Monday, 19 November 2018

Up On A Soapbox: You get what you pay for...or do you?

I recently got some miniatures and scenery (as we do) for gaming and as is often the case when getting a bunch of diverse stuff at the same time I found myself comparing what I had acquired and think A LOT about the phrase "value for money".

Every gamer has a different budget based on many factors ranging from their own real-world financial situation to their perception of what their hobby is 'worth' to what the practical cost of a functional playable game is.  For the purpose of my thoughts today I'm actually going to not include 'budget' as part of the equation.  Budget is more of a question of what you as an individual can actually afford whereas value is more of a question of 'if you bought it, did you get your money's worth?'  For example I personally cannot afford a high end automobile but that doesn't mean that someone who can and then spends that money didn't get what they wanted out of their purchase.

As production technology and materials cost in the gaming industry have changed two product types have emerged with a wide range of pricing from different manufacturers that potentially throw the concept of value into sharp contrast while also often challenging our preconceived notions of what we're buying.  Today I want to talk about laser cut wood/MDF scenery and PVC gaming miniatures.

Years ago most model/gaming building kits were plastic.  Plastic is great!  It holds a lot of detail, takes paint well, and is generally quite durable.  Having said that the cost of plastic tooling can be quite high and can put it outside the price range of new and emerging businesses.  As more businesses have entered the miniature scenery market a number of them have turned to laser-cut wood as a significantly less expensive (less expensive, not cheaper) alternative.  I recently acquired some MDF building kits of roughly equivalent size from both TTCombat and MicroArt Studios.  From a strict 'cost' point of view there is no comparison.  I got nearly 3 full-sized buildings from TTCombat for what my single building for MicroArt Studios cost, but what about value?  When comparing value I got to be quite happy as when I really stepped back and thought about it I felt like both manufacturers gave me really good value for my money.  The MicroArt studios building was nearly triple the cost but had an unbelievable amount of detail, more than I was aware a manufacturer could get from MDF.  The TTCombat buildings were lacking in detail (including in one specific way that really bothered me personally) but when I looked at what I paid for them they still felt like a great purchase and if each building was going to take roughly an extra hour of work to get to where I wanted them, the money saved felt like it more than made up for it.  In short if I was looking to buy buildings on a budget, or if I just plain needed a lot of stuff I wouldn't hesitate to buy a bunch more TTCombat buildings.  If on the other hand I was looking for more polished or realistic buildings I would definitely feel like the extra money spent on the MicroArt Studios buildings was well worth it.

Where my experience was less even was with PVC figures.  I know as I type this many "serious" gamers readily and quickly dismiss PVC figures as 'cheap' and not being nearly on par quality and detail-wise with other materials (plastic, pewter, resin).  First up, I think that's a slightly flawed assumption (I'll come back to that) and secondly there's that question of value.  During the same period I got laser-cut buildings from 2 sources I got PVC figures from 4 sources, as PVC is more prevalent for gamers and in some cases an unavoidable choice for certain games lets talk about both quality and value.
Here we go (in no particular order):
Reaper Bones
Of all the mixed-bags in gaming quality and standards Reaper Bones might be the most mixed-bag of them all.  The figures are some of if not the least expensive on the market.  Having said that the detail level and degree of flex and bend in some of their figures is among the worst.  At the most basic level I think Reaper Bones is the ultimate example of 'you get what you pay for'.  the quality is relatively low (in my experience) but the cost is also low.  I have personally bought some Reaper Bones figures and almost immediately though 'nope, not good enough', but conversely have bought some and been super-happy with what I got for what I paid.  In general their larger and thicker figures (big monsters, sci-fi figs in power armour, etc) are just fine.  I've got a few of their Cthulhu baddies and I'm happy with all of them.  They're also great if you need a horde of something and don't want to spend an arm and a leg, I recently needed 42 kobolds and really wasn't willing to pay for premium quality metal figures at that quantity.  Having said that the Peryton I painted last year fell well short of what I wanted which resulted in me just going out and replacing it with a metal one anyway.
In my opinion Reaper Bones is good value for money and lands on the bottom end of the budget scale.
WizKids Pathfinder/D&D 
To the best of my recollection WizKids pretty much started the PVC thing years ago with their Mage Knight and Clix lines.  Since then they have evolved a lot.  WizKids miniatures are more costly than Reaper Bones but still much less expensive than hard plastic or metal miniatures.  I find the detail level much crisper on WizKids than Reaper so that's a huge plus, they are also officially licensed which means you're be able to get accurate depictions of a number of unique D&D monsters.  Two other big bits of added value are that WizKids packs include hard plastic bases which means no wobble on your miniature bases, and they come pre-primed which means they're ready to paint right out of the package.  I'm a big fan of the WizKids line as the greater depth of detail allows for more painting techniques to be brought into play and the price is great for the budget conscious gamer.  My one reservation (from a quality point of view) with the WizKids  models is bendy weapons, most longer weapons tend to come out of packages bent.  If you build and paint a lot of models it's not a deal breaker as you can swap them with hard plastic weapons from your bits box.
Again in my opinion WizKids are good value for money and if your budget allows for it are (again my opinion) a superior choice to Reaper Bones.
Imperial Assault 
This is a bit of a weird one for me.  I have recently started playing some sci-fi RPGs and was really surprised how hard it was to find non-40K sci fi miniatures.  I really thought the problem was that 40K (and Star Wars for that matter) had miniatures that were so distinctive they really couldn't be separated from their IPs.  Having said that Imperial Assault had enough smuggler and alien types that weren't named characters I felt like I could blend them in.  As far as PVC figures go Imperial Assault is one of the more expensive options (that Star Wars license can't be cheap) but they are still relatively inexpensive compared to metal and hard plastic.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the figures themselves as they have a good depth of detail and are well cast.  The two big downsides with the Imperial Assault range are if you're buying them for other games you're playing for a lot of collateral material that you won't use (counters, rules, etc) and of the figures I bought the guns were very disappointing, every figure I ended up using I swapped out their guns as most of them were the weakest parts of the sculpts.
My opinion is a bit split on this one as I think if you're a Star Wars fan these are in fact really good value for money but if you're just looking for sci-fi figures they come up a bit short overall.
Fallout Wasteland Warfare
(full disclosure; this is what triggered me to write this whole thing, it's also why I filled this under 'soapbox' rather than 'review')
  Of my recent acquisitions Fallout Wasteland Warfare was unfortunately my most disappointing from the perspective of value for money, of the six products I'm addressing today it's also the one I had the highest expectations of so that may be playing into my perspective as well.  I was super excited about Fallout but by the time I opened it my feelings had changed almost completely.  To Modiphius' credit they released (and continue to offer) the rules as a free PDF download online, as I had downloaded and read them as soon as I opened the box I set the printed rules aside as they had lost their 'newness' for me.  I also largely disregarded the counters and dice as having read the rules I wasn't particular interested in playing using their rules which meant that collateral had little value to me.  That left me holding a $100 CDN box of 13 PVC figures.  That might sound high, but much like Imperial Assault I recognise my lack of interest in the collateral doesn't alter the fact that it's there and it has a cost.  The figures I got in the box for the most part have a fairly crisp deep level of detail, but their bendyness and warping are on par with the Reaper Bones models, in fact none of my Reaper Bones models have bases that are nearly as distorted as the bases these came with.  When I first got this box I intentionally waited a few days (just to see if I was just 'hot') to reach out to the company about the quality, and I have sat on my thoughts for nearly a month before writing this because I didn't want it to be raging nonsensical garbage, having gone through my cooling off I can ultimately say I'm just disappointed.
My personal opinion; not good value for money, but I would put 2 qualifiers on that.  As I mentioned with Imperial Assault if you're going to play this game and need the stuff in the box it's probably decent value for money, plus an additional consideration if you aren't going to paint the figures and can live with slightly better than board game quality pieces.

So I guess what I'm ultimately saying is if you go into a purchase with eyes open and 'get what you pay for' it's all good.  If your personal expectation doesn't line up with the price you pay and the quality you end up with, then disappointment follows.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Clarence the Cleric of Cthulhu

My buddy Darren had wanted to do an OLD (40 years old) D&D adventure from Judges Guild using the Dungeon Crawl Classics rules.  A group of us each rolled up characters the way the ancients intended (3d6 in order rolled) and I ended up with a cleric.

I have a lot of experience playing Clerics in other game systems but Dungeon Crawl Classics can yield some odd (and harsh) results.  Clarence's pre-adventuring 'profession' was a slave so I wanted him to have a very rough appearance.  Statistically he was also on  the low end of the spectrum with all 3 of his physical traits being below 10.

I decided to build a figure out of the Bretonian Men-At-Amrs (why didn't I buy more of those when they were around?) as the equipment would look right, but it would also be easy to end up with a poor, rough looking fellow.

Overall I'm happy with how Clarence turned out as a miniature and he was CRAZY effective in our game!  I had generally terrible luck with my rolls in combat as well as my saving throws but if I recall correctly EVERY roll I made to either cast a spell or turn unholy yielded a result of 19 or higher!  In Dungeon Crawl Classics your spells and turn effects become significantly more powerful if you roll high numbers.

Tegal Manor was conceived as a one-shot so I don't know if Clarence will ever return but I would certainly enjoy using the character again.


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Rick Flag

Recently my friend Kevin painted up Knight Models new Enchantress model and it made me a little bit nostalgic.  A few short years ago I was very excited about Knight Models superhero models for both DC and Marvel and was really enjoying their games, but, due to some really disappointing interactions with both the company's customer service and social media outreach I packed all my stuff up over a year ago and just walked away.

Seeing Kevin's Enchantress reminded me that I never did paint my last two Suicide Squad models; Rick Flag and Enchantress.  I decided to go back and paint them up and it led me to another decision.  But first up here's Rick Flag:

I've decided that instead of painting up more Infinity models to play Last Days next month I'm actually going to build my force out of some Knight Models stuff.  In preparation for playing through the Suicide Squad campaign way back when with Kevin (which sadly never happened) I had purchased some additional law-enforcement/military models that I think would work well for Last Days.  I need to dig those guys out but I think there's some more in the pipeline.

Maybe I'm back in, maybe I'm not.  We'll find out soon enough.


Monday, 24 September 2018

Goodbye Shadespire.....Hello Nightvault!

I think I just had one of those feel good/bad moments.  I feel great because I finally got my Shadespire stuff done, but on the other hand given that the whole thing probably only took me three hours from start to finish I feel a bit crappy about these guys having sat on my painting desk primed and ready for a year without getting touched.

My full force of seven models is now done for the Sepulchral Guard.

I really like these as some characterful undead models and I hope that in addition to Warhammer Underworlds Games Workshop continues on with the practise of providing some more of their models with textured bases.  They saved me tons of time and hassle and in my opinion really look good on the finished pieces.

Having painted my three petitioners yesterday my additions today were three of the 'named' heroes for the Sepulchral Guard.

First up, The Harvester

Next we have The Prince Of Dust

And finally The Champion

As much as I painted these for the purpose of playing Warhammer Underworlds I'm sure they'll show up in some other games as well.  How could they not?  They're probably the nicest skeleton models that I own.


Sunday, 23 September 2018

I better get my Shadespire stuff done before Nightvault comes out

Games Workshop has been teasing season 2 of their Warhammer Underworlds game; Nightvault.  When Shadespire initially came out I wasn't really all that excited.  It looked like a decent enough game but playing miniatures on a board wrapped in a competitive-play style just isn't really my thing.
After watching my friends play for about a year and seeing more spring up around the game as well as the new starter having some more undead for Age Of Sigmar in it I've decided to jump in.

Having said that, even though I didn't play Shadespire I did pick up the Sepulchral Guard figures.  Now that I'm looking at new figures its made me aware that these have been sitting unpainted for a year and and I should get off my butt and paint them before the new figures come out next week.
The Sepulchral Guard set is only seven figures and I did paint one of them (The Sepulchral Warden) in December last year.  Of the six remaining figures there are three unique characters and three  similar figures called the Petitioners, I decided to start with the Petitioners.

At their core the Petitioners are basically nice new sculpts of the basic Warhammer skeletons. They were fairly easy to paint with a little dry-brushing and some washes going a very long way.

That's four of the seven models done.  If I can get the other three done this week I won't have to feel bad about getting the Nightvault models.


Saturday, 22 September 2018

She's the captain now

I finished (mostly) one more figure late last night to join my special forces team.  I say 'mostly' because macro-photography has revealed more than a few areas that need some touching up.

This is another USAriadna figure for Infinity and I figured she looks just different enough from the other two troopers to stand out as a leader.

I'm going to take a short pause from the Apocalypse to paint a fantasy figure and start costing out my force and figuring out what kind of fanciness I can afford to add.


Friday, 21 September 2018

They don't 'survive' in the post-apocalypse, they 'thrive' in it!

I've been playing a lot of post-apocalyptic games lately and as much as I've done the wacky (lots of Gamma World inspired stuff) I've decided to take a crack at painting some stuff that's more in line with some of the other fiction and games I've been in to.

One of the popular concepts in fiction and gaming is a pre-apocalypse society having put fail safes into place should the apocalypse happen.  This is the basic idea behind the video game The Division as well as the roots of both The Brotherhood Of Steel and The Enclave in Fallout.  For myself I've been reading a fiction series called The Remaining and am an old enough gamer to have played The Morrow Project RPG.

To that end I've decided to paint some high-tech near-future military figures with the idea of using them both as Reclaimers for This Is Not A Test and professional operators for Last Days.

I have an assortment of USAriadna models for Infinity that should be perfect.  I started with two basic assault rifle armed troopers but if I stick with it I've got some support weapon models to add in later.

Not sure how far I'll take this but I expect to paint at least a few more of these before I get distracted by the next shiny thing.