Friday, 3 October 2014

Psychology of a game

For various reason it’s been a while since I’ve done an update for Liberal Crime, the main reason being that I couldn’t be arsed.  For this post I’m going to outline the basic concept for the psychology of the game.  Due to my background in psychology you may be expecting a slightly different approach to normal and you would be correct.  The usual way that games have addressed psychology has always confused me, especially when put side by side with the corresponding game’s fluff (e.g. space marines running away just seems odd).

LC has two different types of psychological test, one that requires rolling and one that does not.  The usual kind of psychology test (due to fear) is automatic (based on stats) and is a minor aside to the central theme of the game’s psychology.  Each character has a bravery value and certain types of action have a terror score, if the terror score is greater than your bravery, you run and hide.  It’s a nice simple way of dealing with things and makes a lot more sense to me than rolling (e.g. a coward will always run when sufficiently scared).

The main theme of the psychology rules, dealt with using stats and dice rolls, is morality.  Instead of fear being the driving trait for the psychology, it is the characters ability to perform heinous acts.  Each character has a morality stat which governs their ability to take certain actions and also how other characters will react to them.  I would describe these tests as semi-random as the dice roll only determines a certain amount of the outcome, due to the stats some characters will be statistically unable to perform some actions (e.g. a vicar shooting an innocent in the back at short range is an automatic fail whereas a hardened gangster may only need a 3+ on a D10 to pass the test).

There are various actions in the game, both standard and mission specific, that require this sort of test, from simple pickpocketing to setting off massive explosions.  My hope is that this will bring a slightly different slant on psychology in games and really emphasis the personality of each character in the game.

It’s been a busy period at work but things should settle down in a couple of weeks so I’m hoping to put out a fair few more updates in the coming months.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

End of an era

Over the last couple of weeks I've been planning what is likely to be the last episode of SST. Over the past couple of years, SST has meant a lot to me so finding the right way to wrap it up isn't easy.

When I started SST on YouTube (yes, it was on there before being a podcast), I was balls deep in the gaming community and (as is my way) didn't envisage pulling out any time soon. The first episode was nothing more than two hammered (and I do mean hammered!) mates just wanting to share their love of a game and to be honest, the result was a train wreck.

Over time, the podcast evolved with more people getting involved and far less alcohol being consumed (excluding Shane). To pay proper tribute to what SST has been, I thought it might be fitting to go back to our roots and just get royally fucked up and see what happens. There have been suggestions of recording on the way round a pub crawl or at next month's York Beer Festival.

Nothing is set in stone yet so if you have any suggestions or there's something you want to hear, let me know and I'll put it to the hosts.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A is for Apathy

It’s no great secret that, in the past year or so, my hobby has not been a smooth ride.  Since the playtest for Malifaux 2nd edition, I have bounced around various game systems looking for something to fill the void.  I have tried good games like X-Wing (good game mechanics but a huge lack of in-game narrative and hobby side of things) and bad games like 40k (unbalanced rules, soulless minis and half the community are douchebags).  Despite looking everywhere even remotely interesting, I have failed to find something to hold my attention.  Recently the closest has been Empire of the Dead, the minis are simple but easy to paint quickly to a decent standard, but the lack of character and the GW derivative rule set (although the fluff is decent, it reads like a Malifaux rip off at times) rules it out as a possible main game.

So where exactly am I going with this, is it just going to be another “Mack Martin stole my hobby” rants?

Over the past few months I’ve become increasingly apathetic towards gaming and the hobby in general, my enthusiasm has been almost zero for any involvement.  This apathy has very much been reflected in recent Soulstone Train episodes, they have been few and far between with my vocal presence much reduced (more than ever I’ve just sat in the corner with a drink).

And now to the point.

For a while I’ve been considering what the hobby means to me and why I got involved in the first place.  To me a hobby is something that you derive pleasure from and at the moment, that is not true for me.  After much thinking, I have decided that once my current commitments have been met, I’ll be taking an indefinite break from the hobby.  To be perfectly honest, at the moment I’m expecting that break to be permanent.  This will of course also mean the end of SST as I arrange the recordings, edit it and pay for everything.  As the core mechanics are complete, I will continue to develop Liberal Crime but it will purely be as a creative outlet (fluff writing, etc), it may well be released in the future but at this point I really don’t know.

I’ve met a lot of great people through the hobby (and a few complete c**ts) and I hope to continue those friendships without the gaming backdrop.  I may come back at some point but if not, assume you’re the reason and strive to be a better person.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Stalled or just plain stopped?

It's no great secret that I'm not a quick painter. Even with 3-4 months notice, I still used to struggle to get a set of 6-8 models painted for a Malifaux tournament. Part of this speed problem is I have nerve damage in my arms that sometimes means I can't hold a brush, my job also has a tendency to encroach on my hobby time. The main factor however is motivation, or more accurately the lack of. I used to use the run up to a tournament to force myself to make progress, it wasn't always as enjoyable but it got things done.

A few months ago I bought starter boxes for a number of different games, amongst them was the vampire box for Empire of the Dead. Since purchasing said box, it has sat unopened on a table in my nerd cave. The main reason for this box staying shut is simply that the miniatures didn't look that good in comparison to the other stuff I bought. When lined up with minis from Bushido, Freebooters Fate and Carnevale, there is a very noticeable difference in the level of detail. The EotD minis reminded me a lot of the 90s GW sculpts for fantasy and Mordheim, put simply they looked dated. I bought that box mainly because I'd heard good things about the ruleset so I wasn't that bothered about the minis.

For some unknown reason, that week I had the urge to open that box. I got everything built and started tickling them with a brush. Shockingly, a couple of days later I've finished two of the eight minis in the box and have already ordered another. I've even found myself trying to steal a few minutes painting time before work because I've been enjoying it so much.

I don't know if the EotD minis are simpler as an artistic choice or they just couldn't afford a digital sculptor but whatever it is, I hope Westwind (the makers) keep doing it as they're an absolute delight to paint.

Having completed two miniatures in the space of a few days, I was curious how many I'd painted so far this calendar year. The answer is a mildly shocking four, including the two painted this week! I may have started work on a fair few things but essentially finishing two models in the first half of the year shocked me.

I have tried to force myself to paint 40k stuff and to be honest, I have not enjoyed that time in the slightest. I've found GW models to be soulless and bland to paint. Now that I have a bit of motivation back, I am quite looking forward to putting a brush to some of my infinity stuff but that'll be after my EotD stuff is finished.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A man born from insanity

For a while now I've not only been thinking up the rules and characters for Liberal Crime, I've also been considering the Kickstarter campaign. For the most part this has been boring number stuff but I also wanted to do something different as a campaign exclusive. The result of this is something I have mentioned in a previous post, it's a man called Colin.

When I look around at my favourite characters, whether it's Stone Cold Steve Austin entering the Royal Rumble, John McClane crawling around in the vents or Chuck Norris being Chuck Norris, they all have one thing in common. It's one man walking in alone and cleaning house. It's something that I've not seen done in a skirmish game and LC seems like the sort of world that would suit that sort of character.

Writing it from a game point of view has not been easy, balancing that character was always going to be a challenge. The idea is he's a bit of fun that you can use to test your skills. I didn't want to make him able to hold his own in any game size, I wanted some form of realism. With that in mind, he has the same number of actions as anyone else. He does have some abilities that make him more accurate and harder to hit but his main ability comes in the form of reactive actions. This means that he should have slightly less chance of surviving with every enemy model added.

Below is the rough outline of his character sheet, some abilities I have intentionally removed until it's been playtested.

Colin York. Hitman. Male.

In Liberal County there is crime, there is punishment and there is an old man called Colin.

An unassuming man in his late 50s, Colin was raised by loving parents, his father a watchmaker and his mother a teacher at the local elementary school.  His family were never wealthy but the love in their household always made Colin feel rich.  What little money they had was used to fund Colin’s education.  It was at school that Colin first met a young man by the name of Benito and the two became fast friends.  While Benito was a loud and angry child, Colin was quiet and polite preferring a good book to a schoolyard scuffle.  On Colin’s tenth birthday he vanished along with his parents.

Many years later Benito, now the leader of a major crime family, still thinks of his old friend often, wondering what became of the little bookworm.  The answer came in a very unexpected manner.  Just outside of town was a farmhouse that the family used as a place of pleasure but there was no enjoyment to be had that day.  Upon entering the house, Benito found the bodies of eight men, each shot perfectly through their left eye.  Pinned to the kitchen door was a note that simply said “I’m back. Colin”.  Don Benito didn’t know where his friend had been all these year but he was sure that his return was not going to benefit the family.

Special rules

Loner: Colin York works alone, his cost is equal to the game size.


Women and children first: This models pays no penalty for targeting any model.

Going solo: Colin always shoots first.


Quick reflexes

I have also been toying with the idea of making him a dwarf/midget, not for comedy value but so he'd be a small target and therefore harder to hit.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The unnamed named?

Two blog posts in one day, what the hell is happening?

Over the last few weeks I have released various details about the game that I've been working on but there has been one noticeable ommission, the name. Until I started this project I had no idea how hard naming something can be. As it may be the first thing that someone sees, it needs to encapsulate everything about the game. I think I have finally settled on something I'm happy with but please let me know what you think.

Before I reveal the name, I need to say a little bit more about the setting. As I have said in previous posts, this initially started life as a historical game and as such, I did some research. I knew right from the off that I didn't want it based in a city or somewhere known for having gangsters. My research discovered that Kansas was the last state in the US to fully abolish prohibition (you couldn't buy by the measure until 1987) so that seemed perfect. It also gave the possibility of gunfights on farms and remote stills hidden away. I'm aware that a lot of gamers only had a grassy game board and limited scenery and that setting would still fit on that type of board.

After further research I found the city of Liberal, below is an extract from Wikipedia about the city's history.

Early settler S. S. Rogers built the first house in what would become Liberal in 1872. Rogers became famous in the region for giving water to weary travelers. Reportedly, Liberal gained its name from the common response to his acts of kindness, "That's very liberal of you."

I really liked how that story fit in with the idea of groups fighting over drink. As the game is no longer a historical piece, I have decided to set it in Liberal County, a fictional rural area in Kansas.

What the holy hell does all that have to do with the name? The name I'm going with (for now a lot least) is Liberal Crime.

I have a four day weekend this week so I'll be working hard to get the initial playtest pack ready. My Soulstone Train co-host Shane is back from holiday this week so hopefully the first game is imminent.

He's behind you!

Time to work on my game has been limited recently due to work but I’m going to try and put out at least a little bit of information each week.  This week’s update is on noise and I’m not talking about the kids at your local club that don’t use their inside voice.

Before I can really delve into this subject, I have to reveal that models in the game do have a limited field of vision.  For the most part, this field of vision is the front half of their base.  There are two main reasons for this, one is that I had some cool ideas that needed a character to not be seen and the other is that people in real life don’t have heads that constantly spin round like Linda Blair.

In general, characters can only take actions against things within their field of vision but certain actions that are taken e.g. shooting create noise.  If noise is created within range of a character and it is not within their field of vision, it will cause them to become distracted and have a negative effect on their ability to perform actions.  As in real life, if you hear a gun going off behind you, it’s going to make you a bit nervous.  The noise also lets that character know that something is happening and allows them to change their facing prior to taking an action.  This may allow them to target something that they would not have otherwise been able to target although it will be a difficult shot to make.

In the latest episode of Hobby Sofa (due out in the next few days), I let slip that there will be characters with no ability to attack.  One of those character types are designed to cause distractions by making noise.  These will generally be quick characters that can make a noise and run away, causing the enemy player to suffer the negatives from the noise.  You would need to choose when and how you use this tactic as noise also affects friendly models if the noise maker is out of their field of vision.

This game is objective based and in some cases that will mean trying to get in and out without a shot being fired.  A big part of this is applying de-buffs to opposing models by unnerving them and making their attacks much less likely to succeed.  The inspiration for this was old sci-fi and horror films such as Alien where characters were reduced to a jabbering wreck by some skittering behind them.

That’s it for now, plans are already afoot for the next episode of Soulstone Train where I intend to reveal a bit more (and get thoroughly smashed!).



Friday, 13 June 2014

Insanity or genius?

So, last night I joined Richi and Andrey to record an episode of Hobby Sofa (due out sometime in the next week) and due to reasons unknown (*cough* *cough* booze) I may have released a bit more about my game than originally intended.  One of the things revealed was that there is at least one handicapable character in the game which prompted a question about whether there were any characters with mental health issues.  Although I am a doctor of psychology, I’m not one for putting things in to meet a quota and had no intention of creating a character like that but, the question did make me think.

Although I do have a keen interest in mental health issues (many conditions carry an undeserved stigma born of ignorance), it is a tough one to tackle.  It exists in this world so I’d quite like it to have some presence in my world, the issue then is how to tackle it in a way that won’t cause offense.  I had another similar internal debate over inclusion of the KKK as they were heavily involved in the prohibition movement.  The outcome of that was that I wouldn’t touch the klan with a shitty stick, that boil on the arse of history should be left in the past!

Thankfully the answers was presented to me in the form of a cartoon, if He-Man can tackle schizophrenia, so can I.  Granted, the character of Man-E-Faces was never openly portrayed as having mental health issues but he did have multiple personalities and that’s as near as children’s TV from the 1980s is likely to get.

I have now come up with a character concept that is a little bit darker than I had originally intended but, given the subject matter, hopefully the tone is about right.  I ended up going down the route of an issue that developed later in life, triggered by a traumatic event.  I’m not sure whether or not he’ll make the final game but here’s the concept so far (please bear in mind I pretty much got this far while eating breakfast this morning!)

William Jenkins.  Hitman.

Growing up in a broken home, William Jenkins had little hope for a bright future.  Domestic violence was a daily occurrence in the Jenkins house and little Billy took his fair share of beatings.  The only ray of hope came in the form of Billy’s grandma who always told him that he could be anything he wanted if he worked hard enough.  When he became old enough, William took that lesson with him as he waved goodbye to his childhood.  He quickly rose through the ranks of a local mob, making a name for himself as one of the finest hitmen around.  By the age of 30, William was second only to the boss and had more money and women than he knew what to do with, the only thing he wanted for was the respect of the grandma that always believed in him.

By the time he had decided it was the right time to go home, his grandma was on her death bed.  William spent what little time he had with his grandma explaining all that he had achieved with his life.  The last words of this once proud woman were telling her grandson how ashamed she was of the man that he had become.

His grandma’s disappointment was more than William could take, in that moment his mind snapped and he was taken back to his childhood.  In the body of a fully grown killer, the mind of a small child tried to come to terms with the shame of disappointing his grandma.

Years later, William has still not fully come to terms with what occurred that day.  His mind may be his own once again but it may not stay that way for long.

Special rules

Deadly accuracy


Fractured psyche – at the start of the turn, roll a dice.  On a roll of 1-6, this character’s personality is Billy, on a roll of 7-12 this character’s personality is William.  If this character is William, he may act as normal.  If he is Billy, he may only take move and duck actions, gains the Feeble special rule and loses all other special rules.

The intention was to make a character of average cost that has a 50/50 chance of either being awesome or useless each turn.  I like the idea that if you can position him to do an action, you’re gambling on being able to act normally the next turn.  Like real life, you never know when an issue may arise.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to start releasing a bit more about the game mechanics and some more on some the characters and the factions they belong to.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Operation human shield

Hold on to your hats folks, it’s time for another exciting instalment of “Random shit in And’s head”.

As I said in my previous post, I’m aiming to make a game with a cinematic feel and there are some things that have never sat right with me in other games.  One of the things that bugs me the most is that there’s never anyone else there.  You’re having a scuffle in the middle of a town and there’s no old ladies doing their shopping, no drunks stumbling out of bars and no-one freaking out when you set off an explosion.  That is something that I intend to address with the addition of bystanders.

Bystanders will be an optional element that can be included in missions to add an element of realistic chaos.  Their movement will be randomly determined each turn until they react to a specific action taken by one of the players.  If, for example, you shoot someone near a bystander you will need to do a test (trying not to give too much away!) to see what kind of person they are.  Like in real life, there are many types of people so taking an action becomes a gamble.  You will have to weigh up the pros and cons of what you do, you may be stood next to someone who doesn’t want to get involved but on the other hand, they may be an off duty cop with a gun.  Depending on what type of person they are and who you are, you can attempt to influence the bystanders but if you fail, something hits the fan.

I’m hoping that this concept turns out to be a fun little addition to the game, only playtesting and time will tell if this will make the final game.  Worst case scenario, it should make for some interesting playtesting, some kind of St Patricks day mission with a few dozen drunks wandering round could be funny.

Monday, 2 June 2014

When I'm most lost, I find myself

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on a game but so far I've not said a whole lot about what the game actually is (in fact there's only two people that have seen anything).

Hold on to your hat because it's reveal time bitches!

The game that is so close to going to play test is so far from the game I initially intended to create. Like any story, it's best to start at the beginning. For a while my job was under threat and I was looking into possible uses for the big fat golden handshake I'd get. I looked at opening a game shop but financially it just did not look viable. As I'd decided I wanted to do something with my love of gaming so I started looking at game design.

Now, when booze isn't killing my brain cells, I'm actually a pretty smart guy so I was under no illusion that I could make a living off it. More than anything it was something to take my mind off the toxic hell hole that my workplace had become.

The first thing I needed was a genre and setting. People that come into my house will pretty instantly work out five things about me.

1. I love games.
2. I love movies.
3. I love comic books.
4. I love booze.
5. I need to hire a maid (or get a girlfriend).

Someone once told me that to make something work, you have to do something that you know. With that in mind I decided to combine my love of games, films and booze and aim to create a 1930s prohibition era game. One of the main criteria I set my self at the start of the process was that I wanted to create something truly different and I had some unique ideas around that theme. Too often recently we've seen beautifully sculpted minis on Kickstarter paired with rules that seem like an afterthought, included just so it can be marketed as a game. I didn't want to produce another game that is basically the GW system changed just enough to stop me being sued, we've seen enough of those lately and frankly, gamers deserve better.

Once the scene was set, the next thing was the game mechanics. I don't know how the pros do it but my starting point wasn't "what dice to use" or the size of the table, it was "how do I want this game to feel". It's no secret that I love the narrative side of gaming and I really wanted to reflect that on the tabletop. It never made sense to me in other games I'd played that a character can get shot 10 times and still function in the same way as if they'd not been touched. I'm not going to go into the mechanics at this stage but I will say that they are designed around creating a movie in your head.

So this project started as a semi-historical thing but then I got to number 3 on my list, my love of comic books. My family got Sky TV when it first started in the UK and I remember spending hours watching 1940s Dick Tracy cartoons. Everything in those shows was bursting with character and that is something I realised needed to be in the game. Anyone that knows me would tell you I'm not the most sensible of people and a game full of odd comic book style characters and spades of dark humour just seemed more me.

You want an irish gangster with molotov cocktails? You want his blast area to reduce each turn as he drinks away his only weapon? You got it!

Really embracing who I am and letting the game evolve to reflect that has really helped create something that I truly believe is a little bit special. That being said, at one point I did start to think I was going mad. And from that madness came Colin.....

Monday, 12 May 2014

To game or not to game, that is the question

As most of you will probably know, since the introduction of Malifaux 2nd edition I have struggled to find a home in gaming.  I have tried a number of different games and although most brought something good to the table, nothing really stuck and the only game that has even piqued my interest is Infinity.  Like most gamers, the hobby consumes a vast amount of my spare time and for me, that investment in time should come with a certain amount of enjoyment.  The bottom line is that at the moment, that enjoyment just isn’t there.  Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my club mates and fellow SST hosts but it has kind of turned into chatting while going through the motions.

This left me with the all too serious decision of whether to leave the hobby and look for that enjoyment elsewhere.

I’m sure you’ll have all noticed that there’s been no new episodes of Soulstone Train for a few months, my blog has been untouched and I’ve not logged into Twitter for an age (although the promise of a Matt Spooner story about a lesbian stripper at the weekend was tempting!).  Given the dilemma outlined above, these actions may lead you to the conclusion that I have all but left the hobby.  As my Facebook friends found out yesterday, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Given what’s happened to my hobby in the last two years it would be easy to just walk away but god damn it, I’m British!  Rather than bitch and moan about the games that are available, I decided to design my own and have so far spent a couple of months setting out the basics.

The game in question is a fully fledged, story driven skirmish game with a full campaign system.  I’m not going to go into details at this time but there are some interesting mechanics, especially for attacking and damage.  I’m nearly done with the first draft of the rules and enough of the characters to allow for some initial playtesting.  To start with the playtesting will be done locally by the hosts of SST and select members of York Garrison (my local club), further down the line I’ll be inviting gaming friends from other parts of the country to get involved.

My general aim is to do a deal with a sculptor and have the game on Kickstarter within a year.  At this point I don’t know if that is a realistic target or even if the game will work as well on the tabletop as on paper but it’s good to have something to aim for.

Thank you to everyone that has been supportive of this project so far, it’s a bit of a personal gamble and it really means a lot.  You’ll be able to hear more about this project on the next episode of SST which will be coming soon (we’ve tried to record about six times so far!).

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Poor life choice number 40,001

As regular readers of this blog and listeners of Soulstone Train will know, I'm not exactly known for making good life choices. In recent weeks I have made things very difficult for myself due to one such choice (at least for once it didn't involve midgets and bacon grease). Before I get ahead of myself, let's have a flashback to November.

At the start of November I decided to embark on an eight month long hobby journey leading up to a 40k tournament in July. The tournament in question was Summer Solstice, York Garrison's main 40k tournament of the year. The plan was to paint my chosen army (Eldar) over that period and attend the tournament. The army requirement for the tourney was 1,850 points and after four months, I'd painted a total of seven models worth 263 points. Due to work pressures and extremely limited hobby time, back in January I decided to switch my painting target to Solstice 2015.

Fast forward to last week, it was announced at the club night that tickets were on sale. Being fully aware of my frankly dismal painting progress, a couple of club regulars started asking me if I'd be entering. I politely informed them that if it were not for the painting requirement, I would gladly enter. Sadly, that backfired worse than a 3am kebab when I was informed by tournament organiser Pete that I could borrow one of his armies. I figured I could learn the rules in that time (Baby Jake plays it, how hard can it be?!) so happily accepted.

When making that decision, I seemed to forget one key fact. I am a hobbyist.

Most gamers would gladly put one of Pete's armies on the table, they're nicely painted but have one major flaw, they're not painted by me. I'm not sure if this tweak is specific to me or not but if I'm using painted models, I want them to be painted by me and therein lies the problem.

I have agreed to play at the tourney and am actually looking forward to it, I just need to find an 1,850 point army painted by me. As we have already established that doesn't currently exist, that leaves me up a certain creek without a paddle.

I have done some list bashing based on the models I own and have sorted out a provisional list for the tourney. Will I get it painted in time? Maybe, the model count is pretty low. Will it be competitive? Hell no, it's based on what I vaguely remember from 20 years ago and what'll be quick to paint.

Solstice is in York on 26-27 July, full details are available on the Garrison website ( Tickets are normally £35 including lunches but until the end of April there's a discounted price of £30.

On a side note, due to scheduling issues there'll be no SST episode this month. We've tried to sort out a recording in the last couple of weeks but the rare gaps in my work schedule have not been when others have been free. Fear not, there will be an episode recorded the first week in April and, as I'm not at work that week, there's a good chance it may be a long overdue drunk episode!

Monday, 10 February 2014

I have a dream

Over the last few years I've listened to a significant number of podcasts. Many of these episodes we introductions to a particular game but I have yet to listen to one that is an intro to gaming in general.

For episode 22 of Soulstone Train (or maybe 23), I have an aim to fill this gap. If all goes to plan it'll contain a number of 5-10 minute game intros for different games provided by people that play them. Thankfully so far I've had a great response from people that I've invited to submit sections about games. These will be edited around our own discussion about the different ways to enter the hobby.

As much as I'm planning this as a learning tool for others, I'm also hoping to learn from it myself. With any luck we'll get sections about games that I've never played, for example I'm hoping to talk club mates into doing Lord of the Rings and Zombicide segments.

Later in the week I'll update this to show the games confirmed as being covered. If you think you'd like to get involved and cover a game, drop me an email at guildmonkee at gmail dot com (deconstructed to try and avoid spam).

Thursday, 6 February 2014

How much?!

Over the last few days I have bought in to three difference skirmish games, Empire of the Dead, Freebooters Fate and Hell Dorado.  At Vapnartak I was also shown some minis for Wild West Exodus (WWX), I really liked them and wanted to buy into the game but was shocked at the prices.  For the three games that I’ve bought, the one player starter sets were between £20 and £25 and rules are available to download online for free, for WWX the one player starters are £48.

This really made me think a lot about the start-up cost for a lot of games and the comparison is enlightening.  Below is a list of some of the games I looked at and the cost of the two player starter box.

Warmachine/Hordes - £67

Warhammer Fantasy/40k - £52

WWX - £88

Flames of War - £45

Dropzone Commander - £54

Bolt Action - £54

Obviously the contents of the box change from game to game but it appears that game companies are aiming for the £50-£60 mark for the starter boxes (even the notoriously expensive DZC), this makes the price of WWX even harder to justify.  For games without  a two player starter box, the combined start-up cost of two starters would be roughly in that region (e.g. two Malifaux crews plus rules manual is about £60, two Infinity starters are around £50 and the rules are a free download).

In terms of box contents the closest to WWX is Warmachine, it contains roughly the same things and number of minis.  The key difference is that the WWX box contains all man sized minis and the Warmachine one contains some much larger ones (therefore using more raw material to make).

I have heard very good things about the gameplay of WWX and the majority of the minis are nice, I just don’t see myself buying into it at that price level when I can have two games for roughly the same cost.  That being said, if I see one going cheap I’ll be tempted to pick it up.

I am currently looking for a new skirmish level game to peak my interest, if you have any recommendations, please let me know (unless you’re going to recommend Warmahordes, it’s not a fucking skirmish game if there’s 200 minis!).

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Incredible Monkee

Yesterday at Vappa, pretty much everyone asked me the same question.

What are you playing now?

This question should have been easy to answer but sadly, it wasn't. Since leaving Malifaux I've only really played two games on a regular basis, X-Wing and D&D. I love playing D&D but, because it involves organising a big group, it's difficult to play as often as I'd like.

That leaves X-Wing as the game I've played most frequently. Garrison has a great bunch of guys that play it and I'll gladly spend an evening a week playing it. Part of the reason I like it may also be the reason it may not become my main game, pre-painted minis. A big part of gaming for me is the hobby side of things and that is lacking. Sure, I could touch up or repaint the minis but as they're painted and tourney legal, that seems like a waste of hobby time.

So, where does this leave me? At the moment I feel like I'm walking slowly down the gaming highway with my thumb out and sad music playing in the background (don't make me angry!). Sooner or later a game will pick me up, it's just not come over the hill yet.

There's a long list of games that I want to try including Wild West Exodus, Hell Dorado, Bushido, Infinity and Freebooters Fate. I already have plans sorted for trying Bushido and today I ordered a starter box for Empire of the Dead.

Until I find a game that sticks, I have enough board and card games to keep me going.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Vappa 2014, emotional and educational

Today was an odd day. It was York's annual gaming show, Vapnartak, and I had offered to help out local henchman Chris who was running the Malifaux tournament. I volunteered to help for two reasons, one was to catch up with the Malifaux tourney crowd and the other was to ease the pressure on Chris as it was the first he was running (I don't think anyone would have guessed though).

When I looked at the entry list, roughly half of the names were familiar to me and there were some that I really wanted to catch up with.

Old people often say that it's the little things that make memories and I finally understand that. It was the little things that made me smile today, as much as an ice hockey player can smile anyway. Here's some of the little things that made me realise why I miss the tournament scene.

Mike Marshall bounding into the room like a beardless Santa on a sugar high.
Matt Spooner opening a can of Dragon Soop at the start of game one (roughly 10am).
Joel Henry coming back from lunch with so much shopping even Barry would be impressed.
Meeting another Twitter regular for the first time in the form of Pete Wright (a thoroughly nice chap he is too).
Dave Chandler remaining the cheeriest man alive despite getting hammered.
Craig Johnson bitching about how badly it's going while battering his opponent.
Lee Batrick shamelessly whoring out (yes, the ironic plug was intentional).

I'm sure you'll notice that none of those have anything to do with the game being played. One of the random people I spoke to made a great point when I said the community is great, he said that the same can be said of any gaming group. Later in the day I saw Baby Jake who had not seen many of the Warmachine crowd in a year or two. Despite that, when he entered that area they welcomed him like a long lost brother.

Vappa is also a somewhat unique event. York has two gaming clubs (York Garrison and York Wargaming Society) and it is the only event where both clubs work together. Although in the past relations have been strained (all is good now), Vappa is the one day of the year that members of both clubs get in the trenches together.

I've been to YWS a few times and it is a very different club to Garrison (they're big in the Warmachine scene) but dealing with their members at Vappa makes you realise that gamers aren't significantly different just because they play a different game. This makes me confident that whatever direction my hobby ultimately takes, I'll find people that I can call friend.

Last time I wrote a post like this I got called a sentimental old git and to be fair, that's not entirely untrue. There are people I see on a daily basis that I genuinely don't give two shits about yet there are people I've met at tournaments that I'm proud to call friend.

As a final note I'd like to urge everyone to take a step back and really look at your gaming group and appreciate what it gives you. If you're one of the "tractor massive", please don't do this, all you'll realise is how fucking inbred you all are.

Friday, 10 January 2014

You can never go back

For the last few weeks I’ve really been struggling with something, my impending appearance in the Malifaux tournament at Vapnartak.  Malifaux is a game that I dedicated a number of years to (4 I think) and contrary to popular belief, I do want to like the new edition and that’s a big reason why I agreed to enter the tournament (that and being drunk and pressganged into it).

For me, Vappa was intended to be make or break for my relationship with Malifaux.  My hope for the tournament was that the preparation would reignite the love of the game and I could be welcomed back into the fold with open arms.  As Richi (@doctorloxley) eloquently put in his blog a while back, it’s no fun being the guy that doesn’t like it.

I approached this with gusto, purchasing the new plastic Justice box and the Guild arsenal deck with the intention of taking them to the tournament.  I started by building the Death Marshals which I had previously been very critical of due to the flaming heads.  I assembled them with the optional normal heads and was pleasantly surprised at how nice they looked.  On closer inspection, the facial detail was not as crisp as on the old sculpts (eye sockets appear to be a 1.5 thing) but that’s nothing a head swap wouldn’t fix.

The judge was next, he was easy enough to assemble and isn’t a bad looking model, he’s just a bit bland.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s an improvement over the original sculpt but the dead justice version really shows what they could have done with him.  Then can the scales, a bit fiddly to assemble but not a bad looking model, his skirt does make parts difficult to access with a paint brush though (the crouching DM had the same issue).

Last but not least is the lady herself and there aren’t words in the English language to describe my distain for that model.  For starters, the scale seems really off, she seems like an anorexic midget next to the rest of the crew.  I’m not sure if this is a scale issue similar to the ronin or if they were just making the men in the crew extra large but either way it just looks wrong.  Then you get to the model itself and my main issues centre around the sword.  The contact point for the sword is tiny making it very fragile and if you can get it to stay in place, most of the face is covered and inaccessible with a brush.

As a crew there was also one general issue, I’m not sure base size was considered at all during the sculpting process.  Of the six models in the box, three would not fix on the base that they were supplied with.  This wasn’t a big deal for me as I was intending to build up the bases anyway, it was just interesting to note.  I don’t know if these issues are a product of using digital sculpting rather than more traditional methods but it really detracted from the enjoyment of working with them for me.

On the gaming side of it, I’d had a demo of the final version but had intended the first round of Vappa to be my first game of the final version of the new edition.  Having played first edition for years and extensively playtested the new edition, I was confident that I could muddle my way through the games no problem.  I am normally a very quick player but my noob status did concern me slightly.  So there’d be no risk of slow playing my opponents (one thing I’d never want to be is a negative play experience), I spent some time reading through the cards to familiarise myself with the crew.

Now, I’m sure the astute readers amongst you will have noticed how much past tense there is in this post and that isn’t due to bad grammer.  I was looking for the build up to this tournament to be my decision maker, my shit or get off the pot moment, and that is exactly what it has been.  Going into this I was fairly confident that although I wouldn’t learn to love the game as I did with first edition, I would be able to find a way to enjoy it enough that I could go to the odd tournament to catch up with people.  Unfortunately that’s not really how it has turned out and it’s time to get off the pot.  Due to the past I have with the game, I have given m2e many more chances than I would have any other game and at no point has it grabbed me in the way that I’d hoped.

As of yesterday, I have withdrawn from the Vappa tournament to be replaced by Dave Chandler (bit of a downgrade I know, sorry!).  I did say to organiser Chris that I would only drop out if there was someone to fill the space.  He had a full list of people which really does say a lot about how people are viewing this event and the amazing job he’s done organising it.

There is a silver lining to this slightly depressing storm cloud, I will still be in attendance as Chris’ minion for the day.  The main reason I even considered this event is that I wanted to catch up with some of the great people in the Malifaux community.  This change will allow me to spend more time doing exactly that.

This isn’t the outcome that I was expecting but I have to be true to what I want from my hobby and that will be whatever I get enjoyment from.  Maybe the next edition change will see me returning, who knows but you can be sure whatever I’m doing in the mean time, I’ll still be drunk.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

2 years, 1 Monkee

A new year is traditionally a time to reflect on the year gone by, the changes that have occurred and the goals for the year head.  For convenience I have separated this into categories.



Last year I discovered the job security has apparently gone the way of the dodo.  As this isn’t an employment blog, I’ll leave it at that.

2014’s aims

To keep gainful employment and not have to resort to selling my rear to Mexican sailors to pay the rent.



I beat cancer again, I’m starting to think it’s the Mike Marshall of the illness world.  I also walked away from a car crash relatively unharmed so I’m calling last year a win.

2014’s aims

To continue my 35 year long streak of being STI free.



Not a winning category, let’s just move swiftly on!

2014’s aims

To be attending sex addiction therapy sessions with my nudist, Rachel Bilson lookalike wife.  A more realistic aim may be to not get RSI, Judy Finnigan’s absence from TV will surely help achieve this goal.



I’ve met some really great people, both in person and online.  This last year has really opened my eyes to just how diverse the hobby community is, despite that diversity I can honestly say that there have been very few people that I haven’t liked (I’m actually struggling to think of more than one!).

2014’s aims

I am rubbish at keeping in touch with people, it’s always on my list of things to do but it never seems to make it all the way to the top.  This year I’m going to try and make regular contact with people that I want to keep in touch with.  If you receive an email in the next few days, I do care what’s going on in your life and want to try and make the effort to find out what that is.  I also want to try and get down to London at some point and play a game of something with Richi P (@doctorloxley), we seem very similar in the way we approach things so it’d be interesting to see how far that extends.



Last year was a real rollercoaster for me with the Malifaux 2nd edition play-testing, etc.  That wasn’t a happy time for me but where life takes with one hand, it gives back with the other.  I discovered (with help) a lot of really good games and got to play games with people that I wouldn’t have previously had the chance to.  This also made me realise how insignificant games are in the grand scheme of things, friends will be friends whatever is happening in the background.  That being said, they are great for meeting new people as our first steps into the world of D&D have shown me.

2014’s aims

My main aim is to play all of the games that I have already bought and start making a bit of progress through my OG Games wish list.  There’s currently a couple of grand’s worth of stuff on that list and some of them I really want to get my hands on (e.g. season 2 of Zombicide and Battle Lore 2nd edition).  For the most part it will be more of the same though, no need to fix what isn’t broken.



With the move away from Malifaux I became a bit lost in the latter half of the year and really lost my motivation to paint.  I started painting a 40k army (never thought I’d be saying that!) however that has been held up significantly by Royal Mail losing most of it (bastards!).  I have also found my way a little bit by working on a ‘different’ board for this year’s Vapnartak (I’ve been taking WIP pics throughout that project so a step by step blog will come when it’s finished).

2014’s aims

I really want to get back to enjoying my hobby, I used to chomp at the bit waiting to get home to get started and that enthusiasm hasn’t been there in recent months.  I’ve really enjoyed the 40k stuff that I’ve painted so far so am hoping the replacement army that is being sent to me reignites that passion for painting.

Soulstone Train


Last year we evolved and matured a lot as a podcast, this is incredibly noticeable when we get new people in (it’s a sad day for humanity when I’m the sensible one in the room).  We have added some new faces to our ranks and widened the scope quite a bit.  For me SST was always about the community side of the hobby and it really has become an inclusive project for the local community (and wider thanks to our guest sections).  In the early days we struggled to balance the recording and drinking aspects of SST and we finally seem to have hit that level.

2014’s aims

So many plans are swimming round my head, some are already in the works and some may or may not happen.  One thing that I’m really keen on doing is giving people a little peek behind the curtain of how our recordings happen.  So little of the chaos makes in into the final episodes and it could be funny to let people see how much each turd gets polished before it is released.  This may well utilise our old YouTube channel, I’m not quite sure yet.  Another thing I’d really like to do is collaborate with some other podcast, there are a few out there with a similar mentality that could make for interesting listening.  There are also other plans in motion that we’re not going to give too much away about including a special something for Vapnartak.  I can reveal what our next episode is likely to cover as we have Memoir ’44 and Dust Tactics to review.  I would suggest not even waiting for the episode, just order Memoir ’44 now, you’ll be glad you did.

Well, that’s been my year in a nut shell and despite some fairly significant lows, overall it’s been a pretty good year.

I hope everyone had a good new year and let’s hope that 2014 is good for everyone.