Friday, September 7, 2018

Product Reviews: Mongoose Publications' Traveller, 2nd Edition


Several months ago, I stumbled across the Traveller Starter Set at The Game Matrix.

I can't claim I've been a Traveller fan since it's initial release, but I can say I purchased the little black box...



...containing the three little booklets...


...within three years after it's debut publication.

Since then, I've collected most of the subsequent editions, ending with the GURPS and "T-20" versions.



I've seen Mongoose Publishing's version of Traveller for the past decade, flipped through some books at game stores, but nothing really motivated me to buy anything new.

So when I bought the Starter Kit on a whim, I didn't think it would lead to anything significant.

Yeah.

This turned out to be the gateway drug to reigniting my dormant interest in Traveller. 

I was impressed by the production quality, because in the past, I've found Mongoose Publication's quality control to be hit-or-miss.  This is Mongoose's second edition of Traveller, and they've done a lot to bring the game up to date from "The 80s With Starships!"

Misgivings aside, and not satisfied with the Starter Set, I purchased the 2nd Edition Core Rulebook.



This in turn, triggered a buying spree of both old and new Traveller material, starting with the Game Master's Screen.




Classic Traveller (starts in the year 1105 of the Imperial Calendar) primarily focused on the Spinward Marches of the Third Imperium.  So I decided to revisit this sector by buying the The Spinward Marches Book...



...along with the map...



...the Spinward Encounters Adventures Book...



...and the Tripwire campaign.



Now here's where my misgivings about quality control became justified.  While 2008 Edition of the Spinward Marches got decent reviews, I thought a lot of readers were pulling their punches.

While the content in every Third Imperium publication I bought was good, I found there was a complete lack of editorial oversight.

Just about every page, in every book contained a grammatical or syntax error.

It's as if the material was written then sent off to Mongoose Publications without anyone bothering to edit or review it.  

The number and consistency of errors made the material hard for me to enjoy reading.  But if you're more concerned about getting material for game mastering a session than you are about the proper use of written English, then Third Imperium books won't be a waste of your money.

These mixed feelings didn't stop me from buying material on the Spinward Marches' "next door neighbor," the Deneb Sector


After reading through all the new material--and hoarding my money for new purchases--I decided to "take a look back" and buy material (now out of print) I couldn't afford to when they were initially published.

For that "big picture" look, my first purchase was the Fifth Frontier War (which erupts in the year 1107).


Since player characters, or "travellers" as they're called in the game, journey around in starships, I thought getting the games Brilliant Lances...


...and Battle Rider would add to any game session.


The rules to both games are complex and actually set in post-Imperial collapse of The New Era (which starts in the year 1116)--but the counters look cool!

It's 1105 again, and Mongoose Publications continues to make products set in the Spinward Marches, like the introductory adventure High and Dry.



In this book, the travellers are given the chance to find and return an abandoned starship.

However, this is a classic case of "easier said, than done."

Most of Mongoose Publication's attention seems to be focused on The Great Rift, a vast volume of space with very few star systems--and refueling points.



There's even "rift-version" of the High and Dry adventure--Islands in the Rift.


In this case, not only will the travellers have to find and return a starship, but they'll have to contend with intrigue and skulduggery in the Old Islands and New Islands subsectors.

 Overall, I'm happy with all my out-of-print and up-to-date Traveller purchases.

Now all I need is some free time to "travel" among the tabletop stars...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Product Review: Firefly Adventures

(Box art image from:  Gale Force 9)

A couple weeks ago, during my enforced "radio silence," I ventured to The Game Matrix.

I stumbled across Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats, which is the latest release of Gale Force 9's:  Firefly, The Game.

(Box art image from:  Gale Force 9)

Since I often buy games with other uses in mind, I spent a long time in the store debating on whether or not to buy the game.  I was primarily concerned if the figures were compatible with the rest of my 25-28mm sci-fi miniatures collection.

The gal at the register went on line and found a discussion about the figures' scale.  The consensus was they're taller than average 25mm, but smaller than "heroic scale," such as Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K, and Wizards of the Coasts old line of Star Wars Miniatures (which can vary between 28-32mm).

Despite my misgivings, I bought the game.

When I got home and opened the box, I was elated at my latest purchase.

And it wasn't about the figures either.  Which by the way, the four Firefly characters included come in two poses:  casual and heroic.  Bad guy figures, representing thugs and cowboys, are also included but with in just single poses.

No, what impressed me the most were the open-top, pre-assembled cardboard buildings.

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek review)

These also double as storage bins:

(Image from:  Boardgame Geek review

Even the main box's inside cover is a building, painted both inside and out.

True, these can be something of a jigsaw puzzle to get back in the box.  However, this collection of buildings can easily represent any wretched hive of scum and villainy a gamemaster can concoct.

(Image from:  Across the Board Cafe)

My only Home Improvement suggestion would be to make roofs for each of the buildings.  This can be done simply, with matching-colored cardstock; or with more durable matboard, plastic or other material and painted appropriately.

My only quibble is that Firefly Adventures doesn't include the entire crew of Firefly, the starship.

The rest of the gang are due to be released this fall in the two supplements Wanted Fugitives (the "Tam Twins"), and Respectable Folk (Inara and Preacher Book).


Speaking of Firefly products:  In writing this post, I realized I've been remiss about posting product reviews of all the other supplements since I bought the original game over four years ago.

During these intervening years, I've purchased just about everything Firefly-related listed in the GF9 Store, except for:  The promo cards, the customisable ship models (I & II), the "Vera Edition" of the map, and the Crime & Punishment cards.

I like everything I bought.  I wish I could tell you how the game, or any of the supplements play.  Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity.

While I plan on getting the Crime & Punishment cards, I'm not too interested in the customisable ships.  They're more detailed than any of the other ship models offered.  

It's just that I already have a "mountain of shame" (unpainted miniatures), which I just added to because I'd love to have my Firefly crew and villains look like this:
(Image from:  Twilight Emporium)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Technical Troubles--Continued

(Image from:  Superpages--Top 10 Common Computer Problems)

Well folks, I know it's been over a month since I posted anything.

You see, shortly after my desktop was declared Dead on Arrival (DOA) by the nearby computer repair shop, my laptop need repair.

Technically, it was a simple problem:  Replacing the power receptacle that had come loose, which was only intermittently recharging the laptop.

As it turned out though, the part needed to be ordered from a warehouse in California.  But Californians are dealing with bigger wildfires than we are in Washington State.  So shipment of the new power receptacle was delayed until some of "the smoke cleared."

I'm still in the process of setting up my laptop with the additional functions I relied on my desktop for, along with trying to utilize my iPad Pro more effectively, so I can blog remotely.

I hope to get back into my haphazard blogging schedule shortly.

Thank you for your patience!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Desktop Now Deceased

(Image from Schuyler House)

Last week, my desk top, a 10 year old HP, began locking up.  Since I was on duty, I didn't have the time to deal with it other than attempt to go through on-line tutorials to figure out what was wrong.

Then one morning when I turned it on, the screen displayed the Mircosoft icon and the words:  Preparing Automatic Repair.

And it remained in this state.

Once again, I attempted another on-line tutorial fix, but to no avail.

So I took it to a nearby computer repair shop.  A couple hours later, my desktop was declared DOA.

Two capacitors on the motherboard were fried, and since the system was originally designed for Windows Vista, it wasn't worth replacing.

I'm also having some issues with my laptop:  The media player won't play, and the power receptacle seems loose.

Meanwhile, I can't manage to get my iPad Pro to do what I've had my succession of laptops, and desktops to do.

So the long delays between blogposts will be longer I'm afraid, as I embark on a quest to obtain a new desktop.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Enfilade 2017 Update: Painting Competition Winners

(One of the scenario tables used for this year's Flames of War Tournament, which I missed)

Yesterday, I received an apologetic message from NHMGS's event coordinator.  

Shortly, after I did my Enfilade 2018 "fly-by" I asked her to send me an official list of the painting competition winners.

She finally came through!


I thanked her for getting back to me, and made a suggestion for next year.

I felt the brown table top masked the features of the displayed miniatures and recommended a white table cloth be spread over the painting competition's table so the figures stand out better.

She liked the idea, so hopefully we'll start seeing clearer displays of outstanding artwork.

I joked with her that white will fit in with next year's theme:  Winter War

Unless, that is, competitors paint figures in winter camouflage... 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: Templar



It's been almost a year since I wrote a book review.  The reasons are twofold:  First, I don't have the time anymore to produce content about what inspires my gaming and writing.  And second:  What I've read since last summer has been mediocre at best.  Nothing has really wowed me.

Until now.

Last week, on a rare day my wife and I both had off, we ventured to the local library to renew our library cards and to check out what's inside.

While walking past the fringe of the Young Adult section, Jordan Mechner's "Templar" caught my eye.

This hardcover is actually a graphic novel illustrated by husband & wife team of Alex Puvilland and Leuyen Pham.

The story is about several members of the Knights Templar who managed to survive the Friday the 13th Purge, who band together and attempt to restore the honor of their order.

Well, in an "Ocean's Eleven" sort of way, because despite the show trial and all the forced confessions, the fabled Templar Treasure is still up for grabs.

I'd love to say more about this book I consider the best story I've read in ages.  There were a couple things I wish were different about the finale, but upon reflection, I think the ending was appropriate, and more importantly, satisfying.

I'd love to carry-on but I don't want to spoil any more of the plot than I may already have.

As to the artwork: It reminds me of what one would see in an animated film, which isn't surprising since the artists have actually worked in animation.  The images are neither too detailed or too sparse, and the portrayals of the heroes and villains are delightful to gaze at.

Templar has a nearly a 4-star rating on Goodreads, while it has an average 4.6-star rating on Amazon.com.

I loved this book so much, I intend to buy my own copy of what I feel is a 5-star story.

(Image found on:  Mediocrity is the New Genius)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Enfilade 2018 Fly-By Photo Montage


(Image by:  Studios B3 in honor of Enfilade 2018's theme--Rebels and Rebellions)

While the NHMGS officers are planning next year's Show Theme, I've been sorting through the pictures of my brief sojourn to this year's convention.

I won't rehash my tale of woe, as to how I managed to miss most of Enfilade 2018.  (You can see the previous post for that--and more importantly--links to other gaming blogs).

By the time I did make it to the convention, Time Block D: (Saturday, starting at 2 PM) was in full-swing.

Since I had to start work early the next day, I only stayed until the end of the game period in order to: Snap some pictures, annoy chat with my fellow gamers, and buy items I realized I can't live without from vendors, and at the Enfilade "Bring & Buy" (B&B, a gaming flea market).

The rest of this post is a montage of the pictures I managed to take, and put in some coherent order.

Enfilade 2018 Painting Competition Entries:




















I'm not sure who won what, but I thought the figures on display were awesome.


The Games of Time Block D

Here is one set of players who "put to sea" for the Battle of Mobile Bay, game mastered by Steve Thorne.

(The players gathered around "the bay")

(Wooden ships vs. ironclads)

Other naval games were scheduled, but I "missed the boat" so to speak, in that they may have wrapped up early, or were cancelled.

The only games during this period that hearkened back to antiquity were a couple of /De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) sessions.

(Chris Ewick, owner of The Game Matrix, running a session of "Big Battle DBA")



I did take a photo of a pair of normal-sized DBA games but they didn't come out.

Advancing through the ages, the "Horse & Musket Era" was well-represented.

A couple of games centered on the American War of Independence.  The next two photos are of Knapton's Trading Post, hosted by Norris Hazelton.

(British troops march on a colonial supply depot)

("Those damned rebels" attempting to hold back the redcoats)

The rematch between America and Great Britain, (a.k.a. The War of 1812), was the topic of one game depicting the Battle of New Orleans.

(British troops attempting to break through the American breastworks)

(They almost made it)
I was surprised no one was playing Johnny Horton's song on their devices.

Looking at the "bigger picture" of the Napoleonic Wars, Bill Hughes broke out his big 6mm collection and his rules, The Conflict, to run a version of the Battle of Kalisz.

(Bill listens to a player asking a rules-related question)

(A close-up of just a part of Bill's collection)

A larger-scaled version of the Napoleonic Wars was also underway.  In this case, it was a composite force of French and allied troops attempting to clear the mountains of Tyrolean "rebel scum" in James Sagen's Alps Aflame!

(An Alpine mountain pass represented by an extra-long table)

(French and allied troops marching in-column)

(Initial contact at the village of "Mittwald")

(French troops and their allies attempt to storm the heights held by Tyrolean "rebel scum")

While the French were trying to take-down the Tyroleans, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was being played-out at another table.

(An "eagle-eye's" view of the battlefield)

(Billy Yanks hold the Wheatfield)

(Contrary to the historical outcome, Confederates sweep over Little Round Top)

(A wider view of the battle for the Wheatfield)

While musket & saber-wielding figures dominated the main show room, there were some sci-fi games, along with a 20th Century alternate-historical game being played.

It's the mid-1980s--sort of.  For some reason, the Godless commie hordes launch "Operation Dragonuv" against the decadent imperialists of western Europe--probably because Derr Kommissar was in town.

This micro-armor game was hosted by Lawrence Bateman and Damon Crump.

(Soviet forces concentrate for a breakthrough)

(Soviet tanks and IFVs cross a river)
There was a Flames of War tournament going on in another room, but the games for this particular round had already ended.


Final Thoughts on Enfilade 2018

So that wraps-up my fly-by impression of Enfilade 2018.

My attendance this year was about as short as Enfilade 2012.  That year, I didn't get off work until Sunday afternoon, and had just enough time to get my t-shirt and buy some items from vendors before they closed.

Despite any of my brief stays, I still enjoy showing up and checking out the gaming scene.

See you--maybe--at Enfilade 2019!