Thursday, June 29, 2017

Terrain Finished: Crates

Threw together some Knights of Dice crates for some extra items to lob around the table. They will also see use in pulp and post-apoc games, so I just hit them with some old deck varnish for a more "traditional" look. When I get around to it, I'll put some stencils on them.

Clever fellows over at Knights of Dice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Superhero Media: Defenders - Indefensible

As much as I enjoy the inherent silliness of superhero comics and praise the merits of Marvel Now! Hawkeye and Next Wave: Agents of H.A.T.E., I do have my limits on how irreverent I like my superheroes. Defenders - Indefensible takes it a bit too far for my linking. Dread Dormammu and Umar have teamed up to destroy... the universe? I'm actually not too sure what the end game is, Dormammu wants to become Eternity and Umar wants to fuck the Hulk and that's about as classy as we're getting. Doctor Strange, Namor and Hulk team up, argue a lot and manage to save the day somehow. Silver Surfer is at the beach, trying to surf and questioning existence. It's not the best. 

There is one decent joke, or at least there would be if it wasn't so often repeated, that Strange, Namor and Dormammu sound like idiots with their constant grandstanding and verbose soliloquies. Yes, it's funny, the first three times, but then it grates. Rule of threes people. Although the original Defenders line-up is fun to see and evokes the Silver Age, Indefensible is probably closest to the old "Not Brand ECHHS" stuff in terms of tone. I get that these characters are, by their very nature, over the top in how they are presented, I feel that a whole limited series was far more than needed to get this joke across. I suppose that Indefensible is at least better than Secret Defenders.  

Not much to say on this one, it's not that good and the jokes tend to fall flat pretty quick. It doesn't have the wry humour of Marvel NOW! Hawkeye or the non-sequitur irreverence of Next Wave. I'm usually keen for any amount of Namor, but the one presented here is a pastiche of the character rather than a solid representation of what he's like in contermporary Marvel comics. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cryptic Conflicts - The Beginning

(With apologies to Jim Shooter) 

In the distant reaches of the universe, far, far from planet Earth, an uninhabited, spiral galaxy turns its everlasting pirouette in magnificent splendor, unseen by living eyes... until suddenly... 

A world forms from the void... a world populated with superhumans! Brought together from across the multiverse, heroes and villains have been placed on this, mysterious, "Struggleplanet", by forces beyond mortal ken. Just as the transplanted adventurers start to query the strange environs in which they find themselves, a haunting, ethereal voice pierces their minds;

"I am from yonder! Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!"  

Trapped in a world they didn't make, how will heroes from different worlds survive the unknowable machinations of a being of such power as to make and brake worlds? Find out next ish, true believers! 

At NWA, we're starting a small SuperSystem (SS4) campaign running July-August this year. AARs, narrative bridging and character profiles can be found here and on other blogs, to be linked. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman - Assault on Arkham

Seriously, how was Suicide Squad so bad whilst Assault on Arkham is so damn good? Yes, I have seen Suicide Squad, we'll get to it another time. Meantime, there is a M-rated (in Australia) animated film with the Suicide Squad featuring the voice cast of Batman the Animated Series and an actual good reason for Harlequin to be on the team! After the Riddler escapes Arkham and is recaptured by Cadmus, Amanda Waller puts together Task Force X, aka The Suicide Squad to go into Arkham and recapture/kill Edward Nigma. This is where Harlequin comes in, she's familiar with the layout of Arkham and knows how to escape if things go south. Rather than being dropped by Blackhawk, the team are HALO-ed in and head to the Iceberg Lounge to arm-up supplied by the Penguin, who is on the take from Waller, under the table. 

It's a pretty good start to, what would be a by-the-numbers heist film, if not for the super-villains and asylum full of insane criminals. KGBeast gets killed off before the mission starts to set the stakes and Harlequin and Deadshot have sex, I think to set up a conflict later in the film that never really pays off. Actually the attraction between Killer Frost and King Shark is far more interesting and sadly goes nowhere. Is she genuinely interested, or just playing up to King Shark for protection in case things go south? Things start to get complicated when the team discover that the Riddler has uncovered a way to deactivate the bombs in their heads and used that to go AWOL from the last Task Force X. Nigma turns out to have actually planned this whole thing, including getting captured by Batman and thrown back into Arkham, just to get back at Waller. Not to harp on this, but that's a way better plot than Suicide Squad.

Having the voice actors from BTAS is pretty cool, but the look from the Arkham video games jars with this and is a little distracting, especially with Hulk-Bane in the big finale. I'll get to it more in the upcoming Suicide Squad Superhero Media, but this concept really shouldn't be too hard to get right and make a tonne of money out of; it's The Dirty Dozen with supervillains, pretty simple pitch. Although I like the twist with the Riddler's scheme, it's not actually all that necessary, a quick heist plot with a few protagonist deaths would work just as well. Hopefully we'll see this concept done right in live action at some point. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse - Part 14

Our heroes continued to plan and prepare strategies to fight the Super-Skrull, not knowing that they would be thrown directly into the battle. The team arrive on a rooftop opposite the Fantastic Four, who appear to be investigating a small space ship. Thinking that being polite worked for him last time, Spiderstrike approaches Marvel's First Family and says hello. Firenado spins a story about the X-Mansion being attacked and the X-Men needing help, Reed Richards is happy to help, as soon as he finishes investigating the space ship as he doesn't trust anyone else to do as good a job as himself. Reed calls over Koga for help, Koga being the team's resident scientist/engineer. As Koga looks at the ship, it seems oddly familiar for a second before a massive rocky fist punches a hole in his armour. 

Before the eyes of the team, the Fantastic Four shift shape and become the Super-Skrull and three Skrull soldiers! The soldiers open fire, blasting Firenado, The Arsonist and Gigawatt! In the following exchange of fire, Koga and Firenado are taken out of the fight. Firestarter runs over and tries to stabilise Koga, though more of his organs being outside than in may prove to be a problem.Spiderstrike charges Super-Skrull, wailing with all six arms and his "Spider's Bite" touch power, which the pride of the Skrull army shrugs off.
"Fool, you think your feeble powers can match the might of the Super-Skrull?" chides Super-Skrull,
"I'm willing to try... tubby!" returns Spiderstrike.
Super Skrull laughs in response and turns invisible. One Skrull continues to blast at Arsonist, the other two gang up on Spiderstrike, knocking him down onto the fire escape. 

Gigawatt activates a Stark Industries Image Inducer, now appearing as Mr Fantastic he ducks out from behind a rooftop air-conditioner and declares;
"Oh, I know what I need, it's at the Avenger's Mansion!" 
He then dashes off down the street. Spidersrtike throws knockout gas grenades, toppling one Skrull. Super Skrull appears behind Arsonist, grabbing him in a stretchy, flaming, rocky fist, crushing and burning the hero into unconsciousness. Spiderstrike vaults onto the roof of the parking garage, flipping on the Image Inducer to look like the Thing and shouting;
"Wait up, stretch!" 
Super Skrull takes off, flying after the "Fantastic Four", blasting Spiderstrike into unconsciousness, though the hero immediately recovers with his regeneration and calls Gigwatt on the communicators, checking on Super-Skrull's location. Spiderstrike turns the Image inducer to "Stan Lee" and moves towards his target at the same time Gigawatt turns the image inducer to "Sue Storm" and lobs a gas grenade at Super-Skrull, knocking out the last two Skrull Soldiers.

Dontcha hate it when they say "To be Hulk-inued" True Believers?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Superhero Media: Justice League Dark

I had no idea until I started watching this that it was part of the "New 52" JLA series of animated films, so if that's going to put you off (it probably would have me), then consider yourself forewarned. When ordinary people begin to see demons all around them and go on killing sprees, the Justice League are stumped and decide to call in an expert in magic. Batman doesn't believe in magic and refuses to help. There is a problem with this film, and his name is Batman. Even in the New 52 continuity, Batman fights regularly alongside Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman and trained with Zatara and in Nanda Parbat; Batman simply must have encountered magic at some point in this universe, but because he needs to seem to "bad-ass" all the time, he suddenly is unaware of all the magic users in the DCU. Only he's not, he knows about Zatana, Deadman and Constantine, but just thinks they're, what? I don't know what's meant to be going on with this weird character choice. 

Speaking of odd choices, I first encountered John Constantine through the classic Vertigo Hellblazer comics, in which he regularly has to correct Seppos (the only thing that rimes with Yank is Septic Tank) as to how to pronounce his name. Constantine, as in "fine". For some reason, no one that rights or directs the adaptations seems to know this, I'm thinking because they haven't read any Hellblazer. Also Swamp Thing shows up and Etrigan is a major character, so you'd think I'd enjoy this, but the writing and the lack of necessity for the presence of Batman really drags it down. The fight scenes are a cut above the usual DCAU fare, but that may be down to having the magical powers of Constantine, Zatana, Felix Faust and Etrigan to use in the showpiece battles. 

Whilst Justice League Dark is certainly one of the better entries in the DCAU New 52 catalogue and let's not get onto the last decade of DC live-action films (yes, I've seen Wonder Woman, we'll cover that awesomeness down the track). Given that I didn't pay for it, I'm pretty happy, but probably won't add it to my physical collection anytime soon. I do need an Etrigan though.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Champions of the Ominverse: Part 13

Our heroes are returned to Avengers mansion in Limbo where, once again, Immortus has a task for them. A meeting between Drax the Destroyer and a group of "Space Orks" will inadvertently result in the destruction of a pair of satellites that are observing the sun and could help prevent the coming nuclear cataclysm. Not wanting to get into an extended battle with Drax, the team decides to arm up, with knockout gas grenades, a Quinjet and protective clothing. Immortus warps the Quinjet loaded with our heroes through time and they find themselves hovering over a grassy field. The sudden appearance of an Avengers' Quinjet causes ire and Drax takes off towards the team whilst they flounder in the eddies time. Once recovered, Sonic Tsunami weaves the Quinjet around the airborne Drax and the team lob gas grenades onto the Space Orks below, knocking out about half. 

Demonstrating his boundless power, Drax flies onto the Quinjet and punches through the door, ripping it aside and stepping in. Trying to help, the remaining Orks open fire on the Quinjet, managing to punch a few holes in the fuselage. Figuring that it worked out fine last time, Manzilla steps forward and freezes Drax in place with his Arctic Breath. Although Drax can, probably easily break free, it gives The Arsonist enough time to super-speed over with the memory-erasing headset and place it on the Destroyer's head. The team are zapped back to Limbo, most shocked that their plan actually worked for a change and none of them are hurt. Immourtus reminds them that some of the team will be great heroes some day.


Immortus shows them the next time node; a battle between the Fantastic Four and the Super-Skrull results in the destruction of an experimental reactor coolant that will contribute to atomic Armageddon. The team needs to delay Super-Skrull long enough that the coolant can be removed from the lab. Reluctant to fight the Super-Skrull head-on, the team takes their time to create a plan of attack. The plan is to use Stark Industries Image Inducers to trick the Super-Skrull into thinking that the Champions are the Fantastic Four and distracting him long enough to save the coolant and try not to be killed by the ultimate Skrull Warrior. Will the plan succeed, or will we be saying goodbye to one of the Champions of the Omniverse? Tune in next time to find out! 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Superhero Media: Pacific Rim

So many people told me to check this film out that I was, frankly, worried. In my experience, the more highly something comes recommended to me, the worse it turns out to be; Inception was about as deep as a puddle, Firefly was garbage and Pacific Rim was ok. Unlike the other two darlings of popular culture mentioned above, I can see why Pacific Rim was a big hit, though that mostly comes down to the lack of familiarity the West has with the massive canon of Japanese Kaiju films. Getting into the, rather complicated, history of post-war Japanese culture in relation to the American occupation and the ongoing legacy of the only wartime exchange of nuclear weapons in human history, is probably not the best move in this particular article. Suffice to say, I'd reckon that del Toro was a bit of a Kaiju fan and this film shows that, but is restricted by the processes of the Hollywood system. 

In the not-too-distant future, the countries of the Pacific Rim are menaced by giant monsters from the depths of the ocean and our only protection are the Jagers, giant robots with two pilots that are built to smash Kaiju face. There are some pilots who don't matter with some "Hollywood" PTSD and I hate them because they take screen time away from Idris Elba! Idris plays the hard-bitten commander with an insane plan to save the world who can't pilot a Jager anymore because of plot reasons. Of course, in the final battle, he straps in and smashes face alongside the forgettable protagonist and the day is saved. Although I know that having actors in rubber suits fighting over model cities would never have sold in the West, as a lifelong Kaiju fan, the CGI just doesn't do it for me and the fact that the Kaiju themselves have little personality or uniqueness drags down what could have been the premiere Western Kaiju film. 

Unlike many, I'm not keen for a sequel, the only interesting character is dead and the only real option is a giant alien war that moves too far away from Kaiju for my tastes. On the bright side, Pacific Rim did whet my appetite for some real Kaiju, so expect to see some more exotic Superhero Media entries in the not-too-distant future. Also, I should watch Luther again. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Champions of the Omniverse: Part 12

Returning to the void of Eon once more, our heroes find their wounds healed and their original memories returned in their entirety. The team are unable to tell just how much time has passed when they are called upon again to enter the time stream and set things right. Our heroes awaken around the meeting table in the Avengers Mansion, Sonic Tsunami is about to call the meeting to order. Before the Avengers can begin to discuss upcoming charity works, a cloud of smoke begins to fill the room. The team stands back and readies themselves when Sonic Tsunami shouts "Avengers Assemble!". The smoke clears, revealing the imposing figure of Immortus, ruler of Limbo!
"Greetings Avengers... I am here to warn you that a catastrophe is about to befall this timeline and I need your help to stop it! ...wait ...are you the Champions of the Omniverse?" 
"Who are they?" Firenado asks. 
"It is what your team will be known as in your personal future," Immortus states grandly, "those of you who survive." 

Immortus goes on to explain that a series of events will lead to the Earth being destroyed in nuclear fire when solar flares detonate ever reactor on the planet. To avoid this fate, Immortus has pulled the Avengers/Champions and the Avengers Mansion into Limbo for protection and so that he can send them out to save the time-stream. Agreeing to help, the team are told that a young man is about to encounter an alien device in 1960 that will increase his intelligence, but cause a tumor that will eventually kill him. The man will grow up to invent a brilliant, but flawed coolant system for nuclear power generation which will propagate the technology over the globe. 

Utilising Immortus' technology, our heroes arrive in Central Park, New York, watching a group of youths playing football, including their target. Given that the Fantastic Four won't debut for another couple of years, give or take, the men are surprised to see a group of costumed heroes, but do not flee in terror; Firenado looking like the Human Torch probably helps. The man the team are looking for wanders over and begins to talk to the team. Things are going well until The Arsonist attempts to place Immortus' Memory-erasing helmet on the man and he dodges with astonishing speed, bursting into flame at the same time. Koga attempts to use hypnosis from his light powers on the young man, and it seems to work with him becoming drowsy. Manzilla prepares to grab their target whilst The Arsonist uses his powers to reduce the fire. In a flash of inspiration, Sonic Tsunami realises that they are fighting Mimic! The mutant is stealing their own powers to use against them. As if on queue, Mimic grows wings and four additional arms and takes to the air, raining fire down on our heroes. Manzilla blasts Mimic with his atomic breath, freezing the mutant in a block of ice and sending him crashing to the earth. The Arsonist slams the helmet on Mimic and the team are drawn back to Limbo to await their next task.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Superhero Media: Zoom - Acadamy for Superheroes

This may have been what I was thinking of when I remembered that Sky High may have been terrible; it's not, this is the really bad one. Not as bad as Super Buddies, but close. For starters, has Tim Allen actually ever been in anything good, or good in anything? The Toy Story films perhaps, but one feels as though the deciding factor there was not having to watch his acting. In Zoom, he is utterly unconvincing as a retired and bitter hero, especially when he turns up in costume and it's clearly a much taller and slimmer actor. Also, Kate Mara seems to be a curse for any Superhero production, having been in this and Fan4stic, and no, she's no good in this either. Bet she's wishing they hadn't killed her off in House of Cards

Also Rip Torn is in this film, pretty much just being Rip Torn in any given scene, which may be the saving of the film from being Super Buddies bad. Also Chevy Chase and Courtney Cox are in the film. Pretty much just in the film. The "plot" involves a member of the previous team who seem to have been active in the late 1980s and/or early 1990s, even though Tim Allen is way older than would make sense with that timeline, is coming back from another dimension (I think?) after being exiled there by the speed force? The pseudoscience is pretty bad, even for comics, and Zoom (Allen) is a cut-price Flash with the weakest PTSD I've ever seen in fiction, despite the fact he saw all of his friends killed by his brother and is mildly annoyed at Rip Torn because of it.

The villain turns up, uses some bad CGI to attack the new team but turns good after some hugs or something. This is really bad, almost Super Buddies bad, but is saved by not being racist and sexist (to the same degree). None of the characters are original or even interesting takes on well-worn tropes, the acting is terrible and the CGI is even bad for the era. Smash Mouth does the entire soundtrack, which sounds good until you realise that they were well and truly past their good work by then. Give this one a miss. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

SS4 AAR: Outback Break House!

Looking at a SS4 campaign at NWA later in the year, so Ian and I got a practice game in to get back into the groove. 

The Equalisers have received word that an invading force of European Supers have landed in the desert, looking for something at an abandoned ADF outpost. Attempts to ward them off have failed and a super-powered battle starts! 

Scenario is Slugfest from the SS4 Rulebook, all characters are 85 Points.

(Sorry for the picture quality, low light stuffs my camera up)

 An abandoned ADF outpost sets the scene for this super-stouch. 

 Iceberg, Red and the Bog-dweller are looking for something... 

 Mindstorm, The Anachronism and Lucky arrive to defend the country. 

 Not sure of their opponent's abilities, the Equalisers move into cover and stick close. 

 The villains close in, Red and Mindstorm probe forward with their telepathy. 

 Iceberg lumbers towards the Equalisers, Mindstorm's mental blast having no effect on his glacial thoughts. Bog-dweller's claws rake through the Anachronism's armour, but this doesn't slow the knight down. 

 Red utilises her mental powers to put a Force Dome around herself, deflecting Lucky's incoming shots. 

 Iceberg's freezing breath stops Mindstorm in his tracks, but Anachronism's holy blade slashes deep into Bog-dweller's hide. 

 Even with her luck-manipulating powers, Lucky's shots can't penetrate the force shield that Red has thrown up around herself! 

 To prevent Lucky being trampled by Iceberg, Anachronism throws himself into the fray, relying upon his healing factor to protect him. Mindstorm has some luck breaking the ice trapping him, but not before Bog-dweller wounds him severly with his raking claws! 

 Mindstorm's amazing mental powers stop Bog-dweller in his tracks and the two struggle in a battle of brain versus brawn! 

 Seeing that Mindstorm is on his last legs, Lucky runs in to aid her teammate. 

 Success! Bog-dweller is knocked out! 

 Red uses her telekinesis to move Iceberg to threaten Lucky and the still-frozen Mindstorm. 

 Iceberg's crushing fists batter Lucky off her feet, but she just survives the assault. 

 Anachronism chases down Red and Lucky tries to fend off Iceberg, but the game is complete with a narrow Equaliser victory! 

A fun game with a friendly regular opponent (though mostly Firefight recently) that turned on a couple of dice rolls in the last turn. Love a close game. We made a couple of mistakes, but nothing game-breaking and I'm fairly certain we were doing it right by the end. I need to get the other Equalisers onto the table to get my head around their powers before the campaign starts. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Superhero Media: Dragonball Z - Season 8

And here the downward slide begins. I know that most DBZ fans really like the Buu Saga, but for me it really starts to drag in places. That said, the battles in Babidi's ship, Goku versus Majin Vegeta and the scenes between Buu and Mr Satan are all worth at least one watch through. That may actually be a tad unfair, as many of my favourite RetroDBZ cards come from the Buu and Fusion sets, not least of which the MP stack for my Red Majin Dabura beats deck. Thankfully the really draggy parts of DBZ don't start up until season nine, but season eight marks the beginning of an annoying trend, that of the characters being idiots. Ok, so Goku has never been clever, but many of the other characters keep making stupid mistakes that get them killed by Buu, like Gohan forgetting that he's a fucking genius (he gets a PHD before he's 21!) and suddenly letting Buu live even though he learned that lesson fighting Cell years ago. 

Goku hints that he could have defeated Buu, but lets him go so that he has an excuse to train up Goten and Trunks, two children who get murdered because of this lack of foresight. Goku also keeps fighting Majin Vegeta even though he knows doing so is giving power to Buu, yes, Vegeta isn't going to take no for an answer, but Goku has Super Saiyan 3 and Instant Transmission up his sleeve to end the battle almost instantly. Speaking of Super Saiyan 3, I really fucking hate it. It looks dumb, it is functionally useless and where do his eyebrows go? Is his forehead so buff that it folds over and the eyebrows are under the muscle somewhere? This constant stupidity is made slightly better by the Goku/Majin Vegeta being, hands-down, one of the best fights in DBZ and the presence of Dabura, a brilliant villain who gets far too little screen time. Even though he is basically Satan, Dabura has a strong code of honour and turns on his master when he learns that Buu is an unstoppable force of destruction. 

Were I not doing these articles, I'd probably skip the last two seasons, as they really drag and there's not much interesting going on. I can get my Dabura fix from my cards and YouTube has plenty of cuts of the showpiece fight. Buu is more interesting before he splits into multiple characters later on and many of the threads are picked up better in Dragonball Super, there are even some nice retcons that explain the massive plotholes. At least I have Vegito and Ultimate Gohan to look forward to in the last season when I work up the courage to watch it again.