Sunday, 21 November 2010

Home made lasguns

For Halloween this year me and my mate Rob (pic below) decided to go as men of Tanith. This meant building life sized replica lasguns.

We started with a bit of research and found very little in the way of home built lasgun tutorals. So we decided to design them from scratch. The first stage of the design was to go out into town a raid all the stores for suitable bits to use. Rob was especially good at this and credit is given to him for finding most of the key pieces.

We decided first to build the weapon from scratch rather than building on top of an existing toy gun. The reason we did this was because all the toy guns we found were made of cheap plastic and were also too small. It would have proved very difficult to make them look good. So from scratch it was.

The first important article came along in the form of a solid wood axe haft, which formed the base of the rifle and provided the wooden stock. This haft was perfect in size and length. What was needed then was to create the box shape around it with foamcore. A handle was also needed. This we took from a cheap paint roller we found in £land.

The barrel was the last piece to create and it was the largest worry for us because we could not find any tubes big enough for the scale. In the end I had a brain fart and asked the local stationers if they had any tubes as waste. They did and that was that! The inner barrel then came from an old curtain pole that my flat mate had lying about.

Finally we detailed the lasguns with bitz box bits and smoothed over any rough edges with milliput etc...

Heres is a list of materials used;

1x large axe haft
foam core
plastic tubing (inner till role tubes) to act as inner support for the foamcore
1x paint roller
1x cheap dog lead
1x mop handle (the tube on the top of the lasgun)
1x large thick card tube for the outer barrel
1x wooden curtain pole (inner tube)
.80 gauge plasticard
bitz box bits

Here is a picture showing what the gun looked like before detailing and painting.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Apocalypse, do I love it or hate it?

More smurf like musings from me here. This time I'm focusing on the game of Apocalypse as it has been Apocalypse week over at GW.

So what is Apocalypse all about? In my mind it breaks down into two distinct properties; the modeling, painting and conversion potential, the gaming experience. Lets look at the gaming side of Apocalypse and what my musings deduce. I shall talk a bit about the hobby side tomorrow.

The game

Games workshop (God bless their zombie bones) markets the game of Apocalypse in a light that promotes the anything goes ethos. They claim that there is no limit to your imagination with apocalypse and that you can pretty much do what ever you like (they prefer to say 'fight the battle you have always wanted to fight').

What does this actually mean in practical terms? Well in my experience it usually means that the person/people with the most money buy the super heavies and everyone else just fields the models they own. An example of this can be seen in a recent apocalypse event that my original club in Telford held. The premise for this event was that they wanted to hold the largest apocalypse battle ever fought in the UK. The organisers worked very hard on the background and got the whole gaming community in Telford involved. They also invited GW to send representatives to take part in the event as well so as to make the claim 'official'. There was no limit placed on the amount of stuff you could bring but you could not use anything that was not Games Workshop produced (minor exceptions made for certain scratch builds).

Sounds good? Well no. From what I can gather it was a disaster. All the Imperial players were adults holding down full time jobs and spent a combined total of thousands of £'s on their armies. The forces of disorder were largely made up of the young members of the club, which held part time Saturday jobs on minimum wage, they simply could not compete in the money game. As a result, the event was a flop. Nobody had any fun.

What is it about Apocalypse that causes disappointing games such as the example given above and how can these problems be solved? Lets have a look at some of the issues that bug me.

The Super Heavies

I, like all of us, love to own the awesome killing machines. I have been drawing up plans for a stompa recently now I have some money coming in. When I have finished converting and painting it I will want to use it. That is why we buy models. But these machines can cause problems if not used properly.

1) They can be too powerful in certain battle situations
2) They can be too weak in others

oxymoronic or what?

1) 40k is a turn based gaming system. The person who goes first has a tremendous advantage in that ALL of his/her units can move and shoot together. In an Apocalypse setting this is usually game winning. Imagine all those super heavies just opening up and doing terrible damage to the opponent. Especially as many of the super heavies have weapons that can ignore cover and usually have an elevated position of fire. It's also a double whammy as the player that invests considerable amounts of points into super heavies often has less to deploy and so usually wins the deployment bid and goes first!

Some super heavies are just too hard and cannot be brought low without the aid of other super heavies. They are almost always expensive to buy, which limits their availability to people. I have been a student for 4 years and in that time I have not worked (I did a proper degree, which required hard work). I simply could not afford to buy a super heavy, even though the £60 price tag on the baneblade or the stompa is good value.

2) Believe it or not, I actually think that many super heavies are too weak. Take for example the shadow sword which I fielded as part of my traitor guard. It only really has one gun worthy of note and if that becomes damaged or is not allowed to fire it becomes worthless. Yes you can repair these issues with damage control and/or a field repair unit like a tech marine but it takes a turn to do. A turn in Apocalypse takes forever! One of the weakest results of the damage chart for super heavies is pick a weapon and it cannot fire for a turn! Ok if you are a baneblade, crappy for most other super heavies. This ruins the enjoyment you can get from your super heavy tank if its constantly not allowed to fire.

Apocalypse Game Structure

The game is stressful to play. With so much going on turns are prone to dragging on. People get bored and begin to pander for their turn. Tempers ware thin and voices are raised. Without drill sergeant like organisation Apocalypse games often descend into anarchy. This is not the loving image of amazing cinematic sequences that we are all led to believe from the pictures in the Apocalypse rule book. Ahhh look at those guys, all smiles and joy. One of them has a face like he's saying 'wow that was cool.' Total rubbish! Most people round the Apocalypse table have a face representing either; boredom, disappointment or smug elation (its a talented individual indeed that can process all 3 emotions at once).

My Musings and Remedies

I really do have mixed feelings about Apocalypse. It can be the best game you have ever played or the most pointless. I think the key here is to do what comes naturally and ignore GW's advice. The main correctional tool for all Apocalypse ills is organisation!

Plan the game to the last detail. If necessary appoint a games master to plan the event and deal with any and all issues during the game. Certainly have a lead planner.

When planning a game you must think of all the tiny details as well as the big stuff. You need to be aware of the models that each player will use and the points values as well. Both sides need to be fair. This does not mean both sides must have an equal amount of super heavies or stratagems, there are other factors that can correct the balance.

Terrain plays a massive role in Apocalypse. You can really limit the influence of certain super heavy units by a careful and appropriate use of LOS blocking terrain. If a player wants to just blast stuff with his/her big toy then let them do so on the flanks in a spot of open terrain, which will not necessarily affect the outcome of the battle too much. Let the main objectives be fought over in bloody close combat fighting in a dense city.

Some stratagems are totally overpowered and have a very negative effect on the game. The flankmarch asset immediately springs to mind and it has ruined a number of Apocalypse games for me over the years. The solution is to plan a narrative for the battle and govern which assets are available to each player before the battle. I find this not only adds to the story of the battle but also readdresses the balance significantly.

Something I have not used myself is the introduction of a FOC into the battle to limit the number of super heavies you may take. This is a great idea and keeps the sides fair, I would really like to try this out for myself at some point.

One final point I would like to make about improving your games of Apocalypse is that of discipline. It seems odd to mention I know but tempers flare up very easily in chaotic games of Apocalypse where multiple players are involved. Enforcing rules such as no speaking out of turn with others can really calm the game down and prevent people from getting agitated.

These are just a few issues I have had some time thinking about recently regarding Apocalypse. I think my take home message would be to plan a game of Apocalypse before hand and make sure all players involved know the details. A game of Apocalypse is an event so it is only right you treat it like one.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Some thoughts.....smurf like musings if you will

Ok, so we live in exciting times for our hobby. Lots of things seem to be occurring all at once and the quality of it all only seems to be getting better. Although gamesday was a massive disappointment for me, I was able to take a look at the miniature design stall and glimpse into the tech they use to create our wonderful models. Needless to say, its all very impressive.

However, we get the odd slip up every now and again with the likes of the plastic minotaurs and the new stormraven but this is to be expected. The eb and flow of life seems to dictate this pattern in all things. Remaining on the hobby, take a look at the new dark eldar. They are all great models and most people seem to agree. Then we get a sneak look at the stormraven, not so good. Skaven range....great, plastic minotaurs.....oh dear. To coin a popular phrase, its all swings and roundabouts and we should expect this. However, in fairness, the amount of disappointing models is definitely on the decrease but this maybe having a disproportionate effect on our opinions.

Consider this, GW releases a range of new models (lets say beastmen) and the majority of them are really nice. Unfortunately, two kits are really horrible and that ruins the whole range. This is enough to put me off collecting this range of miniatures and I ask myself, and you guys, why?

Is it because this occurs so rarely these days that we expect all the products to be at least acceptable? When one or two kits fail our expectations, it disappoints us as customers to the extent that we cannot see past these failures and instead enjoy the majority of the range. With all the advancements in technology and the seemingly unmoveable price tags do we now expect so much more, whereas before we could excuse the bad models on account of the fact that they had been largely sculpted by human hands without the aid of computers and lasers. We said to ourselves, well I couldn't do any better so its not too bad?

Could it be that in years gone by most ranges of models were actually (compared to todays standards) pretty bad but we put up with them because we didnt know any better? You can see this in some of the plastic kits that are still around today. For instance, the plastic catachans and the plastic marauders are getting on a bit now and they are both pretty horrible kits. However, I remember when they were released that my opinion was 'wow plastic guardsmen for the first time, awesome!' Or 'chaos models that actually rank up...sweet!' As things get better and standards are raised our perspectives and priorities change. We were grateful before just to have 'affordable' models to use as plastics were still fairly uncommon. As the years have gone by the opposite has occurred and suddenly its all about the quality, because the price range hasn't gotten better.

The final point that I would like to consider is a strange one and it seems to crop up in my opinion forming of new models an awful lot. It concerns GW's advertisement of new products through white dwarf and the web. There have been a number of model kits that have initially put me off big time because they have been painted or positioned badly by GW. Examples include: the ork stompa, the ork nobz box, the imperial guard command squads and the ork deff dread. All of these kits I now love.

My point is that GW just don't seem to put effort into advertising the hobby possibilities of their kits anymore. I remember a particularly special white dwarf (for me personally as it was my second ever issue aged 12) which featured the release of the plastic khorne berzerkers. There were large sections of the issue dedicated to the conversion of these models both big and small in scale. Head swaps, arm replacements, simple body positioning techniques and complete limb repositioning. Also the issue featured a number of different paint schemes and examples of what people in the studio had done with the kit. For me as a 12 year old and new to the hobby, it was inspirational stuff, and as a result of the issue, I saved up my pocket money for 3 weeks so I could buy a box and then spent a week trying to replicate the conversions shown in the issue.

Now we get a 2 page spread if you are lucky and a whole load of pictures of the same eavy metal models fighting different foes in different terrain types. The plasitc ork nobz box is, in my opinion, one of the best plastic kits GW have ever done. There is so much variety in that kit its unbelievable. I have purchased 6 boxes so far for my various ork projects. Yet the white dwarf coverage consisted of a page showing 5 very static, very boring goff nobz and a snake bite with a big choppa. I mean the big choppas are the best thing about the kit?! Where was the variety? Where was the hobby and conversion advice? Where was the enthusiasm for advertising the variety and versatility of an excellent kit! The only reason I bought a box was because I needed some nobz for a tournament and i couldn't get hold of the old metal box in time so I bit the bullet and reasoned that I could probably convert them.

I guess my point here is that GW have obviously lost the incentive to advertise the quality of their kits. Maybe they are so confident in the quality that they feel they don't need to anymore as we expect a high level of detail and variety?! I don't know. However, it seems that kits that initially make you react badly on the whole seem to surprise you when you actually look at them 'in the flesh'. Maybe the stormraven will do the same? Only time and a little courage will tell.