Thursday, September 29, 2016

Miniatures Finished: Mixed Bag

Having freed myself of the need to do anything, my output seems to have become everything. 

 New and improved Ace (Crooked Dice), Billy Batson/Civilian (Clix) and The Incredible Hercules (Clix)! 

 Psycho Man (Clix), Sabbat the Necromagus (Mongoose) and Molten Man (Clix). I'm really happy with how the painting on these turned out, I tried some new techniques and they paid divedends. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Superhero Media: Sugar Hill

A while back, SBS (Aussie television station) ran a Blacksploitation night, showing several famous films of the genre, the last of which was Sugar Hill, which I figured was a precursor to films like Coffy, with an African-American heroine put-upon by "the man" until she couldn't take it anymore and sought bloody revenge. Imagine my surprise when I discover that, after her man is killed, "Sugar" goes after his killers with the aid of Baron Samedi (Zamedi in this version) and an army of zombie Haitian slaves! Holy shit is that a cool concept straight out of the gate! Add to that that Marki Bey is awesome in the lead as Sugar and Don Pedro Colley commits like all get out to the role of Zamedi. Once Sugar sells her soul to the baron, her path is set, revenge in return for an eternity as the Zamedi's bride, unless she can find another to offer in her place... 

Ok, before I wax lyrical even more about this awesome cult gem, perhaps some of the bad points? Like pretty much all 1970s cult cinema, Sugar Hill has dated like no one's business; the costumes, music and hairstyles are all pretty damn funny and kind of drag the narrative down. The Blacksploitation genre nesescity of all white people being corrupt and racist grates in its anachronism, but also is not comfortable in this contemporary #blacklivesmatter society; have we really advanced that little, or have we gone backwards? I'm surprised that this genre of cinema hasn't re-surged as Neoconservative racism gains strength. Many of the actors aren't great (Bey and Colley aside) and the zombie makeup is pretty terrible, though I do like the reflective eyes as they give an otherworldly appearance. 

So what can we take away from Sugar Hill? That this would make an awesome comic! Sugar's husband is killed by the mob, in her grief she turns to an aunt who practices dark magic, before she knows it, Sugar has sold her soul to Baron Samedi and can command the undead; can she get her revenge before the Baron comes to collect? As the comic continues, Sugar trades other women for herself, but finds that there is always one more injustice to right and can never quite break the deal. Hell, I'd read it. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dubloons Under a Voodoo Moon

Last Saturday, my club ran a huge multiplayer Pirates game as the finale to our "Pirates in September" series of events. I was lucky enough to be the Chieftain of the Native Island yet again, but, me being me, I had to turn my little island into the coast of Wakanda. Black Panther, The Phantom and even The Doctor and Ace were set loose across the tables for a day of high seas adventure. The pictures below are those that feature Wakanda and other supers characters, rather than the 300+ of the whole game.

 The coast of Wakanda, sadly not my terrain. 

 The Black Panther protects his land. 

 The Wakandan village. 

 Cannons with Vibranium shot, anyone? 

 The Phantom helps the Dutch steal the Stargate, my kind of game! 

 "See Wakanda and die? That doesn't sound good..." 

Thanks to everyone who played and get ready for more Supers nonsense in your pirate game next year! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Superhero Media: Ash Vs Evil Dead

Full disclosure, I'm not really a fan of the Evil Dead series. Sure, I've seen them all and want to read the Freddy vs Jason vs Ash comic at some point, but I can't say that I've ever viewed them as "classics" in any respect. My guess is that I simply came to them too late, well into my 20s, to have them leave a lasting impression, then again, it was the same for Big Trouble in Little China and that is a goddamned masterpiece. That said, I really enjoyed the first few episodes of Ash Vs Evil Dead, with an ageing, overweight and laughably pathetic Ash eking out an existence in retail. When the dead rise again, Ash does everything he can to ignore the problem until his coworkers force him to strap on his chainsaw and get busy. When Ash finally gains the impetus to go after the Deadites, it's a pretty cool scene, pity that momentum doesn't last the rest of the series. 

To start with Ash Vs Evil Dead is pure Sam Rami, through and through; the splatter quotient is dialed up to eleven and the zombie makeup is actually really good for a television programme. Where it falls down is in terms of plot and verisimilitude. Ash and co basically have to get the Necronomicon back to the cabin to prevent the apocalypse, not sure why it took them a whole season though, as the cabin appears to be in the same state and they're driving. Ok, yes they have to stop to fight deadites every episode to keep the action up, but the lack of progress is distracting, especially when Ash is trying to pick up a random waitress in a diner, who clearly isn't interested; yes, it informs character, but runs contrary to the idea of the chase/road narrative. Also odd is that, in an early episode, deadites are overrunning a shopping centre and people are looting, but one episode later (and one county over), everything seems to be fine and no one is aware of the undead apocalypse bearing down on them. 

My guess is that Ash Vs Evil Dead is made for the fans. The references to the films are think and fast and Rami-splatter seems to be used as a kind of caulk for the gaps in narrative. The longer I think about it, the more holes I find; why has Ash not sold the Necronomicon if he's that hard up for cash, he had at least one buyer? Why is all of his Deadite-hunting gear in perfect working order if it's been that long, he seems pretty lazy? Is there really only one Necronomicon, a lot of people seem to know about it and in most fiction there are a few copies rocking around? If, unlike me, you can sit there and not analyse things too much, you should get a kick out of Ash Vs Evil Dead, but I don't think I'll be chasing down the second series now that my 30-day Free Trial has expired. Still want that Hasslefree "Not Ash" for Ultimate Alliance though... 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Guardians of the Frozen City - Preview III

Got another game in a few nights ago, fun but more issues with the rules, more on that later. 

 The Guardians spread out to investigate magical resonance in the ruins.

A small band of locals has entered the same area, these primitives seem aggressive.

"Ok guys, spread out, but be careful." 

 "Hey, Quill, I got something!" 

 "Strangers from another realm! We must not let them take the wondrous items!" 

 "What the flark is that thing?"

 "Yes! Drive the worm towards them!"

"New plan Guardians, fan out and shoot everything!" 

"Don't pet it Groot, y'dast idiot!" 

 "I am Groot."

"I am Groot!" 


"Things have not gone according to plan..." 

First off, thanks to Neil (of the Little Lead Men of Valour blog) for the game, terrific terrain and funky worms to play with. Neil is always great to play with, he never gets antsy over bad luck and tends to roll poorly at opportune moments. In fairness, I'd had a bad day before this game, so I was a bit ranty throughout. It was a fun game, Frostgrave can be very fun with friends and provides plenty of opportunity for fun miniatures. 
Now down to brass tacks. There is no reason to ever cast any offensive spell other than Bone Dart. Sure, Mind Control is great, but it's a dice-off, which your opponent gets a bonus to, but Bone Dart is +5 straight away, why cast anything else?
The Shoot and Will stats are largely redundant, only one soldier in the core book has a different Fight and Shoot score, so Shoot could pretty much be dropped without affecting the game. Bone Dart and Arcane Bolt would need a quick re-word ("replace your Fight with +5 for this attack), and the Marksman gets a negative in close combat and we're done. Will seems like it should have had a bigger role, there are more than a few ways to boost it, but I'm yet to use it in a game. 
I'd really like a bottle roll for the warbands, it would make the game play quicker, even if just the soldiers have to make it. I get that it's up to the player to decide risk versus reward, but a game of Frostgrave shouldn't take all night. Other campaign skirmish games, like Empire of the Dead, Judge Dredd and Necromunda, work best because they're quick and a few rounds can be played in a night, seeing the teams develop quickly. 
Speaking of soldiers, there is no reason to take a Thief over a Thug; +1 Fight is always going to be more useful across the game than +1 Move, even if you just want someone to run around collecting treasure. Also, I'd like a "Big Guy" to hire, like an Ogre, Troll, Gnoll or whatever. Large Constructs and Demons are all well and good, but if we're going for a D&D feel, where's the Ogre Barbarian that we wrote for someone's little brother so that he could play without ruining our game? 
I'm going to keep playing Frostgrave, at least try the campaign once, see what all the fuss is about. However, I'll point out that I don't currently own any of the books and I'm not inclined to purchase them at the moment. 


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Superhero Media: Superheroes - A Never-Ending Battle

Another fun discovery on a streaming service, this time, my 30-day free trial of Stan, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle was a fun little diversion for a few episodes, even if I was hearing stuff I already knew for the most part. Hosted by Liev Schreiber, best associated with superheroes through his lackluster performance in the lackluster X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the programme goes through the major salient points of comics history, only missing out several major players like Dark Horse and Image Comics, the Speculator Boom and Golden Age icons Fletcher Hanks and Lee Falk. Now that I think about it, no Scarlet Pimpernel or Nyctalope, either, what a waste of an opportunity. What we do get is still pretty good though, interviews with Stan Lee, Lynda Carter and Jim Steranko, the Golden, Silver and Iron Ages in broad strokes, and recognition that Richard Donner's Superman is a masterpiece. However, by far the greatest moment of the series is when Adam West reads the "every punk has a mother" speech from The Dark Knight Returns; check this shit out: 

This is what my dreams sound like. 

If terms such as "Golden Age" and "Lee/Kirby" go over your head, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is worth a watch, it's clearly designed for those without a categorical knowledge, so that they may catch up a little, rather than be drowned by the missed references in the next round of summer superhero blockbusters. That kind of explains Schreiber, actually, he's reconisable, but not such a big name that this PBS doco couldn't afford him. Makes sense that Stan Lee was up for it, his dedication to the industry is almost pathological, though it's good to see Jim Steranko, an iconic visionary of the medium, get some of the props he's owed. Seriously, read the 1960s Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and prepare to be blown away by the high-concept spy-fy and pop art sensibilities. 

As with most superhero "history" lessons, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is almost entirely American-centric, missing out Marvelman, Judge Dredd and the countless French avant-garde supers that never hit the mainstream. Missing Falk and Hanks feels like something of an insult, though The Phantom is only still popular in a handful of markets and explaining Stardust and Fantomah to a contemporary audience will always be difficult. There are some gems to be found in the programme and a quick look indicates that the entirety can be found on YouTube, so check it out, at least for the Steranko and West interviews and the most concise explanation of why no actor will ever surpass Christopher Reeve as Superman

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Guardians of the Frozen City - Preview II

Test game of Frostgrave with the Guardians, played on a friend's brilliant new dungeon tiles, still testing the system out, see my thoughts after the pretty pictures.

 The devilish Dungeons of Day, filled with treasure and danger! 

The Guardians spread out; Cosmo, Gamora, Adam Warlock, Starlord, Rocket Racoon, Moondragon and Drax. 
 A mysterious group of magical, undead creations. 

 Both warbands spread out through the maze, hunting for ancient treasures. 

 Warlock uses the power of the Soul Gem to conquer the will of one of his enemies. 

Gamora spots a worthy foe. 
Spellfire blasts the Guardians, but they remain unharmed. 
"Now you face the most deadly woman in the Galaxy!" 
The Guardians blast away, taking down the enemy Apprentice. 
Gamora turns out to be no match for the undead... Godslayer must have not bitten on bone. 

Treasure recovery becomes the order of the day as numbers dwindle on both teams. 

The Guardians regroup for a final push on the enemy. 

Spell and missile fire flies between passages. 
Drax comes off second-best in a fight with the enemy wizard. 

Both sides decide that discretion is the better part of valour and vacate the premises. 

A few games in now, and I'm still having issues with the Frostgrave rules. This game highlighted issues with spells, there always seems to be some in my list that are never worth casting, and some that get spammed just about every turn. If you can pick up Teleport, Bone Dart, Mind Control and Heal, you're laughing, don't bother with summoning of any kind as you'll lose an existing soldier if you succeed, or start the game with a health hit. There are more games to come and I hear the campaign is where Frostgrave shines, so we'll see as things develop.