30 March 2009

Ernest Money

Out of the ten houses in the valley that fit in our price range there is one that seems fairly decent. We're probably going to put an offer on it contingent on how the inspection goes. The bank wants some Ernest money, but I don't have any of that. I hope in these tough economic times they will accept regular money.

I got a bunch of paint slopped onto my Scouts last night. They're starting to look like proper miniatures. I've been reading articles and looking at armies and it seems that I can paint faster and still have my armies look all right for my purposes. If I try to make every mini a masterpiece I'll never finish a project. New revelations every day.

Yes I know that it's earnest money, but I really love Ernest and bad plays on words, so there you go. RIP Jim Varney.

29 March 2009

A Novel Concept

I generally do almost all of my painting with one brush. It was ordered from Fernando and is a pretty good brush. I've done a lot of painting with it and it's still just about as good as the day I bought it. Today I decided to take a few minutes and slap some green paint on a few figures I've got asssembled. I happened upon a revolutionary idea. I decided to try using a larger brush to paint hte large panels of power armor these Marines are wearing. Lo and behold, using the larger brush cut my painting time by quite a bit without sacrificing much in the way of painting quality. The larger brush is another one I'd purchased from Fernando but hadn't ever used. I generally use a size 0 brush; the larger one is just one step higher, a size 1. I see from the link that they are both out of stock at the moment. It helps to just check every few days and at some point the brush you want will be available. According to the editor of The Miniatures Page most of the expensive red sable brushes (Winsor & Newton and the like) are made in Sri Lanka, which is where Fernando is located. This leads me to believe that the $1.25 brushes I got from Fernando are probably just unbranded versions of those same high-end brushes. That's what I tell myself at least. So my tip for the day is that bigger brushes can save time when painting large areas. And that if you can catch them when they're in supply you can get really nice brushes for really good prices from Fernando.

We had to take Ben to the doctor today. His eyes have been bothering him for a while, and when he woke up this morning they were pretty swollen. He should be fine, but it sure wasn't a lot of fun sitting around at the doctor's office. At least Ben takes things like that in stride, so he wasn't surly and irritable while we waited.

28 March 2009

Something Games Workshop Does Right

I'm not really a Games Workshop hater anyway, but I have to agree with those who say some of GW's figures are overpriced. I would love to have a whole bunch of Terminators, but at $50 for a box of 5 I can't very well afford that. Some of the metal figures are pretty crazy too. I try to avoid large units of metal figures in my army lists for that reason. But this is a post about something that Games Workshop got right, so I'll move into that. Specifically I am going to discuss the starter sets for Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40k.

The Warhammer 40k: Assault on Black Reach (AoBR) starter set is a pretty good value, even helping to solve the previously mentioned problem of expensive Terminators. I'm going to go off of MSRP here although you can get a 20% discount on GW stuff fairly easily, and more if you search hard. Anyway, on to the analysis. The AoBR set lists at $60. You get ten regular Space Marines, 5 Terminators, a Space Marine Captain, and a Dreadnought. The Orks get a Warboss, 5 Nobz, 20 Boyz, and 3 Deffkoptas. If you add up the list prices for all of those components separately you get around $140 for the Space Marines and $134 for the Orks (I had to fudge a bit for the Deffkoptas as the regular Deffkopta model doesn't match up very well with the AoBR models). For the purposes of this discussion I am ignoring the perceived value of the mini rulebook and templates that come in the AoBR set, these are often sold on eBay for $10-20. To buy all of the components separately would cost about $274 at full retail, maybe $220 if you shopped around a bit. So buying the AoBR set for $60 comes out to a 70-80% discount, assuming you collect Orks and Space Marines and need all the figures in the box.

The downside of this is that the figures in the AoBR set are simplified sculpts. You're limited to the squad layouts provided, and there aren't a lot of interchangeable parts. Your Tactical Squad is going to have a missile launcher and flamer, and the Sergeant will be armed with a chainsword and pistol. The Terminators will all have Storm Bolters and power fists. The Terminator Sergeant will have a power sword and Storm Bolter. The Dreadnought will have a close combat arm and a multi-melta. The Orks will also be limited to a certain loadout, although you can vary their arms a bit more. It's a tradeoff, but in my opinion the AoBR set is a great way to put together large numbers of basic troops that can fill out the bulk of an army. It works out especially well for me as Space marines and Orks are the two 40k armies I like most.

I had pretty much ignored the Warhammer Fantasy Battles starter set as I had already filled out my Orcs and Goblins army with a big lot purchased from the Marketplace on The Miniatures Page and Dwarfs were third or fourth on my list of armies I'd like to build. But a few weeks ago I stumbled onto the start of a Dwarf army and I began to look a bit harder at the Battle for Skull Pass starter box.

How do you stumble onto the start of an army? Well, I was innocently browsing the models at Hobbytown when I looked up at the wall where the battalion boxes are kept. Hobbytown has started using a red price sticker for clearance items, and I noticed that there was a red sticker up on that wall. It was the Dwarf Battalion box.

"Hmm, a Battalion box at 50% off doesn't seem like something I should pass up," said my compulsive inner monologue.

"But you don't even collect Dwarfs! And you haven't finished your Skaven or even started your Orcs and Goblins! You've also got all those unpainted Orks, Space Marines, and Imperial Guardsmen, not to mention the pile of Lord of the Rings stuff, the Mordheim warbands, the various Dogs of War units, the Reaper CAV stuff, and all the odds and sods you've got besides! You can't start a new army!" yelped the inner voice of reason.

"It's 50% off, you can't pass that up. You've already got the army book, it's not like you'll need to buy a lot of other stuff to make a playable force. And look, this Dwarf Lord figure is 50% off as well. You could probably build a 1000-point army with just this stuff," said the voice with the thin moustache and the cheap suit.

So now I've got this start to a Dwarf army and the starter box becomes rather attractive all sudden-like. It's got 60 Night Goblins, 10 Spider Riders, a Troll, a Night Goblin Boss, and a Night Goblin Shaman for the Orcs and Goblins, and 12 Dwarf Warriors, 10 Dwarf Thunderers, 8 Dwarf Miners, a cannon, a Dragon Slayer, and a Thane for the Dwarfs. The dollar amounts come out to be very similar to the AoBR set. To buy the components separately would be $112.73 for the Dwarfs and $157.50 for the Goblins, or $270.23 total. With discounts you could bring that to around $215. The Battle for Skull Pass starter retails for $60, although it is fairly easy to find it for around $40. At $60 you're getting a 70-80% discount at the expense of having less variety in your figures. Almost all of the figures in the set are one-piece sculpts, but being able to build the core of an army at that price point seems worthwhile to me. And that is one thing that Games Workshop has done right, at least for people who collect the armies featured in the starter sets.

My blog went over 10,000 hits today. That is pretty neat. February was my highest-traffic month ever. March will not quite make it to that level as I was away from my computer for over a week and didn't get much traffic during that time.

The house hunt is going somewhat poorly. We looked at several houses yesterday, and the only one that was any good was too small to comfortably fit us in it. With a different floorplan it would've been a keeper, but the way the rooms were laid out made it just as cramped as the trailer is. The good thing is that there are plenty of houses on the market and we aren't under a lot of pressure to move so we can just keep looking.

That's about it for tonight. I am trying to get back into the swing of school. I hope I can make it to the end of the semester.

26 March 2009

Starline 2400 Miniatures

Along with my Star Fleet Battles rules I ordered a couple of miniatures, a Federation Heavy Cruiser and a Klingon D7 Battlecruiser. The Federation casting has got some terrible mold lines and flash. It also looks like it will be a bear to align and assemble. These are problems that I was aware of prior to ordering, as there have been discussions on the topic on The Minitures Page. The Klingon ship came in one piece, but it was bent and warped quite a bit. The fuselage was fairly easy to bend back into place, although there was a second or two there when I thought it would snap rather than bend. One of the wings was warped excessively, it took quite a bit of work to get it bent and flattened to a point that the warping wasn't too noticeable. My overall impression is that the figures aren't that great as far as quality and are probably a bit overpriced. I don't think there's a real fix for it. Given that these games are a niche hobby within a niche hobby within a niche hobby there probably isn't a lot of demand for the figures, especially when you consider that many players will either just use the cardoard chits and/or only need a few miniatures for most scenarios. Redoing the molds or commissioning new sculpts probably wouldn't be a profitable venture. All that being said, the ships will probably paint up just fine and I wouldn't hesistate to order the ones I needed for a game.

Star Fleet Battles

The Star Fleet Battles: Captain's Edition Basic Set arrived on the doorstep today. My first impression is, "Wow! That's an awfully thick rulebook!" You could argue that many rulebooks are thick, but if you flip open a D & D rulebook or something from Games Workshop, a whole lot of the space is going to be filled with art and fluff text. Flipping through the Star Fleet Battles rulebook feels a bit like flipping through a calculator manual or the Federal Travel Regulations. There is a lot of stuff in those 238 pages. I can't comment on the game system itself as I haven't read the rules. I may have to wait until summer to get through it.

24 March 2009

Holy Cat Urine, Batman!

So one of the ladies from work is a real estate agent, so we went over and looked at a house with her today. As I walked into the living room I was hit with a very distinct cat smell. The house had several other problems, so we're going to build a list of houses to look at and make a weekend or two of it sometime in the next month or two. There's not really a hurry to make a move.

I took a few minutes tonight to touch up the Space Marines I touched up last night. The varnish had caked up a bit on the shoulder pads and drawn some of the red pigment from the borders into areas I didn't want red in, so I had to paint over those places again. Not too big a deal.

I got an 88% on my latest math test, pulling my grade up to a low B, which is pretty much beyond my wildest dreams. I may actually be able to pull off a passing grade in the class. That's pretty exciting for me. I need to get back into my schoolwork routine as the week of army stuff bumped me out of my usual schedule. If things go right I'll be able to finish all my military training during the summer and go to school again next fall.

I continue to suffer from Magpie Gamer Disease, as there are a thousand different projects I want to work on, but nothing holds my attention for long enough to actually complete a playable force of any kind. In the last week I've thought about my Space Marines, the upcoming Imperial Guard push from Games Workshop, Orks, Reaper's CAV, The Lord of the Rings Strategy Game, Games Workshop's new War of the Ring super-huge Lord of the Rings game, Mordheim, Warhammer Fantasy Dwarfs, the rumored release of a new Skaven book, an all-Goblin Orcs and Goblins army, Star Fleet Battles, Federation Commander, 6mm American Civil War, and Warhammer Ancient Battles games from the Shieldwall supplement. So far I have accomplished a few touchups on one or two figures. It's especially unsttling when I look at some of the blogs I read that have new painted figures up every five or six days. Where do folks find the time for all that painting?

23 March 2009

Today I finished up some highlighting and detailing on a few Space Marines and covered them in gloss coat. I didn't get much time for hobbies as the wife and I went around looking at some houses today. We're not sure if we'll wind up getting a house, but we've been watching the listings and thinking about it. Back to the Space Marines, I just remembered that I'd meant to drill out the barrels of their bolters, so I took a quick break to do that. One of them split in the process, so I stuck it back together with some glue and will hopefully be able to make it look okay tomorrow. I've still got twelve infantry and a vehicle to paint before these guys hit 750 points, but I'm not feeling much pressure to make progress. I think E. A. is regretting his decision to try the Tau out and so he hasn't been painting his figures at all. He's pretty excited about the Star Fleet Battles thing too, so I'm pretty free at the moment to go at my own pace with the Warhammer 40k stuff.

Tomorrow I have to start in on my homework and get caught back up on school. Maybe I'll sneak in a little time to assemble some figures or move some paint around.

22 March 2009

I made it back from 8 fun days with the Idaho Army National Guard, so I guess that's good. One of the good things about my new day job is that I am able to take paid military leave and earn two paychecks during some of my training. I'm glad to be back home.

In celebration of completing my training I went to Hobbytown and had a look around. I saw that most of their Federation Commander stuff was on clearance. I came away with a fair-sized haul comprised of Romulan Border, Romulan Attack, Klingon Attack, and Squadron Boxes 4 and 6. I have to admit that there is a confusing array of rules, supplements, and figures but I came away with enough parts to actually play a game. Apparently a couple of guys who work with my friend E. A. saw him reading the Cadet Handbook for Star Fleet Battles and expressed an interest in playing. Maybe we'll be able to get a group together and actually play some games.

While I was at Hobbytown I saw a couple of guys starting a game of Warhammer Fantasy. They were setting up like an hour before the store closed, so they were probably not going to finish the game. Then they spent the first fifteen minutes arguing about whether or not the Warp-Lightning Cannon can shoot down a hill. The question could be solved quite easily by looking at the Skaven army book but they chose to argue for a quarter of their playing time based on how they each remembered the rule. The game shop is always a good place to observe odd nerd behaviors.

I babysat the slug-baby for a couple of hours last night while my wife went to the movies. I hadn't babysat him for a long period of time before. It was a learning experience for both of us but we survived and I earned one or two wife points.

11 March 2009

I did a whole bunch of math homework today. And no, it wasn't the math of learning to play Star Fleet Battles. It was just math. Like graphing and quadratic equations. I really should take a quiz tonight to be caught up to about where I want to be, but it's nearly 12:30 and that means I've got about 5 hours until the alarm goes off for me to get up and go to work. Tomorrow after work I will have to blast out a bunch of math as well as some other homework, then on Thursday night I have a math test and a three-hour history class. After class I will have to do a bunch of reading, then at some point on Friday I have to take an anthropology quiz and get ready for 9 days of fun with the National Guard that starts that evening. It is a ludicrous amount of stuff and I imagine I will be glad when it's over. The next week is Spring Break at school, but I'll be spending the whole week making up the stuff I miss while I'm playing at being a soldier. Supposedly the unit is going to give the soldiers that are in school time to go to class and get their schoolwork done, but in practice that never happens. I won't throw in a qualifier and say that I'm not complaining, because I certainly am complaining. This is ridiculous. I will probably never take four classes while working full-time and serving in the National Guard again.

I can pretty much guarantee I won't have anything hobby-related to post about until 21 March, so don't be posting comments begging me for updates on my hobby projects. They are dead to me until that day, and probably for some time after that.

09 March 2009

Into the Very Depths of Nerdhood

Yesterday instead of writing my paper I went with my wife to E.A. and his wife's house for dinner. I tried out World of Goo, in interesting physics-based puzzle game that is incredibly addictive. Basically you have a bunch of balls of goo that interact differently based on color. You connect them to build structures and solve puzzles. I think it would be easier for you to just click the link and watch the video or download the demo. It's a pretty neat game.

E.A. also showed me his secret stash of game materials, including what could be the nerdiest game ever, Star Fleet Battles. The full rulebook is something like four hundred pages long and it is written out like the instructions for an Avalon Hill game, just pages and pages of text. It is so detailed that most games seem to consist of one ship fighting one other ship. I guess the reason for this is that you are playing as if you were the commander of one of the Star Trek ships. Each ship has a data sheet with a silhouette of the ship on it and a bunch of little boxes representing systems within the ship. Each turn you fill out a worksheet allocating your ship's energy to various systems and plotting your movement and shooting accordingly. E.A. told me that when his wife had seen him playing it with his brother she commented that it looked almost as fun as accounting. Anyway, I think we'll wind up playing it at some point. I downloaded the starter manual (52 pages) and will give it a look-see at some point. I don't really know anything about the Star Trek universe, but I imagine I'll be able to figure it out. On the plus side, if I decide to paint a miniature for the game I'll only have to paint the one to have my full army. There is another game by the same company that claims to play a little faster with a few more ships. That game is called Federation Commander and I think Hobbytown has some of the stuff for that game in stock, surprisingly.

Whenever I think of Star Trek I think of a kid from my fourth-grade class in Alaska. He was a goofy-looking redheaded kid and he would wear his Star Trek uniform to school as often as possible and try to tell me about the show. He was also quite flatulent and every time he farted his ears would turn bright red and he'd giggle for several minutes.

And that's the story of how I am sort of being pulled into the land of nerdcore Star Trek ship vs. ship battle simulations.

02 March 2009

I don't really have anything to write about. I am curious as to why "beakie" Space Marine helmets are so much cooler than regular Space Marine helmets. I'm sure there is a formula for it, but as evidenced by my previously-posted mathematical struggles I am at a loss as to what it would be. Probably some sort of inequality. For those who aren't aware of the difference between a beakie Marine and a regular one, the second picture in yesterday's post shows it fairly well. The beakie Marine is the second from the left. They're called beakie Marines because the front of the helmet projects out into a point, like a beak. Fluffwise I believe they are from the Mk 6 armor style, while the majority of the helmets currently are a newer Mk 8 style.

01 March 2009

I finally got my new calculator sorted out enough that I was able to finish the assignment and take my quiz. So I've got that going for me at least. I had a little time and worked on making the five Space Marines I painted in yellow trim match the rest of my Space Marines. They still need a couple of highlights, but nothing too drastic. You can see the before and after shots below.

I've still got a bunch of homework to do in the next two weeks. It's going to be a miracle if I get it all done. Luckily I built in a couple of days at the end of my schedule to give me some space, but it's still going to be pretty tough to squeeze it all in there. After Spring Break things should slow down a little bit, especially if I use that time to get ahead. I guess that's about it as far as news. I've got five more Space Marines and I did some homework.

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

I had a long and incoherent post written out, but I think I'll just summarize. Today in the middle of my math homework I came upon a problem that required a graphing calculator. I did not have one, so I had to go shop for one. Then I had to get the flipping package opened. Then I had to learn how to make the thing graph the equations and give me the information I wanted. I haven't been that angry since I got the T-Mobile Wing with Windows Mobile on it. If my blood pressure were any higher the top of my head would pop right off. My neck is so tense that it is cramping. My teeth hurt from all the clenching. So I am going to take a break from math for tonight and perhaps read my White Dwarf magazine and drink a soda.

I spent some time looking at miniatures online today. The 28mm American Civil War figures that are out there are really quite nice-looking, but I think I am fairly committed to 6mm. The ACW lends itself to the massed look of 6mm miniatures. But those larger ones are quite nice.

The new Lizardmen Stegadon from GW is a very neat-looking model, but nothing else about the Lizardmen appeals to me.