Monday, 16 December 2013

X-Wing and the fattening side of the force

Last weekend I attended my first X-Wing tournament, it was at York Garrison and was run by my SST co-host Barry.  Aside from the 9am start, I had been looking forward to this for some time as X-Wing is a game that I am actually pretty good at and I’d almost certainly be playing people that I’d not played against before in any system.


As I had made some of the boards for the club that were still at my house, Barry came round to collect them Friday night and we squeezed in a couple of practice games.  I’d built what I thought was a reasonably solid Imperial list a while back that I had fully intended to take to the tournament so used it in the first practice game.  Suffice to say, I dispatched Barry’s rebel scum without too many problems making my record with that list seven wins and no losses.


The only ship that has causes me significant problems in the local group is the Hawk and its filthy focus shenanigans.  As I knew at least one person would be taking the dirty Hawk/mouldy crow/recon specialist combo (shame on you Ben!), I wanted to try and find a counter that would help dispatch that quicker.  As the format of the tournament was you picked your ships and could switch around cards between games (100 point games), I wanted to find the counter using my previous selection of ships so I could use either list.


My ship selection was a Firespray (pilot skill 3), 2 TIE Fighters (pilot skills 3 & 1) and 2 TIE Interceptors(both pilot skill 4) with no upgrades at all (I think I was the only player not to use upgrades).  The only counter for the Hawk I could see in those ships was Dark Curse, the pilot skill 6 TIE that you can’t spend focus or re-roll dice when attacking.  To accommodate that choice I had to adjust my list to Firespray (pilot skill 3), 2 TIE Fighters (pilot skills 6 & 3) and 2 TIE Interceptors (pilot skills 3 & 1).


I decided to try this list against Barry in the other practice game however he decided not to take the Hawk in that game so didn’t get to test the effectiveness of the counter.  Barry took what looked like a more competitive list including the Falcon and proceeded to absolutely rape me.  It left me with a lot to think about because, although it had failed dismally in that game, I did see potential in the revised list.


Come Saturday morning, I got up nice and early and headed to the bus stop to get there in plenty of time to help Barry set up for the day.  After waiting 55 minutes for a bus that is supposed to run every 10 minutes (thanks a lot First Bus!), I got to the building with 2 minutes to spare.  One of the great things about X-Wing is that it takes no time at all to set up and clear away so everything was ready to go when I arrived.


In the first round, I had requested a grudge match against Sean Gill (@apostlegillus on twitter) as, barring a Malifaux demo ages ago, I’ve not got to play against him and wanted to.  Gill being the fun guy that he is took a very different list to others, taking Han in the Falcon and Luke in an X-Wing, both with a ton of upgrades (that’s right, 2 ships in a 100 point game!).  I decided to go with my revised list which I ended up using in every game.  Having not played a game against that sort of list before I was having to really think about how to play it, getting rid of the 60 point Falcon seemed like a good place to start.  I targeted the Falcon early on and got very lucky with my dice rolls, getting rid of it quicker than either of us expected.  With 5 ships left to target Luke, he soon fell resulting in a 100-0 win to me.


In the 2nd game I was playing Julian who, along with his son Patrick, are the reason the club wooden spoon is called the Roberts award.  I had never played Julian before so didn’t really know what to expect.  I don’t really remember the details of that game, only that he destroyed 1 TIE and we called it with him having 1 ship left (there was 6 minutes remaining and food was being served).  I think it ended something like 76-12 to me.


In game 3 I played Tom, a guy that is fairly new to the club who had 2 flawless victories to his name at that point in the day.  To say that my trousers were on brown alert would be an understatement!  He was using the filthy Hawk combo, the Falcon (Lando I think) and a B-Wing.  I immediately threw everything at the Hawk and took it off the board reasonably quickly.  He managed to take out a couple of my ships before I chipped away enough damage to remove his other 2 ships.  I think that one ended up 100-36 in my favour, a somewhat surprising result for all involved.


In game 4 I was put against club leader Ben using more rebel scum, again with the filthy Hawk combo (with an X, an A and a B too).  I have played against Ben before and we have regularly discussed the combo possibilities in the game so this one would be a little different.  I wanted targeted the Hawk straight away but Ben did a great job making it difficult to target.  For the whole game I ended up chipping away at shields but not being able to sustain fire on one target.  Between that and my inability to roll more hits than Ben had evades, it was not going to be my game.  I don’t remember the final score from this one (possibly 100-0?) but it definitely went in Ben’s favour.


In game 5 I was against Josh, a friend of Tom’s that had not been to the club before.  He had not played the game much before but you would not have guessed it.  He was using a TIE swarm, my first Imperial opponent of the day.  Long story short, he started very aggressively, I spent the game rolling blanks and got thoroughly batter.  My dice rolling was by far the worst I’ve ever done, to the point it was actually quite comical, but I’m not sure how much it affected the outcome of the game.  I may have been able to destroy a ship or two rather than losing 100-0 (which is what happened),but defeat would have almost certainly still come.


I ended up finished 3rd and playing against some really nice people that I’ve not played against before so all in all a good day.


Only one real issue with the day arose and that was with the food.  Garrison is lucky enough to have a fully on-site canteen that does great food at decent prices, the only issue is though it’s not ideal if you’re on a diet.  Since starting a diet I have been very strict about my food intake, carefully counting every calorie but the reality hit that sometimes that is not always possible.  The canteen does food that gamers will like and unfortunately the average gamer tends not to be a health freak.


As it is clearly an issue going to a tournament while on a diet, I will be taking a selection of healthy options (fruit, low calories snacks, etc) to Vappa for people in Malifool Fat Camp as an alternative to the chocolate and crisps that will no doubt be included in the provided lunches.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I blame the Soop

This week has been a bit of a strange one for me, on many different levels.

Last Wednesday I had a Malifaux 2nd edition demo with replacement henchman Chris.  Having previously been the henchman, I really made him work for it but he stepped up and did a great job.  That was the first time I’d looked at Malifaux in roughly 6 months and was pleasantly surprised by the subtle changes that have occurred during that time.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not as good as the game it was and I’m not going to rush back any time soon but it has improved since the final beta version.

On Friday we recorded our long awaited m2e episode of Soulstone Train, this is something that we’d been putting off for some time.  For a while, I had in my head an idea of how that episode would be structured which is pretty different to how episodes are normally planned.  As we were going back to our roots in a way, I thought it appropriate to obtain some Dragon Soop for the occasion (pay close attention, that becomes important later!).  We started recording the episode and it was much more civilised than expected until something rather unexpected happened.  I found myself agreeing to play in the Vapnartak (not Varpartnik!) Malifaux tournament in February.  Going into that recording I had absolutely no intention of entering that tournament so I can come to just one conclusion, it was the Soop!

That brings us to the bizarre conclusion to the week, me going on a diet.  Those who know me know that I like food and I like drink, neither of which are overly good for you in the quantities that I consume.  It is worth noting that I am not an average gamer, I regularly see my feet without the need to breathe in and regularly participate in a violent blood sport (in my case, ice hockey).  Due to a damaged ankle I have not played a massive part in the hockey season so far and have been piling on the pounds.  As I needed to lose weight anyway, I have signed up for the Malifools fat camp challenge to try and lose my excess weight before Vappa (which also coincides with the toughest part of the hockey season.).  I tend to lose weight pretty easily so hopefully by Vappa I’ll be rocking a 6 pack (totally not happening!).

Friday, 22 November 2013

Project Eldar update - the impossible task?

A couple of months ago I decided to set myself a hobby challenge, to paint a full Warhammer 40k army for the Summer Solstice tournament which is held at my local club every summer.  After a bit of deliberating I ordered a bunch of Eldar and officially started the project at the start of November meaning I had about seven months to complete the army.

So, coming up to the end of month one where am I at?  Pretty much where I started to be honest!

I’m admittedly a slow painter so this was always going to be a challenge but my lack of progress is almost laughable.  There’s a total of 66 individual pieces in my army (including some big stuff like a wraithknight and a crimson hunter), so far I’ve painted a whopping three of them (and they’re not even exciting pieces!).

In the past I’ve been fairly critical of the painting standard of 40k armies, I’m not going to win any painting awards but in comparison to most 40k stuff I’ve seen, I’m Raphael (which also happens to be my favourite flavour of turtle).  Sure, there are some great looking armies at my local club (Dave Williamson’s Tyranids and Andy Richardson’s Grey Knights instantly spring to mind) but they’re vastly outnumbered by bare plastic, undercoat or, at best, three colours and a wash that look like they were applied by a retard on a rollercoaster.

What this project has taught me so far is that the poorly painted 40k armies you see may not come from a lack of painter skill, they may just be a product of necessity.  Most tournaments have a minimum painting standard of three colours (and based) and have to be fully painted.  Based on my recent experience, even that is a significant challenge!  Based on my current paintin speed, my army will be fully painted to a decent standard in a little under 2 years.

The big question I have to ask myself is do I rush the painting to enter the tournament or do I go at my own pace and risk missing the tournament.  That took me less than a second to answer, the reason being my reason for spending money on the hobby.

If you stop and think about it, spending vast amounts of money on small lumps of plastic is fucking insane!  That is until you stop and compare that to other things.  Let’s say you go to the cinema, you pay £8 for the chance of a couple of hours worth of entertainment and then you go home having gained nothing.  If you go to the cinema three times, you will have spent the same £24 that you could have spent on a box of Eldar Fire Dragons.

The Fire Dragons may not give you a fumble in the back row but you do get some value out of that £24.  If you’re a slow painter like me, that money will get you much more than the six hours of entertainment you would get out of the cinema.  Hell, with finecast you’ll still be trying to clean the models up after all the films have finished.  On top of the hours of painting pleasure you can get, there’s also the sense of achievement at the end where you can appreciate the thing that you have beautifully painted.  Then you can stick it on eBay for a profit and buy more because people will pay silly money for painted armies (wonder why that is?!).

As this post has been a bit ranty in places, I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my completed Fire Dragons (taken before adding grass to the base).




Thursday, 14 November 2013

Selling Malifaux stuff

I've decided to sell the bulk of my Malifaux stuff to make way for other games. Here's a list of the stuff that's for sale (I have way more to list). I'll update this post as I add more to the list. I've not put prices for the painted stuff, just make me an offer (if you want pics just ask).  None of these include stats cards however first edition cards can be included for most if you want (just ask).  Please add £1 to any purchase for UK delivery (sorry, I'll only deliver within the UK).

If you want anything, just email me ( or contact me on Twitter (@soulstonetrain).

Lady Justice (alt sculpt) – new in blister (£5)
Pathfinder & Traps – new in box (£9)
Papa Loco – (£4) sold
Guild Hounds – new, not in blister (£6.50)
Hoffman - new, not in blister (£4)
Lady Justice - painted
Judge - painted
Austringer - painted
Santiago - painted
Francisco - painted
Sam Hopkins - painted
Perdita - painted
Executioner - painted
Scales of Justice - painted
Lucius - painted
Guard Captain - painted
Sonnia (alt sculpt) - painted
Purifying Flame - painted

Marcus (original sculpt) – (£3) sold
Gunsmith (male) – new, not in blister (£4) sold
Gunsmith (female) – new, not in blister (£4) sold
Malifaux Raptors – new in blister (£6)
Mechanical Rider - painted
Soulstone Miner - painted
Fire Gamin - unpainted
Hoarcat Pride - painted
Hoarcat Pride - painted
Sabertooth Cerberus - painted
Snowstorm - painted
Slate Ridge Mauler - painted
Blessed of December - painted
Willie - part painted
Rail Golem - part painted sold
Joss – new in blister (£4) sold

Seamus (alt sculpt) – new, not in blister (£5)
Flesh Construct (original sculpt) – new, not in blister (£5)
Grave Spirit – new in blister (£3)
Mindless zombies – new, not in blister (£6.50) - sold
Nurses – new, not in blister (£6.50)
Dead Rider - legs attached to horse and pin in the foot, otherwise new (£12)
Rotton Belles – new, not in blister (£7.50)
Simulacrum - painted
McMourning (original sculpt) - painted
Isamu - undercoated
Yan Lo box set - undercoated sold
Flesh Construct - painted
Sebastian - painted
BĂȘte Noir (original sculpt) - painted
Night Terrors - painted

Collodi box set – new in box (£17)
Avatar Lilith - (£15) sold
Black Blood Shaman – new in blister (£4) sold
Alps – new in blister (£7.50)
Lilith (alt sculpt) – new in blister (£5)
Mr Tannen – new on sprue (£5)
Chompy & Dreamer - painted
Daydreams - painted
Stitched Togethers - painted
Baby Cade - painted
Tuco - painted sold
Lelu - painted sold
Lilitu - painted sold
Pandora (original sculpt) - painted
Mr Graves - painted
Coppellius - unpainted

Viktorias (alt sculpts) – new in blister (£9) sold
Hans – (£3) sold
Killjoy - painted
Convict Gunslinger - painted
Levi box set - waif painted, rest unpainted.

Ten Thunders

Ten Thunder Brothers – new in blister (£9)
For Yan Lo stuff see resser section

Somer box set – new in box (£16)
Gremlin Taxidermist – new in blister (£3.50) sold
Piglets – new in blister (£3) sold
Stuffed Piglets – new in blister (£5) sold
Hog Whisperer & Piglet – new in blister (£4) sold
Slop Haulers – new, not in blister (£6.50)
Young Lacroix – new, not in blister (£7.50)
Pigapult - part painted

I also have 4 light up, colour changing ice/fire pillars, if you're interested in those or want to see a picture just give me a shout.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

SST: The Expanded Universe

We’re constantly thinking of ways to make Soulstone Train a better podcast and for a while now I’ve been toying with ideas of how to achieve that.  For us, the podcast has always been about community, both our own local gaming group and the wider gaming world and we really want to incorporate that into the cast.  You’re already heard from a number of our local group and a couple of others but the scope is soon going to widen.

As we have a limited time and budget to bring you as many games as possible, we wanted to find a way to bring you more content and I think we can do exactly that.

Starting with episode 18, there will be a new section in each episode where different people come on and talk about a game they play and why you should think about playing it.  I have an initial list of people that we’ll be contacting to be our first passengers on the train so if you get a random email (or DM on twitter asking for your email address), you’ll know why.

Initially we want to cover some of the games that we’ve wanted to get to for a while, things like  Infinity, Bushido and Blood Bowl, but then expanding into whatever people get excited about.  It will hopefully be a good adventure into gaming for us and that should be good for the listeners too.

We touch on this idea in episode 17 which will be out later in the week.  In that episode we discuss;

Hobby updates
Sponsor (new discount code, presence at Reading Warfare trade show 16th/17th)
Twitter questions
Our fave SST moments of our first year
New section plug
Cards Against Humanity review
Getting better at games, does playing lots of games help?
D&D update (the conclusion of our first adventure)
Upcoming events (X-Wing tourney, Vapnartak)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hell freezes over

As I’ve spent much of the last week looking back at the past year of Soulstone Train, it was kind of inevitable that at some point I would end up looking in the other direction.  When it comes to the hobby I like to play the long game and have long term plans of where I want to get to and what I want to achieve.  In the coming year I want to achieve something that I’ve not done before and that is to have a fully painted army for a large scale game.
The first decision to make was what game this army would be for.  As far as I could see the main options were;

·         Warmachine/Hordes
·         Bolt Action
·         Flames of War
·         Warhammer Fantasy
·         Warhammer 40,000

Each of these has pros and cons;

Pros: For the most part the minis re actually very nice, especially on the Hordes side of things.  Some of the Colossals are really nice.
Cons: The game sucks balls.

Bolt Action
Pros: There’s some interest locally so I’d probably be able to get a game.  The rules look pretty decent and the models aren’t too expensive.
Cons: There’s a lot of painting one colour and there’s not much variety between minis.  As a hobby project I’m not sure how enjoyable it would be.

Flames of War
Pros: My SST co-host Shane is really into it which suggests the game is pretty decent and I’d be able to get a game.
Cons: The minis are tiny and multi-part, I suspect that my hobby enjoyment would be near zero.  Also, it’s a lot of painting one colour and the final result would not be that impressive on the table.

Warammer Fantasy
Pros: There’s lots of local players so getting a game would be easy.  The minis are generally pretty nice and there’s variety to make the hobby side reasonably enjoyable.
Cons: It’s made by the devil.  It costs a fortune to have a tournament ready army.  Large units mean painting a fair few of the same mini making the hobby a bit of a chore.

Warhammer 40k
Pros: It’s the dominant game at my local club so games/tourneys are easily accessible.  The minis are generally nice.  I used to play 20 years ago so totally know the rules.
Cons: It’s made by the devil.  It’s expensive (although I think not a bad as fantasy).

If this was a gaming project, Bolt Action would have been the clear winner.  Unfortunately it’s not a gaming project however, I can see myself buying in at some point.  As it is a hobby project, I’m sorry to say the winner was Warhammer 40k.  In my youth I owned three armies for 40k and never got around to painting any of them.  As I want to correct an oversight from my past, it makes sense for me to revisit one of my old armies.  This narrowed down the choices to Eldar, Chaos Marines or Dark Angels.

Of those three, one stood out to me as being a bit more varied in terms of the hobby side of things, that being the Eldar who were also my first 40k army.  Since making that decision I’ve heard rumblings that they’re completely bent but, as I have no plans to put effort into an army list, I’m pretty sure they’ll not be in my hands.

I’ve started by ordering the battle force box with the intention of buying extra stuff only when I’ve fully painted what I have.  From there I’m going to just buy what I like the look of (Striking Scorpions are high on the list!) and then pad it out later if I can’t make a legal army list.  The plan is to buy, build and paint a legal army to a decent standard in time for York Garrison’s annual Summer Solstice tournament which is the biggest event the club currently run.  I have no doubt that I’ll come last and ebay the army straight after the event but it’ll be one more thing scratched off the hobby bucket list.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A year of train travel

Another episode of Soulstone Train has been recorded (should be online tonight) and in planning the next episode we realised that it’s been almost a year since we first recorded.  As you can imagine this has somewhat changed our plans for the next episode.  If you listen right to the end of the episode being released later, there will be a brief (and probably quite shocking) preview of what we are planning for our next episode.

Looking back over the year since we started recording was a slightly odd experience as a hell of a lot has changed.  I listened back to our first episode and realised straight away why I had taken it down, it was bloody awful!  As much as we have learnt a lot about gaming in the past year, we’ve learnt a lot more about podcast recording and editing.  We’ve also progressed a lot as a gaming group with many more of the local gaming club getting involved in recording sessions and more varied games being played on club nights.

The major changes that we’ve seen as a podcast are;

·         Move away from Malifaux – this is something that I really didn’t see coming, we were all heavily invested in the game (me especially as a henchman) and we were in it for the long haul.  I do sometimes miss the verbal jousting with the Malifools (not that much though as you may find out later) and being part of that community but that change was overall for the better.
·         Changes in hosts – most people have forgotten that the very first episode was just me and Baby Jake, I didn’t even meet Shane until the week after.  Now we have a rotating set of hosts that all play different games making it a rich tapestry of nerdy goodness.  We are still looking at getting a few more locals involved so watch this space for more.
·         Sound quality – we now have actual recording equipment rather than just using the microphone on my laptop that picked up every time Jake scratched his nuts.  The sound quality has improved a huge amount since making that investment.
·         Sponsorship – early on we were sponsored by Little Star Miniatures run by local gamer Carl.  Unfortunately Carl had to take a break from the business for personal reasons however, hopefully he will be returning soon (both as a business and as a host).  Following the end of that arrangement we had a few offers but the prospect of Carl returning was always a sticking point for us.  In my mind Carl will always be a friend above anything else and as such, we would not do anything that could potentially have a negative effect on his business (i.e. being sponsored by a competitor).  We received an offer from OG Games and, as they stock completely different things to LSM, we jumped at the chance to get involved with a company of their quality and reputation.  Having a proper professional relationship with a company that isn’t run by a friend has been a big step and has worked out well for us so far.
·         Less alcohol – that’s actually a bit misleading, the alcohol is still there but the editing just cuts out most of it.  As a general rule I don’t even listen to the last hour or two of recording, some of it might get cut in as out-takes though.  Our legendary tangents also still occur but, in the interest of good taste, any discussions about chat roulette and the like are now removed.
·         Discovering more games – for me, this is the single biggest change that we’ve seen.  We started off concentrating on one game and now we are exploring new games for each episode.  It turns out that variety really is the spice of life as I’ve never been happier with my gaming life.

That is a lot of change in a year, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us!

Friday, 20 September 2013

What's in a name?

Often when I’m trawling through Twitter, I find myself considering the meaning of people’s user names.  Some of the user names are pretty straight forward (e.g. Old Man Myke) but some are a little more cryptic.  For example, is Doctor Loxley really a doctor, is Sassy Lady really sassy and/or a lady and is Nepalese Ninja really a ninja?  Also, what in the blue hell does SSSK stand for?!

There are many theories about where my own user name comes from which range from being excessively hairy to a love of flinging poo.  Although those are totally legit, sadly the true source is a bit less interesting.  My secret shame is that I used to date a southerner (please don’t kick me out of Yorkshire!) who used to regularly call me a northern monkey and it just kind of stuck.

If you have an unusual twitter username, I’d love to hear what inspired it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The prodical son returns?

It’s been a very odd couple of weeks for me.  As some of you will have seen I’ve put my name down for MCC (the Malifool’s summer tourney) and am down as the co-organiser of the Malifaux tourney at next year’s Vapnartak.  Many people have assumed that these actions mean an impending return to the world of Malifaux, I’m sorry to say those people are wrong.

For months I have been waiting to see the final version of the book before deciding whether or not to dip my toes in again.  Having now spent some time with the book, I’m now certain that the version that is here to stay is not something that I am going to be playing.  To some, this will make my recent actions seem quite odd so it’s time to shed some light on the matter.

First up is MCC which is going to be the 4M of next year (presumably minus the swag bags, etc).  For me, the decision to enter this was an easy one because I like spending time with the sort of people that will be at the event.  Quite frankly, the event could have been for any game and I would have signed up in a heartbeat just because it would provide an excuse to hang out and drink with people that I respect and have genuine affection for (and Mickleburgh).  Just to clarify, this does not mean that I’ll be trying to leg hump Conrad, I’ll leave that to Baby Jake!

The decision to help run the next Vappa tourney was a bit more difficult and to understand it, you first have to know what happened in the run up to last year’s event.  Running a tourney at a big event like Vappa is a very different prospect than running one at the local club, there are all sorts of organisational and logistical nightmares that can occur.  As the local club runs the 40k tourney and has a limited amount of scenery, none of that was available for the Malifaux.  The event is also run by a different club so trying to get things sorted out can be a bit of a pain and means trusting in people that you don’t know (they also don’t know you which can also cause issues).  In the run up to the event I didn’t sleep for 3 days and on the day the only thing that was keeping me upright was enough Monster and Relentless to kill a horse.

For the 2014 Vappa the demand for a tourney was there and local guy Chris (of Soulstone Train fame) contacted me about wanting to run something.  He was asking questions about the venue and who to contact, etc and it made me remember what a ball ache it had been the previous year.  As this will be Chris’ first event as TO, I offered to take some of the burden to hopefully make it an enjoyable experience for him.  I think Chris has the potential to be a great TO and I wouldn’t want him to be put off because his first event is the one that was the most complex that I ran.  This is definitely Chris’ event, I am only chipping in to ease the pressure and be his bitch on the day so don’t come to me with any TO questions!

So now that we all know I’m not coming back, what will I be doing instead?  I’ve been working on trying to bring a bit more variety to our gaming group and the local club (the latter has sadly been limited recently due to work issues).  I’ve also been working hard to refine what the new Soulstone Train is and there’s exciting developments coming on that front.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Future of tournament gaming?

Since giving up Malifaux I can honestly say I've not missed it that much, what I have missed is the people an organising events. With that in mind I've been mulling over some ideas in recent weeks and now have a plan that I think will work.

The general idea is that it is an achievement based event but with a bit of a twist. There would be a lot of different games (board/card/mini) and a short list o achievements for each. You could only get each achievement once so it would encourage people to play as many different games as possible over the course of the day (or weekend depending on demand).

It's currently in the early stage of planning, at the moment I'm just feeling out whether there'd be demand for this type of event? Let me know what you think, I really like to get a format that people want to play so any feedback would be appreciated.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Gaming's geographical differences

In one of my earlier posts I stated that, being a lifelong nerd, I had never played Dungeons & Dragons and this provoked a level of nerd rage from my stateside counterparts.  For me, this raised an interesting question of how the journey into nerdage varies depending on where you are from.  This entry is based on a comparison of UK vs US but if anyone from elsewhere wants to chip in, I’d love to hear how it varies in other places.

In the UK, most socially awkward teens find their way into gaming through the range of Games Workshop games.  I’m sad to say that my own journey also started this way with a brief look at the original Space Hulk prior to investing my pocket money in Necromunda.  For guys my age in the UK that is a fairly common story, the only real exception to that is Heroquest which was made by MB games (the miniatures however were made by GW!).

After speaking to my American counterparts, I understand that the journey for the majority there takes a different route in the form of Dungeons and Dragons.  Having now played a couple of sessions I really do see the appeal of the game however, it being the first game that people play is not something that I can understand.  I like to think of myself as a pretty well rounded nerd that can adapt to a number of different systems but I have to admit that the D&D character creation felt more like a maths exam than a hobby.

My journey started, like many others, with a friend and muddling through the rules as we got to them.  As much depth as some miniature games have, I am yet to find one that cannot be learnt with the rule book, half an hour and a lot of guess work.  As a grown adult with years of gaming experience, I muddled through the character creation at home, on my own and have never been so confused (half way through it even drove me to drink!).  Thankfully I had the benefit of our experienced DM to point me in the right direction (cheers Barry!) but I really can’t see how accessible the game is to teens with no expert on hand.

Obviously things are different now than when I was a kid (I’m rapidly approaching the grand old age of 35) with video games like World of Warcraft easing that transition to a certain extent.  Even taking into account the technical changes, I still feel that the majority of UK gamers have an easier transition into the hobby due to the evil empire.

Does that mean that I think UK gamers get the best deal when starting in the hobby?  No.

One thing that I have rapidly begun to learn when delving into the D&D world is that there is so much more going on that just the game.  Even before we had played our first session, almost all of the players had written a back story for their character and were thinking about how they would react in a given situation.  D&D seems to have made me think so much about my character development and the story that is unfolding which I have not experienced to that extent with any other game.

It has been nearly 20 years since my first gaming experience and only now do I feel that I am getting the most out of my hobby.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A knight rises

With the start of my very first Dungeons and Dragons adventure looming, I thought it was time that I got around to doing my character sheet.  During my first tentative steps into the D&D universe, I’d decided that I wanted to do a paladin, mainly because I had a really nice mini going spare and they like to hit things.

I’d printed off some character sheets earlier in the week (obviously not at work!) but hadn’t really looked at them before last night.  One quick peek at them as they came out of my folder and my trousers went on brown alert, I’ve done university exams less complicated!  Naturally, in true heroic style, I reached for the tequila and got stuck in.

As I already had a miniature and back story for my character (see my earlier blog entry for that disturbing tale), I had a fair idea of what I wanted him to come out like.  Straight away there was a sub-class that really took my fancy, it was the Ardent Paladin from the Divine Powers expansion book.  They seem to have a real wrath of god feel that I thought would fit well with my character’s back story.

I decided to go for a standard set of stats rather than rolling for them, based on my rolling skills lately I’d have ended up with a knight more Forrest Gump than Chuck Norris.  I also opted for the suggested feat and powers associated with an Ardent Paladin as a fair amount of time and tequila had passed by this point and I was getting impatient.

Next it came time to pick equipment, this was guided a lot by the miniature, meaning I would need a sword, shield and armour.  First up was the sword and the book recommended a 2 handed weapon for maximum damage.  I took one look at the weapon page and decided that the book was wrong.  Why the f**k would I pick a 2 handed weapon when there’s something so badass it’s called the Bastard Sword?!  It’s almost like Wizards of the Coast knew that one day I would play this game and put it in just for me.  Next I went for plate armour as it was closest to what is on the mini and a light shield to round out the look.  That left me with a little bit of leftover gold so I thought I should buy the adventurer basics kit (food seemed important for some reason).

I sent my sheet off to our DM, Barry, for checking and thankfully hadn’t done too much wrong.  Sir Cedric is now ready to enter the dungeon and smash monsters and Halflings alike in his quest for justice.

I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this character and discussing the adventures of our group on future episodes of Soulstone Train.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Wyrd releases at Gencon 2013

It’s time once again for the annual joy that is Gencon but just how much joy will there be this year from Wyrd?

Historically I’ve always looked forward to Gencon for the pre-release models and, more importantly, the exclusive Nightmare Edition sculpts of existing models.  In the past we have seen the truly epic NE Chompy and the fantastic NE Dead Justice crew, both were above and beyond the quality of the original sculpts with Chompy regularly going for in excess of £100 on eBay.  Last year was a bit of a disappointment for me with the release of the Hanging Tree.  To me this always appeared to be some kind of vanity project for Wyrd and seemed to be an odd choice of what to make.  Fair enough making resser minions, a lot of people would use them but a terrain piece, really?!  It’s widely acknowledged that very few people use the special terrain rules, so much so that they’re not even in m2e.

Due to the disappointment of last year that many people were quite vocal about, I had high hopes for this year.  People that listen to SST, follow this blog or follow me on Twitter will be all too aware that I’ve not been anticipating the release of m2e so I’ll just skip over that.  The thing that attracted me to Wyrd in the first place was the miniatures so that is what I was most anticipating.

On offer this year is a nightmare edition of the Tara box set for $80 (picture here).

This to me seems like a really strange choice for the NE models.  I always saw the NE models as a way to bring fresh sculpts out for older models that could maybe do with a bit of a lift but the standard Tara box isn’t even out yet!  I don’t know if this is a business decision based on selling a crew box that is not available any other way to try and force up the sales figures for the NE model (this would be understandable following the low sales of last year’s hanging tree).

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have commented on the high price of the box, although I agree that $80 (roughly £55) for a crew starter is insane, I also get that plastic moulds are expensive to make and limited runs have to be reflected in the price.  Although £55 is a lot for a box, people regularly pay double that for Chompy showing that people will meet that sort of cost if the model is nice enough.  And that brings me onto the sculpts, I may need to think for a while about how to put this politely.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of the sculpts.  I’m not a big fan of the Wyrd plastics in general, I usually like the sculpts but am massively put off by how fragile some of them are (my Yan Lo box has never even left my house and 4 have already broken).  When I saw the Tara box I was shocked at how little I liked the sculpts.  For all their faults, the Wyrd plastics have almost all been dynamic sculpts and that box just seems to me to be quite far off the mark.  The NE sculpts have always been a number of steps ahead of the standard sculpts and that box seems a number of steps behind the other box sets (if that is the superior one I’d hate to see the standard version!).

Next up is the Justice box set (picture here).  I’m a big fan of Lady J and the Guild so was really looking forward to this one, was being the operative word.

Let’s first look at the previous version of this box which were amongst the oldest and most out of date models in the Malifaux range.  Lady J was an ok sculpt but by no means the best in the Guild, let alone in the whole range.  Although this model didn’t particularly excite me, I also didn’t particularly dislike it (it was the 2nd mini I painted after a 10-12 year hobby break so my paintjob really doesn’t help the sculpt at all!).  Next up is the Judge who caused me much misery in my early Malifaux days, getting his sword hand to stay attached for a whole game was always a challenge.  The sculpt is ok, it has definitely been surpassed by later models though (the Dead Justice version of him is awesome).  I know the Death Marshals are a bit of a marmite model, you either love them or hate them, and surprisingly I’m in the love column on this one.  Although it is rare that I would use them in a game (they’re the same cost as a witchling after all!) but I really like the sculpts and how much they relate to the fluff.

Now let’s take a look at the new version.  Starting with Lady J, I actually really like this sculpt.  I do have concerns that the artistic style is not what I would associate with Malifaux but that is pretty much true across the board now (the Viks are a great example of this).  The Judge I don’t really have an opinion on either way, it’s a very different look for him but not necessarily a bad one.  The Scales of Justice is a pretty nice sculpt, I’m a big fan of the original model but the new one doesn’t appear any worse or better.  So far I’m not particularly excited or offended by what’s on offer, then we come to the Death Marshals.


I really don’t know where to begin with what I think is wrong with these.  It looks to me that someone has made a bunch of Ghost Rider models and then tried to fit them into Malifaux somehow.  I could rant for hours about my concerns with these models such as fitting them into a case, etc but I’m just going to leave it at that.

Next up are a number of new games that, until recently, we knew nothing about.  We have;

Jetpack Unicorn
Through the Breach

Did you spot the odd one out there?  That’s right, Through the Breach (the Malifaux RPG) will not be at Gencon.  I may well be viewing this wrong but it seems odd to me that Wyrd are taking 3 produced and previously unheard of games but are not taking the one that people paid for a year ago through Kickstarter.  I appreciate that an RPG must take time to develop but this just doesn’t sit right with me.

I’ll be interested to see what else comes out over the next few weeks because at the moment it’s looking like my search for something to suck me back through the breach will continue at least a while longer (it is very much starting to feel like I’m flogging a dead horse though).

Monday, 5 August 2013

A whole new world

So, the new episode of Soulstone Train is online after a considerable amount of time editing.  I actually rage quit that process for a few days due to a significant amount of coughing in awkward places which was a bitch to edit around (I can’t really complain after my months long cough that screwed up many an episode).  Due to the paranoia of missing something, I usually end up listening through the whole episode 3 times before it is released, this time however I just wanted it out and listened to each part twice but didn’t listen to the finished version.

I started listening on the way to work this morning and noticed a break with no music in, bit disappointed in myself but it just means that musical choice can appear in a future episode (unless it just got dropped in somewhere else by mistake!).  Also the sound quality on this one wasn’t great which is why, when I started editing, I decided to order some decent recording gear (hopefully it’ll arrive before the next episode).

Overall I’m pleased with how the new format worked, we had more of a plan for that episode than we’ve had in the past and I think that really helped.  I’ll be interested to hear feedback from anyone that listens to the episode, I think it’ll take a few episodes to find our feet and feedback will really speed up that process.

As we have been playing a number of co-op games recently, we’re also keen on working in some listener participation into the games we’re playing.  This may be taking suggestions on what game to try next or what direction to take our D&D characters in.  We think that’ll add a fun dimension to the discussions that we’re having.

One quick hobby update before this entry is done.  I’ve now received and fully painted my miniature for the D&D campaign, it is the Sir Conlan mini from Reaper’s Warlord range.  It was the most expensive of the Reaper stuff that I ordered at a reasonable £6.80 but for that you get a really nice sculpt with a fair amount of weight to it.  I ordered my Reaper stuff from Miniature Heroes ( and the service was awesome, I can really recommend them.  I’ll get some pictures of the finished Sir Cedric when I’m not posting from work (don’t tell my boss!), considering how quickly he was painted I’m really pleased with how he came out.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Respect - part 2

Following on from my last entry, Wyrd have now brought in new forum rules to try and eliminate or limit the disrespectful behaviour that has been seen recently. In part I was really saddened to see this, not because of the action taken but because it was necessary.

For the last 4 years I've played Malifaux and a big part of why I stayed was the uniquely friendly and respectful community. Whether you love or hate m2e, you have to admit that it's impending release has had a profound impact on the community and the behaviour of some of the players.

As much as this need saddens me, Wyrd deserve a lot of credit for the way they are handling it. A lot of companies would have quietly banned the offenders and continued to deny there was an issue. By saying that they don't want to stop people expressing an opinion, just make them do it in an appropriate manner, they have earned my respect.

As much as things seem to be changing at Wyrd, every so often they do something like this that reminds me of the good old days. This buoys my spirits and I live in hope that m3e might be a game that I can get onboard with.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The future is bright

The recent changes to our gaming group have also meant significant changes to game nights.  Back in the good old days (a few months ago!), game night involved a pre-arranged game, one game system (usually Malifaux) and generally a generous helping of alcohol.  They would generally involve 2 people and be mostly about playing the game.

Last weekend, my Soulstone Train co-host Shane’s wife went out so naturally, that meant it was game night!  The night turned out to be quite a bit different to the good old days and not in a bad way.  There ended up being 5 of us there (myself, Shane, Nathan, Chris and Barry, all of whom have made appearances on SST) with a wide variety of games to choose from.  The thing that I noticed most about the games on offer were that the majority of them were co-op games.

While I was giving Shane’s wife a lift to her drinking partner’s house, the guys selected the first game of the evening, D&D Castle Ravenloft.  It is one of the D&D Adventure System board games that is mentioned in SST episode 13 (which I am still editing) and is for 1-5 players.  At that point, Ravenloft was the only one of these games that we had not played and the others had only been played with 2 players.  The general gist of the game is you select an adventure (we randomly chose with a D20) and that tells you what you have to do.  In this case, we had to work our way through the dungeon and find the evil Baron’s bodyguard (a randomly selected monster from the pile of nasty options), this was part 1 of a 2 part adventure.

In order to keep the character selection fair (clearly I’d want the most smashy one!), we each rolled a D20 and picked in order from highest to lowers.  I ended up in the middle and selected a human rogue, not a much of a beatstick as I would normally use but not a bad selection.  The general idea of the game is that you start on a start tile and whenever a hero is touching an unexplored edge during their exploration phase, you place a new tile on that edge and place a monster on it.  Depending on the tile, you may also have to draw an encounter card which are rarely good (as we found out).  Almost straight away we got a bit eager with the exploring and found ourselves surrounded by monsters.  My rogue had multiple opportunities to thin the herd but seemed unable to roll anything above a 4 on a D20!  We finally managed to escape the monsters long enough to find 5 different traps and decimate our ranks.  If any hero dies, the game is lost but thankfully the group get 2 healing surge tokens that can bring you back from the brink of dead.  Somewhere in all that chaos, Shane’s frail little ranger managed to use both of those.  With little healing in the group and monsters everywhere, Barry’s mage was the one to fall (thankfully, my rogue would have almost certainly died later that same turn).

That was the first of the D&D board games that we’ve lost and the number of players definitely added to the difficulty.  It was definitely more fun with more players though and a game that I can really recommend.

Next up was The Last Night on Earth, a zombie board game.  Again this was a co-op game with Chris playing the zombies and the rest of us playing the towns people (I was the high school sweetheart, lucky me!).  The object of the game was to find petrol and keys and escape in the truck in the middle of the board, sounds simple right!  The difficulty came in finding the items, you had to get to a building (dotted around the board) and search it, you can either search or move in a turn, not both.  Barry found the petrol early on but the keys eluded us as the zombies were closing in.  After much fighting and a badass nurse whacking a load of zombies, Shane pulled a hero card that allowed him to take any card out of the hero deck, the keys were found!  The game came to an end as 2 heroes tried to gas up the truck surrounded by about 10 zombies.  The nurse thinned the herd to about 4 and 3 of the 4 heroes made it to the fuelled up truck.  The high school sweetheart just had to roll a 4 on a D6 for everyone to survive the game.  She rolled a 1 and the other heroes waved as she was left to her fate.

This was a really enjoyable game and I would really recommend this one too.

Last up was the Space Hulk card game (I can’t remember the proper name for it!).  The general idea of this is that you’re terminators and you’re working your way through an abandoned space ship clearing out all of the aliens.  There are different squads of terminators with different abilities and thankfully, I pulled the close combat specialists which was right up my alley.  As the game started, straight away my big hitter fell.  Bugger!  As the swarms of aliens grew, so did the game’s difficulty.  Chris managed to do a lot of damage with his flame thrower but ultimately, in the final room, the last of the terminators fell.

Although we lost badly, this was a fun little card game and, if it wasn’t a GW game, I would really recommend it.

All in all I’m a really big fan of the new format of our game nights, it’s the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time.  We played 3 awesome games and still had classics like Munchkin and Fluxx in reserve that didn’t get played.  The future is definitely bright for our gaming group J

Friday, 26 July 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, that is what I'd like to see

Since deciding to walk away from m2e, I have said all along that there was no rage in my quit however, as of this morning, I can’t really say that.  I am a firm believer in people’s rights to have an opinion and voice that opinion, however there has to be a mutual respect for that to work.  Over the past couple of months I have seen that respect slowly eroding from both the Wyrd forum (which I no longer log onto for that reason) and on Twitter which for a long time has been home to a friendly, respectful group of gamers.

All too often at the moment, people seem too quick to categorise players as either a v2 crusader or a doomsayer like they are the only 2 options.  Sure, there are those people that do mindlessly approve of whatever is put out by Wyrd and aggressively put down anyone that has a negative opinion about any aspect of the game.  Equally, there are those that will quickly dismiss any development in the game as crap, possibly without even looking at it before making the judgement.  Both of those groups are dicks.

Stuck in the middle of that little sausagefest are a lot of gamers that are either on the fence or have chosen their side based on personal preference and rational decision making.  These people (for the most part) are not dicks and to them I say thank you.  Thank you for recognising the difference between having an opinion and telling people what to think.

And now to the point of my rage.  This morning I woke up to a message from someone telling me my concerns about the longevity of the game was ridiculous and that I should just shut up (the actual wording was significantly less pleasant!).  Firstly, I would like to point out that I didn’t force this individual to read my blog, not reading was an option.  Secondly, they weren’t in the closed testing so have been playing m2e for a maximum of about 7 weeks.  That’s right, somebody with 7 weeks of playing under their belt was emphatically telling someone with 6 months worth of playing experience that they are wrong about longevity.  For reference, a lot of my concerns didn’t present themselves until 3-4 months in.  This to me was a prime example of a crusader trying to force their opinion onto someone, this is bad!

Since walking away I have made a concerted effort to be respectful to people on both sides of this battlefield and I’d like to think that I’ve managed to do that.  It actually takes very little effort so there’s really no excuses for some of the behaviour that we’re seeing in the community at the moment (I must stress that this is from an annoying minority).

As a great comic book writer once said, every villain is the hero in their own mind.  In your mind you may be about to save me from missing out on something epic but the reality might be that you’re about to get your arse kicked by a dude in a Batman costume (or maybe Wonder Woman, depends on the day).