Saturday, March 29, 2014

State of the Blog Address (Part 2)

Thanks for bearing with the last post and I promise this one will be a bit more upbeat since I plan to focus on the hobby progress I've made over the past year.  While honestly it didn't seem like I accomplished much due to months long stretches of not working on any minis (and having paint dry up unexpectedly during that time!), I was pleasantly surprised by what I accomplished in the meantime. 

I pretty much finished up (except for less than a half dozen figs) my entire 40k collection and mostly sold off the stuff that I never planned on finishing.  My 6000pt Blood Angel, 2500pt Deathwing, 2500pt IG, 3000pt Eldar, and 2500pt Tau armies are officially done except for two figures.  The only other 40k related things I have left are 5 "truescale" marines that I kitbashed back when I was attempting to run a regularly scheduled Deathwatch 40k RPG campaign that has since sputtered out.  Mainly due to a lack of HG playerbase and the Robotech KS delay, 40k has actually been my second most frequently played game after X-wing. 

Over in HG land, I've made some significant progress.  I sold off my unwanted southern minis and actually finished the ones that I picked up post Forged in Fire.  My Heavy Assault King Cobra squad is done as is my platoon of Visigoth Khan tanks.  My support options models (airstrikes and turrets) were also completed along with a cityscape set from Dropzone Commander to use as terrain.  My Nucoal army went from completely in the blister due 2/3 done with two squads of hovertanks along with two sections of hoverbike GREL infantry.  The only Nucoal models left are my Chasseur MK2's that will make up a veteran GP squad.  I picked up a painted northern army as well and then spent a lot of time dealing with the dozens of breaks (and even a few missing parts) due to very, very poor packing for shipping.  I've picked up more northern minis (likely too many for blitz!) that are still unfortunately in the package though.  With the delay of Robotech, I had expected to instead work on my Northern minis but the 3 month delay and counting since the advertised Jan delivery date has put a damper on that.  Despite being a playtester, I don't know how much the product changes after it leaves our hands so I'm avoiding putting together the models until I see what the final pdf looks like.

X-wing is a pre-assembled and prepainted game so there isn't too much of a hobby aspect in that sense but I managed to get into some trouble with it anyways.  After reading some interesting reports over on Board Game Geek, I decided to make my own version of the Corellian Corvette model and rules.  I picked up an old 1990's toy in roughly the same scale and made a custom base to place it on along with some datacards and scenario rules.  Additionally, I made some 3D asteroids out of lava rocks to use during games.  At some point, I'd like to convert my TIE Advanced into Avengers but I'll likely leave that one till after the TIE Defender model comes out as that will be their squadron commander.  At that point, all my favorite LucasArts XvT models will be out and I'll be a happy starfighter pilot.

All in all, I'd say that the past year (or technically about 16 months) has been quite productive despite the relatively large gaps.  Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to finish my 40k figs and might post them here.  I'm going back and forth whether I should buy any more as I think GW has officially gone bonkers with their recent pricing but the new tau commander crisis suit looks pretty darn incredible.  As a grimdark mech, I'll post about that one if I end up acquiring and working on it.  Additionally, I hope to finish my truescale Deathwatch marines along with a kitbashed Aegis defense line and turret.  After that, assuming the Northern book doesn't come out, I'll work on my TIE Avengers and possibly the Nucoal GP squad. 

In any case, thanks again for reading and I promise the next update won't be a solid wall of text but rather filled with pretty pictures of mediocre painted minis like usual!  :)

State of the Blog Address (Part 1)

I was checking out my blog links to see what new stuff other bloggers added and I realized that I completely missed the first anniversary of my blog earlier this year.  To celebrate the passing of that first year, I decided to follow the US government tradition of posting a "State of the Blog Address" going over the past year and my hopes for the coming year.

When I started the blog last February, my goal was to focus on my house rules for improving the Heavy Gear Blitz game under my catchy little "Flash" title.  At the time, I had some ideas that I wanted to publish before getting involved in some official playtesting which would possibly limit what I could post due to the likely NDA.  I've been burned before in the past by Heavy Gear and DP9 making bad decisions (like flipflopping through rules editions and dropping the old RAFM scale gears unceremoniously) so I figured I'd try to get more involved and hopefully prevent another debacle especially given the relatively poor (and deserved) reception the Forged in Fire Southern Field Guide got.

I'd say that I definitely met my goals for improving the blitz game.  Though the rules went  a bit further than I initially had planned and still need some more testing, I'm happy with the overall final results.  In the end, it doesn't seem like anything will be incorporated into the next HG edition due to the vastly different rules in open alpha right now.  I actually joined the alpha in the spring of last year (right around the time I stopped posting large updates to the FLASH! rules and switched to modeling!) so the scope of the changes were not a shock to me this past January.  I think that the core rules have a lot of promise but obviously still need work.  Unfortunately, as demonstrated by the army lists, there still exists plenty of room to screw up the whole endeavor.  As for Blitz, I got involved in the Northern playtesting as well and anxiously await the release of that final product for the venerable Silhouette system.  Just don't expect it to be as broken, unfair, and overpowered as the Paxton release for several reasons.  The most important is that the lead playtester's primary faction is Paxton so they naturally got the best stuff (and paid nothing for it frequently) but also because cooler heads were involved in the development of the Northern book.  The north was originally my faction back in the old RAFM 1st edition days and I worked on a northern army over the past year as well... but the difference is that I view army guides that I play no differently than ones I don't so I tried to keep that in mind while still trying to give it a unique feel.  I have no idea when the North guide will finally come out (the January release has slowly crept into April now and counting) and I'm not entirely happy with the results (especially one very key aspect) but I would like to see HGB given its last hurrah before the release of the Beta files this summer. 

The other big game that I expected to cover frequently this year was Robotech Tactics.  Unfortunately, absolutely nothing has gone right since the end of the kickstarter for that game.  Only a few days after taking pledger money, Palladium announced that they were releasing convention only minis that people had been clamoring for but excluding backers from getting them via the upcoming pledge manager.  A contest run during the KS to design ace veritech paint schemes ended up running 6 months late and only had a single winner instead of multiple.  Everything was just fine and dandy with empty platitudes about how things were progressing for months until just 4 weeks before the October delivery estimate (revised just days after the end of the KS) at which point it was delayed till January/February. 

Since then, the project feels like its just treading water with the delivery date now at June/July and counting and frankly that date looks incredibly unlikely given that no moulds have even been started on.  The rules have not and apparently won't be previewed so they're another big question given Palladium's very poor (to put it mildly) history of RPG rules.  We're finally seeing prototype minis but the part count is ridiculous (30+ pieces for 40k terminator sized figures) and the seams between the parts almost exclusively run RIGHT ACROSS THE FRONT OF THE MODEL WITH BIG GAPS.  The TL;DR version is cheap looking overly complicated models that will come out at best 8 months late.  I've avoided talking too much about Robotech because I don't want the blog to turn into my private whine fest but it deserves mention in this end of the year post as I had expected to cover the game significantly over the past year but haven't been able to. 

That's it for part one of the State of the Blog address where I cover things overall.   Part 2 will deal with what I've done hobbywise during the past year.  Thanks for reading and bearing with me in the meantime.  :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Edition... more of the same?

So the alpha of the new edition of Heavy Gear has been out for a couple of weeks for the public to comment and help improve on.  I was a playtester for it last year and I do like the format overall for the new rules and think it is a step mechanically in the right direction for Heavy Gear.  It's obviously still got some warts but as it is still in alpha testing but I expect most of those to be ironed out over the next year.  After an initial reading looking for glaring issues and typos, I've tried to avoid commenting on the mechanics in recent weeks till I got in a game with the most recent version of the rules.  The army lists, which weren't really addressed in the previous private testing, are frankly a mess.

While Dave has done a good job of listening to feedback about some of the more egregious single issues, the problems seem to go alot deeper.  I don't hide my dislike for the rampant power creep in the recent Blitz Paxton pdf (Blood Debt) with free character stat upgrades, free gear upgrades, and especially free special rules for entire armies.. none of which are paid for with TV because "fluff".  The previous two army guides (South and Nucoal) were at least on par with each other despite their issues but Blood Debt blew all that effort out of the water unforunately.  Seeing the alpha rules continue that power creep with multishot heavy bazookas as the Paxton "fluff" upgrade along with cheaper weapon upgrades on gears that with stats markedly better for no reason (and not paid for with TV) while other factions got nothing comparable brought up a very bad taste in my mouth.  I really don't have anything against Paxton but they seem to be the poster boys for everything wrong with Heavy Gear in recent years.  It feels like the army lists were put together going quickly from one unit to the next without any consideration of how they relate to other factions or models.  Whatever seemed "cool" at that moment was just thrown on and the level of "cool" feels proportional to the level of personal excitement the creator had for the faction.  Combine that with the absolutely horrible idea of "sliding scale" costs for the same thing depending on the faction and you have a recipe for disaster.  To be frank, that kind of crap is a large part of why Heavy Gear is in the state that it is in currently.  Some factions always seem to get the short end of the stick while others get markedly better.  If something does "X", it should cost "Y"... not "Y-2" just because it's a particular faction (like Paxton in the last release). 

The alpha with it's completely incompatible rules is the chance for HG to wipe the slate clean and come out with something more balanced than their blitz offerings.  I would have preferred if the initial army lists were more bare bones to allow people to test the rules but that ship has sailed and the vastly broken lists are out in the wild.  I do hope that the "beta" product released around Gencon will be a bit more even across the factions and the most recent revision has shown significant improvement.  Hopefully that trend (instead of broken mechanic of playing faction favorites) will continue. I have to admit that the army list issues combined with the delays in the release of the North pdf for Blitz have dampened my enthusiasm for the game but I still look forward to testing out the new damage mechanic sometime in the next couple of weeks and will hopefully post a battle report on it as well.