Friday, May 29, 2015

A Wargame Convention's Final Hour



Even though I was scheduled to work this past Memorial Day Weekend, I still registered for this year's NHMGS Enfilade!

This years game theme was:


The problem was, I was scheduled for night shift and there was more than the usual two-man crew scheduled to work day shift.  So it was impossible for me to switch with someone, as I did a few years ago.

But my cunning plan was to catch the final moments of Enfilade to check out the games, the vendors wares and pick over the remains of our group's famous Bring & Buy (B&B).

My morning nap was longer than I anticipated, plus I needed to refuel my Jeep and grab something to eat.  During this side trek, I realized I forgot my wad-o-cash, so had to divert back home.

By the time I arrived at the Red Lion Inn (Olympia), I literally caught the final hour of Enfilade.

And I do mean literally literally.

The Registration Desk and the B&B had shut down operations.  In order to get my t-shirt I had to chase down Al, who ran Registration.  He was willing to re-reimburse me $20, but I counter offered that I'd take an Enfilade! hat instead.

While I was disappointed on missing the B&B, I managed buy some micro-scale terrain from the Monday Knights.  I also bought a bunch of latex roads to replace the ones that mysteriously turned to goop as if it came through a malfunctioning Transporter Beam.  The manager (I'm afraid I didn't get his name), was very understanding.  He assured me they're now using a different goop-resistant latex, tossed-in a couple free roads, and shaved my Road Reconstruction bill down to an even $40.

I stumbled across a Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit from another vendor in the process of packing-up.  Since I bought a handful of Reaper's Bones Miniatures, I figured I needed all the help I could get at painting them to a decent level, so I purchased the kit before it was packed away.

My Final Hour Fly-By wasn't just a shopping spree.  I met my fellow NHMGS pals Gene Anderson and Scott Murphy, and spent some time chatting with them about this year's convention.

Even if I managed to arrive earlier than I did, I knew I wasn't going to be able to participate in any gaming.  However, I figured I could make a nuisance of myself and snap some pictures of Enfilade 2016's Final Hour.

Here's a glance at my walkabout:

Down-to-the-Wire Gaming, Part 1.
Down-to-the-Wire Gaming, Part 2.
DBA Action.  But are they using Version 3.0?
Bill Vanderpool orchestrates One Last Zulu Game.
The Siege of Castle Miser, by William Clark

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends!"

Scott William's The Curse of the Mummy reaches its climax.

David J. Kapaun commands the Sails of Glory mega-game, The Glorious First of June, 1794.

Ken Cassady signalling his teammates...

..."England expects every man to do his duty."
Ships of the line exchanging broadsides.

Players take to the air in Paul Grandstaff's Check Your Six, Cold War Battles

Scott Murphy introducing gamers to the Dark Side, I mean, Star Wars Armada.
"Rebel scum" attempt to take out an Imperial Star Destroyer.

Enfilade 2016 in the Works: 

I hope everyone enjoyed Enfilade 2015!

Dave Mebust uploaded an Enfilade 2016 on Facebook a couple days ago, so you can let folks know if you're planning on attending and can even send out invites to your friends.

Hopefully, I'll be able to attend for more than an hour next year.  

However, until my work schedule is finalized, I'm in the "Maybe" Category.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Book Review--What Distant Deeps



What Distant Deeps, Number Eight in the Royal Cinnabar Navy (RCN) Series, could be titled "The Problem With Proxies." 

Ordered to escort a new ambassador to the planet of Palmyra, Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy discover the Palmyrans are secretly pursuing their own agenda.  With the help of some corrupt Cinnabar citizens, Psycho Queen Irene, plans to conquer neighboring Zenobia.  The problem is, Zenobia is allied with Cinnabar's former enemy, the Alliance of Free Stars (a Peoples Republic of Tyranny).

Should Zenobia fall to the Palmyrans, Gaurantor Porra, the BigBad of the Alliance of Free Stars, will consider this an act of war and will resume hostilities with Cinnabar.

To thwart the Palmyran plan, Leary and Mundy team-up with an Alliance naval officer commanding two destroyers and set out to save the day.

Published in 2011, the book is still available on Amazon.com, and has garnered an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars (26 x 5-stars, 13 x 4-stars, 6 x 3-stars and 1 x 2-stars).

What I enjoyed most about the book is the character interactions of True Companions Daniel and Adele, along with their Ragtag Bunch of Misfits crew. 

Although, after reading the other reviews on Amazon, there's a growing sense of fatigue among the readers, even the 4-star raters.  The most common comments are the RCN stories have become formulaic:  Adele manages to hack into the bad guys computer systems, then Daniel out-sails or outmaneuvers them in a space battle...lather, rinse and repeat.

While this pattern is certainly evident, I still find the series entertaining and intend to buy and read more of  David Drake's "Aubrey-Martin IN SPACE!"

The series has been around long enough to earn an extensive list of tropes

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review--100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call

(Cover Art by Dave Johnson, aka "Devil Pig")

The Set-Up:

Imagine you've been devastated by a personal catastrophic event. 

Years later, you're still trying to pick up the shattered remains of your life.

Now suppose, a man in a black suit approaches you with a briefcase, and an offer.  The case contains a semi-automatic handgun, 100 rounds of ammunition, and a dossier of the person, or persons, he wants you to kill.

Even though he assures you that the weapon and ammunition are untraceable, and that you'd be immune to prosecution, you still feel squeamish about doing someone else's dirty work.

But then the man-in-black then tells you that this "person-of-interest" is the individual responsible for ruining your life.

Now: 

Would you take the offer?

The Synopsis:

This is the tantalizing premise of 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call

(Note:  All Wikipedia entries contain some plot spoilers).

But first...

A "Warning Shot" to Readers:

100 Bullets First Shot, Last Call is not a "family-friendly" series.  While there's no explicit sex scenes, the novel doesn't pull any punches depicting the harsh realities of street-life:  Prostitution, substance abuse, and of course all levels of violence are depicted in such sleazy settings as crack-houses, strip joints, rundown bars and abandoned buildings.

In the introductory story, Isabelle ("Dizzy") Cordova is approached by a man who calls himself Mr. Graves...


...and offers her a chance to kill the two crooked cops who killed her ex-gangbanger husband and infant son in a drive-by shooting.  A crime for which she was implicated in, and sent to prison for. 

In the second tale, Mr. Graves makes a similar offer to Lee Dolan.



This time, the target is the woman who framed Lee, a former restaurateur, for peddling child pornography.

As you can probably guess, giving a weapon and plenty of ammo to someone with a serious grudge, will lure them down the path of vengeance.

And herein lies some catches:

The path of vengeance is not a straight course, as complications, doubts and even temptations arise. 
 
But more importantly, seeking revenge comes at a price. 

Even when vengeance is obtained--not everyone can pay the cost.

(Image by: "Devil Pig")

Availability and Ratings:

Published 15 years ago, 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call is still available on Amazon.com, where it obtained a 4-star average rating (21 x 5-stars, 20 x 4-stars, 10 x 3-stars, 3 x 2-stars and 1 x 1-star).

Just about everyone agreed that 100 Bullets is a great concept, but the 3 & 4-star raters felt the story missed the target in one, or several ways, such as:  stereotyped characters, contrived "street lingo," dialogue, while the revenge-based plot device was became rapidly repetitive.  The 2 & 1-star raters weren't impressed at all and thought the series was overrated.
 
I thought the book was 5-star awesome.  Both the artwork and narrative were on-target for a modern-noir story.
 
A stellar review was posted five years ago on Unobtanium 13, while my comic book aficionado co-worker, Ed, had this to say: 

That. Was. Outstanding!

Not Out of Ammo Yet:

100 Bullets First Shot, Last Call, is a compilation of the initial five 100 Bullets comic books, which ran for--yup--100 issues
 
The series scooped-up an ensemble cast of characters, along with numerous awards.  Afterwards, the comics were all compiled into 13 graphic novels, which just happens to be a significant number for the shadowy cartel known as "The Trust."

A series this long though, is fully-loaded with tropes, and even has it's own 39-page wiki.

(Image by "Devil Pig")

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

(Image from:  What Will Matter)
I decided to go vintage/humorous with my holiday greeting this year.

Here's one of my favorites:

(Image from:  Homemade Gifts Made Easy/Funny Mother's Day Quotes)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Product Review--X-Wing Miniatures Game, VT-49 Decimator Expansion Pack

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek)


I bought this VT-49 Decimator because I thought it would make a good addition to the Imperial side of my Redshift Chronicles Campaign, and, I have to admit, because I felt it was really cool looking.

I'm happy to report that the same quality that went into making the Tantive IV was incorporated into this Imperial assault ship.

(Image:  A VT-49 on patrol "out in The Black")

Like the Tantive IV Expansion Pack, this kit contains a beautifully detailed model, lavishly illustrated cards, playing aids and an additional scenario, Mission 11:  Interdiction

Several famous, or infamous, individuals in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (SWEU) are associated with their time spent aboard Decimators.  Three of the four ship cards included in this kit are:




With my attempts at being cinematic, what I like most about this expansion pack is the model's scale seems appropriate to the other ship figures in my collection.

(A Decimator overtakes a possible smuggler)

While the members of the cast of characters listed above are long-gone by the current Redshift Chronicles Campaign, there'll still be plenty of Decimators patrolling the galaxy, giving non-Imperials grief.

Decimators are highly rated by other buyers, and are still available at a discount on the following sites:  Miniature MarketAmazon.com and Boardgame Geek's Marketplace.  (At this time, they're sold out on E-Bay).

Notes:

The clear-plastic stands in Pictures #2 and #3 were edited out, while the images were done over with an "ink sketch" program using Paint.Net

The star mat used as a backdrop is by Monday Knight Productions, while the YT-1300 light freighter seen in the last picture, is actually a toy of unknown origin I bought from my friend Adrian.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Watch Mojo's Top 10 Major Plot Holes in Movies



Writing a tightly woven plot is difficult work, and writers--even best selling ones--often fail to plug the Plot Holes.

Watch Mojo gives us their Top Ten Plot Holes in movies.

There's plenty more. 

Can you think of any plot holes that truly annoy you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Movie Review: The Thin Man Series

(Image from:  True Classics blog)
My wife and I just finished watching four of the six Thin Man Movies on our TCM Greatest Classic Films DVD
 
I can't say enough about these delightful, comedy-mysteries. William Powell and Myrna Loy star as crime-solving couple Nick and Nora Charles--along with their dog Asta
 
I'd rate these two as the best on-screen couple ever.  Apparently Hollywood thought so too, because they were paired-off in 14 movies together.
 
Oh sure, the stories are a bit formulaic, with the killer being revealed in dinner party/parlor game style.  But the breezy, irreverent style of the movies' leading stars keeps the audience entertained.  And unless you've watched these films before, it's still hard to figure out whodunit.  (I've seen all but the last two twice now).
 
(Image from: Eleven-Nineteen blog)
 
So if you're looking for a batch of couples movie to binge-watch, you can't go wrong with The Thin Man and it's sequels (with plot synopses/spoilers):
 
 
 
 
The Thin Man Goes Home (I'm pretty sure I've seen this one before, but I'm not looking at the plot synopsis, just in case)
 
Song of the Thin Man (I know I haven't seen this one, so I'm definitely not peeking at the plot synopsis).
 
(Image by Mike Maihack)
 
My trolling of the internet extensive research also revealed that The Thin Man was based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett and a TV series.
 
 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

(Image from:  Comic Book Movie)
In addition to watching The Avengers, in preparing for the sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, I also got around to finally seeing Iron Man 3.
 
In this film, Tony Stark is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), from his experience fighting the alien invasion of New York City (as depicted in the first Avenger movie).  His condition is causing a rift between him and his girlfriend/Girl Friday, Virginia "Pepper" Potts.
 
But trouble is also brewing outside the Stark Mansion.  A terrorist leader calling himself The Mandarin, has been staged bombings within the United States.  The motives for these attacks turn out to be "demons from Tony's past" in the form of Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen
 
In the end, Tony unmasks Mandarin, tries to save Pepper, but she saves him from Killian, while James Rhodes rescues the president. The full plot synopsis is available on Wikipedia.
 
What I liked about the movie is that it showed Tony Stark to be more vulnerable and becoming more personable.  That is, he's treating people like human beings rather than objects.  He's not quite there yet, but he seems to be working on it.
 
What I didn't care for was the plethora of Iron Man suits, and even their individual components, can be powered remotely.  If so, then why bother climbing inside one?
 
As to the Mandarin, I have mixed feelings about the movie version.  On the one hand, I thought the "Big Reveal/Plot Twist" was funny, when Mandarin turned-out to be a doped-up British actor, played with great understated comedic effect by Ben Kingsley
 
On the other hand though, the producers diminished and threw away one of the best known arch villains (comic book version of Mandarin) in comic book lore.  While I realize this was done to avoid the Yellow Peril Trope, there's a lot of comic book fans who aren't happy with the Phony Mandarin.  (See also the Comic Book Movie link under the above image).
 
But overall, there was more to like about Iron Man 3 than to dislike about it.  Plus I thought the post-credit scene of Tony Stark relating his tale to a dozing Dr. Banner was hilarious.
 
Iron Man 3 is worth the 3.5-star investment.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Avengers (2012 Film)

(Image from HD Wallpapers The Avengers Movie 2012)

The Age of Ultron is almost upon us!

To prepare for this, I finally got around to watching The Avengers (2012) the other night. 

Even though Earth's Mightiest Heroes have undergone "50 Shades" of artistic transformations over the past five decades I still found the film an exciting super-hero smash-up.

Take the demigod of mischief, Loki, add a Summoning Artifact of Doom in the form of the Tesseract and this equals big-time trouble for the mere mortals on terra-firma.

Against the judgment of a shadowy council, Nick Fury issues a call-to-arms for the Avengers to assemble.  Getting this pack of temperamental superheroes to work as a team proves almost as difficult thwarting Loki's plans. 

In fact, the Avengers spend most of the time arguing and outright battling each other:  Dr. Erik Selvig and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) fall under Loki's spell, Natalia Romanoff (Black Widow) nearly gets smashed by Hulk (Bruce Banner); while Iron Man, Thor Odinson and Captain America come to blows quarreling over custody of Loki. 

As Loki activates the Tesseract on top of Stark Tower, unleashing a horde of Chitauri upon Manhattan, the Avengers finally get their act together, and defeat the denizens from another dimension.  Loki gets slammed senseless by Hulk and then brought back to Asgard by big bro Thor, along with the troublesome Tesseract.

The film won 21 out of 74 award nominations.  Quite a coup for a popcorn flick.

I certainly enjoyed it.  But what I liked most aren't the super heroes at all.  As I mentioned in my Battle of Five Armies movie review, the stories that resonate with me the most are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. 

So my favorite character in the movie is Agent Phil Coulson.  True, there are other non-superhero types on, or associated with the Avengers Team; like the hard-as-nails Nick Fury, his by-the-book deputy Maria Hill, the dour Black Widow, the somber Hawkeye.  But it's Phil Coulson who embodies the pleasant, quiet professional--even when facing-down a demigod like Loki.

The encounter goes badly for Phil.  In fact, the mild-mannered agent dies, which is the spark the superheroes needed to avenge their fallen comrade.  If I had seen this movie a few years ago, Phil's death would have had me reaching for the Kleenex.

But this is a comic book movie, and Phil has been brought back to life, thanks to super-secret alien medicine and is now leading a team in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I definitely want to add The Avengers (Wikipedia entry with plot synopsis) to my superhero movie collection.

And speaking of collections, this brings me to the only cautionary note about the movie:  The Marvel Cinematic Universe (see also Marvel Movies) has become so interwoven, that it may be difficult for new viewers to appreciate the films unless they're watched in release-date order.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Fly-By to the Emerald City Comicon 2015--Cosplayer "Quotes"

(Image:  Emerald City Comicon Banner)


Here's my "Cosplayer Finale" to this year's Emerald City Comicon (ECCC)!

I decided to have a little fun and "put words" in the mouths of the cosplayers my stepson and I met.  I'll start off this narrative by "discussing"...

The Reasons for Cosplay

Why do people get involved in cosplay?

This Timelord may have one answer, to this mulit-faceted question:

(Quote attributed to:  Doctor Who--the Fourth Doctor)

Hmm.  Possibly.

But whether one's a grown-up, or child; lots of people like to portray their favorite heroes, even if they don't have super powers.

(Quote attributed to:  Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the episode The Beginning of the End)
Though not many people can change the world single-handedly, so teaming-up requires...

Interacting With Others 

One of the great aspects of conventions, like ECCC, is that it gives us nerds a chance to leave our hovels and interact, face-to-face, with our fellow fans.

Although, some folks find attending crowded events to be a bit outside their comfort zone.

(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5, in the episode The War Prayer)

(Quote attributed to: Gamora in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy)

Fortunately, dancing isn't a mandatory activity at ECCC, so there are other ways to interact with your fellow con-goers...

(Dialogue attributed to the 2003 movie Peter Pan)

Okay, maybe this is pushing "interaction" too far, so maybe some notes on proper manners are in order.

Convention Etiquette

People attend the ECCC to escape from the troubles plaguing the real world for a weekend.  So leave the hot-button topics outside the convention center.
(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5 in the episode The Gathering)
(Quote attributed to:  Londo Mollari in Babylon 5, in the episode Point of No Return)

Whether you cosplay or not, when attending any convention, it pays to always be on your best behavior.

(Quote attributed to:  Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas)

If you can't say anything nice about a cosplayer's costume, then don't say anything at all. 

(Quote attributed to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back)

Cosplayers appreciate compliments.  But even if their outfits don't fit canon (the show's "reality")...

(Quote attributed to:  The EMH/Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, in the episode Life Line)

...and they seem to be able to handle themselves...

(Quote attributed to:  The EMH/Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager in the episode Message in a Bottle)

...or they don't seem all that approachable in the first place...

(Quote attributed to:  Gamora in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy)
...it's no excuse for being rude.  

So that means no hitting on the pretty women (or guys for that matter), just because they're wearing pretty (handsome) outfits.

(Quote attributed to:  Belle in Disney's 1991 film, Beauty and the Beast)

And leave a cosplayer's props alone! 

(Image derived from:  The Wizard of Oz)

Attending Next Year's ECCC?

My stepson and I enjoyed this year's convention, and everyone we talked told us they were having a good time.  Most, if not all of us, would like to make this an annual event.

However, as is often said, "Life gets in the way," which can make regular attendance problematic at best.

Some folks may have a rigid work schedule and will be unable to take the time off.

(Quote attributed to:  Phil Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in episode Heavy is the Head)

While for others, the odds of attending each year may seem too daunting. 

(Quote attributed to:  Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back)

If however, an opportunity arises, but you feel like you're at a virtual crossroad, an outside voice may ask...

(Quote attributed to:  Merida in Brave)

Although, keep in mind:

(Quote attributed to:  Doctor Who--The Fourth Doctor)

But when you do return to the ECCC, you just might feel like this:

(Quote attributed to:  Han Solo in Teaser Trailer #2 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Author's Notes:

I used the ink sketch tool on my Paint.Net program to make it look like I actually drew these pictures.  Then I utilized Comic Life to create the word balloons and the occasional sound effect, while the one visual effect was made with the Windows Paint Program.  The words "spoken" by the cosplayers I encountered are derived from actual quotes made by the characters in their respective movies, or TV shows.