29 March 2011

March Update

I've been working on my Dwarf army and with the completion of the current 5-model batch, I will have 35 models finished, just over a third of the army. I've got a pretty good system going for the models, so they are going faster with each batch. The most time-consuming part of the work is painting the beards, but painting beards is also the best part of the process, so it all balances out. I hope to work my way through some more of them.

I recently got books 9-12 in the Horus Heresy series, so I should be reading through those over the next week or two. I just finished reading the first Ciaphas Cain omnibus, which takes a more light-hearted look at the 40k world. It was pretty good, and I look forward to ordering some more of those books.

After I got back from my R & R leave, I took a little break from exercise, but I've picked that back up. Running isn't quite the chore it's been for the last few years. I finished my run today and realized that I was only wheezing and snorting during the last half-mile or so, rather than being out of breath in the first couple hundred yards. We have a PT test coming up, so we'll see if I continue making gains. When we got here I was barely finishing the 2 miles in the minimum 17 minutes, but I've worked that down to 15:50. It would be nice to get under 15 minutes by the time we go home. I also need to push myself on the other events and my fitness in general. I've been considering the P90X workouts as I've heard good things about them from many sources, but haven't justified ordering the DVDs just yet.

I also bought a car, which has been quite an ordeal. We've been looking for something pretty much since we traded in my truck for a minivan to replace my wife's Subaru wagon before I left. While I was home on leave we looked at a whole pile of cars, and I've been a fixture on the car sales sites and fueleconomy.gov during most of my free moments. We nearly bought two or three cars, but things fell through each time. We finally found something that met our transportation requirements and fell into the right reliability/fuel economy/low mileage brackets. I'll admit that it doesn't look that practical, but it was a decent compromise. That big wing on the back is a bit silly, too, but at least it is a factory option and not something from the aftermarket. My wife is not a fan of garish yellow cars, but she knows that I like flashy colors when it comes to shoes and cars, so she relented in this case. For the most part I hope to ride the commuter van to work and save that gas money for other things, but we wanted something with reasonable fuel economy to drive when the commuter van or my motorcycle (52 mpg) weren't an option. I'm pretty happy with our decision, but we'll see how it works out for us over the next several years.

Our twin boys are growing pretty well. I think they are both rapidly approaching 9 pounds. My mom got to meet them for the first time a couple of days ago, which is pretty neat I guess. My wife had a family friend take some family pictures of her and all our boys, and they turned out pretty nice. I don't have access to any of them here, so you'll just have to take my word that I have a pretty good-looking family, especially when I'm not there to lower the bar.

03 March 2011

Phoenix Fire Games, Part 2 and Malifaux

I stopped back into Phoenix Fire Games this evening and had another look around. It appears that their Customer Loyalty program is a bit more robust than the one at Hobbytown. The Hobbytown program here offers a $5 coupon for every $100 you spend, good for use on any purchase over $25 in the next 90 days. Idaho has a 6% sales tax, so the coupon almost covers that. Most of their Warhammer box sets are marked down from list price a fair amount, while blister packs and army books are usually sold at MSRP. Core rules are usually offered at a discount as well. I'm not sure what formula they use, but it works out in general that the Hobbytown prices are pretty competitive with internet prices, except during seasonal sales, bulk purchases,  and/or when the Pound is weak against the US Dollar.

The Phoenix Fire Games Rewards program is based on the $100 model, but for every $100 you spend, you get 10% off on your next purchase. The website encourages you to load up and save, making sure that your 10% discount applies to a large purchase. On the surface it seems like a good system for someone who plans out an army and buys it all at once, with hobby supplies and odds and ends making up the initial $100 of purchases. It's not the 20% off + shipping that certain online retailers offer, but the online retailers can't offer a space to game and a local community of like-minded people. If you planned out your purchases, this program would probably work out a bit better than the Hobbytown program, but for multiple small purchases Hobbytown still offers the best deal locally. But Hobbytown doesn't really focus on gaming and has moved away from having games going on in the store, although the Hobbytown here in my town has a pretty active TCG group that takes over a large portion of the store on tournament days. They don't offer enough table space as the shop is quite small, so most of the games are played on the floors in the aisles, luckily away from the miniatures section of the store.

There were a fair number of people in the gaming area of the Phoenix Fire store today. It looked like they were mostly playing TCGs. I've purchased decks and cards for most of the major TCGs (Magic, World of Warcraft, Vs., Pokemon, probably some others), but the sheer number of cards and frequent releases overwhelms me a bit. I just can't process all of the stuff that's going on in most TCGs. Even when I was playing Heroclix, the sheer number of stats and abilities crushed my brain. The other guys who played seemed able to memorize every stat on every figure, but I never really mastered it. Anyway, there was a decent crowd in the shop and they all appeared to be having a good time. I saw one guy walking around with a Tyranid codex and a box of figures, but I didn't see anyone playing any miniature games. I didn't look too hard, though, and the event calendar says tonight was board game night. There could have been five games of Warhammer going on and I may have missed it.

One of the games on the shelves that  haven't seen elsewhere in town (I haven't been to All About Games recently) is Malifaux, the miniatures game by Wyrd Miniatures, It's a skirmish-level Steampunk/Fantasy game with an accompanying line of figures. I know it is a diceless game that relies on cards, but I don't know much else about it, aside from seeing the figures and reading about it on a few of the blogs I follow. To me, an uneducated observer, it appears to target the same sort of person who plays Warmachine/Hordes, which I categorize as a mix between a standard miniature wargame and a TCG. I don't think I'll buy into either system, but I can't say I haven't thought about it. I do hope that the shop runs a Warhammer or Warhammer 40k league around the time I get home from Iraq. I will try to support the shop, as it's the closest thing I've got to a local gaming-focused store.

01 March 2011

Phoenix Fire Games

Yesterday I stopped by a new gaming store in the area, Phoenix Fire Games. They are located just two or three blocks from our previous home, which would've been nice to have at the time. I don't know how often I would go there now, as there is a Hobbytown located just down the road from my house here in my new city. The new store seems to have a fairly active event schedule, which is something Hobbytown doesn't offer anymore.

The shop looked clean. It's a bit small, with a few gaming tables in the back. Not a lot of GW product, but I think D&D/Magic/WoW TCG/Board Games are their main focus. They do have a Warhammer Escalation League going now, but they are pretty far along in the cycle at the moment at 1750 points. They also run weekly D&D Encounters events, which would be nice to participate in, as getting a group of friends together for playing RPGs requires one to have at least three or four friends with matching blocks of free time. But store-run events don't require you to have friends at all. I guess we'll see what the shop is running when I get back home. An escalation league could be pretty fun.

One god thing they had was a few of the upcoming Orcs & Goblins releases on a shelf for customers to look at. I got to take a look at the Savage Orcs box and the Arachnarok Spider box, as well as flip through the pages of the new army book. The switch to hardcover is an obvious ploy to add ten dollars to the book price without offering anything new in terms of content. There's nothing in there that couldn't be done in the already ridiculously-priced softcover format, which has gone up by ten dollars in the last five years anyway. But I am a shameless fanboy, so I pre-ordered it. Most of the new units have been previewed elsewhere on the web, with the big spider and some sneaky Goblin assassin-types being the main new entries to the list. The only other new thing that really caught my eye was the Mangler Squigs, described as two really angry Squigs chained together and sent spinning into combat, sort of like Night Goblin Fanatics on crack. Hobbytown used to put new models in one of their display cases for people to look at before release, but I haven't seen anything there for a while.

The shop also carries a few boxes from the Lord of the Rings range, which is pretty cool, but also probably a money sink for them. I have really mixed feelings about the Lord of the Rings games from GW. The miniatures are, in my opinion, some of the best-looking figures out there. I like them a lot. I just have so many game systems going right now that it's hard to justify really going after this one, too. At my current rate, the backlog on my shelves will take me approximately 3,500 years to paint, and each box of figures will add another year to that total. Still, it is cool that they carry portions of the line.