Saturday, 19 January 2019

Did someone say "more Owlbear"?

Starting off the new year Reaper Miniatures announced they were starting a new line; Reaper Bones Black.
Almost immediately everyone started speculating on what it would be and what it would be like as the low-cost Reaper Bones line had seemingly been a huge hit with value conscious RPG miniature buyers, while serious painters had largely found the line underwhelming.  As part of their launch Reaper is planning on sending out a ton of free Reaper Bones Black models to get people to try them out and their first model for January 2019 is a new Owlbear sculpt.

First up I want to say the material is a huge step up from the Bones vinyl.  This figure is more akin to a hard plastic, although it may also share properties with the 'restic' material Privateer Press uses.  I'm hoping their February model has some long thin pieces so I can experiment with its flexibility and durability.
Having said all of that, the Owlbear is great!  The detail is crisp and deep, the model required almost no cleanup and he looks great alongside my existing Owlbear collection.



I intentionally painting him almost identically to my WizKids Owlbear from last week so that I could compare the two.



Personally I preferred the Reaper Owlbear for its pose and style (feels very much like old-school TSR art to me) but people who like a more realistic looking Owlbear may still prefer the WizKids version.

What do you think?

-Jay

Saturday, 12 January 2019

There's always room for more Owlbear

My goal was to get my awesome WizKids Owlbear model done before my new Reaper Bones Black Owlbear shows up next week; mission accomplished!

When I first saw this Owlbear previewed ahead of its release late last year I was really impressed.  The pose was dynamic and the detail and texturing looked great.  My only issue to date with the WizKids line has been that they show digital sculpts on their website instead of actual models so I'm always a little worried something might not be quite as detailed or as nice as it looks online, that concern was 100% misplaced here.  The WizKids Owlbear has a ton of deep well executed texture and somehow simultaneously manages to crisply differentiate between the fur and feather textures while still making the areas where one transitions into the other extremely subtle.  I like the pose because it is dynamic and aggressive while still being a compactly positioned miniature that will transport well.  Overall I'm extremely happy with the miniature.



I went with a similar paint scheme to my previous Darksword Owlbear with the only real differences being the paws and the beak.

I need to paint some Monsterpocalypse stuff but after that I've got three more Owlbears to paint this week.

-Jay

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Here I Go Again (the prequel to the beginning of the new start)

How do I even explain this?

Is the first step to solving a problem admitting you have one?

Maybe I am an addict if I can't even say "I can stop whenever I want" with a straight face....

One of the things that is common with miniature gamers is that we acquire models much faster than we actually use them.  This is pretty standard issue stuff and not any kind of breaking news.  Among certain slow moving painters this can over a prolonged period of time result in them hitting manic periods where they suddenly feel a rush to get an old project completed before the replacement models for it get released, when this happens you've generally been sitting on unpainted models for years (so happy I finally painted my Ambull last year).  But in some other cases it means you acquire way more of a certain model than you need, with far more frequency than you actually need it.

I like Owlbears.

I like Owlbears a lot.

I have way more Owlbear miniatures than any one player could possibly ever need or use.

....but....

Reaper has a new Owlbear model coming out, and there are 2 of them on their way to me right now (Darren I'll forward one for you as soon as it arrives), and I still haven't painted my awesome WizKids Owlbear I got in December.

So now this guy needs to get painted before the USPS drops more new Owlbears on my doorstep.

Did I explain it?

Do I have a problem?

-Jay

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Satanic Panic 2019 edition (sorry, not sorry)

This is a follow up to my post from yesterday (mild spoilers for Winter's Splendor ahead).

For Winter's Splendor I needed some fairly northern/wintery themed monsters which for the most part I already had, I won't list or show them for fear of ruining the impact of their potential appearance.

I did however need 2 new miniatures, 1 of which I had meant to add to my collection for sometime and 1 of which I ended up compromising on because I couldn't find anything quite right.  In addition to it's wintery creatures Winter's Splendor features some fiends to pop up and challenge the players.

The smaller of my two fiends is my stand-in for one of the Imps.  I like this miniature (it's from the WizKids pre-painted line of young adventurers and animal companions) and his mischievous grin suited my Imp quite well.  But...he's actually meant to be the Imp from the front cover of the module, which if you haven't seen it is an Imp in a Nutcracker costume.  What struck me as odd was that I was prepping to run this adventure in the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas and I couldn't find a small enough Nutcracker toy ANYWHERE.  I had something like a Kinder Surprise toy in mind but just couldn't find anything suitably Imp-sized.  If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them, even though I've already run the adventure it now feels like a model that's 'missing' from my collection.

The larger fiend is one of the Nephilim models from Malifaux.  Historically my D&D games have not included a lot of demons and devils so I've never needed miniatures for them but in the last year I've run 2 published adventures that required a small-to-medium sized devil and really needed to add on.  This model fit the bill perfectly and has me looking at adding another Malifaux Nephilim even though I'm not sure I need it for anything anytime soon.

That wraps up Winter's Splendor for me.  I'm actually thinking ahead (for a change) and am looking at some Valentine themed adventures to potentially run as another one-shot in February.

-Jay

Saturday, 5 January 2019

One-shot PCs

Over the holiday season I was able to squeeze in one gaming session playing Winter's Splendor a D&D one-shot available on DMsGuild.

It was an eleventh hour game put together outside of any regular gaming campaign so I invited my players to create new characters specifically for use in this one-shot adventure.  All three players chose to make characters that they wouldn't normally play (as one-shots are great opportunities to test-drive character concepts), this meant some new models.  Andrew provided his own Half-Orc Monk model and I made figures for Grant and Adam.

Grant decided on a Kenku Rogue.  Kenku are bird-men, Reaper and Darksword both make suitable models but neither were immediately available on short notice.  I ended up using a Frostgrave soldier body with the head from a Games Workshop Gryph-hound.  My putty work around the hood area didn't turn out exactly how I had hoped but in a pinch it worked.

Adam was playing a Goblin Trickery Cleric armed with a crossbow.  I was a bit surprised to discover that somewhere along the way I had used all my Night Goblin miniatures so I didn't have the pool of figures I thought I did. Having said that I still had a few of the excellent WizKids Pathfinder Goblins laying around.  I chopped the arms off and replaced them with a set of crossbow arms from the Frostgrave soldiers sprue.  The existing hood and cloak made it fairly easy to hide my putty-work on the arms.  Adam requested a festive holiday colour-scheme so some bright red and green with white trim later and we're ready to roll.

The game was fairly short (completed in roughly 3 hours) and featured some interesting problem solving along with a few interesting combat encounters (more on those tomorrow).
For anyone looking for a fun quick easy to run adventure I can highly recommend Winter's Splendor.

-Jay

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.

-Jay









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.

-Jay