Wednesday, 28 January 2015

January Releases for Infinity!

Ah, the first Infinity models of the year. I like that fresh new smell! We get the starter boxes for the two forces in the Operation Icestorm set and instead of repeating what I've already said I'll simply post the pictures and refer to my previews thoughts on them here. There's also some non-model news that I'll get to below.

The new PanOceania starter (without the Father Knight of course)

The new Nomads starter (without the Reverend Healer)

Now, here's something completely new! The Yan Huo Invincible for Yu Jing. Ever since we saw the first concept art for these guys there's been a lot of buzz in the community about what the actual models would look like. And I think it's fairly close to the concept. To me it seems like the biggest changes are the missile launchers (yes, that's what those things are) have been slimmed down a little while the actual trooper has been made considerably bulkier, which is certainly a good thing as I imagine it would have looked extremely top heavy otherwise. How the guns are actually mounted remind me a lot of the excellent Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live.Die.Repeat or All You Need is Kill) with Tom Cruise, just take a look at this picture, and with the addition of the stabilizer fins they actually look like they might work (hell, we could probably build something like this today. Just imagine what another 100 years will do). What on the other hand looks a little silly is that he's actually holding the trigger mechanism. While I understand it from a visual standpoint I really think targeting would be handled through some kind of cube integration.

While I at first was a little "hmm..." about it, now I'm all kinds of excited and even though this is the "worst" equipped of the three variants I simply have to add him to my collection! I'm sure it'll be fun to have a burst two missile launcher to spring on unsuspecting enemies. Muahahaha!!

Next up we have a new Ragik with Spitfire for Haqqislam. I've always liked the Ragik models and their wings as it instantly communicates what kind of model it is while also looking a lot more lo-tech than the PanO, ALEPH or (soon) Yu Jing alternatives. It seems like the wings have grown a little bit, both in size and thickness and I imagine this is to make them easier to mount and harder to break off. A good trade-off I think. Having lost their HMG profile (just like the Yu Jing Tigers) it was necessary to quickly release a Spitfire sculpt to cover the cap. My favourite thing about this guy though, is that he's full of that Infinity dynamism that made the game stand out from the crowd back when it was released. The older Ragiks are certainly very dynamic and I'm happy to see CB keeping up with tradition. Especially as we've seen far less of these kind of poses in recent years. More runners please, CB!

The final release of the month is the SWC box of Unidron Batroids for Combined Army. You might remember me really liking the base troopers in starter box and seeing as this is more of the same I'm a happy camper! What's new are of course the interesting looking new weapons they're carrying - the Plasma Sniper Rifle especially looks very alien and I'm eager to see how often you'll encounter bent ones when playing in the wild. Hehe! The really small Spitfire is an interesting take on the weapon, like it's childishly simple technology for the EI to shrink. The K1 Combi Rifle on the other hand is a little larger (and seems quite scary in game!).

While I really like the models and would pick them up for that reason alone if I started CA, I don't know how much use they would actually see in game considering they're not the best troops the EI has to offer, to say the least. It would be another matter if they were linkable, but they're not. Yet.

Finally, while this is not an Infinity model release it's some Infinity connected news that is well worth spreading! The long awaited Angel Giraldez Masterclass book on how to paint miniatures will soon be up for pre-order (or might already be at your local store!) and since I know the print run is very limited you really should try and pre-order it if you're interested. Of course PanO players have an extra incentive in that you get the resculpted Joan of Arc with the book. Oh, and it's also interesting that this is is Volume One... hmm.... ;)

Great releases this month! While I'm partial to the Yan Huo, and I think it's probably the best model overall, I really like that new Ragik and his running pose! However, I think I'm most excited about getting my hands on Angel's book as I think it will help me up my painting game.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Joining the Dark Side

M: "I'll never join you!"
FB: "It is your destiny."
M: "Well, ok then. Hand me that cookie, will you?"

That's kind of how the conversation went in my head as I pondered whether to make a Facebook page for Fire Broadside or not. I've long been a staunch resistance fighter in the battle of the social networks and I actually prefer Google+ over Facebook for many reasons. However, it is just a simple fact that there are so many more users on Facebook and if I were to make a serious attempt to create a forum for off-the-cuff news and discussion Facebook simply seem to be a better facilitator.

So, while you still can find me on G+ where I regularly share stuff and participate in discussions I've also decided to create a Fire Broadside Facebook page. I will use it for all the stuff that I find interesting enough to share or talk about but that perhaps isn't right for the blog. Feel free to pop buy and like the page and let's go from there. This might all crash and burn with the page ending up with a couple of dozen likes, a bunch of shares from me and no discussion whatsoever. In that case I'll simply call it a day and shut it down, being one experience richer. But hopefully it will help to bring some interactivity to Fire Broadside besides the comment section that, while functional, is also a bit restrictive.

In this spirit of interactivity, I'd love to hear from you my dear reader! What would you like to see more of, or less of on Fire Broadside? While I'll always continue to write about what I'm interested in I'm also curious to hear what you feel would make this place better and hit counters and statistics can only tell me so much. I imagine the answers might be varied as Fire Broadside isn't very focused when it comes to gaming and I pretty much embrace it all. Hehe! Still, it would be fun to hear and if you don't feel like commenting here or on Facebook you can always send me an email via the Contact button up top right. And I'm of course also on Twitter as @FireBroadside.

Not really an exciting gaming post. Sorry about that. We'll get back to the regular schedule shortly. You've seen the January releases for Infinity, right... ? :)
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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review of Rivendell for The One Ring

Alright, enough with all the mechas and power armoured anime dudes! Let's get back to the Season of the Ring and the the first review of a The One Ring book, namely the just released Rivendell by Cubicle 7!

Rivendell is a new hardback sourcebook for The One Ring that weighs in at 144 pages and it marks the series first foray outside of the original setting of Mirkwood and its surroundings that is the default adventuring area for the core book and the supplements released so far. Originally the plan was to release three core books, each focusing on different geographical areas of Middle-Earth, but this idea was later abandoned in favour of releasing sourcebooks like this one to fill in the blanks and provide extra cultures fitting the setting.

Although the original core book for the game was released back in 2011 the release schedule since has been rather slow and somewhat erratic. Most of this has apparently been the fault of the Tolkien estate who need to check that everything looks ok to them and they can at times be a little slow and other times request changes to be made further prolonging the process. I don't fault Cubicle 7 at all in this regard, but can understand players who felt frustrated during the first couple of years. Now however, it seems like things are picking up a little and with the release of the Revised rulebook it feels like the game has got into it's second breath!

I'll take the time to make a mild SPOILER warning here. Although I'll talk mostly in generics it might be wise to avoid this review if you are a player in a The One Ring campaign and want to remain completely in the dark of what is to come.

Rivendell is of course of extra interest to anyone who has wanted to explore the world beyond Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains and it does not disappoint in this regard. At the moment I only have access to the PDF of the book so can't really comment on its physical appearance, but it's hardback and I'm guessing it's similar to either The Heart of the Wild or The Darkening of Mirkwood (they're slighly different in that Darkening is matte while Heard it gloss). From what I can tell there are no loose maps included with the book, although you get them as separate files with the PDF. I imagine they will be part of the upcoming Journeys and Maps supplement. When I get my hands on the actual book, I'll update this section with more details on its physical appearance. By now I don't think I need to mention that the book is absolutely beautiful with spectacular and immersive art by Jon Hodgson, Jan Pospíšil and Jeremy McHugh. I mean, it goes without saying, The One Ring line of books is famous for their art and graphic design! Taking a quick look at the contents we have: Introduction, Imladris, A History of Eriador, The Regions of Eastern Eriador, New Monsters, Magical Treasure, The Eye of Mordor, Heroic Culturs and Appendices. So let's dig deeper and see what each chapter brings to the game!

The Introduction is, well... an introduction, but it also explains that Rivendells it the companion book to the upcoming Ruins of the North, much like The Heart of the Wild is the companion book to The Darkening of Mirkwood. That being said, I suspect Ruins of the North will be more similar to the adventure compilation/mini-campaign Tales from Wilderland that the epic play experience that is The Darkening of Mirkwood. It is also explained that the book is written with the year being some time after 2951 and possibly as late as 2077 (the default ending year of the The Darkeing of Mirkwood campaign), however it is also stated that things change slowly in Eriador and if you want to set your campaign earlier few things would need adjusting.

Imladris, Rivendell, The Last Homely House.
The chapter on Imladris is 15 pages of Rivendell background and information, including its history, a map with just the right amount of detail and a number of key characters who reside there. I have never been all that interested in Rivendell myself (unlike many others) as it has somehow felt almost "too good" a place to be in. I want my adventures to be muddy and dirty! Haha! Even so I found myself re-evaluating my position on the Last Homely House and am now actually looking forward to having my players find and explore it (some time in the far future once we're "done" with Mirkwood). Good chapter with just the right amount of information to craft good story hooks and get ideas, but not being overburdened with minutia like what exactly each room is used for and looks like.

The next chapter, A History of Eridador, is quite short at only six pages, but you should be aware that a lof of the history has also been baked into the gazeteer in the next chapter. You get a rundown of the rise and fall of both Arnor and Angmar, how the rangers formed and how they are pretty much keeping the entire region safe from orcs, troll, wargs and other even worse servants of the Shadow! While not a long chapter it provides a solid overview of the events which should be easy to relay to the players when required.

Now comes the real meat and potatoes of the book in the form of The Regions of Eastern Eriador. That's right eastern Eriador! You see, Cubicle 7 has plans for the western parts (which apparently includes the town of Bree and its immediate surroundings which are not covered in this book) and the Rivendell book covers the region from the Misty Moutains in the east to the Barrow Downs in the west. Just like The Heart of the Wild this chapter is a kind of gazeeter of the entire region with each section zooming in on a particular area (ie. Angmar, Mount Gram, Trollshaws, South Downs, Eregion etc). Each area gets between three and five pages devoted to it and after a general overview we get a subsection on wildlife, inhabitants, notable characters and notable locations as well as some special rules like new Fellowship Undertakings here and there. These chapters are pure gold for an industrious Loremaster as each of them could easily be spun into several sessions worth of adventuring! Generally each region has around three obvious hooks, but the general background certainly provides inspiration for creating more.

One thing this chapter really succeeds with is instilling a sense of how the Companions are moving through the ruins of an ancient and great kingdom. Not only through the snippets of history inserted throughout the text but also when talking about the ruins of towers, forts, statues and roads that litter this part of Middle-Earth. While a Ranger or Elf might know about most of these I would love to have a Company totally ignorant of the history of the region to kind of slowly piece everything together.

The 18 page chapter on New Monsters starts with a section about Powerful Adversaries which describes how to grant some of the new, powerful special abilities to existing monsters to bring their threat level up. It's also mentioned that some of these abilities already exist on a number of the new monsters of Eriador. Again, it is half-assumed that the group who has played enough to make their way across the Misty Mountains to Rivendell will need some tougher opposition to go up against. That is not to say that all the new monsters are super deadly, there are certainly normal level enemies in this chapter as well. Provided are both stats for some of the named monsters and adversaries that is mentioned in the previous chapter, like Bloodstump the Hunter, as well as generic creatures like Goblins of Carn Dûm and Hill-men of Rhudaur. Fitting the lost realm of Arnor, there's also an extended sub-chapter on the undead which lists a number of different variants as well as several pages on The Lord of the Nazgûl, aka The Witch-King which makes for interesting reading. The authors are however quick to point out that:
"While precise definitions are generally something to be desired in a game, sometimes they provide an explanation to things that should remain inexplicable, robbing a legendary world of its mystery. Keeping a level of uncertainty and providing only glimpses of a world that defies understanding goes a long way in preserving a sense of wonder in those who take part in the game."
Which is very much in keeping with my own view on the matter - again showing that they have a firm grasp on what makes Tolkien Tolkien. Basically the New Monster chapter provides exactly what you'd think it would, with some extra additions here and there.

Of course, powerful adversaries calls for some more extravagant rewards and Rivendell provides in the form of a 19 page chapter focusing on Magical Treasure. For those of you sharpening your pitchforks, checking your supply of torches and frantically trying to find Cubicle 7 HQ on the map, don't worry - there are no +2 maces or swords of advanced fireballs. Again Francesco and his co-writers show their adept feel for the setting and how Middle-Earth works. Mechanically speaking the main new addition is that of Hoards. A Hoard is not simply some regular treasure to be used up by the Companions but also have the chance of containing Magical Treasure. In Rivendell and every forthcoming TOR release the Treasure rating is expressed as a number plus zero to three asterisks to show if it's a Hoard with potential magical items in it. For each asterisk you can roll to try and find something special and you succeed on the Will of the West or the Eye of Sauron (the latter, with complications, naturally) and you can then roll further dice, based on the number of unspent experience points you have, to see exactly what you have found. If it turns out to be a Precious Object, Wondrous Artefact or some Famous Weapon or Armour (the four categories presented) you need to actually spend experience to get it.

This acts both to make magical treasure costly, to make it rare and to tie it specifically to the character that finds (and invests in) it. It's explicitly stated that these kinds of items aren't meant to be passed around at will or given to the character who could use it best (from a min-max perspective) but that it was meant to be found and carried by that very character: "After all, it was Bilbo who was meant to find the Ring, not Balin, Gandalf or Thorin." The items are also not meant to be random or made up on the spot, but rather prepared by the Loremaster before hand. Included in the book are sheets for making a Magical Treasure Index where you can compile a list of lost items that might be found in the area; their stats and bonuses as well as their individual history that might be revealed through a successful Lore test or a fitting Trait. I really like this idea as all the magical items featured in the books have a long and glorious history to them! And even if the exact details of an item is unknown (like Sting) you can still figure out the general history of it - where it probably was made and when. With the great and sad history of Arnor it certainly feels more likely to come across something out of the ordinary in Eriador rather than Mirkwood. Besides including instructions for how to create each of these objects and how many to incorporate in the campaign there are also rules for cursed items (remember that Eye of Sauron you might roll?) as well as a complete sample Magical Treasure Index for Loremasters who lacks the time to create their own.

Following this is a shorter chapter about The Eye of Mordor which is a new mechanic introduced in Rivendell to track how well the Company manage to avoid attracting the attention of the Enemy. The basic value to track is the Eye Awareness rating which moves up and down depending on the size of the Company, what kind of members it has and what it's doing. High Elves and Dúnedain attract more attention than men or, especially, hobbits. The starting Eye Awareness level is then continually modified during the Adventure Phase by rolling Eyes of Sauron, gaining Shadow or blatant use of magic. Of course the Loremaster could raise it further because of the actions taken by the players. When the Eye Awareness raises above a preset level (depending on their current location) - the Hunt threshold - the Company is considered Revealed, instead of Hidden. When this happens the Loremaster will introduce an especially dangerous event to inflict on the characters and then the Eye Awareness rating reset. Being revealed is not meant to trigger some artificial event like, "suddenly ten orcs appear and attack" but should rather be integrated with the current narrative and should generally be used to make the situation worse - if the characters are in dire need of allies and seek for help in a nearby village they're regarded with suspicion and hostility, the skies that seemed to clear up suddenly turn dark and the Companions are drenched in a downpour far out in the wilds, an enemy etc. It is also suggested that you can use the cards from Hobbit Tales from Green Dragon Inn for inspiration if you have that game (which I will review soon).

While this system is completely optional and easily something you could organically create as you play I still quite like this mechanical approach to it as it will make the players think twice about certain courses of action. It's generally aimed at campaigns taking place later in the timeline that the core book, when the Enemy is awake and actively searching, but I think it could easily be introduced in any time where keeping a low profile is of importance.

Finally we have the two new Heroic Cultures - the Rangers and the High Elves of Rivendell. From the start it is emphasized that these are not ordinary cultures like those we've seen so far for the game. Indeed the Rangers are all descendants of the Dúnedain and the High Elves lived long and seen much. Because of this they are intentionally made in ways that break the mold a bit and are on par with already experienced characters hailing from the Wilderlands. The authors also don't recommend more than one or maybe two of these powerful characters in the Company lest they unbalance the carefully wrought intention of having "regular people" step up and become heroes. I think both offer some very interesting roleplaying opportunities and they also have drawbacks to keep them somewhat in check.

Rangers have the Allegiance to the Dúnedain to keep in mind which makes them loners in the world of men, meaning that while they contribute normally to the Fellowship pool, but is not allowed to spend Fellowship points to recover lost Hope. Fellowship focus works as normal though. They have a really cool Cultural Blessing called Foresight of their Kindred which gives them a Trait called Foresighted that, that can be invoked like a normal Trait and will then be available for the entirety of that session, but then not again until the next Adventure Phase. So basically it works like a kind of danger sense that might tell you of what lurks ahead but that can only be used during one session per Adventure Phase, making it both powerful and tricky to use (do I invoke the trait now, or might there be an even more fitting occasion later?). They start with higher stats than a normal character but kind of makes up for it with the Allegiance to the Dúnedain and the fact that it costs more for them to raise their skills with experience points (reflecting that they're already quite experienced). The background packages are diverse and inspiring - supplying a variety of archetypes instead of the typical Strider-wannabe broody ranger that I think it's easy to fall into the habit of playing. My favourite is probably the Keeper of Earth and Spirit who has a kind of Radagast vibe and knows every plant and animal in Eriador and always have just the right thing to help with an ailment. Neat!

High Elves of Rivendell are especially marked by the Shadow and can't simply forget what has happened to them in the past. This means that they have an interesting way of handing Shadow points as they can't use the Heal Corruption undertaking in the Fellowship phase! Instead they can distance themselves from the past as an undertaking. You do this mechanically by marking one of your Common skills (preferably with a little Eye!) and for each point in that skill your Shadow score is lowered by two. The problem is when you later use that particular skill and happen to roll an Eye of Sauron - when this happens the test will fail automatically and you'll get a Shadow point. Basically you are overcome with sorrow of things lost and can't bear yourself to complete the task. I really like this mechanic as it makes High Elves very different from other Cultures and will make them slowly turn from the world in front of them (as more and more skills become marked) and think about leaving for the west. Their Cultural Blessing is called Agains the Unseen and lets them see spirits and wraiths that might be invisible to others, as well as not having to take tests to avoid Fear.

They also have a new trait called Enemy of Sauron which means that the servants of the Enemy instantly recognizes you for what you are and fear your presence. They will only attack if they have a proper advantage. Vice versa, it also means you have to take action when you see evidence of the work of the Enemy. The different backgrounds provide good inspiration for aspiring High Elves, with archetypes like the Elf-lord, Heir of Gondolin, Counsellor of Elrond and Vengeful Kin to choose from. Both cultures of course have some really neat Virtues and Rewards to choose from. The High Elves in particular can learn elven-smithing and craft enchanted weapons, which is pretty cool!

Finally we have the Appendices with the different sheets, the maps and the index. Nothing majorly exciting here. :)


As I mentioned above, I have never been all that interested in Rivendell as a place so even though I was looking forward to this book simply as one in a great series of The One Ring supplements, I would probably have preferred the Rohan book first, or maybe even more dabbling with spiders in in the dusk of Mirkwood. The area of Eriador also felt a lot less open than Mirkwood and more restricted in what you could do with it as a Loremaster. But, I'm happy to report that my fears and prejudices were entirely unfounded. In fact my perception of the region have changed a lot from reading the book and there's certainly a lot more to it than Rivendell and the Rangers. While I'm still partial to Mirkwood I've also become eager for my players to explore this land of spirits and lost realms.

The two new Heroic Cultures also manage to do a lot more than I had expected and I think a Ranger or a High Elf could be a very interesting addition to a company from the Wilderlands. They might demand a little more of the players though as at least a passing familiarity with the history of Eriador is almost required to really get the feel across right.

While the more mechanically focused chapters are good, and I'm especially impressed with how they handled the "problem" of magic weapons in a Tolkien setting, my favourite chapter is The Regions of Eastern Eriador. Just like The Heart of the Wild this gazeteer style chapter packs enough info to keep you busy for a good long while. If I were to nitpick I would have liked some zoomed in maps on certain of the places mentioned in this chapter. There are quite a few different ruins mentioned that would make for good mini maps to fold into the text. Then again, I have a feeling we'll see this kind of stuff in the Ruins of the North adventure supplement that's out next for The One ring.

I also feel it's slightly odd not to include Bree-land as part of eastern Eriador as it's as far or even farther east than the Lone-Lands and the Barrow Downs. While I can understand the desire to include it in the book covering the Shire and western Eriador (that way keeping a kind of thematic parallel with the part of the journey the hobbits made themselvs in LotR) it still feels strange to leave out the only proper village/town in the entire region, apart from Imladris. Not having actual fold out maps included with the book (please correct me if I'm wrong on this) is also a bit of a bummer.

Still, these small niggles aside I think this is an excellent addition to The One Ring and it's exciting to see the world open up for continued adventures in Middle-Earth!

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Heavy Gear Blitz - War for Terra Nova

Hello there! As I mentioned in my Future - 2015 post I jumped on the Heavy Gear Blitz - War for Terra Nova - Miniatures Starter Set kickstarter in November and I thought I might talk a little bit more about it.

Although my first contact with Dream Pod 9 was when I saw and fell in love with the cover of the first edition of the Jovian Chronicles rpg, I soon also discovered their Heavy Gear line of games as well. I hadn't seen Armored Trooper VOTOMS at that time, but I had seen Robotech/Macross and Gundam so although I thought Heavy Gear looked cool (and bought a bunch of the rpg books - the setting is awesome!) JC was what I was really aiming for - both the roleplaying game and the miniature game, Lightning Strike.

Still as time went on it became more and more clear that Heavy Gear was the DP9 flagship and although there was for a long time murmurs of a rebooted Jovian Chronicles/Lightning Strike (colloquially known as Lightning Strike Blitz), that would either unify the the scale of the ships and EXOs or get rid of the ships altogether, it never materialized and a couple of years ago the Lightning Strike line of miniatures was officially retired. The molds do come out of storage once every six months so real enthusiasts can still get the minis, but it doesn't seem like we'll have a new edition in the foreseeable future. Still, I recommend checking out the original Lightning Strik for some very cool space combat. Delta Vector has a nice introduction to the game.

When I realized that JC was in stasis back in 2009 I decided to go ahead and get myself an army for Heavy Gear instead. I painted most of it but as I didn't have anyone to play against it kind of stalled and even though I was planning to get a Southern force as well, so I could actually play the game, something else always popped up to throw my money at instead. It has also been a matter of correctly scaled terrain and not wanting to take up valuable storage space with terrain for only a single game. This has now changed since I've decided to invest in Dropzone Commander which uses the same 10mm scale. And if I ever decide to get into Robotech RPG Tactics after all the 10mm terrain will work for that as well, even though it's actually 6mm. You might remember me giving up the Robotech kickstarter in favour of Deadzone a couple of years ago, but now that the game is out and I read peoples thoughts on it I kind of wish I had done it the other way around. Oh, well...

My recon squad and some infantry. Considered rebasing the infantry for the new system, but I don't think I'll bother.
Anyway, fast forward to 2014 and Heavy Gear is getting a great big overhaul and preparations are made for a kickstarter to produce a proper two player starter box with plastic minis. I mostly like what I see of the rules changes and even though I'm used to working with metal minis, having plastic gears will make assembly, magnetizing and converting a lot easier (and cheaper!) so good stuff there to! I hesitated for a while but in the end I felt the deal was simply to good to pass up for an old gear enthusiast like myself. Not only will I get a substantial reinforcement to my existing Northern army (tripling my current gear stable), but I will also get that Southern army I've been clamoring for (including a King Cobra!) plus starter forces for CEF and Caprice!

Having two main armies in the North and South and then two smaller forces to able to lend to friends and allow myself to try something different is something I'm really looking forward to as it means I will finally be able to properly play the game! The rules, that have gone through small-ish revisions over the past decade, is now up for an almost complete reboot. While I liked the old rules in theory I could definitely see how they would seem off-putting to some players, probably several in my group included. However it seems like the new edition is not only aiming for making a smoother game for the same old crowd, but also making sure it's modern and flexible enough to actually attract new players. Although this is me mostly speculating, I think that DP9 has got most of their income from pretty much the same small group of people for the past ten years or so. Having a loyal and invested fan base is great, but it can also lead to shortsightedness and vicious feedback loops. The kickstarter has certainly helped the company get the name Heavy Gear out there and the great rush of new players who are confounded by many of the quirks in the rules that are leftovers from the old rpg days. Getting fresh eyes and fresh feedback I think is a great thing and the beta rulebook (that can be downloaded for free here), which is already quite different from the old Blitz rules, is going through additional revisions based on this new feedback and a new living rulebook should be made available within the next few weeks.

I've read through the Beta rulebook and I liked what I saw. While things have changed most of them seem to be for the better and I'm optimistic about the gameplay. There are of course more changes on the way as head designer Dave McLeod has stated that the release of the Living Rulebook Beta will be pretty much a complete re-write. While I do think the game needed a revision to bring it up modern gaming standards I really hope what make Heavy Gear unique - margins of success, combined arms, electronic warfare and a high-ish level of detail - remain in the game. I really don't think I need to worry, but it's still a balance act that need to be performed, keeping the unique gameplay while making the rules smoother. You can follow Dave's designer diaries over at the DP9 site.

Bottom line, I'm happy to see the game evolving and look forward to getting my hands on the miniatures later on. While DP9 has November as the stated shipping date, miniature and board game kickstarters are always (in my experience) delayed so I'm not really expecting to get my stuff this year, although... there's a first time for everything. Hehe! By then I'll have my Dropzone Commander battle board from Games & Gears ready, hopefully with additional cheap N scale terrain for extra detailing. Although the badlands is the classic setting for a Heavy Gear showdown, I'll make due with an old dilapidated cityscape until I actually decide to make an extra table.

For those of you who find this intriguing and curse yourself for missing the kickstarter in November, fear not! You can still get in on it by way of the pledge manager. You can get the basic core box for $80 CAD but I highly recommend going for the $115 CAD level which also gives you all the stretch goals, meaning the miniature count suddenly jumps from 16 to 51 and includes a bunch of extra conversion parts. While there are certainly kickstarters out there where you get more minis for your buck, but seeing as these are multi part poseable plastics I'm satisfied. Also, for about the same price as three Infinity starters I get 51 minis instead of 15. The next stretch goal is the Northern Kodiak (see left) in plastic at $160k CAD which I dearly hope gets unlocked as it's one of my favourite Heavy Gear models.

Well, those are some of my thoughts on the matter. I'm really happy to finally have pulled the trigger and invested in that second army I've thought about for so long. That it comes with a bunch of extra minis is of course a great bonus! Now I just need some tanks and striders...


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Future - 2015

Welcome back to Fire Broadside in the year 2015! Now that we've spent enough time thinking about the past and we've spent all our Back to the Future II jokes, let's look ahead at the coming year and see what fun gaming we have in front of us! Or me in any case. :)

Board Games

We'll start with the easy, although ubiquitous, board games and which ones I look forward to playing during 2015. As always this is far from a complete list, and merely the (current) top of the iceberg. There are far too many games that I want to play to list them all. Just like last year I will do what I can to focus on a smaller number of games but play them a larger number of times.

Let's start with the big lightsaber wielding elephant in the room that is Star Wars: Imperial Assault. When it was announced I thought "cool, Descent in space" and didn't think all that much more about it as I was more drawn to the excellent looking Star Wars: Armada. However the more I read about it and thought about what I wanted out of Descent I started to get giddy. After reading the rulebook especially, it seems to me like IA is basically the fourth edition of the Doom game engine and it takes the good stuff from Descent 2nd edition while (seemingly) leaving out or changing the bad. This plus a setting that we're all familiar with and like for the most part I think we're on to a winner! Had you asked me about it a month ago I would have said it's an insta-buy, but I've actually decided to hold off until I'm at least back from Japan. but I have to admit it's a great money and time sink as I of course would like to paint all the minis. Seeing as I'm hoping to get some other miniatures painted this year, adding yet another game to the list would perhaps not be very smart. Still, I'm sure I'll end up buying it in the end. :)

While we're on the subject of board games with a lot of plastic, let's not forget MERCS: Recon that I helped kickstart. Basically it's Syndicate the board game and it looks great! The projected release date is Q1 2015 and it has seemed from past updates that the game is on track so although I expect it to be delayed (most kickstarters are) it will hopefully be waiting for me when I get back home in April. I went a little crazy and got the OPFOR level plus the All In extra so have 15 MERC teams of each 5+ miniatures as well as the 80+ OPFOR minis to provide resistance to the MERCS. That's a lot of plastic to paint! Of course, the different MERC teams will be painted one at a time and as most only number six or seven miniatures total they should be quick. I actually think the OPFOR might take longer as you need more of them for a single game, then again I feel they can be painted to a lower standard which again should make it quicker. Very much looking forward to this as it seems like loads of fun!

Alright, now that we're done with all that plastic let's take a look at some proper board game! Herhe! The information on Scythe is still a bit sparse, as it's still under construction, but the amazing art by Jakub Rozalski (seriously, check out his stuff!) and a game play that designer Jamey Stegmaier likens to a mix of Kemet and Agricola has me all excited! Hell, I might as well just quote the blurb from BGG as it describes the concept of the game well:
Scythe is a board game set in an alternate-history 1920s. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. Think of it as Agricola meets Kemet with asymmetric factions.
In Scythe, players work as individuals (or pairs using a new communication mechanism that expands the game up to ten players) to lead their country to victory by conquering territory, recruiting new villagers and troops (each with a unique name, story, and skill set — these aren't faceless, generic soldiers), reaping resources (which stay on the map, thus drawing opponents's attention to certain areas if players stockpile resources), and building monstrous mechs. Scythe uses a card-driven simultaneous action selection mechanism to keep the game moving at a brisk pace, with players then taking individual turns to carry out those actions on the map.
It sounds really interesting to me and I'll be sure to keep an eye on it. And again... the art! Let's see a couple of images right now:

I got Ryan Laukat's Eight Minute Empire: Legends as a birthday gift and have since then been looking through the rest of his games and not only are they all works of art visually, but they also seem like great fun to play! At the top of my list is  City of Iron which is a steampunk deck builder where you have one deck to represent the civilian part of your budding nation and one to represent the military. From what I've read it's leaning toward the slightly heavier deck building games which actually suits me just fine. There is also his newer game The Ancient World and I actually like that theme a bit more as it reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus, however it is a bit lighter than City of Iron and although I'm sure I'll end up with both in my collection I'll likely get the heavier of the two games first. The only negative I've read is that there can be an issue with downtime in the game, but it seems like this can be solved fairly easily.

Mysterium is a cooperative game where one player takes the role of a ghost who try to help the other players who take the roles of psychics who are visiting the mysterious manor the ghost haunts. Trying to puzzle together the mystery of what happened at the manor is tricky as the ghost only have cards with visuals available to him to communicate. After having a lot of fun with Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn I thought another kind of light storytelling game might be fun to try and this both seems to have a fun theme (who doesn't like ghosts and murder mysteries?) coupled with a cooperative detective element. Asmodee is apparently preparing an English release for Gencon, but I might snatch up the Polish edition as there is no text on the (beautiful) cards and English rules are available online.

Some other games I really look forward to playing in 2015 are Dead of Winter (still haven't played it!!), Virgin Queen (a quicker, more approachable Here I Stand?), Clash of Cultures (which seems much more like Civ than the actual game by FFG), Space Empires: 4X (Jacob recently got this so I should read up on the rules), Panamax (something about ships and locks and stock looks like fun to me) and War Stories (block wargame with extreme fog of war and great art!). This is of course in addition to the games already in my collection, but I think you're fairly familiar with them by now. ;)

Roleplaying Games

With quite a bit of roles being played during 2014 I'm dead set to see it continue in 2015! Paradoxically it might actually be easier to get my roleplay group together for regular games than board gaming.

As part of my Season of the Ring project I'm currently reading and re-reading all the books for The One Ring and it has made me want to play it even more than before! I really can't believe I haven't managed to get this to the table yet. It might be the most perfect fusion of rules and setting that I've ever come across and the published adventure and campaign materials released so far is great! Although we need to wrap up our Mutant: Year Zero mini-campaign first I'm going to start prepping for running The One Ring as it has collected dust on the shelf long enough now. The main goal would of course be to play through The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign, but I'd be happy to settle with playing Tales from Wilderland as well. Although Rivendell and the upcoming Ruins of the North make adventuring in Eriador a possibility I'm much too fond of Mirkwood to go down that path just yet. At the moment there are only four of us though and although TOR of course works just fine with three heroes, four are needed to fill out the most important travelling roles. And there will be a lot of travelling!

Speaking of Mutant, there is also the new Mutant: Genlab Alfa (Gene Lab Alpha) coming in March that will re-introduce the mutated animals as player characters, complete with a new campaign and meta-plot. This time though my friend Jacob is taking the role as game master so I might finally get to take part as a player for once! For those wondering, this is only the Swedish release but as it seems like the English edition of Mutant: Year Zero is getting good reviews I think it's only a matter of time before Genlab Alfa is translated as well. Of course it is part of the Mutant: Year Zero family and will be completely compatible with the original game, making player groups constituting a mix of mutated humans and animals a possibility. In the future we'll see similar releases for robots and non-mutated humans so there is a lot to look forward to!

Another game released by The Free League (their first actually) is Savelvinter (Sulphur Winter) which is based on the books of Erik Granström which are in turn based on a legendary Swedish roleplaying campaign written by him in the eighties (so game becoming books becoming game, basically). The feel of the setting is a kind of pre-gun rennaisance (although there is black powder) where magic is very real and connected to the Narrators (gods). Both religion and magic is heavily influenced by ancient Summeria and brings another level of uniqueness to the setting. The system used in the game has a strong narrative focus and you can see influences both from FATE and Burning Wheel as well as other recent "indie" rpgs. Although it's not available in English, and would probably be hard to translate, there is a quick-start PDF available in English that includes the full introductory adventure The Last Days of Arhem available for download. It's certainly worth checking out!

Although I'll try and focus on these three games I would love to play some space and cyberunk rpgs as well. When I say space I'm mainly thinking hard-ish sci-fi like Diaspora, Jovian Chronicles, Traveller, Eclipse Phase or perhaps even Coriolis! But then again, I'd be up for either version of FFG's Star Wars games or some Ashen Stars as well.

As for cyberpunk, the primary game I'd love to try (perhaps as a one-off) is Technoir, but Cubicle 7's cyberpunk/horror fusion game Kuro also looks really interesting. Then there's the FATE powered Nova Praxis that kind of brings space and cyberpunk together in a way that seems really cool. So many games to play!

EDIT: Oooh! This just in: Luke and Thor brings us a magnificent new years present in the form of an Aliens hack for Torchbearer! Now this we have to play. Check it out here.

Miniature Games

This is probably the hardest of the three categories to actually get to play. Although they are all two player games the space and terrain required make them prohibitive. Space games have it easier as terrain is quick and easy while Infinity is tricky since it really thrives on a fairly packed table. Still, with all the affordable HDF terrain out there, I should be able to make it!

With the release of N3 and my buddy Claes buying a Haqqislam force I really feel that 2015 will be the year of Infinity! At least so far as miniature games are concerned. My interest in the game has never waned but I haven't been able to play it as much as I would like, but this should change now that two of us in our local group are Mayanauts. I of course still have my trusty Yu Jing and the changes made to them in N3 has me more excited than ever to get them to the table! Finally our powered armour really are the best in the Human Sphere and close combat and Martial Arts have become actually valuable skills rather than once in a lifetime opportunities (not that it rivals shooting though. This is still Infinity we're talking about!). I'm really looking forward to the new Invincible and White Banner sectorials but those will have to wait for the next campaign book (Acheron Falls). In the meantime I'll keep painting my Yu Jing, perhaps focusing a bit on the newer heavy infantry, and I want to get my Assault Sub-Section table ready as well. I should get the starter, the Myrmidon box and maybe Penny and I'll be ready to go. There will also be an ITS tournament here in Tokyo next month that I will try to attend. Although I don't have my own minis with me some kind Mayanauts here in Japan has offered to lend me a force! Mmmm... I feel a lot of Infinity goodness in the near future... 

I've talked about Star Wars: Armada at length here and I will try not to repeat myself, but basically I think it might be the perfect storm of (capital ship scale) spaceship gaming and accessibility that will make my local gaming group pick it up. Although I've tried to introduce various spaceship miniature games to my group before none have actually stuck. There are of course various reasons for this but I suspect the main one to be that most of them weren't neatly produced and marketed in a complete package. Although I have no problem with rule PDFs from smaller producers (like Starmada), or using rules from games long dead (like Lightning Strike) my group mostly prefer things slick, shiny and vibrant. Sure, it's nice that things are pre-painted (except for the fighters), but it really does get expensive. I could literally have a complete starter fleet of 13 ships for Full Thrust for the same price as one of the larger ships for Armada! That's pretty scary. Hopefully it's worth it. :)

Dropzone Commander made this list last year, and here it is again! The only reason I haven't bought the core box yet is because I'm still waiting for my Games & Gears battle board that I kickstarted a year ago. It was of course delayed, though at no fault of the G&G guys who have handled it very well, but should also be arrive before I get home. Basically, I'll have a lot of goodies waiting for me in Sweden! Anyway, my thoughts on the game haven't changed and I still think it looks like a real winner when it comes to army scale sci-fi gaming. The first expansion book for the game has been released and the new army, the Resistance, is absolutely awesome looking! As I'm still venturing into this alone I'll stick to the armies in the starter box (USCM and Scourge) for now. The gameplay seems solid, I like the concept of having to rely on dropships and the game looks spectacular even just using the cardboard terrain from the box. Will get!

Another kickstarter that finished a couple of months ago was for the new Heavy Gear Blitz starter box with plastic minis. I went back and forth many times on this before I pulled the trigger, because although Heavy Gear has been a part of Fire Broadside since 2009 I have never actually got it to the table since I only had one faction and have been reluctant to get terrain for it since it was an odd scale. Things have changed now though as Dropzone Commander is the same scale and the kickstarter core set has enough miniatures for four starter armies; North, South, CEF and Caprice. With the change to plastic and the rules becoming a bit more casual friendly I simply couldn't resist. The projected shipping date is November so it could be a 2015 game (which is why I included it in this list) but more likely it'll slip to next year, which is fine by me as I'll be busy painting so much other stuff! Oh, and if you're interested you can still get in on the Kickstarter core box with all four factions by registering here.

Other miniature games that will get played are MERCS (I got the new edition of the skirmish game rules and cards as part of the MERCS: Recon kickstarter so will try it out), X-Wing (I must play the huge ship campaigns!) and Dust Warfare/Tactics/Battlefield (need to paint my Steel Guard). Also I will try hard to get some 15mm into the mix. Having read through No End in Sight from Nordic Weasel Games I'm very keen to try the sci-fi version of it, No Stars in Sight, as the core rules are really interesting and it seems to play fairly quickly.

And that's it for my Future games this year! I'll be back in December to see how much of this actually materialized and how much was the desperate dreams of a madman. :D

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Past - 2014

My winning move as the Army of North Vietnam in Fire in the Lake.
As 2014 draws to a close I'm having my little look back at this year of gaming. Pregnancy and having a baby certainly cut into the gaming but I'm happy to still have managed to play a whole bunch of games. In my "Future - 2014" post from the beginning of the year I talked about wanting to play less games, more. As in wanting to play a given game a larger number of times instead of flitting from game to game like some deranged butterfly.

I'm not sure how well I actually succeeded at this but I at least worked toward this goal. Looking at my plays at BGG I can see that most of the singles are games suggested by friends while the games that I've wanted to play at least have a couple of plays each. I still think this is a good goal to aim toward and I'll keep it in mind during 2015 as well. Now, let's take a look at the top threes!

Board Games

Still holding strong(ish) at first place is Star Wars: The Card Game from FFG! Although Anders have more or less abandoned the game, my buddy Claes picked it up and we've played it throughout the year. I still think it's a lot of fun and a much better filler than Netrunner or Lord of the Rings, which I also own and like. When we get more experience with it Netrunner might be able to be brought down into the 20 minute window, but right now we still spend too much time pondering our moves for it to really work as a filler. SW you can either just play while waiting for something else, or run a number of games in a row, switching decks and sides, during an entire evening. I still haven't got any cards from the latest two cycles though and I need to remedy this as there has been a lot of cool stuff released!

At number two we have a bit of a surprise: A Few Acres of Snow! This is a game I've had my eye on for a looong time but for some reason I never actually pulled the trigger. There has been a lot of talk about the "broken" first edition and some claim that the second is just as bad, but we've had a blast playing it! I discovered that it's available to play online for free (and legal) at so that's where most of our plays are from, but then Claes actually gave it to me as a surprise birthday gift, so I'll finally be able to get some proper physical plays in. :)

Number three on the list is another unexpected game I think: Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn! You might notice a trend here that the most played games are either light/quick or played online. Hehe! Anyway, although I loved the look and idea of Hobbit Tales I was a little unsure how well it would actually work with my regular gaming group. Even though we're all old rpg veterans we've never played a narrative board game like this before. However, I shouldn't have worried at all as everyone has really enjoyed it and spun great yarns of adventure, fame and misery! A round is played in about 20-30 minutes so it's very easy to play a couple of games back to back. I will be reviewing it as part of my ongoing Season of the Ring and I'm looking forward to using it while playing The One Ring as well.

Other games with a decent number of plays were Star Trek: Fleet Captains(!), Android: Netrunner, Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island and Love Letter. You might wonder at the lack of Phil Eklund titles, but actually Greenland, Pax Porfiriana, Origns and High Frontier were all played, although in small numbers. The same goes for the games in the COIN series from GMT.

Roleplaying Games

If you read this blog with any regularity you probably already know that Mutant: Year Zero was the top played roleplaying game during 2014. Actually, although there are only two games on this list (not even a top three!) I've roleplayed more this year than in the past five years put together! After we wrapped up Torchbearer (see below) we started on our M:0 campaign and have had a lot of fun with it. The game requires very little prep which, again, is great if you're strapped for time. When I get back to Sweden in the spring we'll try to round of this part of our Mutant experience and start preparing for Gene Lab Alpha where you play as mutated/uplifted animals. Of course both games take place in the same setting and apart from mutated humans and animals we have the robots and the non-mutated (frozen?) human sourcebooks to look forward to.

We also managed a number of Torchbearer sessions in the beginning of the year. I still love the Burning Wheel family of games but they are tricky to introduce fresh to a new group and almost require you to read the book and really buy into the philosophy. You could probably get to that point where it "clicked" for everyone through play alone as well, but I think it would require more than the three sessions we played. As it were I loved it, Jacob... disliked it and the others were somewhere between the two of us. However, I feel that they have barely scratched the surface of what it means to play Torchbearer (or any BWHQ game for that matter) and although I'll likely let it rest for a bit, I'm intent on bringing out either Torchbearer or Mouse Guard for some mini-campaigning next year. And speaking of Mouse Guard, you know there's a new edition in the works, right? :D

Miniature Games

I think mini gaming took the largest hit in 2014 as it is probably the most time and preparation intensive of the three categories. Still, I did play some games at least!

Deadzone comes in at number one as we played it a number of times during the spring. The core game is good fun and the Enforcers and Plague are well balanced. Unfortunately the other races we've tried so far are less so and the campaign game, which was by far the largest reason for my investment, turned out to be lackluster and plain. I hate to seem so negative, especially as there is a good, fun core experience in Deadzone, but I will likely try to get rid of most of my Deadzone stuff except for maybe the Enforcers so I have something I can pull out when in the right mood. Still, I'll be sure to play it some more before that... as soon as I actually receive my (long delayed) Enforcers.

The other miniature game played was of course my old workhorse, Infinity. The reason this hasn't been my top played miniature game every year is that no one in my local group played it. Me and Anders started out at the same time, but he abandoned it soon after and although I'll try to inspire him with the new edition I really don't see it happening. On the other hand Claes has just invested in a Haqqislam force and seeing as he's one of my primary gaming opponents I'm hopeful that Infinity will see play a lot more in 2015. But now I'm getting ahead of myself... :)

You might wonder what happened to X-Wing and Dust Warfare. To be honest I had to double check when it looked like I hadn't played a single game of X-Wing in 2014, but it's actually true! Even though I got both the rebel transport and the Tantive IV we haven't played with either of them. I'll simply have to blame it on the deployment of the baby and make sure to do better next year. Dust Warfare is pretty much in the same state as last year; I'd love to play it more but Anders is waiting on his Babylon kickstarter stuff and we still haven't tried the new Dust Tactics Battlefied rules. Although they look decent enough I'm pretty happy with Dust Warfare. Again, we need to try them out of course, but if I find myself not really enjoying them as much as Warfare I'll simply call my collection complete and keep playing the old rules with what I have.

So that was my analogue gaming in 2014! I'm guessing 2015 will see a little less gaming now that the proto-gamer is hanging around. Still, after a mostly game free four months in Japan I will be literally jonesing for it when I get back! More on next year's games in the Future - 2015 post!

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