All posts by servitob

The Future of Games Days & Games Workshop

It’s a fact that the internet is full of cats. Just occasionally though you stumble upon something which is not at all feline related, but is simply brilliant (in a non-cat way; cats as we all know are naturally brilliant), please dear googlespiders go check out the following series of articles. Note that this series was started back in August 2013.

Now that you’ve gone away and read the many, many delightful walls of text that this series has to offer I would hope that you would agree with me when I say all other blogs in comparison in this niche hobby, including ours, make the Ewoks look like Shaft.

    So can Games Workshop really turn this juggernaut around and actually avoid the possibility of crashing and burning?

Does anyone really care anymore? Is this a tragedy that everyone but GW management could see coming a mile off?

So GW need business. Once, I was a fanboy and my regular bucket of cash I threw at this hobby ended up in their coffers. Not any more. But, hey, if anyone from GW bothered to ask me, the humble fan, what would make me spend cash with them again here’s what I would say:

1) Quit it with the Ridiculous Prices! Now, bear with me, I don’t mean in the regular internet whinging type of way. Anyone who has ever eaten at a fast food restaurant will understand that quality doesn’t come cheap. GW makes the best toy soldiers in the world so feel free to charge high prices for the best goods. BUT even if you are richer than Scrooge McDuck you aren’t going to buy something if it represents poor value for money which leads me nicely into…

2) Make Some Games I Want To Play! Seriously, I’m done with Warhammer 40k and Warhammer Fantasy Battle in their current incarnations!

I quit WHFB many years ago because I was so hacked off with the stupidly obvious imbalances and evident lack of rulestesting! Poor ZombiePirate has seen me rage on the subject of gamebreaking magical items many times, but that for me was just a fly on a massive turd.

I quit Warhammer 40k after the introduction of 6th Edition. To me it just seemed like change for changes sake and a cynical ploy to adjust army balances just enough to make me buy a whole host of new models to stay in the game as well as a massively overpriced rulebook. Then comes the regular new codices which again upset the army balance a bit further forcing you to buy another overpriced book and new models in order to keep your army competitive. Now again, it’s not the direct cost I’m talking about here. If WH40k was the best thing ever I’d stump up the cash. But the imbalances remain, codex creep happens and I simply haven’t got the time to paint an extra 40 models because some bozo changed a subtle rule making a bunch of my units hopeless.

What I would buy into is if GW took WHFB and WH40k, and the years of experience they have with these systems and just made one really awesome set of rules and codices which were set in stone and did not change every few years. These rules would have been rigorously playtested to allow some degree of balance meaning games would actually be fun and down to luck and skill rather than the whims of whose army is flavor of the month or who had done the most math hammer. Let’s face it, that’s not going to happen, so…


How about releasing some of those boxed games you used to do so well? Space Hulk is still a floating citadel favorite. Blood Bowl was great and I have fond memories of Space Fleet, ManOWar and Dark Future. What GW maybe doesn’t realise is that a lot of older fans, yes the ones with jobs who don’t have to pester their parents to buy overpriced tat don’t actually have the time to commit to core games. Most of us have families and none of us has the time to paint 2000 points of Skaven to play a 4 hour grindfest. So instead we play RPGs and board games. Games like those that GW used to do so well. If GW don’t want to quit their current model line-up then we’d even play something like a Mordheim or Necromunda revamp. Youngsters might need to look a few of those games up!


3) Use Your IP Effectively! Stop it with the cease and desist crap it makes you look stoopid! How many times have I wanted a Space Marine hoodie or an awesome poster, an Imperial Guard forage hat or even a ‘Tea for the Tea God’ mug and been disappointed? Rhetorical question, it’s every time! Wow, if I was in charge this would be one of the first things I would be churning out. How a company with quite possibly the super coolest IP on the planet has failed in merchandising anything except for lots of little plastic doods and a handful of computer games is beyond me.

4) Make Me Want To Come to Games Day! I am not paying a fistful of cash to go to a painting competition and sales event. Either make it a proper day of games and demos like every other Games Day not run by GW or make it the must attend event for all gamers. I paid serious cash to go to EVE Online Fanfest but for that I took part in the biggest celebration of online spaceships the world has ever known. Tournaments, games, freebies, powerpoint presentations, dinner with the developers, live demos, feedback sessions a massive party and even a show by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. If Games Workshop did something like that people would be selling their firstborn to attend.

5) Oh, and stop making White Dwarf a massive advert for your new stuff. It wasn’t that great back in the day but at least it did things other than sell to you.

But is any of this going to happen? As I said earlier does any body care any more? I am sure the world will keep spinning if GW goes to the wall. I expect someone would snap up all that juicy IP and hopefully do something useful with it. There is even a chance that the situation in miniatures gaming improves with the extra room. Or, and this is my worry and I feel already beginning to happen, a million and one different manufacturers develop a million and one ‘new’ and ‘revolutionary’ games systems to fill the void and we end up as a community investing in too many games and so end up playing nothing.

– servitob

EVE Online: Retirement

quafeEVE Online is very boring but pretty interactive screensaver from Iceland. Wait, no, let me quantify that. 90% of EVE Online is a very boring but pretty interactive screensaver from Iceland.

Unfortunately the vast majority of people never see past this 90% mark and simply get stuck in some of the most woefully awful and repetitive PvE ever encountered in an MMO. Some of the lucky or possibly unlucky people in this group at least get to join a terrible player run hisec corporation and get to sample the paint drying levels of excitement of shooting red crosses and rocks as part of a team. Add in an extremely steep learning curve and a noob experience that basically chucks you in at the deep end and it is easy to see why subscriptions to this game have never been stellar.

The other 10% of EVE Online is some of the greatest and superlative experiences in current sandbox MMOs. The Real EVE that most people never find is a wild west of diplomacy, shifting allegiances, teamwork and meta-gaming unlike anything else. Throw in some epic, and I mean epic, spaceship wars with palpable universal effects and it is also easy to see why subscription levels have remained consistent despite the game being well into it’s eleventh year.

It is this 10% that I have found myself in for the last two years. In a motley crew of wormhole mercenaries, flying and making a living in the most hostile regions of space the game has to offer. The fights were brutal and you were always in danger, but the rewards were huge. Personally I made enough in game currency not only to assemble a veritable armada of battleships and combat vessels, and buy a dreadnought, but I did all this whilst funding two accounts with in game currency. Fight hard, risk it all, play for free.

All good things come to an end, and after participating in some very punishing grudge wars I decided to leave the wormhole life behind me and retire. Retire in a way that only seasoned billionaire capsuleer should, and join the entity known as Red Versus Blue.

Red Versus Blue is one of the biggest organisations in game. Essentially it is two groups, Red Federation and Blue Republic at constant war with one another over some piece of fluff in the alliance info I have never bothered to read. You get in your ship, you fly out of the station and get straight into a fight. You eventually explode only to repeat the cycle all over again until you decide to go watch TV. Except when fleet status is condition purple*, no-one in their right mind would watch TV then!

If you are a capsuleer of means then this can be a good, non-committal way to play the game. I think every capsuleer should do a stint in this organisation just to learn that bigger spaceships aren’t always better and actually the ten seconds before your spaceship explodes provides some of the best fun the game has to offer. No matter what you do in EVE Online, eventually some git (normally in a Tornado) is going to blow you up and the earlier you get used to this fact and start dealing with it the quicker you will abandon the dull drudgery of PvE and actually go out there to start making things explode for yourself.

* think of what colors make purple if you aren’t nerdy enough to get the reference, you may need to ask a friend if you are unfortunate enough to be colorblind.

Super Dungeon Explore Deeproot Druid

SDE Druid

Whilst looking for inspiration I stumbled upon this fine piece of work.

This is one of the best paint jobs I have seen in a long time; it took me a few glances to notice that it was actually a pair of miniatures and not a piece of drawn artwork. I especially love the non-metallic gold work on the bear, I hope you would agree!

The source can be found here:

Super Dungeon Explore Royal Paladin

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It’s been a while since I picked up a paintbrush so recently I spent a bit of time painting this up.

It all started last week when a friend a I went to Games Lore. SDE is a good fun game, so I was planning to pick it up at some point. I’d hate to be in the predicament of it going out of print and then having to fork out to pick up a shoddy copy on fleabay when the kids are old enough to play it. We got a tour of the place and I bought a copy for myself.

It’s been good fun getting back into painting. Normally I paint really fast using a black undercoat. This was the first time in about twenty years where I’ve painted off a white undercoat. The differences are startling. With a white undercoat the colours are much more vivid, however brush precision is essential as you have to cover every part of the mini to get a decent result. To aid this I used some flow enhancer which helped a lot. With a black undercoat colours are much more muted and often require several layers to get the correct colour, however any parts you don’t paint simply look shaded. Obviously all you long standing and reading googlespiders know all this already as there are loads of decent articles on mini painting out there on the internet, but nothing beats licking that brush tip and getting stuck in!

Oldhammer – Bring Out Your Lead 2013

Today the cosmic portents and omens were favorable and I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural meeting of Oldhammer.

What the heck is Oldhammer I hear you lament? Well, remember when you were young, say back in the eighties when mullets were cool and Wolverhampton Wanderers were a good football team? Well I don’t remember much of it either but the gaming back then was pretty anarchic. Turn up, chuck every model you own on the table and proceed to fight a massive battle where space marines face off against medieval knights and orks fight against 1930’s gangsters and Judge Dredd.

Yeah, them were the days. The rules were terrible, all the charts were ambiguous and everything was massively imbalanced. You got to play all day in your mate’s dad’s garage and gorge on fizzy pop and crisps and watch the maelstrom developing like some epic movie on your tabletop as you continue to chuck dice and make stuff up on the fly when the rules failed you.

Oldhammer gaming is different. It couldn’t have been that bad as everyone I knew was an avid gamer and collector and everyone loved to get stuck in, whether it was Space Crusade, Heroquest, Space Hulk, Rogue Trader or Warhammer 3rd Edition. The focus was on the narrative and fun, because the rules didn’t allow for much else. This was before tournaments came along and made wargaming an exercise in maths, spreadsheets and army-list optimization. Not to bemoan modern wargaming systems – most of them are far slicker and easier to play than in days gone by but the overall experience is just… well… different. And sometimes a change is good! We can all learn something from each other.

So googlespiders, try to inject a bit of Oldhammer into your games today! And I don’t mean stick a bunch of GI Joes on the table to represent titans. Try to get some sense of imbalance and aim to make sure everyone, win or lose, partakes in the narrative and has some fun!

And here’s a photo I took especially for Gribblin. It’s quite possibly the only miniature of it’s kind in the world but what is it? Answers in comments please!
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Arkham Horror By Fantasy Flight Games

250px-Arkham_Horror_revised_boxBeing a fan of Lovecraft I correctly guessed that there are three possible outcomes for players of Arkham Horror: Death, Insanity and Death by Insanity.

The game basically goes like this: spend forty minutes setting up and dishing out a bazillion counters and cards, spend an extra thirty minutes checking a very badly organised rulebook for a few obscure rules and then spend the next three hours hopelessly trying to stop the destruction of the world by malign monsters before your character is killed or goes insane.

Once things get going it’s actually a pretty neat game. Arkham begins as a quiet 1920’s town but soon enough portals to other spaces and times begin to open and the streets are quickly awash with eldritch horrors. It’s up to you, the players, to put a stop to all the terror, close the portals and more importantly stop the awakening of a random God. You are pretty much boned anyway but if the likes of Azathoth or Octopus-face wanders into town then it really is game over.

What is good about this game is the almost RPG feel of it and the build-up of the story and fluff levels as the tension level gets higher. As the situation worsens the town shops begin to close and allies start to flee. Everyone has to work together here; it’s the players versus the board. Yes you will lose but you feel like you’ve been part of an interactive fiction in a sea of cardboard.

The game is however incredibly complicated to begin with and I suspect it takes a few goes to get the hang of it so it flows smoothly. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, it’s just that rules checking can slow things down. Luckily for me I was playing with some veterans who only had to consult the rulebooks once every five seconds to keep things going.

Overall, if you are a fan of Lovecraft, horror games or co-operative games then this is definitely worth a go.


Cthulhu fhtagn!

So I Read A Book And It Was Called “Roadside Picnic”

downloadI am finding recently that I am reading more books; I tend to pick up anything that gets a vague recommendation from a friend or any of the websites I visit. So it was with Roadside Picnic by the Strugatski brothers. I won’t go into the plot or anything too detailed here as there are plenty of sites with a decent descriptions of what it’s all about. Simply put, it’s a book about aliens without any aliens in it.

Let’s be straight here – there are not enough superlatives to describe how epic the concept of this book is. It’s science fiction at it’s dirtiest and most grubby. There are no heroes here, only a cast of chain smoking unbalanced degenerates trying to get by in a completely random and incomprehensibly lethal environment; part of a universe where alien civilizations actually either do not notice or want nothing to do with humankind.

Highly Recommended!

Kerbal Space Program: The Eagle Has Landed

d1uEBThis particular Kerbal Space Program has been running for just over a week and has already seen a remarkable reduction in average life expectancy of kerbal test pilots, astronauts, scientists and engineers. Previous “test flights” have stranded at least four kerbals on the moon, one in lunar orbit in a spacesuit and one in an elliptical orbit around the inner planets. Not to mention many an exploding rocket, parachute failure and crash landings.

It is with much kerbalish pride that we can report that we have finally and successfully designed, built and flown a space rocket to land three kerbals on the surface of the moon; and most importantly brought them back to Kerbin completely not dead. From that achievement we quickly stepped up the challenge level and using the same technology and rocket design managed to achieve the same on Kerbal’s second and much smaller moon, Minmus.

Next then, we will try to open the doors to constructing a space station, only as a stepping stone to the other planets. All shall be in awe of our fledgling space empire!

Servitob Goes to EVE Fanfest 2013

29-04-13 047Reykjavik – home to 200,000 people wishing they were someplace warmer and the online spacecrime and grief experience that is EVE Online.

So what’s the news? CCP (the makers of internet spreadsheet spaceship simulator) seem to be getting quite heavily in DUST 514. This is a free to play FPS for Playstation 3 set in the EVE universe. Currently they are attempting to integrate the two games. Planetary invasions and battles with alt-tabbing for spaceship orbital strikes are likely to make the initial release; with heavy hints that in future boarding actions may well be part of the experience. Good idea? I’m not a fan of FPS games and I know players can be a fickle bunch which may limit it’s longevity.

Top idea for the week has to go to CCP Soundwave, who in a seminar suggested that you should be able to place bounties from the EVE forums. Hopefully this would lead to bad posters getting big bounties on their heads and the associated infinite grief when they login to play the game!

The big reveal though was the suggestion that CCP are going to build a statue in Reykjavik 5.14m tall to celebrate 10 years of EVE Online with every player’s name engraved upon it. Apparently Iceland has no planning laws!

The big big reveal was the notion that CCP are going to make a TV series a-la Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones etc based upon the shenanigans that go on in the game. A few months back a site was put up collecting stories that they will use as inspiration for the storylines. You can find the site here.

Servitob Goes To Salute 2013

21-04-13 003Owing to me cashing in all my wife points in order to go to the EVE Online Fanfest next week in Reykjavik I really didn’t think I would be going to Salute this year. An eleventh hour bonus allocation changed all that and soon enough I was onboard ZombiePirate’s DeLorean with the rest of the crew, cranking it to 88 miles per hour to get to the UK’s if not the world’s premier one day game show.

We arrived with only Carabus and ZombiePirate having tickets, and facing a queue four deep and three miles long nBreaker Gribblin and I decided to head out for some breakfast. We came back later only to find that the queue was actually now longer and more snaked than ever before. With survival supplies in hand and camping equipment ready we joined the back. The very back. Our waiting was not in vain however for when we finally got in both nBreaker and I were given goody bags containing hallowed golden tickets meaning we had won a free army case backpack each courtesy of KR. Not just some pokey little number; a proper massive army case. Well impressed. Trying to get into the KR stand to get our prizes and buy extra stuff off them was a bit of a challenge as for some reason they had modeled their stand on the interior of a midget submarine crewed by the Oompah Loompah navy. But free stuff is good, and decent free stuff even better so I wasn’t complaining.

The show itself was as entertaining as ever with plenty of people to meet and plenty of stuff to see. In the visual entertainment sense there were some excellent displays. There was a great big D&D diorama (part of which is in the photo above) which I thought was suitably nostalgic. Warlord Games had done an excellent eastern front themed Bolt Action display and someone had decided to recreate the Battle of Waterloo in 28mm. This was truly epic and probably one of the most ambitious projects I’ve ever seen. I apologise I can’t recall who it was by but I’ve got the feeling it was by two guys from Essex. If this is what people do down there when they aren’t fitting bass-bins to their XR3s I was very impressed.

There were demo games aplenty, ZombiePirate and I tried DreadBall which was actually really good, a better game system than I was expecting. I would probably get in to this if I didn’t have so many games to play at present. nBreaker and Gribblin played Dropzone Commander and were suitably entertained to each buy a mega army, meaning everyone in the Floating Citadel bar myself has dropped serious cash and committed to much painting for this system. I’ve yet to play it so maybe it’s just a matter of time. Gribblin also continued his hoovering up of every Zombie themed game ever made and splashed out at the 7TV zombie stand. Something else that really piqued my interest was a Wings of War-like game based in the age of sailing ships, by the same company. It won’t be out for a good while yet but I will keep an eye out.

Overall a good day out!