buddy Thedocta about getting him into 40k), the space may be needed soon for other projects.

Also visible to the keen eye, Baneblade of shame, converted dwarf longbeard, Necromunda gang, Empire general and warrior priest. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bloodreavers - Part 2

The puzzle have been solved!  Just a quick post to show off how my various conversions paid off and allowed me to rank up my Bloodreavers in an effort to make them serve as Chaos Marauders.

Certainly these chaps look a bit Chaotic, what with the arms going every which way...
As you can see from the photo, I numbered the bases with a pen, because they really only fit the one way!  

Most of my conversions are head and left arm swaps, with a few weapon or right arm changes too.  Being plastic, the figures were relatively easy to modify, and I fortunately had a bunch of Chaos bits to draw on for the conversion. 

I will show more of these figures later, but I was just excited that I was able to get it done at all. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Emperor's Railroad

I have been on vacation the last week, so have not had much hobby time, but I did get a chance to read a few books, including the Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley.

Set roughly 1000 years past an apocalypse of some sort, this novella is a recounting of an experience a young boy has with the Knight Quinn as he helps the boy and his mother move from one town to another.  A knight is something of a paladin sort, with access to tools and technologies forbidden to the general population by the Angels. (Aliens? AI? Actual fallen/descended Angels?).  There are also technological artifacts and the undead, which makes for a dangerous trip.

Anyway, the book was good, and I liked its very gritty look at a post apocalyptic world. Characters were well written, and I got a grasp of their motivations and histories fairly quickly. Unfortunately the "book" was very short at 176 pages of fairly large type, and more, it felt a bit short too.  A longer version of this same story would have been very welcome.  That said, I am looking forward to reading the next volume in the series, The Ghoul King, which just was released a month ago.

Another part of this book that I enjoyed was thinking about how well it would fit for a sort of "gonzo" D&D campaign world.  Want to do dungeon crawls where you might fight Zombies/Robots/Dragons/AI/cultists?  Knights with swords and pistols? Well this setting could easily handle all of that, and plenty of detail is available from this book to give your future world a nice gloss. Just the sub title of "the dreaming cities" gets my brain working on ideas, and really that is the sign of a good setting.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Imperial Veterans

For my birthday this year, my sister and her family got me the new X-wing expansion Imperial Veterans.  A larger expansion box for the X-wing miniatures game, this box gives you two repainted miniatures (one TIE Bomber, and one TIE Defender), as well as an array of different upgrade cards, and a new scenerio.

Many trees died to bring us this information...
Probably the most interesting cards in this expansion are the new title cards, which substantially improve the TIE Defender, and add an interesting new option to the TIE Bomber. 

Of these, the TIE/D title is the most exciting, since it allows you to shoot a secondary and a primary at the same target, which when coupled with an ion cannon or the new tractor beam, allows you to damage and restrict the movement of a target in the same round. 

I had the chance to actually PLAY the game this weekend with my buddy, and now my head is awash with grand X-wing campaign ideas... we will see if any of that comes to fruition. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Night Goblin Wolf Rider

In what is a pretty obvious direct (yet inferior) copy of Sebastian's work over at Eastern Empire, I converted this chaos hound to be slightly more wolfy and mounted a night goblin on his back.  This required cutting off the original legs at the waist, using gnobler legs on either side of the wolf, a bit of sculpting, and then result.

I have a few more of these planned, so that I can have a tiny unit for use in some eventual far future Warhammer game (or for various other skirmish/RP usage)