26 October 2009

Higher Education

Last weekend I took a one-credit workshop on Reptiles and Amphibians. I wasn't sure that I wanted to go as I work enough weekends already without throwing school into the mix on top of that.

I needn't have worried, as it turned out to be one of the better classes I've attended. The lecture portions on different animal groups and the keeping of herps as pets were pretty good, but the real highlight for me was the hands-on time with all the different animals. On the first day they had a caiman ( a relatively small crocodilian) in the classroom, which was a good reminder that these animals are never really tame. She spent much of the time trying to spin around and grab the instructor as he lectured about her.

Several snakes were passed around the room, so I got to handle a Rubber Boa, a Ball Python, a Great Basin Gopher Snake, and a Sand Boa on the first day. I think my favorite for the first day was the Rubber Boa. Who knew that Idaho has a native boa? I didn't know that. Here's a picture of one I found online.

We also got to touch a Great Basin Rattlesnake, which is probably not something I'd get to do outside of class. The front of the snake was immobilized in a plastic tube, so there was relatively little risk of him spinning around and biting someone. That was pretty neat. This is a picture of him, taken from the instructor's website, EcoSnake.com:

On the second day we spent a lot of time with lizards, but also more snakes. The lady doing the lecturing had some large Green Iguanas with her and explained that even though they are extremely common in the pet trade they are about the worst lizards you can get as far as temperament and sheer size of necessary habitat. She also had some Bearded Dragons and some other creatures, like Corn Snakes, Kingsnakes, a couple of Box Turtles, and a toad.

At lunchtime my wife stopped by with our Russian Tortoise so we could pass him around the room for everyone to look at. A lot of people commented on how strong Owen's legs are, as when you're holding him he attempts to pry your fingers off with his legs. We also talked the instuctor into showing her the Gila Monster, and we both got to pet him while the instructor held him in a way that he wouldn't try to bite us. Rumor has it that while the Gila Monster's venom is not exceptionally dangerous it is a very very painful bite. When they bite they don't just inject venom with fangs, they grind it into you with all of their nasty teeth.

Highlights aside from the Gila Monster were holding a Dumeril's Boa for about 30 minutes and a Bearded Bragon. The Grey-banded Kingsnake was a nice-looking snake. I liked the Dumeril's Boa a lot, but my wife said no big snakes allowed in the house. She liked the Ball Python we had a while ago, but she often had nightmares about the snake eating us.

All in all it was a lot of fun and pretty informative. The school offers several workshops with different course numbers featuring the same people as instructors, so I could take the class a couple more times for credit. The instructor's name is Frank Lundburg. Below is a picture of the Green Iguana; you can see me in the background. I'm the guy in the Denver Broncos shirt holding a snake. It's hard to see from here, but I think it's the gopher snake.

I may just join the Idaho Herpetological Society and nerd out with the reptile folks.

23 October 2009

Too Good to Resist?

I got an e-mail from Wargames Factory regarding the release of their new plastic Vikings. They aren't ready to release the actual boxed sets, but they do have some preliminary sprues up for ordering. Price point is $4.95 for three sprues with enough parts to make 8 Vikings with various bits left over. Free shipping is available with orders of $100 or more, so for $103.95 you could get 168 Vikings. Even at lower quantities with flat-rate shipping the prices are very competitive. To me they look very nice. I'm not sure how long this preliminary run will be available. I already got my present, but if you want Vikings for Christmas you may want to point your relatives/friends to this link.

20 October 2009

A Thought on Hobby Crossover and Dwarf Cavalry

My wife and I have logged back into World of Warcraft, which is pretty fun. It's a bit of an old change I think, but I like the addition of the Achievements system. Having a bunch of those little mini-goals works well, especially for a solo player. This weekend I hit level 75 and went up to Dalaran, the main hangout in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. While there I found a vendor willing to sell me a Bear mount and I promptly bought it. I have some quest reward Viking-style helmet and a big axe, so when mounted my character looks a lot like this sculpt from Reaper. I almost want to go and paint that figure up. I'm not sure what the appeal is, but there is something awesome about a VIKING DWARF RIDING AN ANGRY BEAR AND CARRYING A BIG AXE!

Not much going on with other hobbies. I've been running and working out in the mornings as my job gives me three hours a week to devote to it. I figure that if they're going to give me the time I might as well try to get a little healthier and maybe grow some bigger arms. I hate to say it, but I feel a little more energized on the days I actually do something physical before work instead of just crawling out of bed and dozing through the morning.

I am finding school rather difficult at the moment. I'm clinging to B's in most of my classes and need to crack down just a little harder as far as studying and making sure I know the material. Usually by the time I get home I just want to relax and hang out with my family. There is something to be said for finishing your degree while young and unattached.

16 October 2009

The Other Hobby Shop

I think I mentioned a few posts ago that I'd stopped at one of the other hobby shops in town. They used to be in the middle of downtown in a horrible (for me) location, so I'd never really paid much attention to them. They also run a little higher on prices than Hobbytown. Someone had mentioned to me that they'd moved to a new location, but I'd never really thought about it beyond that. I found myself with a little time to kill and wanted to look at the new Space Wolves, so I went to Hobbytown first. They were sold out. So I spent some time searching for the new location of All About Games and finally called to find out where they were, as it turned out that the driving directions on my phone had a wrong turn or two in them.

At the shop they were sold out of Space Wolves, but the lady at the counter did pull out a couple of the sprues so I could see the parts first-hand. She also offered to set aside some figures from the next shipment for me. I thanked her and declined, then had a look around the store. The back of the store had a gaming area filled with role-players doing their thing. The shop carries a lot more variety than Hobbytown. They had some scenic bases, I saw a rack full of that fantasy sea battle game (Uncharted Seas?), and a really big shelf of used game books. I almost picked up a copy of the HERO System starter book from there, but I haven't heard from my friend if he plans on running that campaign and would rather not buy a book until he decides on an edition (6th edition just dropped, but a new RPG system is a big investment). They also had a boxed set of Blood Bowl and a whole pile of blisters for that game. I've been wanting to try that out as it seems like a lot of fun, but the sticker price drove me away for the moment. That pretty much sums up the high points that I noticed.

Some of the staff seemed like your typical elitist too-good-to-talk-to-a-customer-I-don't-recognize game store clerks, but the lady who helped me out was professional and helpful. Come to think of it, I've seen her around at the other game shops and the old location for that store playing Warmachine/Hordes. If I buy any more hobby stuff in the near future I may try to put some of that money into their register, just as a way to help a decent FLGS running. They don't seem to have a website up, so I won't link to it, but if you're in the Boise area you might want to drop in and check it out.

15 October 2009

Upcoming Skaven Releases

I've been meaning to write about the upcoming Skaven releases for a little while now, but I never got around to it. My only fully-painted army is the ratmen, so a new army book is of great interest to me. The new book will be released in the first week of November along with a few box sets and blisters. I have mixed feelings about the figures.

I don't particularly like the look of the Clanrats boxed set. A lot of people like them better than the old ones, but to me they just don't look quite right. Some of the weapons and shield look okay, but with the new attachment scheme (ball-and-socket joints rather than flat surfaces) they may not be compatible with the old kit. I probably won't be picking any of them up, instead I'll probably try to find some of the older ones before they all disappear.

I like the Stormvermin a little bit more, although they follow the same basic sculpting lines. You can get twenty of them for the price of about half a unit of the old metal figures, which goes a long way toward easing someone into the new look.

The new Doomwheel is a very good-looking kit, and is causing a lot of ruckus on various blogs for both Skaven armies and conversions into various Orc and Chaos armies.

There are also photos floating around of a new Screaming Bell/Plague Thing kit which looks okay, but I think it signifies a move by GW to push the Skaven closer to a Chaos army than a zany, warpstone-crazed mad scientist society. I seem to be in the minority, but I could really do without the Chaos stuff in the Warhammer universe. None of it really grabs me or appeals to me at all. I hope that the new book doesn't push them too far in that direction, and even if it does I am confident that I can proxy normal-looking models to avoid all that. And it could be that I am being all doom-and-gloom for no reason and everything will turn out fine. The second hobby of most gamers is to complain and whine about their favorite toys.

None of my pictures here are anything new, having been taken from places around the web. They've all been in circulation for at least a week or two now.

12 October 2009

After completing my Scout Squad I am left with a decision to make. If I paint the Razorback that's on my painting table the 750-point Space Marine list I originally came up with will be completely painted. I could finish the unit of Easterlings for the Lord of the Rings game and work toward the goal I set a few posts ago to try to get all the partially-painted stuff done. Or I could work on a Dreadnought and also be closer to finishing partially-painted stuff. I'm leaning toward the Razorback, as that would finish out a small but playable army list. I could probably do the Easterlings in a few hours as well and knock out two projects. I'd really like to paint some Orks and have two playable fully-painted forces for small games of 40k. But all that will have to wait for the weekend or later. I've got plenty of schoolwork and other stuff to get to over the next few days.

One of the more difficult decisions while finishing the Scout Squad was how to paint their hair. I see the Space Marines as a sort of clone army, as the Marines of a Chapter all get infused with the same genetics and would theoretically start to resemble one another. I wound up painting the Scouts with different hair as it was more fun than painting five guys with brown hair. I reasoned that Scouts are newly-recruited Chapter members and would not have undergone the full range of treatments to make them full-fledged battle brothers, so they would still look much as they had when recruited.

I was at the new Hobbytown the other day and saw another thing that makes me reluctant to actually play a game with strangers. There were a couple of guys playing 40k; Black Templars vs. Tyranids. One guy obviously was teaching the other guy how to play, but wasn't doing a very good job of it. At one point he rolled a bunch of dice, looked at them and announced, "Two wounds, power weapon." So I assume one of his Space Marines had inflicted wounds with a power weapon, which ignores armor saves, so the Tyranids guy was supposed to remove two wounds from his unit. The Tyranid guy hesitated for a second, working through it in his mind, and looked at his cheat sheet to make sure of what he was doing. Instead of explaining that power weapons ignore armor saves and that the new guy should remove two models, the Black Templar guy just kept saying, "Two wounds, power weapon!" until he was saying it more like, "TWO WOUNDS! POWER WEAPON!" and startling the women and children who were looking at science toys in the next aisle. I think I would prefer to stay home and paint than go to a shop and stand at a table for four hours while a sweaty guy yells at me. If I wanted a sweaty guy to yell at me about rules I don't know about yet I'd join the army and go to basic training.

I would like to paint some Terminators, especially one of those new Wolf Guard ones with the big wolf-fur cloak.
Here's the finished servo-skull. It isn't anything too special but I think it adds some character to my Scout squad. The Missile Launcher Guy isn't actually slated to be a part of this squad; he's going to be running with some Sniper Rifle Scouts. It makes even more sense for some Sniper Rifle guys to be carrying around a servo-skull spotter, although a missile launcher really isn't the stealthiest weapon around.

The picture is a bit blurry, but I've got the servo-skull attached to the Missile Launcher Scout. I had to come up with a couple to connect the servo-skull's single wire to the two wires coming out of the power pack. I wound up using a bit of an Ork axe handle that was the right diameter. The wire itself is a keyring I unwound with some pliers. Painting of the skull has started, but I didn't quite finish it before bedtime.

We went over to my parents' house for dinner and socializing this evening. I took my copy of Space Hulk over and my brother and I were able to get one game in. I played the Space Marines and he took the Genestealers. We played the first mission, which for the Space Marines involved getting the Terminator with the heavy flamer to a certain room and cleansing it with fire. I was able to hold off the Genestealers long enough to get the flamer near the room, then used the flame templates to keep them at bay long enough to cleanse the room and win the scenario. I think my brother would've won by being just a little more aggressive with his aliens. There really aren't enough Space Marines to cover every avenue, and realistically the Genestealer player should try to get every attack possible rather than holding forces back until it's too late. I also benefited from getting decent pulls on the Command Points, especially during the last two turns when I had to fire the flamer multiple times, turn my Terminator around, and walk him down the hallway to open the door to the room that needed cleansed. If I'd pulled a couple of smaller numbers my ammunition would've run out or I'd have had a dozen Genestealers clawing at my back. My brother says he's got a plan for next time, so I think he had a good time.

Here's a picture of the kid after our dog has attacked his hair with her giant tongue. He thinks it's hilarious to have her lick him. I figure it's like an extra round of immunizations. He should be pretty much disease-proof by now.

11 October 2009

I finished painting the Space Marine Scouts last night. I am actually not quite finished with the missile launcher guy yet. When I built him I accidentally used a Sniper Rifle Scout's legs, so he's got a power pack with two wires that don't go anywhere. I'm going to rig up some extra wire or sprue or something and give him a servo-skull to act as a spotter.

09 October 2009

I spent last night being quite ill. Most of today was spent in bed trying to recover and rehydrate. Toward the evening I was able to keep fluids down and then start eating food again. Now my discomfort is limited mostly to a headache.

I did splash some paint onto my Space Marine Scouts. I could probably finish them up this weekend if I work at it.

08 October 2009

The new Space Wolves are out and there has been a lot of talk about them among 40k bloggers lately. I am not planning on building a Space Wolf army at the moment, but the figures look nice. The box sets have got a ton of parts that could be used to customize other Space Marines. I will probably pick up some of the Space Wolf boxes just to have more variety in my bits box.

The other thing from the Space Wolves codex that sounds neat is the cavalry models, basically Space Marines riding big wolves from space. Depending on what the figures they eventually release for that unit look like I would like to get some of them. I don't know that I'd use the Space Wolves army list, but I could run them as Bikers in the vanilla Marine codex.

The next Skaven release is up for pre-order. I don't really like the new Clanrat models, but they're okay. I've got plenty of the old models. The Stormvermin look decent, especially since a unit of them is a lot cheaper money-wise. The plastic Doomwheel looks decent, and I've heard rumors of some other stuff in the works.

I am not feeling well, so I'll talk about the other stuff some other time.

I will do it tomorrow!

Tomorrow I will write up a post for the blog. Today I will just sit in bed and think about all the things I have to do tomorrow.

Topics on the agenda include Space Wolves, Skaven, the other hobby shops in town, and maybe Fantasy Sports. I may even talk about music.

05 October 2009

I had another fun weekend with the National Guard, so I didn't really have time for anything except homework. I'm glad I have today off as I still have a fair bit of schoolwork to finish for this week. My grades aren't as good as they were last semester. I should be able to pass, but it probably won't be pretty. I find the lecture classes a lot more difficult than the online courses. It would be nice if Boise State would offer exclusively online degrees in a few fields.

The Fantasy Baseball season just ended. I had four teams and got four little virtual trophies; two 1st-place and two 3rd-place.