Monday, February 29, 2016

Product Review: Warhammer 40K Roleplay--Only War

(WH40K RPG Only War Core Rulebook)

Despite my mixed-feelings and misgivings about Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K), I amassed a collection of 6th Edition Codexes (book supplements, each focusing on a specific faction), along with the core rule book. 

Two factors helped me accomplish this--

--First, WH40K is now in it's 7th Edition.
--And second, Half Price Books put earlier edition material on the Clearance Rack.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered many of the WH40K role playing game (RPG) material was being sold at a discount by some on-line stores.  (Fantasy Flight Games began publishing WH40K RPG material in early 2008).

With so much material to choose from, but with limited shelf space, I focused on the types of RPG adventures that interested me the most:  Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

In the extraordinarily grim setting of the 41st Millennium, you don't get any more ordinary than being a soldier in the Imperial Guard.  Just about everything in the galaxy is stronger, tougher, faster and even smarter than mere human beings.

The WH40K RPG system, uses one, or two ten-sided dice (1d10, or 2d10--rolled as a percentile) to resolve actions from shooting enemies of the Emperor, to conducting repairs.  Some of the Player Characters' (PCs') nine characteristics are similar to the stats used in the WH40K wargame.

The game mechanics are similar to other RPG systems, but using percentile dice helps heroes "nickel & dime" as many advantages as possible when attempting to resolve an action. Every 10% above the minimum necessary dice roll constitutes a "level of success," resulting in extra benefits.  Likewise, every 10% below the minimum results in a "level of failure," which will most likely have dire consequences.

Two unique features of Only War are that players don't just "roll-up" their characters. 

First, it is decided, either by the Gamemaster (GM), or by the GM and players, on what type of regiment they're serving in.  That is, before PCs are created, the regiment and its commanding officer are rolled-up. 

Second, the players form a squad within this regiment.  In order to fill out the ranks--and to absorb casualties--players roll-up a comrade.  This companion is an non-player character (NPC) who'll follow reasonable orders from the PC, and can assist with resolving actions.

The acquisition of weapons and equipment is also different from other RPGs.  Since PCs are members of a military unit, they don't have to buy equipment.  Instead weapons and equipment are issued.

But herein lies the problem:  PCs are subject to byzantine whims of the Adeptes Munitorum.  Players may have to make "Logistics Tests" in order to acquire additional weapons (or ones of better quality), and even replacement comrades.  So it pays to devote some points to non-combat skills and talents.

Aesthetically, the Only War core rulebook is filled with artwork that evokes the grim setting of the 41st Millennium.  My only issue with this product is there are a considerable number of syntax errors and the book could have benefited from additional editing.  I also found the arcane looking map of the Calixis Sector, found inside the front and back covers, hard to understand.  Easier to follow maps are available on-line by doing a Google-Search.

Only War garnered an average 4.7 out of 5 stars by reviewers on

For further reading:

If you're interested in an entertaining and snarky review of Only War, check out 1d4chan.

For the writers among you, Only War earned an extensive and humorous entry on TV Tropes.

Some Supplement Books:

In addition to the Gamemaster's Kit, I also purchased the following "splatbooks," as the folks at 1d4chan call them.

1. Hammer of the Emperor:

(Hammer of the Emperor Supplement)
This supplement provides additional material for soldiers.

2. Shield of Humanity:

(Shield of Humanity Supplement)

A supplement for support personnel, ranging from technicians to priests.  This book had the most syntax errors of any of the Only War material I purchased.  It seemed like every handful of pages I'd run across one or more grammatical errors.  Not misspellings, just words that didn't fit the sentence they were placed in.

3. Enemies of the Imperium:

(Enemies of the Imperium Supplement)

An extensive look at the bad guys an Imperial Guard squad may have to contend with in the Calixis Sector; along with a chapter on running mass-battles, acquiring veteran skills and medals.

The most-likely enemies PCs may face are: The  Severan Dominate, Orks of WAAAGH! Grimtoof, the Children of the Thorns Kabal, and a warband of Chaos Space Marines

I haven't purchased any of the adventure "splatbooks."  Many other WH40K and Warhammer Fantasy "splatbooks" are available for a discount, even clearance, at The Miniature Market.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Webcomic Chapter 15 Posted

Chapter 15 (pages 438-479) of Breakout from Bongolaan is now available.

For this chapter's theme song I chose Love & Loss, by Two Steps from Hell.

I thought this song, which I found rather quickly, fit the "big reveal" made my one of the characters in this story.

The way I have the rest of the story plotted-out, there's eight chapters left.  However, it seems like nearly all my previous chapters end up multiplying into two or three scenes.  So for now, let's just say there's eight more plot-points to go.

I'm still in the process of learning about my new Nikon CoolPix P530 camera.  I hope to start using it by the time I start taking pictures for Chapter 16.

In the meantime, I  hope you enjoy the latest chapter.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Product Review: Sails of Glory

(Sails of Glory core rule set)

I've loved playing Age-of-Sail games ever since my brother brought home Wooden Ships & Iron Men, back when we were pre-teens.  While all the boardgames were certainly fun, I yearned to play similar table top battles with miniatures.  GHQ has had a line of 1/1200 scale Napoleonic Micronauts available for years.

However, I never invested in them because painting such figures was--and still is--a daunting task for me.  Fortunately, Ares Games alleviated the painting chore for me with their Sails of Glory game.

Of course, I didn't just buy the core rule set, which consists of two French and two British warships (a ship-of-the-line and a frigate each). 

Thanks to The Miniature Market I was able to afford over a dozen ship packs, and accessories, not to mention qualifying for free shipping over the course of two or three orders.

The supplemental packs feature ships from America, Britain, France and Spain.  In addition to the ship miniature, each pack contains a segmented cardstock ship log (for tracking the ship's status during battle), a ship card (with firing diagram and ship name), and a small pack of maneuver cards.

Here's my Sails of Glory order of battle (links are to the products available from The Miniature Market, which gives a short bio of each ship):

1. The 13 Colonies/America--

(American ships)
--Thorn/USS Atlanta
--USS Constitution

2. Great Britain--

(Ships of the Royal Navy)
--HMS Sybille/Amelia
--HMS Swan/Fairy
--HMS Cleopatra/Iphigenia
--HMS Orpheus/Amphion
--HMS Concorde/Unite

3. France--

(French Ships)
--Alligator/Le Fortune

4. Spain--

(Spanish ships)

Board Game Geek has a complete list of ships and accessories.

Speaking of Accessories, I picked out the following--

(Some of the game accessories available)
--Additional Counters
--Coastal Batteries Terrain Pack
--Coast and Shoals Terrain Pack (two of these, actually)
--Damage Counter Bag

The pre-painted, wargame-quality ship figures are made of plastic and are mounted on thick plastic bases, which measure about 2" x 3" x 1/2".  Each base contains a clear cover to hold the ship card in place.

Most models are dual-named with some possible adjustments to their game statistics.  For example, this British frigate can put to sea as HMS Orpheus...

...HMS Amphion.  Or both can put to sea, if you buy two identical ship packs.

I haven't played the game yet, but the size of the miniatures and other components in Sails of Glory strikes me as being best suited for single-ship battles, or actions between small squadrons. 

Now this doesn't mean fleet actions aren't possible.  Last year, in the waning hours of our regional Enfilade convention, several gamers were playing out what I think was the Glorious First of June on an extra-long table.

I'm happy that I've finally obtained some Age of Sail miniatures.  I haven't acquired every ship in the Sails of Glory line--yet.  Right now I'm focusing on frigates and sloops of war (often called corvettes by the French and Spanish).  I only have one, or two ships of the line from each nation, except America, although the USS Constitution (Wikipedia link) comes pretty darn close.

About the only issue I have at this time with Sails of Glory is an aesthetic one.  The bases used to mount the ships are thick and sturdy.  Ship miniatures are held in place by a peg found on the underside of the ship's hull.

While the ship bases are highly functional, they don't blend-in well with the surrounding seascape.

So I came up with a cunning plan.  I bought two extra frigates, HMS Orpheus and the Prosperine, at The Game Matrix.  When I brought them home, I snipped off the tabs and then took some staged photos.

Here's one of HMS Orpheus:

I love how the ship looks, especially when place on the Ocean F.A.T. Mat that I bought several months ago.  I look forward to playing Sails of Glory and using any waterline versions of ships in my after action reviews.
A few words of caution are in order when making "waterline" versions of these ships:
First and foremost, BE CAREFUL when handling the ships.  The hard plastic makes them rather fragile.  When snipping off the tab of HMS Orpheus, I broke off part of the bowsprit.  Fortunately, it broke in a spot that was easy for me to jury rig it back together with a dab of super glue.
Second, the ships are very light, and without the base they easily tip over.  This is okay if you're thinking "cinematically" like I do and are taking staged photos.  But if you plan on using waterline versions in a wargame you may want to find some thin miniatures bases, or some other thin strips of metal, and superglue them to the undersides of each ship.  If the metal strips are wider than the ship's hull, it may help to paint them in appropriate ocean colors.
Finally, the undersides of a ship's hull may not be completely flat.  In this case, sanding the underside or scraping it with an exacto knife may be necessary to keep a ship from listing.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

New Tool of the Trade

(My Nikon CoolPix P530 camera, accessories, and of course, the multi-lingual owner's manual)

Other than my Valentine's Day and President's Day greetings, it's been almost a month since I posted anything of substance.

The reason for this literary lull is that I'm finally getting around to figuring out the new camera I bought early last month.  And yes, this includes reading the owner's manual.

For nearly eight years now, I've been taking pictures for my blog, YouTube videos, and webcomics with my trusty Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 camera.

I love the Lumix's handiness and ease of use, although I certainly haven't mastered it.

My biggest problem has been adjusting the light setting (natural daylight, overcast, or indoor lighting) for the environment I'm shooting in.  Once I've taken a batch of pictures I'd use the Windows Paint Program in my laptop, and/or the Paint.Net program I downloaded to adjust the color and brightness of each picture.

I certainly haven't mastered this technique either.

I hardly use the built-in flash because it seems like the subject, usually one or more miniature figures, would be in an over-bright "spot light,"  while the areas outside the "blast zone" would be darker than normal.

Despite my questionable skills with a camera, for the past year I've been wondering if it was time to "up my game."

When I finally decided to take the plunge, the choice was fairly easy:  The Nikon CoolPix P530 was one of the least expensive cameras available at the Base Exchange (BX) I usually shop at.

Getting a camera with a built-in lens is the proverbial double-edge sword.  On the one hand, it's convenient to have a permanently attached lens, but the flip side means that I'm limited to what this lens can do.

Right now, I don't see myself needing a myriad of separate lenses.  For the work do, I think one lens will suffice.

Besides, the learning curve on this camera is long, and steep enough as it is.

(Image from:  English Language & Usage--The Meaning of a Steep Learning Curve)