Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review - Honor Among Outlaws

Welcome back faithful readers, today I am going to take you on a bit of a trip away from the regular DTP fare. It has been over 3 years since my last book review and this book is a great way to jump back into that earlier practice. Over the next couple weeks I am going to go back and update the labels on the earlier book reviews to add the "book-review" label so these are easier to find. I'm also planning to start writing some regular book reviews for the blog, interspersed with the variety of other topics I am discussing.

That brings us to whats on the table today. Honor Among Outlaws is a new book I was blessed and privledged to be sent a preview copy to review. This is a new book not only along the lines of "newly published" but also a first on multiple fronts:
  • First book published under the Winged Hussar imprint Zmok Books
  • First book written in the Wild West Exodus alternate history 
  • First book written/published for author Craig Gallant
On recieving this book the very kind folks at Winged Hussar/Zmok Books sent along the following blurb: 
In an alternate history twisted through the evil influence of strange, mysterious creatures, the greatest figures of American history battle for dominance and control of a war-torn nation. High tech machines and weapons dominate the land as the world changes daily with each new invention.  Amidst this clash of giants, two lone outlaws, Jesse James and William ‘Billy the Kid’ Bonnie, strive for recognition and their share of the glory, struggling for their place on the national stage.

Craig Gallant has written fiction for several game companies and is the author of the comic published by Outlaw Miniatures for Wild West Exodus.  He co-hosts the internationally renowned gaming podcast, “The D6 Generation” available on i-tunes and on the website: and you can follow his blog at

Wild West Exodus is a game set in an alternative history of the US following the period of the American Civil War.  It is focused in the old west where Native Americans, outlaws and what is let of authority battle it out for control of the territories.  More information can be found at .

Zmok Books is an imprint of Winged Hussar Publishing, LLC dedicated to action, adventure and imagination.  It currently published books focusing on science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery.  Winged Hussar Publishing publishes books on military history from ancient times to the modern day for students of history and history students.  More information can be found at
 Let me provide a little background before diving into my overall review of the book itself. I familiarized myself with the Wild West Exodus "world/alternate history" last year when they ran a successful kick-starter. This game provides a "Weird West" feel similar to Firefly, but based in the setting of post US Civil War wild west. I was very excited when I heard that Craig was writing the back story for the game and this excitement carried over to hearing he would be writing a novel series as well. Followers of this blog are likely aware that I am a voracious reader with a variety of interests. My previous book reviews were on Black Library books which are primarily written in a "sandbox fiction" setting. Honor Among Outlaws (HAO) would be a new author writing in a new "sandbox fiction" setting. My expectations were set for a book that was a little rough (he is a new author) with what I would describe as a "pulp" style action story. I was expecting lots of action, little to moderate character development, and some exciting scene's that I would read through fairly quickly.

I wrote my previous reviews on the blog primarily for books written by Gav Thorpe and ADB. I chose these books because those two authors "broke the mold" I was expecting from the "sandbox fiction" they wrote. Their writing surpassed my general expectations for the genre and they provided excellent character development and story building, surpassing the typical genre writing. I have to add Craig Gallant to this list of writers as one I will watch in the future, as he achieves the same level of writing in HAO. This surpassed my expectation for typical "sandbox fiction" while simultaneously delivering a novel that feels like its written by a writer with more experience than someone's first published novel. In my experience this does not happen often and I applaud Craig on his work!

HAO introduces us to the world of Wild West Exodous (WWX) through the eyes of the infamous outlaw Jesse James. The story does a very good job of immersing us into the pseudo-sci-fi world of WWX while simultaneously introducing us to the bad ass outlaw leader himself. Gone are the expected wild west hallmarks of bullets, gunpowder, and horses and we are quickly introduced to the RJ-1027 (read secret and mysterious technology) blasters and gravity defying hover bikes. This immersion is handled elegantly, leaving enough questions out there to cause the reader to want to learn more but filling in enough holes that nothing feels forced. No where did I find myself scratching my head in confusion, the technical changes flowed naturally, allowing me to just accept the changes in the world while still feeling comfortable it was a world I knew. I especially enjoyed the "remember when we used to ride horses" discussions that came through a number of times in the book. These types of conversations not only helped flesh out the personality of the characters but also softened the immersion into this alternate history.

Jesse James is a sarcastic bad ass character and this comes through very quickly in the story. I really enjoy these types of characters and was a little concerned at the start of the book where the sarcasm felt a little forced to me. The criticism is a little hard to pin down, as I would describe it as the character being sarcastic but not sardonic. I realize these are synonyms but hopefully you understand where I am heading here. I have to point out that this impression smooths our a great deal as I reached the middle of the book and Jesse James became a fully established character in my mind and in the story.

Many new writers have issues with presenting fully fleshed out characters, often providing more of a "2-D cutout" character opposed to a "3-D" one. Craig did an excellent job avoiding this trap, not only fully realizing Jesse James as a well rounded character (flaws, strengths, doubts, dreams, and all) but going further to provide a real feeling for the primary supporting characters in the story. There are very few "2-D cutout" characters in the story and when those show up they are always shorter-term supporting characters where the level of detail is appropriate to their role in the story.


Overall I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Craig Gallant and more from the WWX "sandbox".  I only had two criticism overall in the book, which itself speaks to how good this book is.

Criticism #1 - I mention above the sarcasm displayed by Jesse James in the start of the book. This came across a little stilted or forced during the early chapters. This smoothed out a great deal as I reached the middle of the book and disappeared completely by the end. It's a minor criticism and something I likely pick up on as I really enjoy these types of characters.

Criticism #2 - I will not spoil the end of the book but the final chapters left me in a situation where I come to 2 differing opinions. The very nature of "sandbox fiction" limits the full extent of what an author can do within their story. An author writing Star Wars fiction cannot just kill off or maim Darth Vader too early. An author writing for 40K cannot have the Emperor jump off his Golden Throne and do a jig. Likewise there are limits on what Craig can do with this story. The end of the book leaves me with two paths to what happened.
  • Path #1 provides the basis for what could become one of the most devious, menacing, and downright interesting villains in a book series. 
  • Path #2 has Craig setting up an epic finale to his first novel and then running into the immovable "sandbox" wall and having to tap out in favor of maintaining the sandbox integrity. 
Considering there are 2 more novels coming I hold out for the first path, but can see where some readers will get the impression Path #2 is the reality. We will not know for sure until we see where the series is taken next, but I am worried that there is a different author for book 2.

Honor Among Outlaws is due for release on October 22, 2013. I strongly recommend this book and believe you will truly enjoy the plunge into the story!!

**For those that are interested, I will be posting an audio book review as part of the Gamers Lounge - No Gamer Left Behind segment in the next couple weeks. I will update this article when that's recorded and released.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Passing Interest and Amusement

Sometimes you just have to sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch the show.......

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Views and Surprises from Gencon regarding Malifaux / M2E

What an long title this blog post has, but I am a bit lazy to change it and it is fitting for my article. Yup, I am delving back into some views and thoughts on Malifaux and M2E, so if your already bored with those then move along. At this point I am picking up new games but still very interested in watching the whole Malifaux spectacle unfold as well. Apparently I am not the only one as there are reports from Gencon that I (little ol' me) was still a primary topic of conversation originating from the Wyrd employees. I find that both flattering and a little surprising, as I was not even there and yet there are people who still enjoy discussing the topic of me. Strike that, I find it very flattering....

Anyway, this is not an article to talk about me, but instead some of the other news and discoveries that came back from Gencon. Let's start by talking about Malifaux Terrain. There was a fair amount of talk about the "increase" in terrain requirement in M2E from Malifaux over the past couple months. Most people felt this was a good move, although there has been some concern from and about LGS's having enough appropriate terrain for the new requirements. Malifaux has always been a fairly terrain intensive game, especially when compared to the "typical" tournament set-ups for WM/H and some of the GW games. Terrain plays an important role in the game and as a TO for a variety of large events I have been on the recieving end of "Not enough Terrain" complaints.

I was very excited when I heard that this year Wyrd had tasked Mack and Justin with building the boards that would be used at the Gencon events. I am confident that it was the whole office who spent time building out the boards, as even 16 boards is a lot for 2 people to build in a couple weeks. This was great news because the Malifaux Community could be confident that the boards would be built to specifications for the appropriate amount of terrain on a tournament board, as viewed by the developers of M2E. Even more exciting for event organizers, there would be some definitive answers for what the appropriate amount of terrain would be for future tournaments. The past 2 years Gencon has always been a scramble to build out as much scatter terrain as possible from Terraclips sets provided to volunteers and employees the day before the convention.

This is a picture of one of the Gencon boards, described as typical for the Malifaux tables at Gencon 2013.  It's not a bad looking board, keeping with both some terraclips and having a Malifaux feel to it with the train tracks and some scattered trees. Overall I am a fair bit surprised that this is the typical board for a Malifaux game however. I truly expected more coverage on the board overall, and more terrain provided to block line of sight and firing lanes across the board.

On comparison to previous years Gencon boards, I think this strikes somewhere in the middle of what was built in 2011 and 2012. In 2011 the Gencon boards were pretty sparse in coverage overall, which drew some fairly critical comments from the players and the spectators of the events. I grabbed one of my pictures from 2011 for comparison, this being a board I actually played on during the Masters of Malifaux tournament. You can see that some effort was put into creating interesting terrain from the terraclips but there was no where near enough to really meet the requirements for Malifaux.

The boards at Gencon 2012 are on the other side of the spectrum from what we have at 2013. There is more scatter terrain and a couple of larger pieces that blog LOS across the board. The concerted effort to increase and improve the terrain coverage from Gencon 2011 can be seen here, although these tables still drew some criticism overall as being too sparse in places and providing a few too many firing lanes for ranged crews. The criticism was more of a mixed bag from the participants, down to a couple boards where players in earlier events had moved terrain and the judges had not caught it. In the picture you can get a look at two of the boards, one with a bit more terrain on it constructed from a large center piece and then smaller scatter terrain, and then the second board with a greater number of individual pieces.

The boards this year (Gencon 2013) are a further surprise to me when I compare them to what we use at Adepticon. To be fair, Adpeticon is regularly complimented as an event with generally spectacular terrain, and Adepticon 2013 continued to strive to improve the Malifaux terrain year over year. The picture to the left is one of the "typical" tables of terrain at Adepticon this year, specifically one using more scatter terrain and less themed board. Compared to the new "official" Malifaux boards, Adepticon appears to use approximately twice the amount of terrain that the developers feel should be in the game.

There is certainly the consideration of travel required for Gencon, which may have impacted the types of boards that Wyrd provided. I have considered this, but have to discard that as a limitation that may have influenced the boards at Gencon toward less terrain. Over a third of the boards at Adepticon were brought to the convention from half way across the country (similar distance as Wyrd offices to Gencon) so the distance constraints are similar. I think the more important consideration is the Gencon boards compared to the "typical" board in a LGS, as thats where most players will be playing. I can only provide my own boards or pictures from other LGS hosted tournaments as comparison. I grabbed a "typical" board from one of the Victory Comic's events as comparison here.  That also appears to have more terrain than the recommended amount.

Overall, I expect that this change in the expected terrain will impact the game in a couple ways. First, I expect that overall players will just ignore the Gencon 2013 set-ups and continue to set-up the boards they want to play on. The second impact is a bit more insubstantial overall, as it will impact the development and balance of the game going forward. I think the most important aspect for future Malifaux players is that we (the community) now have a glimpse into how the developers feel the tables should be set-up, so we can gain some more understanding on how that terrain should/will impact the game and model balance. The board I see above has distinct advantages for ranged crews while minimizing some of the impact of both "swarm" crews and melee centric crews.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gencon 2013... WOOO HOOO

Well, Gencon 2013 has arrived and the family and I did not make it out this year. There were a number of reasons for this, not the least of which was delays in specific work payments (bonus's and such) and increased expenses overall this year. This year ends up with us sitting at home and not joining into the fun. I would have enjoyed going and meeting up with people, and would have even dipped my toes into one of the Malifaux Avatar's qualifiers since they will be some of the last Malifaux Classic tournaments run. I would have enjoyed taking a crack at going out at the top of the official wyrd tournaments.

That said, several companies provide their product's released at gencon as an early order online through their website. I was only really interested in two of those companies this year, as much of the stuff I will just pick up at my local store over the coming year. I did want to grab some stuff from Wyrd and from Outlaw Miniatures though.

Wyrd Miniatures

Wyrd had several new releases this year at gencon, including a small card game and a new board game plus some type of party game that just does not look like my "cup of tea". There was also the hallowed release of the official Malifaux V2 rules and several of the new plastic kits. Included in those kits were the annual Nightmare Special edition release models and the annual limited edition Miss model. I decided against the nightmare crew this year (Nightmare Tara) as it just did not seem overly impressive after I took a look at the models themselves. The Nightmare beast model just did not have the same impressive quality of Nightmare Chompy and the crew seemed to be missing the unique fluid nature of the Nightmare Justice box. Additionally it makes no real sense for me to grab the crew since it will be M2E only, so its not something I would be playing.

Then we come to the miss model. The only way to get the limited edition miss models is to purchase over $100 worth of product during Gencon. I have collected all the previous miss models, including the gremlenette that was released early on in Wyrd's gencon run. I like the looks of the miss models, well... I liked the look of the miss models. This years Miss Step is very appropriately named in my opinion. Simply put I do not feel it fits the overall model line nor does it fit my preference for models. Take a look at this picture I put together of the Miss models all together.

So, with my consideration that I was not interested in the Miss model this year, I had no pressure to try and get to $100 to get it. This was good as I am not sure I would have gotten there anyways. I would have been over had I added in the Rulebook and Rasputina plastic box set, but I am in no rush to get those and can wait for my LGS (Huzzah Hobbies) to get those in to pick them up. That said, I had a voucher from my last event as a Henchman and wanted to grab a couple things that I could get early. First I picked up the Ronin box set, as I really want to paint these girls up. The new models really remind me of the look in the movie Sucker Punch, and overall I am hoping the models match the renders fairly closely. 

I also decided to pick up the Death Marshal box set, as my coupon was valued higher than the Ronin box. I have a fairly large collection of Death Marshals currently, and I thought the new box would be a good addition. I really dislike the look of the "Dance a Jig" death marshal and am not very fond of the "Hop over the coffin" marshal, but I do like the look of the crouching marshal with the coffin on his back. I may even use the flaming head for him (if there are multiple heads in the box). To be fair, I am very much hoping for multiple heads, as I am not a fan of the flaming head motif, but I think it could look cool on one Marshal. This box will bring my DM collection to 12 Marshals including 3 original box, 1 extra "Coffin Opening", 2 Miss Terious's, 3 Dead Justice box, and now 3 Flaming Head marshals. Not bad overall.

 So, after tossing in a EBO Tin as a gift for some family friends, I was all ready to check out and get into the delivery queue of Gencon orders. I dug up the email with the SS Code and entered it in and then I had to sit back and laugh. The code did not work. This means that the code was either 1. Never activated, 2. Issued to someone else as well, or 3. Activated then deactivated since the beginning of June. I shot a quick email off to Wyrd to ask them to fix it for a future transaction, but the irony is amusing. I assume this is just some type of system mistake, but it would be truly amusing if after everything the Wyrd folk have dropped to the level of personal pettiness that they deactivated my last Henchman code as well. We will see!

Outlaw Miniatures

That brings me to my only other Gencon purchase in 2013. Outlaw Miniatures is the company behind Wild West Exodous which I supported on kick-starter and is due to ship later this year (September/October I believe). I have had the privileged of getting my hands on one of their limited edition models already (Outlaw Lady of the West to the left) and just received my second pre-release model, Sheriff Mick Ironclad. I will be getting Sheriff Mick painted up soon and am looking forward to it.  When the Outlaw Miniature folks announced that they would be releasing two new models for the line during Gencon, with limited amounts at Gencon and also available through the website, I was excited. I am not sure how much I will enjoy WWX, but I like what I have seen so far on the model aspect and hope the game holds up to the models when played in a skirmish setting.

So, WWX released two models during Gencon, Kyle the Black being one of them. Kyle the Black is part of the Enlightened faction and works as a "sidekick", one of the more powerful named models that would be used in the skirmish portion of the game. He has a very 40K look to me, which I feel is fitting as he is heavily based and modeled around the likeness of one of the 40K Radio hosts. Kyle the podcast host is one of the employees of Battle Foam and works closely with the Outlaw Miniatures folks as well. I really like the way the model looks and it makes me chuckle to recognize his likeness in the model. I can only hope I do the model justice when I paint it up.

The second model that was released strikes me as heavily inspired by the Lone Ranger. Knowing that Romeo has previously grabbed ideas from other movies as inspiration for models in WWX, this does not surprise me with the proximity to the Lone Ranger movie recently in theaters. US Marshall McClain will be able to be played in both the Outlaw and the Lawmen factions within the game. This type of Dual Faction strategy worked well for Malifaux when it was introduced and I like that it is being used here. I think that picking up a small set of models (he is the only one currently) to give the ability to can provide some nice flavor to specific models in the game. I am very excited to get him and paint him up, as I really like the overall look of the model.

Final Thoughts on 2013 purchases

So, that's it for my Gencon 2013 spending. Some people know of the fairly extravagant spending on product I have done in the past, specifically over the past 2 years with Wyrd Miniatures at Gencon.I believe that after totaling up the combined purchases I made in 2011 it was somewhere above $2100 total. Keep in mind this was a combined total for me and 4 different people I was shopping for so that truly ticked up the totals and that was not all my money. In 2012 when you combined what I spent plus what my daughter and I earned (and spent) in booth credit through volunteering, we were easily in the neighborhood of $1000. Much of that was earned credit but it still means I brought home a great deal of product from Wyrd, plus the stuff I picked up both years from other game companys.

I was expecting to spend far less this year. Overall I have less disposable income this year and the family is in a very different economic situation that we have been in past years. That said, I was surprised to see how much less I spent. All told, my spending was almost equal between the LE WWX models and the two sets of models from Wyrd, combined coming in below $100. I am eerily reminiscent of when I stopped spending money on GW years ago. GW was certainly not hurt by my personal spending, as I am just a drop in the bucket overall, but it was interesting to see the impact on the hobby I was involved in. I am fairly confident that Malifaux V2 will continue to have traction for a while in the area, but I will be sending my hobby budget in other directions in the future. It is gratifying, and also a bit intriguing for me, to "vote with my wallet".

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recent Gaming and a Ramble about Playtesting

Overall gaming has been different for me lately. I like portions of how that has gone while I do feel like there are parts of my gaming experience that are missing. I have been able to get more gaming in with my family, which is a very cool thing, but is not the same as gaming with my "regular gaming group".


First up on the roster was a great game with my daughter. She has been playing Malifaux off and off since earlier this year and has really been getting a good handle on her Colette crew. She has discovered through a series of games that she really likes Colette's swapping ability and looks to Cassandra and the Corypheee Duet to do her heavy lifting on the strategies and schemes. I found it interesting to hear her tell me on multiple occasions that the performers were pretty much useless and the mannequins were just there to take damage for Colette. I knew there were a couple combo's that she was missing so we decided to have me play Colette and she would grab and start to learn a different crew. Her choice was Lady Justice and I helped her put together a fairly well rounded 35ss crew to play. We had the Gaining Ground Shared Treasure Hunt as our strategy, and Bianca brought the following to the table:
  • Justice, Miss Terious, 2 Stalkers, Santana, Guardian, 2 Guild Hounds, 8 stone pool
I brought:
  • Colette, 2 Performers & Mannequin, 2 Coryphee, Cassandra, 3 stone pool
There were a couple things I noticed Bianca prefers to use and not use when she plays Colette, and I wanted to show her some differences in how she plays. Bianca really like to use the 12 inch ranged Discharge Soulstone, while I prefer Magicians Duel (to not burn so many stones). Bianca does not often discard cards for soulstones, while I do. Bianca also does not hold onto tomes for her defense trigger, while I rely on it heavily. By the same token, Bianca relies on her soulstone healing with her Slow to Die more than I do.

So, when we got into the game I helped her understand how the Guardian's protect spell works and how to use it to boost Santana. I then showed her the trick of using the Mannequin to bash Colette to help Collette move without burning her own 1ap to do so. I also held several tomes (often mid or low tomes) to use with Colette's defense trigger and Bianca gained a much better understanding of how hard Colette is to pin down. The game was really close, and Bianca got to see two major turning points (against me and for her) when she was able to run Justice into both the Coryphee Duet and into Cassandra and cheat in a Red Joker on a damage flip, deleting both models from the game. She also had some eye opening moments when my performers were far from useless. Between the two performers I was able to shoot down a witchling stalker and Miss Terious with their pistols, Lure a dog out of position to make the other dog insignificant (so it could not pick up the treasure), and steal one of Justice's soulstones with expensive gift.  Bianca came out of the game with a better appreciation for the performers, although she still sees the Mannequins as damage sponges. Surprisingly she did not enjoy playing Justice at all, and wants to go back to playing Colette more.


My wife and I have been playing Netrunner, and she is enjoying it as much as I am. I have had a couple chances to head out to the store on my normal Tuesday night to get games against the wider community, but we are also enjoying just playing against each other. We have a single core set, 3 expansions (What Lies Ahead, Cyber Exodous, Humanities Shadow), and the Command and Control new expansion. This has been good and bad, as I am trying to keep 2 corp and 2 runner decks built at the same time without swapping cards between decks. We have it down but I think my runner deck is not as strong as it should be, while my corp deck could probably use some help as well.

Julie is playing Chaos Theory with what she calls her "Dinosaur Deck". This is a fun shaper deck to play and is tweaked to be pretty damn efficient. I am very happy to find her enjoying playing the corp and runner sides of the game equally, as it lets me also switch up between my corp and runner deck. On the runner side I am playing one of the Criminals (Gabe). Julie's deck is built heavily focused on getting her 3 Ice Breaker's out and then making repeated runs against R&D (the draw deck). My deck is based on generating a lot of money then making repeated runs on HQ (opponents hand). There are a couple cards that could be swapped between the decks to make them run a bit smoother, but overall they do fairly well.

On the Corporation side of the game we have a Jinteki deck and a HB Next Design deck built. Julie is exclusively playing the Jinteki deck which works pretty damn well. It's based around "flat lining" the runner by trying to simply do enough net damage to take them out of the game. The term "Jinteki Shell Game" has been tossed around at the store when others see the deck. My corp deck (Next Design) has been a lot of fun to play and was built primarily out of cards from the C&C set that just released. Next Design lets me install up to 3 pieces of ice from my hand before the game begins, then draw back up to a full hand to start the game. This can be a real benefit by giving me a 1 turn jump start to the game. I am also building it around getting out some really monster sized ICE that do a fair amount of brain damage to the runner and then Rezzing (activating) them for cheaper than thier normal cost. I am still tweaking the deck but it has been run to play overall.

Play Testing

That brings me to the last thing I have been doing lately. I am going to write in more general terms about this since it's still fairly hush-hush at the moment. I am involved in play testing a series new games for a game company that will remain nameless for now. I really enjoy play testing games and have been involved in doing so for a longer time than I had realized. I touched on some of why play testing and game development interested me in an earlier post but figured I would ramble a bit about it here in a more focused area.

I had my first experience play testing a game when I was in high school, something like 25 years ago (or so). I had been sneaking out to play D&D with a group of friends for years (throughout late elementary school and early highschool) and had met a new group of players through my group of friends. The new group invited me to try out a game they were in the final playtest of, a game called Shadowrun. I loved playing the game and the GM for the group sent all our feedback back to the writers and then we kept playing once the game was published. I have to admit that Shadowrun was one of my favorite RP settings and games to play, and I imagine part of that was being involved in the playtest for it with a good group. Overall the playtesting was not too intense as only the GM was really taking notes and providing feedback.

Years passed and I went on to graduate high school and join the US Army. During my time in the military I did a lot of gaming but no real testing overall. I did get involved in developing my own online MUD, fully customizing the available DIKU MUD software available through both the in game world and by teaching myself to code. I had a lot of fun running Towers MUD, and had a pretty solid set of players who logged in and enjoyed the world. This was a very different experience since instead of "play testing and providing feedback", when I saw something I wanted changed I would just change it, test it, and then fix what didn't work. There was as much to look at in the actual "how it works" on the code side as there was looking at balance of the components in the game.

As Towers MUD started to wind down a military friend of mine got invited to play test a new type of online game, an MMORPG.  He was able to get me invited to the beta play testing for Asherons Call and it was a blast. The Beta Test was a fairly late beta and was focused on balance testing the classes and monsters in the game, along with doing everything possible to try and "power level" through the classes to see if they were unbalanced or leveled too quickly. This was a great deal of fun and I was able to bring some of my MUD development experience to providing feedback for the game. This testing was very different from the other two areas of playtest as most of the interactions were monitored by the server so there was very little requirement for written feedback. We both logged into forums and provided our thoughts but most of the feedback was tracked through the debug code the developers had access to.

Asherons Call beta testing led me to become involved in a series of MMORPG testing including Asherons Call 2, Eve Online, Anarchy Online, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. All of these were very similar while having distinct elements of the individual games that worked differently. The longer time went on with my involvement with new games, and the advancement of the underlying architectures meant that less and less interaction with the actual developers was required from the testers. This culminated in a point in time when I was testing W:AR and found that while there was a forum available, much of the testing was really refining the code throught he debug information as the game vision and overall direction was well in hand and the developers were looking for a massive "bug scrub" more than anything else. This is not a bad thing, but it really created a situation where the play testers were primarily getting advanced play experience with the game instead of helping guide the direction through testing feedback.

As more time went on I moved from computer gaming to table top gaming as my primary hobby. I became more involved in Mini-Wargaming and moved through a variety of games as has been somewhat documented on the Gamers Lounge podcast. After playing Malifaux for a while I was invited to become involved in play testing with Wyrd. I have talked about this a bit on the podcast, with an entire episode dedicated to the play testing experience for Twisting Fates and Storm of Shadows. I was involved in other play tests for Wyrd as well (for varying lengths of time) including Puppet Wars, PW Unstitched, Showdown, and Malifaux 2E.

So, why is all this rambling so new in my mind and why do I want to write about it? As mentioned above, I am involved in a new set of play testing for a set of games for a new gaming company. Getting to sit down and play some new games, especially as the games are in early development stages. I have found that game development for both the new group and for Wyrd are run in a very similar style, which I have come to understand if similar for other Board/Tabletop/Card games. Basically there is a mechanism (form/email list/etc) to provide feedback and interact with the game developers very directly. This is helpful in not only refining how the game is played but also helping to test and provide insight/input into the game mechanics along with the "balance" of the individual game components. I am really enjoying getting a glimpse at the development and growth of new games while still bringing some of my experience to bear in helping refine how those games come together.

So I am sure at this point at least some of you want to know what I am testing currently. I will leave you with these couple snippets. First, it is a game that I have been able to play with my wife and daughters and we are all really enjoying it. Second, think euro-style board game. And lastly, Ants.

I will share more when I am able to.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Models Painted

Taking a break from the variety of strife circling through the Malifaux community lately, I decided to get some more painting done. On finishing up some of the new models I slipped onto my painting tray I set-up a small photo station in my office to grab some pictures of the new models. A couple of these were actually painted during July, with only two being completed this past weekend.

It makes me a bit sad to paint up models that I am very unlikely to use in games, but C'est la vie. I now have 3 Riflemen, Sirdar, and my last Wastrel painted up and ready to join McCabe or a variety of other guild crews. I am pretty happy with how the white came out on Sirdar, building up to it in a couple levels. I ended up starting with GW Space Wolves Grey, followed by a thin coat of Bleached bone. This will then covered with P3 Menoth White base, then highlighted with two layers of P3 Mentoh White highlight.

On painting up the Riflemen I went with the same scheme I used for my guild guard. I figured that the grey would work out well, and stippled the coat with some lighter and darker greys to add in some of the "camouflage" that I infer from the Rifleman fluff.  I am pretty happy with how they came out, and I suspect they will look very good in a crew with my guardsmen. I am considering putting together a quick picture of Lucius plus some dogs, guardmen, and riflemen.

So far in August I completed two large models, Snow Storm and aDreamer. I do like the way Snow Storm and aDreamer came out overall however. I still have a fair number of models sitting in my unpainted to-do box, and plan to continue to get them painted up over time. This is part of my plan to fill time until I find a game that I want to play.

Snow Storm looks really good when standing with the rest of my Rasputina crew. This is another picture I am thinking about taking, with the whole Raspy crew set-up together. There was some small gap filling required on Snow Storm, and I was actually surprised when I saw what flash needed to be cleaned up. When I originally looked at the pieces I did not think the flash was as bad as I had heard from others who built this model. This was one of the few resin models that Wyrd released, and there was some complaints when he was first released. The flash does not look bad on a glance, but upon actually cleaning and assembling the model it is found between many of the hair strands and fur on the Yeti. This ended up being a lot more work than I expected to clean up.

As a last picture here is a look at Avatar Dreamer. I love my Dreamer crew and never really looked at aDreamer as a competitive model, which is why its taken so long to paint up. I didn't see him as competitive due to redundancy more from any other reason. I very much believe that once you get to the point you would want to manifest aDreamer you likely have the game in hand and he would not bring much to winning a game. I do believe he could be a lot of fun for a casual game and plan to use him in future Malifaux Classic games I will play with Dreamer. Overall on the hobby side he was not bad to assemble or paint. I would have preferred that the Nightmare Chompy head have been used instead of the strange crocodile head that was actually sculpted. Overall the scale and sculpting is a bit strange, especially considering the lower jaw is so much larger than the top jaw. That said, I do not think the model looks that bad at all. I'm a little sad to see the light in the light tent washed out to the whites and skin tones on Dreamer himself, as I love the pose he has at the end of the bed. I am pretty happy with the white highlighting I was able to achieve on his night gown.