Friday, April 30, 2021

Posing

I still practicing drawing. This week, I've been working on poses in an effort to work my way up to superheroes. 

Well, practice is practice. I'll get there someday. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review - The Lost Star by H. M. Hoover

Title: The Lost Star
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1979
Pages: 160 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

H. M. Hoover spent a lot of her time traveling from city to city in search of something. She apparently found it Virgina, where she settled down to write. Billed as a "young adult writer", her works are short and simple, and eye opening because they often feature worldviews and perspectives which could only those of a child. Exploration of the novel situations and realizations of discovery from the lens of the child's eye are her thing. 

Lian is a 15 year child of brilliant astronomers on expedition to Balthor. Her parents are researching a star projected to go nova, which gives Lian itchy feet. A voluntary supply run ends in a crash, and Lian finds herself in world much larger than she new existed. Rescued by archaeologists investigating ancient structures and strange creatures, Lian opens their eyes to incredible discoveries. 

As her discoveries mount, she enters a strange exchange with a machine-creature called The Counter and wild animals dubbed "Lumpies". The two are related. And her discoveries are all civilization altering, not just for humans but for other races on the expedition. Differences breed mistrust, but also kindness and compassion. 

Join Lian, Cuddles and Scotty on this wonderful adventure.

If you don't have a Kindle to read, why not pick one up? 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

DriveThruRPG Product Update: AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana

Letting the crazy run wild, I have updated my AD&D Character Sheet offering on DriveThruRPG. It now includes a second foldable character sheet with instructions on how to fold and staple this one page into a 20 page booklet. 


The booklet measures 2 1/4 by 4 and 1/4 inches. 

Just for the record, this is more for my amusement than anything else. As far as I know, there has been zero interest in a 20 page character sheet. I was using this exercise to learn how to use GIMP and Inkscape to layout pages. It is not the neatest project nor one that should be taken seriously. 

If you have order the original AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana, the new files will be available in your library as a free update. As per normal, I have not removed anything from this download. 80 of you have received emails. I would also like to thank all of you for supporting me. 

If you have not ordered my AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana, the product contains 1 great character sheet scanned from a document created back in the 80s or 90s. It is the standard for all of my character sheets since then. The product is PWYW and I encourage you to download it for free to make sure it works for your needs. If you like it, you can reorder later. 





Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In Praise of the 20 Page AD&D Character Sheet

So this is how I amuse myself. I made a 20 page character sheet from one sheet of paper. 


Let me tell you what a pain in the ass that was. Everything needed to be orientated correctly and having gotten it wrong twice, I realized I had it right the second time, but folded it wrong. 

Sigh. 

As soon as I get folding instructions done, I'll add it to my character sheet download at DriveThruRPG. It will strictly be a print and write on affair. I have no patience for PDF forms where some of the data is upside down. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Book Review - Another Heaven, Another Earth by H. M. Hoover

Title: Another Heaven, Another Earth
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1981
Pages: 224 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Helen Hoover was born in 1935, in Ohio. Her family home's basement that was dug back when Thomas Jefferson was president. From that humble beginning, she hopped from Los Angeles to New York City to finally land in Virginia. From 1973 to 1995, she wrote 16 published books. 

Another Heaven, Another Earth takes place on Xilan, a planet far from Earth. The crew of the Kekelu find it to be an idyllic place for potential colonization. Except for one problem. The colonists of Xilan had been there for over 500 years. Alerted by The Cube, a centuries old device of unknown origin, the healer Gareth stumbles on to the Kekelu's survey teams throwing their corporate colony venture into chaos. 

The crew of the Kekule struggle to discover the source of Gareth's people, research their devolved technology and question how they came to be abandoned while fighting disease and infection brought on by this unusual first contact situation. 

Gareth's people are revolted by the spacemen's attitude of superiority and treatment of the "primitives", seeing themselves not being "devolved" but survivors and masters of their world. Families struggled against the challenges of a new world while retaining what knowledge they could of the past.   

Hoover pulls no punches with this classic story of first contact while successfully weaving a story that resists time by resisting the typical technobabble of the 1980s. Due to this lack of technobabble, aside from the one mention of film, the book avoids all the tropes that would date it. 

While written for the young adult audience, it is wonderful story for people of all ages. 

Pick up a digital copy at Amazon.com. 

Or try it for free with a Kindle Unlimited Plan. See the link below for plan details.
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
Or you could get this book as a part of one the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Kindle Unlimited Memberships offer access to 1 million book titles like Another Heaven, Another Earth, or current magazines and Audible Narration for your books. Best yet, it offers a 30 day trial so you can test it out before you buy.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

To Traveller or Not to Traveller

I've got my hands full. A moment ago, I had $100 Amazon gift card. Now I have a reading list.


I've shared both Rick Wayne's series before and Mike and Shell "Presto" DeBaggio's books before. Probably a couple of times. Generally, I have a plan. 

What do these two series have to do with one another? 

My winter posting series will be about superhero games, Marvel Superheroes to be exact. I'll be reviewing all three series of books as they have inspired me to select this topic for my winter post series.  

Today, I'd like to talk about H. M. Hoover's books. Helen Mary Hoover (1935 to 2018) was an American children's writer. 

Or was she? 

I'm not a child and I enjoy these books. The Delkon is my favorite. They are slightly more mature than C. S. Lewis or Tolkien. And many of them are science fiction themed. It occurs to me that many would make a excellent setting for the Traveller ruleset. 

Why? 

Because as "children books" they don't have much violence. The potential is there but it never seems to get that bad. Which is great when you're using Traveller rules. 

Gunfire is deadly... very deadly. I think this is my hangup with the ruleset and since I would like to learn to play, I need to learn "To Violence Or Not To Violence". I didn't think of that, I totally stole it from SAFCOcast. Episode 23 to exact. I've listened to this one episode like 3 times and the more I listen, the more I think H. M. Hoover's settings would be perfect for the Traveller game system. 

The tech is there. The potentiality of a quick and final end when violencing is there. The not so obvious or completely obvious solution is there. It's built into the atmosphere of the setting. Ms, Hoover does an excellent job of hiding whether or not the solution is going to be the tricky one or the obvious one.  

Traveller has a very different science fiction atmosphere than what I am used to participating in. It seems to live in that space between tricky and obvious, with violence leading to just one of many obvious solutions. Other obvious solutions is tailoring responses to skills and talents of the players. It places far more emphasis on all of the skills available rather than just the ones that give immediate results. 

As I amble my way down to Traveller way, I'm gonna read a few books before I give it another try. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Go Nuts!

Well, it's one of those days. Explosive creativity with little or no focus. In my last post, I shared the images I used to highlight my series posts. Not only did that involve Inkscape, it required Bluefish for html editing. I just need 5 more and I'll be done. I can do that another time. Can't stop now to finish something. 

I ran to the store for stuff for dinner. Before I left, I painted a panel of wood for a photographic background for my model series.

When I got home, the background was dry. So, I took some photos using a single lamp. It's not how I will do it when I launch this series, but I wanted quick results. No need to get all fancy with tiny details like using the correct lighting. 

I edited the photos down to web sized chunks. (For my own future sanity, I cropped each 2520 x 1800 then halved the resolution so they be 1260 by 900.)  

I took pictures of 3 unpainted ships and decided I needed some color. 



Well, that wasn't good enough. So I photographed an X-Wing toy. 

But that wasn't my paint job. I haven't painted figures in years. Since I had the paint out, I slapped some on a few mechs. Little details mostly, because I can't focus for more than a few minutes. 



Eh, whatever. It's just a few pictures, nothing important. 

My wife was listening to Dave Matthews Band which gave me an idea. I'd edit some album covers, for lord knows what reason. Perhaps to sell her on the idea that I need a vinyl cutter.

Not bad. I need some sort of vinyl cutter so I can do something with these. Because records are vinyl and these are images of records.

Yup. It all makes perfect sense. 




After that, I made dinner. Chicken and broccoli stir fry. I figured since I was at it, I'd make my special "dog fry" which is chicken scraps, a dash of rice and broccoli for the dog. Dogs can't eat onions or garlic, so this is a safe way to make her something special as a treat. 

I decided to add in a mix of water chestnuts, onions, celery and carrots. Sure, I'd have to go back to the store, but why not? I love that stuff. 

I had the cutting board out, I decided to treat myself with riced cauliflower. Since I was playing safe with the dog, riced cauliflower is better for me than rice. I chopped it all by hand. Riced cauliflower is great because I can't eat rice. I'm diabetic. 

Oh, shhhhiii....  I forgot one thing today. I didn't check my blood sugar after lunch. Hmm.

Yeah, I didn't notice that until I caught myself cooking, praying and talking to my son who is currently half a country away in Texas. That is classic automatism, when the body acts on it's own. It's pretty rare in diabetics, occuring in the tiny window between sanity and coma. 

Yeah... the little details. 

This is what I was fighting last year about this time. Nice to know things don't change. 













New Logos

Many years ago, I decided every post needed some artwork. It's more interesting that way. The other day, I decided that all series need a logo. I have only three built, but here they are. 





Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Post 1000ish: Review of Myst

Title: Myst
Publisher: Broderbund
Developers: Cyan, Inc.
Author: Rand and Robyn Miller
Year: 1993
OS: Macintosh

I lucked out in having a computer or two since 1980. I purchased a Timex Sinclair with the 8 k extended memory for the outrageous price of $126.00. It was so expensive at the time, I financed it and made 12 payments of $12.25.16.6% interest! Not bad for a kid financed entirely shoveling snow and mowing lawns. I needed mom's help. Every month I gave her $12.25 in cash and she wrote a check for me.  

With everything going into the basic cost of the computer, I had to beg my parents to buy me software. A lot of times, I had to settle for going to the library for books on programing and a blank tape for storage. In 1981, the film War Games sparked my imagination as to what computers could be.  

A little over a decade later, I discovered a game that embraced both limitations and imagination to amazing effect. 

Myst.

You're the protagonist in a story that isn't told but shown. The limits of the then modern day Macintosh allowed for spectacular images, but only just an image. One at a time. Plus a bit of sound. To do this, the Rand Brothers tweaked the hell out of their hardware and software, even stripping down the color palettes to capitalize on the Mac's meager specs. Better than everything else on the market but still limited to handful of hertz and less than a half dozen megs of RAM.  

Gorgeous images told the story of a family shattered by envy, power and pride. Using the linking books, you search for the pages that will restore Sirrus, Achenar, and Atrus, whoever they might be. Catherine, the wife of Atrus and the mother of Achenar and Sirrus appears only via a note. You have no idea what is happening and what needs to be done. Your quest takes you to different worlds called "Ages" to recover the pages. 

Each Age, named Selenitic, Stoneship, Mechanical, and Channelwood contains puzzles to be solved. The mechanic of the game required at least two puzzles, one to progress in the game and a second so you may return to Myst Island. Travel between Ages required a book written to describe that age. Open the book and see the Age. Touch the page and enter the Age. To return, you need to find the linking book hidden within the Age. Ingenious.   

Game mechanics were limited to clicks. Nothing else. Move? Click. Actions? Click. 

Pure and simple. Easy? Hell, no. 

While the execution is simple, the hardware had just enough umph for a wonderful musical score plus tiny postage stamp size videos, which when they appeared were like magic. Puzzles were challenging but not insane or click-hell. 

The requirements of the game also allowed for very creative storytelling. There is no clock, no death, no violence, and no enemies. Yet the nature of the game caused tension. This is the fusion of art and storytelling at it's finest.  

This 28 year old game was the reason I started blogging. I wanted to make a fan site for this game. You'll notice there are no stars assigned to this review. How could I assign stars to something that provoked 10 plus years of work, hundreds of posts exploring the nature of play and entertainment. 


As a corollary to this review, gave my oldest son Paul a set of hardcover Myst novels I obtained from Amazon. As former library books, they were cheap. But my son claimed that made them more special. 

"These books have passed through many hands. They were loved my many people and loved by me." He was 10 and that was more eloquent that I could be. And it was true. 
 

For his 11th birthday, he asked for Amazon gift cards. 

"I want some books. I need books." 

So, his grandparents, aunt and godmother, and my wife and I gave him Amazon gift cards. And he got the books he loved so much. 

He ordered a complete set of Myst soft covered books. When I questioned this purchase he explained, "The little books are Linking Books. You need them both to succeed." 

To say that this one game has shaped many parts of my life would be an understatement. 

The world of Myst has expanded greatly, but these links are a start if you are interested. 

Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages
of MYST and Beyond from
DriveThruRPG


Sunday, April 18, 2021

This Is Not Post 999


This is not post 999. 

This whole blogging thing started back in 2011. I wanted to create a blog about the game MYST. Check out this link to The Wayback Machine to my first website called Pretender to the Power


Back then I had some goals that are still a driving force on this current iteration of my blog. I had an update section, a piece on artwork, models and figurines, a planned section for music which never really got off the ground, a movie review section which I only tangentially touch on for These Old Games, computer write ups, and plans to add more.

A decade later, many or most of these ideas still drive me. A little over 10 years of practice has lead me to over a thousand blog posts when you count all of the stuff lost over the various iterations of this blog. 

So, this is not 999. It's more. And it will continue to be more. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review - The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition

Title: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019
Pages: 65 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is designed for Labyrinth Lord as part of the Back to Basic series. Originally, it started as a joke on everything Pumpkin Spice themed. It roughly follows the other books in the series, with the exception of some level limits for non-human characters. 

This is my favorite of the series. While not entirely tongue in cheek, it's a fun read. In my mind, it comes across like the film A Knight's Tale. Popular culture is mixed up and presented in a timeless way. The idea of harvest, fall and Halloween is in this products DNA, but in a way which would detract from a series Dungeons and Dragons experience. Yes, there are jokey bits, but they are well thought out so they don't break the theme of D&D. If you like Angel or Buffy, these details will be right up your alley. 

This particular set calls out Labyrinth Lord but readers will find that it is a nice addition to any basic era game such as BlueHolme or the Red box set. With a little adaption, this book could be plugged into a great many rule sets like AD&D. The author specifically mentions a desire for this title to be cross-compatible, but noted they didn't make that the focus of this work. I suspect that Mr. Brannan wanted this book to cover a far wider range of game systems than I am familiar with using. Even if it doesn't go there, it's still a rock solid offering. 

Usually when I do a review, I mention the artwork. This product is loaded with artwork. I didn't count, but it seems like every other page or every third has something. In this book, most of the artwork is quarter page and inline with the text, rather that being placed in the centerline like 3.5 books. Again, like the subject matter the book, the artwork has a gothic summer turned autumn feel. 

Somehow, this version of the witch character class feels old, but not too old. It invokes a pleasant feeling of Deja Vu of my college days, when game night also featured a movie or TV before or after. That feeling of people just out to get together and have fun. 

Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works. 

The Tek - Stats for March 2021

EDIT - Even more confusion to the mix. I figured out why my stats looked wrong. Google Analytics pulled half the data from 2020 and half from 2021. I have no idea how that happened. I've updated this post with accurate webstats now. Sorry about that. 

March was a confusing month. I tripled the number of downloads from DriveThru in a month where I removed the direct links from the sidebars of my website. 

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana: 2
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting: 3
Kobold's Folly: 1
Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D: 2
These Old Games Presents: The Hex Pack: 2
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners: 4

I've decided how I am going to change The Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D. It will be renamed "The Character Pack for D&D and AD&D" and I will place all of my home brewed characters in it. They will get the same treatment as my Unicorn Character Class and be bundled together. The price will remain the same, PWYW. 

I am looking at the Monomach, Hoodlum and Unicorn class right now for cleanup. I am thinking I will do a 3 page write up for each and make them their own "booklets". The Swashbuckler will have two booklets, the original and a new tweaked version based on character play.

The deadline is "I don't know". 



Webstats felt very good but also perplexing. I am way down, so I don't get it. 

Google Analytics Pageviews - 805
Google Analytics Sessions - 533
Pageviews per Session - 1.53

Back in Dec-Jan. someone pointed out my commenting system was locked up. By unlocking it, I have a lot more guests posting and commenting. 

My other goal for March and April is to give my series posts logos. Disneyified logos like so: 



At least the most recent series: Star Wars, Keep on the Borderlands and Peninsula of Plenty. Right now I have zero time for session play, but this summer I think I will have time. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Boastful History - Julius Caesar

History is loaded with entertaining and surprising stories. Some of them are just as interesting as movies are now-a-days. 

Today, I like to share the story by Plutarch of Chaeronea about Young Julius Caesar and the Pirates. 

The Romans were never the greatest sailors so piracy was rampant in the Mediterranean. It didn't help that the pirates would take prisoners and sell them to the Romans, so they very people who should have put a stop to the practice were instead benefiting from the pirate's activities. At least in the short run. 

The Cilicians were a group of pirates allied to Mithradates of Pontus, an enemy nation. The Cilicians would ransom the rich prisoners and sell the poor as slaves, which is evidence of the often short sightedness of the Romans. They were filling the coffers of Mithradates and damaging their own citizens when purchasing slaves or buying freedom. 

Enter a 25 year old Julius. He was taken captive in 75 BC. The pirate captain demanded a ransom of 20 talents for the return of Julius. Julius laughed. He demanded that they ask for no less that 50. The captain, of course, agreed. 

So began 38 days of wackiness. Julius joined the crew in their duties, cleaning and maintaining the ship. He organized games and physical contests with the pirates. He wrote poems and presented them to the crew. If crew didn't recognise his great work, he'd call them illiterate and threaten to hang* them. The same threat was issued if the pirates were too loud while he was sleeping. 

After 38 days, the ransom was paid and Julius was set free. 

Julius raised a fleet of ships and captured the Cilician pirates as they sat anchored at the city of Miletus. The pirates were all taken captive and marched before the Governor of Asia, a man named Marcus Junius for punishment. Junius hemmed and hawed about punishing the pirates as they were a source of revenue. 

Annoyed, Julius marched the pirates out to the coast and had them all hung*.

It sounds like the bit in the Princess Bride about Dread Pirate Roberts and Wesley, from a different perspective. If you assume they are the same story, Wesley becomes a different sort of character. Very often, historical stories like this make their way into my campaigns. 

*Hanging as a Roman punishment meant crucifiction. Romans wouldn't bother with rope if they meant to strangle someone. They'd use their hands. Strangulation fell between crucifixion and defenestration, throwing a person off a building or cliff. The Romans codified everything. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Good Finds for the Gaming Garden

I had epic luck today. I found a bunch of things for my gaming garden. 

First up, solar lights. 

The flower shaped ones are from the Dollar Store. The really bright ones are from Ollies. I paid about $21 for 13 of them. I have no intention of leaving them in the raised bed, I'll probably arrange them around the hot tub and along the back of the garden. 

The raised bed is almost complete, I need to put up a center rail and some screens or chicken wire to protect the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil and thyme from the bunnies. The goal is canning pickles and gardenia all from my own garden. 

I should have done cauliflower, onions and hot peppers, but I am out of space. This bed is 4 feet by 8 and everything that can go on trellises will. The problem is, I have 52 seedlings ready to go. 

That is where the garden hooks and random pots come in. I want the herbs to come inside at the end of the growing season, so I'll need to put them in pots. That covers about 12 plants. I figure I can squeeze 24 plants into the raised bed. I want to grow some under the arrowwood tree, which will be another 2. I need to find space for 14 more plants. 

I went a little crazy. 

In other news, I picked up a great book for a dollar. Swords' Masters is an omnibus by Fritz Leiber including three novels: 

Swords Against Wizardry (1968),
The Swords of Lankhmar (1968),
and Swords and Ice Magic (1968).

He is one of my favorite writers and I can't believe what a great deal I got on this hardcover. The cover is a bit... 80s? I don't know. The stories are better than the cover art, so I'll ignore it. I guess you now know what are the next three books I review will be. 

You can pick a copy up at Amazon for less than 15 bucks. 

My final find was a length of rope. What adventurer doesn't have some rope? This one is in blue so I don't hit it with the lawnmower. The dog was very excited when I cobbed together a lead for her out of it. She loves being outside and will probably be a part of game night in the garden. 



New Mutants - Review

Title: The New Mutants (2020)
Publisher: 20th Century Studios
Year: 2020
Rating: 2 of 5 stars.

I've been a long time fan of The New Mutants. The idea of seeing the characters come to life on the big screen got me really excited. 

Until I saw it. This damn film has been to Limbo more times than Illyana has. It was not worth the wait, it seems to suffer from some sort of technovirus in addition to many questionable story and plot choices. 

Here is the run down of the character's names and powers: 

Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. A mutant that can take the form of a wolf or a transitional human/wolf form. She has all of the sense of wolves plus more strength and perhaps a healing factor. 

Sam Guthrie, Cannonball. Can generate thrust anywhere on his body to propel himself through the air. While thrusting, he is impervious to anything. He does not have a healing factor. 

Roberto "Bobby" da Costa, Sunspot. Bobby has the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to empower himself with great strength, invulnerability and flames. 

Danielle "Dani" Moonstar, Mirage. Dami has the ability to project people's greatest fears and make them real. Historically, she not good at nicknames. Not only has her character changed her own code name in the comics several times, she doesn't even use other people's code names. A rare inversion of the "movie stars have no comic book codenames" trope. 

And finally, Illyana Rasputin. Magik. Oh, boy. She's a sorceress with a magic sword, the ability to teleport, partial body armor, a tail, and a baby dragon. 

There are only three other characters, Dani's dad, the Demon Bear and the evil doctor Dr. Cecilia Reyes who can make force shields.   

The film does a variable job at depicting the character's powers on a budget. The effects were on-par with Ready Player One which is not a complement. Ready Player One was a massive mashup of decades worth of video game art which works in that film. It isn't great for other film types like The New Mutants.  

The whole premise of the movie didn't make sense. The kiddos are trapped or staying a hospital for mutants. The hospital had a staff of one, Dr. Reyes. 

Now, I've had a bit of experience working with kids and young adults. The first rule of these sorts of operations are two deep leadership. If you are not using two deep leadership, you're an imbecile. Dr. Reyes is an imbecile, she's trying keep the kiddos in the hospital all alone. Sam, Bobby and Rahne have given themselves over to the idea of staying. That kind of works. Dani is uncertain as to what is happening, leaving her open to staying or escaping as the chance presents. That doesn't go well at all. 

The final character, Illyana has something else going on. She's a mass murderer and can teleport. Why is she still here, if not to kill everyone else in the film? And she definitely hates everyone, in a nasty, condescending, racist way.  

As far depicting superpowers, they did a good job for a few of the characters. Sam's blasting ability was a great special effect. Dani and Rahne power's appear reasonable well done, magic and werewolves are classic B-movie fodder. They couldn't have done this poorly if they had tried. I think they tried. Bobby's abilities were just ho-hum. Illyana's powers come off as a cheap video game most of the time for no good reason. 

Magik has the most wide ranging abilities, each with a vast scope. But they attempted to confine her character in tight spaces, like either Nightcrawler in the Oval Office or Captain America in the elevator. It was not a good choice because she has a massive frickin' sword. It looks like she can't fit in those spaces. When she gets out the open, they do a far better job at displaying her powers but by that time they had already decided on the video game style which wasn't applicable to the filming process.

Far too much time was spent on Rahne, who is a the most likeable character in the film but not the protagonist. They were one step away from having "The Wolfsbane Movie" and failed to make it. That would have been better than this, even if it was called, "A Werewolf in Starbucks". 

My favorite bit was everytime Sam used his powers. He displays these brilliant blue/orange shimmery flames like charcoal on the grill which is an amazing play on his character. Sam comes from a mining family, so the reflection of coal in his powers is pure awesome. 

Magik was shown trying to knock the Demon Bear into Limbo. It made perfect sense since she couldn't win in straight combat, but this tactic was negated by the strange video game special effects. It was kind of hard to tell that was her intent rather than random flashy scenery. The Demon Bear was awesome and terrifying, but the viewer shouldn't be rooting for the villain. 

All and all, I give it one and half stars of five. (EDIT -- On rewatching, I've decided that Rahne and Sam merit a star on their own, so two-ish stars) Maybe you should read my 5 star review of Dungeons and Dragons (2000) to evaluate how not good this was.  

Now showing on HBOMax, but you could wait a bit longer. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Game Review - Home Worlds

Title: Home Worlds
Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: John Cooper
Artist:  OTHER Studio
Year: 2020
Pages: 32
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first page of the instruction sheet sums it up: "What Chess is to medieval warfare, Homeworlds is to Star Trek and Star Wars." 

Yup. 

This game is fascinating. You're off to fight an interstellar war against an opponent, manage resources, planets and ships with just 4 types of game pieces. Insane, but it works. This is one of many games by Looney Labs which use the Looney Pyramids. The game includes 36 pyramids of differing sizes and colors, a board for the bank, the rule book and a token to indicate which player's turn it is. 

Star Systems are indicated by an upright pyramid. Ships are indicated by a pyramid lying on it's side, your ships a;ways point away from you. Enemy ships point towards you. When a system is explored, a new upright pyramid is placed from the bank. When all ships leave a system, that planet is placed back in the bank. 

Movement is simple. You can only move to stars of different sizes. Stars of the same size are not connected and travel is blocked. A binary star, two stars in one system is connected to stars that do not match either of the two star sizes. 

Each player picks a color and builds their home world with a binary star and one large ship. The colors you choose at the start of the game controls your choices later on, so choose carefully. All of a sudden, your opening choices create puzzles to be solved by you. Color and size of the play pieces represent different options and limitations. 

Players choose from a Basic Action, a Sacrifice action which puts a pyramid back in the bank or a "pass". Passing your turn isn't optimal at the start but I am told that no action might be the best option later in the game. There is a forced action called a Catastrophe when the players place 4 of the same color pieces in the same star system. 

Each color means something: 

Green=Build
Red=Fight
Yellow=Move
Blue=Trade


Pretty simple? No. 

Size also determines what each piece can do. It all gets very complex very fast. 

These simple rules create a very rich system of game play. One of the nicer aspects of the game is it assumes loopholes in the rules will allow a player to create actual logical loops in play which may seem like cheating, but are merely built in options which may or may not be useful based on the pieces in play. This also makes the bank behave as a "third actor" in a two person game. What is in the bank creates or limits options. 

There are 3 win options, destroy all of your enemy's ships, destroy his or her home world or force your opponent into causing a Catastrophe in their home system. There are also a draw  and deadlock conditions which result in a tie. 

I've only played 10 or 20 times and not always to completion, but the rule set is so ingenious, it keeps pulling me back for more. I really want to master this system and Home Worlds. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Models Bandai 002 X Wing Starfighter 1:144 Scale - 001

My first go at documenting the build process for the Bandai 002 X Wing Starfighter in 1:144 Scale. 

These models are remarkably tiny and detailed. The beauty of these things are the plastic quality is high as is the craftsmanship. The sprues are designed in such a way that after trimming, there is very little sanding or smoothing. 

Every part is so tiny. But Bandai designed these kits with keyed parts. The keys prevent you from placing the wrong piece in the wrong place. One word of warning. If you dry fit some of the pieces, they are very, very hard to get apart. Just skip dry fitting. 

I'm decades out of practice, so mistakes were made. I'll detail those last. 

1 / 11
Laying out the first wing
2 / 11
Engine detail
3 / 11
The mess
4 / 11
Wing with one engine
5 / 11
Second engine
6 / 11
Wing 2 with both engines
7 / 11
Wings ready
8 / 11
The X in X-Wing
9 / 11
Close S-foils
10 / 11
Main body
11 / 11
Done!


A few details were hard to work on. Those two wings snap together on a pivoting hinge. It requires a lot of force on a tiny model. I found I couldn't do it with my hands and no tool seemed correct. I end up using a pencil sharpener by lining up the hole in the sharpener with the center of the hinge and pressing down hard. 


It worked so well that I added that little sharpener to my tool box. 

Now, the mistake. 


This image should have been a clue. That pivoting hinge runs down the back half of the main body. Somehow, I missed getting the hinge in the back hole which supports it. It felt right. 

Yeah, no. As you can see the wings don't close. Nor do they open all the way. They have a springy feel to them and the right side engine naucell presses against the side of the body. Taking pictures at a jaunty angle hides the mistake, but I'm going to give this model another go. 


(I might try the freezing technique to break the glue and refit it. We'll see.)