Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey

 
On Christmas Day, my girlfriend and I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at one of our local theaters.  We ventured out mid-afternoon after our Christmas Brunch, but by the time we reached the first theater, the only seats available were in the front row.  Since I'm very prone to motion sickness, I never sit in the front row.  So we drove to another theater for a later showing.
 
We arrived an hour before start time and it was a good thing we did.  It took my girlfriend nearly 20 minutes to get our drinks and Tub-O-Popcorn and more importantly--we were part of the first half-dozen in line.
 
So when the theater was finally ready, we managed to snag my favorite seats--in the very back row.
 
Unfortunately this didn't even help.  Lately, film-makers feel compelled to make their movies like passive video games.  I actually had to close my eyes during parts of the action scenes and chase sequences.  This helped a little, but I still left the theater feeling queasy. 
 
This is my only complaint I have about the movie, since I saw the film in "old tech.''  Two other versions are available for big screen viewing:  3D and/or High Frame Rate (HFR).  Widget Walls, owner and producer of Needcoffee.com, lambasted these versions in his Wayhomer #138.  Widge isn't the only one who's less than thrilled with this newfangled technology either:   Other critics rolled-in.
 
Despite my mild nausea and the failings of new technology, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Although, I must confess, I won't be seeing it a second time on the big screen and I'll be sure to take some Dramamine for the next two movies.
 
The film deviated slightly on several points from the original book, but I actually thought these made the story better.
 
For instance (spoiler alerts!):
 
Thranduil led an elf army to help the dwarves, but turned back when he saw Smaug had already entered Erebor
 
Thorin felt betrayed by the elven retreat.  Naturally, he did not want to stop at Rivendell, but was forced to due to circumstances, which suited Gandalf just fine.
 
And it was Gandalf who found Sting and gave it to Bilbo Baggins.  Stepping back a bit, Bilbo also helped to prevent the Trolls from cooking Thorin & Company in the first place.
 
The White Council also wasn't part of the book, but it was really cool to see Elrond, Galadriel and even Saruman together in one scene.
 
The most wacky deviation was Radagast the Brown and his jack rabbit sled. 
 
The biggest plot alteration was having Azog survive the Battle of Azanulbizar so he could be a recurring villain throughout the movie.
 
The average rating for The Hobbit is 8.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb.  In the traditional 5-star rating, I give The Hobbit a solid 4-stars because I didn't care for the nauseating special effects.
 
The movie also clocks-in at 169 minutes.  So plan your day accordingly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas and best wishes to you throughout the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

YouTube Movie #28: Duel in the Dust

(Image:  Renegade Legion graffiti on TOG Edifice)
 
Setting up for the third and final game I hosted at this year's Enfilade was a bit more involved.  In addition to the micro-armor tanks, I had to stow the middle eastern style buildings and dig out something more sci-fi-ish.  The scenario was based on the Distant Fire Supplement from the Renegade Legion Series, while the figures I used were from Renegade Legion: Centurion; Blood & Steel.
 
 
While I've played Centurion a time or two and like the rules (although a bit on the detailed side), I used Future War Commander (FWC) for the last game session.  FWC uses similar game mechanics as Blitzkrieg Commander (BKC) and Cold War Commander (CWC).  I wanted to keep the mental gymnastics to a minimum.
 
By the time I was ready to host this game, it was dinner time, which meant wolfing down a cold sandwich and washing it down with a soda.  We finished just before 11 PM and I was just as busy in my gamemastering duties as I was in the previous game sessions.
 
But I did manage to take enough pictures to splice together a 3:30 minute film:  Duel in the Dust.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Book Review" of The Silmarillion

 
(Image:  Akallabeth, by Grrod)
 
 
This past weekend, my sister Rox of Spazhouse was visiting our mom.  During her visit, I called and spent a few moments talking to mom.  When my mom passed the phone to Rox, we ended up chatting about The Hobbit in all its past, present an impending future versions.  (Which were the subjects of my previous two blogposts).
 
Then our conversation turned to The Silmarillion.
 
"Oh, no one reads The Silmarillion," she said. 
 
Well, I don't mean to publicly contradict my sister but, according to Amazon.com, at least 792 actually read it.  While there are a lot of negative reviews, ranging down to 1-star ratings, most are in the 5-star winner's circle.  This gives the book a very respectable 4.4-star average rating.
 
Back in junior high school, I read The Hobbit and I loved it and have recently re-read it.
 
Then I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy--and loved it too--and re-read it again as the Peter Jackson movies were being released.
 
Seeing my interest in all things Tolkien, my mom gave me The Silmarillion for Christmas one year.

(Insert the sound of a car screeching to a halt).

Ugh!  I could not get into it at all.  I don't think I made it to the end of Chapter One.  Even the cool artwork made since my teen years, like the one above, hasn't inspired me to pick up Tolkien's tome a second time.

When I mentioned this to Rox, she suggested I read the synopsis on Wikipedia

The other day I did.  So here it is:  The on-line "Cliff Notes" version of The Silmarillion

If you're in league with the 560 5-star reviewers on Amazon, this may pique your interest and you'll want to immerse yourself into Middle Earth's backstory and all its epic glory. 

But if you're like me, you'll save a bunch of time and be able to pursue other vital interests (like trolling through Facebook, or watching cute animal videos on YouTube).

Just be sure to thank Rox of Spazhouse.

Seriously though, even after reading the Wikipedia synopsis, I not interested in delving into The Silmarillion much for the same reason I can't get into epic fantasy gaming (beyond 20th level in Dungeons & Dragons terms).  Instead, I prefer the "ordinary-people-in-extraordinary-circumstances" stories/games. Which is why The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings continue to appeal to me, whereas The Simarillion doesn't

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit (1977 Animated Version)

 
Near the end of his Introduction to The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas A. Anderson had this to say: 
 
There have been many dramatizations of the book, both amateur and professional, since March 1953...These have been followed by various other reworkings, including a truly execrable 1977 television program...
 
(The Annotated Hobbit, page 23)
 
The execrable television program Mr. Anderson referred to was, The Hobbit produced by the animation duet of Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, most famous for their Christmas Cartoons. 
 
Now the '70s were known for some truly execrable things--like fashion and interior design--but I don't think this Rankin & Bass production falls into that category.
 
True, its most likely doomed to be blown away by the upcoming Peter Jackson version, but hey, back then this was cutting edge animation!
 
As my sister Rox of Spazhouse and I, in our best Gollum impersonations, say about this film: 
We likes it.
 
Yes, the animation is dated and the movie has its flaws (scroll down to the "Goofs" Section on the IMDb page). 
 
Personally, I didn't care for how the elves are portrayed...
 
 
...who look marginally better than the goblins.
 
 
My vision of elves "just happens" to coincide with Peter Jackson's, such as Legolas...
 
 
...or Arwen:
 
 
The movie also left out Beorn and the Arkenstone, along with glossing over its climax:  The Battle of the Five Armies.
 
My girlfriend and I watched it on my copy of the DVD a couple of weeks ago and I noticed that some of the sound effects are missing.  (Yes, I purchased it legitimately). 
 
However, despite these shortcomings, there are a few key scenes that elevate this movie from "execrable."
 
First, having re-read The Hobbit, I was surprised that the songs--some of them quite silly-sounding--were taken right from the book. So were the poems.
 
The movie is comprised of an all-star cast of film and voice actors that did an excellent job of dramatizing the dialogue, once again, lifted right out of the book.
 
For instance,  Richard Boone, as the dragon Smaug, will be a tough act to follow, even for Peter Jackson's ensemble.  In fact, I still get goosebumps when the dragon brags about his might and prowess. 
 
This isn't the only scene that tingles my spine every time I watch it. 
 
I can still hear Gollum screaming:  "...WE HATES IT!  HATES IT! FOR--EVER!"
 
When Bard the Bowman grabs his trusty Black Arrow and lets fly, his soliloquy is one of the coolest moments in fantasy motion pictures ever.
 
And yes, I get choked up just happen to get something lodged in my eyes, when Thorin Oakenshield says his final words to Bilbo.
 
Does this mean I'd give the movie a 5-star rating? 
 
No.  I give it a solid 3-stars. 
 
The ratings on Amazon.com are all over the map, (of Middle Earth or Real Earth, take your pick); but average out to a respectable 3.7 stars.
 
Even with the impending release of Peter Jackson's movie, it's worth buying--a good copy--of the DVD.  I think it will be especially helpful for parents with pre-adolescent children, who may want to introduce them to story.  This way the little ones won't be exposed to the blood-letting that will hopefully surely be a part of Peter Jackson's movie.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Book Review: The Annotated Hobbit

 
With Peter Jackson's movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, due to hit the theaters next weekend, I thought I'd do some homework and re-read the book. 
 
Normally I don't re-read books, because there's so many other stories I have yet to discover.  Until now, I've only re-read two other tales, which were also in response to upcoming movie buzz:  Starship Troopers and Lord of the Rings (which I count as one story).

In this case, the version I chose to read was Douglas A. Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit, my sister Rox of Spazhouse, gave me years ago.  I first read The Hobbit way-back-when in junior high school and it was my first introduction to high fantasy literature.  While I remembered the basic plot and all the major characters, there were a lot of details I've forgotten.

Like The Hobbit was written for children in the UK back in 1937 (and was published a year later in the US).  While the book is narrated as if it is being read aloud to children, the storyline is certainly one adults of all ages have enjoyed through the years--and continue to do so. 

This annotated version is especially interesting and helpful.  There is a 28-page Introduction, which includes a short bio of J.R.R. Tolkien and a publishing history of the book (which makes up the bulk of the intro), along with some anecdotes on such things as runes and other mythological reference material.

The narrative of The Hobbit itself is sandwiched between Anderson's copius footnotes.  These sidebars contain information ranging from 1-sentence definitions to historical, literary and philological information, which can run for two or more pages. 

At first I was determined to read every footnote, so I could later brag about my scholarly knowledge of Middle Earth lore and Real Earth publishing history.  But alas; I grew weary of having to step out of the story to read the sidebar stuff.  So I limited my note-reading to only those items that interested me--and were a few sentences long.

Despite this, the book itself--in any version--is a hands-down, 5-star classic.  Thirty Eight reviewers on Amazon.com think so too.  However, not everyone is happy with the annotated version.  Seven reviewers found the footnotes too distracting.  But even from this crowd, only two reviewers pegged the book a 3-star rating--and all the less-than 5-star ratings deal with the footnotes, not the story itself.

This is quite an achievement for a tale originally written 75 years ago.  In fact, Marcus S. Crouch, writing in Junior Bookshelf, back in March 1950, had the foresight to say:

 I know of no children's book published in the last twenty-five years of which I could more confidently predict that it will be read into the twenty-first century. 

(The Annotated Hobbit, page 22).

Twelve years into the New Millenium and Mr. Crouch has yet to be proven wrong.

Friday, November 30, 2012

History Music Videos

 
Last week, while trolling through the video section of Consimworld Social Network, I stumbled across this Napoleon music video.  I thought it was cute and fun, along with providing a decent thumbnail synopsis of the Napoleonic Era.
 
My curiosity quickly led me to the Historyteachers Channel on YouTube.  I'm certainly not the first to take notice of this.  The teacher/performing duo, Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona, have been shooting history music videos since 2008.  Here's some details in Gawker, while ArtTrav interviewed Amy, the lead singer early last year.
 
While watching these videos doesn't replace in-depth study of a topic, they're fun to watch and are more than just your average internet distraction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

YouTube Movie #27: Encounter at El Al

(Image:  Israeli Centurion tanks advancing during "Operation Booster")
 
No sooner had I finished my Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge session, I had to prepare for game #Two I was running at Enfilade.  This was a modern/Arab-Israeli game, using the rules Cold War Commander.
 
Since this was another desert war scenario, all I had to do was put away the World War II figures, break out the Arab-Israeli miniatures and re-arrange the terrain.  Once set up was completed, I actually had time to eat some lunch before the players arrived.
 
As with my first game, I was too busy game mastering to take extensive pictures.  But I did take enough to capture the action (I hope) in Encounter at El Al.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall

 
I haven't done posted a movie review in a long time--because--I haven't seen any movies lately. 
 
While I missed The Avengers and a few other good movies this year, I wasn't about to miss the latest Bond film, Skyfall.
 
My girlfriend and I saw it last night and both of us loved it.  I like Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007, even as good as the original--Sean Connery.  I know I'm talking heresy here, but what I like about Craig's demeanor is that he truly carries himself as one of Her Majesty's assassins.
 
The movie as a whole is enjoyable, with homages to past Bond films.  The ending is rather different than escaping the evil mastermind's lair, with a Bond Girl in tow, as the self destruct mechanism counts down to zero.  I liked this movie even more because it deviated from the standard Bond-trope finale.
 
I certainly give this movie a 5-star/A rating.
 
 
Here's what our local movie critic, Brian the Movie Guy had to say about Bond Movie #23. 
 
A few months ago, I stumbled across gamer-girl Raychul.  Here's her spoiler-leaden video review of Skyfall.  This is actually the first of a two-parter.  Part II is a Best of Bond.  Although, I certainly fall in line with most guys who rate Roger Moore as one of the worst of the Bonds.
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge--YouTube Movie #26

(Image from the movie:  Sahara)
 
 Several months ago, I volunteered to host 3 games in the midst of our annual Enfilade convention.  This was almost a case of biting off more than I could chew, but I must admit I had an ulterior motive.  I wanted to get hands-on experience playing Blitzkrieg Commander, Cold War Commander and Future War Commander
 
For the most part, I liked all three rules, even though they're more on the "gamey side," as opposed to being more detailed war simulations.  The oddest part about all three rule sets, was granting command elements immunity from direct fire.  I wrote a set of alternate rules to amend this, but I haven't play tested them, so this will be a topic for a future post. 
 
Gamemastering at my first convention was an intense, yet rewarding experience.  I had to remain completely focused in order to keep the action going and to answer any questions the players had.  So I didn't have time to take my usual plethora of pictures for my standard length videos.  I did manage, though, to compile enough material for three shorter movies. 
 
The first, Tussle at Bordj Toum Bridge is a three-minute film of the first session I hosted.  I chose a North African battle, which was inspired by an Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) scenario, because I wanted to minimize the terrain changes for the subsequent games I was going to run.  The figures and material used in this game are from my own micro armor and 1/285th-scale buildings and terrain collection.
 
Now that Tussle has been posted, I'll start working the the next two.
 
By the way, some of you may have notice I changed the numbers on a few of the earlier films.  When I uploaded Tussle on to my YouTube Channel, I discovered I miscounted and needed to correct the error.  Also, I couldn't find any pictures, real for from ASL to use as a lede image.  So hijacked a photo from the Humphrey Bogart movie Sahara
 
 
 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion

 
While traveling over the weekend, I grabbed The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey--Visual Companion at a local Fred Meyer, which was selling them for 25% off.  (As I write this, I find out it's even cheaper on Amazon). 
 
The actual movie hits the theaters on December 14th.  (Which by the way, will only cover about the first third of the novel).
 
I'm now in the process of reading the The Annotated Hobbit, in order to re-familiarize myself with the story I read in my junior high school days.
 
So why bother buying the Visual Companion?
 
I wanted to see how Peter Jackson would portray Thorin and Company.  When I finally see the film on the big screen, I want to enjoy the story and the action--not sitting in the dark, trying to figure out who's who among the thirteen dwarves.
 
This is where the Visual Companion comes in.  It's a coffee table type of book that I read in about an hour (and I'm a slow reader).  It's lavishly illustrated with movie stills and a fold-out map.  Also included, are several pages of biographical sketches for all the important characters, along with a plot synopsis and descriptions of some of the good, bad and ugly creatures of Middle Earth.
 
Two of the reviewers on Amazon, call this a "promo book" for the upcoming movie (but still gave it a 4 and 5-star rating). 
 
I'm inclined to agree with them, because promotional aspect of the book definitely worked it's magic on me.  I'm even more excited to see the film than I was prior to reading it. 
 
I'm also inclined to give this book another 5-star rating.  True, there are more detailed works like The Tolkien Companion and The Atlas Middle Earth.  But neither of these fine books will give you the visual references you may need, when you see the film for the first time, or even the eleventy-eleventh time.
 
For those interested in a behind-the-scenes look, there's The Hobbit--An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide.
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Redshift Tales #1

 
A few months ago, the folks at Comic Life put out a Version 2. I bought two copies right away and downloaded them to my PC and laptop. The new version has some cool templates and features, but there is a noticeable learning curve after being so use to the initial version.

I finally found some time to do some serious playing around writing the other day. As an opening test, I wrote this vignette, Tales from The Redshift Chronicles: Carnage in Cortona Park. (You can also click on Redshift Tales #1 under the Studio Pages tab).

This was based on an actual gaming incident this past summer. During a session of my Star Wars Role Playing Game (SWRPG), the good guys were chasing a high-powered bad guy through a city park. One of the players tried to shoot said bad guy, but rolled a "1" on a 20-sided die (d20). In the d20 game system this is considered a fumble, which can have disastrous, or hilarious consequences, depending on which side you're on.

Fortunately for our hero, the result "only" turned out to be a burned-out powerpack in his weapon. However, despite being safe from immediate harm, this single malfunction jeopardized the entire team.

I took some liberties with the dialogue, primarily for the sake of space, but I like to think I captured the spirit of the banter that ensued.

I'm not sure if I'll use this new Comic Life version for Breakout from Bongolaan and other full-length graphic novels I plan on writing. For now, I'll toy around with the program and post vignettes, especially comedic ones, when my muse inspires me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

All Up In My ----------?

(Image from:  Denver Westworld)
 
 Normally, I keep my comments about the daily sad state of affairs to my current events blog, Station WTFO.  However, since the Petraeus Affair contains a literary element, I thought one of the funnier aspects of this sordid tale deserved a spotlight here.
 
The title of Paula Broadwell's book is, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.
 
However, that is not the title 7News came up with for it's 5 O'Clock News Show two nights ago.  In the frenzy to get the progrram on the air, someone in the station snagged a spoofed title on the internet and added it to the broadcast.
 
So instead of seeing the All In graphic, viewers were treated to the title:  All Up In My Snatch.
 
Who says there's no poetic justice in the real world? 
 
I wonder if the general-biographer affair will drive up book sales?  (The comments on Amazon.com are all over the map).
 
All joking aside, this scandal is no laughing matter.  Issues of compromised national security and dereliction of duty may be involved.  Today's breaking news is that Ms. Broadwell may have a significant amount of classified material on her computer.
 
A big no-no in both the intelligence field and within the literary community.
 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Grimm Fairy Tales, Volume 2

 
I finished Zenescope's Volume 2, of their Grimm Fairy Tales within a couple of days after reading the first volume.  This volume garnered similar reviews on Amazon.com as Volume 1 did:  Seven reviews, 3 x 5-star, 3 x 4-star and only 1 x 3-star rating.  The last rater specifically wanted an issue without, what he called, the pornographic cover.  Unfortunately they got the "porno-cover" anyway.  The title image on this post, is the same one on my copy of this volume. 
 
As to pornographic--well...
  

 
...the cover and gallery art is indeed riske--to say the least. 
 
However, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, the stories within, are not porn parodies of the original Grimm Brother's tales.  The artwork is indeed eye-catching, but the stories themselves are hard-hitting, morality tales as well.  So I'm giving this one a 5-star rating, just like I did for the initial volume.
 
In Volume 2, Sela Mathers returns, attempting to intervene on those heading down the same wayward path as the characters in the actual fairy tales.  In the first volume, Sela was mostly successful.  After hearing/reading an appropriate story, those stuck at a moral crossroad, usually made the correct turn.
 
 
 
Not so in Volume 2. 
 
The following tales...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
...are a shade darker because, most of the people Sela tries to help, make the same wrong choice--just like the characters in the folk tales did--and suffer dire consequences as a result.  Some realize their mistake--but too late to avoid the impending retribution.
 
At the end of the book, the story Timepiece, gives us a glimpse of Sela's life and a foretaste of adventures that lay ahead...
 
 
And speaking of glitz & glamor, the Zenescope announced an animated series is coming out, at a date yet to be determined.  They're still accepting donations...
 
 
In the meantime, here's a sample of what we hope to expect, in this movie trailer
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Grimm Fairy Tales, Volume 1

 
Okay, I admit it.  The reason why I picked up Zenescope's Grimm Fairy Tales was because of the cover art.  But I didn't limit my purchase to Volume 1.  I was impressed enough to buy the box collection containing the first 6 volumes. 
 
(There are now 10 volumes--and counting--along with spin-offs).
 
Despite cover and gallery art like this...
 
 
 
...the stories are not riske parodies of the classic tales compiled by The Brothers Grimm.  Yes, the women are beautifully drawn, but each story is darker and truer to the original, than many may have heard nowadays as children, or seen in a Disney animated movie. 
 
This first volume contains the following stories, originally published as individual comics:
 
 
 
 
 
 
and
 
 
 
 
...which I don't think any amount of "Disney Magic" can clean up. 
 
Each story is connected to today's world, thanks to the intervention of Sela Mathers into the lives of people faced with similar dilemmas, as those in the fairy tales.  (Apparently, Sela becomes something of a superhero in later volumes).
 
 
 
The book is available, new and used, on Amazon.com.  There are eleven reviews, most of which are 4 and 5 star ratings.  Most of the complaints deal with quality control issues, especially from weak bindings.  (I don't have a problem with mine--yet).  Others didn't think some of the artwork was up to par.  Meanwhile, the four 2 and 3 star raters felt the stories fell flat or were unimaginative.
 
Since I admire good artwork and any un-sanitized version of a fairy tale, I give this book a 5-star rating.  The sexy cover art should be a reminder, that these aren't the versions you read to your children at bed time...
 
 
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Studio's 25th Movie: Clash at Heraclea

 
Were you ever involved in a project you grew to hate? 
 
Well, my latest YouTube movie Clash at Heraclea, turned out to be just such a project for me.  Oh, not because of the substance of the movie, but as a result of the torturous process of publishing it. 
 
This movie sat in my laptop file for over two years.  The big reason was due to "Life getting in the way." Primarily in the form of:  Enrolling in a writing course, getting divorced and moving to a new home.
 
However, I exacerbated things by starting other projects like my Star Wars Miniatures game and my Star Wars webcomic.  (In which I've fallen behind in both, but that's for another rant post...).
 
When I "rediscovered" Clash at Heraclea in my file, I thought it would be easy-peasy to finish-up where I left off.
 
Boy, was I so wrong.
 
Every time I tried saving the file, I got a pop-up window warning me that this program was already open by another user.  (Huh?).  Several hours of work disappeared, until I found a way to work around this issue/glitch.  I ended up with 8 versions of the movie until I finished the final edit.
 
I wanted to complete this film, because I feeling rather silly producing the prequel The Road to Heraclea,  back in December 2010 and not completing the subsequent movie.
 
More importantly, my friends Adrian and Dean put in a lot of hard work painting their figures and hosting a great game.  I wanted them to be--finally--recognized for their efforts.
 
So now that you've read through my rant post--or more likely, skipped down here to the bottom--here is:
 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pass in Review: AT-43 Star Troopers

 
 
A few of weekends ago, I went on a spending spree at two game stores, which I recently posted about. 

At the Hobbytown store in Wilsonville, OR, I ended up buying four boxes of AT-43 figures.  While I like pre-painted miniatures, I felt the Rackham products were a bit too pricey.  "Were" being the operative word, because the company went into liquidation a couple of years ago.  (I guess other gamers thought their figures were too pricey too).

This was, however, unfortunate because they made excellent quality figures.  They're now offered discount prices from sites like The Miniature Market and on the discount shelves in some retail stores, like Hobbytown.

I didn't snatch-up the packages right away, but spent over an hour pondering whether or not to buy them.  This was not because the figures were lacking in quality.  On the contrary, they're awesome looking.

My major concern was whether or not I could integrate these with my 25 millimeter (mm) Star Wars Miniatures.  The Hobbytown staff, while helpful, weren't sure if the AT-43 figures were 25, 28, or even 30 mm. 

I didn't have access to the internet, nor did I bring any of my Star Wars figures for a comparison.  With the "clock ticking" (I had to pick up my girlfriend from work), I decided to buy four of the box sets, all from the "U.N.A."  (United Nations of Ava).

So, without further ado, here's my latest sci-fi figure purchase:

The first set I decided on was the U.N.A. Star Trooper Squad.

 
This consists of 6 x troopers with assault rifles, 1 x trooper with a "Volcano Machine Gun," and a Star Trooper leader.
 
Rifle squads often need additional fire support, so I selected the U.N.A Star Trooper Attachment Set.
 
 
Some, (or maybe all?) of the troops, bearing the following weapons can be added to the basic squad:  Missile launcher and flame thrower, along with another Volcano Machine Gun.  A medic and/or engineer can also augment the squad, along with another officer/NCO.
 
All these figures have detachable heads that can be swapped out with triple-lens helmeted ones.
 
Troops wielding heavy weapons is one thing, but they're still foot-bound infantry. 
 
What about mobile firepower? 
 
As with Star Wars, the AT-43 universe seems fixated on "mechs" or "walkers."  The only two I found at Hobbytown were two "Fire Toads," Mark 02 and Mark 03.
 
 
 
At 50% off I couldn't pass these two up.  Now that my troops have mech support it was time to answer the big question:  Are these figures compatible with my 25mm Star Wars Miniatures? 
 
These U.N.A. troops bear a passing resemblance to Rebel Hoth troopers, so when I got home and conducted my photo-shoot, I dug out the appropriate Star Wars Miniatures for a direct comparison...
 
 
..."Dang!"  The AT-43 figures are visibly larger than the Star Wars ones, even when looking at them from a distance.  By the time I was taking these pictures I had access to the internet and confirmed the AT-43 figures are, in fact, 28mm. 
 
(Sigh).
 
 But then I started thinking:  Maybe the mech/walkers can be integrated with the Star Wars figures?
 
Before answering this question, I placed a U.N.A. soldier and a Fire Toad side-by-side, for an initial comparison:
 
 
 
Then I placed a Hoth Trooper next to the Fire Toad: 
 
 
Hmmm.  Not bad.  In fact, I think the size ratio seen in the above photo is more appropriate. 
 
I mean, mechs SUPPOSE to be BIG, right?
 
(Whew!).
 
So this purchase wasn't a total bust. 
 
I may buy a squad of "Red Block" infantry as opponents to the U.N.A. which will give me a couple of small forces for 28mm-scale games.  More importantly, I'm seriously considering obtaining more AT-43 vehicles for my sci-fi collection--especially if they're offered at discount prices. 
 
After some more internet snooping I came across pictures of "O.N.I" vehicles and figures (some are conversions):
 
 
 
 
They appear to be more suited for police/security/riot control than heavy combat.  However, they have that Aliens look that sci-fi gamers love--which is why these vehicles are almost impossible to find.
 
(Sigh). 
 
Just what I need--another quest for out-of-production game material.
 
I guess I'll be watching eBay more closely.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Card 5

 
 
Welcome to The Studio!  (Bwah-hah-hah-hah-ha!)

 Unfortunately, I don't have the talents of a Scream Queen, like Elvira to act as a hostess...
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Card 4

 
(Note:  I'm not sure why this post is showing up early, despite scheduling it several days ahead of time). 
 

 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fright Night Festivities

 
Even though I made a couple of flyers and posted about this year's "Fright Night," I wasn't planning on attending.   My girlfriend's mom passed away a couple of weeks ago and the funeral was last weekend.  So we were planning on making Saturday (26 Oct) a Halloween date day.
 
That is, until her daughter called asking for a visit, because her son-in-law would be going to a bachelor party that evening.  Needless to say, when my girlfriend suggested I attend the Fright Night game, she didn't have to twist my arm.
 
So I raced drove the posted speed limit to Fort Steilacoom to join my friends Adrian, Scott, Daryl and half-a-dozen other gamers at one of the historic buildings (the commander's office, I think).  There were two game tables set up by the time I arrived.  The first was a WWII skirmish game, where a squad of American soldiers had to escape from a horde of Zombie Nazis (see above photo). 

Since that game was full, I ended up playing a non-horror Muskets Tomahawks game, hosted by Sven Lugar.  This was a substitute game, because the original game master had a family emergency and couldn't attend, so Sven "stepped into the breach."

(Image: Sven at the head of the gaming table)

In this French and Indian War scenario, several squads of French soldiers and their indian allies, set out to burn a blockhouse and village, defended by the British and their Indian allies, somewhere on the vague border in the wilderness between New England and New France.


Here's a brief run-down of how things went:

As one of the French players, I got lucky on the very first turn.  One of my French marine squads literally blasted the British regulars out of the blockhouse.

 
Surprised the stout logs provided no protection from the French fusillade, the few surviving British vacated the blockhouse and made their way to the village.
 
But here, they found themselves in desperate firefight between a squad of colonial militia and several war parties of French-allied indians.
 
 
Meanwhile, on the British right flank, a relief party consisting of irregulars, rangers and allied indians were making their way along a forest road. 
 
 
Unfortunately for those holding the town, the relief column was held up by another squad of French marines and Coureur des bois
 
 
Both sides ended up trading shots with each other, with the British getting the worst of it.  The rangers managed to make it through the woods to engage the French-allied indians, but by this time one of the village buildings and the blockhouse were put to the torch.
 
 
By now, each British unit had suffered over 50% casualties and had to test their mettle.  Most, if not all the officers fled, leaving their men to their fate. 
 
 
Despite driving some of the French-allied indians back into the forest, the buildings continued to burn and the French marines marched into the village square to fire the last house. 
 
 
Game postscript
 
The initial volley by the French marines devastated the blockhouse defenders, which made it difficult for the British players to recover from.  I'd like to claim this was due to my tactical finesse but, this was not the case.  I was luckier than normal in my dice rolling.  Some of the players attributed this to the "magic dice horn," Sven crafted and I used throughout the game.
 
 
 
Rules assessment
 
This was my first time playing Muskets and Tomahawks (M&T).  I didn't read the rules, but the quick reference sheets Sven provided allowed me and some of the other players to pick up on the mechanics very quickly.
 
M&T is a card-driven action and something of a buckets-of-dice game, using 6-sided dice (D6s).  However, the amount of dice one needs to roll is much more manageable, compared to other games I've seen.  One die is rolled for each figure firing, with 4s (usually, with modifiers) needed to hit a target and 3s (usually, with modifiers) needed to inflict a casualty for each successful hit.
 
While I don't own any French and Indian War figures (yet), I enjoyed the game and am thinking of buying my own set of rules.