29 May 2011

Puerto Rico

The guy who lives next to me over here in the desert is a board game fanatic. He plays them, he designs them, he loves them. He works the same job I do, but on a different shift, so we don’t hang out much. He’s recruited a group of people to play a game called Puerto Rico in the evenings, when I am sleeping, but he came in the other day while I was on shift and talked me and the Lieutenant into trying it out. It’s a typical resource management game, with players trying to colonize an island, build infrastructure, grow crops, and ship those crops out for victory points or sell them for money to buy more buildings. I’m sure the website for the game offers a decent summary of gameplay, but you have to balance out all of the different actions you can take and eventually build more buildings and ship more goods than the other players. If you get out of balance with your resources, it is possible for the other players to lock you out for a turn or more based on what they choose to do when they lead a turn off. It seems like an okay game, but I haven’t quite grasped all of the rules or even all of the objectives yet. We may play again sometime soon, if he pops in again during my shift.Here's the game description from the Board Game Geek site:

The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops—corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco, and coffee—they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors: growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and, most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
The game system lets players choose the order of the phases in each turn by allowing each player to choose a role from those remaining when it is their turn. No role can be selected twice in the same round. The player who selects the best roles to advance their position during the game will win.

28 May 2011

Blah Blah Blah Games Workshop

There’s been a lot of talk on the web about Games Workshop’s recent doings. As is usual with enthusiasts, the talk ranges from Apocalyptic End of the Hobby fare all the way through the spectrum to This Is the Greatest Thing Evar I (heart) GW 4EVS!!!! Actually, that really only applies to the ‘all-new’ Finecast range, which is pretty much all of the metal models from the catalog pulled out of circulation and swapped out for resin castings, along with some new releases for Tomb Kings and Dark Eldar, the most-recently published army books for Warhammer Fantasy and 40k.

The talk about the changes to the distributor agreement and the general price increase has been mostly neutral or negative. As I understand it, GW noticed that people in Australia were buying many of their miniatures from retailers in the UK, because currency fluctuations made the Australian MSRP much higher than paying for figures and shipping from the UK. Independent retailers in Australia, and more importantly, the local GW shops were seeing a lot less business, making them unprofitable, while shops in the UK were rolling in Australian money. Games Workshop made changes to their agreement, making shops sign some sort of agreement saying that they wouldn’t ship figures to certain countries. No agreement, no retail account. Games Workshop claims it’s a move to help recruitment in their local Australian shops, growing the hobby and helping the gaming community in the long run. People who were purchasing or selling the figures across the ocean see it as a ham-fisted moneygrab that restricts free trade and flies in the face of freedom. I think it could have been handled better (Games Workshop isn’t known for being tactful when it comes to legal actions), but I’m sure the company has a few accountants and economists looking over the numbers and this will probably blow over and work out in the end. Gamers in the affected countries will either buy the figures at the higher prices, quit gaming altogether, switch to a different game system from another company, or find another way around paying MSRP and wait for GW to catch onto it and snuff that, too. It probably doesn’t really affect me personally all that much, and it will probably not affect the ‘GW Hobby’ in Australia as much as the Doomsayers are predicting. It wasn’t handled well, and GW’s corporate attitude tends to default to condescending and secretive, but gamers will either pay the enforced prices or find another way around it.

The timing is a little off as well, with the annual price increase being announced at about the same time. Price increases hit about 1/3 of the line, with most of the increases coming in at 10-15% over previous levels. Some of the prices got smaller adjustments. Army books took a decent-sized jump, with the softcover books jumping up to $33 each. The hardbound books jumped up to $41.75. Most of the Lord of the Rings line jumped by quite a bit, and almost every Battleforce and Battalion took a big leap. Then it’s just a random assortment of boxed sets to fill out the remainder of the increases.

One notable thing missing from the annual price increase list is the Finecast models. They didn’t escape from it, though. They got a lot more expensive as part of the rollout of the ‘new’ line. Some of the figures got increases of up to 50%, making them more expensive than comparable Forge World models. Again, aside from a few new releases for Tomb Kings and Dark Eldar, these are the same old metal sculpts recast in resin. The casting quality from the press photos and releases has been pretty bad, with plenty of miscasts, air bubbles, broken parts, and mold lines across the line. Some of the pictures I’ve seen are pretty horrid, with entire parts missing and Space Marine figures with only half a Boltgun. Quality control appears to be uniformly terrible, and so far GW hasn’t addressed it. The much-touted midnight online release also got flubbed, with the website failing to update and offer the new models for same until several hours after midnight. I didn’t buy a lot of the character models anyway, but I did buy some of the metal figures from time to time, and it seems like there are always a couple of must-have units that aren’t available in plastic, so this change will probably affect me a bit. I hope that I can find most of the models for my lists on eBay in the old metal. Unfortunately a lot of other people have expressed the desire to do the same thing, so it may be a good time to put your metal figures up on eBay. So far I am not impressed with Finecast, and the switcherooney price increase that goes along with the change seems a bit underhanded.

Will all of this drive me away to another game? Probably not. I am too invested in the background and the figures to really go elsewhere. It really just pushes me further along a path that I’d already started down. The last two or three years of price increases have pushed just about every GW model up and over my psychological impulse purchase line. I can’t just go into the shop and buy an infantry box anymore. More often than not, it seems, I walk out empty-handed after a trip to the shop. Or if I feel really guilty about not buying something I will get a bottle of paint or a Thomas train for my son. Every year there is something, like the repackaging on many of the regiment boxes that dropped them from twenty figures to ten per box and increased the price per figure. Then the next year the ten-figure boxes got another bump in price. This year it is price increases, the great Australian trade embargo, and a poorly-executed exchange of resin for metal. Next year Games Workshop will do something else stupid that many people hate and more than likely increase prices on another group of figures. I can no longer afford to buy every shiny new thing that comes out, so I’ve been brain-storming about what to do. I took a look at my figure inventory and realized that at my theoretical painting rate I have something like a six-year backlog just in Warhammer Fantasy and 40k figures, but much of it doesn’t really fit into any list that I actually want to purchase. My plan is to focus only on the army lists that I really get jazzed about. I will work on one major project each year, and mix in one or two minor projects as well. I’ll probably start with one of my Orcs & Goblins lists, as I have most of the figures for them already, less a couple of trolls and maybe one or two odds and ends. A minor project to go along with it could be a skirmish game (maybe some Pirates or Old West figures), some terrain, or something else that’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. That system should allow me to focus my time and money on projects that are actually meaningful to me. I suppose it’s similar to The Pledge or the Frugal Gaming movement. Talking about it is all fine and good, but the proof is in the doing. Games Workshop will still be getting some of my cash, but not as much of it, and I should be getting more bang for my buck. I hope that the quality control on the Finecast line improves, as I may wind up needing a few of the figures to fill out my lists, and I’d rather not have to build a Boltgun or a cape from scratch.

27 May 2011

Miniature Me

My sister made a doll of me for my oldest son, so he would be able to have daddy around while the real deal is overseas. It's a fairly common thing to do, and it's generally seen as kind of a sweet memento for the kids to carry around and talk to and act as a place holder. Well, this is kind of like that, except that it's a bit more frightening than comforting. This is me, in doll form:

There's no accounting for taste, and my boy has taken a shine to it, so it all works out. The photo she chose is not that flattering, but it is pretty accurate. The uniform is from the wrong service, but my sister's husband is a Marine, so I can let that go. I think it helps my son to get to sleep at night, and after all the trouble we've had with bedtime over the last 2 1/2 years, anything that makes it easier for him to go to bed and actually go to sleep is worth its weight in gold. I also hear that Miniature Me is serving a dual purpose. Apparently he was using the doll as a makeshift gun and shooting members of the family. It's a good sign. He's got the bloodthirsty bit down; now I just need to teach him to paint and roll dice.

17 May 2011

Really, Games Workshop?

Well, Games Workshop is rolling out yet another set of price increases. It probably doesn't rank very high on the scale of world disasters, but it just seems like a bit much. I guess it's good that I have an attic full of figures that need painted. There aren't a lot of things I "need" for my next few army lists that I don't already have, but the cost of a playable army is already more than my house payment (really most armies are close to two house payments unless you can find a good deal on second-hand figures) and that is a lot of cash. I usually make the argument that at least it's not as expensive as some hobbies, but it's getting there.

In other news, I am currently reading book 16 of the Horus Heresy, and after the last few books I am full of ideas for my miniatures. We'll see if I get around to actually doing any of it, but it's exciting to have so many ideas. I haven't touched my paintbrushes for a little while. I got hung up on painting some cloaks and lost my momentum. I would like to get back into the swing of it. I'm also trying to decide if I should do a Traitor Guard army in addition to my Orks, so my Imperial forces have more than one enemy to fight. These Traitor Guard wouldn't be all mutated or anything, they'd probably just deface the symbols on their vehicles and have a different color scheme.

Not much else to report from over here in the desert. I hope the next few months go quickly so I can be home before my kids are all grown up.